A 75-year-old man stabbed to death yards from his home may have been targeted in a racially motivated attack, according to police.
Mohammed Saleem, who used a walking stick, was stabbed three times in the back as he returned home from prayers at his local mosque in Small Heath, Birmingham, on Monday night.
The blows were struck with such violence they penetrated to the front of his body.
The father of seven also had no defensive wounds in what has been described as a swift, vicious and cowardly attack by the man leading the murder investigation, Detective Superintendent Mark Payne of West Midlands police.
Birmingham murder may have been racially motivated, say police - 2 May 2013
Dramatic footage has emerged of the suspected terrorist attack near the London barracks that left one man dead, showing a suspect with blood-covered hands using jihadist rhetoric to justify the violence.
On Wednesday night the prime minister, David Cameron, vowed that Britain will "never buckle" in the face of terrorist incidents, and condemned the "absolutely sickening" killing in Woolwich.
Man killed in deadly terror attack in London street - 22 May 2013
Syria: The Messed Up NeighborhoodThe recent bombing that killed 51 in the Turkish town Reyhanli received only scant coverage in the local media. While the Turkish president Erdogan accused the Syrian government of committing the crime he did not want the facts to be out in the public. But he is not the only one to have power in Turkey.
The Turkish hacker collective RedHack liberated several documents from the Turkish gendarmerie intelligence. The documents mention that Turkish intelligence had since April 25 information that the Jihadist Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria was preparing three car bombs for attacks in Turkey. If these documents are as genuine as they look the Turkish press will hardly ignore them and Erdogan will have to do some explaining.
The Reyhanli cover up and this leak point to a growing spat between the Erdogan followers and the followers of his former allies in the Gulen movement:
Beyond such arguments that there might be a cover-up in the establishment, there are even bigger mysteries. For instance, nobody explained yet why a corpse was tied to one of the car bombs with copper wires, even though this photo was in almost all newspapers in Turkey including Hurriyet, Milliyet, Sabah and Aksam just after the bombing.The other countries in Syria's a neighborhood also experience related interior trouble. In Lebanon the issue has turned bloody and the northern city of Tripoli has seen several days of now heavy fighting including mortar barrages:
In the end, fifty people died, Turkish society is even more divided and many people don't have any trust for the official investigation. The only indisputable outcome of this process is how the crime scene became another arena in the silent fight between the Gulenist-dominated police force and the Erdoganist-dominated national intelligence service (MIT).
Syria: Obama Expresses Concern About Some Foreign Fighters
Lebanese youth from the city of Saida, south of Beirut, began Wednesday signing up for armed Jihad in Syria, responding to a call yesterday by firebrand Sunni cleric Ahmad Assir.
Individuals in charge of enlisting Jihadists at Bilal Bin Rabah mosque told Al Arabiya that “hundreds” have signed up so far and that the number is expected to reach thousands.
Lebanese Sunni youth sign up for holy war
Following a circuitous route from Saudi Arabia up through Turkey or Jordan and then crossing a lawless border, hundreds of young Saudis are secretly making their way into Syria to join groups fighting against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, GlobalPost has learned.
With Official Wink And Nod, Young Saudis Join Syria's Rebels
Syria: Journalists Are Misreading The Map
The New York Times:
Mr. Assad could probably take Qusayr, a crucial area because it lies near the border and links Damascus with the rebel-held north and the government-held coast.
The Wall Street Journal:
The bloody battle over the city of Qusayr, near the Lebanese border, has the potential to transform Syria's conflict, say fighters, diplomats and analysts. A government victory there could give the regime of President Bashar al-Assad a corridor of territory connecting Damascus to Syria's pro-Assad coastline and to Lebanese territory controlled by Iran-backed Hezbollah.The Globe & Mail:
The small city, about 100 miles northwest of the Syrian capital, Damascus, is crucial to supply routes for both sides. Qusair is a conduit for rebel supplies and fighters from Lebanon, and it links Damascus to the Mediterranean coast, which is the heartland for Mr. al-Assad’s minority Alawite sect.A map of south-west Syria shows Damascus at the bottom, Homs in the upper right and Tartus at the cost in the upper-left. The marker "A" points to the city of Qusayr. It lies across road number 4 which runs from the north-east to the south-west connecting Homs with Baalbek in Lebanon.
Notice that there is no road through Qusayr running from the south-east to north-west. There is not even a minor connection from Damascus to Tartus that runs through the town. If you were planning a trip from Damascus to Tartus would you consider passing through Qusayr? Unless you would want to walk you likely would not do so. Why then are journalists asserting that the Syrian government would do so?
Syria: Disunited Insurgents Lose QusayrThe Syrian army seems to be successful in capturing Qusayr. It has thereby opened the transport routebetween Damascus and Lebanon while denying it as a resupply line for the insurgents in Homs governate. Within Qusayr an old armored Israeli Jeep (video) that had been used by the insurgents was found. There must be an interesting story behind this find.
There was a lot of twittering today between pro-insurgency folks about this or that insurgent group that had allegedly sold out or skipped away from the battle in Qusayr. The hundreds of insurgency "brigades" are disunited. The do not have the same motives and aims and therefor lack cooperation. That is one of the reasons why they get beaten back:
Abu Akram, a rebel commander in the city of Maaret al-Numan from the Islamist Suqoor al-Sham brigades who was part of an operations team planning the battle, was a little clearer about the disputes: “The main reason was the lack of supplies, and we started blaming each other and saying ‘so-and-so has more than me, you pledged to work, why aren’t you?’ until it reached the point that Ahrar al-Sham wouldn’t work with the Martyrs of Syria [brigade], and the Martyrs of Syria wouldn’t work except with so-and-so. So we had to end the battle, and plan for a new one.”While the insurgency continues to retreat, Russia's maneuvering is successful in deterring any chance of outright "western" intervention. Israel remains the wild card. Should Netanyahoo miscalculate and order another Israeli air raid on Syria the local conflict in Syria will escalated into a much greater confrontation.
Doug Saunders Is Wrong On Iran
Doug Saunders writes for the Globe & Mail. His book Arrival City takes a somewhat contrarian view of the migration into city and is pretty good. I found it therefore pretty disgusting to read his recent totally conventional and uniformed missive on Iran: The Iranian threat isn’t nuclear – it’s political
The openeing graphs:
During the eight years of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency, Iran has become an increasingly dangerous place. That danger, however, is not posed by nuclear weapons – which remain an uncertain and, at worst, long-term threat – but more urgently from Iran’s own self-imposed collapse.Where to begin?
Far worse than Mr. Ahmadinejad’s comic-book sabre-rattling at Israel and the West, worse than his increasingly ineffective support of extremists and demagogues, has been his effect on his own country. A decade ago, Iran was a hopeful place, moving away from the excesses of its theocratic revolution and into the outer edges of normalcy and co-operative relations with the world. The Ahmadinejad era reversed that, plunging the country into self-isolation, poverty, mismanagement and paranoia.
Was it Ahmedinejad that made Iran internationally more isolated than a decade ago? Iran had cooperated with the United States to kick the Taliban out of Afghanistan and to install the Karzai government. The U.S. not-so-grateful response was to name Iran as a member of the Axis of Evil and soon to introduce sanctions and more sanctions. That happened on January 29 2002. Ahmedinejad came to office only in August 2005.
Is it really then, as Saunders says, Ahmedinejad who reversed co-operative relations with the world? Did Ahmedinejad impose sanctions on Iran?
The nonsense continues:
Every Iranian feels the pain of the Ahmadinejad years. Inflation is out of control, with basic staple foods and vegetables unaffordable to many working families. The rial, Iran’s currency, has plummeted in value. Unemployment is the norm, with little economic activity beyond the dysfunctional state – and army-controlled enterprises.Every sentence in the above paragraph is factually wrong. During the Ahmedinejad years the purchase power parity GPD of Iran has increased through every year. The subsidized gas and oil prices in Iran were best for those who used the most energy, the rich. When Ahmedinejad cut those subsidize and replaced them with direct payments the poor Iranians gained a lot despite an increase in inflation. That is why they would likely vote for anyone he will support:
“A pro-Ahmadinejad candidate will have a good number of votes,” said Abolfazl Zahei, a proreform activist. “There are 2,000 villages in South Khorasan province, and most people in those villages have benefited from Ahmadinejad’s government. People care about making their ends meet and welfare, not politics.While inflation in Iran is high, staple prices are price controlled and have not increased that much. They are surly not unaffordable for working families. Yes, the rial has plummeted. As it should. Japan under prime minister Abe just willfully devalued the Yen and revived Japan's lagging export industry. A plunging Rial will have exactly the same result for Iran. Imports of luxury goods will be more expensive but many people will now find work in growing export businesses. While unemployment in Iran is likely higher that the official 8%. compared to say Spain it is rather benign. Private economic activity in Iran is not low and the economy is not army-controlled. Those companies in semi public hands are owned by various insurance like pension funds that have their own interests divergent from the army or the revolutionary guards.
One wonders how Doug Saunders could come up with so much nonsense. But he also seems to believe that former president Rafsanjani can win in the upcoming presidential election in Iran. Rafsanjani is a neoliberal ultra-rich cleric who was trounced by Ahmedinejad in the 2005 presidential election. He may get, like the "reformers" in 2005, the votes from the upper middle-class people in north Tehran. But as the 2005 election proved any election in Iran is decided by the votes of rural and poor masses. They will vote for the candidate that has the support of the rather social-democratic president Ahmedinejad.
Syria: The Turning International TideThere is a change in the global political position towards Syria. Here are three recent indicators. Via FLC we learn of a significant position change in Tunisia:
Tunisia wants to reopen its embassy in Syria which has been closed for more than two years and has sent a request in this vein to the government in Damascus. Tunis is yet to receive a reply from Syria’s foreign ministry and a diplomatic source said that the letter has been sent to the foreign ministry since “last week.”Tunisia is especially significant as it is part of the Arab League and its government is led by the Ennahda party which is ideological affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Tunisia is threatened by the Ansar al-Sharia Salafist movement, some of who's supporters are fighting on the Syrian insurgency side, and the Ennahda government recently moved against that group.
Tunisia quickly closed its embassy when the uprising against the Assad regime began in 2011. It will become the first country to reopen its diplomatic office in Syria if its request receives a positive response from the foreign ministry.
Another sign that the international wind is changing was last weeks United Nation General Assembly vote on a nonbinding Qatari resolution against Syria. The resolution itself had to be rewritten some six times and while it gained the vote of 107 states a similar resolution last year was favored by 130 states.
A third sign is the seemingly changing position in Israel where a political mood is turning towards keeping the Syrian president Bashar Assad in power:
“Better the devil we know than the demons we can only imagine if Syria falls into chaos and the extremists from across the Arab world gain a foothold there,” one senior Israeli intelligence officer was quoted as saying.That view will likely later be reflected in Washington where the "Assad must go" crowd has yet to weaken its position.
A weakened, but intact Assad regime would be preferable for Syria and the Middle East, the Times reported intelligence sources as saying.
While the above three indicators point to a change in position the Israeli change adds what can be understood as a new demand:
The situation that Assad survives, maintaining power in Damascus and in the corridors to the large coastal cities, would entail the breaking up of Syria into three separate states.The Zionist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy have propagandized for such a breakup for quite some time:
[T]hree Syrias are emerging: one loyal to the government, to Iran and to Hezbollah; one dominated by Kurds with links to Kurdish separatists in Turkey and Iraq; and one with a Sunni majority that is heavily influenced by Islamists and jihadis.I do not believe that a split of Syria is going to happen. The Kurds in Syria may gain some additional cultural autonomy but they will not join any other state or create one of their own. The Jihadist insurgency will be beaten and most Sunnis in Syria, as well as the minority Alawite and Christians, will not want their state to split but want to rebuild it.
“It is not that Syria is melting down — it has melted down,” said Andrew J. Tabler, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and author of “In the Lion’s Den: An Eyewitness Account of Washington’s Battle with Syria.”
“So much has changed between the different parties that I can’t imagine it all going back into one piece,” Mr. Tabler said.
Israel does not have the power to break Syria into weak statelets and other states have no interest to do so. It would only invite more trouble.
In this recent interview Bashar Assad presents himself again as a self secure statesman. There is no way that man would let Syria get chopped up though he is still expecting some additional outright intervention:
"[Intervention] is a clear probability, especially after we've managed to beat back armed groups in many areas of Syria. Then these countries sent Israel to do this to raise the morale of the terrorist groups. We expect that an intervention will occur at some point although it may be limited in nature."Any further intervention will only come after the Geneva conference fails as it will because the disunited Syrian opposition will not be able to guarantee that its side will adhere to any negotiated clause.
But that failure is still many weeks away and meanwhile the trend towards more international support of Syria and against the insurgency will gain speed. Without broad international support a U.S. or Israeli intervention is likely to fail.
Syria: News RoundupBack from traveling here are some links to recent developments around Syria.
There is some background on a video that shows a Saudi al-Nusra fighter executing 12 captured and bound men. There is also new information on al-Mesreb village where locals clashed with al-Nusra terrorists who killed villagers and burned down houses.
Two suicide bombers opened an all out attack on the central prison in Aleppo which houses some 4,000 prisoners. I interpret this attack as an attempt to free prisoners to urgently get more personal for the insurgency. The attack was repelled by prison guards with significant losses for the attackers.
The Syrian army is still preparing to liberate the city of Qusayr which is situated on one of the main supply routes for both the insurgency as well as for the army. Civilians fleeing the surrounded city report that about a thousand insurgents in the city are digging in but are low on ammunition.
Anonymous U.S. intelligence people claim that Russia delivered a new version of anti-ship missiles to Syria. There is no mentioning of when exactly that is supposed to have happened. Last month, last year or three years ago? It also not clear why that is supposed to be a change. Syria already has able coast defense forces that would make a supply of the insurgents via a sea route quite dangerous. Additionally, as U.S. media only now note, there is new permanent Russian navy force in the Mediterranean that could challenge any attempts of a coastal siege or even a no-fly zone. The "new weapons" story seems to be a plant (to "Iraqi WMD" reporter Michael Gordon) to allege recent Russian delivery of arms to Syria even if there is no proof for such. But the claim can be used to justify the delivery of U.S. weapons to the insurgents.
The exiled Syrian opposition is now demanding new arms as a condition for agreeing to peace talks. The seem to understand that the current losing state of the insurgency does not give them any leverage in negotiations.
For the third time insurgents have abducted UN observers in the Golan height zone and looted their observation post. The Syrian government claims to have an email that prove contacts between the Qatari government and the UN kidnappers in one of the earlier cases. Qatar is said to have invested about $3 billion to keep the insurgency in Syria going and to be disliked by every side.
"Western" pro-insurgents "experts" claim that Syria is breaking up into various parts. As the facts on the ground would not yet agree to that, this campaign suggest that such a breakup is the aim of the "expert's" sponsors.
Obama met with the Turkish sultan Erdogan. There seems to be no agreement between them on how to continue their onslaught on Syria. The only point they agree on is a meaningless "Assad has to go" which would then be a starting point for "something". Zionist lobby "experts" urge the U.S. to further intervene with a no fly zone to save Erdogan's endangered political position and U.S. "credibility". In the run up to World War I it was Germany's "credibility" towards a misbehaving ally that had to be saved. That did not end well.
Open Thread 2013-09
... busy ...
News & views ...
Syria: The Casualty CountTime magazine has a piece about a video which shows a Syrian insurgency fighter cutting the heart and liver from a man and then eating it.
I swear by God, we will eat your hearts and your livers, you soldiers of Bashar the dog! Takbeer! Heroes of Baba 'Amr, [inaudible] cut out their hearts to eat them!The man has been seen in other videos. He is known as Abu Sakkar of Baba Amro, Homs, also known as Khaled Al Hamad. He was a senior commander of the "moderate" Al Farouq brigade. "Was" because he is now dead. And no, he did not die of food poisoning. The Farouq brigade is part of the Free Syrian Army which is supported by the United States.
The British intelligence operation known as Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has put up new numbers of the allegedly total killed in Syria (it is certainly not incidentally that these numbers are put out the day Cameron meets Obama):
More than 80 thousand people killed since the beginning of the Syrian uprisingFirst notice the weird "civilian" numbers. If the Syrian government is "indiscriminate" in killing "its own civilians" why is it that nine times more men have died than women? Were these really "civilians"?
As of 11/5/2013, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has documented the deaths of 70,257 people since the beginning of the Syrian revolt (in 18/3/2011), with the first martyr falling in Der'a that day.
The dead: 34,473 civilians, including: 4,788 children and 3,048 women. 2,368 unidentified persons (individually archived with pictures and video). 12,916 rebel fighters. 1,847 unidentified rebel fighters. 1,924 defectors. 16,729 regular soldiers.
The SOHR estimates that more than 12,000 pro-regime militia, Shabiha, and "informants" were killed by rebels.
Second: By this count the total number of killed insurgents (rebel fighters + unidentified rebel fighters + defectors) is about equal the number of regular soldiers killed.
Third: How come the number of civilians, insurgents and regular soldiers are counted exactly while the 12,000 allegedly killed "Shabiah" are only estimated? What is the difference between a "civilian" and an "informer"? Or is this new addition to the estimate just a Cameron-sees-Obama bonus?
But as unreliable these numbers may be it is still interesting to look at changes within these numbers.
Looking at some of the daily data the SOHR is putting out we find that a significant trend change has taken place. While the total numbers of dead soldiers and insurgents listed by the SOHR in this conflict is nearly equal, the daily reports over the last weeks show that now more than double as many insurgents die as regular soldiers.
35 civilians, 25 rebel fighters, 2 defected soldiers, a defected officer, 8 unidentified rebel fighters and at least 17 regular soldiers.Disregarding the "civilians" 36 fell on the insurgency side while 17 fell on the government side.
Friday (Saturday data is missing):
38 civilians, 36 rebel fighters, 1 defected captain, 2 defected soldiers, 8 unidentified rebel fighters and at least 18 regular soldiers.47 insurgents versus 18 regular soldiers.
27 civilians (including 12 children), 20 rebel fighters, 9 unidentified rebels, 18 regular soldiers, 5 defected soldiers.34 insurgents versus 18 regular soldiers.
The trend of twice the casualties rate on the insurgency side than on the government side has been holding for some weeks now. As I noted earlier this changed ratio, as well as some other factors like their savage behavior, is likely diminishing the insurgency's personal capacity faster than it can attract and integrate new fighters.
WaPo Fudges Libyan ProtestsThe Washington Post lauded the intervention in Libya. The demise of Gaddhafi threw the country into deep chaos. The Washington Post is now working to instigate a like intervention in Syria. To be able to do so it has to hide the chaos in Libya. Thus we get this news report:
Growing concerns over protests roiling Libya prompted the State Department to begin evacuating some diplomats from Tripoli, as the Pentagon put troops stationed at nearby European bases on high alert.The U.S. is evacuating diplomats and alarming troops because of some protests? Aren't their protests in many countries all the times without such measures taken? What are these protests about?
The protests that have spread in Libya over the past week stem largely from the passage of a law that bars from public office officials who served in key roles under the deposed Libyan regime of Moammar Gaddafi.That is all you will learn from the Washington Post news report. Some law was passed, with an overwhelming majority we are told, that threatens some bureaucrats with being fired. Someone is protesting about that.
The unrest worsened after the country’s new legislature last weekend overwhelmingly passed the bill barring certain figures from serving in government. It could unseat officials who currently hold important jobs.
Except, of course, that is NOT what happened.
For over a week some unidentified heavily armed gangs had set siege onto the Foreign Ministry in Libya. They also occupied the Justice Ministry:
The Reyhanli ExplosionsAs I wrote yesterday:
But don't bet on a turn around yet. I expect some nefarious things are being cooked up right now. There are lots of talks of "massacres" without any evidence that such happen. We may soon see one with "evidence" and then should be careful when attributing that to the responsible side.Now here is a "massacre" as tweeted by the BBC's Jon Williams:
Reports up to 25 dead after explosions in Turkish town of #Reyhanli on #Syria border. Transit point for rebels going in, refugees coming out.Here is a first gruesome video of the incident. Looks like a big one went off. Some gunfire can be heard in the background.
We can expect the Turkish prime minister to accuse the Syrian government over this incident and to demand at least retaliation if not outright war.
But we do not know yet how those explosions happened. There is talk of Scud missile but that seems unlikely. As I said we have to very careful with attributions.
This tweet by the Turkish journalist Mahir Zeynalov may help with assessing the incident:
Two explosions outside Reyhanlı municipality and post office, many wounded. This place is predominantly populated by pro-Assad Alawites.
Update: The Turkish interior minister claims a "car bomb" exploded. At least 4 dead and 18 wounded.
Update: Up to 4 carbombs, 18 dead, 22+ injuried. Some harsh words towards Erdogan from people interviewed on Turkish TV.
Update: In this video one can see the damage of the first explosion and then hear/see a second (smaller?) one aimed at first responders. Typical "double tap"?
Update: 40+ dead, 100+ wounded 30+ seriouslyNo direct blame on Syria yet from the Turkish government but this could get serious: Turkey sends military reinforcements to Syrian border after blast
The Turkish military dispatched additional troops to the Syrian border after car bombs killed at least 40 people in the Reyhanlı district of Hatay on Saturday.
The Cihan news agency said the military began deploying huge number of air and ground military reinforcements to Reyhanlı on the Syrian border after the blasts.
Update: Why is this guy looking so satisfied?
Syria: Short RoundupAs I am busy so here are just some recommendations to read on Syria.
"The US intelligence officer said, 'We can train 30 of your fighters a month, and we want you to fight Al Nusra'," the rebel commander recalled.Syria's protracted conflict shows no sign of abating
Opposition forces should be uniting against Mr Al Assad's more powerful and better-equipped army, not waging war among themselves, the rebel commander replied. The response from a senior US intelligence officer was blunt.
"I'm not going to lie to you. We'd prefer you fight Al Nusra now, and then fight Assad's army. You should kill these Nusra people. We'll do it if you don't," the rebel leader quoted the officer as saying.
Firstly, the FSA - that you have been hearing so much about - does not exist.Wise man Zbig: Syria: Intervention Will Only Make it Worse
A better title would be MWG, or men with guns, because having guns and firing them in the same direction is the only thing that unites them.
The various schemes that have been proposed for a kind of tiddlywinks intervention from around the edges of the conflict—no-fly zones, bombing Damascus and so forth—would simply make the situation worse. None of the proposals would result in an outcome strategically beneficial for the U.S. On the contrary, they would produce a more complex, undefined slide into the worst-case scenario.The Syrian army continues its successful offensive. The insurgents seem to be losing on all active fronts. There seem to be lots of problems with their logistics. The arms flow has somewhat turned into a trickle. Following the U.S., France and Britain have agreed to the Geneva terms.
But don't bet on a turn around yet. I expect some nefarious things are being cooked up right now. There are lots of talks of "massacres" without any evidence that such happen. We may soon see one with "evidence" and then should be careful when attributing that to the responsible side.
Open Thread 2013-08News & views ...
Syria: Al-Nusra With "Chemical Weapons" Sourced From TurkeyOne of the three alleged "chemical weapon" attacks in Syria was done by chlorine on a checkpoint of the Syrian army. Fifteen soldiers died.
Two other attacks which Israel, Britain and France alleged were done by the Syrian army were somewhat mysterious. With collaboration of two bloggers and a photographer the incidents are now likely to be interpreted very different than Israel, Britain and France alleged.
Eliot Higgins, who blogs as Brown Moses, analyzed pictures of ammunition debris found at the two alleged attack sites.
The photographer Jeffry Ruigendijk photographed a salafist Al-Nusra fighter carrying a riot control gas canister that looks very similar to the ammunition debris found at the attacked places.
Small arms expert N.R. Jenzen-Jones identified the producer of these canisters and the likely way they found their way into Al-Nusra hands:
[T]he munitions do appear quite similar to those produced by the Indian Border Security Force’s Tear Smoke Unit (TSU), at their plant in Tekanpur, Madhya Pradesh. Several of their production items appear to share physical similarities with the unidentified grenade, but the closest visual match is their ‘Tear Smoke Chilli Grenade’, seen below. This grenade contains a combination of CS gas ( 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile) and ‘synthetic chilli’ (likely a synthetic capsaicin, such as nonivamide) – both common riot control agents.Riot control agents like tear gas or pepper spray can be deadly when, for example, used in closed rooms. The symptoms vary (pdf) but there are usually respiratory problems just as those described by the people who were under the alleged "chemical weapons" attack.
So how did the Al-Nusra fighters get their hands on a Indian Border Security Force’s Tear Smoke Unit grenade?
This Indian news article notes that Turkey purchased 10,025 munitions from TSU in 2007, which may indicate a possible avenue of supply, particularly if the grenades were in the hands of rebel forces, as the image at top appears to indicate.The "chemical weapon" attacks were not done by the Syrian army. They were done by so called "rebels" with chlorine and with riot control agents by jihadist insurgencies who sourced the chlorine gas by stealing it from a Syrian factory and somehow obtained riot control agents from official Turkish state stocks.
The Israeli, the British and the French government tried to instigate a wider war on Syria by making false allegations about "chemical weapon" attacks by the Syrian army. The U.S. nearly joined them in their allegations. Will all those op-ed writers that tried to use the "fact" of chemical weapon usage now call for all out war on Al-Nusra?
Don't bet on it.
Syria: The U.S. Has No LeverageSecretary of State Kerry's talk with Putin and Lavrov yesterday brought back the Geneva consensus from last June which then Secretary of State Clinton had thrown out of the window immediately after she had agreed to it.
According to the Geneva plan the United States and Russia will convene a conference with the aim to find some consensual new Syrian government with each side promising to bring its supported party to the table.
For Russia that will be easy to do. The Syrian government has always agreed to such talks and is willing to send a delegation that will be able to discuss the various issues and to compromise.
But the United States now has a huge problem. It itself has little leverage over the various parts of the Syrian opposition. How can it then deliver on the promises it made?
There are two identified groups the U.S. is interacting with. The Syrian National Coalition (or whatever its latest name is) and the Free Syrian Army through General Idriss. To these groups the U.S. can give money or withhold money. It can give arms or withhold arms.
Giving arms would intensify the conflict and the created the bigger problems that come with escalated fighting. Those problems can not be kept contained in Syria and there are good reasons for the U.S. to avoid such an escalation. Withholding arms does obviously not give leverage over the fighters on the ground. It condemns them to lose.
Giving money or non-military goods to the FSA does not help either. General Idriss himself admits that despite a recent $123 million the U.S. funneled through him he still has no leverage over any forces on the ground:
The defected Syrian general whom the United States has tapped as its conduit for aid to the rebels has acknowledged in an interview with McClatchy that his movement is badly fragmented and lacks the military skill needed to topple the government of President Bashar Assad.The U.S. can give or withhold money to the SNC but what is the SNC's leverage on the ground and who, except the Muslim Brotherhood, does it really represent? And if the U.S. withholds money from them will Qatar and other source do the same?
Gen. Salim Idriss, who leads what’s known as the Supreme Military Command, also admitted that he faces difficulty in creating a chain of command in Syria’s highly localized rebellion ..
[Idriss] acknowledged that he has little influence over what the rebels do in Syria and no direct authority over some of the largest factions, including the Farouq Brigade, whose forces control key parts of the countryside from Homs to the Turkish border.
The view of the Syrian opposition on renewed Geneva terms has so far been negative. Without any leverage to change that view the U.S. will not be able to deliver on what Kerry promised in Moscow.
When the U.S. instigated the "Syrian revolution" it had planned for a short conflict and a fast fall of the Syrian government. When that did not happen it escalated by delivering communications equipment, intelligence and weapons to the insurgency and trained some of the insurgency forces.
It can now escalate again by throwing itself deeper into the fight but the risk is enormous. Countries next to Syria would likely be seriously effected and in the end the U.S. would be the one to hold the Syrian tar baby at great cost and with a severe loss of international standing.
The Obama administration has probably found that the Geneva consensus may be its only way out. But as that way will likely be blocked by a Syrian opposition over which the U.S. has little leverage the only other alternative may be a total retreat.
That still has not registered with the Obama administration.
Syria: A Possible Russian MoveThere is a currently flurry of diplomacy with regards to Syria. The Iranian Foreign Minister Salehi just visited Jordan. Salehi will next fly to Damascus. Next week the Qatari foreign minister will visit Tehran. U.S. Secretary of State Kerry just talked with the Turkish Foreign Minister Dovatoglu. Kerry is now in Moscow for a talk with the Russian president Putin (The talk starts at least three hours late. Was Putin making a point with this?) Putin recently talked on the phone with the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahoo. On May 10 the British Prime Minister Cameron will also have a talk with Putin in the southern Russian resort Sochi.
The U.S. still demands that Moscow gives up on Syria and presses for Assad to leave. Moscow will, I believe, not agree to that.
In this diplomatic context Sunday's Israeli airstrikes near Damascus were a message to Putin, certainly coordinated with Washington. "Look what we will do if you don't give in. Next time we will bomb the Syrian air fields. Then their troops." At the same time the flurry of unfounded "chemical weapon" allegations are used to prepare the "western" public for a military intervention.
The big question is of course what Obama will do after Kerry and Cameron fail to change Putin's stand. There is a risk that Obama will decide to overthrow Assad by overt military means. He committed himself to that when he demanded that "Assad must go." It will be hard, if not impossible for him, to retreat from that. Military means would include a "no-fly zone" which would start to be implemented by destroying whatever is left of Syria's air defenses. Naturally with lots of collateral casualties.
Putin should plan on how to counter that. He should send a signal that can only be understood as "Up to here and no further." He should announce it on May 9, the 68th anniversary of Russia's victory over Nazi Germany.
On request of the Syrian government a squadron of 24 Russian fighter jets could be dispatched to Syria. They would be stationed at two Syrian airports. At each airport a battalion of Russian paratroopers would take care of the local security. Some long range early warning radar and some command and control elements would also be needed.
Supplies would come through Iranian and Iraqi airspace as well as though the port of Tartus where Russia's new permanent Mediterranean fleet is just arriving.
The declared sole and exclusive task of the Russian squadron would be to defend sovereign Syria's airspace from any outer interference. The message to Washington (and Tel Aviv) would be clear. Attacking Syria means attacking the Russian air force. Might you want to think twice about that?
Such a Russian move would be a heavens gift for Obama. He could back down from his demand that Assad has to go without losing much face. He could join everyone else in Washington in blaming Putin while appearing reasonable in not risking a wider war.
There is precedence for such a Russian move:
A contingent of 200 Russian troops deployed in Bosnia and Herzegovina then crossed into Kosovo and occupied Pristina International Airport in Pristina, the capital city of Kosovo.The U.S. and NATO eventually backed down because they did not want to risk a wider war.
Upon hearing of the deployment, American NATO commander Wesley Clark called NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, and was told "you have to transfer authority" in the area. Clark then ordered a contingent of 500 British and French paratroopers to seize the airport by force, an order that is still debated. British officer James Blunt, who commanded the contingent, questioned and did not carry out this order. His delay was sanctioned by British General Mike Jackson. Jackson refused to enforce Clark's orders, reportedly telling him "I'm not going to start the Third World War for you".
A Russian air force capability in Syria would up the risk for any outright attack to a very high level. Even if Obama believes that his "credibility" demands a regime change no-fly zone in Syria, Russian air defense of Syrian airspace would likely make him change his mind.
Syria: The Feckless Leftby Malooga
lifted from a comment
One must not forget the disgraceful petition put out by what calls itself the "Left" in the name of "dignity and freedom" last week, the so-called "Global Campaign of Solidarity with the Syrian Revolution". The geo-political analysis of the screed would not pass the muster of a child, and the empty verbiage comes straight out of a George W. Bush or Barak Obama speech -- without exaggeration. In any event, don't mislead yourself into thinking the timing was accidental in the face of the collapse of the mercenary Takfiri front. Because it wasn't. When the empire finds its back against wall, it will not hesitate in pulling out all stops -- even if it means trotting out a brigade of tired old leftists in its dirty service.
And if ever there was evidence that the entire moribund left intellectual class is bought and sold, this is surely it. One should carefully examine the list of names and publicly excoriate them for their now public complicity in international war crimes and the use of chemical weaponry. Tariq Ali, Norman Finkelstein!, Richard Seymour (author of "The Liberal Defence of Murder," "tracing the descent of liberal supporters of war..."), Anthony Arnove (Howard Zinn's boy), Fredric Jameson, Vijay Prasad, Ilan Pappe, Stephen R. Shalom, Alice Walker and so on down the line, over 220 Benedict Arnolds in all. Laudable behavior in the past is no excuse for lying while supporting Takfiri murderers in the present. May every single one of them know what it is like to be exposed to DU -- in the name of freedom and democracy, of course!