Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
November 03, 2012

Confusion About The New War-On-Syria Plans

For some weird reason the Guardian is selling Hillary Clinton's plans for a new Syrian group that will act as U.S.-proxy in Syria as a Qatari initiative. Clinton's plan include the scraping of the Syrian National Council (SNC) and installing a new wider based entity, the Syrian National Initiative (SNI) led by one Riad Seif. The Guardian is also claiming that this group is supposed to hold peace talks with the Syrian government. I have serious doubts that these claims are true.

West backs Qatari plan to unify Syrian opposition

Britain, the US and other western powers are backing a new attempt to create a single coherent Syrian opposition that could take part in peace talks with President Bashar al-Assad's regime or, if talks fail, provide a channel for greater military support to the rebels.
The Doha initiative has been organised by the Qatari government and has drawn support from the US, Britain and France. Russia, however, opposes the plan, arguing it reneges on an earlier international agreement to pursue the formation of a new government by "mutual consent" of the parties to the conflict. The leadership of the main exile opposition group, the Syrian National Council (SNC), has also criticised the plan, in which its influence will be diluted, and it is not yet clear which of the divided rebel forces inside Syria will turn up on Thursday, or whether they will agree on the common platform once they arrive in Doha.
Qatar has been the strongest supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya, Egypt and in Syria. The Syrian National Council is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. Why then would Qatar have changed those plans and create a new group with a more sidelined brotherhood? That does not sound believable to me. Indeed it was Hillary Clinton who was the first to publish that plan and she also seemed to take credit for it:
I have been constantly involved with my counterparts, both in the EU and in the Arab League, in particular with the hosts of the meeting next week in Qatar. We have recommended names and organizations that we believe should be included in any leadership structure. We’ve made it clear that the SNC can no longer be viewed as the visible leader of the opposition. They can be part of a larger opposition, but that opposition must include people from inside Syria and others who have a legitimate voice that needs to be heard.
The Guardian's claim is also contradicted by this McClatchy report from Istanbul:
The Obama administration’s decision to drop its recognition of the Syrian National Council as the leading Syrian opposition group and propose creating a new umbrella organization surprised and puzzled close U.S. allies, diplomats said Friday.

The U.S. government gave no advance notice of its intention to renounce the council as the lead umbrella group, diplomats of three countries said. They said their governments learned about the initiative from news accounts.
“We were a bit surprised, especially when they said they’d suggested the names for the new body,” one Western diplomat said. “Syrians will say the Americans are imposing the names. And I am not sure the Americans would propose the right people.”
Clinton’s intervention is sure to have repercussions for Arab League-sponsored meetings that start Sunday in Qatar, at which the Syrian National Council planned to elect new leadership and reorganize its structure.

“Doha is very confused,” the diplomat said.

A diplomat from a second Western country said that how the talks would reach a conclusion now was “a bit blurry.”
All three diplomats spoke only on the condition that they and their countries not be identified, to avoid harming relations with the United States.

There is now visible disarray among key U.S. allies on how to proceed.

Turkey, the most crucial U.S. ally in the Syria crisis and the only NATO member that shares a border with Syria, held a top-level meeting Friday in Ankara with the Syrian National Council’s leadership. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu hosted council President Abdelbaset Sieda and eight members of the council’s executive committee for a two-hour lunch to discuss the meetings in Doha, Qatar.

Given that the McClatchy report is coming from Istanbul we can safely assume that one of governments that was not informed of Clinton's plans is the Turkish one.

Back to that confused Guardian account:

Observers say that if the Doha initiative is successful, Washington's policy might change, allowing heavier weapons to be supplied to the opposition, whoever wins the US election on Tuesday.

A western official insisted on Friday that the primary goal of a unified opposition would be to engage in peace talks with the regime about a transition, and so the Doha plan was a way of implementing the June Geneva agreement, rather than a substitute for it, as Moscow had alleged.

Now what is it? Is the new initiative intended to escalate or to deescalate? More weapons or peace talks?

"The Qataris have played their cards close to their chest and its not clear they want the same things as us," the western official said.

The "western official" the Guardian talked to was likely a British one. The only other source the Guardian mentions is Salman Shaikh, the head of the Brookings Institution Doha Centre. Salman Sheik had recently released a new report, Losing Syria (And How to Avoid It), on which the new policies seem to at least partially based. Is it he who told the Guardian that the idea to kick down the SNC is a Qatari one? Why?

There seems to be a lot of confusion over what exactly is the plan. Does Hillary know? Do the Qataris know?

It seems very likely that the attempt to install a new leading group that includes parts of all factions will end in a train wreak. Will, for example, the representatives of the Syrian Kurds agree to sit next to the FSA commanders? Really?

Shaha Ali Abdu, also known as Nujeen Dirik, the head of a Kurdish popular defense unit that is part of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) was killed early Friday, said Zuhat Kobani, head of PYD’s foreign affairs committee. Kobani was captured by Free Syrian Army rebels as she met with FSA groups as part of a mediation mission tasked with retrieving the bodies of other Kurds taken hostage during fighting between Kurds and FSA rebels in the city last week, Kobani said.
He said there was evidence Dirik had been killed “savagely.” “She was initially lightly injured lightly in the shoulder during an ambush on the mission, but she called her friends to say she was fine.” “In my opinion she was tortured and killed savagely.” Another kidnapped Kurdish civilian was returned dead Thursday, showing evidence of torture, according to Kurdish leaders and human rights monitors.
According to this usually well informed guy, George Sabra, a SNC Executive Committee member, just told SkyNews that the SNC refuses any alternative to itself. Clinton's plan is then probably dead before its execution started.

What will Washington do then? Throw the towel? I hope so.

Posted by b on November 3, 2012 at 06:33 AM | Permalink


This is getting really weird. Hard to discern what the US policy is at this point. Perhaps it is simple disarray in the face of a failing policy and nobody knows what to do next so different factions in the power structure are heading in their own direction. Maybe some kind of power struggle inside the US administration as players position themselves to replace Clinton when she leaves state in the next month or so. Maybe Hillary Clinton is suffering from early onset Alzheimer's disease. At least that would be a rational explanation.

Posted by: ToivoS | Nov 3, 2012 7:19:24 AM | 1

Same guesses here. it is obviously a US internal problem.

I suppose it has got a lot to do with Benghazi.

Posted by: somebody | Nov 3, 2012 7:31:06 AM | 2

It sounds like they're still working off the Libyan script. In the Libyan case there were rebels who fought Qaddhafi with covert outside support. At the last minute, the rebels were deemed not fit to rule, so a conference was held in Qatar, where members of the government were selected. Ten days later, Qaddhafi got killed and the Hillary/bin Thani "government" was foisted upon Libya. That venture was "so successful" that they want to repeat it in Syria.

As someone here said, disregard what works in practice. It's what works in theory that matters to the US government.

Posted by: JohnH | Nov 3, 2012 9:08:58 AM | 3

JohnH, you mean this conflict here, I suppose. Sounds similar, I agree, though the Libyan NTC had continuity throughout the rebellion and after and was universally recognized even before Gaddafi's fall.

Well "in practice" as you say, a faction of the Libyan rebels have just dictated the important ministries to the elected president. How other rebel factions will react remains to be seen.

Posted by: somebody | Nov 3, 2012 9:30:19 AM | 4

Link for the Libyan situation

Posted by: somebody | Nov 3, 2012 9:33:30 AM | 5

@4 If you want your man appointed in Libya park a few gun trucks outside the ministry. It's a democracy now.

Posted by: dh | Nov 3, 2012 10:22:13 AM | 6

'b' quotes the following from the and says it's "confusing". I didn't read the Guardian article but I see nothing confusing in this quote:

Observers say that if the Doha initiative is successful, Washington's policy might change, allowing heavier weapons to be supplied to the opposition, whoever wins the US election on Tuesday.

A western official insisted on Friday that the primary goal of a unified opposition would be to engage in peace talks with the regime about a transition, and so the Doha plan was a way of implementing the June Geneva agreement, rather than a substitute for it, as Moscow had alleged.

'b' asks from the above quote: "Now what is it? Is the new initiative intended to escalate or to deescalate? More weapons or peace talks?"

Answer: The Syrian opposition and their foreign supporters intend a transition in which the abdication of Assad and the Assad government is an essential and stricly necessary element. They've said that over and over and over. The intent of the new initiative is to make the opposition more capable of taking over from the Assad government, if and when the government abdicates.

A few days ago the minister of defence of Russia said Assad would be crazy to abdicate because it would cause the Syrian State to collapse (ref). The USA ministry of foreign affairs and the opposition's other foreign supporters have said themselves many times that there's truth in that view. The opposition's foreign supporters have been constantly for a year saying the opposition is a shambles and constantly trying to help the opposition be more unified and more capable of running Syria in the event the Assad government abdicated. This new initiative is just more of the same effort.

The opposition will NEVER be capable of running Syria. But once again the Guardian article says: "If the Doha initiative is successful [i.e. if the opposition were to become capable of governing Syria], Washington's policy might change, allowing heavier weapons to be supplied to the opposition."

Posted by: Parviziyi | Nov 3, 2012 11:30:06 AM | 7

b: "Clinton's plan include the scrapping of the Syrian National Council (SNC) and installing a new wider based entity"

Clinton's plan also includes a retreat from the UN Final Communiqué of June 30, 2012 which calls for mutual dialogue with the government resulting in a a transitional governing body.

The establishment of a transitional governing body which can establish a neutral environment in which the transition can take place. That means that the transitional governing body would exercise full executive powers. It could include members of the present government and the opposition and other groups and shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent.

The UN Final Communiqué was done in Geneva and included:
the Secretaries-General of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, the Foreign Ministers of China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, Turkey, Iraq (Chair of the Summit of the League of Arab States), Kuwait (Chair of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the League of Arab States) and Qatar (Chair of the Arab Follow-up Committee on Syria of the League of Arab States), and the European Union High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy met at the United Nations Office at Geneva as the Action Group for Syria, chaired by the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for Syria.

Now Clinton has come up with this guy Riad Seif, a Syrian political dissident, formerly a member of the Parliament of Syria and prominent businessman, who founded and lead the Forum for National
Dialogue. Seif was elected to parliament in 1994 as an independent and again in 1998. Sief has offered up The Syrian National Initiative Plan, including:
We thus plan to form a broad, democratic, and inclusive political leadership to be called the Syrian National Initiative (SNI) and that will be based on the Cairo conference documents that the Syrian opposition agreed to in July 2012. The SNI will support the internal opposition and communicate with it and will be active on regional and international fronts.

The SNI also guarantees that there will be no political vacuum following the regime’s removal from power.

So what is the United Nations, chopped liver? is what Russia is saying, in effect.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Nov 3, 2012 11:52:09 AM | 8

Today I came across the following nugget about the depiction in the Western newspapers of Hugo Chavez of Venezuela in year 2002. I think it's worth passing on for the parallel it has with Bashar Assad's treatment in the Western newspapers in 2012.

Chávez was ousted in a military coup in 2002, but a combination of some loyal military officers and Chávez's followers in the streets combined for a remarkable reversal of the coup after only two days. The day after the legally and democratically elected Venezuelan leader was ousted, but before being restored to power, the New York Times (April 13, 2002) was moved to pen the following editorial:

"With yesterday's resignation [what the coup leaders called it] of President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chávez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader."

It should be noted that the "respected business leader", Pedro Carmona, quickly dissolved the National Assembly and the Supreme Court, and annulled the Venezuelan constitution.

Posted by: Parviziyi | Nov 3, 2012 12:00:02 PM | 9

The Guardian is just as full of pro-fascist propaganda as the rest of the westerm media, so there should be no surprise they are trying to make an American war criminal operation appear to have originated from Qatar. They used to be more sophisticated at this sort of disinformation and left this sort of obvious lying to their toddler (neocon) run Observer organ.

Posted by: вот так | Nov 3, 2012 12:11:33 PM | 10


"and prominent businessman"

They always are.

Posted by: вот так | Nov 3, 2012 12:26:04 PM | 11

France24: Syrian regime opponent Riad Seif is pictured at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin on August 16.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Nov 3, 2012 12:42:01 PM | 12

Here's my two cents;
First of all I think that Hillary Clinton is very undiplomatic, she is very openly saying that the US is appointing a new governer-to-be for Syria. She is very undiplomatically expressing her colonial approach to Syria, asif this were end of 15th century and she were Christopher Columbus talking about the new world.
I think it maybe the case that The Guardian is trying to do the same thing but more 'diplomatically' by attributing the plans to Qatar and through Qatar to the Arab world.

As regards to b's other question (regarding wether US wants to escalate the military confrontation or to back off and take the road of compromise/negotiation), I think that US is probably not very happy with the current state of the military conflict and sees that FSA is in a stalemate with the government and Assad is firmly in power with no sign of his regime falling down (they know the actual situation on the ground much better than we do so it maybe even the case that Clinton thinks that Assad has a slight upperhand or he will gain the upper hand if the situation goes on like this) and thinking that this is mainly because of the lack of popular support for FSA/NSC she is trying to somehow make a maneuver and hopefully win over some new forces in Syria.

Posted by: Pirouz_2 | Nov 3, 2012 12:54:00 PM | 13

Much of this "planning" is nothing more than posing in the hope of impressing the electorate.
The odds are that Clinton will be a lame duck, dreaming of 2016, come Tuesday.
The bad news is that things aren't likely to improve. The good news is that Obama and Clinton will not be in charge.

Posted by: bevin | Nov 3, 2012 12:58:36 PM | 14

Riad Seif was a player back in 2006 in the Syrian Arab Republic Government, according to leakoverflow.

2. (C) SECURITY SCRUTINY TAKES ITS TOLL, BUT DIPLOMATIC PRESENCE WELCOME: Prominent opposition figure Riad Seif met with Charge and Polchief on March 2 in his office. Seif, looking well-rested, described the continued presence of state security surveillance at his office and at the building where both of his children reside (reftels). His daughter added that Seif has at least two security agents following him at all times, including to family events.

4. (C) CLEARER SENSE OF OPPOSITION LEADERSHIP ROLE AND POLITICAL SELLING POINTS: Seif seems to have developed a clearer perception of his role in the opposition. While professing that he does not enjoy being in the spotlight, he sees that "many sides believe I have the ability to play a role that others cannot," particularly as a "connection point" between different ideologies and individual politicians. He feels the key to his popularity has been that his character and program have never created enemies and that he encourages people to be tolerant of each others' political ideas. He also attributed his success to his reputation of being "nonsectarian,"

5. (C) While his plans to form a party in the near future are on hold, Seif detailed that the party's identity as a clean, anti-corruption party that is respectful of religious views would cut away power from Islamist parties that promote themselves as the anti-corruption party. He described the scope of the Islamists' societal platforms, noting that they can spread their message via the mosque at funerals and weddings, as well as at Friday prayers. Compared to this, "we (secularists) have no chance." We must care for the conservative society and not forget about them," said Seif, noting that up to now, activists with secular ideologies have had little contact with conservatives.

I wouldn't be surprised to see a moderation of Seif's secularism in Qatar.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Nov 3, 2012 1:01:35 PM | 15

Don Bacon at #8 says Hilary Clinton's position today is a "retreat" from what the USA signed onto in the 30 Jun 2012 Final Communique at Geneva. I don't think so. Hilary Clinton said on 30 June right after the Geneva meeting ended it is now “incumbent on Russia and China to show Assad the writing on the wall and help force his departure.” The differing foreign parties in Geneva signed the Final Communique with differing takes on the meaning of the words "transitional governing body... formed on the basis of mutual consent". A key thing in the communique was that any government "transition" in Syria, and the nature of a "transition", would have to be on the basis of "mutual consent" between Syria's disputing parties. Which is to say that it should be decided by the Syrians without UN or other foreign interference. Here's a repeat of something I posted on this board at that time:

In a comment after the Geneva meeting, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said, echoing the Final Communique itself, "I wish to emphasize here that the political transition process in Syria should be led by the Syrian people and truly owned by the people of Syria. As for the specific issues as the composition of the 'transitional governing body' and its operation, they should be agreed on the basis of a dialogue among Syrian government and other relevant parties of Syria." . And I add myself that if no agreement is obtained among the parties (and there won't be) then that part of the Final Communique isn't worth the paper it's written on. Echoing the Chinese foreign minister, the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov commented after the meeting: "We consider it to be of key importance that there is no attempt in the [Final Communique] document to impose upon the Syrian side any [specific] kind of transitional process." . Lavrov on 3 Jul 2012 said "Some Western participants have started to publicly distort the essence of the agreements reached. The agreements need not be interpreted. They mean what the communique said."

Another key thing in the the Final Communique was the participant countries reiterated that they "are opposed to any further militarization of the conflict".

Both pro-government and anti-government commentators in Syria said the 30 June Geneva meeting of the foreign powers was a flop. The SNC's Burhan Ghalioun said on Al-Arabia TV "this is the worst international statement yet to emerge from talks on Syria." . The Syrian government-owned daily Al-Thawra newspaper said in an op-ed on 1 Jul 2012 that the Final Communique did not contain anything new. I agree with Al-Thawra about that.

Posted by: Parviziyi | Nov 3, 2012 1:15:10 PM | 16

@ Don Bacon: We are in disagreement bigly about the weight of the Syrian Kurdish factor and the Syrian Kurdish demographics. Official demographic figures don't exist. Estimates vary. I suspect you've gotten your estimates from Kurdish or pro-Kurdish sources who grossly exaggerate. But I'm reluctant to take the time to go into this question today. Maybe some other time.

Posted by: Parviziyi | Nov 3, 2012 1:29:29 PM | 17

@Parviziyi #16
Of course it's a retreat from the UN Final Communiqué. The SNI's transitional governing body is not being formed on the basis of mutual consent with the government. Is Syria invited to Qatar?

It's the timeless human difference between cooperation and competition, with the US usually favoring the latter. The UN Charter was supposed to curb military imperialism, but the US has in effect scrapped the UN Charter.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Nov 3, 2012 1:34:42 PM | 18

escalate or deescalate, the point is that the Us is asserting a leading role after a year of "backseat driving"; and is doing this in an uncharacteristically rude way towards its allies, especially Turkey and Qatar; so maybe there's no "new strategy" at play except announcing it is taking matters back in its own hands, through its own designates, and weeding out militias that can't be trusted to receive weapons

I think we will witness a replay of the initial aggression against Assad, but with a different director (Us) and cast (starring Riad Seif and probably including some Kurdish representatives): the good old recipe of sanctions, sabotage, buying off people, and supporting some rag tag militias described as freedom fighters, until Assad accepts to step back from the envisioned transitional body

questions: can you accomplish this without a no-fly one? will Turkey and Qatar step down their support for militias with a different agenda from their own? will the SNC and the MB accept to be sidelined? will the Syrian Kurds get on board?

I keep thinking that Benghazi has been a turning point determining mutual distrust between the Us, Turkey and Qatar, and eliciting a reaction from the Us after its public humiliation

Posted by: claudio | Nov 3, 2012 1:58:26 PM | 19

Libyan timeline:

Aug 10, 2011; Rebels reported to be in disarray; NTC Chairman Jalil dissolves the "government," asks Jubril to form another one. NTC allowed into Libyan embassies in Ottawa and London. The "government" shakeup was seen by some as house cleaning to put it in compliance with NATO's expectations.

Aug 23: Qaddafi's compound outside Tripoli falls.
Aug 24: Jubril in Doha, Qatar asking the "international community" to unfreeze Libyan asset.

Obviously, an NTC in disarray was in no position to do anything in Libya, except serve as a Western straw man. This appears to be the goal of the new SNI in Syria.

Posted by: JohnH | Nov 3, 2012 2:25:22 PM | 20

JohnH, maybe you should tell the New York Times to correct their information

Mahmoud Jibril, a Libyan politician and political scientist, served as interim prime minister from March to October 2011 in the Transitional National Council, Libya’s provisional government, during the struggle against forces of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

In the months after Colonel Qaddafi’s death on Oct. 20, 2011, Libyans were counting on the ballot box to lay the foundation of a new democracy. But the militias formed to fight Colonel Qaddafi thwarted the consolidation of a new central authority, trading deadly gunfire in the streets of the capital, detaining and torturing suspected Qaddafi loyalists. The militia leaders who turned post-Qaddafi Libya into a patchwork of semiautonomous fiefs began plunging into politics, raising fears that their armed brigades could undermine elections.

You sure do not mean this "minor shakeup", mentioned here?

The changes see the scrapping of the post of deputy head of the executive plus the creation of a post of minister of martyrs and victims of the war, said Mustafa Abdel Jalil, who heads the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC).

The current head of the executive, Mahmud Jibril, retains his position as well as the post of foreign minister, Abdel Jalil told a news conference.

Other key posts are retained, including finance and oil, information and defence, he added.

Posted by: somebody | Nov 3, 2012 2:54:12 PM | 21

I'm getting flash-backs of somebody advising me not to go off topic (on an open thread, but never mind). Yes! It WAS somebody!
Do the blogmeister - and the rest of us - a favor and come on back to Syria so we don't have to skip through this extensive extraneous excruciating Libya patter.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Nov 3, 2012 3:14:29 PM | 22

According to report, this signals a breaking of relationship between Obama and the Muslim brotherhood

Posted by: nikon | Nov 3, 2012 3:41:13 PM | 23

By Thierry Meyssan whom I regard as unreliable: The Sore Losers Of The Syrian Crisis

During a recent Round Table in Ankara, Admiral James Winnfeld, Vice-Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced that Washington would reveal its intentions toward Syria once the 6 November presidential elections were over. He made it plainly understood to his Turkish counterparts that a peace plan had already been negotiated with Moscow, that Bashar al-Assad would remain in power and that the Security Council would not authorize the creation of buffer zones. For his part, Herve Ladsous, the U.N. Assistant Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations, announced that he was studying the possible deployment of peacekeepers ("blue helmets") in Syria.

All regional actors are preparing for the cease-fire which will be overseen by a U.N. force composed principally by troops of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikstan). These events signify that the United States is effectively continuing a process, begun in Iraq, of retreat from the region and has accepted to share its influence with Russian.

At the same time, the New York Times revealed that direct negotiations between Washington and Iran are slated to restart even as the United States continues its attack on Iranian monetary values. It is becoming clear that, after 33 years of containment, Washington is acknowledging that Teheran is an established regional power, all the while continuing to sabotage its economy.

This new situation comes at the expense of Saudi Arabia, France, Israel, Qatar and Turkey all of whom had placed their bets on regime change in Damascus. This diverse coalition is now suffering divisions between those demanding a consolation prize and those trying to sabotage outright the process underway.

Now combine that with this unconfirmed(!) tweet from Laura Rozen who does a lot of Iran reporting:

#Iran Majles nat'l sec comm member Mohammad-Hassan Asfari said Iran has stopped 20% enrichment, West shld lift sanctions, via @eborujerdi

Posted by: b | Nov 3, 2012 3:41:46 PM | 24

22 Don Bacon, the connection was that JohnH thought Hillary was still applying the Libyan script, and I cannot find a Libyan script in this but am curious what makes him think so ...

And I do think the confusion does not have much to do with Syria but with Hillary's image in the US - not "leading from behind" but "being a leader".

And all this somehow is related - sorry I am in Libya again - with the Benghazi incident which the Republicans in their infinite wisdom seem to think might decide the elections.

Posted by: somebody | Nov 3, 2012 3:43:48 PM | 25

Laura Rozen's latest: Buzz grows around veteran Iran insider, amid rumors of US back channels

Most recently, Velayati has become the subject of persistent rumors of US-Iran back channels, which have been denied by both capitals–and by Velayati himself.

“As far as I know, Velayati is already and quietly involved on some foreign policy issues,” former Iranian nuclear negotiator Seyed Hossein Mousavian told Al-Monitor by email Saturday. “They all would be very careful and cautious to do things with little risk before [Iran presidential] June elections.”

It feels like something is going on. But what?

Posted by: b | Nov 3, 2012 3:44:09 PM | 26

re. US/Iran negotiations. Verification is always the sticking point. Inspections tend to get progressively more intrusive.

Posted by: dh | Nov 3, 2012 3:48:22 PM | 27

Regarding the West's hoped-for "political transition" in Syria, in case you're not clear about what Syrian government's position is, here's from Syria's foreign minister Walid Al-Moallem in a speech on 1 Oct 2012: "It is for the Syrian people alone to choose the shape of their own State... and to chose their own leadership through the ballot box.... The ballot box will have the final say." Syria had free and fair parliamentary elections in 7 May 2012 and the voters voted overwhelmingly for the incumbent government. The turnout rate was 51%. Moallem also said in the same speech: "In my country the bond is very strong between the State's policies and the aspirations of the people."

Here's some more from Al-Moallem's speech which was delivered at the podium of UN General Assembly in New York on 1 Oct 2012:

For more than one year now, the Syrian government has been saying that what Syria is witnessing is a two-sided problem: the first side is linked to the need for political, economic and social reforms demanded by the public; the second is the exploitation of those needs and demands by opposition elements for seditious objectives that are completely different from the demands of the Syrian public and their interests. I referred to those two aspects in my speech from this podium last year [on 27 Sep 2011]. I come back today to tell you that the state in Syria made serious and important reform steps that culminated in a new Constitution that embraces political pluralism, and was adopted by referendum. Subsequently we had parliamentary elections, which were open to multiple political parties. Now I tell you that the Syrian government is continuing to work with the patriotic components in the opposition to build a new and pluralistic Syria that responds to the aspirations of its people, and is determined at the same time to protect the people from jihadist and takfiri terrorism, through which armed terrorist groups are working to spread chaos and create sedition and threaten to destroy peaceful coexistence among Syrians.

Also on 1 Oct 2012 Al-Moallem did an interview with a Lebanese TV station (Al-Mayadeen TV). He was asked about the Syrian government's receptiveness to foreign intermediation efforts in the Syrian conflict, specifically the efforts of the UN's envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. Al-Moallem replied that mediation efforts, such as the UN envoy's, must be subservient to two fundamental rights for Syria: firstly, maintaining sovereignty and territorial integrity and preventing foreign interference, and, secondly, acknowledging the Syrian people's right to decide their own present and future. "No-one can overcome this foundation.... Other than that, we cooperate with Ibrahimi in any way that can lead to the success of his mission," he said.

Posted by: Parviziyi | Nov 3, 2012 3:55:36 PM | 28

Lame duck or no lame duck, Hillary is thinking about 2016 and she is wrapping up her stint as SOS by not only burnishing her Foreign Policy bona fides with a new initiative, but making major donors happy. The major source for the Guardian comes from an analyst from Brookings, which has been taken over by a zionist agenda in foreign policy in recent years. Chaim Saban, the one issue major Democratic donor whose issue happens to be Israel, founded the Saban Center at Brookings several years ago with WINEP's Martin Indyk as its head. In recent years, the Zionist slant of the Saban Center has been adopted throughout Brookings, as Indyk was promoted to vice-president of foreign affairs in the Institute. (See Grant Smith's "Why AIPAC took over Brookings")

Brookings Doha Center's Salman Shaik prescribes the neocon vision for a "post-Assad" Syria:

In light of the Syrian regime’s continued campaign of violence on its own people and the opposition’s inability to unify its ranks, is the collapse of Syrian society approaching a point of no return? Is there a way to hold Syria and its people together and, in doing so, prevent the spread of sectarianism across the Middle East?

In a new paper from the Brookings Doha Center, Losing Syria (And How to Avoid It), Salman Shaikh proposes a path forward for addressing Syria’s spiraling crisis.

Based on months of first-hand interviews with opposition leaders, activists, and rebel commanders, Shaikh provides new insights into the current state of fragmentation within Syria’s opposition. He offers a set of five policy principles for the international community – with the leadership of the United States – to help unify the political opposition, reassure minority communities, and coordinate the flow of arms. Shaikh argues that the actions – or inaction – of Syria’s international partners will have critical consequences for the viability of the post-Assad order, and urges immediate planning for the “day after.”

Hillary is very familiar with the buttons on the "Democrats' ATM" and she is especially willing to push them not only right before this election, but as she plans for the next one.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Nov 3, 2012 4:19:12 PM | 29

b, there have always been backchannels to Iran. Hillary Clinton made her announcement of the Syrian opposition representation shakeup from Croatia.
Croatia tried to have an arms deal agreement with Iran in the 1990s, however it was nixed by the US according to this New York Times article, though there was US/Iranian silent cooperation vs Bosnia.

And there is this strange little peace of news on the web from 2006

The US assesses that this region may again be on the brink of instability due to the Iran situation. Washington fears that the Western Balkans could again become the site of a war conflict and is seeking a reliable partner. And the only possible reliable partner in the problematic region is Croatia.

The US holds that Croatia is in an advanced phase of reforms and is the only stable country in the former Yugoslavia still to undergo Euro-Atlantic integrations. Croatia is also sufficiently economically stable to be the foothold for US policy in this region. The American military and intelligence analysts have assessed that there is a certain risk of a new war conflict in the Balkans based on seemly unusual, though in fact logical alliances that have begun to form. Few have spoke out about it, but nine months ago, an exceptionally significant news article came out, perhaps recklessly, which was then vehemently denied.

On Monday 23 January of this year, the Iranian state news agency IRNA released an interesting and – obviously to the US – very important news article from Teheran. The article, in its entirety, reads:

TEHRAN, Jan. 22—First Vice President Parviz Davoudi on Sunday authorized the signing of a temporary agreement on security cooperation between Iran and Serbia-Montenegro, IRNA reported. In response to the Interior Ministry’s proposal, the cabinet authorized the Intelligence Ministry to temporarily ink such an agreement. The move is in accordance with Article 2 of the bylaw on drawing up and signing international contracts approved in 1992.”

This news aroused substantial interest within the intelligence community, revealing that Serbia and Iran had worked out a secret security arrangement at the time the American pressures against Iran were increasing over that country\'s nuclear program and when western countries were beginning to organize a political blockage and announce the possibility of military pressures. The article does not reveal the type of security agreement, whether this refers only to the exchange of intelligence, the supply of arms or a stronger military alliance. There have been some suspicions that Iran was in particular interested in the Serbia’s experiences from the 1999 Kosovo War, particularly concerning the attack of NATO air force, though this could be part of a much wider and stronger agreement.

This news was very awkward for the government in Belgrade, as it was obvious that Belgrade and Teheran had conducted secret talks on their security cooperation, while Teheran let the cat out of the bag.

Quite likely Croatia is obsessed with Serbia, but why would Hillary Clinton go to Croatia at the end of her term?

Posted by: somebody | Nov 3, 2012 4:19:34 PM | 30

@ Rusty Pipes #29 -- thanks for that - most interesting

Brookings (with O'Hanlon) has been influential on Iraq and Afghanistan. Here they go again on Syria.

“It could go as promised, or it could be a train wreck,” said Salman Shaikh, the head of the Brookings Institution Doha Centre, which had helped arrange earlier opposition discussions that paved the way for the Doha meeting.

also interesting, from wiki: WINEP [started by Martin Indyk] is focused on influencing the media and U.S. executive branch; this is unlike AIPAC, which attempts to influence the U.S. Congress.
Well, he's branching out: On August 1, Martin Indyk testified at a U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing on next steps in Syria.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Nov 3, 2012 5:32:03 PM | 31

Brookings has not been a fan of the UN.
Jul 13, 2012, Salman Shaikh, Director, Brookings Doha Center
The UN’s Handling of Syria: Another Horrific Episode of Ineptitude?

The simple truth is that the Security Council should have outlined the “consequences” to Assad for the use of his “killing machine” months ago. . . Annan’s visit to Moscow on Monday may be the last chance for him to persuade the Russians and for him to keep his job, for now at least. History will not judge kindly this latest episode of inaction by the world’s powers in Syria.

Actually the UN has no business meddling in domestic affairs, and it should be stopping foreign countries for doing so, not aiding them. And here we see a clear escalation in foreign interference.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Nov 3, 2012 5:43:36 PM | 32

"We went through many (rebel) Free Syrian Army (FSA) checkpoints in villages in Homs and Hama without any problem. But outside Saraqeb, we found ourselves at a strange roadblock," a witness told AFP, giving his name only as "Mark".

"Usually the rebels search for soldiers, but this time was different. Three gunmen boarded the bus and told the Christians to raise their hands."

Nine Christian men, including seven ethnic Armenians, were ordered off the bus while the gunmen checked IDs, according to Mark, who was mistaken as the driver's assistant and spared interrogation.

"Get off. You're with Bashar too," they told a Kurdish man who tried to intervene, referring to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.

Mark, 26, said that a bearded man wearing a traditional robe boarded the bus and ordered unveiled women to cover their hair, calling them whores.

"He pointed to one woman wearing a cross and told her to hand it over. He grabbed it and started stamping on it."

At that point a veiled women interceded: "My son, we never used to speak or think like this in Syria. These people are our neighbours and they have nothing to do with politics."

"You don't know these people. They are kuffar (infidels)," he retorted.

From his vantage point, Mark said he saw the gunmen stop another bus and yank out two women by their hair.

A Syrian rights activist familiar with the incident, who spoke on condition of anonymity fearing retribution, said the gunmen were members of the extreme Islamist Al-Nusra Front.

"Al-Nusra is responsible. They took the men because they were Christian and the Kurd because he protested what they were doing."

The next day, one man in his sixties was freed and sent to Aleppo, badly beaten, to secure a ransom of 3.3 million Syrian pounds ($48,000/37,000 euros) just to launch negotiations for the release of the remaining men.

Posted by: brian | Nov 3, 2012 8:05:06 PM | 33

secular western regimes backs sunni dictatorships(qatar and saudi arabia) to attack a seculr state.syria...

democratic elections are putting into power some very odd persons

Posted by: brian | Nov 3, 2012 8:06:22 PM | 34

'The opposition will NEVER be capable of running Syria. But once again the Guardian article says: "If the Doha initiative is successful [i.e. if the opposition were to become capable of governing Syria], Washington's policy might change, allowing heavier weapons to be supplied to the opposition

by 'opposition' the mean alqaeda..the western media do all they can to erase any trace of foreign jihadis

Posted by: brian | Nov 3, 2012 8:32:17 PM | 35

from: Diana Barahona::: Please go to This site was set up by paid employees of the U.S. government to promote its dirty war against Syria. My comments are erased automatically but there are plenty of supporters of Syria who CAN and SHOULD post comments. Tell them you know that what they write there is U.S. government lies.

Posted by: brian | Nov 3, 2012 8:35:24 PM | 36

#33 -- A Syrian rights activist familiar with the incident, who spoke on condition of anonymity fearing retribution, said the gunmen were members of the extreme Islamist Al-Nusra Front. "Al-Nusra is responsible. They took the men because they were Christian and the Kurd because he protested what they were doing."

Al-Nusrah. Qatar.

Most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists, and not the more secular opposition groups that the West wants to bolster, according to American officials and Middle Eastern diplomats.

The National, Nov 4, 2012

Rebels attacked a major air base in north-west Syria yesterday, using sophisticated weapons that demonstrated their increasing military strength. . . .At Taftanaz, eight rebel battalions took part in the attack, including the radical Islamist Al Nusra Front. The Syrian Revolution General Commission, a network of activists on the ground, said the aim was to take control of the air base.

Al Nusra Front for the People of the Levant
Jabhat al-Nusra –or the al Nusra Front to Protect the Levant, is considered to be Syria’s al-Qaeda’s branch, attracts Syrian jihadists as well as other foreign fighters who have arrived in Syria after fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, an Islamist paramilitary group formed late in 2011 during the Syrian Uprising. the major Qaeda affiliate operating in Syria. The group claims responsibility for the 2012 Aleppo bombings, the January 2012 al-Midan bombing, the March 2012 Damascus bombings the murder of journalist Mohammed al-Saeed and possibly the 10 May 2012 Damascus bombings. A number of Algerians have joined the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front in Syria, including Abu Khaythama and Abu Omar, who are believed to be former fighters in Iraq and who recently infiltrated Syria to support the front.

Long War Journal, Oct 19, 2012

The Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, an al Qaeda-linked jihadist group that is fighting Bashir al Assad's regime in Syria, commanded a Free Syrian Army unit and "Chechen emigrants" during last week's assault on a Syrian air defense and Scud missile base in Aleppo. The base was overrun by Al Nusrah and its allies.

Long War Journal, Oct 3, 2012
Al Nusrah Front claims 2 suicide, 2 car bombings in Aleppo
The Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, an al Qaeda-linked jihadist group that is fighting Bashir al Assad's regime in Syria, has claimed credit for four bombings in Aleppo today, including two suicide attacks, that killed more than 50 people. The terror group has now claimed credit for 26 of the 33 suicide attacks that have taken place in Syria since December 2011.

Long War Journal, Sep 28, 2012
The Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, an al Qaeda-linked jihadist group that is fighting Bashir al Assad's regime in Syria, has claimed credit for the Sept. 26 complex suicide assault on the Syrian Army headquarters in Damascus. The terror group has now claimed credit for 24 of the 31 suicide attacks that have taken place in Syria since December 2011.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Nov 3, 2012 8:43:55 PM | 37

Here's an interesting Op-Ed in The search for a new brand of Islam in the Middle East: the Gülen Movement

It is sad to say that America does not have a coherent or smart policy in the Middle East. Nor does it have an effective policy regarding Turkey, especially considering the complex events in Turkey. America supports a non-democratic Turkish government and turns a blind eye to Turkey’s activity in Syria and its treatment of the Kurds although thousands of journalists, Kurdish politicians, and human rights advocates have been jailed there.

So why is the West supporting the Gülen Turkish Islamic Movement or the Turkish Missionary Movement? Gülen does not like the Iranian or Russian influence in the Middle East, and he, like America, is suspicious of Iran and Russia. America supports Gulen’s movement to use it for its own interests and, likewise, Gülen is using America to become more powerful.

The West and America hope to create a more open and democratic society in the Middle East and the Islamic world. The West and the U.S think Gulen’s movement represents the modern face of Islam – in other words, that it is a moderate Islam that promotes service for the common good, advocates interfaith dialogue, supports education, encourages Turkey’s joining the European Union and denounces terrorism, and also they suppose that it is not anti-Israel or anti-U.S. However, in reality America and the West fail to understand the real agenda of Gülen as a power-thirsty opportunist.

Gülen lives in the U.S. and enjoys a high level of support and praise from the American government, such as former President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and James Baker. The former ambassador to Turkey, Morton Abramowitz, praised Gülen for his contributions to world peace. President Obama appointed one of his followers as his Muslim advisor in the White House. President Obama himself visited the schools and received at the White House ‘award-winning’ students from the Gülen- inspired Pinnacle School in Washington D.C.

Several former CIA officers have testified for Gulen saying that Gulen’s movement is a peaceful movement, not a threat to America or to national security. This testimony helped him stay in the U.S. and to enlarge his movement from the U.S.

Delving a bit further... “Is Fethullah Gulen a CIA agent?”

Posted by: CTuttle | Nov 3, 2012 8:45:58 PM | 38

b,not sure if it's relevant but the WSJ ran a retraction the other day i thought was revealing.

The International Atomic Energy Agency inspects Iran's uranium-enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow every two weeks. The Oct. 24 op-ed, "Countdown to the Red Line in Iran," said the inspections occurred monthly. The biweekly frequency alters calculations in the piece about Iran's nuclear breakout capacity and the economic "cripple date" for sanctions to work. The breakout capacity would move to July 2014 from January 2014—which would become the cripple date, moving from July 2013.

when you ask 'what is going on' keep in mind our interest in syria is all about iran.

my hunch (and maybe i am just hopeful) is that obama doesn't want war with iran. the p5+1's were dead in the water because the US was unwilling to even consider lessoning sanctions regardless of what iran offered to comply. talks are set to resume after the election and my hunch is the US will offer lessoning the sanction. none of this can be thrashed out til after the election because there can be no blatant distancing from the lobby til after the election. i think the fastest track to stabilization in syria is some political faction who is willing to work with assad. the only way regime change could occur is all out invasion and i don't see nato doing that. i think this is a bunch of burnishing a la rusty's #29.

i don't think it is a coincidence all of a sudden the press is finally being more overtly critical of the FSA.

china and russia do not want US hegemony in the ME so we can either drop syria/iran intentions or initiate a world war. i think this is the beginning of a backoff. naturally, i could be wrong but i think they will 'negotiate' with assad especially since they do not have the means to force him down.

Posted by: annie | Nov 3, 2012 9:06:01 PM | 39

The Gülen Movement originated in 1970s' Turkey as a faith-inspired initiative to improve educational opportunities for a local community; since then, it has grown into a transnational educational, inter-cultural and interfaith movement. It is estimated that participants number in several millions. The Gülen Movement has securely established, respected institutions (of different kinds, but mostly schools) on every continent.

PatriotPost, Nov 2,2012

If one believes that the battle for the nation's soul is occurring, not just in Washington, D.C., but in schools across the nation, the steady advance of Turkish-Gulen Charter Schools may be cause for alarm. Fethullah Gulen is a Turkish Islamic cleric who fled his native country in 1998, after being charged with seeking to overthrow the secular Turkish government. He currently lives in exile at a 28-acre mountain complex in the Pocono Mountains, with more than $25 billion of assets at his command. The 135 charter schools associated with the Gulen Movement (GM) enroll more than 45,000 students and comprise the largest charter school network in the United States -- all of which are fully funded by American taxpayers. Fethullah Gulen has been under investigation by the government since 2011.

That investigation, carried out by FBI and the Departments of Labor and Education, is centered around charter school employees who are allegedly engaged in kicking back part of their salaries to the Muslim movement also known as Hizmet (service to others), founded by Gulen. Gulen initiated his movement in Izmir, a city on Turkey's Aegean coast, more than 40 years ago, preaching impassioned sermons to his followers, who may now number as many as six million. In Turkey, the Gulen Movement has been accused of pushing for a hardline Islamic state.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Nov 3, 2012 9:10:14 PM | 40

Aloha, annie...! I think your hunch is right that Obummer does not want war with Iran, but, you're not going to see any traction for any lessening in sanctions, anywhere within our AIPAC bought and paid for, Senators and/or House Critters...! Even the EU's 'usual suspects' will be highly reluctant...! 8-(

Posted by: CTuttle | Nov 3, 2012 9:19:10 PM | 41

Anyone seen the charismatic, natural-born leader, Ahmad Chalabi lately, the unsung hero of the Iraqi masses? Where's the A-Team when you need it? Oh, OK, time for plan B; the bomb^bomb^bomb^Iran ploy. Off the table? Can we at least hum the tune, the one good for moral and such? Guess the WH's now looking for a party with the least war crimes on its slate and anyone will do.

Posted by: Daniel Rich | Nov 3, 2012 9:21:48 PM | 42

* Redline dates for Iran is simply idle Zionist chatter to distract the media and allow further settlements and Palestinian persecution.
* What Obama wants, regarding attacking Iran, is irrelevant. An (impossible) attack upon Iran would sink US ships and severely damage US welfare, and would destroy Israel, among other things.
* US sanctions on Iran, for thirty years now, have nothing to do with nuclear and everything to do with ME hegemony -- Iran has it and the US wants it. That's why the US has refused alternative uranium fuel sources for Iran.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Nov 3, 2012 9:22:12 PM | 43

don,checkout Parviziyi's (excellent) blum link @#3

"Fighters from a shadowy militant group [Jabhat al-Nusra] with suspected links to al-Qaida joined Syrian rebels in seizing a government missile defense base in northern Syria on Friday, according to activists and amateur video. ...The videos show dozens of fighters inside the base near a radar tower, along with rows of large missiles, some on the backs of trucks." (Associated Press, October 12, 2012)

Posted by: annie | Nov 3, 2012 9:25:12 PM | 44

@ annie & Don,

Thought of Israel not wanting a fiercely Islamic neighbor, led by bloodthirsty freedom fighters? Throughout this conflict Israel has been rather mute [imo].

Posted by: Daniel Rich | Nov 3, 2012 10:33:07 PM | 45

Daniel @ 45 Isn't it ironic that Hamas is a Creation of Mossad, and Abu Mazen for that matter, but, Bibi is still unsatisfied, by Abu Mazen's complete capitulation on the 'right of return'... Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu unimpressed by Abbas's Israeli television interview, notes he has rejected negotiations for 4 years. When is enough, enough...?

Posted by: CTuttle | Nov 3, 2012 11:08:00 PM | 46

August 10, 2011: "Libya's rebel leader has sacked the entire executive board of the National Transitional Council (NTC), which functioned as its cabinet..." Ostensibly it was to "regain confidence" after the killing of a rebel military leader. More likely it was to align the Libyan leadership with outside interests.

November 3, 2012: "Clinton's plan include the scraping of the Syrian National Council (SNC) and installing a new wider based entity, the Syrian National Initiative (SNI) led by one Riad Seif." Obviously, the goal here is to impose a leadership on Syria in anticipation of Assad's fall.

Same play book. Let the rebels do their fighting, then snatch victory from them so that Western and Gulf interests are satisfied.

Posted by: JohnH | Nov 3, 2012 11:16:23 PM | 47

It seems to me that the US government is in disarray because the word has gotten out (especially to the Obama haters) that al Qaeda is mixed up in the Syrian rebels and the efforts to get rid of Assad. That information did not get out - or was not believed - in Libya.

So the plan now is for the US government to clean up the rebels so they can then overthrow Assad with the okay of the stupid and gullible American public.

Posted by: Susan | Nov 3, 2012 11:27:11 PM | 48

: CTuttle 38
*The West and America hope to create a more open and democratic society in the Middle East and the Islamic world. The West and the U.S think Gulen’s movement represents the modern face of Islam – in other words, that it is a moderate Islam that promotes service for the common good, advocates interfaith dialogue, supports education, encourages Turkey’s joining the European Union and denounces terrorism*

+The recent immigration case of Turkish Sufi religious leader Fethullah Gulen in the US has brought to light legally compelling evidence, from American official sources themselves, that Gulen's mammoth organization, Nurcus, was operating as a CIA front, with Turkish, Saudi Arab and American support throughout Central Asia as a network of Madrassas and Islamic foundations. +

Posted by: denk | Nov 3, 2012 11:27:31 PM | 49

denk @ 49 *heh* Quite the Clusterf*ck, eh...? ;-)

Posted by: CTuttle | Nov 3, 2012 11:38:44 PM | 50

Susan @ 48 I'm telling ya Issa and Fox's Neo/Ziocons will be relentless during the lame duck session, Betrayus has a mighty tight rope to walk, on the CIA's activities in Benghazi alone, muchless the MENA...! Which side will he choose...? 8-(

Posted by: CTuttle | Nov 4, 2012 12:04:43 AM | 51

Syria 24 English shared a link.
about an hour ago




Posted by: brian | Nov 4, 2012 1:34:04 AM | 52

ok JohnH found your quote, that was the reaction to the Younis assassination, it was a cosmetic change as the main figures remained and the assassins were never found.

But sure, you are right, quite possibly western intelligence was involved in the assassination. Though the result of that assassination was that there was no unified army command, militias reigned, and Quatar finally bribed the tribes for militia victory in Tripoli.

Posted by: somebody | Nov 4, 2012 1:48:17 AM | 53

ah the fun of media spin

Jihadis fighting in Syria are no problem

"The head of the Free Syrian Army says the rebels have no problem fighting alongside jihadist groups in their battle against the Al-Assad regime despite fears raised by the West that the Islamists may hijack the revolution "

Posted by: somebody | Nov 4, 2012 2:28:07 AM | 54

so Michel Kilo will not take part

A number of opposition groups are staying away from the conference, including the National Coordination Body, a rival to the SNC, and the National Democratic Front headed by veteran opposition leader Michel Kilo.

They complain of being sidelined and describe the SNC as a group of dictators no worse than Assad.

"Nobody can build a house alone and then invite the others to stay in the servants' room," said Haitham Manna, a Paris-based veteran dissident who heads the National Coordination Body's external branch. He said any unilateral decision at Doha to form a transitional government will only serve to fragment the opposition even more.

Posted by: somebody | Nov 4, 2012 3:57:40 AM | 55

Well, if this is true, Israel had better stop the war in Syria rather yesterday than tomorrow

Syrian rebels call them "wizwayzi," humming eyes in the sky they say guide the government warplanes and gunners who bombard their positions.

They're surveillance drones, easily visible from the ground and seen in video shot by rebel fighters. Syrian opposition activists and rebel commanders say both the tempo and accuracy of airstrikes have increased since government forces began using them -- and they point to Iran as the source of the equipment.

"Of course it's Iranian. It doesn't go up that high. We can see it," Muhiyee Deen al-Zein, a Free Syrian Army leader in Homs, told CNN.

"They say, 'The wizwayzi is out.' It's a small drone that films al-Qusayr, and then you think, 'Oh God, help al-Qusayr, it will sleep under rockets.' "

Posted by: somebody | Nov 4, 2012 5:41:57 AM | 56

@ Parviziyi - On the Hugo Chavez coup

A great documentary on it is available on Youtube. Called "the Revolution Will Not Be Televised". A TV crew were following around Chavez for a few weeks and were with him when the coup took place. Really good picture of what was going on in Chavez's government at the time and the US role in it.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Nov 4, 2012 9:33:25 AM | 57

somebody, your #55 link has been scrubbed. i read it an hr ago and went back for reference and it is no longer there. matt lee is one of the reporters. found it elsewhere.

Posted by: annie | Nov 4, 2012 9:43:41 AM | 58

According to the BBC Riad Seif doesn't much want the job....

>However, Mr Seif told Agence France-Presse he had no plans to be leader.

"I shall not be a candidate to lead a government in exile... I am 66 and have health problems," he said.<

Posted by: dh | Nov 4, 2012 10:06:49 AM | 59

Folks, it's nation-building time again, where the civilians who know how to run things take over from the military who know how to blow stuff up and kill people. And this time, it's going to be done by people outside the nation! In the middle of a war! Good luck on that.


The focus, the official said, is on people with political and administrative skills, not military skills. Although some of them, the official said, may have fought against the government as part of the opposition.

There are some people inside the nation who don't have political and administrative skills and apparently are not invited. That would be Al Nusra Front for the People of the Levant, which seems to be doing the heavy lifting in the anti-Syria war. Al-Nusrah has been commanding Free Syrian Army units and foreign jihadists in recent fighting, and is responsible for most of the suicide bombings in Syria.

The wild card is if the new U.S. assassination policy would be extended to foreign national leaders. Clinton has said that al Assad is doomed. Declare Assad a terrorist and do him. That would change everything.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Nov 4, 2012 10:50:41 AM | 60

I just checked the Qatar official press and neither His Highness nor His Excellency has made a peep about the "Qatari Plan" or the conference they are supposedly sponsoring.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Nov 4, 2012 10:56:49 AM | 61

@60 Every day I expect to read a headline...'Assad dead in mysterious explosion'. I can't imagine what affect that would have on the Syria project.

Posted by: dh | Nov 4, 2012 11:04:24 AM | 62

Actually I misspoke. The U.S. assassination policy has already been extended to foreign national leaders. A US commitment to "regime change" including any armed force or support of an armed force has included killing the chief of state. Other attempts in Cuba and Venezuela have been thwarted. I hope President al Assad doesn't carry a cell phone around.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Nov 4, 2012 12:03:23 PM | 63

priceless-- from google

Syrian Opposition in Key Qatar Meeting to Unify Ranks
-Voice of America-1 hour ago
Syrian opposition meets in Qatar to unify ranks
-Jerusalem Post-2 hours ago

When it comes to rank unification, the Jerusalem Post is the voice of America!

Posted by: Don Bacon | Nov 4, 2012 1:17:08 PM | 64

Assad will be assassinated before Christmas. His existence is the sticking point in any future negotiations between the two sides. Russia and the US will then effectively be on the same page.

With Assad gone, rebel groups will assume victory, weapon shipments will abate and fighting will subside. Rebels without a cause and all that..
They'll probably set about trying to create some tribal system amongst themselves, before shooting at each other, as has been the case in Libya. I also base this assumption on the fact that rebel videos posted online show opposition fighters calling Syrian troops "Assad's dogs". Assad's death would have a disassociating effect.

This new Syrian opposition body that the US is now carefully assembling will then form part of the transitional Government alongside what little is allowed to remain of the Ba'ath Party, ahead of elections, which will undoubtedly see the chosen US puppet installed as President.

And all without a single boot on the ground. Remarkable.

Posted by: Pat Bateman | Nov 4, 2012 2:09:37 PM | 65

Brookings-Doha, AKA Saban Center for Middle East Policy, was initiated in 2002 with Haim Saban's pledge of nearly $13 million. It was inaugurated by Martin Indyk of WINEP/AIPAC and it serves to advance Israel policy in the Middle East particularly in the Gulf States.

“When important debates occur in Washington— whether over Middle East peace, global finance, or urban strategy— it's a fair bet that Brookings is driving the conversation …”

Now Brookings-Doha apparently is Queenie-the-lead-dog on this new initiative to advance the Arab Spring in Syria. But even if this is successful won't it under the best of conditions empower the Muslim Brotherhood, Israel's enemy, in Syria? Or worse?

Not to worry. Saban's (and thus Israel's) man of the hour Salman Shaikh, director Brookings-Doha, has a plan to unify Syrians, provide more lethal support to the opposition, support communities, talk to the Kurds, and set up a post-Assad government. If those five "policy principles" seem not only self-contradictory to you but also impossible to achieve, given past US performance on nation-building, then you're on the right track.

Losing Syria (And How to Avoid It)
October 18, 2012, Salman Shaikh
Salman Shaikh offers new insights into the current state of fragmentation in both the armed and political wings of the Syrian opposition, based on months of first-hand interviews and interactions with opposition actors and their international supporters. Shaikh offers a set of principles to be taken up by the international community, with the leadership of the United States, in order to address this fragmentation, hasten the fall of the Syrian regime, and contribute to a stable post-Assad Syria.

This paper puts forward five policy principles to help revitalize the partnership between Syrians fighting for change and their supporters in the international community:

1. The unification of the Syrian people around a national project to rebuild the country. . .
2. A U.S.-led effort to unify international channels of lethal and non-lethal support to opposition groups. . .
3. Support for community-led projects within Syria that promote opposition unity and cross-sectarian ties. .
4. Credible dialogue on Syria’s Kurdish question. . .
5. Coordinated efforts to plan for the post-Assad transition. . .

Inaction by the United States and the international community is making what should be a real and achievable goal – a democratic Syria in which the rights of all communities are guaranteed – substantially more difficult to achieve. Concrete steps such as the ones above must be taken immediately, before possible outcomes for Syria become even grimmer.

NOTE: The link is to the "quick view" -- I tried to load the pdf five times and my screen froze each time. Same thing.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Nov 4, 2012 2:57:24 PM | 66

And all without a single boot on the ground. Remarkable.

Posted by: Pat Bateman | Nov 4, 2012 2:09:37 PM | 65

US has long depended on local and imported traitors

Posted by: brian | Nov 4, 2012 3:38:40 PM | 67

@67, true, but Fortress America now has a robot army. There'll be a few black ops contractors running around, but America aims to shoot their golden rules into foreigners from the comfort of their lounge chairs.

Posted by: yes_but | Nov 4, 2012 4:11:19 PM | 68

In Doha-
Influential opposition figure Riad Seif has proposed a structure melding the rebel Free Syrian Army, regional military councils and other insurgent units alongside local civilian bodies and prominent opposition figures.

On Sunday, Seif said the initiative has won the backing of "12 key countries" but would not specify which ones. He said if a decision on the new leadership was made on Thursday, "maybe 100 countries will recognise this new leadership as the legitimate and only representative of the Syrians."

Reminds me of the "government in a box" that was supposed to be installed in a rural area of Afghanistan, which morphed into a "bleeding ulcer."

In Afghanistan, Operation Moshtarak (Dari for Together or Joint) was an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) pacification offensive in the town of Marja, Helmand Province, Afghanistan. General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of ISAF, also promised that following the offensive ISAF would install a "government in a box" in Marja. Although initially successfully, ISAF and the Afghans failed to set up a working government in the town, leading to a successful resurgence by the Taliban; 90 days into the offensive General McChrystal famously referred to it as a "bleeding ulcer."

Posted by: Don Bacon | Nov 4, 2012 4:24:30 PM | 69

@64 hy would Russia allow a US puppet to be installed in Syria, that makes little sense.

Posted by: nikon | Nov 4, 2012 5:11:11 PM | 70

My guess is that this confusion is a phenomenon of the growing rift between Qatar and Saudi Arabia's and the US' agenda in Syria. Either the Guardian has no clue or they are trying to hide any rift since this newspaper has served as an anti-Assad propaganda since day 1 of the Syria crisis

Posted by: Sophia | Nov 4, 2012 5:44:55 PM | 71

There are many players and they are all on different pages. Assad loves it, and may even have a hand in it. And/or Iran and Russia.

One problem with American Exceptionalism is that it leads to the false assumption that there can never be a significant reaction to a US action, that other countries must only be spectators. But there's no way escaping Newton's third law of motion, for every action there is a reaction.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Nov 4, 2012 5:58:32 PM | 72

Don Bacon #66
I'm not seeing the evidence that Brookings' Saban and Doha Centers are one and the same, although they appear to have close working relations and goals. Two of Doha's staffpeople are also Fellows at Saban. Brookings/Doha appears to have been initiated after Indyk was promoted from head of the Saban Center to vice-President of Foreign Policy at Brookings -- which could account for the overall WINEP perspective throughout Brookings' centers now:

Based in Qatar, the Brookings Doha Center is an initiative of the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. which advances high-quality research, independence, and policy impact in the Middle East. The Center maintains a reputation for cutting-edge, field-oriented, independent research on socioeconomic and geopolitical issues facing the broader Middle East, including relations with the United States.

The Brookings Doha Center International Advisory Council is co-chaired by H.E. Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani, prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of the State of Qatar, and Brookings President Strobe Talbott. Members include: Madeleine Albright, Samuel Berger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Edward Djerejian, Wajahat Habibullah, Musa Hitam, Pervez Hoodhboy, Rima Khalaf Hunaidi, Nemir Kirdar, Rami Khouri, Atta-ur-Rahman, Ismail Serageldin and Fareed Zakaria. Salman Shaikh serves as the center's director.

The center was formally inaugurated by H.E. Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani on February 17, 2008. Others present included Carlos Pascual, former vice president and director of the Brookings Foreign Policy Program, Martin Indyk, current vice president and director of the Brookings Foreign Policy program, and Hady Amr, founding director of the Brookings Doha Center. The center is funded by the State of Qatar.

In pursuing its mission, the Brookings Doha Center undertakes research and programming that engages key elements of business, government, civil society, the media, and academia on key public policy issues in the following four core areas:

(i) Democratization, political reform and public policy;
(ii) Middle East relations with emerging Asian nations, including on the geopolitics and economies of energy;
(iii) Conflict and peace processes in the region;
(iv) Educational, institutional, and political reform in the Gulf countries.

As a sidenote, I've been really dissatisfied with the Syria analyses by Rami Khouri that a friend keeps sending me. Maybe affiliating with Brookings has rubbed off on him.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Nov 4, 2012 9:26:33 PM | 73

#65 Russia and the US will then effectively be on the same page ?/not. you post just goes downhill fromthere.

rebel videos posted online show opposition fighters calling Syrian troops "Assad's dogs". Assad's death would have a disassociating effect.

in your dreams.

Posted by: annie | Nov 4, 2012 9:34:45 PM | 74

sorry, 'your post', and 'from there.'

Posted by: annie | Nov 4, 2012 9:35:41 PM | 75

@70 Since when has this been about what Russia wants? If the Russian Government had its way, things would revert back to pre-"uprising" mode.

@ annie

You can't deny that Assad must have a circle of Republican Guards around him at all times. His card is marked. The Americans are waiting for a suitable moment - say, once they've ensured that the void left by his demise can be quickly filled with pro-US lackeys.
Cue convenient and fortuitous "rebel mortar strike" on Presidential compound.

The weapon shipments will dry up once Turkey, Qatar, the US get what they want. How will the rebels then continue to fight? What will they be fighting for? (see Libya)
These rebels are in the pockets of the US Government - but they just don't know it yet.

Posted by: Pat Bateman | Nov 5, 2012 5:52:15 AM | 76

They might fight against US interests - or Israel - who knows, getting Quatar or Iran to pay them for whatever these countries want to be done :-))

Libya Seeks U.S. Investment in Areas From Oil to Tourism

The post of Foreign Minister of the Mr. Aujali mentioned in above article is presumably part of what the shootout in Tripoli is about.

But Syria is quite safe - it has strategic value only and the US army is supposed to be relocating to the Pacific, there is not incentive to annoy Russia more than convenient there.

Posted by: somebody | Nov 5, 2012 6:22:02 AM | 77

CV of Libyan cabinet - they are the ones to sign contracts - every Libyan carrying a weapon has a chance to disagree.

Posted by: somebody | Nov 5, 2012 6:29:56 AM | 78

Let's see what comes from this meeting in Qatar.

Has the road to Tehran really stopped outside the gates of Damascus? Doubt it.

Posted by: Pat Bateman | Nov 5, 2012 7:56:34 AM | 79

I guess Iran's strategy from the outset was to threaten Israel and not so much the US. I do not think Israel can survive a war with Iran.
Destabilizing Syria works just fine for Hezbollah as Assad used to have an interest to stop them fighting from his territory - not now. And who knows what is really going on in Egypt's Sinai?
Israel is able to destroy surrounding people and infrastructure and playing crazy that it might just do that is its strategy of balancing the threat, this will not stop rockets (and drones) once there is a real war as proven in the Lebanon war - and actually in Gaza - and Hezbollah (and Hamas) are much more prepared now than then.
There are really strange revelations in Haaretz now like this one - and it did not cause a political scandal -
'Israel's security chiefs rejected orders to prepare for Iran strike in 2010'

An investigation by an Israeli television program reveals that two years ago, Netanyahu and Barak ordered the heads of the IDF and Mossad to prepare for a strike, but they refused for fear it would lead to war.

I do not believe these news for one minute, however they are telling their population that there is no military option.

Posted by: somebody | Nov 5, 2012 8:17:03 AM | 80

@Rusty Pipes #73 - "I'm not seeing the evidence that Brookings' Saban and Doha Centers are one and the same, although they appear to have close working relations and goals."

The Saban Center belongs to Brookings.

In May 2002, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy was launched with a special address by His Majesty King Abdullah II bin al-Hussein of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to a select audience of policymakers in Washington, D.C. With the addition of the Saban Center, the Brookings Institution has rapidly become one of the most dynamic centers for research and analysis of U.S. policy in the Middle East. It was founded with the help of prominent Los Angeles businessman Haim Saban, who made a generous initial grant and pledged additional funds to endow the Center.

"As someone who has an abiding interest in promoting Arab-Israeli peace and preserving American interests in the Middle East, I am delighted to have an opportunity to help expand the work of the Brookings Institution in these areas," Mr. Saban said. "The Brookings Institution's credibility and reputation for rigorous, policy-relevant scholarship makes it the ideal institution to house this vital work."

Posted by: Don Bacon | Nov 5, 2012 9:54:03 AM | 81

@ somebody
The war scares are products of national policies shared by the US and Israel. It works out very well for Israel because it keeps the aid flowing and is a distraction from illegal settlements and the persecution of Palestinians. It works well for the US for similar reasons; it appoints a necessary enemy and keeps political contributions flowing -- kickback from the Israel aid.

Don't take them seriously, except as noted.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Nov 5, 2012 10:01:29 AM | 82

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