Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
August 21, 2012

Obama To Assad - Do Whatever You Need To Do

Yesterday I asked if the specter of an Islamist lead Syrian would stop wholehearted U.S. support for the insurgency.

The answer came just a bit later in an Obama press conference. To a question about Syria's alleged chemical or biological weapons, Obama answered:

“That’s an issue that doesn’t just concern Syria. It concerns our close allies in the region, including Israel. It concerns us,” said Obama. “We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people.”

He added: “We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”

While the reporting in the U.S. interpret that as a threat of force against Syria the real meaning seems different to me.

Obama's answer is mainly a message to the Turks and to the Syrian government.

The Turkish foreign minister Davutoglu had earlier suggested that Turkey would start to support refugee camps in a safe zone within Syria should the number of refugees in Turkey exceed 100,000. Obama just let him know that the U.S. would not support such a move. His only red line are Syria's strategic weapons. And those only when "a whole bunch" of those are involved. An arbitrary number of refugees in Turkey is not a red line and Turkey would be very alone if it were to act on that:

With the reluctance of European countries and NATO to get the ball rolling, the United States has become the only power on which Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia agree to lead a potential multilateral military campaign.

At this point the unwillingness of Washington to militarily engage in Syria is the most important hurdle before the plans of Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia can be realized.

The Syrian government had already pledged to not use its strategic weapons aginst the insurgency. From its view Obama's answer is a free pass to use all other powers it has against the insurgency. Even massive use of air power, a main military advantage the Syrian government has over the insurgents, is no longer a red line.

The insurgents understood that message:

Obama’s comments were greeted with derision by Syrian activists on the social-networking sites Facebook and Twitter. They accused him of threatening intervention only when Israel was at risk.

One Twitter user compared Obama to Russian President Vladimir Putin, one of the Syrian regime’s few foreign allies: “Both blabber about ‘red lines,’ have kept Assad afloat in blood-soaked power.” Another tweet, from a user called SyriaTime, said the president’s warning so late in the crisis is akin to saying, “Sure, genocide is fine.”

The U.S. is for now mostly out of the game and without the threat of U.S. military involvement Syria is now free to do whatever it takes to shut down the insurgency.

Posted by b on August 21, 2012 at 9:05 UTC | Permalink


Off topic..What was a a Japanese journalist doing with fsa terrorists?

Another useless death for nothing..I don't think this "award winning" journalist was doing it for the love of democracy. Someone must have paid her a hefty sum to keep pushing the propaganda..

Posted by: Zico | Aug 21 2012 10:01 utc | 1

You can see that Hillary Clinton doesn't have the presidents support on her campaign on Syria. This whole revolution-thing is fizzling out to nothing. Basically Obama is saying he'd rather see Assad in power than a whole bunch of these chemical weapons on astray.

Posted by: Alexander | Aug 21 2012 10:12 utc | 2

By the way, when the uprising changed officially into a regular war, the rules have changed too, no longer is Assad being condemned for using military force against armed rebels.

Posted by: Alexander | Aug 21 2012 10:16 utc | 3

Off topic..What was a a Japanese journalist doing with fsa terrorists?

Nothing strange. Lots of journalists are going in under rebel protection. "Embedded", if you like. Certainly the Brits; it's why you get nothing but rebel propaganda in British media. Fisk's report yesterday, and Jonathan Steele are the honourable exceptions.

The Japanese journo imitated and unfortunately lost out.

Posted by: alexno | Aug 21 2012 10:26 utc | 4

Three interesting reads on Syria in today's media:

CJ Chivers with insurgents near Aleppo: Life With Syria’s Rebels in a Cold and Cunning WarThey are using a tortured prisoner to drive a remote controlled bomb truck into a army checkpoint. The bomb doesn't go off.

Robert Fisk with the Syrian army in Aleppo: 'They snipe at us then run and hide in sewers

At least a dozen civilians emerged from their homes, retirees in their 70s, shopkeepers and local businessmen with their families and, unaware that a foreign journalist was watching, put their arms round Syrian troops.
He also reports on lots of foreigners with the fighters and a lot of foreign equipment.

Mark Colvin, ABC Australia, interviews Martin Chulov from the Guardian who is around Aleppo: Jihadists on the frontline in Aleppo

CHULOV: They were open with the rebels about where they've come from; they were from everywhere, they were Pakistanis, there were Saudis, there were guys from Senegal, they were Uzbekistanis, Chechens and an Algerian that we saw as well.

Dressed in I guess what you would say would be the standard battle attire for some of these jihadists that are black robes, turbans, vests to carry rounds of ammunition around their chest, bearded most of them and very, very Islamic, I guess cohorts.


MARK COLVIN: Have the foreigners brought anti-aircraft guns or shoulder-launched ground-to-air missiles or anything like that which would help to battle against the Syrian air force?

MARTIN CHULOV: They haven't but the Qataris and the Saudis have introduced around 20 surface-to-air missile shoulder launch types as you say into the Syrian arena.

The problem is they've gone towards Idlib rather gone towards Aleppo and yesterday we went to see the rebel leaders in Aleppo who absolutely insisted that they do not have these ground-to-air shoulder launch missiles and if they did they didn't know how to use them.

MARTIN CHULOV: I think that there are two factors which are going to stop the rebels from prevailing certainly at this point.

The first is the jets that we've already discussed. The second is though the residents of Aleppo are still not with the opposition. They haven't been with the rebels since they first moved into Aleppo and nothing's happened to change their minds.

The civic services have ground to a halt, festering piles of rubbish teeing up on the streets, the pervasive stench across the city, and, more importantly, there is no end in sight and without winning them it's very difficult to see how the rebels could actually prevail unless they get some large numbers of reinforcements or if they get a nice no-fly zone and neither is likely to happen in the short term.

According to WaPo there is little if any U.S. equipment coming to the insurgency but they get plenty from elsewhere: Syrian activists say pledges of U.S. communications aid are largely unfulfilled

Posted by: b | Aug 21 2012 10:27 utc | 5

B, how is it you are coming to these conclusions?

I am just not seeing it the way you are laying this out.
Obama out of it? Not on your life.
Are they (US) still supplying the rebels? Is the CIA still in Turkey handing out weapons, while checking ID for Al quada? (facetious)
Are all manner of weapons being funneled via the GCC nations
Is the Turkish proxy still beholden to NATO, which is run by the US, for all intents and purposes....

Is the US still being pushed by Israel to take down Iran
Is Israel looking to roll over Lebanon?
Is Israel looking to keep the Golan Heights?
Nothing has changed.
Obama is prepping the audience so if it becomes necessary to place boots on the ground, the gullible have been prepared.
It's called creating the supporting narrative.

Hope I am wrong, but......

Posted by: Penny | Aug 21 2012 11:01 utc | 6

Thierry Meyssan on the recently released syrian journalists

Posted by: brian | Aug 21 2012 11:26 utc | 7

Off topic, but the Ethiopian dictator and US puppet Meles Zenawi has been finally confirmed dead today. Are we going to expect more unwanted 'change' coming out of the region?

Meanwhile the media is hailing the successful selection of the new Somali Parliament, democracy be damned. What a pity that the helicopters Uganda sent to back up the final push to destroy the Somali Islamist opposition (impossible by definition as they are basically a part of the Somali population) were destroyed near Mount Kenya in an accident. Bad luck in the black pit of 'bad luck' that is Somalia? Or something else?

Posted by: ThePaper | Aug 21 2012 11:36 utc | 8

zico 1:

she was embedded and entered country illegally without informing the she is effectivly one of the terrorists....

Posted by: brian | Aug 21 2012 11:41 utc | 9

of course this recalls Alex Thomson...who was to be taken by the FSA where he could be killed by the govt forces! for propaganda purporses...this time they succeeded in getting killed one of their embeds!

what sort of stupid person would embed with terrorists who rape murder steal and lie?... a jouranalist

Posted by: brian | Aug 21 2012 11:42 utc | 10

Penny 6...ever the optimist!LOL

Posted by: brian | Aug 21 2012 11:46 utc | 11

Surprising the article by Robert Fisk from the side of the Syrian army. Are we starting to see a change in the narrative of this conflict?

Posted by: ThePaper | Aug 21 2012 12:36 utc | 12

Brian@ 11

Oddly enough I don't consider myself a pessimist. Just a realist.

Posted by: Penny | Aug 21 2012 12:50 utc | 13

Actually I do think that the Russians and the Chinese stopped the US. Plus what Bashar Assad said from the start: We do not have much oil, nobody will invade us.

The Jihadis were present in Libya and never worried anyone. The press would happily ignore them along the lines, yes they are there but not really important, if there was money in this war. There is not. The Jihadis are the pretext now, for promising and not following up.

Posted by: somebody | Aug 21 2012 13:23 utc | 14

Penny, you're missing how Turkey is straining under the consequences of what they've sewn. Assad, under further reflection has been good for Israel' holding of the Golan Heights. Lebanon isn't about to fall, in fact, Western aims will/are only strengthening Hezbollah's hold, and popularity. I think the US is starting to realize that arming these people could result in blowback.

I've always posited this as a the result in a rift between wiser, ambivalent establishment versus impetuous neo-cons who are pushing, pushing. But, no clear course has revealed itself, the limitations and drawbacks are becoming evident. The end can't justify the means, so, this project, like the Bay of Pigs, is gonna be left to die on the vine. At least in this way we can tout killing (by our negligence) Al Qaeda.

Posted by: scottindallas | Aug 21 2012 13:29 utc | 15

You can look for all kind of reason who what why, the answer lies in the battle for the control of the desert religions. Why was so much emphasis put on Allepo one should look at the history of the Citadel, capturing this would make the occupiers the dominant force (Zionist Judaism, militant Islam).

The history of this region lies in the diversity of it's people Arabs, Armenians, Kurds, eleven Christian denominations, Sunni Muslims, a smattering of dissident Shiite sects from Druze to Ismailis, ancient families of urban patricians as well as peasant and Bedouin immigrants from the plains—that makes it a microcosm of all Syria. Shia Islam, Secular Sunnism, Orthodox Christians have sided with each other to prevent Doomsday Christians, Zionist Christians, Militant Islam and Zionist Judaism. The Vatican has been neutered by bringing forward all the scandals. Imagine the Vatican saying the Pope's butler must be locked up for reveling corruption and other sexual conduct. Why is this not top of the MSM news. There is currently a agreement between the Zionist and Vatican where the Vatican is about to "indirectly recognise" Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem, seen by many Palestinians as the future capital of their independent state.

This battle is now lost it should have finished in June. America, NATO will be defeated by it's weather. BTW the El Nino weather pattern is late it is now getting in full weight, watch for some serious disruption of weather pattern.

Posted by: hans | Aug 21 2012 13:45 utc | 16

"You can see that Hillary Clinton doesn't have the presidents support on her campaign on Syria."

Yes, that's it. I've said several times that Obama is leaving Clinton (his old political nemesis) to twist slowly in the wind, and here is more evidence. Clinton's two main themes, because she has no other, have been refugees and chemical weapons. And here, as b says, Obama puts a high hurdle on one (chemicals) and omits the other (refugees). Do the twist, Hill. (Memories of Chubby Checker here, but then I'm a dinosaur).

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 21 2012 14:06 utc | 17

brian @ 9

I have a feeling she too like all the other dead journalists, was killed by the fsa for propaganda benefit..

True, she entered the country illegally and therefore became a target..As far as the Syrian government is concerned, she's not in the country because there's no document to prove.

I think some journalists take their job a little too far..Most western "journalists" think of themselves as 007 and somehow can cross borders without due process.

May her soul rest in peace but this should serve as a warning to other journos who think they can get away with anything if the price is right..

In another development, apparently the bombing yesterday in SE Turkey targeted fsa HQ. There's report of several British spooks killed/injured..

Posted by: Zico | Aug 21 2012 14:06 utc | 18

from yesterday's State press conference,
MS. NULAND: Well, Andy, our position on this one hasn’t changed. We are providing nonlethal assistance to the Syrian opposition, as the Secretary has spoken about, as the President’s spoken about – communications gear but also, increasingly, training for those future leaders of the NGO sector, some of the types of groups that the Secretary met with when she was in Istanbul.

That's it -- the effort from the most powerful country the world has ever known consists of radios and "training for those future leaders of the NGO sector." (Plus whatever the CIA is doing.)

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 21 2012 14:16 utc | 19

"radios and "training for those future leaders of the NGO sector" - that is, a transliteration of, what the CIA are doing.

Posted by: Alexander | Aug 21 2012 14:24 utc | 20

What the CIA is doing is unknown to us, but for a few reports.
Australian news report: Syrian opposition officials claim the CIA is controlling weapons flow to Syrian insurgents. "Not one bullet enters Syria without U.S. approval," a Syrian opposition, speaking in Istanbul, told The Australian newspaper. "The Americans want the (rebellion) to continue but they are not allowing enough supplies in to make the Damascus regime fall."

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 21 2012 14:43 utc | 21

@ThePaper Are we starting to see a change in the narrative of this conflict?

Yes. I detected that change some three weeks ago: Syria: A Turn In Western Media Coverage?

Posted by: b | Aug 21 2012 16:08 utc | 22

re 14

Actually I do think that the Russians and the Chinese stopped the US. Plus what Bashar Assad said from the start: We do not have much oil, nobody will invade us.

That's not right. The US is continuing to intervene, but indirectly. An overt intervention is out of the question. But indirect, that's ongoing. How are the rebels getting out their videos? The Syrian internet is hardly reliable. I'm sure the Syrians have controls on the servers. No, it is that the Haim Center first provided satellite phones, and then Hillary said the US was providing them. Expensive pieces of equipment, not within the average Syrian's budget.

Getting out the videos is a basic element of the rebel strategy. They wouldn't have had the success they have had, without that.

That's without speaking of other ways that the US is aiding the rebels.

Posted by: alexno | Aug 21 2012 19:16 utc | 23

I'd like comments from people more experienced in the internet than me as to whether the videos are being exported by satellite phone, or by the Syrian internet, avoiding whatever controls the Syrian government can put in place. Syria policed its internet closely in the past, with the only server in the presidential palace.

As an internet amateur, it seems to me that IP addresses should indicate whether videos are passing through the satellite phone network, but youtube doesn't indicate origins. Is there a way around this?

Posted by: alexno | Aug 21 2012 19:37 utc | 24

in response to the question about how the rebels get their videos out -- a partial answer:

"On Friday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague offered nearly $8 million to the Syrian opposition that would be spent on the purchase of communication equipment including mobile and satellite phones as well as radar equipment. Mr. Hague said that the transfer of communication hardware would “help political activists overcome the regime's communication's blockade and ensure their message gets to the outside world"."

Posted by: peasant | Aug 21 2012 20:10 utc | 25

alexno, no computer communication is safe without a huge amount of en- and decryption causing slow down (that is not completely safe either as at least two sides need the key).

I think Syria can interrupt communications if and when they choose to - like hardly anything got out of Aleppo the last week except when people left the area. Syria got Siemens stuff and not just that from Western countries and presumably they can do what the Iranians and the Russians can do. Professionals use walkie talkies in war, with encryption and or coded language. Israel could not prevent Hezbollah from listening in during the 2006 war.

Most times Syria would not have an interest in interrupting communications as it is a cheap way to get a lot of information on the opposition. It is also impossible now to distinguish true videos from rebel propaganda videos from regime propaganda videos from rebel disinformation from regime disinformation.

The only US involvement that would be of any use to the rebels is a no-fly zone and/or anti aircraft weapons.

Posted by: somebody | Aug 21 2012 20:14 utc | 26

Great question, alexno. Hope you, and we, get answers.

Posted by: jawbone | Aug 21 2012 20:21 utc | 27

Brian Sayers, of the Syrian Support Group, July 27:
“The OFAC decision is huge,” Sayers said. “It gets us the leeway to support the Free Syrian Army in broad terms.”
In the near-term, the "OFAC letter allows for providing financial, communications and logistics support to the FSA,” Sayers said. That could include paying for FSA salaries and provisions, as well as “communications equipment, satellite imagery, paying for satellite imagery, logistical support for transport, which could mean everything from buying a 4x4 to supporting someone’s travel to Turkey.”
On their more intermediate term wish-list, “our ask is intelligence support, drone support, eyes in the sky, an intelligence platform,” Sayers said. Syria’s rebels “need both intelligence and weapons,” as they seek to carve out and protect safe areas on the ground in Syria, and try to secure the defection of more members of the Syrian military.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 21 2012 20:23 utc | 28

More on the useless Satellite communication ...

"In most Homs neighbourhoods, the internet is cut. In the rebellious districts, there is not even telephone service, whether mobile or fixed, for most of the time. (Read More...)

Satellite Internet devices have two characteristics which activists on the ground can benefit from.

Firstly, the government has no control over them. So they cannot cut them. Secondly, while the regime monitors citizens online, Satellite Internet users are beyond their reach.

While the government has attempted several times to disrupt the service, activists always find a way to stop the congestion.

Buildings that have satellite internets have been targeted by missiles in several neighbourhoods. Recently, four buildings with media centres set up have been targeted with a large number of missiles.

We do not know whether the government has a specific technology to locate these devices or whether they rely on the intelligence information they receive from their informants here.

But regardless of this targeting and the danger these devices pose to our lives, we cannot stop using them. They are currently our only means to communicate and tell the world what is going on in Homs."

Posted by: somebody | Aug 21 2012 20:28 utc | 29

re 29

So satellite communication is vital to their lives, and they've moved beyond satellite phones. USB satellite connectors, I imagine, on their laptops. I don't know the current technology.

Posted by: alexno | Aug 21 2012 20:58 utc | 30

re 30 The internet is full of this stuff

"Generally,commercial satellite systems are not hardened to be
protected against deliberate attacks or jamming."

Do you really think the US gave the rebels access to their military systems?

Posted by: somebody | Aug 21 2012 21:12 utc | 31

more on the ability of the Syrian Arab Army to jam signals:

“Three hundred kilograms,” Mr. Yasin said.

He revealed more of his plan. The rebels lacked the heavy weapons to take the checkpoint in a head-on fight. So several of them would dress as civilians, move the truck bomb near the checkpoint and set it off. This would be the signal for an assault over the ground.

There was one problem. The Lions of Tawhid said they did not believe in using their fighters as suicide bombers.

Two fighters poured fuel into the truck’s gas tank while Mr. Meldaoun, the nurse, snipped branches from shrubs and stacked them on the bomb, hiding it from view.

The real plan was beginning to emerge. It involved the prisoner, Abu Hilal. The assurances that he would be released had been a deception. The fighters intended to put him behind the wheel of the truck bomb near the checkpoint and tell him to drive forward in a prisoner exchange.

Adel Meldaoun, a cement worker who serves as one of Mr. Yasin’s deputies and is the nurse’s brother, started the flatbed truck and swung it off the dirt path onto the main road; the pickup trucks had already driven away, packed with gunmen.

“Halab,” Mr. Meldaoun said, using Aleppo’s ancient Arabic name.

He stepped on the gas to catch up with his commander. The convoy was gone, with Abu Hilal in one of the seats, blindfolded, rushing toward an almost certain death.

The Game of Fate

Shortly after sunrise, the fighters returned. They trickled back in, clean and unbloodied. They did not look as if they had fought. A few shook their heads, grimaced and made their way inside to return their weapons to Jamal Abu Houran.

Their commander pulled up and stepped out of the truck. His face was long, his eyes tired. The waiting fighters did not approach him. At last he explained. “We failed,” he said.

They had arrived near the checkpoint, he said. All appeared perfect for the attack. Most of the soldiers were asleep. A few sat outside at a table, playing cards. His fighters took their positions and the final act ran its course.

“We told Abu Hilal, ‘Go, drive that way, your father is waiting for you there, don’t do any bad things in the future,’ ” Hakim said. “And he was so happy, and he drove.”

Abu Hilal stopped the truck at the checkpoint. Abdul Hakim Yasin pushed the button on the remote detonator, ready for the flash and thunderclap of more than 650 pounds of explosives. It would be the signal for his fighters to move forward and mop up.

Nothing happened.

He pushed the button again.

The truck did not explode.

Mr. Yasin suspected that the checkpoint was equipped with a jammer that blocked the signal.

Posted by: somebody | Aug 21 2012 21:18 utc | 32

In an area with all regular radio communications shut down it should be relatively easy to detect and triangulate any radio signal. That should include satellite phones.

Posted by: ThePaper | Aug 21 2012 21:26 utc | 33

re 31

I am not sure about the point you want to make. All I wanted to say is that most rebel communications pass by satellite communication, aided by the US and the British.

You say that the US is capable of blocking bomb explosion commands, me I doubt it.

Posted by: alexno | Aug 21 2012 21:33 utc | 34

Do you really think the US gave the rebels access to their military systems?

The rebels are mercenaries, thugs, criminals for hire. US could only rely on trusted commanders. This may be the bottleneck. This may be the problem of criminals relying on other criminals....

Posted by: peasant | Aug 21 2012 21:44 utc | 35

Hi alexno, I am saying the Syrian Arab Army can do it. I agree with ThePaper.

I am also saying that US "help" is for political show. Like Obamas "chemical weapons statement".

The US wants to weaken Syria but not to the point where a destabilized Syria becomes a threat to Israel (like Lebanon, Sinai, Gaza ...) because Israel has no address to post threats to any more, the US especially does not wish to commit "boots on the ground".

The US is also codependent on China and Russia in many economic and military issues, they just cannot afford to cross them.

Posted by: somebody | Aug 21 2012 21:45 utc | 36

re 33

In an area with all regular radio communications shut down it should be relatively easy to detect and triangulate any radio signal. That should include satellite phones.

This is where we're getting into complications. I didn't talk about IP address approaches for nothing. There is the issue of how enthusiastic or competent Asad's IT technicians are. That might be a useful question, but it doesn't tell us much about the US role in the Internet battle.

Posted by: alexno | Aug 21 2012 22:10 utc | 37

I suspect Assad's armed forces are quite capable in all aspects of military telecommunications. If the FSA and its allies are getting help from the CIA, and other intelligence services (UK, Germany, France), I'd guess elements of the FSA are quite competent themselves - not those rag-tag rabble we've seen on YouTube videos but the sort that could pull off the attack that murdered Syrian defense officials.

I am not certain what to make of Obama's statement but I sincerely doubt Obama has backed off Syria one little bit. His personal involvement in drawing up these "kill" lists for drone attacks and his Nobel Peace Prize makes me think of him as something of a Nero.

The editor of Ha'aretz said Obama was counting on Netanyahu to fulfill the role of what the French and British did in Libya with regard to Iran and has "yellow-lighted" an attack in Iran.

Posted by: revenire | Aug 21 2012 22:35 utc | 38

obama wants no interruptions of his campaign towards relection.

after that is over we will see his real intentions.
(if he wins)

Posted by: JADEZ | Aug 22 2012 0:15 utc | 39

With Obama, do not discount the possibility of deception. Is Turkey doing anything not OKayed by Washington up till now. Also I think Obama and Clinton are on the same page; it's just not certain what is written on that page. Empires don't usually accept losing face and the US is no exception. The Great Game is still about Iran. And Netanyahu and Barak are still nuts.

Posted by: Copeland | Aug 22 2012 1:37 utc | 40

State, today, regarding Syria:
"We are doing training on free media, countering the government’s circumvention technology. . . Some of this work that we’ve been doing, like the countering internet censorship and circumvention work, has been going on for years, in fact."

wiki: Internet censorship circumvention is the process used by technologically savvy Internet users to bypass the technical aspects of Internet filtering and gain access to otherwise censored material.

I guess this is what you guys are discussing -- it's beyond me.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 22 2012 2:06 utc | 41

This doesn't answer the questions about sat-com and "How do they post their vids?" but it's an interesting read:

Syria sidesteps sanctions by turning to China for Internet bandwidth - Ars Technica.

Posted by: Dr. Wellington Yueh | Aug 22 2012 2:25 utc | 42

A car laden with explosives was detonated yesterday in the eastern province of Gaziantep, Turkey near the Syrian border, killing at least nine people and wounding 68. Gaziantep is about 50 km north of the border, with Aleppo opposite also about 50 km from the border.

AKP deputy Şamil Tayyar also pointed to the Syrian regime as the supporter of the recent Gaziantep bombing, and claimed he had received some intelligence ahead of the attack and informed the state. There was information that both the PKK and members of al-Assad’s intelligence agency could carry out a massive attack in the Gaziantep and Hatay regions, Tayyar said.

“It looks like a joint action of the PKK and Mukhabarat. We know that Mukhabarat agents are also behind some the incidents in refugee camps. We had the information that they stored bombs in houses in Hatay and Gaziantep,” Tayyar said. The bombing was meant to be the catalyst for a clash between the city’s Turkish and Kurdish populations, he said, adding that the attack was also delivering a message on Turkey’s foreign policy.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 22 2012 2:58 utc | 43

@ # 39...Yep!

Posted by: ben | Aug 22 2012 4:26 utc | 44

b. I do appreciate how you think. I saw Obama's recent statement on the chemical weapons and completely missed the implication you have drawn. Of course, you could be wrong but for those of us on the outside all we have to go on is to carefully analyze the words of those who make the decisions. Obama's words here could be signalling policy.

Posted by: ToivoS | Aug 22 2012 6:23 utc | 45

Although I've been maintaining from day one that an overthrow of the Ba'athists was more than fukasi could achieve, I doubt that amerika will back away from the fsa without at least trying to wring a few concessions outta the Ba'athists for themselves and by extension israel.

The only question is whether the syrian government backed themselves or decided discretion was the better part of valour and have reached some sort of behind the scenes deal.
If that did happen, in a year's time, it may be the FSA that MoAites see as the only bulwark against zionist expansion into 'greater israel'.
Remember the jihadists (hopefully someone will come up with a less prejudicial appellation for the disparate cadres of angry muslim gunmen) only got into bed with fukasi as a short term thing until their liberation of the ME had been completed.
If amerika really does forsake those blokes; Saudi and Quatar are likely to dial back their support quite a bit as well. The effect of that would likely put anti-zionist activities further up the agenda of the travelling soldiers for islam.
Just as the Syrian Ba'athists move in the other direction.
Sorta helps ya see why divide n rule has a reputation for bringing chickens home to roost.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Aug 22 2012 6:49 utc | 46

Although I've been maintaining from day one that an overthrow of the Ba'athists was more than fukasi could achieve, I doubt that amerika will back away from the fsa without at least trying to wring a few concessions outta the Ba'athists for themselves and by extension israel.

The only question is whether the syrian government backed themselves or decided discretion was the better part of valour and have reached some sort of behind the scenes deal.
If that did happen, in a year's time, it may be the FSA that MoAites see as the only bulwark against zionist expansion into 'greater israel'.
Remember the jihadists (hopefully someone will come up with a less prejudicial appellation for the disparate cadres of angry muslim gunmen) only got into bed with fukasi as a short term thing until their liberation of the ME had been completed.
If amerika really does forsake those blokes; Saudi and Quatar are likely to dial back their support quite a bit as well. The effect of that would likely put anti-zionist activities further up the agenda of the travelling soldiers for islam.
Just as the Syrian Ba'athists move in the other direction.
Sorta helps ya see why divide n rule has a reputation for bringing chickens home to roost.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Aug 22 2012 6:49 utc | 47

BTW, the change in the propaganda direction in the western media is spreading.

Today El Pais (Spanish), who was running quite a bunch of lame pro-rebel articles until now (some to the level of teen worship), has an article titled 'Change of face in the Syrian rebels' where it says its becoming more brutal and there are more foreigners on their files. That below an article claiming that Syria has the largest amount of chemical weapons in the region. The article, headlines aside, is still quite pro-rebel and only talks about a secular group in the south just slipping details about tortures and executions from 'other groups'.

El Ejército Libre Sirio cambia de rostro

But what has changed hasn't been the rebels ...

Posted by: ThePaper | Aug 22 2012 7:22 utc | 48

Fisk has an answer today on the question of rebel communications. Seems as usual that I was behind the times:

Internet and mobile lines were cut by rebels near Homs, so a land circuit to Damascus offers the only phone communication with the capital. In Iraq and Afghanistan, insurgents would pay to keep the mobile system operating as they needed the phones. But here, it seems they have enough "command and control" systems – courtesy of Washington and London if we are to believe our masters – to ignore Syria's domestic lines.

... and the local news agency so bereft of lines, it has 11 days of pictures waiting for transmission to Damascus.

Posted by: alexno | Aug 22 2012 7:32 utc | 49

sydney sheik killed in syria: the story doesnt tell us everything and uncharacteristically for the MSM goes out of its way to weigh in his favor, but we learn that:
1.l he hated president Assad: 'A man of the cloth whose mission in life is to bring peace to those around him and attend to their spiritual needs was mercilessly killed by the dying Assad regime." (theres that word 'regime' again)

2. ' Some initial reports stated that Sheikh Al Majzoub was leading a rebel platoon in the northern town of Salma when he was hit, a prospect dismissed by family and community leaders.'....this is entirely likely..The denial says they realise its not good to associate with the terrorists...or why not proudly say he was there to help overthrow Assad? They admit it by denying it...they also admit the war on syria is criminal....amazing what you can get out of deconstructing a text!

3. and of course: he supports the killers of the alwaites in Houla...and other atrocities...
4. he will also be supporting sharia law and the ousting of nonsunni
In January, Sheikh Al Majzoub addressed a Bankstown protest rally in support of the Syrian uprising against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, speaking about the need to support the oppressed anywhere in the world, in particular Syria

Read more:

more from a terrorist sheik:
Mustapha Al Majzoub
Inshallah we hope Aleppo will be free in less than three days. I was with some of their fighters today.
Like · Share · July 25 at 8:31am via mobile · of what? non-sunni?

Posted by: brian | Aug 22 2012 8:27 utc | 50

Sorry if this is ot but the other thread was getting a bit stupid. It seems germane to the topic at hand, at least one aspect of it:

Posted by: demize! | Aug 22 2012 8:33 utc | 51

@Brian ther was violence at that Protest in Sydney btw. Pro Assad demonstrators were attacked by antis. A 70 year old man was struck in the head with a pole.

Posted by: demize! | Aug 22 2012 8:37 utc | 52

The presidents words carry deep significance, and are chosen carefully - there's no random submeaning, b's analysis is most probably spot on.

Posted by: Alexander | Aug 22 2012 9:25 utc | 53

Starting in Egypt, the various protest movements and also the "rebels" in Libya and Syria had help from well-meaning western "hackers" to get their message out. In particular the group "telecomix" has provided them with regular phone numbers in "the West" behind which they installed old-fashioned dial-up "service providers", meaning people can call and upload their stuff with an ancient modem, which makes it outside the regular internet structure but of course limits the amount of data one can get through in a time. Hence short and crappy videos. The "hacker" activists then put them on youtube etc.

Lecture by one of the telecomix activists about their work:

I have it on good authority that some of them have seriously started to question who they are helping there and if the atrocities they upload weren't committed by the very same people who use their service.

Posted by: °x° | Aug 22 2012 18:12 utc | 54

Video Report of the Free Syrian Army trying to trick a prisoner into becoming a suicide bomber.

Source: BBC

Basically take a prisoner, give him a cigarette and a meal, tell him he is being released, then put him in a car rigged with explosives and tell him to drive to the nearest Army checkpoint. I like the part when the BBC voiceover tells us that using a prisoner of war as a suicide bomber would be considered a war crime.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Aug 22 2012 18:15 utc | 55


The Ha'aretz editor's opinion is not necessarily accurate:

Aluf Benn, the editor of the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, whose editorialists and columnists have been in the forefront of the public campaign against the war in Iran, believes that Netanyahu and Barak would launch an attack. According to Benn, such a move is actually being supported or at least, “yellow-lighted” by the Americans and the Europeans.

"The conventional wisdom is that President Obama is opposed to an Israeli attack," Benn told me when we met in his office in Tel Aviv on Sunday. "But Obama has refrained from vetoing an Israeli action or threatening such a move with sanctions if Israel acts," Benn noted. "I believe that this is another example of Obama leading ‘from behind,’ counting on Israel to do in Iran what the Brits and the French did in Libya," he concluded.

Benn is interpreting Obama's motives for not vetoing an Israeli action. Benn does not appear to factor in the pressure Obama receives from the Israel Lobby, both through major donors and through congressional Democrats. Obama's rhetoric is at a level to keep both Iran and Syria simmering on the back burner until the election: high enough to avoid giving the Lobby anything with which to attack him, but not so high that he is obligated to committing any American forces in Iran or Syria before the election.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Aug 22 2012 18:56 utc | 56

For German readers: my inferences similar to those of 'b' in this entry, but taking into accout israeli plans to attack Hezbollah in the near future. With an update on debkafiles recent comments on Obamas remarks.

Posted by: TomGard | Aug 23 2012 9:46 utc | 57

OK let me try and explain how it is that the decision by Syria to route its internet bandwidth through China controled and owned backbones, prevents amerika or fukusi or whatever you wanna call the bastards in the living room, from accurately monitoring much less censoring Syrian communications.

In order to do this I will do my usual routine of referring vast and complex international situations back to the little pond of Aotearoa where I dwell.

First we are not served well by telecommunications here. Back when this nation was an agrarian socialist state there was only one publically owned telecommunications organisation.
It was a sub branch of the NZ Post Office and after years of conservative governments maintaining 'full employment' by encouraging their mates in private enterprise to shed staff while the tory govt instructed public sector organisations to create jobs to mop up the excess labour capacity, it had become extremely inefficient.
Even so there were benefits, everyone had the right for a hardwired landline to be connected to their home no matter where that was located, the most you could be charged for that service was a $7.50 connection fee.

When the neo-liberals got control by stalking & taking over the psuedo-left labour party, the telecommunications service was one of the first things they flogged off - still keeping its monopoly status of course.
It was done the usual way, sell the thing to a pittance to a few 'lucky' local investors who then turned around and sold it at a several thousand percent mark up to a foreign telecommunications corporation.
That was 30 years agio and thye service is just as appaling now as it ever was back when it was a socially owned monopoly. There is one big difference, the cost of telco sevices have moved from being the cheapest in the OECD to about the most expensive.
From time to timeother players have been encouraged to 'compete' in a very controlled way. As long as mr big still has a near monopoly on all communications in and out of NZ, the alleged competition is really just window dressing.
Duopolies of the sort that the dems and rethugs organise to provide an illusion of political 'competition' in amerika, are about as competitive any industry in NZ gets. ie lots of talk aimed at pretending they haven't already agreed not to rock each other's boat.

How does that tie into Syria? sssshhh! I'm just getting to it.

As I alluded to before, telecom the former publically owned monopoly, has control over the one and a half submarine cables that connect our south pacific islands to the rest of the world.

A group of local capitalists saw providing an alternative route in and out would a) make money for them while it destroyed the monopoly, and b) reduce 'the cost of doing business' here.

A submarine cable required to transverse the world's largest ocean, the pacific, don't come cheap, therefore a consortium was put together.

All the local pension funds refused to have a bar of the investment, even though it was exactly one of those safe infrastructure investments pension funds tend to be desperate to invest in.

Unfortunately R. Murdoch's NewsCorp had just stitched up a monopoly right to be the only media corp permitted to send TV down the telecom network. The government enshrined NewsCorp's sole rights status until 2020 with legislation -yep even though telecom is a listed corporation. Explaining those machinations is gonna lead to even more digression, so I'll skip that sorry tale for now.
Local pension funds here and in Oz were lent upon by either the NZ govt eager to protect their deal with Murdoch, or Murdoch's NewsCorp 'lobbyists'.

So then Chinese investors came to the rescue promising to fully fund the submarine network. It was gonna hub in the north Pacific most likely the Philippines with cables running to China, Australia and Aotearoa being conjoined then onwards to amerika.

But amerika said no we don't want no chinese owned cable coming into our country. It is true that murdoch's newscorp could have had the federal govt stop the deal, but really, the whole deal was pretty small potatoes and prolly not worthy of newsCorp trading of amerikan political favours over.

More likely is that the Chinese investors would have insisted Huawei provide the hardware for the network.

As you can see from this Financial Times article Huawei which is about to overtake CISCO as the world's biggest supplier of network routing and switching hardware is considered controversial by 'amerikan lawmakers'.
This is alleged to be because the founder of Huawei was once a member of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

Yet even the FT concedes "Huawei supplied kit to 46 of the world’s top 50 telecoms operators, including BT. “There has not been a single case of anybody demonstrating any kind of security breach in any one of those networks”.

The argument isn't just over economic hegemony - amerikan corp versus Chinese corp either.
In fact the opposition to Huawei is so strong in Australia that the foreign owners of the world's largest mine revealed themselves so desperate to ensure control never moves to China, that they openly demanded Oz citizens (who foolishly imagine that they own and control Oz, and not the global elite) be prohibited from using Huawei.
That the 1% have stuck their heads over the parapet and publically insisted Huawei be kept outta Oz is telling; more so is that Pacific Fiber, the kiwi consortium joined in the kicking - up until when they discovered Huawei were the only game in town, that is. (capitalism - ya gotta love its joyful amorality and mendacity doncha? er no)

The real argument is over back-doors. Since 2001 CISCO and other amerikan, french and english suppliers of communications technology have to provide back-doors enabling the Echelon program to capture and record every audio, video and data transmission going in and out of the member nations.

So the reason NZ isn't allowed to run a cable from here to amerika using technology isn't because as the corrupt politicians claim, that China could listen in; it is the reverse. The use of Chinese hardware makes it much more difficult for amerika to intercept, corrupt and disrupt 'suspect' communications.

This is why the Syrian change to Chinese owned and controlled networks has put a really awkward spoke into the amerikan intelligence wheel. The Chinese use hardware that isn't riddled with amerikan intelligence back-doors.

Sure they will have some alternatives but the options will be both resource intensive and incapable of 100% coverage.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Aug 23 2012 11:06 utc | 58

Debs is dead @ 58
Thanks, that's very interesting indeed. NSA Echelon interests is not to be underestimated.

Posted by: Alexander | Aug 23 2012 19:30 utc | 59

@ #39 Obama winning is a foregone conclusion I believe. The rethuglians have shot themselves in the foot with their shenanigans over Ron Paul in the caucuses and with his delegates. There are a LOT of Paulians who will not vote at all or will vote for the Libertarian candidate Johnson just to show the g.o.p. how F****d off they are (and how many of them there are) over the treatment of what they see as the ONLY person, left, right or otherwise who can begin to return the US to something even vaguely resembling a constitutional republic. Just a little off topic sorry people.

Posted by: DontNeedNoStinkinUserName | Aug 24 2012 15:02 utc | 60

@ # 58 Debs - and here was me thinking that Morgan and Co. had dropped out of the NZ to UFSA (united FACIST states of amerika)cable bizzo 'cause the congress critters were talking about/were whizzing through a law/tax on such things to generate $$ so as fast broadband could be supplied to out-of-the-way farmers et al. Only caught it in passing on a 9 to noon show on National radio from memory and didn't pay that much attention. As always, your views are refreshing - keep them up and best wishes from a ChCh lad

Posted by: DontNeedNoStinkinUserName | Aug 25 2012 3:32 utc | 61

Pepe Escobar in Asia Times yesterday:

Was that an Obama coded message to Turkey – implying that if you invade northwest Syria, now practically an autonomous Kurdish area, you will have to do it alone, without the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and without the Pentagon? Was that a message to the “wrong people”, aka the “rebels”, that apart from dubiously effective covert CIA shenanigans, you are on your own?

These two possibilities were advanced at the website Moon of Alabama. [2]

Realpolitik blurs US red line on Syria

Posted by: Petri Krohn | Aug 25 2012 20:31 utc | 62

France is more motivated than the Pentagon is. It's as if Sarkozy never left. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 25 2012 20:39 utc | 63

France is more motivated than the Pentagon is. It's as if Sarkozy never left. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

True, Hollande has not turned out to be very impressive. But more likely that Paris has misread Washington. France will not go on a no-fly-zone without American participation. If nothing else, they need the US barrage of cruise-missiles to destroy the anti-aircraft sites.

Posted by: alexno | Aug 25 2012 21:36 utc | 64

It is amazing how these Frankish delusions persist. One would think Alexius still ruled Byzantium.

Posted by: dh | Aug 25 2012 21:50 utc | 65

"Momentum for no-fly zone in Syria increases" according to the Daily Telegraph. Evidence?

Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French defence minister, yesterday called for the establishment of an "international coalition" to implement a no-fly zone - a choice of wording that suggests action outside the United Nations is being considered for the first time.

Feel the momentum for an "international coalition" -- a couple of rogue nations -- to bomb the crap out of Syria from 20,000 feet.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 25 2012 22:38 utc | 66

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