Monday, September 30, 2013

The West has a second chance in Syria, and must seize it

"... The West’s fundamental mistake has been consistently to underestimate the Assad regime’s resilience. Despite its brutality, the regime retains a substantial base of supporters who are willing to fight to the death to prevent its collapse. Indeed, many Syrians believe that they have no future if Assad’s government collapses – a belief that has been reinforced as the civil war’s dividing lines have become increasingly sectarian. With the physical survival of regime supporters seemingly at stake, the expectation of a quick collapse was illusory.More problematic, the West’s loud calls for Assad’s exit from power, though now muted, have given false hope to the opposition, while Russia has been hiding behind the rhetoric of a “Syrian-led process” to avoid confronting its international responsibilities. But a diplomatic solution guided by the Security Council’s permanent members is the only credible path to peace. The alternative – an attempt at negotiation between Syria’s government and an increasingly fragmented opposition – would serve only to prolong the war and raise the death toll.
Likewise, the West must recognize that reconciliation in Syria will be impossible without there being reconciliation between the Sunni and Shiite regimes in the wider region. Several of the Sunni-ruled Gulf monarchies view Syria’s crisis and the prospect of Assad’s demise as an opportunity to compensate for Iraq’s rapprochement with Iran following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-led regime and the emergence of a Shiite-led government..."

The sovereign & poweful Bahraini FM: "Nasrallah is a 'criminal' "

 'A man of the people!'
"The people of Bahrain (aka. he, himself & his boss) are above being addressed by a criminal whose hands are stained by the blood of innocents in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq," Khalid al-Khalifa wrote on his Twitter account..."

"Assad would stay & Iran would not be dismantled but emerge strengthened"

"... After the 2006 Lebanon war, Saudi Arabia took further fright at the mounting popularity of Iran and Hezbollah within its own Sunni streets. Revolutionary Islam seemed to be gaining the upper hand. And – finally, the straw that broke the camel's back for the Gulf states: the outbreak of Arab upheaval of 2011, with its evident disdain for established authority. Gulf states decided to do whatever it takes to halt Iran and the new currents of thinking (such as a rising Muslim Brotherhood). Their very survival, it seemed, hinged on it. Overthrowing President Bashar al-Assad became the explicit cornerstone of this strategy of confronting Iran.But this Gulf containment strategy of igniting a Sunni "intifada" against Shia influence seems to have collapsed, as the Gulf monarchs absorb the significance of Barack Obama's U-turn on Syria, and the opening to Iran. What made it so traumatic was that not just Obama but the US system itself had buckled (public and Congress together). It represented rather a strategic lurch. President Assad would stay, and Iran would not be dismantled but emerge strengthened...."

'Talks between the government & FSA on "a Syrian solution” to the war?'

"... a two-man delegation arrived in secret in Damascus: civilians from Aleppo who represented elements of the Free Syrian Army, the rebel group largely composed of fighters who deserted the regime’s army in the first year of the war. They came under a guarantee of safety, and met, so I am told, a senior official on the staff of President Bashar al-Assad. And they carried with them an extraordinary initiative – that there might be talks between the government and FSA officers who “believed in a Syrian solution” to the war...."

Sunday, September 29, 2013

"Iran's the Island of stability in the XXI Century Middle East"

"... In a quite tangible sense, Rouhani won his current mandate through a social coalition we might call “Green movement plus”: the 2009 supporters of reformist candidates Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, plus provincial urban fence sitters, plus ethnic minorities. Given the region’s further unraveling this summer -- Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Turkey -- it may well be the case that voting for Rouhani was the most revolutionary act available for Iranians en masse. It was for this reason that Roger Cohen in the New York Times branded the Islamic Republic an “island of stability” earlier this month -- echoing Carter’s Tehran toast to the Shah in December 1977 -- without a hint of irony...."

"No realistic deal that would be acceptable to Israel"

Foreign Policy
"...Sadly, the preponderance of evidence suggests that this is not just about Israel's leader driving a hard but realistic bargain. If Netanyahu's principal concern is really the nuclear file, he should be able to come to terms with the fact that a negotiated outcome offers the best long-term safeguard against Iran developing a nuclear weapon. The most that military strikes could achieve would be a short-term delay of Iran's ability to weaponize its nuclear program -- a decision that Iran has anyway not yet made, according to the consensus among Western intelligence agencies. A strike would also create a greater incentive for Iran to weaponize its nuclear program.At the moment, however, Netanyahu is signaling that there is no realistic deal that would be acceptable to Israel. ..."

Israel scrambles & manufactures attention!

Funny & predictable.
"... Israel's domestic security service says it has arrested a Belgian citizen of Iranian origin, who it claims has admitted he was sent to Israel to spy for Iran.The Shin Bet intelligence service said in a statement on Sunday that it arrested Ali Mansouri three weeks ago at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion Airport, carrying photographs of the US embassy in Tel Aviv..."

"The Israeli delegation was the only one that left the UNGA when Rouhani spoke, a clear demonstration of Israel's new isolation"

'b' at MoA;
"...These new developments are destroying the strategy of Israel's prime minister Netanyahoo. He can no longer outright push for War on Iran. The Israeli delegation was the only one that left the UN General Assembly when Rouhani spoke. A clear demonstration of Israel's new isolation. Its AIPAC lobby had already lost the fight for War on Syria and upcoming domestic business will keep Congress occupied with other issues. Sure, there are still some loyal Senators for AIPAC pressing for more sanctions and war "preventing Iran from achieving nuclear capability". Nuclear capability is something Iran achieved soem years ago and the U.S. public is not in the mood to wage war to turn the clocks back on that. The lobby has lost for now and some of its leaders are recognizing it. David Harris, Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee, warns Netanyahoo in a Haaretz piece:
"... [U]nless Israel wants to continue to find itself largely alone on the world stage, it will have to find new ways to make its case, so that it is not just talking to itself and its supporters. Simply implying, for instance, that anyone who sits down with Rohani is a modern-day Neville Chamberlain or Édouard Daladier won’t do the trick. To the contrary, it will only give offense and alienate. There are more effective and less shrill ways of making the case for caution, vigilance, and strength..."
One wonders what "more effective and less shrill ways" Mr Harris has in mind. On thing is sure, he is not yet willing to give up. We can expect some open and some hidden dirty tricks to derail any successful talks between Iran and the United States.But Netanyahoo may truly lose this one. We will know that he has given up when he changes his target. After the first Gulf war Israel's propaganda changed from demonizing the then defanged Saddam Hussein and instead started to demonize Iran. Israel always needs an enemy, the new Hitler, to distract from its continuing colonization of Palestine and to keep its picture as a "victim" alive. As the War On Iran project fails could, please, Saudi Arabia become Israel's new villain?
Next week Netanyahoo will be visiting Washington and New York. He is unlikely to get the same attention and success that Rouhani got. Another stupid comic stunt  at the UNGA in New York would make him even more irrelevant. He needs a new game but will have difficulties to find one ."

WaPo's on Syria gets praise from AIPAC/ WINEP

Thank you! And likewise RT : First-rate journos owning the game on covering Syria Must follows!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

"On the road again!"

"Since Hamas decided to move its politburo from Syria to Qatar, its president Khaled Meshaal has been feeling like a prisoner, isolated from political developments in Palestine. The search for a new host country has begun, with Sudan as the most likely destination for the Islamist resistance movement.
Head of Hamas’ politburo in exile Khaled Meshaal cannot help but feel like a prisoner in his new headquarters in Qatar. But the local authorities who have surrounded the Palestinian leader with heavy security and restricted his movement say that the measures are for his own good, due to threats to his personal security.
Yet some other politburo members who have accompanied Meshaal to the Gulf emirate are complaining that the security measures are inadequate, prompting them to revive the idea of relocating to a place like Lebanon, Iran, or Sudan. Hamas sources say that Meshaal has expressed his willingness to consider another location that is better suited for the politburo’s activities..."

"In Search of a new Dictator!"

The New York Review of Books
"... Libyans overwhelmingly aspire to the dream of a new democratic order that animated the ideals of the revolution. But increasingly many consider such a system too delicate to overcome the country’s deep fissures. Since antiquity Libya has been a composite of separate principalities—Tripolitania in the west, Cyrenaica in the east, and Fezzan in the south—a division that has played out not only geographically and historically, but also ideologically, with the west gravitating towards the more laissez-faire Maghreb, and the east spawning religious movements, from early Christian communities to Omar Mukhtar, the warrior Muslim mystic who led the revolt against Italy’s colonial conquest. In July 2012, great numbers of the country’s six million people braved the lawless streets—where alarming numbers of weapons have proliferated since the revolution—to register and vote in the first free national election in half a century. As multiple forces assert power in different parts of the country, however, the old regional divisions have reemerged. Only a strongman, many feel, can hold Libya together. But who could it be?..."

'Collapsing Syrian opposition is welcome relief to the Obama administration'

 'Meeting with Mr. Nobody at the UN'
"... over Iran and Syria he (Obama) appears to enjoy at least the possibility of major breakthroughs. Following the P5+1 and ministerial meeting with the Iranian side in New York on September 26th, US officials are genuinely optimistic about the change of tone they detect from President Rouhani and his negotiating team. As we reported last week, skeptics and pessimists vastly outnumber the optimists – CIA officials recall Rouhani’s devious behavior at the time of the Iran-Contra affair under President Reagan. Nonetheless, as one State Department official put it to us: “This is an incoming wave and we intend to ride it.” Obama’s telephone conversation with Rouhani should be seen in this light. On September 30th Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is expected to warn Obama against mistaking a change of tone for a change in substance. We do not, however, expect Obama to be persuaded from his present course of testing the Iranian good faith. Nor do we detect much anxiety among senior officials that Israel will seek to disrupt the diplomatic track by taking unilateral military action.  In addition to the nuclear dossier, in his meeting with Iranian foreign minister Zarif, Secretary of State Kerry broached possible cooperation with Tehran over Syria (where Iranian support for the Damascus regime is of great concern) and Afghanistan to help preserve stability as the US military presence draws down. On Syria Administration officials are equally glad that they have successfully negotiated what they see as a tough, enforceable Security Council resolution to put into operation the US-Russia agreement on eliminating Syria's chemical weapons. Once again, there are plenty of critics that the Administration is allowing itself to be duped by Russian President Putin and Syrian President Assad. However, with new doubts about the viability of the external Syrian opposition with which they have made common cause, US officials welcome any mechanism that allows them to postpone a decision about military involvement. Foreign policy planners with interests outside the Middle East will be glad if the affairs of that region can take less prominence. Both Kerry and Secretary of Defense Hagel travel next week to Japan, Indonesia and South Korea where, in exchanges with allies, they will focus on China. Finally, the attacks in Nairobi have set alarm bells ringing in Washington. We expect a stepped up training and intelligence presence in Africa, backed up by drone strikes when suitable targets present themselves."

"Some son of a bitch is okay because he is our son of a bitch"

Lavrov in the WaPo
"...Either we agree that any terrorism is unacceptable, or we will be playing a double-standard game where some son of a bitch is okay because he is our son of a bitch. ..."

"How the US is enabling Syriastan"

"...If any extra evidence was needed to shatter the myth of a "revolution" struggling for a future "democratic" Syria, the big news of the week cleared any remaining doubts. 
Eleven, 13 or 14 "rebel" brigades (depending on the source) have ditched the "moderate", US-propped Syrian National Council (SNC) and the not-exactly Free Syrian Army (FSA). The leaders of the bunch are the demented jihadis of Jabhat al-Nusra - but it includes other nasties such as the Tawhid brigades and the Tajammu Fastaqim Kama Ummirat in Aleppo, some of them until recently part of the collapsing FSA. 
The jihadis practically ordered the myriad "moderates" to submit, "unify in a clear Islamic frame", and pledge allegiance to a future Syria with Sharia law as "the sole source of legislation". 
One Ayman al-Zawahiri must be having a ball in his comfortable, drone-proof hideout somewhere in the Waziristans. Not only because his call for a multinational jihad - a la Afghanistan in the 1980s - is working; but also because the US-run SNC has been exposed for the toothless rodent that it really is
And facts on the ground keep corroborating it. The al-Qaeda-propped Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant took over a town near the Bab al-Salam border crossing with Turkey that was held by the FSA because the FSA was accused of fighting for "democracy" and close ties with the West. Wrong; the FSA wants those ties but under a Muslim Brotherhood-controlled regime. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - of which Jabhat al-Nusra is the main Syrian component - wants a Talibanized Syriastan. 
The hardcore jihadi gangs in Syria may number as much as 10,000 fighters; but they do account for arguably 90% of the heavy fighting, because they are the only ones with battleground experience (including Iraqis who fought the Americans and Chechens who fought the Russians). 
In parallel, and not by accident, ever since Prince Bandar bin Sultan, aka Bandar Bush, was put in charge by Saudi King Abdullah to run the Syria jihad, taking no prisoners, the "moderate" Qatar-aligned Muslim Brotherhood SNC has been progressively sidelined. 
Yet as far as train wrecks go, nothing equals the Obama administration's excuse for a "strategy", which theoretically boils down to weaponizing and extensively training the weakest link - selected FSA gangs infiltrated with CIA assets - and "vetting" weapons falling into the hands of jihadis. As if the CIA had reliable local intel on the myriad jihadi Gulf-based funding and logistical sources
The SNC, the FSA and the exile so-called "Supreme Military Command" led by the grandiloquent General Salim Idriss are now no more than a joke. This whole thing happened while SNC leader al-Jerba was at the UN General Assembly in New York - where he met with Secretary of State John "Assad is like Hitler" Kerry. Kerry did not talk about weapons but about more "aid" and future negotiations at the perennially postponed Geneva II conference. Al-Jerba was furious. And to top if off, some is his FSA gangs openly embraced al-Qaeda. 
Why? Follow the money. This is how it works, in a nutshell. At least half of the FSA "brigades" are mercenaries - they are financed from abroad. They fight where their masters - who weaponize and pay them - tell them to fight. The "Supreme Command" controls, at best, something like 20% of the brigades. And these people don't even live in Syria; they are based on the Turkish or Jordanian side of the border. ..."

Friday, September 27, 2013

"Russia is now the undisputed master of the UN Security Council "

"... But the key to this disturbing realignment in the global power structure is clearly visible in the draft of the Security Council resolution on Syria, which entirely reflects Russia's interests at the expense of those of the Western powers. America, Britain and France, the three Western members of the five permanent members of the Council, wanted the option to take punitive action against the Assad regime if, as most observers expect, Damascus does not fully comply with the U.N.'s requirements. (Nor has anyone considered how U.N. inspectors can be expected to examine and neutralise stockpiles of chemical weapons in the midst of a civil war.)But Russia is determined to prevent any form of military intervention in Syria, and to that end insisted that the resolution be watered down to the effect that, if Assad fails to comply, then the issue will be referred back to the U.N. where, as we know from history, it will be subsumed by the organisation's bureaucratic complacency..."

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Now that the fig leaf dropped, we are waking up to this?

Is all this 'news' now?
"... There's another big implication here, particularly significant for the West: the window when Western countries might have championed a rebel faction could have just closed, possibly for good. "The scope for Western influence over the Syrian opposition has now been diminished considerably," Charles Lister of IHS Jane's told Sly and DeYoung. The United States would now have a harder time than ever finding a viable and ideologically palatable Syrian rebel group to support...."

Fast forward: 'Repackaging Jabhat al Nusra as Godzilla: Not bad, but misunderstood!'

"... There are signs of fights among the various Islamist groups, too, both those within the F.S.A. and those outside its broad umbrella. In a recent audiotape to mark the twelfth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri told ultraconservative Islamist factions fighting in Syria to avoid alliances with Western- and Gulf-backed rebel fighters—an instruction that Jabhat al-Nusra has now failed to heed. This move could be viewed through the prism of its own recent dispute with the leadership ofISIS. Jabhat al-Nusra has chafed against ISIS’s attempts to envelop it into its organization, and the feud has splintered Al Qaeda’s affiliates in Syria. The new alliance, should it last, might be the seeds of a coalition that opposes ISIS. By stressing its strong Islamist character, it is trying to preëmpt any claims by ISIS that it is made up of “unbelievers.”..."

"A fig leaf has dropped"

"... All that has really happened at this stage is that a fig leaf has dropped.The fighting men within Syria have long despised their political and military leaders-in-exile. It’s common to hear them say, “We are in the khanadik”—trenches—“and they are in the fanadik,” hotels. In late August, four of the leaders of the F.S.A.’s five fronts said that the National Coalition—their own political counterparts—had no legitimacy. They threatened to resign from the Supreme Military Council because of, among other things, “the lying promises of those states who claim to be friends of Syria,” who have not provided assistance “worthy of the sacrifices of the Syrian people.” ..."

UAE al Qaeda 'Emir' killed by Kurdish fighters in Syria

Al Jazeera English
"...Meanwhile, in the country's north, activists reported the death of an al-Qaeda commander in clashes with Kurdish fighters.The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the commander died on Wednesday night in the province of Aleppo.
While it did not provide the man's name, it identified him as a UAE national and the emir -or commander- of Aleppo.
Rebel groups battling Assad have become increasingly embroiled in internal fighting. ..."

Remember the MEK? Well, meet Jabhat al Nusra 'light'!

Mark my words: We could be well on our way (if time & survival permits) to see a whole new, repackaged & rehabilitated al Nusra, to fit US foreign policy, just as the MEK in 2010-2012
"... Further complicating the picture is the rise of the new Qaeda franchise, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria — or ISIS, which has established footholds across northern and eastern Syria with the intention to lay the foundations of an Islamic state.In recent months, it has supplanted Al Nusra Front as the primary destination for foreign jihadis streaming into Syria, according to rebels and activists who have had contact with the group.Its fighters, who hail from across the Arab world, Chechnya, Europe and elsewhere, have a reputation for being well armed and strong in battle. Its suicide bombers are often sent to strike the first blow against government bases.But its application of strict Islamic law has isolated rebels and civilians. Its members have executed and beheaded captives in town squares and imposed strict codes, forcing residents to wear modest dress and banning smoking in entire villages...."

"Eliminate the Muslim Brotherhood at your peril"

"... The ongoing assault against the Muslim Brotherhood has included killings, beatings and mass arrests that have temporarily thrown the organization into disarray. Trying to eliminate it will not work, and will only send Egypt into a deeper cycle of political polarization, immobility and some violence. Egypt requires pluralism, engagement, negotiations and compromise, in order to achieve consensus on key issues. Banning the Brotherhood goes against all these imperatives, and will only make things worse ..."


So this so called Journalist "learned that a few voices WITHIN (note, WITHIN) Hezbollah", and immediately quotes Tufayli, who split with HzB because the party became "too moderate & allied with Israel", and in relity works (Tufayli) for the Saudi-Qatari Lebanon project!
"... Reuters has learned that a few voices within Hezbollah, which is considered a terrorist organisation by the United States and Europe, opposed joining the conflict in Syria. Two prominent members feared intervention would drag Hezbollah and the Shi'ite community into a quagmire; they questioned where the group would draw the line after Qusair.
Sheikh Subhi al-Tufayli, who led Hezbollah from 1989 to 1991, said the decision to intervene had been entirely down to the Islamic Republic of Iran. "I was secretary general of the party and I know that the decision is Iranian, and the alternative would have been a confrontation with the Iranians," Tufayli, who fell out with Iran and his former group, told Reuters at his home in the Eastern Bekaa Valley near the Syrian border. "I know that the Lebanese in Hezbollah, and Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah more than anyone, are not convinced about this war."..."

NATO head: 'Strengthening Assad & weakening 'extremists and terrorists'

McClatchy, Rassmussen is not too happy with this outcome! 
"...But he added that a United Nations inspection program to find, secure, and move or destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile could help solidify President Bashar Assad’s grip on power because such a program would require his assistance and probably take many months to complete....
He said he’d spoken this week to President Barack Obama and credited him with forcing Assad’s hand by threatening military force. He broke, however, with the Obama administration’s recent claim that moderate rebels were gaining ground in Syria, saying Islamic militants were a growing problem among Syrian rebels trying to dislodge Assad.
“To be very open and frank, it is a fact that the opposition counts extremists and terrorist groups, and I don’t shy away from using the phrase ‘terrorist groups,’ ” Rasmussen said. “Of course, it is weakening the opposition.” ..."

'Selectivity in dealing with genocide attuned to demands of US foreign policy'

"...  power hungry, unprincipled, and a poor scholar. Her power hunger was on full display in her groveling before members of the Zionist lobby and Senate while seeking their support for her ambassadorship to the United Nations, and her promise to fight for “Israeli security” and “press” for an Israeli seat on the Security Council on her accession to that office.We may recall that Power devoted considerable space and indignation in her“A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide (Basic Books, 2002) to denouncing Serbian ethnic cleansing in the Yugoslav wars, but Israel’s multi-decade and systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians she is prepared to overlook, pledging to fight within the United Nations against what she called “unacceptable bias and attacks against the state of Israel.”...
Samantha Power’s bias in Problem from Hell reached well beyond her account of the Yugoslav wars. Her selectivity in dealing with genocide was precisely attuned to the demands of U.S. foreign policy. If the genocides were carried out by the United States itself, as in the Vietnam war and Iraq’s two-phased mass killing (the “sanctions of mass destruction” applied from 1991-2003, and in the 2003-2012 war and occupation), Power does not include them, nor does she address the genocides carried out by the U.S.-supported military in Indonesia in 1965-1966 by the military rulers of Guatemala in the early 1980s or by the apartheid regime of South Africa...."

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The President of Lebanon Hypnotizes America's Leaders!

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry yawns as President Barack Obama meets with Lebanese President Michel Sleiman UPI/Allan Tannenbaum/Pool

Rushing to kill more Arabs!

'an Elegant man!'
"... The former prime minister said all that mattered was the final outcome, telling Morgan: "It's the results that count. I'm not particularly concerned if we do it elegantly or inelegantly."..."

"The US Strategy In Syria Is Unraveling"

"On Tuesday evening, after President Barack Obama speech to the U.N. general assembly, America's strategy for Syria began to unravel.At about 4 PM ET, 13 of the largest Islamist brigades in Syria formed the "Islamic Coalition," rejecting the Western-backed Syrian National Council (SNC) and the opposition's planned exile government.
Two hours later the State Department wasn't prepared to talk about the announcement, and instead discussed the Syrian coalition's preparations for the upcoming Geneva II peace talks.
However, those plans were inherently muddled after "nearly all armed factions that matter in Syria just issued statement saying [the] political opposition doesn't represent them," as explained by Al Aan TV reporter Jenan Moussa.
Furthermore, the Syrian government also doubts the relevance of SNC leaders — meaning that the two strongest forces on the ground do not recognize the government-in-exile backed by the West, Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.Basically, the failure of America's Syria strategy of building up moderate rebel forces to back a Syrian government-in-exile has left its plan in shambles.The significance of the new rebel alliance arises from the fact that "swing Islamists" — rebels fighters with good relations jihadi and moderate groups — appear to have chosen to side with more extremist factions...."

Syrian rebels reject 'National Coalition'

"...Key Syrian Islamist rebel groups say they do not recognise any foreign-based opposition group, including the Syrian National Coalition."The National Coalition and the proposed government under [recently chosen] Ahmad Tomeh does not represent us, nor do we recognise it," 13 of Syria's most powerful rebel groups said in a joint statement late on Tuesday.
The groups include members of the main rebel Free Syrian Army, as well as Liwa al-Tawhid, the main rebel force in the northern province of Aleppo, and Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda-linked group. ..."

"Smarter, Harder CIA Ops in Syria"

SpyTalk: Former CIA Official Urges Smarter, Harder Ops in Syria.
"... You can’t sit on the sidelines and funnel aid into the middle of a war and pretend that you are in any way really controlling or manipulating the outcome on the ground. You’ve got to get in. You got to get your hands dirty. You’ve got to figure out who’s your friend and who’s your enemy. You’ve got to make sure that the aid gets to the right people and stays out of the hands of the wrong people..."

"It’s really painful to see the daughters of Israel going with these Arabs..."

Via 'b' at MoA.
"... A female IDF soldier who is often stationed at checkpoints is apparently very disturbed by the fact that some Jews and Palestinians actually hang out. The soldier turned anonymously (on Facebook) to Yad La’achim a religious organization whose mandate is to “save Jews from assimilation,” in the hopes they can help her prevent this from happening in the future by talking some sense into these young women. As she wrote to them:
Hi, I speak with true pain, as a soldier working at checkpoints and every Friday night Jewish girls pass through in minority cars [common euphemism for Arabs]. I would be glad if you could come and stand with me at the checkpoint for at least an hour and try to appeal to the hearts of these poor Jewish girls… Every time I see such Jewish girls, I try to hold up the vehicle and check the background of these Arabs [euphemism gone], and in between I take the Jewish girls aside for a short talk (which doesn’t always help). So perhaps you will succeed, because it’s really painful to see the daughters of Israel going with these Arabs.
The response by Yad La’achim (highlighted) on Facebook:
God willing, we have contacted the charming soldier and from now on she will report to us on every such girl, after she checks her ID.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Just War in Syria and the U.S. Intervention Syllogism

"... President Obama and his team employ the following syllogism:
  1. Syria has used chemical weapons on its people.
  1. Use of chemical weapons is punishable under established international law and norms.
  1. Therefore, the United States may punish Syria.
This syllogism has two premises that have factual, legal, and moral merit.  As such, the first justification component—factual merit—does not seem to be too controversial, notwithstanding the Assad government’s less-than-convincing protestations.
However, the shift to the conclusion of the syllogism is more controversial:  factual merit neither logically requires nor conclusively justifies punishment of Syria by the United States.  As such, it implicates the second jus ad bellum war justification component:  legitimate authority to be the enforcer.  The problem for the Administration has been trying to justify unilateral action, or action by a modest coalition of the willing.  Authority for the United States to act in the mode of the enforcer in Syria implicates international and domestic legitimacy questions.
International legal and diplomatic principles recognize unilateral military action taken in the right of self-defense.  As such, we often see military strike justification debates follow these lines.  Such debates also become somewhat tortured as we move from traditional response-to-attack scenarios into preemptive strikes along the lines of President George W. Bush’s pre-Iraq invasion justification.  However, here, we have no self-defense argument being meaningfully advanced..."

Will Syria Redefine the Just War?

Will Syria Redefine the Just War?
"... 3. Very likely it is for this reason that President Obama redefined the goals of his threatened Syria strikes. Although his moral case is still fundamentally humanitarian, the stated purpose of the threatened strikes is not saving lives but upholding and reinforcing the world-wide norm against chemical weapons. Ironically, a unilateral U.S. threat to use force—plainly illegal under the UN Charter—is now justified as law enforcement. (Neither the U.S. nor Russia have mentioned another, lesser, irony: both countries missed the April 2012 deadline for destroying their own chemical weapons, and the U.S. Army has announced that it will not complete the job until 2023. As my colleague David Koplow has shown, both countries are at least technically in breach of the very treaty they have forced Syria to join.)..."

Al Qaeda thanks the US of A!

"This new era will see a revival of grand diplomacy"

"... There has been a lot of talk – either with hope or dread – about a new multi-polar world. Now it has become reality. America has realized it is no longer possible to rule the world single-handedly. Moreover, the American people, weary of playing the role of global leader, no longer have any enthusiasm for foreign expansion.More and more players want to exert influence on world affairs, but their ambition is not always backed up by real capabilities. Be that as it may, the time of simple solutions is gone. No country can impose its will for lack of real leverage. Recent developments in the Middle East bear this out.Symbolically, though the bipolar world is long gone, Moscow and Washington are again the source of a new era. They are unrivaled in their combination of diplomatic skill and willingness to enforce agreements.Divided and bogged down by its own problems, Europe cannot contribute much to these efforts. China still prefers to keep a low profile. New stars, like India and Brazil, simply do not know how to approach such issues for lack of experience in diplomacy when the stakes are this high. Regional heavyweights like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran are part of the conflict...."

Saudi minion: "The success of Arab revolutions depends on a more interventionist America!"

There you have it folks, loud & clear! In Al Hayat.
"... وهذا ما يعني، شئنا أم أبينا، أنّ نجاح الثورة السوريّة، وثورات أخرى غيرها، مرهون بسياسة أميركيّة أكثر تدخّليّة ومبادرة...."

Monday, September 23, 2013

“... Another example of how countries like Syria & Iran can play a long game, knowing that we can’t.”

"... After taking command, Suleimani strengthened relationships in Lebanon, with Mughniyeh and with Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s chief. By then, the Israeli military had occupied southern Lebanon for sixteen years, so Suleimani sent in Quds Force operatives to help. “They had a huge presence—training, advising, planning,” Crocker said. In 2000, the Israelis withdrew, exhausted by relentless Hezbollah attacks. It was a signal victory for the Shiites, and, Crocker said, “another example of how countries like Syria and Iran can play a long game, knowing that we can’t.”

‘We’re not like the Americans. We don’t abandon our friends.’ ”

"... The coöperation between the two countries lasted through the initial phase of the war. At one point, the lead negotiator handed Crocker a map detailing the disposition of Taliban forces. “Here’s our advice: hit them here first, and then hit them over here. And here’s the logic.” Stunned, Crocker asked, “Can I take notes?” The negotiator replied, “You can keep the map.” The flow of information went both ways. On one occasion, Crocker said, he gave his counterparts the location of an Al Qaeda facilitator living in the eastern city of Mashhad. The Iranians detained him and brought him to Afghanistan’s new leaders, who, Crocker believes, turned him over to the U.S. The negotiator told Crocker, “Haji Qassem is very pleased with our coöperation.”The good will didn’t last. In January, 2002, Crocker, who was by then the deputy chief of the American Embassy in Kabul, was awakened one night by aides, who told him that President George W. Bush, in his State of the Union Address, had named Iran as part of an “Axis of Evil.”..."

Lavrov: “Our American partners are starting to blackmail us"

"...Our American partners are starting to blackmail us: ‘If Russia does not support a resolution under Chapter 7, then we will withdraw our support for Syria’s entry into the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). This is a complete departure from what I agreed with Secretary of State John Kerry',” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Channel 1's Sunday Time program.Chapter 7 of the UN charter would allow for potential military intervention in Syria. ..."

Sunday, September 22, 2013

‘Bags of money'

"... What is more worrisome, officials say, is a new tendency among fundraisers to seek influence over the Syrian paramilitary groups they support. Some have adopted their own rebel militias and sought to dictate everything from ideology to tactics. Officials at one gulf-based organization, which calls itself the Ummah Conference, have helped promote a campaign to recruit thousands of Muslim volunteers for Syria while openly calling for a broader struggle against secular Arab governments and what one of its leaders terms “American terrorism.”
“These are people who believe in the ideology and have more than enough money to help the groups in Syria that share their views,” said a senior Middle Eastern intelligence official whose government closely monitors Syrian rebel factions and their foreign supporters. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to grant interviews on the matter.
“Such groups think it is more halal — permissible — to support the jihadists than to give tax dollars to their own governments,” he said. “Unfortunately, it is a problem that you can never control. At least, not completely.”
In the border city of Gaziantep, ... in recent months, there has been a separate stream of foreigners headed toward the fight. Ahmad, a Syrian exile and interpreter who works in the nearby Kilis refugee camp, said he regularly sees Arab businessmen, distinctive in their white dishdashas, speeding toward the border in rented luxury cars with hired drivers..., ..., ...,
“Social media enables fundraisers to solicit donations from supporters in countries — notably Saudi Arabia — which have otherwise banned unauthorized fundraising campaigns for Syria,” said the senior U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence assessments. He said some groups hold regular cash-collecting events at private homes and mosques, while others specialize in wire transfers that use informal Arab banking houses known as hawala.
Western officials closely followed the skyrocketing prominence of formerly unknown Kuwaiti clerics such as Sheik Hajjaj al-Ajmi, whose Twitter appeals for money for the rebels this year became so effective that a Syrian brigade adopted Ajmi’s name.
But more recently, some of the fundraising networks have sought to reshape the conflict in deeper ways, creating their own militia movements while spreading money broadly to expand their influence among dozens of Islamist rebel groups, said William McCants, a former State Department adviser .
“They are like militia-group venture capitalists,” said McCants, director of the Brookings Institution’s Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World. “They are trying to pick winners, seeing which groups are growing and performing well. And they have a lot of money and no real restrictions.”
The Ummah Conference’s headlong dive into the Syrian conflict started with fundraising but quickly extended to the battlefield.
For this 12-year-old Islamist organization, which was founded in Kuwait and boasts chapters in a dozen countries, the Syrian conflict has served as a recruiting tool, idea laboratory and training academy, say U.S. and Middle Eastern analysts who have studied it. The group’s leaders have formed ties with a Syrian group of the same name — the Liwaa al-Ummah, or Ummah Brigade — while showering money on Islamist groups such as Ahrar al-Sham. Ummah Brigade fighters coordinate tactics with more radical groups such as the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The group’s ties to the conflict deepened in March when one of its leaders — Mohammad al-Abduli, a former United Arab Emirates army colonel and president of the conference’s UAE branch — was killed by a sniper while fighting in Syria. The organization has since established a military training camp in Syria named in his honor.
A video posted in May depicted two of the Ummah Conference’s regional officials — Saudi branch leader Mohammad Saad ­al-Mufrih and the new UAE leader, Hassan al-Diqqi — surrounding by gun-toting graduates of the newly opened Abduli Training Camp. Mufrih, the Saudi, appealed in the video for Muslims to aid the Syrian rebels “by any possible instrument, with money and with men.”...
Moreover, Diqqi, leader of the UAE chapter and a veteran of the Syrian conflict, has suggested that Islam’s true enemies lie outside the Middle East. He denounced the United States in a 2002 book as one of the two “most dangerous countries” in the world, the other being Russia....
To current and former U.S. counterterrorism officials, such pronouncements have a distressingly familiar ring, inviting comparisons to the 1970s and 1980s, when radical Islamists throughout the Middle East rallied to the cause of Afghan Muslims waging jihad against the Soviet Union.
“Some of these groups have always held radical views, but before the Arab Spring, they had no active jihad, but only aspirations,” said one former U.S. intelligence analyst who worked extensively in the region. “Now they have a jihad. Now they are veterans.”

US Officials on Syria: 'We'll talk robust deadlines but in reality, the process has plenty of flexibility!'

'Commentators in Washington are marveling how, after a week of indecision and abrupt changes of mind, President Obama may now enjoy an opportunity to make diplomatic progress on two of the thorniest problems facing US foreign policy: Syria and Iran. As one White House staffer put it to us: "we have gone from facing certain defeat in Congress and a total loss of credibility to a chance to demonstrate that the President is worthy of his Nobel peace prize." There are, of course, ten profound skeptics for every one person who believes this thesis, but for the moment Obama appears to be the beneficiary of a "get out of jail" card. As Secretary of State Kerry acknowledges, the next steps over Syria will be fraught with tension and turning expectation into reality faces multiple pitfalls. The Administration is committed to short deadlines and tough language to enforce the Syrian regime's commitments on chemical weapons elimination. However, from our private conversations with relevant officials, our assessment is that there is plenty of flexibility built into the process. So long as Syrian compliance is judged to be moving in the right direction, the White House will not be minded to interpose deal-breaking demands. Similarly, with regard to Iran, the change in atmospherics is palpable. Whether or not Obama meets with President Rouhani at the UN General Assembly next week, US officials now see the chance to reinvigorate the "extended arm" diplomacy from the early days of Obama's first term. As one NSC official commented to us: "We have gone from instinctively distrusting anything and everything Tehran said to being at least open to listening." US officials now speak openly of "mutual respect." The well-known opponents of any accommodation with Iran are already mobilizing to undermine this approach. US diplomats and military planners are ever mindful of Israeli objections but, as one intelligence officer commented to us, "for the time being we have Netanyahu is the box where we want him." .."

"Russia did not sell this particular batch of chemical munitions to Syria."

"... While the Assad regime in Damascus has denied responsibility for the sarin gas missiles that killed around 1,400 Syrians in the suburb of Ghouta on 21 August, information is now circulating in the city that Russia's new "evidence" about the attack includes the dates of export of the specific rockets used and – more importantly – the countries to which they were originally sold. They were apparently manufactured in the Soviet Union in 1967 and sold by Moscow to three Arab countries, Yemen, Egypt and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's Libya. These details cannot be verified in documents, and Vladimir Putin has not revealed the reasons why he told Barack Obama that he knows Assad's army did not fire the sarin missiles; but if the information is correct – and it is believed to have come from Moscow – Russia did not sell this particular batch of chemical munitions to Syria.Since Gaddafi's fall in 2011, vast quantities of his abandoned Soviet-made arms have fallen into the hands of rebel groups and al-Qa'ida-affiliated insurgents. Many were later found in Mali, some in Algeria and a vast amount in Sinai. The Syrians have long claimed that a substantial amount of Soviet-made weaponry has made its way from Libya into the hands of rebels in the country's civil war with the help of Qatar – which supported the Libyan rebels against Gaddafi and now pays for arms shipments to Syrian insurgents.....Nevertheless, it also has to be said that grave doubts are being expressed by the UN and other international organisations in Damascus that the sarin gas missiles were fired by Assad's army. While these international employees cannot be identified, some of them were in Damascus on 21 August and asked a series of questions to which no one has yet supplied an answer. Why, for example, would Syria wait until the UN inspectors were ensconced in Damascus on 18 August before using sarin gas little more than two days later – and only four miles from the hotel in which the UN had just checked in? Having thus presented the UN with evidence of the use of sarin – which the inspectors quickly acquired at the scene – the Assad regime, if guilty, would surely have realised that a military attack would be staged by Western nations.As it is, Syria is now due to lose its entire strategic long-term chemical defences against a nuclear-armed Israel – because, if Western leaders are to be believed, it wanted to fire just seven missiles almost a half century old at a rebel suburb in which only 300 of the 1,400 victims (if the rebels themselves are to be believed) were fighters. As one Western NGO put it yesterday: "if Assad really wanted to use sarin gas, why for God's sake, did he wait for two years and then when the UN was actually on the ground to investigate?"....."

Saturday, September 21, 2013

IAEA rejects "Israel-bashing"

"... Following a lively debate at the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) annual general conference on Friday, the measure, supported by Iran, was defeated by 51 votes against and 43 in favour with 32 abstentions.
Israel is widely thought to have nuclear arms but has not confirmed so, and is not a signatory to the landmark Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). 
Although Israel is a member of the IAEA, it is not subject to its inspections except for at a small research facility..."

U.S.-backed rebels & al Qaeda are "brothers of ISIS in Islam, and will not accept a non-Islamic or non-Shariah-based constitution.”

"...The group affiliated with the Free Syrian Army that brokered Thursday night’s cease-fire, Liwa al Tawheed, has long worked closely with the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham and its al Qaida-linked ally, the Nusra Front, and wants to avoid an escalation, said Aymenn Tamimi, a fellow at the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum who’s a doctoral candidate at Oxford University.“I don’t see the Azaz clashes as evidence of an imminent ‘FSA vs. ISIS’ war,” he said by email. “Notably, Liwa al Tawheed’s commanders still value ISIS as a military asset and were accordingly pushing for a compromise in Azaz, even as many on-the-ground supporters and lower-rank fighters are much more suspicious of ISIS.”
Tamimi also said that another FSA-affiliated group, the Farouq Brigades, which battled Islamic State fighters last week in the town of al Bab in Aleppo province, was likely to want to preserve its contacts with Islamic State fighters. Farouq leaders, he said, “stress they are brothers of ISIS in Islam, and will not accept a non-Islamic or non-Shariah-based constitution.”..."

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Spies Inside Damascus

"... Israel shared its findings with the United States, but Washington would not acknowledge those findings' veracity. It was clear to the Israelis that the Americans saw those findings as a hot potato that the president was in no mood to hold. Without grasping the deep political significance of publicizing this material (or perhaps doing so intentionally to put pressure on Washington), Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, the head of the Aman, the Israeli military intelligence corps' research division, stated clearly in an April 23 speech at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons on its citizens. 
This utterance angered and embarrassed the U.S. administration. Washington stuttered for a few days and demanded clarifications from Israel. In the end, and following areport submitted to the United Nations by Britain and France, the Obama administration had to admit that the informationwas in fact correct. Since then, to avoid similar commotions, Aman officers are forbidden to appear in public conferences.
Either way, the intelligence coordination between Israel and the United States has not suffered, and Israel continues to (feed)share the vast amounts of information that it has about Syria with the United States. Published reports credit Israel with giving the CIA, as the Wall Street Journal put it, "intelligence from inside an elite special Syrian unit....
"We have a very extensive knowledge of what is happening in Syria. Our ability to collect information there is profound. Israel is the eyes and ears, sometimes exclusively, sometimes as complementary aid, to what the U.S. intelligence is able or unable to collect itself," Maj. Gen. Uri Sagi, Israel's former chief of military intelligence, told me on Sept. 19. .."