Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
May 31, 2013

A Visit To MoA's HQ

Hi there!

How are you?

Did you see that tweet? Write about it!

It's important!

Want me help?

{... type, type, type, tip, tap, type ...}

See? Finished!

Ok, gotta go.

See you tomorrow ...

Posted by b on May 31, 2013 at 01:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (67)

May 30, 2013

Syria: Assad's Al-Manar Interview

Just listened to Bashar Assads's interview with Hizbullah's TV station Al-Manar in the English language live translation by Press TV. Some points from my notes:

The interviewer asked why the recent more offensive reaction against the foreign supported insurgents only came so late.

Assad responded that there first had to be a change in public opinion. Many people first believed that this was a "revolution". They took time to understand that this was a foreign assault. Now many of the Syrian fighters have stopped to fight and the balance of power has changed. There are now mostly tens of thousands of foreign fighters against our troops.

Q: Is the action in Qusayr to connect to a Damascus connection to the Alawi land on the coast.

A: That is nonsense. There are no road connections there [we pointed this out in an earlier post - b]. The purpose is to cut the insurgents off from the borders to diminish their supplies.

Q: S-300?

A: Russia is committed to our contracts and those will will be fulfilled. Parts of the contracts have been fulfilled [no direct confirmation that S-300 are already in Syria -b].

Q: Geneva conference?

A: We will ask who the SNC represents. Who are the people on the other side? What is their legitimation? Who do they represent? They are just slaves of foreign powers.

Q: Conditions for Geneva?

A: No preconditions. Results will have to go to a referendum for the Syrian people to decide. Constitution says the president stays on. The government (prime minister etc.) may change while president stays on.

Q: Change of position in Arab League or Turkey?

A: No detectable change. Just rhetoric. They still support insurgents with money and weapons. They receive orders from outside.

Q: What if Geneva fails?

A: That is possible. Some try to make it fail. Russia plays down expectations. Would not change things on the ground.

Q: What do you say to our friends.

A: We confront a campaign against the resistance. This is a World War against us and the resistance.

---

The above is just from my shortened notes. I will link to transcript as soon as one is available.

---

UPDATE: The official English transcript posted by the Syrian news agency SANA: Interview Given by President al-Assad to Lebanese Al-Manar TV.

I have not read it yet (and have no time to do so now) and therefor have not yet corrected any of my impressions posted above.

Posted by b on May 30, 2013 at 02:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (99)

May 29, 2013

Syria: The Deadbeat Opposition And A Russian Checkmate

The Syrian exile opposition is becoming irrelevant. It has been destroyed due to the rivalities between Saudi Arabia and Qatar and is now denounced by all other parts of the Syrian opposition. The U.S. has thereby lost one of its key political instruments to drive the Syrian government out. It now has no one to present as negotiating partner opposed to the Syrian government side in the planned Geneva II conference.

Hassan Hassan writes from Istanbul about the failed "western" attempt, with Saudi support, to make the exile opposition more relevant and to dislodge the Muslim Brotherhood from the leading role in the Syrian National Coalition:

The Syrian political opposition, in its current form, is a hopeless case.
...
One member of the coalition told me Mr Al Sabbagh has been pushed by Doha to block any changes to "give the impression that the new sponsors of the Syrian dossier have failed". By new sponsors, he meant Saudi Arabia, which has assumed responsibilities of sponsoring the Syrian opposition, pushing Qatar aside.
...
It is time for Syrians to realise that the political opposition is an important factor behind the stalemate.
The Syrians have realized that. Michael Kilo (a secular Marxist(!)) the U.S./Saudis alliance wanted to push into a leadership role is rather scathing:
"The real, real, real problem is in the Coalition," Kilo told Saudi-owned broadcaster Al-Arabiya, after some dissidents accused Riyadh of imposing his entry into the warring country's main opposition group.
...
Though still in Istanbul, it was unclear early Wednesday whether Kilo would stay on in the Coalition.
...
The opposition has long been marred by internal divisions and bickering, giving rise to doubts over its ability to present a united front with the proposed peace talks ahead.
The Local Coordination Committee as well as some other opposition groups inside Syria join the criticism and demand a place at the table for themselves:
The revolutionary forces that have signed this statement will no longer bestow legitimacy upon any political body that subverts the revolution or fails to take into account the sacrifices of the Syrian people or adequately represent them.

We consider this statement to be a final warning to the SC, for the Syrian people have spoken.

Edward Dark (a nom de guerre) was one of the original organizers of opposition demonstrations in Aleppo. He witnessed the destruction the armed insurgents waged in his city and has given up on his hopes:
To us, a rebel fighting against tyranny doesn’t commit the same sort of crimes as the regime he’s supposed to be fighting against. He doesn’t loot the homes, businesses and communities of the people he’s supposed to be fighting for. Yet, as the weeks went by in Aleppo, it became increasingly clear that this was exactly what was happening.

Rebels would systematically loot the neighborhoods they entered. They had very little regard for the lives and property of the people, and would even kidnap for ransom and execute anyone they pleased with little recourse to any form of judicial process. They would deliberately vandalize and destroy ancient and historical landmarks and icons of the city. They would strip factories and industrial zones bare, even down to the electrical wiring, hauling their loot of expensive industrial machinery and infrastructure off across the border to Turkey to be sold at a fraction of its price. Shopping malls were emptied, warehouses, too. They stole the grain in storage silos, creating a crisis and a sharp rise in staple food costs. They would incessantly shell residential civilian neighborhoods under regime control with mortars, rocket fire and car bombs, causing death and injury to countless innocent people, their snipers routinely killing in cold blood unsuspecting passersby. As a consequence, tens of thousands became destitute and homeless in this once bustling, thriving and rich commercial metropolis.

But why was this so? Why were they doing it? It became apparent soon enough, that it was simply a case of us versus them. They were the underprivileged rural class who took up arms and stormed the city, and they were out for revenge against the perceived injustices of years past. Their motivation wasn’t like ours, it was not to seek freedom, democracy or justice for the entire nation, it was simply unbridled hatred and vengeance for themselves.
...
Whatever is left of Syria at the end will be carved out between the wolves and vultures that fought over its bleeding and dying corpse, leaving us, the Syrian people to pick up the shattered pieces of our nation and our futures.

The original "democratic protesters" like Edward Dark have had enough. They never understood that the role their original sponsor had planned for them was only to be a diversion for the all out armed assault on the Syrian state. They have been abused. They wanted freedom but received anarchy. They will now rather support the Syrian government than support any further strife.

The military leader whom the U.S. supports but who has little control over any units on the ground demands that the war be widened:

“What we want from the U.S. government is to take the decision to support the Syrian revolution with weapons and ammunition, anti-tank missiles and anti-aircraft weapons,” Idris said. “Of course we want a no-fly zone and we ask for strategic strikes against Hezbollah both inside Lebanon and inside Syria.
I doubt that any of Idris' sponsors will support an escalation into Lebanon. But some in the "west" are still dreaming of implementing an illegal "no-fly zone" over Syria. They do not believe the Russian commitment to prevent such by sending S-300 air defense systems to Syria:
"Does Russia have S-300 batteries ready to go?" said Michael Elleman, a missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Bahrain. "I'm not sure that it does. Is it going to send engineers to integrate it with existing [air defence] architecture? Will they send trainers for the one to two years it takes to train people to use it? This seems more like an exercise in political signalling to me, saying: 'Hands off Syria.'"
This is misreading the Russian plans. I suggested that Russia could move its own fighter planes to Syria to protect the Syrian air-space. This though suggests that Russia will instead move its own S-300 air-defense mssiles:
Four regiments of S-300 air defense systems have been deployed at the Ashuluk firing range in southern Russia as part of another snap combat readiness check of the Russian armed forces, the Defense Ministry said.

The regiments were airlifted on Thursday by military transport planes to designated drop zones where they will carry out a variety of missions simulating the defense of the Russian airspace from massive attacks by “enemy” missiles and aircraft.

“The missions will be carried out in conditions of heavy electronic warfare to test the capabilities of the air defense units to the highest limit,” the ministry said.

The "western" air-forces do know the older export versions of the S-300 that Russia sold to Greece and the ones the U.S. bought from Croatia. They know how to defeat those. But the systems the Russians use themselves have had several upgrades in their radars, electronic systems and have new missiles. If Russia moves those, as it is now training to do, any "no-fly zone" attempt is likely to start with lots of downed "western" jets and a high casualty count. It would be a checkmate move.

The U.S. has no "Syrian opposition" to support in Geneva. The exiles are totally discredited. The unarmed opposition in Syria has given up. The armed opposition in Syria is collection of disunited thieves and takfiris. Russia has the checkmate chance of deploying its S-300PM2 and may well use it.

What is the U.S. to do now? Escalate further and risk an ever widening war throughout the Middle East with heavy Russian involvement? Or will it get off its high horse and agree to Russia's demand to actively stop any additional Libyan weapon supply through Turkey and any other support for the violence in Syria? Are there other alternatives?

Posted by b on May 29, 2013 at 06:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (137)

WaPo Claims "Liberal Hawks" Are Quiet While Describing The Opposite

The Washington Post claims: Liberal hawks were vocal on involvement in Iraq but have been quiet on Syria
[A]mid the burst in outside engagement, one influential group seems noticeably silent. The liberal hawks, a cast of prominent left-leaning intellectuals, played high-profile roles in advocating for American military intervention on foreign soil
...
[E]ven as the body count edges toward 100,000 in Syria and reports of apparent chemical-weapons use by Assad, liberal advocates for interceding have been rare, spooked perhaps by the traumatic experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan and the clear reluctance of a Democratic president to get mired in the Middle East. Call them Syria’s mourning doves.
The piece than names eight "liberal hawks" who argue for intervention in Syria (Vali Nasr, Bill Keller, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Paul Berman, Samantha Power, Michael Ignatieff, George Packer) and two "liberal hawks" who argue against it (Tom Friedman, Fareed Zakaria).

How can the central thesis of the piece be true when the author finds four times as many pro-war as anti-war "liberal hawks"?

Fact is that the "liberal hawks", like their fellow neoconservatives, have been quite noisy arguing for intervention in Syria. Fact is also that the U.S. has intervened from the very beginning of the "revolution" and continued to do so by providing thousands of tons of weapons and ammunition, foodstuff as well as other secret support to the insurgents. It is also managing, not successful though, the exile opposition.

What then is the purpose of a page 1 piece in the Washington Post pushing the obviously false claim that "liberal hawks" are quiet?

Posted by b on May 29, 2013 at 02:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (18)

May 27, 2013

Unsophisticated Reporting

so·phis·ti·cat·ed

Adjective (of a person or their thoughts, reactions, and understanding)

"Aware of and able to interpret complex issues; subtle."
-----

According to a writer at the Washington Post the level of sophistication of an election campaign in Iran is measured by its numbers of English language spokespersons:

With fluent English speakers on staff available to address media requests, Rouhani’s campaign team is also more sophisticated than those of his competitors.
That sentence (and the whole report) is stupid on various levels.

1. English is taught as mandatory second language in all pubic and many private schools in Iran. About everyone who finishes at highschool level in Iran will have had at least 5 years of English language education. All candidates for the presidential election will have capable English speakers on their staff.

2. Any election campaign's aim is to maximize the number of voters that will choose it. One probably could measure a campaigns sophistication by its ability to get the votes. To use the existence of English capable spokesperson in a Farsi speaking country as a measurement of sophistication is just nuts. While Americans might like to believe otherwise fact is that English language capabilities in non-English speaking countries have zero effect on a local candidates capability to attract the local vote.

3. By writing that sentence the author shows his own lack of sophistication. Reporting from Tehran on elections while emphasizing English campaign spokesperson seems to be a confession that the reporters capabilities in understanding Farsi are less than those spokespersons' English capabilities. It certainly doesn't inspire confidence in anything else that author may write.

Posted by b on May 27, 2013 at 12:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (61)

May 26, 2013

Syria: Hizbullah Joins The Fight

Hassan Nasrallah announcement to use Hizbullah's full power on the side of the Syrian government brings a new quality to the fight. Hizbullah has a record of successful military operations against the most powerful and brutal enemies. When Nasrallah promises victory, as he yesterday did, the odds are that he will deliver. In his speech he justified Hizbullah's intervention by the danger the "western" supported takfiris pose to the resistance against Israel.

That Nasrallah defined the insurgents as takfiris is important. A takfiri is one who declares everyone who does not strictly follow his version of believe an unbeliever that should be punished and killed. As one of the Jabhat al-Nusra guys asserted in an interview:

There is a difference between the basic kuffar [infidels] and those who converted from Islam. If the latter, we must punish them. Alawites are included. Even Sunnis who want democracy are kuffar as are all Shia. It’s not about who is loyal and who isn’t to the regime; it’s about their religion. Sharia says there can be no punishment of the innocent and there must be punishment of the bad; that’s what we follow.
By defining the enemy solely as takfiris Nasrallah can justify his call to arms as a non-sectarian fight. Not every Sunni will buy it but many likely will. Following that announcement attacks were and will be mounted against Hizbullah in Lebanon but those will be more of a nuisance than a real danger.

The fight in Qasayr is ongoing. The Syrian military had some successes but the urban combat proves again to be a hard slog. Several of the opposition leaders have urged insurgents from other areas to join the fight in Qasayr. That was a mistake. Few of the reinforcements seem to have reached their target but were caught in the Syrian army cordon around Qasayr. Many of them (video) were killed. For some weeks now the Syrian Observatory's casualty count shows that about double as many insurgents are getting killed than troops on the government side. Some of the insurgents are killed in unnecessary conflicts with Kurds or other groups, some of them by missile fire and many in street combat. I doubt that the killing of 11 Chechen in Syria will lead to more Chechen joining the fight. The takfiris are training kids (video) but those will have little chance against Hizbullah's or the Syrian army's seasoned troops. At a certain point the general insurgency will die down for lack of manpower. When the Syrian government regains full control of the country a terrorist element will likely continue to exist. But it will no longer be an existential danger to the Syrian state.

Senator McCain claimed that the U.S. will create a no fly zone should, as is likely, the Geneva talks fail. I doubt this very much. It is just one of the scare points brought up by the U.S. to increase pressure on the Syrian government. Other such points are Jordan's request for Patriot missiles deployment and the announcement of a large scale multinational maneuver in Jordan.

Under international pressure to join the Geneva talks the exile opposition is in Istanbul again trying to unite but, like in every one of these events before, this attempt is likely to fail. The Muslim Brotherhood, supported by Turkey and Qatar, is unwilling to give up its (somewhat hidden) majority, does not stick to its earlier commitments and inserts new demands:

When [Al Sabbagh] was asked in front of the foreign ambassadors: "What is your priority? Especially that we are facing the challenges of Geneva 2. These demands will lead to the failure of the plan or even the fracture of the coalition which might consequently lead to Bashar Al Assad staying in power". He answered with this (literally): "My conditions are more important and urgent".
These are the people the U.S. wants to install in Syria? Do these exiles look like they would gain control of the takfiris? No and no.

The U.S may soon recognize that its Syria project has come to a dead end. There is no viable replacement for the Syrian government and the takfiris are a serious danger. If the U.S. were sure about a positive outcome should the insurgency win it would certainly do more to help them. Instead it presses European countries to deliver weapons to them. If one, like Nasrallah, is convinced of ones case, one will use all ones own might to win and not ask proxies for help. That the U.S. is doing such is telling

Posted by b on May 26, 2013 at 01:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (91)

May 25, 2013

Open Thread 2013-10

News & views ...

Posted by b on May 25, 2013 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (62)

May 24, 2013

Obama: Expect More Drone Strikes

Only one of the following headlines is mostly correct. Guess which one.

Obama restricts drone strikes overseas
LA Times
Obama Resets War on Terror
Wall Street Journal
Obama pledges new rules on use of armed drones
Washington Post
President Barack Obama defends US drone strikes - but moves to rein them in
The Independent
Obama limits U.S. drone strikes in shift from constant war footing
Globe And Mail
Pivoting From a War Footing, Obama Acts to Curtail Drones
New York Times
Obama restricts drone killings and foresees end to 'perpetual war'
Guardian
Obama speech suggests possible expansion of drone killings
McClatchy

As usual McClatchy comes nearest to the truth. Here is the White House "Factsheet" on the "new" policies: U.S. Policy Standards and Procedures for the Use of Force in Counterterrorism Operations Outside the United States and Areas of Active Hostilities (pdf).

One can easily fly dozens of drones through the obvious holes in those "new" rules. I for one can think of no past drone strike Obama ordered that would not be allowed under these "new" policies.

By now everyone should know that when Obama says "A" the people will hear their preferred "B" while what Obama will be doing is "C". "A" is great rhetoric, "B" is vague content and the wish to believe while "C" will be a bad policy. Why do most media still fall for this?

Posted by b on May 24, 2013 at 10:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (30)

May 23, 2013

The Difference?

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

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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

Posted by b on May 23, 2013 at 10:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (50)

May 22, 2013

Syria: The Messed Up Neighborhood

The 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.

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).

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:
Around 4:30 a.m., a 300-strong force of Salafist fighters from the mainly Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood, which backs the uprising in Syria, tried to launch an offensive against gunmen loyal to President Bashar Assad in the opposite area of Jabal Mohsen.

They were repelled by Lebanese soldiers, who opened fire with heavy machine guns.

The complicate relationships between various religious trends in Lebanon is well describe with this report of clashes over where a Sunni turned Shia and Hizbullah fighter who died in fighting in Qusayr should be buried.

Iraq has seen many serious bombings in recent weeks against various sides and against different population groups. These seem to be calculated to induce a new sectarian war. Reidar Visser finds that Iraq can pull back from the brink and avoid another civil war. The leader of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Massoud Barzani closed the border with Syria after the PYD which rules in the Kurdish parts of Syria detained some people belonging to his Kurdistan Democratic Party. In Israel a commentator warns prime minister Netanyahoo of reckless behavior especially toward the Russians. He mentions that in one of Israel's wars some planes on the other side where actually flown by Russian pilots. The writer, as I did earlier, seems to think that a further Russian intervention on the Syrian government side is possible. Should the Syrian government fall the military situation for Israel would be even more complicate.

For the Jordan king Abdullah the political problems over nearly half a million Syrian refugees are getting bigger. Jordan now closed its border for any new refugees coming from Syria. But traffic in the other direction still seem to flow:

A good summary of the rebels’ conditions for Geneva came in a telephone interview Monday with Gen. Salim Idriss, the commander of the rebels’ Supreme Military Council. He spoke from Jordan, where his forces had just received a new shipment of 35 tons of weapons from Saudi Arabia; Idriss said these weapons will help, but they aren’t advanced enough to combat Assad’s tanks and planes in Qusair.

Idriss said he would not attend the Geneva talks unless the United States and its allies establish “military balance” by giving him modern anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons. “It’s not valuable to go to negotiations when we are weak on the ground,” he said.
...
Rebel forces are chronically short of ammunition, Idriss said. According to one rebel source, he has privately asked the United States for 700 tons of ammunition each week over the next month to help strengthen the rebels’ hand and provide leverage before Geneva.

King Abdullah is openly arguing for negotiations over Syria. He fears that a victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria would cost him his throne. But one wonders how that fits with weapon deliveries through Jordan's borders. When he recently was in Washington his escorts leaked what might be future U.S. plans.
[S]ources from the king’s escorts in Washington confirmed to Al-Monitor that the Americans informed him that attempts at a peaceful political solution will not last beyond the end of this year. If these efforts were to fail, Jordanian diplomatic sources told Al-Monitor that they expect the Americans will resort to powerful military intervention in Syria, either with extensive logistical support for the armed opposition or what has been dubbed the “Serbia scenario,” in which air strikes would weaken Assad and lead to a final shift in the balance of the forces.
Having again messed up the whole neighborhood the colonial "friends of Syria", now shrunk down to a mere 11 countries, are today meeting in Jordan. This is the first time that no one from their sponsored exile Syrian opposition is attending such a meeting. Those SNC folks will meet tomorrow in Istanbul to quibble again and to receive the new orders of their colonial masters. The SNC still demands that Assad must go before they can agree to any serious negotiations. As this does not fit the current "western" plan for negotiations the group, already in terminal crisis, will fall even further apart.

I do expect that today's meeting in Jordan will here some arguing for more weapons to flow to the foreign supported insurgency in Syria during the time the sham Geneva negotiations take place. Even the German intelligence service, after predicting Assad would soon fall, now believes that the Syrian government is likely to win. Without more supplies the insurgents will continue to lose their hold on the Syrian countrysides and with each town that falls back to the government the "western" parts of the Geneva negotiations will lose leverage. But the problem of who should receive those weapons is still not solved. Even "suck on this" Thomas Friedman is now warning against arming the insurgency without further deeper thought.

Meanwhile the fighting in Syria continues. The insurgents have send some convoys from Aleppo and Homs to reinforce their colleagues in Qusayr. They threaten to wipe out Shia and Alawite towns should Qusayr fall to the government. The town is now the propaganda Schwerpunkt for both sides.

Posted by b on May 22, 2013 at 11:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (84)

May 21, 2013

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
...
Veteran fighters of last year's civil war in Libya have come to the front-line in Syria, helping to train and organise rebels under conditions far more dire than those in the battle against Muammar Gaddafi, a Libyan-Irish fighter has told Reuters.
EXCLUSIVE-Libyan fighters join Syrian revolt against Assad
...
Tunisia's government says that some 800 of its citizens are fighting alongside Islamist rebels in Syria, although some estimates put the figure much higher.
Syria conflict: Why did my Tunisian son join the rebels?
...
Fighters from across the globe have joined the war against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, including hundreds of Egyptians who have completed their engagement in their own revolution and turned toward the “holy war” in Syria.
Egyptian Fighters Join 'Lesser Jihad' in Syria
...
Dozens of Kuwaitis are fighting with the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) after crossing from Turkey, Al-Qabas newspaper reported yesterday, citing the fighters' relatives.
Fighters from Kuwait joining Syrian rebels
...
A U.S. Army veteran says he has joined an offshoot of al Qaeda after spending several months fighting alongside Syrian rebel forces.
U.S. Army veteran joins al Qaeda-linked group after months of fighting with rebel forces in Syria
...
The EU's anti-terrorist chief Gilles de Kerchove estimates that around 500 Europeans are now fighting with rebel forces in Syria against Bashar al-Assad's regime.
Syria crisis: EU says 500 Europeans have joined fight
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More than 20 Lebanese extremists were killed Saturday in an ambush by the Syrian army in the Syrian town of Tal Kalakh.
...
It further mentioned that "the number of Lebanese who were killed in Syria during the fighting along with the armed opposition exceeded two hundred. However, no media fuss was raised around them, because they were killed individually or in small numbers."
Joining Syria Rebels, 20 Lebanese Killed in Tal Kalakh
So many foreign fighters have joined the Syrian insurgency that one wonders if their is role left for any indigenous Syrian insurgent. We have yet to see any comment from the White House or the State Department that warns against these foreign fighters joining the conflict in Syria.

But now, as a handful of additional foreign fighters join the Syrian government side, the Obama administration is deeply concerned:

"President Obama stressed his concern about Hezbollah's active and growing role in Syria, fighting on behalf of the Assad regime, which is counter to the Lebanese government's policies," said a White House statement.
...
Earlier, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell condemned "Hezbollah's direct intervention and assault on Qusayr where its fighters are playing a significant role in the regime's offensive."

"Hezbollah's occupation of villages along the Lebanese-Syrian border and its support for the regime and pro-Assad militias exacerbate and inflame regional sectarian tensions and perpetuate the regime's campaign of terror."

And those thousands of foreign Jihadis do what?

Posted by b on May 21, 2013 at 08:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (56)

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.


bigger

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?

Qusayr does not "links Damascus to the Mediterranean coast" unless you want to walk the direct line through the fields. Its sole military value is its position across the insurgency's supply line from Lebanon to Homs. The insurgents know that very well:
“To lose Qusair would be a disaster; we will lose the whole city of Homs,” said Fadi al-Issa, a fighter with the opposition Farouq Brigade
But why are the above quoted news sources falsely insisting that Qusayr is a link between Damascus and Tartus?

These journalist try to insert an official "western" narrative of an Alawite regime ruling over a majority Sunni land. The sole purpose to connect the fighting in Qasayr to some route between Damascus and the Syrian coast is to introduce and narrate the supposedly sectarian fighting. This despite the facts that the Syrian government includes many Sunnis, that the Syrian army troops are mainly Sunnis and the inhabitants of the big harbor cities in the alleged "Alawite heartland" at the coast are also mainly Sunni. The whole idea of some "Alawite state" at the Syrian coast is therefor pretty stupid but the media keep inserting that over and over.

The fighting in Syria is not about Sunnis versus Alawite. The fighting is rather between those who favor to live in a secular republic versus those who want a Sunni Islamic regime in one form or another.

Misreading the map and thereby inserting a sectarian view of the conflict is contrary to the facts and serious journalistic malpractice.

Posted by b on May 21, 2013 at 04:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (25)

May 20, 2013

Syria: Disunited Insurgents Lose Qusayr

The 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.

Posted by b on May 20, 2013 at 01:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (45)

May 19, 2013

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.

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.

Where to begin?

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.

Posted by b on May 19, 2013 at 11:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (47)

May 18, 2013

Syria: The Turning International Tide

There 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 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.
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.

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.

A weakened, but intact Assad regime would be preferable for Syria and the Middle East, the Times reported intelligence sources as saying.

That view will likely later be reflected in Washington where the "Assad must go" crowd has yet to weaken its position.

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.

“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.

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.

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.

Posted by b on May 18, 2013 at 12:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (50)

May 17, 2013

Syria: News Roundup

Back 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.

There are more reports of civilians clashing with insurgents as well as of fighting between various insurgency groups.

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.

Posted by b on May 17, 2013 at 01:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (53)

May 15, 2013

Open Thread 2013-09

... busy ...

News & views ...

Posted by b on May 15, 2013 at 12:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (52)

May 13, 2013

Syria: The Casualty Count

Time 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 uprising

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.

First 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"?

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.

Yesterday:

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.

Thursday

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.

Posted by b on May 13, 2013 at 08:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (100)

May 11, 2013

WaPo Fudges Libyan Protests

The 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.
...
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.
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.

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 armed protesters have said their main goal was to push the General National Congress to pass a proposed law that would ban Gadhafi-era officials from holding government posts.
...
Last month, armed protesters besieged the General National Congress for several hours in an attempt to force its members to pass the political isolation law. Gunmen later opened fire on the vehicle of the parliament speaker, who escaped unharmed.
There was more:
It has emerged that militiamen tried to intimidate Prime Minister Ali Zeidan when he met and negotiated with them. He said today that they had brandished a grenade and a gun at him. He did not say when this happened.

”The rebels unlocked the grenade in front of me but no one was hurt because the grenade did not explode and it was taken quickly outside the Prime Ministry headquarters,” he stated today at a press conference.

There was shooting at the parliament, armed gangs seized ministries and put guns to the prime minister's head. This to push for the law that the Washington Post writes was "passed overwhelmingly". Wouldn't it be more correct to say that the law was passed by very frightened parliamentarians only under very heavy duress?

There is still more that the Washington Post will not let you know:

Militiamen who have been besieging the Foreign Ministry this evening fled when hundreds of pro-democracy supporters arrived at the building to demonstrate their support for the government.

Around 200 demonstrators had marched from Algeria Square along the Corniche to the Ministry but were quickly joined by others along the way, overwhelming the couple of dozen or so militiamen who were still mounting their siege outside the Ministry buildings.

These protests, much bigger than the armed gangs, are against the new law. They are also defenders of democracy:
Earlier in Algeria Square, around 400 anti-militia protesters brought traffic to a halt. Placards read: “With our blood we will defence the legitimacy of the government”, “No to bringing down the government with arms” and “Get rid of the guns in your hands and start building Libya”.

“I don’t like Zeidan”, said a protestor, “but he was appointed by a democratically-elected Congresss. “We must support him”.

Does the Washington Post believe that these protests that pushed out the militants led to the diplomatic and military high alarm? That does not sound reasonable but from reading the WaPo piece is the only item one is led to believe. Or has the threatening diplomatic atmosphere to do with this issue:

The crowd roared anti-militia chants interspersed with takbeers (“Allahu Akbar”) and occasional barbs at Qatar.

“We don’t want to be ruled by Mozah and Hamid,” they shouted – a reference to the Emir of Qatar, Hamid bin Khalifa Al-Thani and his wife, Sheikha Mozah, who was brought up in Libya. Qatar is accused by many of interfering in Libya by funding Salafists and other Islamists.

Is this attitude of the protesters or are the heavily armed gangs the reason for diplomats fleeing and military alerts? Whatever. The Washington Post will not let you know. It fudges the issue. Throwing Syria into chaos is too important to let people have second thoughts about the chaos following similar interventions.

Posted by b on May 11, 2013 at 01:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

The Reyhanli Explosions

As 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+ seriously

No 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?


Posted by b on May 11, 2013 at 07:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (110)

May 10, 2013

Syria: Short Roundup

As I am busy so here are just some recommendations to read on Syria.

America's hidden agenda in Syria's war

"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.

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.

Syria's protracted conflict shows no sign of abating
Firstly, the FSA - that you have been hearing so much about - does not exist.

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.

Wise man Zbig: Syria: Intervention Will Only Make it Worse
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.

Posted by b on May 10, 2013 at 02:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (37)

May 09, 2013

Open Thread 2013-08

News & views ...

Posted by b on May 9, 2013 at 01:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (88)

May 08, 2013

Syria: Al-Nusra With "Chemical Weapons" Sourced From Turkey

One 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.

Posted by b on May 8, 2013 at 02:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (22)

Syria: The U.S. Has No Leverage

Secretary 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.

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 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?

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.

Posted by b on May 8, 2013 at 12:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (71)

May 07, 2013

Syria: A Possible Russian Move

There 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.

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".

The U.S. and NATO eventually backed down because they did not want to risk a wider war.

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.

Posted by b on May 7, 2013 at 11:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (105)

May 06, 2013

Syria: The Feckless Left

by 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!

According to these house puppets, "The revolution in Syria (sic) is ... also an extension of the Zapatista revolt in Mexico, the landless movement in Brazil, the European and North American revolts against neoliberal exploitation", and every other emotional struggle for justice that these betrayers can throw against the wall and hope it sticks, while, like a virus, they live off the suffering of others, with their pompous pontificating and venal obfuscating, as their salaries and position are paid for by the big boys.

I am sorry that do to personal problems I am not at present able to take the time to deconstruct the empty verbiage of that embarrassing petition line by line as I have done with others in the past (The Euston Manifesto). This document's vacuous invocation of democracy, freedom and the Geneva Convention, its selective one-sided claims bereft of any factual evidence whatsoever, its twisting of truth on its head and its transparent Orwellism against "Asad’s regime" should be a deep and enduring embarrassment for any signatory of the document.

In ostensibly "hop(ing) for a free, unified, and independent Syria," (Didn't that exist, albeit with blemishes, as all power structures exhibit, until a few years ago? The same hope was evinced for Iraq after the nation was first destroyed, but why should a few well trained house lackeys quibble over cause and effect?) while "confront(ing) a world upside down" consisting of "Russia, China, and Iran," (the bad guys) and in throwing in their lot and supporting "the US and their Gulf allies" (the good guys -- Saudi Arabia and Qatar for hummus sake!) these ahistorical ignoramuses not only have the blood of innocent Syrians on their heads, but that of the multi-million Iraqis and hundreds of thousands of Libyans, Afghanis, Yemeni, Sudanese and many other nations killed, injured, displaced and dispossessed by the time honored imperial strategy of divide et impera, divide and conquer. Apparently, those who refuse to study the bloody history of the West's destabilization campaigns are consigned (perhaps enlisted?) to support them.

As the election of Barak Obama, supported by similar empty-headed intellectual idealists, has proved, "Hope," in the absence of an honest and rigorous economic and power analysis, a realistic and workable political strategy of opposition, and the building of a viable alternative power structure, is even more destructive than surly apathy. These intellectuals' piteous petition evinces none of the above minimal requirements for successful activism -- except, of course, for Hope, the Orwellian trope of our decade. Their elitist Hope, is misplaced from the get go, of course -- for there is no attempt in the petition to address or assay the hopes and desires of the majority of the Syrian people. Instead, it is all about their precious hope. When your car careens off the road, you momentarily "hope" you won't be killed, although you know it is too late for hope; Intellectual study, attainment and popular acclaim is supposed to provide more effective tools than hope. In this case, like petition signing, apparently.

It simply beggars belief that the Left -- which claims to pride itself on solid structural analysis as opposed to groupcentric conspiracy theory -- betrays its utter ignorance of its purported forte (the former) while buying whole hog into the later, namely into the magical conspiracy theory that the removal of an individual, Assad, rather than the democratic restructuring of a power structure and national political economy, will in any way help solve the Syrians' problems. The undemocratic abdication of the duly elected "Bashar al-Asad," as called for by the petitioners, would clearly leave a prolonged bloody power vacuum, with every interested external and internal party vying in the darkest of ways for support, thereby inaugurating in a reign of terror even worse than at present and destroying the state. The recent bloody examples of Iraq and Libya should be obvious even to the purblind pusillanimous petitioners. One might think… An honest leftist, Stephen Gowans once described this type of thinking among the left as the "Rogue's Gallery" syndrome: the demonization of individual "monsters" like Saddam Hussein, Qaddaffi, Chavez, Castro. As the noted political thinker Noam Chomsky notoriously and repeatedly opined a decade ago, (paraphrased), "Iraqis, and the world, would be much better off without Saddam Hussein." So much for the vaunted structural analysis of the left. But who, especially the tenured left, has time for historical memory in an age of evanescent tweets?

To even imagine that one could throw one's hat in with the US, Zionist Israel, bought off and dying NATO, Saudi Arabian, and Qatari interests and end up with some type of leftist anti-globalist democracy movement complying with the will of the Syrian people is absolutely and utterly laughable. The destruction of Sirte and the ethnic cleansing of Tawergha, as well as the confessional partition of Iraq, come to mind as case examples of more likely consequences, especially for a multi-confessional state such as Syria. Do these people really have academic degrees; do they study history; are they in any way capable of critical thinking? They betray the rankest of historical ignorance, and to my mind, these moronic intellectuals demonstrate the far-sighted perspective of an ostrich with its head in the sand. It is truly a left gone mad.

***2

Of more serious import, is these morons' ignorance of, and complicity in, the process of shock doctrine globalization: How are nations dragooned into debt servitude, the Washington Consensus, by the bankers, the IMF, the WTO, while a few dozens walk away with billions? The destabilization of Iceland, Spain, Greece, Cyprus, a veritable rampage of county after country demonstrates that military means need not be necessary. Politicians are bought, laws are changed without fanfare or understanding by the masses, globalist media lies, populations are mislead, non-democratic agreements are passed, and fewer and fewer corporations run by an interlocking directorate of hundreds gets stronger and stronger. The commons is privatized, safety nets are cut, and unemployment, a form of soft genocide, is abetted. Everything is privatized and centralized into non-accountable, non-democratic global corporatist hands. The entire world has become just one big "externality" for the globalized military to handle. For holdouts, stronger means are necessary: Markets, commodity prices, interest rates, etc. are manipulated by the market makers. Ethnic and confessional destabilization campaigns are funded and fomented. Anger is channeled through unaccountable foreign NGOs, globalist funded faux-democracy movements, neo-liberal and powerless placeholders for the big boys all, but with catchy brands and great graphics, led by cult-like charismatic leaders whose radiant clothes cover their programmatic nakedness: This charade is what the aforementioned signatories, without a trace of awareness or irony refer to in their petition as "civic society," a faux society of profession technicians who manage the now crumbling societies "unrealistic expectations" and resistance. George Soros would be proud!

Peaceful protests against the hapless leader who initially attempted to placate the Globalist neo-liberal order by privatizing the commanding heights of the economy, by providing rent-a-torture services to the empire, are organized by the same globalist powers who forced or bribed the nation's venal leaders into neo-liberal contortions in the first place. It is never enough for the ghouls. Once the International order has their eyes on your country, you're damned if you attempt to comply and damned if you attempt to resist. False flag attacks destabilize, and then the hired hands come in -- in Syria's case, the Takfiris. Apparently, these esteemed intellectuals, so concerned with democracy and dignity, have never read John Perkins, Naomi Klein, or the blog LandDestroyer, among others. The entire process is, as Hannah Arendt might say, banally ordinary. And the feckless left happily signs on to the banality.

Iraq, Libya, Indonesia, Panama, the Philippines, and a dozen other countries. The feckless left should have a grip on the storyline, or what they like to call "the narrative" by now. But no, like the Keystone Cops, they fall for it every time.

And yet, despite the violence and destabilization that is taking down the world, one nation at a time, in a mad, mad race to the bottom -- might one think that this is cause to organize and petition for the feckless structural left. Nay, they say! All problems will be solved once Assad goes, declares the feckless structural, magical thinking left! Get on the bus, sign the magical petition, and go Further!

***3

In 1940, the astrophysicist George Gamow published "The Birth And Death Of The Sun." In it, he described the evolutionary tracks of stars. Stars differ by mass, and composition, and thereby final fate, but their evolutionary sequences, their life paths, could now be reliably predicted, he stated. Without an intelligent, informed, organized global resistance, we are now in the same place with nations within the global world order or more accurately, world system. If they resist, they can be a Haiti, a Honduras, a Yugoslavia, an Iraq, a Libya, a Syria, perhaps even a Soviet Union. Depending on their "mass," the composition of their industries, their constituent ethnicities and religions, and the strength of their resistance to Globalism, their fate can be reliably predicted.

Its nice to talk about dignity and democracy and freedom as the wealthy petition signers do. But the reality is that there is none of that without jobs and economic security for all. And the neo-liberalism of centrally controlled Globalism that is rapidly being rolled out around the world is all about destroying that for everyone (including the petition signatories), in the name of "workplace flexibility." Corporations have freedom and dignity and democracy within globalized trade organizations, not people, these days. That is to say, they now have the legal standing and rights which people once had, no matter how much the petition's signatories may wish or bleat otherwise. To blame Assad for this globalized transfer -- theft, really -- of rights is naive and misplaced, and to expect a seriously destabilized society to provide what their own relatively more stable societies cannot is both illogical and deeply patronizing of the Syrian people.

At the present juncture, the only force strong enough to resist this shock doctrine globalism-at-gunpoint crisis methodology is economic nationalism. Sure, nationalism is a drag, outmoded, and overly narrow in perspective. Many historical complaints can be legitimately set against it. In the long run, it is not the way to go for the planet or its inhabitants. But right now it is the only force strong enough to stand up to neo-liberal globalism. At the moment, as that wicked witch Maggie famously said, "There is no alternative." A movement of a few naive students have not been able to stand up to globalism, and neither have 1 million people occupying a nation's central square. Effective resistance to this global process -- an intentional run-down to the lowest common denominator of wealth, health, security, etc., and a run-up to the highest common denominator of pollution and ecological destruction, all in favor of corporate rights owned by a few people and enforced at the end of a gun -- without an effective global strategy and sustained global support, is merely wishful thinking, i.e., hope. Yet, we are are nowhere near that point of resistance yet, and with the aid of these moribund intellectuals, fecklessly yet sanctimoniously targeting one "monster" at a time, we may never get there. In my humble opinion, economic nationalism must be seen as a stepping stone away from centralized unaccountable globalism towards a more decentralized, economically just world. If I should be mistaken, I welcome any viable alternative strategies. Perhaps the feckless left will invite me to sign their petition!

These great vaunted intellectuals have not come up with an education program of resistance to globalism for their own countries, or one for Syria. Neither have they come up with a game-plan, a strategy for resistance. They lead no great movements of resistance in their own countries. they speak not to the masses, but to other intellectuals, a privileged 10%, if that. Like ostriches all, they deny and ignore the problem. Worse, they misdiagnose it: The problem is Assad (Hussein, Qaddaffi, Aristede, Chavez wasn't good enough) -- whatever -- it is an individual problem, not a systemic and global one. He, (whomever) is a bad leader; he made concessions to the globalists; he made deals with his national elite, whatever. In the end, for these utopians, Castro was not good enough for them, and neither was Chavez. They are all "problematic." In a world with virtually no left, the existing left, such as it is, warts and all, is not worth supporting when one can idealistically envision a Platonic left. Go figure. This is a solipsistic, deeply nihilistic politics of self-absorption. And because they see the problem to be an individual one, rather than a systemic one, they call for individual solutions to the wrong problem -- which clearly will never work. But perhaps that's what these moral geniuses are paid to do: Provide unworkable solutions to fictitious problems. To monkeywrench the resistance. And to do so in a non-holistic manner. Ad hoc -- sort of like Bush v. Gore. Remove the monsters one by one and stand up in feckless disbelief when they are each replaced in turn with worse monsters and worse bloodshed. "Don't blame me, I stood up to the monster," they bleat in astonished sheep-like unison. The feckless left. The non-structural, magical left. What can one expect of a group who supported Obama, because he was marketed as "Hope?"

***4

In examining the behavior of the feckless left, it might help to focus in on one specific example -- in this case, Michael Alpert, not a signatory to this document, but an intellectual of much the same ilk -- and examine how his behavior during the Libyan intervention mirrors that of the feckless left now. Dr. Alpert, a former member of SDS, a co-founder of the well known leftist publisher, South End Press, with a doctorate in economics, is proprietor of the ZNET community, a well known group who generally consider themselves far-left political radicals in the Chomskian mold. There is a high representation of young intellectuals. ZNET has extensive source material, topical articles, blogs and discussion groups, like many other sites. In addition to this bread and butter work, Dr. Alpert fancies himself as a political theorist, particularly as the developer of an idealistic economic vision called participatory economics or parecon. I have spent a fair amount of time studying parecon, and related participatory structures, and, in my opinion, they have a lot to say for themselves in an ideal world.

With that type of background, top-notch intellectual credentials and a life spent in radical politics, along with a doctorate in economics, one might expect Dr. Alpert to understand the processes of globalization. And in theory, he might. But when the rubber hits the road, as it did in with Libya, where I tracked his site closely, he transforms into a card-carrying member of the feckless left.

In other words, he abandoned all pretense of structural analysis. Further, he abandoned any accurate historical discourse: The roots of Qaddafi's politics in nationalism, pan-africanism and socialism, his accomplishments in 42 years of guiding his nation, the war the west has fought against Libya without respite for over 30 years, how his family was bombed and killed, how Libya was falsely blamed for both the 1986 Berlin discotheque bombing and the explosion of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, how Qaddaffi was finally worn down resisting and began a program of neo-liberal privatization in a country of vast wealth and resources.

At this point, as I described above, a leader is in a lose-lose position. If he neo-liberalizes he loses the support of his people, yet it will never be enough for the globalists. And if he doesn't, his nation is worn down by endless destabilization campaigns. Destabilization is almost assured at this point. This is the ubiquitous pattern which should be the basis for any thinking persons analysis of the political situation.

But not for Dr. Alpert, who came down with a bad case of "Rogue's Gallery" syndrome. Qaddafi, he declared, based upon unsubstantiated reports in western corporate media, was killing his own people. It was a close call, he stated, but like the blind umpire, he was assured of getting it wrong. We must support intervention. And what was most striking was that his language was almost exactly, to the word, the language the current petitioners employ: The empire is bad and it acts in "cynical self interest." But in this one case, that cynical self interest magically coincides with the needs of the innocent people to not be slaughtered. So, in this one case, we should support the empire in stopping the monster, but no more. We should not support the empire in intervening militarily.

All of which serves to derail any structural analysis of the left in favor of ad hoc limited complicity based upon a western created crisis designed to appeal to the emotions, and to disarm, or at least divide any leftist resistance, which, as usual, opens the door to western intervention, which magically, never foreseen by the feckless left, always causes more killing and destruction and destabilization, which to any sentient being was the point in the first place. Wash, rinse, repeat.

These are the processes of the feckless left: historically created problem not analyzed, emotional reaction, pre-engineered ad-hoc solution, short-circuiting rational analysis, which are repeated every time. But, to their credit, they always stand firm against the monster du jour.

Here is the Orwellian position of the current petition: "one where states that were allegedly friends of the Arabs such as Russia, China, and Iran have stood in support of the slaughter of people, while states that never supported democracy or independence, especially the US and their Gulf allies, have intervened in support of the revolutionaries. They have done so with clear cynical self interest. In fact, their intervention tried to crush and subvert the uprising, while selling illusions and deceptive lies.

Given that regional and world powers have left the Syrian people alone, we ask you to lend your support to those Syrians still fighting for justice, dignity, and freedom, and who have withstood the deafening sounds of the battle, as well as rejected the illusions sold by the enemies of freedom."

Russia, China and Iran (the bad guys) support the slaughter of people. The US and their gulf allies (the good guys, whose very names are carefully omitted as they have no credibility whatsoever) support the revolutionaries (hurray!), but only after trying to crush -- not support -- them. Got it? But the good guys don't really support the revolutionaries enough because "regional and world powers have left the Syrian people alone" an Orwellian lie on par with one of Hitler's big lies. And the bad guys are responsible for "the illusions sold by the enemies of freedom," a line which apparently fell out of a Reagan speech from 1981.

We are never told exactly how supporting leftist revolutionaries falls within the cynical self interests of the empire, but by then no one is capable of critical thinking anyway.

It is simply impossible to follow this hollywood gobly gook and maintain a rational, historical, and structural analysis of events.

***5

In a sane world, the left would first provide us with honest analysis: Foreign countries are arming, training, infiltrating and paying for an armed mercenary force to destabilize Syria. Honest leftists would call for the cutting off of all support for this foreign destabilization before all else. Until all foreigners are removed from the destabilization scene, stopped from blowing up civilians, mosques and churches, businesses, the industrial infrastructure of the country, how can anyone, in their right mind, talk of dignity, freedom and democracy? What world do these signatories live in?

In a sane world, the left would stand against Israel and the US, attacking other nations unprovoked, dropping depleted uranium on defenseless people to cause injuries and defects for all of future history, perhaps. In this world, the feckless, magical thinking left, petition against Assad.

Finally, the word "revolution" has been bandied about as a propaganda word, preventing meaningful discourse and analysis of the political economic structure of the nation being analyzed. It has all the meaning of "swish!", "goal!", or "home run!" these days; it is fashionable. It has become a media term and stripped of a meaningful descriptive role. And the feckless left promotes this meaningless glamorization: The wanton destruction of a nation through age-old divide and conquer tactics has magically morphed into "the revolution in Syria." What is happening in Syria is as much a revolution as the self-serving, sanctimonious, feckless left is a force for good in the world, that is to say zilch.

***6

As far as the Angry Arab goes, the anger over events from his childhood might be real, but he has generally comes across as a petulant, overstuffed humus eater. He is not known for presenting any viable analysis of the process of globalization, and how it effects the Arab world, nor current day real geo-political possibilities of resistance in a very bleak era, although to his credit, he is excellent at the much easier task of pointing out ever-present political hypocrisy, commentary on long past events and actors, translations of beautiful poetry, and indulging in Utopian dreams. With his position and contacts, it is inconceivable that his stance could have been anything but willful ignorance over the mercenary, mendacious, and intentionally violent and destructive of life forces nature of the Takfiri "revolution." His public mea culpa, while laudable in theory, must be viewed as a rear guard action to preserve any street cred he has left with his audience so that he may mislead them again in the future. If he is not a member of the feckless left, he is still a member of the unprogrammatic, magical left.

If you want to be looked at as a leader and teacher of human beings, a credible human rights advocate or a credible intellectual analyst, you must make the crucial calls correctly when it counts, not two years later. The Angry Arab, by his conscious actions, has condemned tens of thousands of Syrians of all confessions to the fate of his own people in Lebanon a generation ago - the crucible which supposedly formed his moral spine - and that is unforgivable. It is incumbent upon one to learn the lessons of one's own life. His, albeit small, responsibility will be on his head forever, and he will never escape the judgment of it by humane people the world over for the rest of his life. He will never be thought of seriously by any thinking person as a political force for good, a member of a programmatic resistance, and his blog will be considered a mere curiosity, querulous and quixotic, not deeply insightful or moral, more along the lines of titillating political entertainment, like Jon Stewart. There is a difference being "mistaken" and refusing to read the accounts and understand the processes (processes, as I make clear above, which have changed little in intent since time immemorial and which are repeated quite regularly the world over) which every reader of this humble blog has been aware of for well over a year. A very big difference.

***7

What can we do? It is incumbent upon us that the list of petitioner's names and the empty verbiage and puerile analysis should be deconstructed and spread far and wide to discredit these puppets. Their empty program should be exposed for the nihilism that it is and replaced with a viable program of education and resistance.

As has been well documented, for instance at Landdestroyer, geo-political plans are devised years, if not decades, into the future. What has been transpiring in Syria is no surprise to any serious student of geo-politics, and was planned and publicized long ago. The feckless left has no excuse for ignorance if they expect to be a geo-political force for good.

What, one may reasonably ask, is to be the role of intellectuals? (No less a luminary than Noam Chomsky gained renown addressing this question.) Intellectuals are presumably given a voice and widespread exposure and the following and trust of people as leaders so that they can tell the truth to us while confronting those in power. They should take the time and effort to unravel the tortuous and purposely opaque mechanisms of power and explain the process to us mere mortals in simple terms which we can understand. One might expect them to elucidate how the west and its ZATO and Arab puppets has, over several decades, created a world of artificial austerity without meaningful work for millions, a network of fundamentalist schools spitting out nihilistic fanatics devoid of humanism or critical thinking, a pipeline of illegal arms, armies of brainwashed mercenaries provided jobs and cult-like group identity, all focused on destroying nation states one by one -- Syria being the current focus of destabilization. One might expect them to line out this process to those of us who are burdened by simply getting by day-to-day and putting food on our table, a roof over our heads, taking care of our cratering health, so that we can understand and follow them. One might, at the very least, expect them to tell us what Zbigniew Brzezinski (The Grand Chessboard) and Wesley Clark (The US will destabilize seven countries...), partisan political players both, have let on. That is the very least one might expect of a public intellectual, even if they are a member of the feckless left.

However, in these extremely bleak days it seems the so-called "opposition" is given voice, funding, positions of authority and following so that the global mafia can call in their chits when it really counts. They can lie to us and spin meaningless confections of freedom, dignity, and a democratic future for Syria. (What hopes for freedom, dignity, and a democratic future do the unemployed, the underemployed, the great mass of flexible labor have in their own countries these days?) They can lie to us and turn cause and effect on its head: "the regime has pushed for the militarization of the Syrian nonviolent movement", and by implication somehow now has responsibility for the completely unmentioned mercenary Takfiri opposition, as if a non-violent movement could be forced into violence -- sell that analysis to real leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, neither a showboat intellectual.

Real leaders, from Martin Luther King to Hugo Chavez to Gary Webb risked their life to reveal the truth instead of gallivanting with the Rolling Stones, or being feted by some astroturf group, or funded by some globalist foundation or tenured by some pseudo-intellectual organization (university) held afloat by government and corporate contracts in killingry and global domination. These chickenshit, pathetic signatories, as well as other well known "leftists" such as Amy Goodman, Juan Cole, Josh Landis, Michael Alpert, Stephen Zunes, and others, are case examples of weak, pathetic traitors to humanity worldwide. They have willfully traded honest systematic analysis for emotional string pulling -- only real lives (not theirs) are involved. Nobody forced these people to become public intellectuals; they could be greeters at Walmart nation, like the rest of us shmoos.

Those who consciously through their words and actions seek positions of power and privilege within the left are all well aware, as are all activists, union organizers, journalists, etc. of the danger this entails and the courage involved in being a real leader in a land of the deepest imperial and neoliberal reaction, while living in countries which make no pretense whatsoever these days of providing for even the most basic welfare of their own people when it stands in opposition to the needs of multi-national capital. Therefore, these house intellectuals, these whitewashers of extremism, murder and mayhem -- are as guilty as traitors, for when the chit from on high gets called in by those who supported their rise to prominence, they cravenly put their own safety and privilege over the quest for intellectual rigor, truth and justice and the trust put in them by people who only want justice and peace in the world.

Truth is hard-won in times of universal propaganda and deceit, and one must think for oneself, and not blindly follow leftist, or any other, gurus. Rather, one must ruthlessly tear down, expose and destroy the propagandists, the cloaked aiders and abettors of empire. Its the least we can do.

Posted by b on May 6, 2013 at 09:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (118)

May 05, 2013

The Angry Arabs Will No Longer Fight Against Syria

It took As'ad AbuKhalil, the Angry Arab, two years to come to his senses and to acknowledge his errors:
This was never a “revolution”. I among other leftists in Lebanon signed a petition early on after the events in Deraa in which we denounced the regime and mocked and dismissed its narrative of armed groups roaming the country and shooting at people. I now figure that I was dead wrong: I do believe that armed groups were pre-prepared and armed to strike when orders (from Israel and GCC countries) arrive. They had a mission and it had nothing to do with the cause of liberation of Syria from a tyrannical regime.
It was quite obvious that the insurgency in Syria was preplanned and managed from professional outside forces. Why did it take so long to recognize that?

It seems that the Israeli air attacks yesterday were many and severe. They hit several Syrian army installations and units and are obvious outright acts of a war of aggression. The attacks Thursday or Friday on alleged "weapon transports to Hizbullah" were only a diversion to set a propaganda picture for today's air campaign. The U.S. will at least have known of this plan. It is likely that it helped to develop the target list.

A response will come, either through Lebanon or at sea, but not immediately. Five days ago Israel called up reservists for a surprise live fire training maneuver in the north. This supposedly to hold of an immediate retaliation for the long planned attack. But it can not keep reservist in the field for long. The economic impact is too big.

This air attack happened after the Syrian army's offense against the foreign sponsored insurgents showed some serious progress. Israel and the U.S. want to prolong the fighting. To achieve that they hit the Syrian army to "level the playing field". As even As'ad AbuKhalil finally acknowledges their aim is to destroy Syria. Not Bashar Assad, not the government but Syria the country. Their aim has not yet been achieved.

The Israeli attack and its now obvious cooperation with the so called Free Syrian Army will have a significant negative impact on the insurgency. In the early phase many Jihadist from other countries came to Syria because they believed in the propagandized cause of overthrowing an, in their view, un-islamic regime. That early flood has already changed to a trickle. It will now run dry. Likewise many Syrian patriots who had joined the insurgency will now change their mind. Defections from the army to the insurgency had already stopped. We will now see defectors from the insurgents who will be willing to (re-)join the army. They will have valuable intelligence.

In my estimate, gained from hundreds of videos and reports, the total number of insurgents has never been above 30,000. Early on casualties were compensated for by new recruitment. But the recent gains of the Syrian army already had me guessing that the number of insurgents was in decline. Either through defections, people being just tired of it and going home or due to weapon impacts. This process will now accelerate.

This hemorrhage of personal is something neither the U.S. nor Israel can compensate for without putting boots on the ground. Something neither wants to do. A dwindling number of insurgents and the drying up of their recruitment pools, while the Syrian army can still replenish its ranks (if needed from outside the country) makes it certain that the insurgency will lose. The larger formations that currently hold territory will diminish in strength and melt away into a underground terror campaign that will be more of a nuisance than a real national danger. The Angry Arabs now more and more understand what this war is really about. They will no longer fight against Syria. Israel's attack accelerated that process.

Posted by b on May 5, 2013 at 12:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (101)

May 04, 2013

Under Pressure Insurgents Up "Massacre" Campaign

The Syrian opposition is currently promoting a "massacre" that allegedly happened in the village Bayda near Banias at the Mediterranean coast. The Hariri/Sunni aligned Daily Start headlines it as Images of Sabra and Shatila in Banias where up to 3,500 Palestinians were killed by rightwing Phalange hordes under Israeli supervision.

The number of those killed in Bayda is dubious and even the propagandized numbers are much smaller than the Sbara and Shatila ones.. The insurgent supporters claim "50", "more than 100" and "hundreds" were killed. The exiting evidence does not support that:

Amateur video showed the bodies of at least seven men and boys lying in pools of blood on the pavement in front of a house as women wept around them.
Why does the video only show seven men when "hundreds" are supposed to have died?

There is also context missing in the English agencies reports. The German news agency DPA reported this:

Activists said troops attacked al-Bayda after a bus carrying pro-regime militants, known as Shabiha, was attacked, killing at least seven and wounding more than 30.
We know that the opposition calls any civilians that support the Syrian government "Shabiha".

The current evidence then is this. A bus full of presumably government supporters was attacked and seven were killed and 30 wounded. Government troops then raided a nearby village to find the perpetrators. Seven men were killed in that village, probably by the government troops.

The might have been an ugly revenge killing by the government troops or they might have fought and killed the perpetrators guilty of the earlier incident. But this was, at least according to the available evidence, not a "massacre" or a willful mass killing of women and children like in the Sabra and Shatila camps.

We can assume that there will be more propaganda "masscre" reports as part of yet another campaign to press the U.S. into an open war on Syria. The more the insurgency is under pressure and in retreat, the louder this and other campaigns will become.

Posted by b on May 4, 2013 at 11:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (83)

U.S. Financed Independent Polls Are Not Independent

Final Push Made Ahead of Tight Malaysia Vote
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian politicians are making a final push on the last day of campaigning as an independent survey showed Prime Minister Najib Razak's long-ruling coalition running neck and neck with the opposition alliance ahead of Sunday's general elections.

A survey released by polling house Merdeka Center predicted Najib's National Front coalition will win 85 Parliamentary seats, while a three-member opposition alliance led by former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim will take 89 seats. It says 46 seats are too close to call and that two seats will go to smaller parties.

Such tight independent polls usually carry the smell of U.S. interference.

A tight independent poll will show the U.S. favorite candidate may win. When the election then goes against the U.S. favorite the tight independent poll will be used to claim election fraud and to instigate riots to then somehow wrestle the U.S. favorite into power.

We have seen this scheme in various color revolutions in eastern Europe, in Thailand and recently also in Venezuela.

Indeed a short search for "Merdeka Center NED" immediately brings up data that lets one doubt the independence of that polling outfit. It is the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy is financing the Merdeka Center poll:

Merdeka Center for Opinion Research
$60,000
To provide policy makers and civil society representatives with public opinion research that can be used to formulate policies and programs in Malaysia. The Merdeka Center for Opinion Research will conduct four public opinion surveys across peninsular Malaysia in an effort to gauge the Malaysian public's opinion on a variety of public policy issues.
The NED is funding several other so called Non-Government Organizations to push for its policy objectives onto the Malaysian public. The openly admitted total of U.S. money to U.S. friendly NGO's is over $1 million. It is likely that is more money behind this.

Part of such fraud is do saw doubt about the integrity of the election commission as is already happening in Malaysia.

Malaysia will have to brace itself for some unruly weeks to come. It should, as soon as possible, push out such foreign financed political influence.

Posted by b on May 4, 2013 at 03:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

May 03, 2013

Groundhog Day Iraq

The New York Times prints an OpEd, together with a specially made graphic, in which an Iraqi exile tries to compel the United States to "save Iraq" by forming a coalition of the willing to take down an Iraq strongman.

No, it is not 2002/3. Its 2013. And some people never learn. Why Maliki Must Go:

Getting Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to cooperate with the United States on a new political bargain there, with Mr. Maliki out of the picture, won’t be easy, but it’s essential to save Iraq.

Posted by b on May 3, 2013 at 10:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (35)

May 01, 2013

More Arms For Destroying Syria

As I wrote on September 30 2012 on the foreign supported insurgents in Syria:

Syria: Destruction Is Their Aim

...
Destruction of the infrastructure, economy and social fabric of Syria is their and their supporters aim.
Hizbullah's Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah has come to the same conclusion (as translated by @Amani_Lebanon):
10:56 AM - 30 Apr 13 - #Nasrallah: When we look at the whole picture on Syria, israel's position, and the recent happenings, we come to come conclusion:

10:57 AM - 30 Apr 13 - #Nasrallah: The aim is not just to get Syria out of the resistance axis, it's not just about the Arab struggle against israel

10:58 AM - 30 Apr 13-  #Nasrallah: Their aim is to completely destroy Syria, all of Syria, their aim is to make sure Syria becomes unable to stand on its feet.

10:59 AM - 30 Apr 13 - #Nasrallah: They want to destroy Syria as a people, an army, a whole nation

10:59 AM - 30 Apr 13 - #Nasrallah: They want to turn Syria into a starved, destroyed and torn one.

Today "officials" are telling U.S. papers that Obama is "moving toward sending lethal arms to Syrian rebels".

This is just political theater. These papers are conveniently forgetting their own reporting on Syria. The destruction of Syria with the help of jihadist groups has been planned since 2007. The U.S. has been sending arms to the insurgents from the very beginning. It has also run an extensive media campaign to support the insurgency. The U.S. exports grain and other food as "aid" to Syria which is then distributed by extreme radical al-Nusra cells. The first arms to Syria came from the black market, then from Libyan stockpiles, then arms were flown in from Croatia. All by or through U.S. secret services. The deliveries were made by the CIA from its large station in Benghazi, as well as through its stations in Turkey and Jordan. The groups those arms went to were vetted by the CIA and there is evidence that these weapons have also gone to takfiri jihadists like Jabhat al-Nusra. There is definitely no reluctance in official U.S. circles to arm anyone, no matter how radical there polices are, who is willing to destroy Syria.

In the end it does not matter whether the arms the CIA delivers are coming from Libyan, Croatian or U.S. stocks. It does not matter to which groups these arms are flowing to. More arms will only have one effect. The further destruction of Syria which the U.S. had planned for from the very beginning of its campaign.

Posted by b on May 1, 2013 at 05:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (114)

 
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