Posts Tagged ‘Assad’

 

gassan-asassali Certainly, by now we’ve all seen the tear-jerking, heart-rending tale of the American family of Syrian origin whose relatives (who had obtained a visa and had a nice house waiting for them in Allentown Pennsylvania) were turned back to Syria due to the Trump Executive Order banning people from entering into the US if they were citizens of one of the seven predominantly Muslim countries, including Syria.

The family told their story several times to TV crews and even had a Go Fund Me set up for them to help defray their costs for this setback.

Well, all it takes is a tiny peek into their public content on Facebook to see that their story gets quite a bit less warm and fuzzy, they actually support a mass murderer. Ghassan Assali and his wife both have regime flag profile pictures, indeed, there is a lot of pro-regime content on (particularly) Ghassan’s page. One of his shared memes was celebrating that Hillary Clinton would have to “Go Away” rather than Assad. I left a comment on that meme (which Ghassan did not leave on the meme), and he sent me this message:

assali-1

Which, in English means:

Everyone makes mistakes but thank God, Trump apologized for what happened and gave them a new visa and compensated them for everything. Now they’re on their way. There was a problem interpreting the order, which includes Islamists and terrorists only. The crushing [of the Syrian opposition translator’s note] is still going on.

Well, that’s some big news! The family is back on their way COMPENSATED FOR EVERYTHING!

Then why is there still the Go Fund Me active?

And apparently, Trump supporters don’t care enough to send money because the Organiser of the campaign had to leave this update:

Update 4
Posted by The Wild Family

13 hours ago 

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As the organizer of this page, I feel compelled to speak publicly and respond to some of the comments made on this page regarding reports that the Assalis of Allentown voted for Trump. These reports are incorrect. They did not vote for any candidate, and more importantly, were vitally concerned about the safety of their loved ones in Syria. For that reason, they discussed the relative benefits of one candidate over the other, and as with many in the local Syrian community, voiced hope that Trump might bring about a safer world for their family. HOWEVER, they did not vote for him, period.
Even more important, however, is to keep in mind that their family members who have now been returned to Syria did not vote (obviously) and had no political convictions about the election in the U.S. They just knew that they had to get out of Syria. So, please do not hold any grudge against the people for whom this page was organized. I hope this answers any questions. If you have more, please send an email to the organizer of this page (me) and I will do my best to answer any questions. Peace, Susan

So, either Susan or Sarmad is lying: “Assali said her vote for Donald Trump was done out of a desire to see secure borders, though she didn’t expect one of her candidate’s chief campaign promises to be applied to her relatives, who are all Orthodox Christians with green cards.”

You see, Ghassan and his wife think Assad is the man protecting them and fighting Islamists and Terrorists, but at the same time, in televised interviews they claim that their family has even before the war had been persecuted for their religion. Oh… but they aren’t asking for Asylum, and at the same time, Assad is apparently the protector of the minorities, isn’t he?

The family had been working since 2003 to escape religious persecution in their war-torn country. They have a furnished home waiting for them in Allentown.

As of this moment, the Go Fund Me is still active, though the Assali family is also suing.

So, what is it? Were they persecuted? If they have been compensated and granted new visas, why are they still collecting money and playing the victims?

assad-must-gooh, and here’s the meme about going away that was so funny to Ghassan Assali in November. I guess he kind of changed his mind since then, because these are his groups today: no-trump

 

proudest momentWRITTEN BY DAVID A TURPIN, JR.
Ms. Terry Burke has ruffled some feathers at the United National Antiwar Coalition. The veteran antiwar and international solidarity activist has written an outstanding criticism of UNAC’s hypocritical silence in regards Assad’s war crimes. Her critique is a welcome breath of fresh air in a moribund antiwar movement. US antiwar opposition is in a profound crisis, and the crisis is a direct result of the hypocrisy of UNAC’s line on Syria. The facts about the Assad regime’s murderous policies can no longer be denied, and UNAC’s leadership is engaging in damage control, abruptly changing tactics from arrogantly ignoring critical voices, to pedantry and warning against following Ms. Burke’s example as this will “weaken and divide” the antiwar coalition. Indeed.

Lecturing Ms. Burke about US imperialism and ominous warnings about divisions, however, will not make the crisis go away. UNAC’s leadership needs to assume responsibility for the crisis of our movement: their cover ups of Assad’s chemical attacks, their denials, and their apologies for the regime’s campaign of terror from the skies have completely undermined UNAC’s moral authority.

The United National Antiwar Coalition’s refusal to condemn the Assad regime’s war crimes actually facilitates the ongoing, expanding, militarist, terrorist and misnamed US-led “War on Terror”. The moral basis for opposition to the “War on Terror” rests on condemnation of the use of modern weapons of war in indiscriminate violence against civilians, but UNAC’s leaders have betrayed principle and corrupted the purpose of building an antiwar opposition by becoming apologists for the bloodiest agents of terror in Syria: Assad, and his backers in Russia and Iran.

Assad cannot govern Syria; his regime relies on a policy of collective punishment through sieges and the indiscriminate use of air power against civilian populations in areas liberated from regime control. Assad and his supporters’ crimes against humanity are widely documented by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Doctors Without Borders. Denying overwhelming evidence, UNAC publicly laments the “demonization” of Assad, all the while demonizing the democratic opposition as “Islamic extremists” and “foreign financed terrorists”.

By repeating the Assad regime’s lies, the leadership has converted the antiwar coalition into an “antiwar” propaganda machine for a war criminal. This is why UNAC is unable to offer a serious challenge to the US “War on Terror”. The leaders of UNAC cheerlead for Assad as he murders and maims indiscriminately, in the name of fighting “terrorism”; what then are their objections to US airstrikes?

UNAC’s leadership seems oblivious to how well Assad has played them. Assad has proven himself to be an excellent, if cynical, student of US propaganda. The dictator has purposefully crafted his image to present his regime as potentially the most reliable ally of the US Coalition’s “War on Terror”. UNAC’s slavish repetition of Assad’s line leaves the “antiwar” coalition unable to mount serious opposition to the ongoing expansion of the direct US military intervention in Syria, which contrary to UNAC’s claims is not aimed at regime change, but specifically at targeting Daesh.

US jets already share Syrian air space with Assad’s and Russia’s air force, so the accommodation of the US, and Assad and Russia, is a consummated and objective fact. Whatever lip service the Obama administration payed to democracy and human rights in Syria has long been forgotten; anymore, Obama doesn’t even bother to mumble. Moreover, Kerry and Lavrov are working hard for an agreement on formal collaboration between Russia and the US. In all likelihood, this agreement will leave the Assad regime in place, ostensibly during a “transition period”. Once the goal of regime change has been taken off the table, and the US has never seriously pursued this goal, how will UNAC oppose the “War on Terror”? Will UNAC demand Assad be made a full partner in the US-led Coalition, because he can use his barrel bombs and poison gas without political repercussions? Do the leaders of UNAC, who loudly boast of their experience and knowledge of history, recall that papa Assad joined Bush’s US coalition in an earlier episode of the never-ending “War on Terror”?

Madelyn Hoffman being briefed before the "spontaneous" objective conference for the press!

Madelyn Hoffman being briefed before the “spontaneous” objective conference for the press!

UNAC’s leadership has been played for fools by the Assad regime. They’ve also foolishly fallen for US imperialism’s feigned support for the opposition. It is obvious from UNAC’s statements that the leadership sees the US playing homologous strategies in Afghanistan in the 80s and Syria today, but the trickle of small arms once supplied to the Syrian opposition, and always with strings attached, contrasts sharply to the flood of weaponry the US channeled through Pakistan to the Mujahideen, weapons which included ground to air missiles. In Syria, the US has imposed an embargo specifically preventing the opposition from acquiring air defense systems, and the US attempts to control the supply of heavy weapons, precisely because it wants to control the struggle against Assad. If regime change were the real objective of US imperialism, why does it dither? The pitiable US antiwar movement has certainly not been a factor even worthy of consideration.

UNAC’s tiresome and repetitious lectures about the savage history of US imperialism miss the point: in Syria the US is just as opposed to democracy as it is anywhere else, but in Syria it leaves the dirty work of butchering people to the Assad regime, Russia and Iran. UNAC presents apologies for the war criminal regime as defense of Syria’s right to self determination; Assad may be a war criminal, but UNAC’s leaders tell us he is an “anti-imperialist” war criminal. All the better for US imperialism, the dirty deeds are done for free by a “sovereign” power.

DelegationAssad-1024x511United States antiwar opposition cannot regain momentum without fully recognizing that Assad is first and foremost responsible for the humanitarian crisis in Syria. No other conclusion can be drawn from any serious assessment of the destruction and casualties attributable to the regime’s and Russia’s use of such weapons as barrel bombs, chemical gas, cruise missiles, napalm, phosphorus and cluster munitions, and vacuum bombs, against urban populations, and even against emergency, and medical personnel and hospitals. The tragic and inexcusable casualties resulting from the reprehensible US Coalition airstrikes in Syria, and the damage done to infrastructure by these attacks, simply cannot be compared to the half a million and counting Syrians who have perished, primarily due to the regime’s and Russia’s air strikes in densely populated urban areas. Relentless bombing is the primary reason why half of the country has been displaced, with many millions driven into refugee camps or into desperate and dangerous journeys to Europe.

As for how to defeat Daesh without US Coalition airstrikes, it should be obvious upon reflection, that the only alternative to sectarian violence is a united, democratic Syria. Opposition to the bombing campaign, both by the regime against the people and by the US Coalition is how our antiwar movement can immediately take a stand in support of this alternative. UNAC, however, has chosen to lead the US antiwar movement behind the Assad regime, presenting the monstrous Assad as the most effective gendarme for crushing terrorists. This position is not only morally repugnant and clearly a betrayal of antiwar principles, it actually paves the way for the US “War on Terror”.

It is essential the US antiwar movement take a principled stand against Assad and Putin’s relentless bombing campaign. It is essential that we stand with the oppressed in their struggle against a regime that rules through incarceration, torture and terror. Our antiwar movement must reach out to the Syrian people, and stand in solidarity with their struggle. This was Ms. Burke’s simple message, which sadly has fallen upon deaf ears and hard hearts.

Il sangue di Parigi è sulle mani di Assad

Posted: 11/20/2015 by editormary in Iran, Middle East, Politics, Syria, War
Tags: ,

putin-assad-ready-share-power1Il dittatore siriano non è il nemico di ISIS – è il suo abilitatore

SCRITTO DA ROBERT COLVILLE tradotto da Mary Rizzo

Gli attentati di Parigi sono nauseanti, scandalosi e sconvolgenti. E uno dei momenti più scandalosi è giunto quando il presidente siriano Bashar al-Assad ha deciso di attribuire la colpa degli atentati alla politica estera francese. Ciò che i parigini stanno affrontando, ha detto, è esattamente ciò che i siriani hanno affrontato negli ultimi cinque anni. Se solo la Francia lo avesse aiutato contro gli islamisti, invece di mantenere le distanze!

Ovviamente, la maggior parte della colpa per la tragedia di questa settimana è di ISIS e della sua dottrina di terrore e atrocità. Ma l’individuo più direttamente responsabile dell’ascesa di ISIS, e del suo consolidamento, è Bashar al-Assad.

Non solo perché, trascinando la Siria in una guerra civile, ha creato i presupposti per lo sviluppo di ISIS, ma anche perché ha fatto tutto quanto in suo potere per rafforzarlo. La verità è che Assad e ISIS non sono nemici: sono alleati.

Per capire cosa intendo, dobbiamo tornare al 2012/13, quando i ribelli – guidati dal Free Syrian Army – erano alle porte di Damasco. Al fine di salvare se stesso, Assad ha fatto due cose.

an Iranian opposition group understands the actual situation in this "election poster"

un gruppo iraniano d’opposizione ha capito che comanda in Siria

In primo luogo, ha accettato quello che era essenzialmente un cambio di gestione della campagna militare in chiave iraniana: come Dexter Filkins ha scritto sul New Yorker, Qassem Suleimani – il capo della di Teheran Quds Force – è volato a Damasco per assumere il controllo delle operazioni personalmente, inondando il conflitto con denaro iraniano, armi iraniane e combattenti provenienti sia da Teheran che dal suo alleato libanese Hezbollah.

Ma l’altro polo della strategia di Assad è stato più insidioso. Dall’inizio della guerra aveva etichettato i suoi nemici come terroristi islamici e nel corso degli anni ha fatto di tutto per far sì che questa etichetta diventasse una realtà.

Pericolosi jihadisti sono stati rilasciati da Sednaya, la mega-prigione del regime, e sostituiti in carcere da blogger e attivisti dei diritti umani. Bombe e fucili del regime sono stati rivolte ai moderati, mentre agli islamisti radicali (molti dei quali avevano dato prova di sè nella rivolta contro gli Stati Uniti in Iraq) è stata data carta bianca nel nord. A maggio hanno ricevuto persino supporto aereo da Assad, durante la loro avanzata su Aleppo [ndt: 31/05/2015 a Mare’a, nord di Aleppo, quando i ribelli subirono simultaneamente un offensiva di terra da parte di ISIS e attacchi aerei da parte di Assad].

Mideast Syria Alternatives to AssadQuesto, tuttavia, era solo l’inizio. ISIS ha catturato giacimenti petroliferi – ma non aveva mercato per il petrolio. Ecco che entra in scena il presidente Assad. Non solo ha comprato il petrolio dei militanti dell’ISIS, ma gli ha garantito accesso al cibo e persino riparazione per le loro torri di telefonia mobile. E i suoi amici in ISIS hanno restituito il favore, non marciando su Damasco, ma su Baghdad. Così inizia il panico nell’occidente e gli attacchi aerei – contro ISIS, non contro Assad.

Perché Assad lo ha fatto? Semplice: per convincere sia il suo popolo che le potenze straniere che lui è l’unica alternativa ai fanatici. La sua strategia è sempre stata, come David Blair (una delle più sagge voci britanniche in materia di politica estera) ha scritto sul Telegraph lo scorso anno, di agire prima come piromane, poi come vigile del fuoco.

Assad ora afferma di essere l’unico in grado di contenere ISIS. Ma la verità è che non ha fatto quasi nulla per contenerlo. Anche ora, i suoi alleati russi non bombardano ISIS, come dicono, ma i pochi moderati assediati che rimangono.

Il risultato è una macabra simbiosi. Assad bombarda, mutila e uccide, spingendo la gente nelle braccia degli estremisti. Poi può additare alla crescita dello Stato islamico e dire, come ha fatto riguardo Parigi: “Guarda questi fanatici barbari. Come posso io essere una minaccia più grande di loro?”

Ma, come quanto detto finora dimostra, Assad non è il minore dei due mali qui: dei due mali è il maggiore. Dal 2011, dice Emile Hokayem dell’International Institute for Strategic Studies, “il regime di Assad è stata la principale fonte di morte e distruzione in Siria”. Anche ora, non solo sta uccidendo più cittadini siriani dello Stato islamico, ma anche in quantità enormemente maggiori.

Quindi no, i morti di Parigi non sono il risultato della politica del governo francese. Sono il risultato di un’azione deliberata di Assad: prendere una piccola cellula tumorale chiamata ISIS e darle tutti i nutrienti di cui ha bisogno per crescere in qualcosa di vasto e maligno.

Dal 2011, infatti, tutto ciò che ha peggiorato questa guerra può essere fatto risalire al dittatore siriano e nulla di quello che ha fatto l’ha mai resa meno dura.

L’uso di armi chimiche e bombe a barile contro i suoi stessi cittadini? Pesa su Assad.

La morte di migliaia di persone e lo sfollamento di milioni? Pesano su Assad.

La distruzione di Palmyra (forse il posto più bello che abbia mai visto) e di gran parte del resto del patrimonio e della cultura della Siria? Anche questo pesa su Assad.

E le morti di Parigi e dell’aereo di linea russo e di Beirut? Di nuovo, Assad.

Sì, ISIS è la più grande minaccia immediata per l’Occidente. E sì, non ci sono praticamente buone opzioni per porre fine a questo orribile, brutale conflitto.

Ma ogni scenario in cui noi diventiamo gli alleati di Assad per combattere gli islamisti, qualsiasi scenario che lo lasci al potere piuttosto che in prigione, sarebbe disgustosamente immorale. Non solo perché incoraggerebbe i dittatori in tutto il mondo a seguire la stessa linea, ma anche perché rappresenterebbe una vittoria per la sua strategia diplomatica della barbarie calcolata.

I morti di Parigi meritano di più.

L’autore è l’ex editore dei commenti del Telegraph e delle notizie presso BuzzFeed UK.

ORIGINALE:  https://medium.com/@rcolvile/the-blood-of-paris-is-on-assad-s-hands-93f3b5a40cdc#.tevbhsqj4

WRITTEN BY SAMANTHA FALCIATORI
The nearly 1,400 people poisoned to death on Aug. 21, 2013 do not have an official murderer yet, but ballistic analysis leaves little doubt. Here is what we know and what cannot be told of that terrible night.

Between 2:00 and 5:00 am on August 21, 2013 in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta nearly 1,400 people, including 400 children, were killed in Syria’s largest chemical attack. According to Doctors Without Borders, in just 3 hours their hospitals received 3,600 people with symptoms of neuro-intoxication.


Victims of the chemical attack.

It was not the first time that toxic gas was used: as early as May 2013 in Jobar (another Damascus suburb in the opposition’s hands) a team of reporters from the French newspaper Le Monde was involved in a chemical attack,  presumably by government forces against the FSA (the moderate forces of the opposition). The team was there to document even more earlier reported cases of chemical attacks in the district. Among them there was Laurent van der Stockt, the most affected of the team: tests conducted in France on his biological samples revealed, as he himself declared, traces of sarin nerve gas. Their reports and testimony describe a terrible reality that was already widespread. In April the use of chemical weapons was also recorded in other areas, but never on a large scale. Until the attack in Ghouta, in the densely populated neighborhoods of Zamalka and Moadamiya. But why Ghouta?

Credit, BBC

Credit, BBC

Because in July 2012 the FSA offensive on Damascus had been successful and the opposition had taken control of some areas surrounding the capital, including Ghouta, threatening the Assad government as never before, who denied responsibility in the chemical attack and accused the rebels. The FSA and the civilians of Ghouta, however, accused the regime of having used chemical weapons to crush the opposition near Damascus.

The UN immediately opened an investigation with a fact-finding mission – which was already in Damascus on August 21 to investigate other cases of chemical weapons use in Khan al Assal and Sheik Maqsood (Aleppo) and Saraqeb (Idlib) – and confirmed the use of chemical weapons in the September 2013 report. The mission interviewed survivors, doctors, nurses and rescue workers, collected many samples (urine, hair, blood, soil, metal, etc …), including fragments of the missiles used, then analyzed them in the laboratories of the Organization for the Prohibition of chemical Weapons (OPCW), which confirmed the use of sarin nerve gas dropped through surface-to-surface missiles.

 A UN chemical weapons inspector in Ghouta (Credit to: Ammar al-Arbini/AFP/Getty)

A UN chemical weapons inspector in Ghouta (Credit to: Ammar al-Arbini/AFP/Getty)

In December 2013, the UN published another report on 16 chemical attacks registered before and after August 21, of which only 7 had been investigated. For none of them the responsible could be assessed. However, in some of these attacks, like the one on April 29 on Saraqeb and on Sheik Maqsood on April 13, 2013 the alleged gas was dropped, according to eyewitnesses, by Syrian army helicopters (which is only force in Syria to have aviation). To this regard, the report says on page 79: “Syrian government officials said they have no information to offer on the alleged incident.” More doubts remain on the case of Khan al Assal, the only case that also Russia looked into, producing a 100-page report, which was never published but delivered to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, in which Russia accused the rebels.

Assigning blame is not easy for a political body such as the UN, considering that at the Security Council sit both allies of the Syrian government and of the opposition. This is why the report does not determine who has used chemical weapons even in the case of Ghouta: the purpose of the mission was to ascertain the use, not those who used them, as explained by Ban Ki-Moon. If on the one hand not determining who is responsible may be politically convenient, on the other hand it is a double-edged sword: it means that the report can be interpreted in favor of the 2 opposite thesis. In fact, Russia has blamed the rebels, going as far as to accuse the UN inspectors of having conducted a “prejudicial and biased” work, while the US, France and Britain have blamed the Assad government.

Let’s start with what is certain: the details that emerge from the report and from the ballistic missile trajectories makes it possible to trace the launch site. Among the most accurate independent works are those by Human Rights Watch and the New York Times. In the report on pag. 26 it is stated that of the 5 missiles launched on August 21 only 2 allow one to calculate the trajectory: the 1st and 4th, respectively launched on Moadamiyah and Ein Tarma. The 1st has an angle of 35° and an azimuth of 215°, while the 4th has an angle of 285° and an azimuth of 105°, which means that tracking back the launch site, the only result is the 104th Brigade of the Republican Guard.

Credit to: Human Rights Watch

Credit to: Human Rights Watch

It is one of the Syrian government bastions, on Mount Qasioun, a place overlooking the Presidential Palace where the Republican Guard and the infamous 4th Army Division (led by Assad’s brother, Maher) are located, which would mean that the order came directly from Maher Assad, as some UN officials believe. The issue is complicated: according to some frantic phone calls between high-ranking Syrian officials intercepted by the BND, the German intelligence service, by Israeli and American intelligence, it would seem that Bashar Assad is not personally involved in the chemical attack. Indeed, the intercepted calls reveal that 4th Division commanders had been asking the Presidential Palace for the authorization to use chemical weapons for 4 and a half months and that Bashar had always denied. It is likely that Maher Assad made the decision alone. In any case, there is broad agreement that it was the Syrian government who used chemical weapons.

In fact, Mount Qasioun is one of the strongholds more firmly in the hands of the regime, where government troops launch their attacks on rebel areas. The argument put forward by the Syrian government and its ally Russia is that, as Putin himself wrote for the New York Times: “No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke [military] intervention”. Which in fact, after the attack seemed to be imminent, when Obama found himself in the uncomfortable position of having to act on the threat made to Assad the previous year to use force in the event of a chemical attack, which was a red line.

But if so, it should at least be explained not only how the rebels would have been able to steal nerve gas from the regime, but also how they managed to penetrate the stronghold of government troops and self-launch sarin. To this regard, it is useful the statement of prof. Ake Sellstrom, head of the UN mission, who in this interesting interview (page 10) admits: “If you try the theory that it was the opposition that did it, it is difficult to see how it was weaponised. Several times I asked the government: can you explain – if this was the opposition – how did they get hold of the chemical weapons? They have quite poor theories: they talk about smuggling through Turkey, labs in Iraq and I asked them, pointedly, what about your own stores, have your own stores being stripped of anything, have you dropped a bomb that has been claimed, bombs that can be recovered by the opposition? They denied that. To me it is strange. If they really want to blame the opposition they should have a good story as to how they got hold of the munitions, and they didn’t take the chance to deliver that story”.

_69784568_chemical_weapon_624_v4

In September 2013 a military intervention in Syria to eliminate the chemical threat, opposed by most of global public opinion, seemed imminent, although the US themselves were not excited at the idea. In fact, they seized the Russian proposal to dismantle the chemical arsenal of Damascus with the regime’s consensus.

The Syrian government had denied for years that it possessed any chemical weapons, but, when pressed, not only had it to admit possessing them (revealing, to the surprise of the inspectors, also production plants artfully disguised, such as labs on mobile trucks with 18 wheels), but it also had to access the Chemical Weapons Convention to dismantle them and to allow OPWC inspectors  into the sites. On paper the mission was successful; in reality, not quite. In May 2015, when the mission was virtually over, OPCW inspectors found other  undeclared sites where the Syrian government was working on Sarin and VX nerve gas. This shows that the Syrian government has lied regarding its arsenal and therefore could still possess chemical weapons. All this seems to confirm many claims, spread by several parties from 2013, that the Syrian government was moving chemical weapons into friendly countries, such as Lebanon and Iraq, so that more than once (as in January and May 2013) Israeli jets bombed Syrian convoys bound for these countries to prevent arms transfers.

More detailed are statements from Syrian army deserters who warned several times of chemical weapons transfers across borders and of their use. But perhaps the most important testimony comes from Brigadier General Zaher Saket, former commander and chemical weapons officer in the 5th Division of the Syrian army, who defected in March 2013 and who now works with the OPWC mission. He revealed the chain of command behind the use of chemical weapons and that the orders are to use them in those areas in opposition hands where the army is unable to eradicate the enemy. Saket also revealed that he was ordered to use chemical weapons three times, the first time in October 2012. The order to release poison gas on Sheikh Maskeen, Herak and Busra (in the province of Deraa) came from Brigadier General Ali Hassan Ammar, but Saket did not execute the orders and replaced the mixture of phosgene and chlorine gas that he was supposed to use with a harmless water-based mixture. The third time was in January 2013, but his supervisor became suspicious about the lack of victims after the attacks, so Saket was forced to flee to Jordan. As of September 2013, according to Saket, chemical attacks by the regime had been 34.

One of the weekly Kafranbel protests marking the first chemical attack anniversary. Credit to: Occupied Kafranbel

One of the weekly Kafranbel protests marking the first chemical attack anniversary. Credit to: Occupied Kafranbel

On August 7, 2015 the UNSC unanimously approved resolution S/RES/2235 that should create for the first time an investigation mechanism to determine who is responsible for the chemical attacks in Syria. Perhaps one day truth will be ascertained and those responsible will be judged. For now, we have the terrible testimonies of survivors.

WRITTEN BY MARY RIZZO

What precisely is the USA doing regarding Syria? Has it changed its policy over the course of the years since the start of the protests in Syria in 2011? Are the events at the confines of Europe enough to bring a return of multilateralism in response to global crises or even a change in command? To answer the first two questions, it’s a good idea to understand what the USA has had as its goal regarding Syria. It would be too elementary to state simply that they are “looking after their own interests” and defining those interests only in two traditional compartments: control of energy and resources and management of Israel. The first compartment demands no explanation, the second is heavily tied in with maintaining the regional “instability” (not stability, as one might think) because as long as there is an illegal occupation that the USA traditionally supports economically and diplomatically, creating tensions internationally and allowing the USA and its allies to determine a military presence and accept that there is nuclear proliferation in the area, despite having themselves signed the NPT, they can continue to influence events and policies, thus making the control of energy and resources more successful.

everyone in power gets what they want.

everyone in power gets what they want.

However, it is not really either of those two issues that may be the driving interest of the USA regarding Syria. The USA, like any other country, naturally has to have an interest in order for them to do any kind of action, and refraining from an action while stating that actions could be taken is also an action. The USA has been very vocal regarding Syria and they have done specific actions since the start of the uprising, most of them, however, detrimental to Syrian people. The interest they have is to re-establish authority and influence with smaller countries within the new global situation where the relationship between the West and the East has changed. Oddly enough, this is the same problem that Russia has, left as it is without the clearly established balance of power and satellite states, and it seems that the arena for this to play out is Syria.

For a very long time some have attempted to deny that the Syrian people had ever risen up themselves. “Conspiracy buffs” as well as reactionary thinkers of every colour of the political spectrum, believed that it was not possible that civilians could continue to protest against their government even after the government reacted brutally to repress the protests, promising only more blood and destruction. Nor could these “thought leaders” or “vanguards of anti-imperialism” believe that there could be defections from the Syrian Army, where they formed a defensive army that later had the stated goal of overthrowing the government if the government would not step down. The government, naturally, had no intentions whatsoever to step down, and used the smokescreen of “sovereignty” in order to pursue its policy of using brutality to repress the protests and stay in power.

There are conditions both in international law and in what is established by customary international law where sovereignty is considered to be a lesser “right” than the right of protection of human life. In 1999, even without a UN mandate, customary international law permitted international intervention in Kosovo and it went under the journalistic name of “humanitarian war”, surprisingly, having as some of its supporters persons considered within the vanguard of humanitarianism such as Vaclav Havel who stated:

“I believe that during intervention of NATO in Kosovo there is an element nobody can question: the air attacks, the bombs, are not caused by a material interest. Their character is exclusively humanitarian: What is at stake here are the principles, human rights which are accorded priority that surpasses even state sovereignty. This makes attacking the Yugoslav Federation legitimate, even without the United Nations mandate.”

Right on the heels of the moral and practical questions regarding the appropriateness and feasibility of “humanitarian intervention”, scorned by some humanitarians and endorsed by others, comes the other pressing issue concerning intervention, no less bitterly disputed by humanitarians, that of “regime change”. The Syrian people, when they took to the streets to protest, as is now understood by even the staunchest defender of Assad, were not demanding a regime change. They were making explicit demands for reforms and against corruption and what was widely regarded as a governmental policy where privileges, opportunities and development were handed out or withheld along sectarian lines. Those closest to the regime had less trouble advancing and the average citizen was excluded from progress or actually discriminated against on a daily basis according to his or her religious or ethnic belonging. It didn’t take long for the demand for reforms to turn into a demand for Assad to give up his power, because no longer was it considered as legitimate. Not only for the not-insignificant matter that he basically inherited the power, for the leadership of Syria, following the coup of Bashar al-Assad’s father, was simply autocratic rule of a family dynasty with the Ba’ath party providing a way for non-family members to obtain some power.

SAVING ASSADThe uprising had all the aspects of a revolution, including mass defections of the regular army into a people’s army with the goal of overthrowing the government in power. The problem, however, is: once the government goes, something else is going to have to come after it, and neither the US administration nor the apologists in the west who go under the code name of “anti-imperialists” were willing to see some kind of self-determination of the people, since they had not been either groomed for democracy nor were the ideologically prepared to set up a state that would cater to the agendas of the anti-imperialists.

Can a people who are demanding the end of an illegitimate government (and the government did not gain in legitimacy simply by staging sham elections) have conditions put on them externally as well as the internal violence used by them so that they cease and desist? Is any assistance given so that they obtain their goal deemed as intervention? We’ve seen how the anti-imperialists aren’t against foreign intervention, since they strongly support that of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah in favour of the upholding of the regime, but they simply do not want US intervention, because they have “interests and an agenda”. Seeming to wish to appease this faction, though not wanting to close off future options, The US Administration used a non-interventionist approach, hoping that Assad would simply leave, or that there could be a political solution, because he had to know, he was a very, very bad man and the USA was going to verbally condemn him for as long as it took! The records are full of scores of condemnations from the Commander in Chief, the Secretary of State, the Spokesman for the White House and the UN representative. Obama has gone on record with a powerful statement of condemnation in February 2012, following the Homs Massacre:

“I strongly condemn the Syrian government’s unspeakable assault against the people of Homs, and I offer my deepest sympathy to those who have lost loved ones.  Assad must halt his campaign of killing and crimes against his own people now.  He must step aside and allow a democratic transition to proceed immediately. Thirty years after his father massacred tens of thousands of innocent Syrian men, women, and children in Hama, Bashar al-Assad has demonstrated a similar disdain for human life and dignity. Yesterday, the Syrian government murdered hundreds of Syrian citizens, including women and children, in Homs through shelling and other indiscriminate violence, and Syrian forces continue to prevent hundreds of injured civilians from seeking medical help.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton still thought there was a diplomatic solution to get Assad to step down, or simply “goes”, as she had said at the heels of the Hama Massacre in June 2012.

 “We’re disgusted by what we see happening. The regime-sponsored violence that we witnessed again in Hama yesterday is simply unconscionable,” she said. “Assad has doubled down on his brutality and duplicity, and Syria will not, cannot be peaceful, stable or democratic until Assad goes.”

Then a year and a half later, when the more crude massacres were being replaced by a seemingly endless, and still ongoing, campaign of barrel bombing on civilian areas outside of regime control, the White House continued to condemn the regime. Press secretary Jay Carney said:

“The United States condemns the ongoing air assault by Syrian government forces on civilians, including the indiscriminate use of SCUD missiles and barrel bombs in and around Aleppo over the last week.” Yet, he still believed that in spite of the policy of repeated air raids using SCUD missiles against civilians, he called on all parties in the Syrian conflict to “reach a comprehensive and durable political solution to end the crisis in Syria.”

Yeah, that usually works.

To not seem like they were just good at words but short on deeds, the US also supplied some forms of military aid and training. To a very select few, almost never providing them with what they asked for according to their needs, and absolutely not anything that might involve direct intervention or even the request for a No Fly Zone, a demilitarised zone in the sky that perhaps could not be properly enforced, but at least points in the right direction at the ending of aerial attacks. This aid had the characteristic of being just enough assistance to keep some pressure on Assad, but not enough assistance to remove him. Apparently, the US strategy is to wait for Assad to “step aside”, “go” or even be one of the parties to “reach a solution”. The way things are going the only Assad solution looks a lot like the final solution.

Is there still any doubt that the longer this regime stays in place, the worse things will be?

RED LINECould that truly abhorrent policy of “the worse things are, the better they are” be the endgame in the plans of the US? Is their current intervention – one that leaves Assad unharmed, allows his army to concentrate on fighting the “rebels” while others fight it out in the areas where the risks of loss of crucial air power are greater, allowing Assad to be constantly armed by Russia – a deliberate policy? The morphing into a War on Terrorism has become the excuse to intervene selectively while allowing the regime to remain in power. Despite the focus of the US solely on ISIS, it is clear that the only way to save whatever remains of Syria and stop the suffering of the Syrian people is to remove the regime by any means possible in the shortest time possible. To leave the regime in place is to allow a murderous dictator to continue his policy of mass destruction of the assets of the nation and genocide of the population. Therefore, the US solution is not a solution and it can’t be accepted. Stopping a dictator of this sort is one of the reasons that international law is granted legitimacy to intervene, taking precedence over any reasons of sovereignty, which have been violated at any rate by the Russian and Iranian contributions since the very beginning of the war.

There is and has been more than enough evidence, directly presented to the USA administration as well as available to the international community and even to private citizens to verify for themselves and that prove without the slightest doubt that the regime has engaged in actions within its own territory that are in violation of human rights. There is clear evidence that the regime is the perpetrator of massacres, including those deemed even more serious than massacres with conventional weapons because they involved use of weapons of mass destruction (chemical weapons). The western apologists repeated the regime line at first, denying that the regime even had any such things and that the massacres of civilians in opposition areas was work of the opposition itself so that they could frame Assad with crimes he did not commit, but Bashar al-Assad himself threw them all for a loop, finally making an “executive decision” to save his skin. He debunked many of these feckless supporters by agreeing to “surrender the chemical stockpiles” to an international body so that they could be destroyed as part of the reassuring deal that the US would refrain from military intervention as a result of the regime turning over its enormous stock of WMDs, including of course, the very Sarin gas that the Assad supporters claimed did not exist.

Where the USA was willing to appease and be appeased, assured that if they intervened, it would never be enough to change the game, or upset their “rival” Russia, and surely not have the aim of regime change, the European Council, in its Foreign Affairs meeting press release stated:

“Non-inclusive policies in Iraq, and instability in Syria caused by the Assad regime’s brutal war against its own people, massive human rights violations and systematic obstruction against democratic reforms, have allowed ISIL /Da’esh to flourish. As a consequence of its policies and actions, the Assad regime cannot be a partner in the fight against ISIL /Da’esh.”

And further:

“The EU is seriously concerned about the humanitarian and security situation in Syria and Iraq and condemns unreservedly the attacks, atrocities, killings and abuses of human rights perpetrated by ISIL / Da’esh and other terrorist groups in both countries as well as by the Assad regime in Syria. The EU is determined to contribute to the international endeavour to defeat those terrorist groups. A Syrian led political transition and inclusive political governance in Iraq are crucial to sustainable peace and stability in the region.”

The question comes naturally, has the USA unequivocally condemned the Assad regime in such clear terms, even attributing to his regime “allowing ISIL/Da’esh to flourish”? The answer is, “No”.

The US is aware that the EU collectively does not possess its own army to enforce the military policies that might derive from Foreign Affairs directives. It does not have the unified military might to actually “contribute” to defeating terrorist groups, though, differently from the “Coalition intervention”, the EU has officially rejected having Assad as a partner in defeating them. In fact, it implicates that the transition to follow the war will be Syrian in Syria and Iraqi in Iraq. It envisions victory in the “war on terror”, but it also rejects what is so far the Russian paradigm of support of the regime and the US one of tolerance of it. The US however, isn’t that concerned about what the EU will or will not do or want, because while they prefer multilateralism, if their allies don’t have the same plans, the US will carry on without any problems in unilateralism.

Tensions are increasing in the Eastern European countries that see the return of Russian expansionism.

Tensions are increasing in the Eastern European countries that see the return of Russian expansionism.

Now that Russia has also returned to its tendencies of expansionism, States under its influence and economically tied to it are undergoing dramatic events so as to get closer to Europe. This increased tension in the area, the blurred line between West and East, is going to contribute to just how far Russia is willing to go for broke with its own interests. Is Russia powerful enough and interested enough to face down both the US and the EU in a power battle that is playing out in Syria and the Ukraine? The veto power in the Security Council only goes so far, at the end of the day, wars are fought on the battlefield. The US is willing to flex its muscles, but not upset the balance too much. The EU would be in a unique position of bringing the war to a quicker end if they are serious and not just using the “condemning” in the traditional way, but they would need to enlist individual armies in the effort, something that is highly unlikely. The vast military spending each nation has, while paling in comparison to other countries, still has provided most of Europe with the most advanced systems on the market. Many of the air forces in Europe are equipped not only with a substantial amount of extremely costly F35s of dubious quality, but also with scores of Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoons and other advanced fighter planes. These aircraft must have been placed into the budgets of these nations not only to decorate the hangars and give pilots something to practice on. It would be feasible for several air forces alone to enforce a No Fly Zone if there is political will to do so. There already is more than enough legal justification for such action. So not acting militarily, even taking into account the difficulty of such a thing, seems to be a matter of choice. All of that will turn what was a revolution indeed into a proxy war, at the expense of the Syrian people. There are better choices to be made, and they have to be made before it is too late. If the US is unwilling to do what is necessary to stop a genocide, Europe should take the lead in international affairs. Not only will it help save Syria and its people, but it will establish multilateralism, which itself is a requirement for self-determination in post war transitional periods.

A dynasty borne from a military coup which cancelled out elements of secularism and which promotes itself to the West as "the Stronghold of Secularism in the Middle East"

A dynasty borne from a military coup which cancelled out elements of secularism and which promotes itself to the West as “the Stronghold of Secularism in the Middle East”

WRITTEN BY MARY RIZZO: Many people have never heard of the word Sectarianism until the past few years. A simplistic definition would be a conflict between religions or ethnic groups. The antidote to this is considered to be secularism, which is intended as a supposed neutrality of the state towards all religions. Secularism additionally connotes ideas of protection of minorities in a society.

One of the greatest myths of the Syrian war is that it is a sectarian war and that the presence of Assad in the Presidency is the reason for which Syria maintains its secularism. In fact, in a paternalistic way, Bashar Assad, as did his father Hafez has skilfully used propaganda towards the population in order to create domestically the idea that only the regime and the Ba’ath party can serve as a stabilising factor of national unity and internationally to paint himself as a “progressive” who is the last bulwark against the forces of darkness, extremism and religious fundamentalism.

When Assad’s father took power in 1970 in a coup which overthrew the government that only the year before had drafted what can be considered as the only true secular constitution Syria ever had, he made sure his coup was “legitimised” by an election where he was the sole candidate and in 1973 amended the constitution so that it guaranteed explicitly that the Head of State must be of Muslim faith. He even established the “Waqf”, which is a Ministry of Religion and appointed a Mufti of the Republic that establishes an Islamic bureaucracy. The management of a body of religious officials and granting them such authority in governance can hardly be defined as “secular” if we take that concept to mean separation of Church and State. It is clear that Bashar al-Assad KNOWS that outside the Levant secularism is a value that gives a kind of “reassurance” to other nations and it hints at a behaviour that is inclusive. It is not important for Syria to BE secular in Assad’s eyes, but it is important that it is PERCEIVED as such in the West, and this is why he promoted himself as the defensor of such a state.

Thus, if there was no secularism for Assad to defend, the only way to promote such an idea of the “irreplaceable quality of Assad” that would be strongly supported by progressives and those who believe in the separation of Church and State or even those who abhor the idea of a religiously-based State anywhere but in Tibet and/or Israel and/or Iran would be for Assad to create “sectarian strife” himself.

The Syrian heart of darkness did not begin as a conflict between religions, and as a matter of fact, placing the conflict in a simplistic Sunni vs Shi’a equation, while currently popular, is actually a self-fulfilling prophesy and a strategic option used by the Assad regime to the hilt.

The reality of Syria is that it is essentially a clash between an authoritarian, ruthless leadership and the masses (mainly comprised of the majority Sunni population that had been excluded from the most important positions of power and subjected to constant obedience) that was simply tired of kneeling down before the president and those associated with his power. It must be stated that the majority of the positions of control and ownership of wealth in the country belonged to the religious group of Assad, the Alawites, carrying on the tradition of the father of surrounding himself with loyalists particularly in the military, however his associated élite also includes members of various religious groups, though the dominant trait of all of these personalities is not their sectarian belonging but rather their unconditional support to the Assad regime.

A bit of "Baathist Realism" painting: depicts Assad nurturing the tree sprout supported by: Sunni Grand Mufti of Syria Badr ad-Din Hasun (lower right), Greek-Catholic (Melikite) Patriach Gregory Lahham (upper right), an unidentified Shiite cleric who has similarities with Iraqi sayid Ammar al-Hakim (top center) and a Druze shaikh, maybe shaikh al-‘aql Hammud al-Hinnawi (top left).

A bit of “Baathist Realism” painting: depicts Assad nurturing the tree sprout supported by: Sunni Grand Mufti of Syria Badr ad-Din Hasun (lower right), Greek-Catholic (Melikite) Patriach Gregory Lahham (upper right), an unidentified Shiite cleric who has similarities with Iraqi sayid Ammar al-Hakim (top center) and a Druze shaikh, maybe shaikh al-‘aql Hammud al-Hinnawi (top left).

Depicting the war in Syria as a continuation of the Sunni-Shi’a schism (which dates back to the dawn of Islam) rather than a struggle of the disenfranchised for their rights is a gross misrepresentation of facts and a distortion that serves to manipulate public opinion internally and abroad as to the “necessity of Assad.” Discounting the true causes and the true nature of the struggle serves only to remove or reduce the revolutionary spirit that started out as legitimate demands for reforms and rights that had long been denied and are considered by all in the world who believe in human rights as fundamental and legitimate rights.

It is even an established truth that influential segments of Alawite and Christian intelligentsia have always been on the side of the masses during the uprising and even after the regime “reacted” by severe prosecution for the courage of being openly so closely tied to what had been quickly painted by the regime and its apologists as a “Sunni rebellion” that would endanger the minorities. Given that defence of minorities is a secular conquest, somehow it is difficult to understand how the regime’s torturing, murdering and imprisoning minorities that rebelled against the regime could be construed as defence of the minority. This reality could only be true in the criminal interpretation of the concept that predominates the Assad narrative.

Yet, it cannot be denied that exploding onto the scene to enhance the sectarian strife and add great numbers of combatants was none other than the theocratic Republic of Iran, which itself persecutes the ethnic and religious minority of the Ahwazis (Arab Sunnis). Could the reason for this be some kind of Shi’a solidarity? No doubt, it is simpler to use a religious “calling” to convince the population that a cause is worthy, as people are historically far more apt to sacrifice their sons in war for a sacred or religious purpose than to an economic one, but the persons who make the decisions in Teheran probably share a stronger  opposition to Iraq than they do a unified vision of extension of the Shi’a influence. Additionally, both of them (at least on paper) share a common animosity for both the United States and Israel. One could say that they might be using their own status as anathema to reinforce their own individual positions with a bit of leverage.

Hezbollah’s intense involvement as well seems to be economically based, as financially they exist by will of Iran and Syria and it could either be payback time, while Hezbollah is also giving the Assad regime the lifeblood and soldiers that it needs to keep on surviving. While it might also be true that some in Hezbollah fight against the opposition to Assad because the opposition is comprised for the majority of Sunnis (which should not serve to define it as a Sunni army, given that 74% of the population are Sunnis any more than the USA army could be defined as a Christian army even though 76% of the USA population are Christians) others in this militia could possibly believe they are fighting for a resistance cause against the West, Israel and Saudi Arabia in a sort of proxy war. That many “secularists” who support Assad seem to turn a deaf ear when Nasrallah makes speeches against “Takfiri” (a Muslim who accuses another Muslim of apostasy) is another indication that there is very little genuine concern for secularism no matter what some of these defenders of Hezbollah in the west might claim. They also might get a slight case of the hives when they find  out that just this week Assad has made a decree that puts in the school curriculum “Shi’a education”.

Yet, the greatest risk for Syria, as long as the myth of sectarianism remains part of the dominant discourse is going to be run by the minority populations. It is not at all unlikely that the Assad regime will be defeated. The outcome could be that the country is torn apart by collective blame of the Alawites who would bear the brunt for the abuses of the regime, despite the fact that part of the regime is Sunni. It will be nearly impossible to construct and rebuild a secular-pluralistic Syria that existed in some dimension historically and is yearning to free itself from oppressive rule based on favouritism and interests. Creating a truly just Syria for all Syrians means to recognise the myth of sectarianism as one of the war strategies of Assad for the sole purpose of maintaining his personal power and the wealth of those close to the regime.

the "enemy" bombs... but you of course, don't react, do you?

the “enemy” bombs… but you of course, don’t react, do you?

WRITTEN BY LORENZO TROMBETTA, translated by Mary Rizzo

No open warfare is about to break out in the Middle East. And no balance status quo in place for decades is about to get off kilter. The Syrian regime has no intention of responding militarily to the alleged air raid carried out by Israeli fighter jets just two steps away from Damascus against a target, the nature of which is still uncertain. The Israeli action is only indirectly linked to the dynamics of the ongoing internal conflict in Syria and is not intended to be followed by any other actions in the short term.

In the night between Tuesday 29 and Wednesday 30 January, an “unprecedented explosion” was heard by the inhabitants of Jamraya and Hamma, located halfway between Damascus and the Lebanese border. The sources speak of a blast that was “much more powerful than those heard in the past” and a fire broke out inside the Science and Research Centre, protected on three sides by land controlled by the armed forces.

Israeli press sources indicated in that same area the target of the raid. But diplomats and intelligence (anonymous) affirm that what had been struck was a convoy of missiles destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon, the allies of Damascus who effectively control large portions of territory across the border.

In a statement, the Syrian government has admitted the Israeli bombing, saying it targeted a research centre and in the attack and two employees died. At this point, there is insufficient information available and provided by unidentified sources, the reconstructions are biased and contradictory.

What is certain is that for days the Israeli air force had stepped up patrols over the skies of Lebanon. A fact confirmed by the Ministry of Defence in Beirut and the UN force deployed in southern Lebanon.

The rise of the Israeli security measures was a result of the claims made by the authorities of the Jewish State about the danger of the chemical weapons in the possession of the Syrian regime possibly falling into the hands of its allies, Hezbollah. For Israel, they are the real enemy at the gates.

The Syria of the Assads for decades has not constituted a real threat to Israel’s security. Indeed, as has been repeatedly stated in a direct and an indirect way by Israeli politicians, the permanence in power of President Bashar al Assad is a guarantee and not a danger to the Jewish state. Which has never hidden the fact that it prefers its best enemy to the unknown.

Signals that no war is about to break out in the region also come from the two main allies of Damascus: Hezbollah verbally condemned the raid yet,  in spite of having ample means to do so, it did nothing to prevent the Israeli fighter jets from bombing a target just miles away from the Syrian capital.

Israeli planes went in – confirmed the defense ministry in Beirut – by Naqura, on the sea, and in a north-easternly direction, have gone through almost all of the Beqaa valley passing right over the inner defense lines, deposits and training camps of the Shiite militia. If Hezbollah really wanted to protect its ally – and unleash a new war with Israel – it could use at least one of the twenty thousand missiles said to be in possession of the pro-Iranian movement.

And if Israel wanted to support the Syrian anti-regime rebels – which is the argument of the supporters of Assad, raising hue and cry of a foreign conspiracy led by the Zionists – they not merely would bomb a sole objective, and almost two years after the start of the uprising, but they would have long ago started a campaign on several fronts to accelerate the fall of Assad

Iran, for its part, had in recent days said that “any attack on Syria will be considered an attack on Iran.” But from the declaration of condemnation in the latest hours from Tehran – by the Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defense – it is clear that the Islamic Republic will not act militarily in the rescue of its historic Arab ally.

The Syrian government – through the ambassador in Beirut, not the president Assad says that it reserves the right to respond to the vile aggression, but it will do it by way of surprise. As if the surprise effect was an exception in this type of action and not the norm.

The difficult position of the Syrian regime is put in these hours is further laid bare by the finding – reported not only by expert analysts but by the simplest of men in the street in Syria – that no Syrian military aircraft rose in the air to protect the country from an Israeli raid.

And that the Damascys avatiation  will not be used against the “enemy” but will continue to be used against field hospitals where injured are crowded beyond belief, bakeries before which stretch lines of women and children, and mosques which are the refuges of displaced families. (Limesonline, January 31, 2013).

http://www.sirialibano.com/short-news/siria-israele-business-as-usual.html

azmi-bsharaHow the Road to Hell was Paved (without any good intentions this time):

In the beginning, the regime refused to lead a reform process, which the protestors, and a group of people including myself had begged it to do. Instead, the regime began a forceful repression of the uprising. 

Only after it was too late does the regime finally declare that it will accede to reform—and by then, nobody believed them. Of course, the regime wanted to lead the reform single-handed, pushing the opposition aside. The forceful repression of the uprising, which by then had blossomed into a revolution, continued. 

The regime begged for dialogue, and asks the unarmed opposition to take part. Nobody accepts however, and the regime wages war on its people who are now in the throes of an armed revolution. 

The regime demands negotiations without any preconditions, yet nobody is willing to accept anything less than the regime’s departure as a condition to come to the table. So the regime adopts a scorched earth policy, bombing its own towns and cities and displacing its own people: even as they stood in queues outside of bakeries, the Syrian people were bombed by their regime. Even if left without a people and state to rule over, and even if only the ruins of towns and cities remain, this regime of destruction is committed to remaining in power. 

The Syrian people have lost count of the dead. All they have left to see is the light at the end of the tunnel.

Welcome Ramadan, Get Lost Bashar

WRITTEN BY ASMAE SIRIA DACHAN, translated by Mary Rizzo

20 July 2012, 1 Ramadan 1433. Today is the beginning, for millions of Muslims the world over, of the month of Ramadan, considered by the faithful as a moment of sincere devotion, of purification and of prayer and it is for this reason welcomed with great celebration. It is one of the acts of faith that creates the greatest amount of gathering together, with families who reunite, sharing their meals at sunset even in the places of worship. Visits to the sick, as well as to friends and relatives increase in this period precisely to reinforce the connections between people and to mend any possible fractures that may have occurred.

Ramadan has a social meaning, as well as the religious one, so much so that it is felt even among persons who are generally less observant, because it expresses that sense of sacrifice, surrender, purification and rebirth that gives one hope. It is a light that shines at the end of the tunnel… even when the tunnel is long and it takes months and months to get to the other side of it. Just like the tunnel from which we see emerging, with great human sacrifices and an unmatchable commitment, the Syrian people, who find themselves welcoming Ramadan, for the second consecutive year, under the bombardment of the regime. The picture above refers to last year: Sawret al karamah, the “Revolt of Dignity”, had been started at that time already for four months by a group of young protesters, who wrote in candles: “Welcome Ramadan, Get out Bashar”. Perhaps no one could have predicted such a lengthy repression, which has already exceeded sixteen months, causing more than 19 thousand victims, among them, at least 1,400 children. The most recent veto of China and Russia has left the Syrian people feeling indifferent, who by now know that the International Community will not give them any real support, the contrary is true: the halting character of the world only reinforces the murderous folly of the regime, which has made its offensive even more brutal, and one once again we are hearing talk of the use of chemical weapons.

I say “once again” because it has already been months that the doctors of Baba Amr, the long-suffering neighbourhood of the old city of Homs, have denounced the use of white phosphorus, documenting irreversible damage provoked by its use.

Even the “Neighbours”, the Arab nations that are considered as “Sisters”, are enacting a policy of indifference regarding the humanitarian tragedy that is striking the civilians, even going so far as rejecting the entrance of refugees, pushing them back and treating them inhumanely, as the humanitarian associations have been stating.

It is such a sad Ramadan, the one that is beginning, which only this Thursday, on the first night of the vigil, has been grieving the deaths of over 280 persons killed, slaughtered in various locations in the suburbs of Damascus and in the Homs Province. Many Syrians who live abroad, even here in Italy, were used to spending Ramadan with their loved ones, returning to Syria or perhaps inviting their parents or grandparents to come here. Today the repression prohibits Syrians from living that very “normality”, forcing them into atrocious suffering, wounded by the loss of relatives, friends and acquaintances, for the destruction of homes, entire neighbourhoods and yes… entire cities… and especially for the wounds caused by the indifference of the world. It might sound like a paradox, but giving strength to those Syrians outside the homeland, telling them to not give up, to smile and to trust God with even greater force, as well as to have more belief in themselves, are actually those Syrians who are living under the repression, who yesterday by means of internet found a way to give the world their greetings for Ramadan, expressing the prayer that the Ramadan of 2013-1434 will be a different Ramadan, in which the Syrians will be rebuilding everything that the regime has destroyed, finally finding the longed-for peace and freedom.

original in Italian on My Free Syria

Editorial staff of ilmediterraneo  Translated by Mary Rizzo

ROME – The Syrian regime has no intention of enacting the United Nations and Arab League plan. It is instead adopting a strategy of “buying time”. Having been advised by its inner circle, the regime is clearly betting on the future potential modifications that in the end will influence the structure of the events. It goes without saying, the regime has approved the mission of the United Nations due to pressure exerted by the international community. As it stands, the time margin of three months set out by the mission is considered as being opportune to allow the international community to accept the imminent modifications as facts on the ground (while both the French and American administrations are currently preoccupied with their own elections).

At the same time, the local scene within Syria is in a restructuring phase with constant killings, arrests of revolutionary activists and the continual displacement of the civilian population, especially in Homs. A clear signal of the success of the dismantling of the uprising as carried out by the government.

Based on the following facts, it seems like the regime has approved the United Nations mission on the basis of the evaluation of the Russian position on Syria, especially after the constitution of the “Friends of Syria” that has proposed a “group to monitor the follow-up on the crisis”.

THE RUSSIAN STRATEGY FOR SYRIA

It is clear that the Russian strategy has the purpose of softening the position of the international community, limiting it to concentration exclusively on the urgent humanitarian crisis in Syria and shifting the attention away from the strategic plan. Moreover, Moscow is attempting to drag the world in a controversial discussion regarding the presence of organised terrorism in Syria lead by “armed gangs”.

With the Russian strategy and the dilated time frame of the Annan “peace plan” the Syrian regime could try to stop the uprising with more solid arrests and more killings. It is furthermore trying to limit the defections within the armed forces, which are very dangerous for a regime that no longer can predict the defections and the possible consequences. Based on the above elements, it is correct to say that the regime is not willing to enact the Kofi Annan initiative regarding a pacific transfer of power. The Syrian government knows that the international community is considering a similar solution in Yemen, while the Syrian protesters are determined to continue in their struggle without compromising.

It is indeed impossible for the Syrian population, after the massacres and the destruction of the cities, to accept any agreement or conciliation. The choices of the regime are thus narrowing. It has to drastically silence the revolution and it needs to find the way to rebuild the regime in the international and regional scene, or it will push the country towards a civil war where the author remains unpunished, leaving all the parties to bear responsibility.

Original http://www.ilmediterraneo.it/it/cronaca/7803