Syria: Instead Of Courting Islamist White House Should Talk With Assad
U.S. officials are talking with commanders of new Islamic Front in Syria pretending that it is now the "moderate" alternative to Al-Qaeda:
The U.S. and its allies have held direct talks with key Islamist militias in Syria, Western officials say, aiming to undercut al Qaeda while acknowledging that religious fighters long shunned by Washington have gained on the battlefield.
At the same time, Saudi Arabia is taking its own outreach further, moving to directly arm and fund one of the Islamist groups, the Army of Islam, despite U.S. qualms.
The Saudis and the West are pivoting toward a newly created coalition of religious militias called the Islamic Front, which excludes the main al Qaeda-linked groups fighting in Syria—the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, known as ISIS.
Western diplomats said their engagement with the Islamists also aims to draw the powerful militias away from the Al Nusra Front and other groups affiliated with al Qaeda.
"We believe they are groups that, if we do nothing, may go toward more radicalization," one Western diplomat said.
This is of cause pure nonsense. The main groups that formed the Islamic Front are Liwa al-Tawhid and Ahrar al-Sham both of which are regularly sharing resources and cooperating with the Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al- Nusra and the Islamic State of of Iraq and the Sham. They have the same roots and were formed before the early protests in Syria started. Both have also been implicated in several pogroms against Syrians people who do not agree with their Sharia driven program.
The only alternative to an Al-Qaeda led anarchy in Syria is a state led by the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and his party. Cooperating with Assad is the only way for the west to prevent a new fanatic Islamic state at NATO's southern border. This was already obvious two years ago when I, in February 2012, pointed out :
A Syrian state crumbling under terror followed by large sectarian slaughter and refugee streams with certain spillover of fighting into all neighboring countries. That can not be in anyone's interest.
It is time for the west to not only step back from this cliff but to turn around and to help Assad to fight the terrorists that want to bring down his country.
Some parts of the Obama administration are finally recognizing this obvious conclusion:
“We need to start talking to the Assad regime again” about counterterrorism and other issues of shared concern, said Ryan C. Crocker, a veteran diplomat who has served in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. “It will have to be done very, very quietly. But bad as Assad is, he is not as bad as the jihadis who would take over in his absence.”
Unfortunately the White House is not (yet) listening to Crocker:
It is not clear whether or when the White House would be willing to make such an abrupt shift in approach after years of supporting the Syrian opposition and calling for Mr. Assad’s ouster. It would certainly require delicate negotiations with Middle Eastern allies who were early and eager supporters of Syrian rebel groups, notably Saudi Arabia.
I do not understand what the problem with Saudi Arabia should be. That country has no alternative but to stay under the U.S. security umbrella. The White House should tell the Saudi King Abdullah to shut down Prince Bandar bin Sultan's mercenary terror army in Syria "or else ...".
Would the Saudis really want a fundamental confrontation with the U.S. at the same time as Iran is presenting itself as a viable alternative for U.S. influence in the Persian Gulf?
Will China's Rise Lead To War?
For the first time in recent history more financial trade is done in Chinese yuan than in euros. The yuan is now second but still far behind the U.S. dollar. Its rise in trade usage compared to the euro has been very recent and rapid and is certainly not yet finished. But the U.S. dollar is still second to none:
The currency had an 8.66 percent share of letters of credit and collections in October, compared with 6.64 percent for the euro, Swift said in a statement today. China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Germany and Australia were the top users of yuan in trade finance, according to the Belgium-based financial-messaging platform.
The yuan had the fourth-largest share of global trade finance in January 2012 with 1.89 percent, while the euro’s was the second-biggest at 7.87 percent, Swift said.
The U.S. dollar led all currencies with an 81.08 percent share of letters of credit and collections in October, down from 84.96 percent in January 2012, according to data compiled by Swift.
The Japanese yen lost its position as one of the top three trade currencies.
These move are part of the changes in strategic balance in South-East Asia. New alliances may appear and there may even be a wider war on the horizon. This at least when one believes the predictions of realist political scientist John Mearsheimer. In an interview with the Chinese Global Times he predicts that China's ‘Peaceful rise’ will meet US containment.
The US is now by far the most powerful state on the planet, and it is also the most powerful state in East Asia. But as China rises and becomes increasingly powerful, it will want to dominate Asia the way the US dominates the Western hemisphere. The US of course will go to great lengths to prevent China from dominating Asia. In other words, there will be an intense security competition between the two countries.
Mearsheimer does not think that China wants war but he believes that some kind of armed conflict will arise because some smaller state, likely then backed by the Unites States, will provoke a crisis. This he believes will happen sooner rather than later because China is still growing and taking it on while it is relatively weaker now is easier and less risky:
[T]here is no way that China can avoid scaring its neighbors and the US as it gets very powerful, just because it will be so big and will have so much military capability. When states look at other states and try to determine how threatening they are, they invariably focus on their capabilities, not their intentions, because you cannot know intentions. Nobody can know what China's intentions will be in the decades ahead. But the mere fact that China is getting increasingly powerful and may someday become even more powerful than the US is naturally going to scare all the neighbors and the US.
Mearsheimer thinks that the very militarized U.S. "pivot to Asia" will be bigger than many envision for now. While that will be good news for the Middle East, Latin America and Europe it is bad news for Asia. But what could China actually do to prevent all this?
Some Recent Issues: Ukraine, Iran, U.S., China
Some remarks on recent issues (I should have blogged about):
The south and east of Ukraine are ethnically Russian. It is also where the Ukrainian industries are. Those industries are not (yet) capable of competing with western European industries and depend on business with Russia. In contrast to that the western Ukraine is mostly agricultural and some there would probably profit from a deeper association with the European Union. But over all the recent attempt of an EU-Ukrainian trade pact makes no sense. Many countries in the EU (France, Spain etc.) do not favor it and have contained the level of bribery the EU can undertake to buy the Ukraine. So the EU was somewhat restricted to offer "values" where Russia can offer cheep gas and a viable market for Ukrainian goods and services. Looking at Greece and Spain European "values" do not look that valuable these days. It was therefore right for the Ukrainian president to reject the EU deal. Some well paid EU claqueurs and "Orange Revolution" left behinds are now demonstrating against that. Ignore them.
Iran's foreign policy activity is breathtaking. Recently the Turkish foreign minister visited Tehran. Then the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates came. The Iranian foreign minister is currently in Kuwait and will next travel to Oman. While there was also an outreach to Saudi Arabia an offer to visit was rejected by Riyadh. Together with the recent temporary nuclear deal with the P5+1 this looks like a strategy to isolate Saudi Arabia and to thereby find unity against the Saudi-Israeli assault on Syria. This comes as the Syrian president Assad has (finally) declared war against Saudi Arabia and European diplomats are trickling back to Damascus. I am more confident now than ever that Syria, though at high costs, can and will win this war.
3. United States
There is some talk of a "Saudi America" because shale-oil and shale-gas exploration now allows for internal production of more than 50% of the hydrocarbons the U.S. is using. This is, in my view, nonsense. The break even for producing shale-hydrocarbons is mostly above $50 (and in some cases much higher) per barrel. The break even for producing hydrocarbons in the Middle East is as low as $1 to $5 a barrel. When Iraqi and Iranian production will be back online prices will fall and domestic U.S. shale production will no longer be profitable. As shale production is short term (the drill holes exhaust quite fast) even a short dip in hydrocarbon prices will put most of it to a halt.
Years after the Japanese and other East Asian countries declared Air Defense Information Zones, which require planes flying through them to inform those countries on their flights, China has done the same. The map shows that the Chinese zone is less extensive than the Japanese one. Some U.S. media now claim that China declared an "Air Defense Zone" and is about to go to war over it which is all wrong and stupid war propaganda. An information zone is far larger than a defense zone and its purpose is to give head ups of intentions to not waste defensive air power on innocent flights. The U.S. ADIZ has - by the way - much more restrictive rules than the Chinese one.
Open Thread 2013-26
News & views ...
Pope Francis Takes On Neo-Liberalism
Pope Francis released an Apostolic Exhortation which explains his views about how and whereto the catholic church should move. A part of it is a critic of the current neo-liberal economic system prevalent in the "west" and spreading through globalization.
Here are some excerpts from Francis' Evangelium Gaudium (emphasis added):
No to an economy of exclusion
53. Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape. [...]
54. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. [...]
No to the new idolatry of money
It Is Public Support For Diplomacy That Pushes Obama
The people of the United States have a very different view on war and peace than the politicians, think tankers and journalists in Washington DC.
Consider this sentence from a NYT Mark Landler piece about the (alleged but yet unproven) Obama shift from military might to diplomacy:
It is harder for a president to rally the American public behind a multilateral negotiation than a missile strike, though the deep war weariness of Americans has reinforced Mr. Obama’s instinct for negotiated settlements over unilateral action.
That sentence is completely wrong. The U.S. public is much easier to convince of negotiations than of missile strikes. Noise from some hawkish politicians in Washington, which Landler probably confuses with the public opinon, does not give the real picture. Two recent polls clearly express that.
It is not, as Lander claims, that the public wants missile strikes and is against diplomacy. It is Obama who wanted the missile strikes on Syria and it was public opinion that pressed Congress and him not to launch such strikes. It was Russian, not Obama's, diplomacy that gave him a way out from the missile strikes he had planned. It is likewise the public that presses for negotiations with Iran and that would not support any new war against it.
Landler somewhat claims that Obama takes the lead in the turn towards a more sane and diplomatic U.S. foreign policy. That is just not the case. Obama may use the current diplomacy with Iran, which is still preliminary, only to later justify a war. The U.S. public is much less hawkish than Obama and the general consensus in Washington. Obama is for now simply following the public's lead because - as the aborted Syria strikes showed - he can no longer ignore it.
Propaganda Uses Mistranslated Khamenei "Rabit Dog" Phrase
When former president of Iran Ahmedinejad said that Israel would one day "vanish from the pages of time" many reports claimed that he said to "wipe Israel off the map". The claim was based on an early mistranslation of Ahmedinejad's speech by an Iranian news agency. Even after language experts pointed out that the claim was false the mistranslated phrase was used over and over to demonize Ahmedinejad and to claim that he wanted to attack Israel.
Now that Ahmedinejad is gone some new Iranian devil is needed. As the current president Rouhani is seen as a "moderate" the demonetization propaganda is now set to a higher target. A phrase from a recent talk by the supreme leader Ali Khamenei is mistranslated to make him the new bogey man.
A recent Washington Post report includes this:
Israel defends its vociferous campaign against the agreement by pointing out that Israel is the object of Iranian taunts, and saying that a nuclear Iran is not only a geopolitical challenge for Israel, but poses an existential threat. The most recent proof, officials say, are comments last week by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, who referred to Israel as “the rabid dog of the region” and promised that “the Zionist regime is doomed to destruction.”
The link in that graph goes to an earlier WaPo piece which claims:
[Kerry] spoke hours after Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, referred to Israel as the warmongering “rabid dog” of the Middle East during a speech to military commanders in Tehran.
But that is not at all what Khamenei said. He did not refer to Israel as the warmongering "rabid dog". As Arash Karami, who is from Iran, writes for Al-Monitor:
“Sometimes this is heard from the enemies of Iran, such as from the sinister mouth of the unclean rabid dog of the region in the Zionist regime,” [Khamenei] said, in a reference to Israeli’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
A correction at the end of the Al-Monitor piece explains:
Correction: An earlier version based on the transcript of several Iranian news agencies wrote that Ayatollah Khamenei called Israel a “rabid dog.” The correct text and audio was provided Khamenei’s website.
Al-Monitor is not the only outlet that used the correct phrase. CBN News is also aware of the corrected translation:
Khamenei called Netanyahu "…the sinister mouth of the unclear rabid dog of the region in the Zionist regime." He added, "The Zionist regime is an imposed regime…and this regime will not endure."
Note that the WaPo quote:
[Khamenei] promised that “the Zionist regime is doomed to destruction.”
is also wrong. According to the correct CBN News translation this was not a promise, but, like Ahmedinejad's "vanish from the pages of time" comment, a prediction that Israel as a Zionist entity will "not endure".
As the political discussion over the next stages of the preliminary U.S. Iran deal heats up we can expect that the mistranslated and wrong Khamenei quote will be repeated over and over again to demonize him and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
A Temporary Deal With Iran
There is now a temporary deal between the U.S. (and some sideshows) and Iran about some reduction of illegal U.S. sanctions against Iran in exchange for some freeze of legal Iranian industrial nuclear activities. Since March secret negotiations were held between the Obama administration and Iran to achieve this break through. But it is dubious that the deal is a real change of course. The White House "fact sheet" on it is still typically condescending.
Some preliminary thoughts:
- The deal is limited to six month and chances are that no permanent deal will follow. We will likely be back to the usual animosities and renewed calls for war some six month from now. There are many who do not want a more permanent deal and they will do their best to prevent one. When, in six month, the U.S. will stop adhering to the agreement Iran will be blamed of breaking it. This clause in the "Fact Sheet" is the decisive one:
Specifically the P5+1 has committed to:
• Not impose new nuclear-related sanctions for six months, if Iran abides by its commitments under this deal, to the extent permissible within their political systems.
Translated: Congress has ways and means to increase sanctions and thereby break this deal and will likely do so.
- A much better deal, from the U.S. perspective, could have been had in 2003, 2005 and 2007.
John Kerry, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee and the Democrats’ 2004 presidential nominee, told the Financial Times in an interview that Iran had a right to uranium enrichment – a process that can produce both nuclear fuel and weapons grade material.The US and the world’s other big powers have repeatedly demanded that Tehran suspend enrichment ...“The Bush administration [argument of] no enrichment was ridiculous . . . because it seemed so unreasonable to people,” said Mr Kerry, citing Iran’s rights as a signatory of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. “It was bombastic diplomacy. It was wasted energy. It sort of hardened the lines, if you will,” he added. “They have a right to peaceful nuclear power and to enrichment in that purpose.”...
- The deal and any possible follow on only came through because the U.S. needs to change its foreign policy focus from the Middle East to Asia. For lack of resources and capacity the U.S. can only do so after achieving some balance in the Middle East. All issues the U.S. has with the Middle East are in some form influenced by Iran. It simply can no longer be ignored. The "pivot to Asia" which the U.S. needs to counter China necessitates a "pivot towards Iran".
- If followed up soon there is a chance that this deal will lead to some other deal that solves the situation in Syria.
Syria: Turkey Continues AlQaeda Support
Seven groups of "secular" Syrian insurgents and bandits have united to form a new "Islamic Front". The groups are Ahrar al-Sham, Suqor al-Sham, Liwa al-Tawhid, Jaish al-Islam, Jabhat al-Kurdiya, Liwa al-Haq and Ansar al-Sham. Most of them were in one form or another part of the U.S. supported Free Syrian Army. The "secular" mask of that army is now officially off. This new front is likely the creation of lots of Saudi money.
Meanwhile Turkey has, without much noise, changed some of its foreign policy and is trying to again make nice with Baghdad and Tehran both of which are supporting the Syrian government. But that does not mean that Turkey ended its support for the Islamists. While it recently pretended to have seized some weapons and to have raided some AlQaeda retreats in Turkey it continues to support Islamists insurgents in Syria of all colors and stripes. Consider the details of a recent report on a border town that Al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria took away from a Free Syrian Army group that demanded shares from transports passing through its territory:
Activists said fighters of the al Qaeda affiliate - Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL - had stormed the headquarters of Suqur al-Islam, a moderate Islamist unit that controlled Atma, and set up roadblocks within the last 48 hours.
"The ISIL deployed anti-aircraft guns at the main roundabout and took Atma quietly," said one of the activists, who did not want to be named.
"The Turks have not stopped supplies from crossing into the town and movement across the border fence is normal."
Suqur al-Islam is a unit of the Free Syrian Army General Staff, headed by General Selim Idriss, the main opposition military figure, who is based in Turkey. But Suqur al-Islam and the General Staff have fallen out over sharing the weapons crossing through Atma, the activists said.
In the last few days, fighting erupted between Sukur al-Islam and other Free Syrian Army members after Sukur al-Islam seized seven trucks loaded with weapons sent by the General Staff that crossed through Atma.
"Basically there was collusion between the General Staff and the ISIL."
The externally supported General Staff of the Free Syrian Army is obviously colluding with Al Qaeda and the Turks are still delivering truckloads of weapons to them.
It is quite urgent for the resistance front to respond to this continued support for AlQaeda from Turkey. So far Turkey has paid too small a price for the crimes it commits on Syria and Syrians. There must be ways to change that.
Open Thread 2013-25
News & views ...
(still not well - hope to be back soon ... b)
Just A Few Links
(Sorry for light posting. I am bit ill and feel incapable of consistent thinking and writing.)
Just a few links:
The London Sunday Times reports for the fifth or so time that Saudi Arabia will help Israel to attack Iran. In other news the prospective Saudi ruler will be a woman well known for here successes in rally racing.
Some U.S. officials seem still hopeful to get some Status of Force Agreement with Afghanistan signed. There are only a few small stumbling blocks like immunity for U.S. forces, the ability of U.S. death squads to enter Afghan homes and the unaccountable CIA operations throughout Afghanistan. The Loya Jirga members who would vote for allowing such operations would thereby also sign their own death sentences. The SOFA ain't gonna happen.
The Pentagon is full of waste, fraud and outright theft. But as it has for years had no, as in zero, functioning administrative financial system no one can be blamed. The Soviets had the same problem with their Red Army. No one knew how much it cost or what it was doing with the money it got it hands on. That didn't end well.
A former Israeli prime minister says:
"I heard that [US Secretary of State John] Kerry dared to disagree with the Israeli prime minister," Olmert said. "Poor guy. I hope he'll come out of this alright."
No Surprise That No One Wants Syria's Chemical Weapon Stuff
The U.S. is trying to find some country, any other than itself, to take and destroy the precursor materials from Syria's chemical weapon program. It first asked, for mysterious reasons, Norway. There was nothing that would qualify Norway. It never had chemical weapons and has no capacity to handle and destroy the materials in question. It also has no storage facility for the hazardous material that would result from the precursor destruction. Norway rejected the U.S. request.
The next country the U.S. asked was Albania. It probably thought that such a poor and small country could be easily pressed into taking the nasty stuff. But anyone who had some idea of Albania's recent history with chemical weapon destruction, especially U.S. officials, should have known that any such request to Albania would most certainly rejected. It is therefore a bit curious to see the rejection described as a surprise:
The mission to destroy Syria’s poison gas stockpile was dealt a serious blow Friday when Albania refused to host the destruction, but the global chemical weapons watchdog said it is still confident it can eradicate the arsenal outside Syria by the middle of next year.
The surprise refusal by the small and impoverished Balkan country left open the question of where the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons would send Syria’s estimated 1,300-ton arsenal, which includes mustard gas and sarin.
The rejection by Albania and others is not surprising at all. When the U.S. is asking other countries to help with nonproliferation issues it tends to leave them a mess. Albania had a few tons of chemical weapons left over from the cold war. The U.S. offered to pay for their destruction and later hired some private company which destroyed the weapon capability of the chemicals but otherwise left a horrendous mess:
The hazardous waste sat in containers on the concrete pad. The containers started to leak. In late 2007-early 2008, the US hired an environmental remediation firm, Savant Environmental, “who determined the problem was worse than originally thought. Many of the containers were leaking salts of heavy metals, primarily arsenic, lead and mercury. In addition, the conexes were not waterproof, and since contaminated components had not been properly cleaned before being put into the conexes, condensation and water leakage were dissolving some of the contaminants and causing them to leak out onto the ground.”
Savant Environmental repackaged the waste and placed it in 20 shipping containers. There it sits, visible from space. Good for twenty years. Well, fifteen now. Ish.
Those containers are still sitting on the concrete pad, out in the open.
The United States and Russia have both the specialized incineration capabilities to destroy chemical weapons, their precursors and the hazardous waste their neutralization creates. But Albania was left with the mess after it was pressed to destroy the weaponized stuff where a repackaging of the original weaponized chemicals would likely have been a much safer and longer term solution. Albania would have been crazy to accept more dangerous stuff as it is already left with mess the pressed for demilitarization of its own chemical weapons caused.
There are other examples where cooperation in U.S. non-proliferation initiatives leaves countries hung out to dry. Cyprus stored 98 containers of ammunition after the U.S. in 2009 pressed it to stop and confiscated the military load of a ship going from Iran to Syria. Two years later the containers exploded and destroyed a navy base. Several people were killed and half of Cyprus' power supply capacity was taken off the grid.
That no country is willing to take the 1,300 tons of Syrian chemical weapon precursors may turn out to be good for Syria. After those chemicals would be gone there would be a higher chance that the Syrian government, which is winning the war, would be attacked by the U.S. and its allies. As long as those chemicals are still around, watched over by the international inspectors, any attack could result in a reconstitution of Syria's chemical weapons. When the current war on Syria is over the destruction of the precursors could be done in place and in an organized and well planned matter that would leave only a minimal risk of doing more harm than good.
Syria: Insurgency Infighting, CIA analysis, Hizbullah Involvement
1. The Al Qaeda affiliate ISIS is making more friends in Syria. Two of its folks found a wounded man in his hospital bed and under anesthesia. He was babbling something that the ISIS folks understood to be some Shia religious slogans. They beheaded him and publicly showed off his head (video).
Fighters from the Syrian Sunni-Islamist gang Ahrar ash-Shams, which like ISIS fights against the Syrian government, recognized the chopped off head as having once belonged to one of their fighters, Mohhamad Fares Marroush. They were not amused. How were they supposed to bury him and send him to heaven without the head?
An ISIS sheik admitted that the killing was a mistake but that it should not be punished because the killers had shown good intentions. The Ahrar ash-Sham folks disagree and put out a wanted poster to find and punish the killers.
This will surely boost moral for the next fight both these two groups will be involved in.
2. In other Syria news former VIA agent Philip Giraldi reports that some CIA agents and analysts had threatened to resign over the Sarin use accusations against the Syrian government:
In a scenario unfortunately reminiscent of the lead up to Iraq, the National Security Council tasked the various intelligence agencies to beat the bushes and come up with more corroborative information. Israel obligingly provided what was reported to be interceptions of telephone conversations implicating the Syrian army in the attack, but it was widely believed that the information might have been fabricated by Tel Aviv, meaning that bad intelligence was being used to confirm other suspect information, a phenomenon known to analysts as “circular reporting.” Other intelligence cited in passing by the White House on the trajectories and telemetry of rockets that may have been used in the attack was also somewhat conjectural and involved weapons that were not, in fact, in the Syrian arsenal, suggesting that they were actually fired by the rebels. Also, traces of Sarin were not found in most of the areas being investigated, nor on one of the two rockets identified. Whether the victims of the attack suffered symptoms of Sarin was also disputed, and no autopsies were performed to confirm the presence of the chemical.
We had called the "Sarin attack" on August 21 a false-flag attack immediately after it happened. We also pointed out that the reports of the rocket trajectories and Sarin traces were inconsistent with the conclusions Human Rights Watch and the NYT drew from them. It is somewhat nice to know that the CIA analysts came to the same conclusion.
3. In a speech yesterday Hizbullah chief Nasrallah promised that his forces would keep on fighting in Syria against the Takfiri fighters who kill Shia, Christians and Sunni people alike. As there are little reports over burials of Hizbullah fighters in Lebanon I assume that the numbers involved are rather small but could be increased should the need arise. They will be a welcome addition to the Syrian army's numbers and capabilities.
Open Thread 2013-24News & views ...
Syria: U.S. Starts Seeing The Real AlternativesThis weekend there was another puppet show in Istanbul. Some Syrians, hand selected by foreign politicians, came together to play an opposition to the Syrian government. Even while they have no support in the Syrian civil society nor any influence over the insurgents in Syria they are supposed to set up some government in exile to later replace the Syrian government.
The primary reason the Syrian National Council members were selected for their hostility towards the Syrian president Assad and the Syrian government. It was hoped that they would soon be able to replace them. But the foreign countries who selected these guys now have a problem. Assad and his government are going nowhere and the conflict brought up forces that are no longer under the foreign governments' control and that will constitute a danger to their former and current foreign sponsors.
The new situation necessitates a change of course but the SNC puppets, ironically selected for their stubbornness and hostility, now prove unwilling to compromise. It is therefore likely that they will lose all relevance and will soon be of no interest.
But what made the weekends meeting interesting is the expressed change of course in their sponsor's stand. The views of the U.S. ambassador who tried to influence the meeting seem to have moved quite a bit away from his earlier assertions that Assad will soon go:
Stoking tensions all around, Robert S. Ford, the United States ambassador to Syria, told the activists on the sidelines that the emerging reality presented them with unpalatable options: accept that the current government could continue in power longer than they would like, or face the continued rise of extremist jihadist groups that have terrified residents, clashed with rival insurgents and undermined Western support.This is the first time we see the United States naming the obvious alternatives in Syria in such a clear language. It is either Assad or Jihadist anarchy. That does not yet mean that the U.S. would like to keep Assad in power but it is a significant step in that direction. The Syrian government and its supporters should think about ways that would let the U.S. "keep face" while making its way to the point where it can openly acknowledges that its campaign for regime change in Syria was a serious mistake.
With Mr. Assad’s government holding on to power, the United States has begun saying Mr. Assad has “lost his legitimacy” rather than repeating earlier demands that he step down.
While France Blocked Negotiations Kerry Blames IranAs has been widely reported it were French demands that blew the recent Geneva negotiations with Iran:
[F]rom the moment he arrived, Mr Fabius saw his role as the plug-puller in chief. His first act was to reveal details of negotiations that were meant to have been kept secret. His second was to tell France Inter radio that Paris would not accept a "fool's game"; and his third was to declare the results of the talks before Lady Ashton and Mr Zarif could do so jointly.
Under pressure from the Zionist lobby Secretary of State Kerry and his acolytes are now trying to change that story and to blame Iran for the failure of the negotiations. A propagandistic NYT story takes the lead in this attempt:
[W]hile France took a harder line than its partners on some issues, a senior American official said it was the Iranian delegation that balked at completing an interim agreement, saying that it had to engage in additional consultations in Tehran before proceeding further.It is easy to identify the "senior American official. After the Geneva negotiations Kerry dispatched his deputy Wendy Sherman to Israel:
A senior American official who briefed Israeli reporters and experts in Jerusalem on Sunday said that the six world powers in the talks had approved a working document and presented it to the Iranians, according to Herb Keinon of The Jerusalem Post, who attended the briefing.
US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman arrived in Israel Sunday for meetings with senior government officials, to update them on the recent round of Western negotiations with Iran over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.Why doesn't the NYT identify Sherman when it is obvious that she is the "senior American official" in Jerusalem? Is it because she is a racist?
“Deception is part of the DNA of the Iranian leadership.”Or is it because she is known to lie?
Sherman claims that “It has always been the U.S. position that Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty does not speak about the right of enrichment at all [and] doesn’t speak to enrichment, period.” But, in fact, the United States originally held that the right to peaceful use recognized in the NPT’s Article IV includes the indigenous development of safeguarded fuel-cycle capabilities.Whatever. The false Sherman claim is now supported by Kerry himself:
Earlier reports said the talks fell apart because France refused to accept the proposed deal. Kerry said the major powers reached an agreement but Iran was not able to accept the deal "at that particular moment".These false claims are supposed to reflect criticisms of Kerry from Netanyahoo and his helpers in Congress. To blame Iranian negotiators and racist bizarre Bazzar rhetoric might be helpful to achieve that in the short term. But it will make it more difficult for Kerry to achieve any real negotiation results. This while Iran, as its intensifying cooperation with the IAEA shows, is clearly willing to come to a reasonable agreement.
"The French signed off on it, we signed off on it," he said in Abu Dhabi. "There was unity but Iran couldn't take it."
France Blocks U.S. Pivot To PersiaFrance has been and is a major nuclear proliferator in the Middle East. While it worked and works to enable some countries to build nuclear weapons it wants to deny any and all civil nuclear capabilities to others. The primary reasons are greed and a certain craving for its former grandeur which today is no longer supported by the necessary economic and military means.
On 3 October 1957, France and Israel signed a revised agreement calling for France to build a 24 MWt reactor (although the cooling systems and waste facilities were designed to handle three times that power) and, in protocols that were not committed to paper, a chemical reprocessing plant. This complex was constructed in secret, and outside the IAEA inspection regime, by French and Israeli technicians at Dimona, in the Negev desert under the leadership of Col. Manes Pratt of the IDF Ordinance Corps.Saudi Gazette, Oct 3, 2013 France ready to be KSA’s strategic partner in nuke, renewable energy
Speaking to the Saudi Gazette, the French Ambassador to the Kingdom said “the aim of this meeting is very clear, France has been the first country to sign government to government agreement on nuclear and energy because we do think that taking it into account the huge program the Saudi government wants to implement in the nuclear field and France has a lot to bring in terms of the best nuclear technology in the world.”France 24 Hollande backs Israel on Iran nuclear threat
A day after Benjamin Netanyahu urged France to take a tough stance on Iran, French President François Hollande spoke to the Israeli Prime Minister by phone and promised French support.Guardian Geneva talks end without deal on Iran's nuclear programme
Three gruelling days of high-level and high-stakes diplomacy came to an end in Geneva with no agreement on Iran's nuclear programme, after France blocked a stopgap deal aimed at defusing tensions and buying more time for negotiations.A temporary deal in Geneva would have been the first step for a larger nuclear deal which then could have brought Iran "in from the cold". This would have been the start of a "Pivot to Persia" after which the U.S. would have balanced its difficult relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia with friendly relations with Iran. Without such a realignment in the Middle East the U.S. will be militarily and financially incapable of executing its plans for a pivot to Asia.
[D]iplomats at the talks were furious with the role of the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, whom they accused of breaking ranks by revealing details of the negotiations as soon as he arrived in Geneva on Saturday morning, and then breaking protocol again by declaring the results to the press before Ashton and Zarif had arrived at the final press conference.
France blew up the historic deal and, despite earlier signals from France, the other "western" countries involved were not prepared for this and their foreign ministers incapable of handling French intransigeance. This disunity within the P5+1 group negotiating with Iran will hamper all further negotiations. Who can Iran negotiate with if there is no united opposition?
The current break down gives the U.S. Congress and the Netanyahoo lackeys therein a chance to add further sanctions on Iran by attaching them to next weeks National Defense Authorization Act. But the P5+1 disunity is, at least in the short term, positive for Iran. No one can accuse it now of not being willing to negotiate and of not actively seeking a compromise. The sanctions Congress will enact are third party sanctions where it will "punish" other countries for dealing with Iran. As it is obviously not Iran that is holding up a deal those third party countries will be quite unwilling to follow such a U.S. Congress diktat. The sanction regime will thereby break down. Slowly first, but then with ever increasing speed.
It is dubious that France, Saudi Arabia and Israel will be capable of holding up an Iran deal for more than a year or so. There is a historic logic in a U.S. and general "western" pivot to Persia as such a pivot would allow to disentangle itself from the capricious "allies" it currently has in the Middle East. The hostile reaction of the U.S. public towards the attempt of waging an open war on Syria was a sign that historic changes in the current alliances are unavoidable.
Afghan's Care For Human Rights - U.S. "Disappointed"Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states:
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.The UDHR further guarantees the rights of liberty, due process and to be presumed innocent until proved guilty.
The United States does not like that Afghans and their parliament insist on these rights. The United States arbitrarily arrests Afghans who it assumes, without evidence, to be "terrorists" or at least "Taliban". After some struggle it finally agreed to hand over the arrested to the Afghan government. Now an Afghan commission decides if the evidence, if there is any at all, is sufficient enough for to case to go to a trial. In four out of five cases the evidence is insufficiant or lacking at all and the prisoner is set free.
Such laudable due process is disliked by the U.S. military. It therefore pressed on the Afghan government and the parliament to allow for long term detentions without evidence of guilt and without trials. The Afghan parliament, rightfully, rejected such severe violations of universal human rights. That, says the United States, is a "problem":
A key problem, U.S. officials said, is the Afghan parliament’s unwillingness to pass legislation that would permit the government to detain individuals even if insufficient evidence exists to prosecute them in court. Most of the detainees were apprehended in military operations where the collection of evidence was not a priority; in other cases, information leading to their capture came from sources the U.S. government deems too secret to share with the Afghan government.The U.S. military knows of course how to avoid such "disappointment":
“This is very disappointing,” said a U.S. official involved in Afghanistan policy who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss detention operations.
"If they can't prove they're Taliban, bam"But that solution is just as dumb as the anonymously quoted disappointment of the U.S. official above.
What is again the U.S. trying to do in Afghanistan?