William Cook in his masterly way tells us not to give up even if “overwhelmed by darkness of the times”.
And he reminds us that “sixty-five years ago this May 14, the world body admitted to its membership the state of Israel even as that self-declared state was in the process of invading, destroying and leveling 418 towns and villages owned by the people of Palestine who suffered death or expulsion out of their homeland to live without human rights anywhere in the world.”
His eloquence is designed to stiffen the sinews. But some weary truth-tellers and justice-seekers simply don’t want their sinew stiffened any more. For years they’ve given the Palestine thing their best shot, their family life has suffered… and for what?
With the 14th of May comes the realization that the crimes of the US-backed Israelis continue with impunity, encouraged and rewarded by those on high who should know better, while the suffering of the Palestinians knows no limit. This has been the longest and cruelest jackbooted torment of modern times yet the blood-spattered perpetrators are warmly welcomed into the drawing rooms of supposedly civilized Western rulers and promised undying support for ever. The British government has effectively disabled its Universal Jurisdiction laws to give these creatures a safe haven.
Of course, the problem is not just the Israelis. Sami Jamil Jadallah reports how the Palestinian leadership has “failed at every thing it set out to do. It failed at liberation, it failed at ending the occupation, failed at building governing institutions, failed at disengaging Palestinian economy from the Israeli economy, failed at ending the continued expansion of Jewish settlements, failed at bringing down the Apartheid Wall (though it had a court ruling), failed at creating a transparent and clean government…”
Jadallah remarks that the Arab League “recently gave Israel added incentives allowing the trade off of prime Palestinian territories in exchange for toxic waste dump. With this present leadership there is no hope for ever ending the occupation… More troubling is the commitment made with the approval of the Palestinian leadership that ‘Palestine’ will never file legal charges against Israel for past, present and future crimes.”
Hamas, naturally, are not best pleased. Their Salah al-Khawaja told Quds Press that international law does not allow it, and any idea of land swaps gives legitimacy to the occupation to continue its settlement activity in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem Post was reporting three years ago that the Palestinians and US-backed Israel had agreed on the principle of a land swap, but denied that the two sides had reached any further agreement. The issue was the ratio of land Israel would give to the Palestinians in exchange for keeping their illegal settlement blocs, with the Palestinians demanding 1:1 and the Israelis, being their usual greedy selves, offering less.
Now the same source reports that, while the Palestinian Authority leadership supported the land swap idea, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) condemned it. “The Palestinians don’t need anyone to make concessions on their behalf. No one authorized the Arab delegation to voluntarily give up Palestinian lands. We condemn this proposal as an attempt to legitimize settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem in violation of international laws and the Geneva Fourth Convention.”
Another group, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), also slammed the land swap idea and accused Qatar, which has been playing a leadership role in the Arab League, of seeking to liquidate the Palestinian issue. Mohamed Jadallah, a senior member of the DFLP, said that Qatar was seeking to take over the Arab League in order to serve US interests in the region. “Qatar has bought the Arab countries with its money and stolen their political decision,” he said.
Jadallah claimed that Qatar was working toward by-passing the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative by offering to relinquish control over Palestinian territories.
Since US-backed Israel selected and stole prime locations for its settlements, knowing full well that it was committing a war crime, why should the Palestinians settle for 1:1? Why should they agree to land swaps at all? If the Jews living in these ‘squats’ wish to stay they can become Palestinian citizens.
All this simply adds fuel to the burning resentment felt by Palestinians and their sympathizers around the world towards the ‘enemy within’ who would sell their grandmothers for a fistful of dollars or shekels
In the Long Grass Something Stirs
Meanwhile, here in England it looks like a major party ‘scum clearance’ may have begun, albeit in a modest way. In elections last Thursday in the 27 English county councils and 7 unitary authorities the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) won over 140 seats and averaged 25% of the vote in the areas where it was standing. Cameron’s Conservatives lost control of 10 councils, but retained 18. Their coalition buddies, the Liberal Democrats, did badly too.
UKIP aims to haul us out of the EU cesspit and bolt the door against unwanted immigrants. As these concerns are uppermost in ordinary people’s minds, UKIP strikes a strong chord with British voters. The county election results show what can happen when political leaders continually ignore the electorate’s concerns and press ahead with their own private agenda when it is obviously not in the national interest.
The breakthrough by UKIP, however, is not entirely good news. The party claims “Israel has maintained an impeccable human rights record” and seeks to cement “true friendship” with its hoodlums. UKIP seems indifferent to the fact that Israel possesses hundreds of nuclear warheads (and the means to deliver them), menaces the whole region (and Europe) and defies calls to sign up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and place its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA safeguards. Yet UKIP believes a nuclear Iran would be unacceptable, and says it would support efforts to eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons capability by “military means”.
UKIP is so bonkers about Israel that it rejects calls for the suspension of trade deals such as the EU-Israel Association Agreement, apparently seeing no need for the racist entity to show “respect for human rights and democratic principles” as set out in that Agreement.
Not surprisingly UKIP’s leader Nigel Farage has been described by the Jewish Chronicle as “a good friend of Israel”. And, naturally, UKIP has a Friends of Israel group which proclaims: “Despite constant assault from within and without, Israel has maintained an impeccable human rights record and remains the only country in the Middle East to extend full civil and political rights to all of its citizens, regardless of race or religion. Yet somehow it is cast as the oppressor, vilified as an ‘apartheid state’ and singled out for disproportionate criticism.
“Decades of malicious propaganda campaigns have seen to it that a one-sided historical narrative which portrays the Palestinians as blameless victims now successfully masquerades as reality…”
People who joined, then left UKIP say it’s corrupt and run on Stalinistic lines. So UKIP are not the loveliest people to have around… and certainly not the sort you’d want actually running your country. But for the time being these useful idiots may serve a purpose in helping to clear away the even more unlovely major party trash that’s funded by Zionists, owes allegiance to a foreign Zionist power and adores and supports the Zionist program of land-theft, mayhem and murder directed even against fellow Christians.
Another cause for slight hope is the recent Eminent Persons letter in which Jeremy Greenstock, former UK Ambassador to the UN, and 18 other prominent Europeans have sent a strongly-worded message to EU High Representative Catherine Ashton calling for a new European approach and expressing “strong concern about the dying chances of a settlement based on two separate, sovereign and peaceful states of Israel and Palestine”.
They warn that “the Occupation is actually being entrenched by the present Western policy” and “the steady increase in the extent and population of Israeli settlements, including in East Jerusalem, and the entrenchment of Israeli control over the OT [Occupied Territories] in defiance of international law, indicate a permanent trend towards a complete dislocation of Palestinian territorial rights.”
The letter concludes that letting the situation lie unaddressed is highly dangerous when such an explosive issue sits in such a turbulent environment.
It adds that over the years the EU’s inactivity has been unprincipled and unwise. “European leaders cannot wait for ever for action from the United States when the evidence accumulates of American failure to recognize and promote the equal status of Israelis and Palestinians… as accepted in United Nations resolutions.”
Why has it taken them so long to put pen to paper? It’s probably too late for a two-state solution, but what they say might lead to better things. Many more ‘eminent persons’ need to speak up for justice. Where are they? Why do they still skulk behind the woodwork?
The Syrian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Wednesday criticizing UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, saying he lacks neutrality.
The statement said Damascus would stop cooperating with Brahimi unless he severs his ties with the Arab League. “Brahimi’s report (on April 19) to the United Nations Security Council was marked by (a tone of) interference in Syria’s internal affairs and a lack of the neutrality required by his mission as international mediator,” the statement said.
Brahimi said at a closed-door session of the Security Council that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad does not have the right to run for president in the upcoming election scheduled for next year.
“Syria has cooperated and will cooperate with Brahimi only as UN envoy, because the Arab League is complicit in the conspiracy against Syria,” the statement read.
“If Brahimi wants his mission to succeed, we expect him to start working to stop the violence and terrorism along with the parties concerned, and to expose the roles played by France, Britain, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which finance and arm Al-Nusra Front’s terrorists,” it added.
Ankara – In the ugly panorama that is the contemporary Middle East a light hardly flickers on the horizon. Iraq has been destroyed as a unitary Arab state and jihadis unleashed in Syria are burning out another room in the Arab house. Lebanon has again been brought to the brink of implosion through the intrigues of outside governments and local proxies incapable of putting the interests of their country ahead of their sectarian and power intrigues. The Palestinians are divided between those who live under the authority of one man who has bound himself to Israel and the US and two others who have bound themselves to Egypt and Qatar. Fitna – the spreading of division and sowing of hatred amongst Muslims – is being fanned across the region by governments brazen enough to call themselves Muslim. Whether in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Iran, Shiism is the enemy. Ceaselessly stirring this pot from the outside are governments that feast on division in the Arab world.
There are those who loathe Bashar so much that they are willing to commit or tolerate any crime in the name of getting rid of him, including the deliberate bombings of civilians, one taking the lives of a leading Sunni Muslim scholar and 48 other worshippers in a Damascus mosque only recently and another killing 100 people, amongst them children waiting for their school bus. A country Gamal abd al Nasir once described as the ‘beating heart of Arabism’ is being destroyed. Its enemies have their hands inside the body and they intend to rip the heart out. The cooperative at work on this venture includes the US, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the local and foreign-born jihadis who are their tools whether they realize it or not.
That the Syrian system needs changing goes without saying. In Syria possibly no-one understands this better than the much reviled Bashar al Assad. He could go tomorrow but that would solve nothing because the system would stay the same; for those who hate him, someone worse might take his place. Bashar has made serious mistakes, including the adoption of free market policies which have enriched the merchant class while further impoverishing the peasantry, who are now said to be many of the foot soldiers of the armed groups, but Syria is an easier place than it was under his father. The abolition of the Baath as the central pillar of state and society and the multi-party elections held last year were a start to political reforms. The elections were not perfect but if anyone is looking for perfection in the Middle East, they should look somewhere else. These are threads that could have been teased out if the collective calling itself ‘The Friends of the Syrian People’ had any serious interest in the best interests of the Syrian people. A process of national dialogue has begun in Damascus but this has been ignored, too, because these ‘friends’ want nothing less than the destruction of a government which is a strategic ally of Iran and Hezbollah and forms with them the ‘resistance axis’ to US-Israeli hegemony.
The achievements of this axis need to be set against the record of collaboration of those Arab governments who are now bent on destroying it. Iran and Syria have been solid in their support for the Palestinians, hosting resistance movements and working together to provide Hamas with the weapons it needed to defend Gaza. No weapons came from the direction of Saudi Arabia or Qatar. It was Hezbollah, the non-state partner in this alliance, that finally drove Israel from occupied southern Lebanon after nearly two decades of struggle involving not just the bravery of part-time soldiers but the mastery of electronic warfare, enabling Hezbollah to penetrate Israeli communications, including drone surveillance, as was made clear when Hasan Nasrallah produced intercepted film showing that an Israeli drone had been shadowing Rafiq Hariri for three months and was overhead when he was assassinated in February, 2005. When Israel tried to take revenge in 2006 it was humiliated. Hezbollah stood firm, destroyed its supposedly invincible Merkava tanks, disabled one of its warships in a missile attack and prevented its ground forces from advancing north of the Litani river. At the time, it might be remembered, both Egypt and Saudi Arabia vilified Hasan Nasrallah for bringing on this war, as they saw it.
It was Hezbollah which scored another triumph by breaking Israel’s spy network in Lebanon, now in the public eye because of the revelations that an Australian-born Mossad agent, Ben Zygier, had provided it with the names of two of its agents. The official Israeli version of the Zygier affair is that he handed over this information with the ultimate intention of setting up the assassination of Hasan Nasrallah. However, as the case is regarded as one of the most serious threats to national security in Israel’s history, much more might be involved than the collapse of a spy network. It is hard to imagine any agent who was not in fact a double agent doing what Zygier is reported to have done. What other information he might have passed on is a matter of conjecture but Israel’s nervousness about this affair could be a sign that far darker secrets are involved than the exposure of two spies.
Both Iran and Syria have been targeted with economic sanctions because of their disobedience. Iran has been threatened with military attack ever since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and now that the attempt to destroy the government in Damascus through armed proxies has clearly failed, if more than two years of trying qualifies as failure, the US is sending out signals that it is prepared to intervene directly despite the regional and global risks. The collapse of the Syrian National Council last year has now been followed by the disintegration of the Syrian National Coalition, with ‘president’ Mu’adh al Khatib resigning and the chief of its military wing refusing to recognize the authority of new ‘prime minister’ Ghassan al Hitto. Riad al Assad, the displaced former commander of the self-styled Free Syrian Army, has just been carried back across the border into Turkey with only one leg, the other having been blown off by a roadside car bomb. Some sources say it was only a foot but either way he is out of action for a long time to come. As the leading armed groups do not recognize the authority of Mr Assad or the squabbling coalition of which the FSA is supposed to be the military arm, his absence from the scene is not going to make a great deal of difference.
For Muadh al Khatib to be given the Syria seat at the recent summit of the Arab League in Doha is farcical in more than one respect. Al Khatib is no longer even a member of the group Qatar is trying to set up as an alternative government. The group itself is in a state of complete collapse, with al Khatib walking out and other members rejecting the appointment of Hitto, a Syrian-born American who has not visited the country of his birth for decades. That Al Khatib should demand that his ragged, motley crew be given Syria’s seat at the UN goes beyond preposterous. The government of Syria sits in Damascus, not Doha, and Bashar al Assad is still its president, not the former imam of the Umayyad mosque. Compounding this theatre of the absurd, it was the ruler of Qatar who directed that Al Khatib be given the Syrian seat at the Doha summit, underlining the degree to which the Arab League has become no more than an instrument of this gentleman’s drive for regional dominance. That King Abdullah should have stayed away from Doha is a sign of the deepening rivalry between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, especially over how to manage Syria. The determination of the ruler of Qatar to persevere with this chaotic bunch of exiles is the measure of his determination to destroy the government in Damascus.
On the ground the armed groups are taking a beating at the hands of the Syrian army but like an irresponsible trainer sending a punched-out boxer out from his corner for the next round, their outside sponsors are pouring arms into Syria to keep them on their feet. The tactics of these groups include bombings aimed at civilians that in other circumstances their backers would not hesitate to call terrorism but steadfastly refused to call terrorism when Syrians are the victims and their proxies are the perpetrators. Al Khatib’s dissatisfaction with his ramshackle coalition was possibly brought to a head by the assassination in Damascus of Sheikh Muhammad Said Ramadan al Bouti, a former colleague and a man he greatly admired. Al Bouti and close to 50 other worshippers were murdered in the Iman mosque by a suicide bomber. Two days earlier an armed group had loaded CL 17 chlorine – an ingredient normally used in swimming pool cleaner – into the warhead of a small missile and fired it at a Syrian army checkpoint, killing 26 people. Soldiers were among the dead and the army was there to look after the survivors, so the claims of activists that ‘the regime’ was responsible had even less traction than usual. Having warned of direct intervention in Syria should chemical weapons be used, the US had little to say now that such a weapon had been used, not by the Syrian army, but by the ‘rebels’ it has been supporting.
Hezbollah, Syria and Iran’s record of resistance has to be compared with the long Saudi and Qatari record of collaboration with the US and Israel. Having deserted Damascus in its hour of need, what does Khalid Mishaal think he is going to get from the ruler of Qatar besides money and somewhere to stay? What is Ismail Haniyeh expecting from Muhammad Morsi, who began his presidency by blocking off the tunnels into Gaza and confirmed where he intends to take Egypt with his letter calling Shimon Peres ‘my dear friend’? Is it forgotten already, apart from his record in violence and destruction going back to 1948, that it was Peres who authorized the attack on southern Lebanon in 1996 which took the lives of more than 100 people sheltering inside the UN compound in Qana? If the friend of my enemy is my enemy, where does that leave Haniyeh, Misha’al and Abbas?
The beneficiaries of intervention in Iraq, Libya and Syria are outside and regional governments who have combined forces to reshape the Middle East in their own interests. As Ibrahim al Amin has remarked (‘Partitioning Syria at the Doha summit’, Al Akhbar English, March 25, 2013), they are fighting a global war against Syria in the name of bringing the people freedom and justice. In truth, western governments only intervene in their own interests and the people always end up being sliced and diced on the chopping board of their grand designs. There has been no exception to this rule. Civilization, liberation, freedom, democracy, the rights of the people and the responsibility to protect are the unctuous phrases that have rolled off the lips of western prime ministers, foreign ministers and presidents for two centuries. This is the rhetorical buildup to a self-assigned ‘duty’ to intervene: the only real difference between intervention in the 19th century and intervention in the 21st lies in the vastly increased killing power of western governments and the development of weapons that would have been regarded as science fiction until only recently.
As they always get away with it, there is no reason for them to stop. Iraq was a terrible crime but while the UN Security Council or the International Criminal Court points the finger at Robert Mugabe, Umar al Bashir or Saif al Islam al Gaddafi it never points the finger at western politicians whose crimes are infinitely greater. Slobodan Milosevic was a rare exception but even his crimes do not measure up to what George Bush and Tony Blair authorized in Iraq in and after 2003 – not to speak of the horrors that Bush senior, Clinton and Blair authorized through the decade of sanctions which followed the attack of 1991. Because they are protected by a world system which is highly selective about who it punishes, the politicians who follow them feel free to repeat the experience. They know that whoever suffers, whoever is bombed, whoever has to look at the faces of dead parents, children, aunts, grandfathers and neighbors being dug out of the rubble of bombed cities and towns, it is not going to be them. William Hague is perfectly comfortable in his desire to give more weapons to the ‘rebels’ because he knows that the calamitous consequences of decisions he takes are never going to bounce back on his own doorstep.
It is obvious but needs to be said anyway that the first priority of people across the Middle East should be solidarity rising above ethnic and religious divisions. No problem can be solved without it and certainly not the core issue of Palestine. In his recent Edward Said memorial lecture, Noam Chomsky drew attention to what is going on while the world’s attention is diverted by the ‘Arab spring.’ In 1967 the Jordan Valley had a Palestinian population of 300, 000. The policy of ‘purification’ pursued by the Israeli government has now reduced that population to 60,000. On a smaller scale the same policy has had the same results in Hebron and elsewhere in the occupied territories. There is nothing accidental or incidental about this. Netanyahu is no more than faithful to the racist policies set in motion by Theodor Herzl and David Ben-Gurion. Continuing without letup for 65 years these policies are neither forgettable nor forgivable.
It is not surprising that Israel’s strongest supporters always have been similar colonial settler states. There are no exact parallels but the Zionist settlers in Palestine and the American colonists both turned on the mother state while setting out to crush the native people. Thomas Paine had much to say about the American ‘war of independence’ that is relevant to Palestine. First of all, it was an ‘independence war’ being fought on land long since inhabited by another people. The colonists wanted to be independent of the mother country, which planted them in this foreign soil in the expectation that they would maintain it as part of the king’s domains. A loyal colony was what the British also sought in Palestine but the American settlers and later the Zionists had other ideas. The war between Britain and the American colonists was brutal, generating deep hatreds on both sides, just as the Zionist war against the British did in Palestine.
Paine was writing of settler feelings towards the savagery of the mother country but the words equally apply to the people who were the victims of double colonialism in North America or, nearly two centuries later, in Palestine:
‘Men of passive tempers look somewhat lightly over the offences of Great Britain and still hoping for the best are still apt to call out come, come, we shall be friends against for all this. But examine the passions and feelings of mankind; bring the doctrine of reconciliation to the touchstone of nature and then tell me whether you can hereafter love, honor and faithfully serve the power that hath carried fire and sword into your land. If you cannot do all these then you are only deceiving yourself, and by your delay bringing ruin upon posterity. Your future connections with Britain, whom you can neither love nor honor, will be forced and unnatural and being formed only on the plan of present convenience, will in a little time fall into a relapse more wretched than the first. But if you say you can still pass the violations over, then I ask hath your house been burnt? Hath your property been destroyed before your face? Are your wife and children destitute of a bed to lie on or bread to live on? Have you lost a parent or child by their hands and yourself the ruined and wretched survivor? If you have not, then you are not a judge of those who have. But if you have and can still shake hands with the murderers, then are you unworthy the name of husband, father, friend or lover; and whatever may be your rank or title in life you have the heart of a coward and the spirit of a sycophant.’
Paine was a democrat within the limitations of his time. He was writing for the settlers and had no thought of admitting the indigenous people of North America to representation in the colonies. Except for the passage of almost 250 years Paine might be a Zionist today, but the two and a half centuries make all the difference. Israel was an anomaly from the beginning, a colonial state arising at the tail end of colonialism. It would be no more possible to imagine Thomas Paine supporting an America in which native and Afro-Americans did not have the vote now than it would be to imagine him supporting a situation where a people not only did not have the right to vote but had been denied the right to live on the land where they or their forebears had been born.
In today’s world Paine could not support an Israel built on blatantly racist and discriminatory lines. Everything he says in the passage quoted above applies to Israel. The wounds it has inflicted have gone deep and far from making any attempt to heal them Israel has endlessly inflicted new wounds. The state of Israel – to be differentiated from those pockets of its citizens who oppose its brutal mindset – is not interested in any kind of genuine settlement with the Palestinians. It is not interested in them as a people. It is not interested in their stories of suffering. It is not interested in its own guilt because it is blind to its own guilt. It has no humility and would scoff at the idea of penance for crimes it refuses to admit it has committed, like the worst recidivist offender hauled before a court. It is interested in the Palestinians only as a problem to be solved and the solution is for them somehow to disappear or to be made to disappear. Hence the ‘purification’ in the Jordan Valley and the daylight oppression of the Palestinians in Hebron and the racist demographic war being waged in East Jerusalem. These are crimes against humanity.
If we substitute Israel and the Oslo process for the reconciliation proffered by the British monarch the result is the same: the policy, wrote Thomas Paine, is there ‘in order that he may accomplish by craft and subtlety in the long run what he cannot do by force and violence in the short one’. His conclusion that ‘reconciliation and ruin are nearly related’ sums up the consequences for the Palestinians of the Venus fly trap known as the ‘peace process.’ Violence works but ‘peace’ has a deadly potency of its own: whatever the means employed, the Zionist aim of reducing the Palestinians to dust that will eventually be whirled away by history has not changed in 100 years.
By themselves, however bravely they have resisted, the Palestinians have never had the power to fend off the forces arrayed against them. This has been true from the time Britain implanted the Zionist project in Palestine until the present day. Britain and the US were not just any countries but the two most powerful states of their time and with their support both Zionist success and Palestinian failure were assured. Never have the Palestinians been able to draw on anything like such sources of strength despite the immense potential in their own backyard. Israel’s dominance as a regional power is still sustained by the US while being continually replenished by Arab weakness: Arab weakness is built on chronic Arab disunity, now being promoted in sectarian form by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. As long as there is no way out of this trap the Palestinians will remain stuck in their trap.
Sectarianism is a powerful weapon but would be useless if people were not susceptible to it. A people divided are doomed to be dominated. George Antonius prefaced The Arab Awakening with a quote from Ibrahim Yaziji: ‘Arise Arabs and awake!’ That was in 1938. An Arab awakening did follow and while it would be tempting to say the Arab world has gone back to sleep, in reality what is happening is far worse than sleep. A fire is raging and it is hard to see how and when it will be put out.
- Jeremy Salt is an associate professor of Middle Eastern history and politics at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey.
Partitioning Syria at the Doha Summit (Excerpt)
The US-European-Gulf axis has succeeded in dragging the world into a new round of violence and anarchy, all in the name of taking Syria away from Bashar al-Assad.
Those behind this phase no longer care about their public face; they have revealed the true state of the Syrian opposition groups they sponsor. They have brought them totally under their control. So Moaz al-Khatib can protest and resign, Free Syrian Army fighters and officers can object, and opposition figures can complain as much as they like in the press or on TV. What matters is that in conjunction with this decision, the following must be done:
– Sponsorship of opposition forces from Turkey to be escalated. This seeks to impose new military and intelligence chiefs on the armed groups, providing them with new kinds of weapons, and bringing them more firmly under the control of the foreign capitals concerned. A central military objective has been defined: to fully occupy Aleppo as a prelude to proclaiming the new Syrian state in the north.
– The world presented with a fait accompli in the form of an “interim government.” This reflects the total submission of the Islamist opposition, be it Muslim Brotherhood or Salafi, to Gulf leadership, and the collusion of military commanders on the ground. The idea is for this body to be able to request foreign assistance in various forms.
– The Syrian government’s allies, whether in Iraq, Iran or Lebanon, are to be threatened by means of additional funding for civil conflicts that are liable to preoccupy them.
The conspiracy against Syria being hatched at the Doha summit is a massive gamble, as well as a historic crime. The Gulf sheikhs, in conjunction with Western and Arab capital, are launching a step-by-step process of partitioning Syria. – Full article
The UN-Arab League Special Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi has unveiled a new initiative to end the country’s months-long crisis.
Brahimi said on Sunday that the new plan could find support from world powers, including key Syria ally, Russia.
The veteran Algerian diplomat, however, did not elaborate fully on his proposal but said he had discussed it with Russia and Syria, and that it was a political solution based on the Geneva Declaration adopted in June.
“I have discussed this plan with Russia and Syria…. I think this proposal could be adopted by the international community,” Brahimi told reporters in Cairo after meeting with Arab League chief Nabil El-Araby.
Under the Geneva plan, opposing sides would cease fighting and a transitional body would be formed until elections are held.
Brahimi also said that the situation in Syria “is very bad and getting worse by the day,” and that without a negotiated solution the country will turn into “hell.”
Brahimi’s previous attempt to secure a temporary truce in Syria for the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha in October failed after militants refused to cease their fire.
Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011. Many people, including large numbers of army and security personnel, have been killed in the turmoil.
A recent UN report has revealed that militants from 29 countries have so far infiltrated into Syria to fight against the Damascus government, most of whom are extremist Salafists.
The Syrian government has repeatedly said that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and that a very large number of the militants operating in the country are foreign nationals.
- Brahimi’s shuttle diplomacy rekindles hopes of solution to Syrian crisis (news.xinhuanet.com)
- Brahimi urges end to Syria violence (standard.co.uk)
Egypt may take part in an Arab military intervention in Syria, provided this does not open the door to Western intervention, a political adviser to Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi told Turkey’s Anadolu news agency Saturday.
“We are in principle ready for an Arab intervention in Syria after the limits, goals and features of that intervention are made clear,” said Saif Abdel Fattah.
In a speech before the UN General Assembly Tuesday, Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani called on Arab states to intervene militarily in Syria, citing an Arab-league backed intervention during Lebanon’s civil war as an “effective and useful” precedent.
Analysts have since warned that such a move could trigger a counter-intervention from Iran, sparking an even wider regional conflict.
Abdel Fattah went on to say that Egypt may pressure Turkey to put the Qatari proposal into effect. He added that Mursi would be discussing the issue with Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during his visit to Turkey Sunday.
Turkey is an ardent supporter of military intervention in Syria, and has pushed the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over the country. The proposals have been repeatedly shot down by China and Russia.
- Collaboration Loans (Al Akhbar)
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem stressed that the United States is the major player in the ongoing crisis in the country, adding that the other countries are instruments.
“We believe that the US is the major player against Syria and the rest are its instruments,” al-Moallem told The Independent.
The daily quoted Moallem as saying that America was behind Syria’s violence.
“When the Americans say, ‘We are supplying the opposition with sophisticated instruments of telecommunications’, isn’t this part of a military effort, when they supply the opposition with $25m – and much more from the Gulf and Saudi Arabia?”
Addressing the US, the Syrian FM said: ‘You must read well what you did in Afghanistan and Somalia. I don’t understand your slogan of fighting international terrorism when you are supporting this terrorism in Syria’.”
“I tell the Europeans: ‘I don’t understand your slogan about the welfare of the Syrian people when you are supporting 17 resolutions against the welfare of the Syrian people,” Moallem addressed the European states.
As he stressed that about 60 percent of the violence going on in the country was from abroad, al-Moallem said: “Before I am a minister, I am a Syrian citizen, and I feel sad at seeing what’s happening in Syria, compared with two years ago.”
“There are many Syrians like me – eager to see Syria return to the old days when we were proud of our security,” he added.
The Independent reporter told the Syrian FM that the Emir of Qatar was enraged last year at what he called President Bashar al-Assad’s “lies”, claiming that the Syrian President had reneged on a deal to allow Muslim Brotherhood members to return home.
On this issue, Moallem said: “If you met the same Emir two years ago, he was praising Assad, and considered him a dear friend. They used to have family relations, spending family holidays in Damascus and sometimes in Doha. There is an important question: what happened? I met the Emir in Doha in, I think, November 2011, when the Arab League started their initiative [resulting in the sending of League observers to Syria] and we reached agreement … The Emir told me: ‘If you agree to this initiative, I will change the attitude of Al Jazeera and I will tell [Sheikh] Qaradawi [a popular prelate with a regular slot on the television chain] to support Syria and reconciliation, and I have put down some billions of dollars to rebuild Syria…’ .”
“At the same time, when I was waiting to enter a meeting, there was the head of the Tunisian party Ennahda and the Emir issued orders to pay Ennahda $150m to help his party in the elections. Anyway, this was their business. But I asked the Emir: ‘You were having very close relations with Muammar Gaddafi and you were the only leader in his palace when Gaddafi hosted you during the summit – so why are you sending your aircraft to attack Libya and be part of Nato?’ The Emir said simply: ‘Because we don’t want to lose our momentum in Tunis and Egypt – and Gaddafi was responsible for dividing Sudan’,” Moallem added.
On the relation between Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, the Syrian FM said: “We were told by some Western envoy at the beginning of this crisis that relations between Syria and Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, Syria and Hamas are the major elements behind this crisis. If we settle this issue, they [the Americans] will help end the crisis. But no one told us why it is forbidden for Syria to have relations with Iran when most if not all the Gulf countries have very important relations with Iran.”
When asked about chemical weapons, Moallem said if Syria had such weapons, they would never be used against its own people.
“We are fighting armed groups inside Aleppo, in the Damascus suburbs, before that in Homs and Idlib and this means fighting within Syrian cities – and our responsibility is to protect our people,” he said.
GAZA CITY – Hamas politburo chief Khalid Mashaal on Monday said Israel had broken its promises to improve detainees’ conditions under the last swap deal.
Speaking to reporters after meeting the Egyptian foreign minister in Cairo, Mashaal said the October 2011 deal –which was brokered by Egypt — included pledges to end solitary confinement and other restrictions.
Israel had toughened conditions for Palestinian detainees in a bid to pressure Hamas to release soldier Gilad Shalit. He was freed in October in exchange for 1,047 Palestinian prisoners.
Palestinian detainees launched a mass hunger-strike on April 17 to protest their conditions, with prisoner groups estimating that 2,000 people are now refusing food.
After meeting Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi on Sunday, the leaders decided to petition the UN on the issue of Palestinian and Arab prisoners in Israel.
On Monday, Mashaal briefed Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammad Kamel Amr on the situation of Palestinian prisoners.
He thanked Egypt for following up on Palestinian affairs, and stressed the importance of seeing through the Egyptian-brokered reconciliation deal with rival party Fatah.
The national government headed by President Mahmoud Abbas — as agreed between the leaders in Doha in February — must be put into place immediately, he said.
The Hamas chief’s agreement that the Fatah leader should head the government caused uproar in Hamas ranks, sparking a new impasse for the embattled reconciliation deal.
- Mishaal discusses prisoners issue with Al Arabi | #PalHunger (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
- Ex-Palestinian prisoner: captivity in Israel, living in graves (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Netanyahu: Abbas must choose between Hamas and peace (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Resheq: Hamas launches broad international campaign to support prisoners’ issue | #PalHunger (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
While the Syrian regime was pleased with last week’s UN Security Council Presidential Statement on Syria, the Syrian National Council (SNC) was not. It registered its objections, and saw it as providing another chance to President Bashar Assad. Damascus welcomed both the statement and the plan which the UN and Arab envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, devised after gaining the approval of the international community.
Sources who got to meet high-ranking Syrian officials over the weekend sensed the extent to which the presidential statement was welcomed by Damascus. They also provided some insight into the level of cooperation between Damascus and Moscow on the substance of Annan’s initiative, and their commitment to making a success of it.
While the Syrian leadership supports the general principles of Annan’s plan, it has taken a cautious view of the mechanisms and measures which will need to be taken to implement it.
This stems from a conviction that the devil will lie in details if they are left vague, especially when the time comes for a ceasefire and political dialogue. Accordingly, while Annan completes his talks in Russia and China and prepares to begin implementing his plan, Damascus’ approach will be based on a number of considerations:
1. The initiative must be implemented through the “Syrian state” at all stages: starting with the proposed ceasefire and restoration of calm, extending to the delivery of humanitarian aid, and culminating in a national political dialogue. None of this will occur unless the process for implementing this initiative is approved by the regime and conforms with what it is describes as the “principles of sovereignty.”
Damascus’ position is that it is waiting to see how this initiative will be implemented, while affirming its endorsement of the plan. But the regime insists that any political dialogue about the future of Syria – the end-goal of the initiative – must be held under the auspices of the “Syrian state.”
2. Damascus is greatly satisfied and encouraged by the fact that the presidential statement did not reiterate the demand that the Arab League, France, the US, and Turkey had been insisting on. Namely, that the Syrian president step down and immediately transfer power so a political settlement can be concluded in isolation from him. The regime sees this tacit re-acknowledgement of its authority as a chance to open up dialogue again.
The high-ranking officials insisted to their visitors, however, that Syrian leaders had at no stage been fixated on or alarmed by this demand. They were never under any illusion that, in current international conditions, it was within the capacity of any party, domestic or foreign, to force Assad to step down.
This applies equally to the Syrian opposition, to the many declarations made by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her French counterpart Alain Juppe, the Arab League in its second initiative on January 2, and Qatari, Saudi, and Turkish leaders. Damascus never commented on any of their statements. It declined to get into an argument with them about whether Assad should leave office.
The view put forward by Damascus in defense of its position is that the new Syrian constitution furnishes a mechanism for the transfer or rotation of power. But decapitating the regime – the argument Moscow has also been stressing – would be a recipe for chaos. As the regime sees it, the president stands for the integrity and cohesion of the army and the unity of the country. This position was matched by the similar stand taken by Russia and China against any external foreign military intervention to compel Assad to step down or depose him by force. Also this is why they opposed arming the opposition.
As a result, the international picture has changed significantly since the two countries blocked the attempt to issue a Security Council resolution on Syria on February 4. The threat to force Assad out has been practically dropped – though Arab and Western states may still speak of not just the president’s days, but the regime’s, being numbered – and everybody has opted for a political settlement to be brought about under him.
This approach was reinforced at Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s March 10 meeting with the committee of Arab foreign ministers dealing with Syria. It was confirmed in the appointment of Annan as envoy, and again in the proposals he has put forward, and the Security Council’s endorsement of it last Wednesday.
3. Damascus believes that the real gain it made from the presidential statement was the UN’s acknowledgement that there are two sides to the violence in the Syrian crisis.
This dispensed with the pretext with which the Arabs and the West had armed themselves until Lavrov’s visit to Cairo – namely, that the violence was one-sided, indiscriminate, and practised exclusively by the regime. The existence of armed anti-regime groups was either denied outright, or justified as self-defense.
But the presidential statement, by calling for a ceasefire and end to fighting, conceded that there is another party engaged in violence, and that an armed confrontation is underway. While it did not identify that other party – composed of a combination of Salafis, Muslim Brothers, and deserters – it recognized its existence. This reinforced the regime’s rationale for using decisive military force to try to eliminate members of the armed opposition in Homs, Idlib, and Deir al-Zour, so as to pre-empt any attempt to create buffer zones or similar enclaves in border areas.
Damascus is indebted to Russia and China for supporting its viewpoint and steering the Security Council in the opposite direction to which the Arab League had intended. It had insisted, without hesitation, that the violence was from one side only. The Arab League ignored the report by the chief of its own observer mission, General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, and transferred the Syria dossier to the Security Council.
But once there, it did not take long for Moscow’s view to converge with Washington’s over the issue of arming the Syrian opposition. The Americans are wary of Al-Qaeda infiltration of Syrian rebel groups, and fear their weapons could end up reaching the terrorist organization.
4. Damascus believes Annan fully understands the many difficulties involved in his task of bringing about a political settlement. Two sets of these stand out in particular: those connected to convening the proposed national dialogue, and those related to halting the violence on the streets.
Defining the party that will sit opposite the regime at the national dialogue table will be an early obstacle. It is not just that the political opposition, both at home and in exile, is deeply divided. So is the armed component of the opposition, which includes Salafi organizations, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and the Muslim Brotherhood. The latter are part of the SNC, which has set up its own military bureau and is at odds with the FSA. That in turn is divided between followers of Colonel Riyadh al-Asaad and Brigadier Mustafa Ahmad al-Sheikh.
The political dialogue cannot include the non-SNC armed opposition when it has not yet said who speaks for it. Annan does not know who to talk to in this regard, at least not yet. In the meantime, the political dialogue stands to be between a known actor, the regime, and an undetermined interlocutor, half of which is clandestine, and the other half of which is at odds with itself.
A second obstacle lies in the measures to be taken on the ground to bring about an end to fighting, the withdrawal of gunmen and the army, and the delivery of humanitarian aid to residents of affected areas. Syrian leaders see potential problems in the plans that Annan and his aides devised for arranging these measures and deploying international observers to monitor them.
The Syrian authorities are not simply waiting to see what Annan comes up with in this regard. They have been stressing an issue of extreme sensitivity, which the Syrian leadership considers an absolute necessity for the restoration of normal life to the country: there must be no consolidation of dividing lines between army- and rebel-controlled areas, either in towns or the countryside. Also they have stressed that there must be no deployment of international observers on such lines, which would effectively enforce a fait accompli ahead of political talks.
Damascus has informed all concerned parties that it will not agree to measures which recreate the kind of “confrontation lines” that were established during the Lebanese Civil War, which entrenched the positions of the opposing parties and fuelled the conflict.
It has stressed that a ceasefire must not entail the drawing of such lines inside Syria. Rather, it should result in the disappearance of gunmen and their weapons from the streets, an end to all illegal armed activity, and the reconnection of different parts of the country with each other. Only that would justify ordering the army back to barracks.
Similarly, the task of international observers must not be to monitor a ceasefire, police ceasefire lines, or separate two warring parties, but to monitor the restoration of normalcy in the country. Damascus sees this is as a key point in the Annan initiative which all sides must respect.
Nicolas Nassif is a political analyst at Al-Akhbar.
- UN – Arab League envoy hails Syria’s plan acceptance (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Syrian govt accepts Annan’s 6-point peace plan (rt.com)
Russia and the Arab League reach an agreement to settle the ongoing crisis in Syria, which rejects any foreign military intervention in the country.
Arab League foreign ministers and their Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, who met in the Egyptian capital Cairo, agreed on a plan that rejects foreign intervention and proposes stopping violence and sending humanitarian aid to Syria.
Participants in the meeting expressed support for former UN secretary general Kofi Annan’s mission aimed at starting dialogue between Damascus and the opposition to help resolve the unrest in the country, Lavrov said after the meeting.
Lavrov pointed out that Russia is supporting dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition, while criticizing Western countries for supporting the opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government
The latest Arab League agreement comes despite earlier efforts against the Syrian government and its call for the deployment of troops to Syria.
Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March and many people have lost their lives in the violence.
The West and the Syrian opposition accuse the government of killing protesters. But Damascus blames ”outlaws, saboteurs and armed terrorist groups” for the unrest, insisting that it is being orchestrated from abroad.
Heads of states and representatives of 70 countries gathered on Friday 2/24/2012 in Tunisia in what they propagandized as “Friends of Syria Conference”. They came together, each has his own individual agenda different than the others’, yet they all agreed on one common goals; the removal of the present Syrian Bashar al-Assad’s political regime, the division of Syrian society into conflicting sectarian minorities, and the establishment of a new pro-Western/pro-Zionist and anti-Iran/anti-Hezbollah/anti-Palestinian regime similar to those in other Arabic Statelets such as Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain, Yemen and other Gulf States.
Frustration and helplessness were highly apparent in the speeches and decisions of the major players in this conference. The frustration was due to the failure of Libyanizing Syria, the failure of all political pressures on Syria during the last eleven months, and the failure of Syrian armed militias to gain any popularity within the country and to affect any division within Syrian governmental institutions. The highest frustration came due to their failure of manipulating the United Nations and the Security Council against Syria because of the Russian and Chinese vetoes against any UN resolution attempting to legitimize any foreign military intervention in Syria.
Since its independence from the French mandate in 1946, Syria had marched slowly, though faster than many other Arab states, towards political reforms, human rights, freedom and economical growth. Syria has been governed by a constitution since 1973 unlike many Arab states that are still ruled by oppressive authoritarian absolute familial tribal monarchies such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia who pretend to call for democracy in Syria. Like all other Arab ruling regimes in the region Syria has need for more improvement. Yet foreign induced rebellions and civil wars would bring chaos, destruction, and more authoritarian regimes (Tunisia, Egypt and Libya) rather than steady gradual reform. Syria had moved towards such gradual reform during the last eleven months, further than what most Arab States had gone for the last forty years.
Syria had played a major positive role in the Arab World. It was a major founder of the Arab League in 1945 and had supported many of the Arab causes especially the Palestinian cause. In 1975, Syria got involved in the 15-year-long Lebanese civil war in an attempt to preserve peace. Syrian troops left Lebanon in April 2005, allowing the Lebanese to form their own independent government. Syria and Iran supported Hezbollah’s struggle against Israeli occupation of Lebanon until liberation in 2000 when Israel withdrew from Lebanon. In 2006, Israeli aggressed Southern Lebanon in an attempt to wipe out Hezbollah; some Arab States stood utterly silent while Qatar and Saudi Arabia cheered on, but Syria kept arming Hezbollah and hosted thousands of Lebanese refugees. Syria had also hosted around two million Iraqi refugees after the 2003 American occupation and destruction of Iraq. When Israel sent all its military might in December 2008 to destroy the already besieged, impoverished, and hungry Gaza, Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia cheered on again; Gaza Palestinians and the democratically elected Hamas did not receive help from any Arab state except Syria.
Although Syria accepted, and joined in, the American alleged fight against global terrorism (Al-Qaeda), its leaders had rejected and opposed the American New Middle East Project bringing on itself American anger. This anger intensified when Syria joined Iran in military and economical alliance. This alliance brought on also the hostility of Gulf States notably Saudi Arabia and the American base host, Qatar.
Syria has been a main resistance and oppositional front against the Zionist expansionist dream, a major opponent to the American hegemonic plans for the oil-rich Persian Gulf region, and an important ally to Iran that is considered a major enemy by USA and Israel. To get rid of Hezbollah and Hamas, Israel needs to weaken Syria. To control the oil-rich Gulf region the USA needs to get to Iran through Syria. There arose, therefore, in the West a decision to destroy the Syrian secular state, to divide it into smaller conflicting sectarian regions, to displace or co-opt the Syrian national elite, and eventually to install a pro-Western/pro-Zionist regime similar to that in Qatar and Saudi Arabia or at least an American-compliant Islamic republic similar to that in Tunisia and Egypt. Qatar and Saudi Arabia became the instruments used to manipulate the Arab League towards regime change in Syria.
Since Syria is free from American domination (it does not depend on American financial aid, does not buy weapons from any Western country, and it is not dependent on any Western economy or trade agreement), it becomes very difficult for any Western interference to affect a regime change. So a sinister plan was put together to urge Syrians to revolt against their government. This plan was called “Arab Spring”. It was hoped that Syrians would be encouraged to revolt against their government after witnessing the seemingly successful revolts in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya.1
To avoid the fate of Libya, the Syrian regime hastened to speed up reform. The regime lifted the state of emergency right away, declared measures for reform, cooperated with the mandates of the Arab League to the surprise of other Arab leaders, allowed Arab observers in the country, and called for dialogue with the opposition within Syria and later in Russia, and finally introduced a new, more democratic constitution and offered it to the masses for a referendum. The majority of the Syrian people countered the anti-regime demonstrations with massive pro-regime demonstrations. But the protesters and the movers behind them have evidently much more far-reaching goals in mind. They had refused all the compromising gestures offered by the regime, and demanded regime change before any dialogue. I wonder whom are they going to engage in dialogue with if the regime is not there!
When demonstrations did not gain popularity, the extremists of the opposition were pushed towards forming what is called Free Syrian Army (FSA) to commit violent acts, whose objective is to draw in armed security forces including the deployment of tanks and armored vehicles in order to give the Security Council the justification of foreign military intervention under NATO’s “Responsibility to Protect” mandate. Sophisticated weapons were smuggled in through Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. The FSA attacked government institutions, police and army personnel, murdered some demonstrators, and bombed facilities and infrastructure in order to accuse security forces of these acts. Some were trained and armed by Qatari, Turkish, and British special operations units, who have been fighting in Homs alongside the rebels. Captured Turkish officers confessed to being trained in Israel according to Syrian MP Khaled el-Abbod. Members of the Turkish Parliament Human Rights Committee declared that Syrian militias are being trained in guerilla warfare in camps in Antioch, Turkey. The unfortunate FSA were not a match for the well-trained and well-equipped Syrian security forces. Some of them got killed in battle, others were captured, and many of them are now dropping weapons and surrendering to the army. Their leaders are urging their foreign operatives to seek a cease-fire, thus we witnessed the so-called Friends of Syria Conference calling for a cease-fire to allow alleged humanitarian aid to reach needy civilians (militias).
It is important to recognize that the Syrian opposition is comprised of at least two major factions: the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change (NCCDC). The SNC, whose leaders are outside of Syria in Europe and the US, was established in Istanbul, Turkey and seems to be the driving force behind the Free Syrian Army. It calls for the immediate and non-negotiable end of Bashar el-Assad’s regime and the establishment of a western-style democracy. The SNC calls for and welcomes Western intervention, and many of its leaders had openly called for Western and even Israeli military intervention. The SNC is supported by many Western countries and has been recognized on February 24 as “a, but not the only, representative” of the Syrian people.
The NCCDC, which was formed at a congress in Damascus, is largely based inside Syria with few members abroad. It is more moderate in its oppositional approach than the SNC. The NCCDC is strongly opposed to Western intervention although it is open to Arab intervention. It believes that the best solution to the Syrian crises is through dialogue with the Syrian regime in order to achieve a peaceful transition to a democratic rule. Although the NCCDC had, initially, sent a delegation to what is called the “Friends of Syria” conference it boycotted the conference criticizing it of hijacking the will of the Syrian people through imposing and legitimizing who represents the people, and of escalating calls for military intervention.
The Friends of Syria Conference was doomed to failure since the planning. Thousands of Tunisians picketed the conference calling it “Friends of Israel” conference, denouncing the attendees, and chanting for Syria. Saud bin-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, withdrew from the conference complaining of its inefficiency because it did not support his call for foreign military intervention to protect the Syrian people by ousting al-Assad’s regime. His hypocrisy is so apparent in his oppressive absolute familial monarchy that is murdering demonstrators daily in Qatif and Awamiyah demanding justice, freedom, and democracy. Saudi Interior Ministry’s Prince Naif bin Abdulazziz described these demonstrators as terrorists and threatened to use an iron fist against them. Close to 25% of Saudis, according to official consensus, are living under the poverty line; a scandalous fact in a super rich oil-producing country, where all citizens could live leisurely had their rulers not horded the oil revenue for themselves. (Check youtube’s poverty in Saudi Arabia). Saudi’s alleged support for democracy does not appear in its sending the Peninsula Shield Forces to savagely murder freedom-seeking Bahraini peaceful demonstrators. Saudi’s sympathy for other Arab citizens was not apparent when its leaders cheered on Israeli troops attacking South Lebanon in 2006 and in late 2008 when Israeli phosphorous bombs rained on helpless hungry Palestinian children in Gaza Strip.
Thrown by Syria’s cooperation with the mandates of the Arab League and by the failure of his financing of terrorist armed militias (Free Syrian Army) and their recent calls to be saved from the attacks of the Syrian army by demanding a cease-fire, Hamad bin Jassim, the Prime Minister of Qatar, called for safe passage in Syria for what he claimed to be humanitarian aid to needy Syrian people, a ploy he used in the past in Libya’s case to smuggle weapons and to justify NATO’s military intervention. He also called for the formation of a joint international and Arab military force to intervene in Syria. It is known to many that Qatar, the host of the largest American base, has been playing a major pro-American/pro-Zionist role in the region. This role could be seen in the destruction of Libya, in oppressing the Bahraini freedom-seeking demonstrators, in arming the so-called Free Syrian Army, and lately in manipulating the Palestinian (Fatah/Hamas) reconciliation efforts. According to Al’alam TV reports, Saudi Prince Talal bin-Abdulaziz, the brother of Saudi king Abdullah bin-Abdulaziz, has exposed a Zionist-Qatari conspiracy to subdivide Saudi Arabia into smaller chunks, to destroy Syria and its regime, and to designate a part of Saudi northern desert as refugees camp-ground for Palestinians who will be evicted from occupied Palestine. It is worth noting here that the internet is full of pictures of Hamad bin Jassim and his absolute monarch Hamad bin Khalifa warmly shaking hands with Israeli criminal leaders such as Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni.
The Tunisian position had caused some French and Qatari resentment even days before the conference convened. Tunisia wanted to invite, in particular, Russia and China, stating that without them the conference would have no real value. Also Tunisia, alongside Iraq, Lebanon, and Sudan, rejected Qatar’s request to recognize the SNC as the only legitimate representative of Syrians. At the opening of the conference, Moncef Marzouki, the Tunisian president, rejected the idea of any military intervention in Syria and called for the formation of an Arab-only peace keeping force in Syria accompanied by political efforts to convince al-Assad to leave the country by offering him judicial immunity and political asylum, such as in Russia.
The Western countries, including the USA, have not yet found a suitable heir to al-Assad. Therefore, none of them is volunteering any of its troops as a peace keeping force or calling for any military solution. They wanted to spare their troops by having a Libyan-style civil war where Arabs fight Arabs. The contrasting division between the different Syrian oppositional groups was not encouraging either. The only things they could offer are accusations of, and warnings to the al-Assad regime. President Obama threatened that he would use “every tool available to stop the slaughter in Syria,” calling for further international pressure on al-Assad’s regime. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had nothing to offer except false predictions that al-Assad’s regime is getting closer to collapse. Obama and Clinton left it to pro-Zionist senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Joe Lieberman to call for “tangible actions” to be taken, such as providing Syrian opposition (SNC and its FSA) with weapons, intelligence tools, and aerial drone surveillance to “ensure that the Syrian people have the means to protect themselves against their attackers”.
Meanwhile al-Assad’s regime is moving along with political and social reforms. A draft of a new constitution was offered to the people in a referendum to be voted on Sunday 2/26. This draft deletes Article 8 of the old constitution stating that the Ba’ath party is the only ruling party in the country. It also offers a state system based on political pluralism, multiple political parties, political rule exercised through democratic vote, and assures the independence and free functions of executive, judicial and legislative powers. It also provides that society will be based on solidarity and respect for the principles of social justice, freedom, equality and preservation of human dignity of every individual, and that citizens have equal right and duties without discrimination based on sex, origin, language, religion or creed. It also ensures the freedom of press and publications as well as the independence of the media. Similarly, women are provided all opportunities that will enable them to contribute fully and effectively in all avenues of the country including political, economic, social, and cultural life.
Most importantly, the new constitution also stipulates that the presidency will be open to candidates above 40 years old who will be elected by universal and secret elections, with a seven-year term limit, with the option for a second term only if voters deem it worthy.
Despite calls for boycotting the referendum, by 5:00 pm Syria time it was estimated that between 70-75% of the population had a taste of their new democratic right to vote. Peaceful achievement of democracy is triumphing in Syria.
- Please read detailed analysis of the Arab Spring in previous article: “The Snake Behind the Arab Spring.”
Dr. Elias Akleh is an Arab writer of Palestinian descent, born in the town of Beit-Jala and now living in the US. He can be reached at: email@example.com.
Syria rejected an Arab League plan to send international forces to Syria, saying it was determined to restore security.
“Syria rejects decisions that are a flagrant interference in the country’s internal affairs and a violation of its national sovereignty”, government official said, in a report Monday by SANA state news agency.
“This decision will not prevent the Syrian government from fulfilling its responsibilities in protecting its citizens and restoring security and stability”.
The Arab League on Sunday urged the United Nations to a joint peacekeeping force to Syria, and said it had “agreed to open contacts” with the opposition.
Arab League diplomats “will ask the UN Security Council to issue a decision on the formation of a joint UN-Arab peacekeeping force to oversee the implementation of a ceasefire,” said a League statement.
They would also “open channels of communication with the Syrian opposition and offer full political and financial support, urging (the opposition) to unify its ranks”.
Syria’s ambassador to Cairo denounced the measures, with Algeria and Lebanon expressing reservations about them.
“The Syrian Arab Republic categorically rejects the decisions of the Arab League,” which “reflects the hysteria of these governments” after failing to get foreign intervention at the UN Security Council, said Yusef Ahmed.
- Arab Observer Chief Satisfied: “Allegations against Syria Mission Untrue” (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Foolishly Ignoring the Arab League Report on Syria (alethonews.wordpress.com)