by PATRICK COCKBURN
Syria is close to following Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya as the target of a major Western military intervention. It certainly looks that way after the American decision last week to send weapons to the rebels in a move that can only deepen the conflict.
The supposed aim of the United States arms supply is to “tip the balance” in favour of the insurgents and force Bashar al-Assad’s government to negotiate its departure from power. But Assad holds all but one of Syria’s cities and large towns, so, to transform the military situation on the ground the US, Britain and France would have to become the main fighting force of the rebels and engage in a full-scale war.
Such a war would be similar to what happened in Afghanistan in 2001 when the cutting edge of the anti-Taliban offensive was strategic and tactical American air support. The anti-Taliban militiamen led by the Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara warlords of the Northern Alliance were few in number – I kept running into the same small units on the road from Kabul to Kandahar – and acted essentially as a mopping-up force that did little real fighting.
In northern Iraq in 2003 the Kurdish Peshmerga were careful not to advance anywhere until the Iraqi army facing them had been pummelled by US bombers. One Kurdish commander told me that his men could not advance an inch without US permission because “we have to co-operate with American air support”. Much the same happened in Libya in 2011 when, for all the laudatory media coverage of the rebels, they would not have survived for more than a few days without Nato Special Forces on the ground and air power overhead.
Of course, the Western intervention in Libya started off with the declared humanitarian purpose of preventing Gaddafi capturing Benghazi and massacring its people. The reality was that Nato leaders were determined to overthrow the regime. The main role of Libyan militiamen on the road south of Benghazi was to appear on foreign television. One of the more amusing sights at the time was to watch cameramen asking other members of the media to stand to one side so viewers would not see that journalists were more numerous than Libyan fighters in the front line.
The message of these three wars is that if the US and its Western allies do intervene in Syria it is they who will be the main players while the rebels will have only bit-parts or be there to give a Syrian gloss to foreign intervention. There are already signs of this happening. Brigadier Salim Idris, the chief of staff of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), appears to spend more of his time giving interviews to foreign journalists than commanding his troops. Not that these are numerous since even his own aides admit privately that he can give orders to a maximum of 10 per cent of the insurgent brigades in Syria.
There is a disconnect between the rebels as they really are and as presented by Western politicians such as David Cameron. Suddenly there is international concern about what will happen in Aleppo if the Assad forces launch a counter-attack to drive the rebels out of the parts of the city they hold. The rhetoric is similar to that used by then president Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron over the need to save the people of Benghazi from massacre in 2011. It is a measure of British and French cynicism that they hardly seemed to notice when, 10 days ago, militiamen in Benghazi, whom they formerly supported, shot dead 31 Libyans protesting against militia rule.
Britain and France speak as if the struggle was between an overwhelmingly popular insurgency and a hated dictatorship. But it was a rebel commander, Abu Ahmed, in the al-Tawheed Brigade that is part of the FSA in Aleppo, who volunteered to a reporter earlier this year that 70 per cent of people in Aleppo support Assad. “They don’t have a revolutionary mindset,” the rebel officer lamented, blaming this on the FSA’s oppression, and corruption caused by “parasites” who had infiltrated its ranks. Inured to horrors though Syrians have become, they were appalled last week to see pictures on Twitter of the mangled head of a 14-year-old boy selling coffee in the street in Aleppo. He had been shot twice in the face by rebels after they accused him of speaking ill of the Prophet. Also last week, rebels massacred 60 people in a Shia village in Deir Ezzor province in the east of the country.
The volume of propaganda justifying Western military intervention in Syria is so high because leaders advocating it know that polls show that such intervention is highly unpopular at home. Hence the White House’s claim that it decided to arm the rebels when it finally became convinced that the Assad regime had crossed a red line by using chemical weapons including sarin gas. Anthony Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic Studies in Washington, while arguing for full-scale US intervention in Syria, says “the ‘discovery’ that Syria used chemical weapons may well be a political ploy. It seems very likely that the administration has had virtually all the evidence for weeks, if not months.”
In fact, the evidence smells very like that for Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction in 2003. It begs the question of why Assad should use small quantities of sarin gas knowing it would be used to justify Western military intervention when his forces are not short of artillery and every other weapon if they want to kill people. One curious aspect of the sarin gas story is that, at the end of May, the Turkish security forces said they had arrested in Turkey militants of the Syrian rebel al-Nusra Front, affiliated to al-Qa’ida, who had in their possession a 2kg cylinder filled with sarin. This is far more substantial evidence for the possession of poison gas than anything alleged against Assad’s forces, but the US, Britain and France showed no interest.
At the G8 meeting in Enniskillen tomorrow it may become clearer how far the US and its allies distinguish between propaganda and reality in relation to Syria. Do Britain and France really imagine that a mix of bluff, threats and a limited supply of infantry weapons will have a decisive impact on the battlefield? Cordesman argues for a no-fly zone that should be rapidly transformed into “a de facto no-move zone”. This is the most effective way to allow the rebels to defeat Assad if they can. In other words, only an all-out war by the West will work against Assad; anything else will be like being “half-pregnant”.
Cordesman is probably right in his military assessment but surely wrong, as we have seen in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, that this will end the fighting. Better by far for the G8 leaders to compel all parties in Syria to go to Geneva, agree a ceasefire, establish a UN mission in Syria to monitor it, and then seek to negotiate long-term solutions.
The first priority should be for the US and Russia to compel the sides they back to cease fire. This would have to be policed on the ground by a UN observer force. I recall the much-maligned UN Supervision Mission in Syria in 2012 arranging a ceasefire in the hardcore rebel town of Douma on the outskirts of Damascus. It did not stop all the shooting but many Syrians lived who would otherwise have died.
There may be a more sinister reason why the US has started setting the bar so high for talks. Washington’s involvement is greater than appears because so much of it goes through Qatar, with the CIA determining who gets arms and money sent via Turkey. This would also explain why Britain and France are so keen to send the rebels weapons.
The explanation for the actions of the Western states may be that they do not want the war to end except as a victory for their allies. This certainly is the view of many in the Middle East, such as Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the former Iraqi National Security Adviser, who told me the civil war “is the best option for the West and Israel because it knocks out Syria as an opponent of their policies and keeps Iran busy. Hezbollah is preoccupied by Syria and not with Israel. Turkey’s idea of a new Ottoman empire is gone with the wind.”
This is a cynical but probably correct explanation for why the US, Britain, France and the Sunni monarchies do not want the war to end until they can declare victory.
by SHAMUS COOKE
For a president that is executing Bush’s “war on terror” against Al-Qaeda and “its affiliates,” it seems odd that President Obama has targeted the secular Syrian government for “regime change.”
Equally odd is that Obama’s strongest military ally on the ground in Syria- the best equipped and effective fighting force against the Syrian Government — is Jabhat al-Nusra, a group that has affiliated itself with al-Qaeda, and aims to turn Syria into an extremist Islamic state that enforces a fundamentalist version of Sharia law.
It’s difficult to know exactly how al-Nursa received its guns, but one can make an educated guess. For example, The New York Times explained in detail how the CIA has been in a massive arms trafficking operation that has already funneled thousands of tons of guns from Saudi Arabia and Qatar to Syria:
“The C.I.A. role in facilitating the [weapons] shipments… gave the United States a degree of influence over the process [of weapon distribution]…American officials have confirmed that senior White House officials were regularly briefed on the [weapons] shipments.”
Where are the guns winding up in this massive arms trafficking operation? An important question to ask is: which rebels in Syria have guns and which ones don’t. The Guardian reports:
“The [secular] Free Syrian Army’s shortage of weapons and other resources compared with [jihadist] Jabhat al-Nusra is a recurrent theme… ‘If you join al-Nusra, there is always a gun for you but many of the FSA brigades can’t even provide bullets for their fighters,’…3,000 FSA [Free Syrian Army] men have joined al-Nusra in the last few months, mainly because of a lack of weapons and ammunition…Al-Nusra fighters rarely withdraw for shortage of ammunition…”
While it’s difficult to know if CIA trafficked guns are going directly or indirectly to al-Nursa, it’s extremely likely that these guns are going directly into the hands of ideological cousins of al-Nursa, since the Syrian rebels are completely dominated by Islamic extremists.
For example, when the Economist magazine was outlining the most important fighting groups in Syria, “Who’s Who in the Syrian Battlefield,” they noted with regret that the only important non-Islamist group was in the Kurdish areas, which is virtually an autonomous zone. As far as the secular U.S.-backed fighting group, The Supreme Military Command, the Economist conceded it “has little control on the ground.” Keep in mind that the Economist is very much in favor of a U.S.-NATO military intervention in Syria.
The New York Times also confirmed the complete dominance of extremists on the rebel side:
“Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of.”
Thus, the minority of secular rebel fighters are not leading the civil war and will not be in power if Assad falls. Instead, honest Syrian revolutionaries will instantly fall victim to the extremists, who will immediately proceed to a mopping-up mission of their former allies.
It’s now clear that Obama’s foreign policy in Syria is actively encouraging terrorism. Many rebel-controlled areas in Syria are now new safe havens for terrorists, and there have been hundreds of terrorist bombing attacks against the Syrian government, many of which have targeted civilian areas.
While the U.S. is pouring arms into the jihadist-controlled areas, they have also downplayed the atrocities committed by these rebels, which are well documented on Youtube and include a multitude of war crimes that include beheadings, group execution of prisoners, ethnic cleansing, and the recent episode where a famous rebel commander was videotaped mutilating a dead Syrian solider and eating his heart.
By minimizing this barbarism the Obama administration ensures that it will continue, since the extremists are empowered by U.S. support and are shielded in the U.S. media and protected from international political pressures.
One question the U.S. media never thinks of asking is: Where did all these Islamic extremists come from and why? The Sunni Islamic opposition inside Syria has long been religiously moderate, implying that many of the extremists are foreigners.
The ideological source of this extremism came from Saudi Arabian religious figures and their allies, who use Islam as a political tool to target nations “unfriendly” to Saudi Arabia and the United States. The most glaring example of this in regard to Syria was the Fatwa (official interpretation/statement) issued by 107 Islamic scholars that denounced the Syrian government and encouraged Muslims to fight against it. The statement essentially encouraged jihad, though the word wasn’t mentioned explicitly.
The statement includes:
“It is a duty for all Muslims to support the revolutionaries in Syria [against the government] … so that they can successfully complete their revolution and attain their rights and their freedom.”
The hypocrisy of such a statement is almost too glaring: the many Saudi figures who signed the document that want “freedom” in Syria are not demanding freedom in Saudi Arabia, by far the country with the least amount of freedoms in the world.
With Saudi Arabia and Qatar providing guns to the Syrian rebels — with help from the CIA — the Saudi religious figures attached to the Saudi regime give religious/political support by misleading devout Muslims to flock to Syria to attack a country of Muslims, thus creating the giant sectarian divisions we now see throughout the Islamic world.
The vast majority of this Islamic sectarian warfare is exported by Saudi Arabia, which funds radical Islamic schools all over the Middle East that attract the downtrodden of these countries by providing basic social services that the host country is too poor — or unwilling — to provide. There is an informative chapter on this dynamic in Vijay Prashad’s excellent book, A People’s History of the Third World.
Now the debate among U.S.-NATO countries is whether to give more sophisticated weaponry to the extremist-dominated rebels in Syria. The Obama Administration is pressuring the European Union to drop its arms embargo on Syria so that a new torrent of weapons can flood the country (apparently the CIA operations haven’t yet completely drenched Syria with guns).
In response to the “drop the embargo” discussion, Oxfam intelligently responded by saying:
“Sending arms to the Syrian opposition won’t create a level playing field. Instead, it risks further fueling an arms free-for-all where the victims are the civilians of Syria. Our experience from other conflict zones tells us that this crisis will only drag on for far longer if more and more arms are poured into the country.”
One EU diplomat gave a scathing rebuke to the Obama Administration’s claim that it could ensure that new weapons wouldn’t wind up in “the wrong hands” in Syria:
“It would be the first conflict where we pretend we could create peace by delivering arms,” the diplomat said. “If you pretend to know where the weapons will end up, then it would be the first war in history where this is possible. We have seen it in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Weapons don’t disappear; they pop up where they are needed.”
In Syria the weapons are needed by those doing the brunt of the fighting. Again, the al-Nursa extremists are widely acknowledged to be the most effective fighting force against the Syrian government, the guns will thus flow to them.
Obama has taken the saying, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” to irrational heights, and in so doing is helping to produce a new generation of Islamic extremists that will help fuel the U.S.-led never-ending “war on terror.” The real intention of the War on Terror is not to stop terrorists, but to target nation states that are opposed to U.S. foreign policy: Iraq and Libya — like Syria — were both secular countries at the time of their being invaded; Afghanistan was invaded even though the vast majority of those involved in the 9-11 attacks were from Saudi Arabia. There was no terrorist problem in Iraq before the U.S. invaded, just like there was no terrorist problem in Syria before the U.S.-backed rebels came onto the scene.
It’s blatantly obvious to most Americans that Syria and Iran are at the top of Obama’s war list, a much higher priority than any terrorist group. This is why Obama is tolerating the terrorist groups inside Syira; they are being used as tools against his real target, Syria and then Iran.
The Syrian people must be left to themselves to decide their future. The United States is utterly incapable of “helping” countries by using military means, as the fractured nations of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya painfully prove. The global anti-war movement must demand Hands Off Syria!
Published: June 1, 2013 in The New York Times
“THE New Digital Age” is a startlingly clear and provocative blueprint for technocratic imperialism, from two of its leading witch doctors, Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, who construct a new idiom for United States global power in the 21st century. This idiom reflects the ever closer union between the State Department and Silicon Valley, as personified by Mr. Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, and Mr. Cohen, a former adviser to Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton who is now director of Google Ideas.
The authors met in occupied Baghdad in 2009, when the book was conceived. Strolling among the ruins, the two became excited that consumer technology was transforming a society flattened by United States military occupation. They decided the tech industry could be a powerful agent of American foreign policy.
The book proselytizes the role of technology in reshaping the world’s people and nations into likenesses of the world’s dominant superpower, whether they want to be reshaped or not. The prose is terse, the argument confident and the wisdom — banal. But this isn’t a book designed to be read. It is a major declaration designed to foster alliances.
“The New Digital Age” is, beyond anything else, an attempt by Google to position itself as America’s geopolitical visionary — the one company that can answer the question “Where should America go?” It is not surprising that a respectable cast of the world’s most famous warmongers has been trotted out to give its stamp of approval to this enticement to Western soft power. The acknowledgments give pride of place to Henry Kissinger, who along with Tony Blair and the former C.I.A. director Michael Hayden provided advance praise for the book. Read more…
إطبع، قطع و رش
إطبع، قطع و رش
Anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account has probably noticed an increase in the number of political postings over the past few years. This is due, in part, to the explosive rise in social media outlets and users. But voters are not the only people who use social media; among politicians, 9 out of 10 Senators and Representatives have Twitter accounts. However, many are starting to wonder if social media is becoming less a reporter of political races and more of a predictor of the results. In Senate races, the candidate with more Facebook friends than his or her opponent has won 81% of the time. And one email sent to 60 million Facebook users prompted an additional 340,000 people to vote in the 2010 election. This infographic illustrates just how politics and social media are affecting each other.
Info-graphic & post by Open-Site.org
More Stencils to say “No” to the Egyptian Constitution Draft – استنسلات جديدة لدعم “لا لمسودة” الدستور المصري
New Stencils to campaign for “No” to the Egyptian Constitution Draft & for raising awareness before the 2nd round of the National referendum of 22 December.
Save, Print, Cutout and Spray.
المزيد من الاستنسلات للترويج للتصويت بلا لمسودة الدستور المصري و نشر التوعية قبل المرحلة الثانية من الإستفتاء على مسودة الدستور 22 ديسمبر 2012.
إحفظ، إطبع، قطع و رش
PDF version available here: No Dostor 2
PDF version available here: Dostor Poison
PDF version available here: Army Beard
لمعرفة ليه لأ، إقرأ: لا لمسودة الدستور المصري
The outcome of two heavy weeks at Ithadia (Egyptian Presidential Palace), protesting the New Presidential constitutional amendments of November 22, which effectively Made Morsi an undisputed dictator; and the Referendum on the New Egyptian Constitution Draft set for December 15.
These were the Graffitis we painted on the Ithadia Palace walls, saying :
No to the Pharoah Morsi
No to the Ikhwani Constitution
The Graffitis were published in two new outlets, Al Arabiya & Guardian.
Here are the links for the Stencils used for the graffitis if anyone would like to spread the Joy!
A little something we made hastily to counter Ikhwani propaganda!
الإعنرضات على نصوص المسودة الباطلة فموجودة بالتفصيل في هذه القائمة:
و الملخص للتوزيع:
Stencil “No” the Egyptian Constitution Draft for raising awareness before the National referendum of 15 December.
Save, Print, Cutout and Spray.
استنسل لا لمسودة الدستور المصري لنشر التوعية قبل إستفتاء 15 ديسمبر 2012.
إحفظ، إطبع، قطع و رش