The trial of five alleged al-Qaeda members accused of involvement in the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US has descended into farce after they refused to respond to questions in protest at their mistreatment during detention.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center towers in New York, and his four co-defendants appeared on Saturday before a US military tribunal at the Guantanamo Bay US naval base in Cuba.
But the arraignment failed to go smoothly after the defendants refused to answer the judge’s questions in protest at what their civilian lawyers described as their deep concerns about the fairness of the proceeding and the mistreatment of the defendants by their prison guards. The lawyers also said they were only allowed limited access to their clients.
Cheryl Borman, a civilian attorney for Walid bin Attash, told the court that the treatment of her client at Guantanamo had interfered with his ability to participate in the proceedings. “These men have been mistreated,” she said.
Attash was transferred to the courtroom while being tied to his chair.
Ramzi Binalshibh, another suspect, eventually attempted to address the court. When told by the judge he could speak later, he replied, “Maybe you’re not going to see us anymore. Maybe they kill me and say I committed suicide.”
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is of Pakistani origin but was born in Kuwait, was arrested in Pakistan in 2003 and transferred to the Guantanamo base in Cuba in 2006.
The defendants, who face charges of terrorism, hijacking, conspiracy, and murder, were held for more than three years in secret CIA prisons before being transferred to the Guantanamo detention facility in 2006.
Attempts to try the suspects in a US civilian court in 2009 stopped due to Congressional opposition. According to new regulations for the trial of the five suspects, confessions that have been made under torture cannot be used in court.
This is while all five have said they were tortured during detention. The CIA has admitted that Mohammed alone was waterboarded 183 times.
Defense lawyers say the trial lacks legitimacy because of restricted access to their clients, while US rights groups have also questioned the fairness of the proceedings.
The lawyers have argued that the suspects were subjected to various forms of torture and held without a chance to examine the evidence against them.
A century ago, so many Greeks were arriving in Chicago that Hull House hired someone who spoke the language to learn their stories. Businesses run by Greeks were popping up west of the Loop in what is now Greektown and the UIC campus.
But the Jews found Chicago first, coming steadily from the 1840s onward.
What both groups have in common is a strong bond for their homelands – Greeks frequently sending money home to family members and buying land, Jews supporting the efforts to create a Jewish homeland in the Middle East and supporting Israel since its creation.
“We have two of the most significant diaspora groups in Chicago, both Jewish and Greek,” said Endy Zemenides, executive director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council in Chicago.
The instability in the eastern Mediterranean recent years has brought Greek and Jewish communities in Chicago and across the U.S. together through an emerging trilateral alliance among the U.S., Greece and Israel.
“There is a need for an alliance. What is happening in the Middle East is affecting what is going on regionally and globally,” said professor Eytan Gilboa, director of the Center for International Communication at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.
Gilboa, a world-renowned expert on international communication and U.S. policy in the Middle East was in Chicago this week as part of “Today’s Middle East: Challenges, Leadership, Communication,” which is charged with tackling a range of topics ranging from Iran’s weapons program to the special ties Israel has with Greece and Poland. The program ends Sunday.
At one of the events Wednesday, titled, “Greece, Israel and the United States: An Emerging Trilateral Alliance in the Middle East,” co-sponsored by the Greek consulate and National Strategy Forum, a set of panelists discussed challenges in the Middle East and the importance of strong ties among the countries.
“This is a strategic relationship; this is a relationship that will last forever. This is where the Greek, Israeli, Cypriot, and U.S. partnership can make a difference,” said Zemenides, whose group is one of the most influential Greek organizations in the U.S.
Gilboa and Zemenides stressed the importance of communicating to Greek and Jewish communities about the emerging alliance in face of challenges.
“Greeks and Jews have worked together for centuries,” Zemenides said. “If they work together you can influence U.S. policy and can create stability in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
Insecurities faced by Israel and Greece today stem from Turkish assertiveness in the Mediterranean, nuclear proliferation, Iran’s weapons program, piracy in the high seas, terrorism, the Arab Spring, energy security and economic crisis.
“If you look at the map there is geopolitical-strategic change taking place. You can then understand the reason for improved relations,” Gilboa said.
All these events have caused great instability: So how can the emerging trilateral alliance stabilize the region and ensure the interests of the U.S., Greece and Israel?
By increasing the economic, military and energy ties taking place today and in years to come.
In 2010 prime ministers from both countries visited the other as a way to signify stronger diplomatic relations.
Benjamin Netanyahu was the first Israeli prime minister to officially visit Greece. There he and his Greek counterpart, George Papandreou, discussed many topics such as an increase of military and economic ties.
This past April the U.S., Israel and Greece conducted joint military exercise in the Mediterranean named Noble Dina, simulating potential confrontations with Turkey.
On a less ominous note, Greece received a boost to its tourism sector last year thanks to 420,000 vacationing Israelis who took new non-stop flights from Israel to Greece. As Turkey and Israel’s relationship soured in 2009, Greece opened its doors to Israelis who normally vacation in Turkey.
On another front, energy cooperation among Israel, Greece and Cyprus has increased as well, with the discovery of natural gas off the shores of Israel and extending to Cyprus, Turkey and Lebanon. The area known as the Levant Basin Province has enough natural gas for globalwide use for one year. Officials say they realize that the cooperation among Cyprus, Greece and Israel over the find increases the possibility of future confrontations with Turkey.
Though Greece is located outside the Levant Basin, it has shared national and economic interests with Cyprus.
The Greek-Israeli relationship was not always so cozy.
Before 1990, Greece was the only European member nation that did not have full diplomatic relations with Israel. Before then, Greece’s foreign policy was influenced by Arab states with whom it had important economic ties.
“We need an-on-the ground realistic assessment, we are on the outside looking in,” said Richard Friedman, president and chair of the National Strategy Forum, who moderated the event.
“We have honed in on the difficult issues and the people who have assembled in this room suggests to me that we have informed citizens,” Friedman said in his closing remarks to the 50 Greek and Jewish leaders in the audience.
“That is the whole purpose that we are all here. That is why we welcome Bar-Ilan University. What we are doing here is communicating.”
According to both Gilboa and Zemenides, economic constraints on countries have made alliances such as these attractive. Greece, Israel, the U.S. and even Cyprus have navies that make them Mediterranean powers. Combined, they can increase their influence.
“This alliance is fundamentally, culturally, historically, geo-strategically on the same page and it has to be encouraged,” Zemenides said. “We have to have stability in the eastern Mediterranean otherwise the world is in trouble.”
- Bibi: First We’ll Take Tehran, Then We’ll Take Istanbul (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Netanyahu’s Role in Crafting the “Strategic Asset” Myth (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Although President Obama’s top counter-terrorism adviser says caution is exercised when making drone attacks, official US announcements often state that suspects are killed. This very word betrays the fact that every drone attack is a crime because it is illegal in any civilized society to kill suspects. The Pentagon and CIA killings are murder, pure and simple. (Only last week, Washington announced it killed four “suspected militants” by drone attack in Pakistan, resulting in a formal protest from Islamabad “strongly condemning” the killings. “Such attacks are in total contravention of international law and established norms of interstate relations,” the Pakistan statement underscored.)
Moreover, the Washington Post quoted a Pakistani government official who reminded: “When a duly elected democratic Parliament says three times not to do this, and the U.S. keeps doing it, it undermines democracy.”
Presidential adviser John Brennan told a group of academicians at the Woodrow Wilson Center, “We only authorize a strike if we have a high degree of confidence that innocent civilians will not be injured or killed, except in the rarest of circumstances,” Charlie Savage of The New York Times reports in the April 30th edition.
But Brennan acknowledged “instances when — despite the extraordinary precautions we take — civilians have been accidentally injured, or worse, killed in these strikes. It is exceedingly rare, but it has happened. When it does, it pains us and we regret it deeply, as we do any time innocents are killed in war.”
Exceedingly rare? As Juan Cole of the University of Michigan observed in The Nation magazine, the Britain-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism(BIJ) found “not only are civilians routinely killed by U.S. drone strikes in northern Pakistan” but “often people rushing to the scene of a strike to help the wounded are killed by a second launch.” Presumably, some of these victims may include medical personnel and relatives.
The BIJ estimates the US has killed some 3,000 people in 319 drone strikes. Of these, 600 were civilian bystanders and approximately one in four of those were children.
“At the very time Brennan made his speech, there emerged further confirmation of CIA “signature strikes’ that were launched at people who allegedly may be engaged in a pattern of activity that could somehow suggest their involvement in some form of terrorism on the basis of dubious intelligence,” said Francis Boyle, the distinguished professor of international law at the University of Illinois, Champaign.
“These “signature strikes’ are indiscriminate and thus illegal and war crimes. And the fact that all these drone strikes constitute widespread and systematic war crimes mean they also constitute Crimes against Humanity as defined by the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court and customary international criminal law,” Boyle added.
“Obama, Brennan, Petraeus and the CIA operatives involved must be held criminally accountable for these war crimes and Crimes against Humanity in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, inter alia,” said Boyle, author of “Tackling America’s Toughest Questions” (Clarity).
Obama, who presents himself as the doting father of two daughters, is systematically and criminally taking the lives of other parents’ children in his blind passion to destroy his enemies. He has radically stepped up drone attacks over his predecessor, George W. Bush, and makes no apologies for their commission. The drones are now so “hot” in the Pentagon arsenal that manufacturers cannot keep pace with the demand for them. The US has 7,000 unmanned aerial vehicles, Cole writes, which it has deployed in strikes in six countries under direction of the CIA and Pentagon.
Cole points out the drone strikes are largely carried out in places where no war has been declared; neither has any Status of Forces Agreement been signed. “They operate outside the framework of the Constitution, with no due process or habeas corpus, recalling pre-modern practices of the English monarchy, such as declaring people outlaws, issuing bills of attainder against individuals who offend the crown and trying them in secret Star Chamber proceedings.”
“The only due process afforded those killed from the air is an intelligence assessment, possibly based on dubious sources and not reviewed by a judge,” Cole writes. “There is no consistency, no application of the rule of law. Guilt by association and absence of due process are the hallmarks of shadow government.”
Of the 3,000 slayings in Pakistan by drone strikes, writes Bill Van Auken, only 170 victims have been identified as “known militants.”
According to Van Auken, Brennan told his Woodrow Wilson Center audience, “The constitution empowers the president to protect the nation from any imminent threat of attack” but that assertion “is a lie.” Van Auken explained, “As US officials acknowledged, Sunday’s attack in Pakistan was directed at elements who were allegedly preparing not to attack the US, but rather to resist the US military occupation of Afghanistan.”
The accelerating drone strikes are only one aspect of the emerging covert operations that were once a minor arrow in the national security quiver, The Nation writer Cole states, but today are “the cutting edge of American power.”
“Drone strikes, electronic surveillance and stealth engagements by military units such as the Joint Special Operations Command, as well as dependence on private corporations, mercenary armies and terrorist groups, are now arguably more common as tools of US foreign policy than conventional warfare or diplomacy,” Cole writes.
- John Brennan Should Tell the Whole Truth About CIA Drone Strikes in Yemen and Pakistan (gloucestercitynews.net)
Palestinian political prisoners illegally held in Israeli jails are on hunger strike and some are near death. The population of strikers includes 200 child prisoners, 27 Palestinian legislative council members, and 456 prisoners from Gaza who have not been allowed family visits since 2007 . Meanwhile, colonization continued at a relentless pace. Ramzy Baroud and Jeff Halper argue that Israel is “fixing” the outcome and is an “end-game” scenario to take over most of the West Bank and leave us in small cantons . Yet, judging from my research into the carefully planned Zionist project, such plans are not end games but mileposts to give the Zionists time to consolidate gains in preparation for the next round of expansion in precisely the way Ben Gurion described it to his son in 1937. Ben Gurion explained lucidly how the new state of Israel when established on part of the coveted land would be a base of steady expansion and growth in the future with or without agreement from “Arabs” . I pondered how little has changed in the intervening 75 years. Colonial Israel continues to push the envelope and expand with or without agreement from compliant “Arabs”. Compliant Arabs existed in 1937 (headed by Ragheb Al-Nashashibi) and existed in 1967 and in 2012. There also existed intellectual and honest Arabs throughout our history.
Zionist colonization is not driven by emotion or haphazard action. It is done as instructed by the founding father of Political Zionism Theodore Herzl in 1897: “we must investigate and take possession of the new Jewish country by means of every modern expedient.” Modern expedients advocated by Herzl include planned methodical structure to remove the native people (with or without agreement of some Arabs) and create a large Jewish state. Herzl was not specific on size of the “required estate” but Ben Gurion and people of his era thought it possible to go as far as between the Nile and the Euphrates.
The plans of colonizers are remarkably similar and known from the diaries of Herzl in 1897, from the letter from Ben Gurion to his son in 1937, the Allon plan of 1967, and from the Hebron accords of 1997. It is a plan of expansion without some Arabs consenting or occasionally with agreement from some Arabs. These agreements, like the treaties that some Native Americans signed with the government of the United States in its expansionary phase, were and are violated because they are merely consolidation tools . I think that like these Native American chiefs, some Palestinians thought that they are doing the best they could under difficult circumstances. Most of the Native American “leaders” had no concept or understanding of the true nature of the notions and emotions driving the Westward expansion of the white colonialists in the USA. They did not delve deeply into notions of manifest destiny, choseness, and racism that characterize their oppressors. One could say the ideology of Native Americans exhibited the exact opposite of their colonizers and thus they presumed that whites are ultimately human and could be dealt with as equals.
Peace for natives is to get their freedom, to live in dignity, and most of all to get the boot of colonization off our necks. Peace for the colonizers is to have the victim stop wiggling under their boots. Towards this they devised ingenious plans including a Palestinian Preventive Security force. Any rational human being can see this dictation and imbalance of power in daily news. Thus the people are left out of decisions whether on “negotiations”, on “national reconciliation”, on going and not going to the UN, or on how they may eventually be liberated. Despairing and riding a ship without compass or rudder, the people grumble and boil underneath and later erupt in revolt.
Needs and desires of the colonizers and the colonized are not the same. Occupiers and colonizers want more opportunities to progress via consolidation and strengthening of the status quo and allowing them to expand further. We, the occupied and colonized people, want to halt and eventually reverse the process of injustice. Palestinians want to return to our homes and lands and live peacefully as we did for millennia. We insist on return and self-determination. We insist that the country must remain multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multi-cultural. This is not a border dispute nor is it a quibble over the Israeli illegal control of the religious sites. Like in the struggle in South Africa under apartheid, it is a struggle that pits two very different visions of the area: one of racism and apartheid and the other of justice and equality.
Sporadic acts of heroic popular resistance are not enough to reach peace with justice. Coordination and joint action must take place. What hinders it is a system developed by the occupiers and agreed to by some of the occupied people. Personal economic benefit maintains the status quo. What is done with support from a Palestinian authority is nothing short of making this occupation the most profitable in history (several billion dollars flow annually to Israeli coffers as a result of this occupation). Already Israeli and Palestinian business deals are being executed for example in area C. This is the “economic peace plan” of Netanyahu and others. Those who may think of disrupting the status quo are investigated and punished. Most Palestinians are excellent diagnosticians and have figured this out. But I think many have not started to articulate solutions or ideas to get out of this mud hole that the Oslo Process (actually started with the 10 point program in 1974) put us into. It is not going to be easy and it does require sacrifice. But those delusional individuals who think that they have a salary or a position and they do not want to risk rocking the boat should think again. They should think of how their children or grandchildren would live under a system of racism and oppression. This is as true of Israelis as it is true of Palestinians.
Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) give us hope. Shimon Peres, the architect of Israel’s arsenal of Weapons of Mass Destruction and a war criminal once explained:
“In order to export you need good products, but you also need good relations… [If] Israel’s image gets worse, it will begin to suffer boycotts. There is already an artistic boycott against us and signs of an undeclared financial boycott are beginning to emerge.”
International figures who worked against apartheid in South Africa argued convincingly of why this can help here in Apartheid Israel . But BDS is only a tool and certainly not sufficient to effect the needed change. There has to be a structured program from the people which includes an articulation of a vision with concrete goals for the future. In my book “Sharing the Land of Canaan” in 2004 I argued for precisely such a program to move from apartheid to a state of all its citizens. These notions have gained widespread acceptance among intellectuals and activists of various religious and political backgrounds. To arrive to this vision, we need organization.
Organization requires visionary leadership arising organically from a maturing rising population. We should not be reluctant to push our existing leaders and if they are not willing to move then to create alternative leadership. ALL Factions have aging and non-innovative leadership and ALL factions have younger energetic and dedicated (but marginalized) individuals. Clearly the status quo is devastating for us and cannot last. We know from history that people will rise-up and DEMAND change.
Is it time for varied voices to coalesce into a thunderous uproar that cannot be ignored? May we organize meetings and discuss publicly the path forward? While many for example discussed the failure of the “two state solution” and some articulated future visions, we need more than that. Can we as a people in 1948 areas, in the West Bank and Gaza and in exile create mechanisms and structures that take us to where we decide to go? Can we convince the world and even Israelis that we are serious about working for a future of peace with justice and prosperity for everyone? Voices of negativism must not dominate this critical stage. This conversation must be open to people of goodwill from all factions and from independents. While it must start among Palestinians, we must later involve our trusted supporters from around the world. We do have the resources: financial, intellectual, emotional, and physical. Let those who have skills in organizing organize and those who have skills in media work do media work. Let those who have skills in social networking do that. Those who have skills in music write songs for the revolution. Imagine if we can get even 5% or even 1% of the Palestinians around the world as participants in an organized effort. The change that could happen can be monumental.
The world today only respects those who respect themselves and struggle for their own rights. We have nothing to be ashamed of as Palestinians even though 7 million of us are refugees or displaced people. We have a lot to be proud of from our history . We cannot give up now that the crisis of Palestine weighs on the world conscience and when the Arab spring could change the whole geopolitical reality of the Middle East. Even if we fail at our goal this time, the positive spirit that results would enrich all our lives. It would unleash the creativity and the energy that we know is in us. Change can and must happen because it ours is an existential struggle for 11.5 million Palestinians in the world and for our children and grandchildren born and unborn. Each of us has a role to play and has skills and other resources to contribute. Even if we start slow and among a few individuals, it will grow because we have no other choice. Let us get on with it.
 Ramzy Baroud- Israel plots an end-game http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2012/05/03/illegal-settlements-bonanza-israel-plots-an-endgame/, Jeff Halper http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/04/2012428124445821996.html but see also Susan Abulhawa’s reply to Jeff Halper http://palestinechronicle.com/view_article_details.php?id=19274#.T6RigYJSHIA.twitter
 Ben Gurion letter to his son, sent October 5, 1937 http://www.palestine-studies.org/files/B-G%20Letter%20translation.pdf
 The Oslo accords were an excellent tool by Israel to consolidate its hold and in violations of the Geneva conventions allowed Israel “civil control” in >60% of the West Bank called area C. In further negotiations it was leaked how much people like Saeb Erekat were willing to keep going in handing over these areas to Israel http://www.aljazeera.com/palestinepapers/
 Desmond Tutu on the need for Divestment from Israeli apartheid http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/columns/justice-requires-action-to-stop-subjugation-of-palestinians/1227722
 “Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of Hope and Empowerment” http://www.qumsiyeh.org/popularresistanceinpalestine/
- Palestinians: The Forgotten People (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Solidarity and Realpolitik: My Response to Jeff Halper (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Justice requires action to stop subjugation of Palestinians ~ by Desmond Tutu (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
- Revisiting the Palestine question: An interview with Ilan Pappe (alethonews.wordpress.com)
On Friday, May 4th, Israel’s channel 2 revealed that the Israeli occupation army appointed Lt. Col. Eisner, who attacked a Danish ISM activist in the face with his rifle at the end of the confrontation on April 14, as a deputy commander of the Tactical Training Center in Tze’elim.
In his new position, Eisner will be responsible for training battalions of infantry and armor in battlefield simulations.
A Hebrew-language newspaper reported that through a private conversation taped by a third party which was broadcast on Channel 10, Israeli officers and students from the military school supported Eisner.
Chief of Staff Benny Grantz, who issued a decision to remove Eisner from his post as deputy commander of the Jordan Valley Brigade following the incident in April, also supported Eisner and contradicted the decision he had taken earlier.
“The IDF is a large military force and there are many events in many places and people can make mistakes. We work hard at it, but this incident is not representative of the IDF, or of Lt. Col. Eisner,” said Grantz
Though the Israeli army has denounced the attack on the pro-Palestinians activists and Eisner’s removal was on “moral grounds”, Israeli officers described the incident as just “professional and command failures.”
- Israeli soldiers assault cycling group in Jordan Valley (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Israel’s Supreme Court has turned down an appeal requesting the release of two Palestinian prisoners, who have been on hunger strike for more than two months.
According to their lawyer, judges on Monday ruled that their hunger strike was not a reason to release them from administrative detention despite their being in life-threatening condition.
Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla began refusing food on February 29 in protest to their administrative detention, a controversial practice used by Tel Aviv, which allows Israeli authorities to hold people, mostly Palestinians, without charge or trial indefinitely.
Diab has been in custody for nine months while Halahla has been detained since June 2010.
“I believe what the court is doing here is trying to break the will of both prisoners so they will back down in their hunger strike,” said their lawyer Jamil Khatib, adding that the two men, however, intend to “continue their strike to the end.”
“Israeli courts do not handle administrative detention in a positive way. It shows that the intelligence services have the final word,” he added.
The Israeli group Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has condemned the court’s decision, describing it as “a death sentence” for both men.
An estimated 1,600 to 2,000 Palestinian prisoners, who began an open-ended hunger strike on April 17 to protest against Israel’s administrative detention rules, the use of solitary confinement, maltreatment of sick detainees, and difficulty in securing family visits and strip searches that are imposed on visitors.
According to an April 1, 2012 report published by the non-governmental Palestinian prisoner support and human rights association, Addameer, at least 4,610 “political” Palestinian prisoners are held in Israeli jails.
Addameer figures show 322 of the Palestinian prisoners are administrative detainees.
- 1,600 Palestinian prisoners begin open-ended hunger strike in Israeli jails (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Until Freedom or Martyrdom: Thaer Halahleh on 60 Days of Hunger Strike (alethonews.wordpress.com)
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a plea to energy-starved India on Monday to reduce its Iranian oil imports, as Washington struggles to get Asia’s economic powerhouses on board with its sanctions.
A US ban on Iranian oil is due to come into force at the end of June, with countries potentially facing sanctions if they continue to trade with the Islamic republic.
New Delhi has been hesitant to back the ban and is planning to trade in currencies other than dollars, therefore avoiding US sanctions.
Clinton told a town hall meeting in the eastern city of Kolkata that there’s an adequate supply in the market for India to find alternative sources of oil.
She noted India has taken some steps to reduce its imports from Iran, but said the US wants to see more.
“If there weren’t an adequate supply… we would understand, but we believe that there is adequate supply,” she said.
India, with an economic growth rate of about 7 percent, has an insatiable need for oil. About 9 percent of its oil imports are from Iran, though officials say it has reduced its dependency on Iranian oil in recent months.
“We appreciate what has been done and, of course, we want to keep the pressure on Iran,” Clinton said.
India remains dependent on the imports, and Iran is its second largest oil supplier after Saudi Arabia.
India and Iran reached an agreement earlier this year that would allow India to pay for about 45 percent of the purchases in rupees.
Tehran would then use the Indian currency to buy goods from Delhi.
Clinton said the US remained focused on putting global pressure on Iran.
“We believe, at this moment in time, the principle threat is a nuclear-armed Iran,” she said. “We need India to be part of the international effort.”
Clinton will head to Delhi later Monday, where she is expected to press India to push ahead with an economic program that would open the way to US conglomerates such as Walmart entering the fragile market.
The prime minister’s chief economic adviser said last month that no new reforms were likely before the next election in 2014.
Today, more than 14 million voters in Syria will have the chance to select among several thousand candidates for 250 parliamentary seats.
Cities across the country are plastered with posters of the candidates, with many adopting an Obama-sque “Change we can believe in” slogan.
However, the armed groups that have been backed by the NATO powers for the past 15 months have rejected the polls, and are showing their hostility by targeting candidates for assassination, usually by the use of explosives.
Since the armed uprising began, several thousand members of the security forces and their family members have been killed by the insurgents, who themselves have lost thousands of their own.
However, those relying on Western media are told that every such death has been caused by the security forces, ignoring the deadly violence that is being unleashed in the country by groups of armed mobs.
We have seen this before, in Libya, where tens of thousands of people have died so far as the result of externally backed civil war. In that country, those willing to kill regime elements were given training, cash and weapons.
Today, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are providing the same assistance to those seeking to use deadly force against the government in Damascus.
Although Syria President Bashar al-Assad has announced a raft of reforms, including new media laws and the right to form political parties, each such announcement has been met by an escalation in violence, which has rendered null the ceasefire brokered by UN envoy Kofi Annan.
Since mid-April, there have been numerous ceasefire violations by the insurgents, with the Alawi, the Muslim sect to which the Assad family belongs, and the Christian community the main target of the insurgents. Syria is the home of the Patriarchate of Antioch, the oldest church in Christendom.
For reasons not clear, the triumvirate of Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have joined hands with the NATO powers to back the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood has been the greatest beneficiary of the Arab Spring.
Today in Syria, one can see women across the country dressed as they please. Were the Brotherhood to take control, this freedom might soon be replaced with the obligation to wear the chador (full veil). Already in Egypt and in Tunisia, the secular ethos of the country is rapidly giving way to Saudi-style conservatism.
While European members of NATO are opposed to Islamic conservatives in their own countries, in the Arab world, they favor such elements over those who are secular. The result is a galloping conservatism across the Arab world.
Clearly, the NATO powers are aware that the more hardline local regimes are, the less chance that they will be able to compete with the US and the EU.
Rather than support the process of democratization in Syria, the NATO powers have joined hands with regional powers to train, arm and provide cash to the armed opposition, thereby fomenting a violent civil war in the country.
The 11 percent of the population that are Alawi and the 9 percent of Syria’s 24 million people that are Christian are terrified that they will become the target of ethnic cleansing. As for the majority Sunni community, more than two-thirds are moderate, with less than a third favoring the conservative Wahabbi-Salafi faith.
We have seen this before, in Afghanistan in the 1980s, where the US backed religious extremists to fight the USSR. The effects of that mistake are still creating harmful ripples across the region.
Today, rather than support secular elements and encourage the transition to democracy, NATO is backing armed groups that create mayhem across the country, groups that overwhelmingly follow an extremist ideology.
Of course, there are exiled Syrians who have congregated in Paris to provide a moderate face to the armed struggle. However, these people control nothing, only those with guns do.
And these days, more and more guns are flowing into Syria, as NATO seeks regime change not through the ballot but through the bomb.
The author is director and professor of the School of Geopolitics at Manipal University in India. He visited Syria last month as part of an Indian delegation.
- Syria border guards foil infiltration attempt from Turkey: Report (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Sarkozy and Hollande on Middle East: La Même Chose (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Annan Spokesman Says Syria Peace Plan on Track, White House Claims Opposite (alethonews.wordpress.com)