“We have been very clear to the Assad regime but also to other players on the ground that a red line for us is, we start seeing a whole bunch of weapons moving around or being utilized.” — Obama Threatens Force Against Syria, The New York Times, August 21, 2012
When President Obama spoke these words last August he might have dug himself a hole twice as deep as the one he was in last week.
As four NYT journalists reported on Sunday’s front page article “Off-the-Cuff Obama Line Put U.S. in Bind on Syria”: “Confronted with evidence that chemical weapons have been used in Syria, President Obama now finds himself in a geopolitical box, his credibility at stake with frustratingly few good options.”
If there will be any effort to hold Mr. Obama’s feet to the fire the heat just got hotter.
Buried on page A9 of Monday’s edition of “the paper of record” was a statement by Carla del Ponte, a United Nations human rights investigator looking into the claims that chemical weapons were used in Syria:
The United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria has not yet seen evidence of government forces using chemical weapons, which are banned under international law, said Carla Del Ponte, a commission member.
“Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals,” Ms. Del Ponte said in an interview with Swiss-Italian television. “According to their report of last week, which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated.”
“This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities,” she added, speaking in Italian.
Question: Will President Obama hold the rebels accountable for crossing his red line?
In his own words he did say that he has “been very clear to the Assad regime but also to other players on the ground” [emphasis added] that the use of chemical weapons is a red line that even the Times saw last summer as a threat of force.
The question is not likely to be answered in the affirmative. This is the politics of war. For more than two years the rebels have been carrying out terrorist bombings, grisly executions, and other assorted attacks that would likely have had Washington and its allies foaming at the mouths were it the Assad regime who was the perpetrator.
Washington has failed to join the Syrian government in their own War on Terror, even though al Qaeda is active in the country. And it just goes to show as one more example: when al Qaeda is used as a boogeyman for war we should not take the pretext seriously, as in the case of Mali. If al Qaeda is on the same side as Uncle Sam, as they were in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the Balkans in the 1990s, Libya in 2011, and now Syria, then there will be no drone attacks on the terrorists.
And now we see al Qaeda-linked terrorists suspected of using chemical weapons. Don’t look for the U.S. to come to the defense of the Syrian government.
Already we can see the change of attitude reflected at The New York Times.
Not two weeks ago, on April 26, 2013, it was front page news at the NYT that “White House Says It Believes Syria Has Used Chemical Arms.”
From that moment the story became a sensation. It fit well into the parameters of the propaganda system. An official enemy who we are actively trying to overthrow may have used chemical weapons and provided a clear pretext for force. Here comes the march to war.
But when UN investigators looked into the matter and reported that “Syrian Rebels May Have Used Sarin,” the story fell from grace and was pushed to page A9.
This differential treatment signals the death of the “red line” story, which is too bad because it would have been interesting to see The New York Times, or anyone in the mainstream media, investigate how Syrian rebels could have gotten a hold of sarin, especially considering a former Bush official has openly considered the idea of Israel being behind the attack.
The differential treatment may possibly throw a wrench in the drive to war . . . for now. Because, also on page A9 of Monday’s edition of The New York Times is “Attacks on Syria Fuel Debate Over U.S.-Led Airstrikes,” a report of an Israeli attack in Syria:
WASHINGTON — The apparent ease with which Israel struck missile sites and, by Syrian accounts, a major military research center near Damascus in recent days has stoked debate in Washington about whether American-led airstrikes are the logical next step to cripple President Bashar al-Assad’s ability to counter the rebel forces or use chemical weapons.
That option was already being debated in secret by the United States, Britain and France in the days leading to the Israeli strikes, according to American and foreign officials involved in the discussions. On Sunday, Senator John McCain, who has long advocated a much deeper American role in the Syrian civil war, argued that the Israeli attacks, at least one of which appears to have been launched from outside Syrian airspace, weakens the argument that Syria’s air defense system would be a major challenge.
“The Israelis seem to be able to penetrate it fairly easily,” Mr. McCain said on “Fox News Sunday.”
While attacks in Syria might be easier than previously suspected, the justifications for war received a setback. But if history is any guide this is only a minor and temporary one.
Lebanon has asked the United Nations Security Council to condemn Israel for violating its sovereignty by air, sea, and land.
In a letter to the UN Security Council, Lebanon urged the 15-member body to “compel Israel to halt its violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty by air, sea and land, and carry out all its obligations in accordance with Resolution 1701,” Reuters reported on Monday.
UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which brokered a ceasefire in the war of aggression Israel launched against Lebanon in 2006, calls on Israel to respect Lebanon’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“The Israeli Air Force continues to violate Lebanese airspace and in the previous days intensified its circuits above Lebanon. This constitutes a disgraceful violation of (Lebanon’s) sovereignty,” the letter said.
On Friday and Sunday, Israeli warplanes carried out two airstrikes on Syria. The Syrian government called the attacks a “flagrant violation of international law.”
On Sunday, Lebanese President Michel Sleiman condemned the Israeli airstrikes on Syria. A statement issued by Lebanon’s presidential office read: “Sleiman strongly condemned Israel’s aggression on Syrian sites [which it carried out] by violating Lebanese airspace to carry out these attacks.”
“This act is not unusual for a mutual enemy [such as Israel] whose policy is based on aggression that takes advantage of the circumstances Syria is going through to carry out its aggression just as it used to do in Lebanon during its days of crisis,” the statement added.
Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati also denounced the strikes, saying they “underscored once again Israel’s aggressive intentions.”
“[The strikes] fall within the series of continuous aerial violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty and its threats against Lebanon,” he said in a statement issued on Sunday.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry has sent letters to the UN Security Council stating that Israel’s aggression shows the links between Tel Aviv and terrorist groups operating in Syria, including the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front.
Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoabi told reporters in Damascus on Sunday that Syria had the right and the duty to defend its people by all available means and it would not give in to Israeli acts of aggression.
The Israeli attacks on Syria have made the Middle East more dangerous, the Syrian information minister stated.
Despite recent findings of a UN probe team that foreign-backed insurgents in Syria have used chemical agents in the country, a top US senator has introduced a bill requiring the Obama administration to supply lethal weapons to the anti-Damascus militant gangs.
Democratic Chairman of US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Robert Menedez, well known for his pro-Israeli views and positions, introduced the legislation to his committee on Monday, which would explicitly allow Washington to provide arms and military training to the militant gangs that include al-Qaeda-linked terrorist elements.
The move came on the heels of unprovoked Israeli aerial and missile attacks against Syria in recent days, in a flagrant violation of international law, and a report by a UN investigation team that pointed to “strong, concrete suspicions” of chemical weapons use by foreign-backed Syrian opposition forces that are engaged in a US-led move to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Carla Del Ponte, a member of the UN commission probing the alleged use of the nerve gas sarin in Syria, announced on Sunday that the country’s opposition forces, and not the Assad regime, were behind the use of chemical weapons.
There are “strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof” of sarin gas being used “on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities,” she reportedly told a Swiss-Italian television outlet.
Meanwhile, Menendez, a New York Democrat who was recently investigated for ties and accepting campaign funds and bribes from a criminal enterprise in Florida, claimed in a statement that “the Assad regime has crossed a red line that forces us to consider all options.”
He further called for clear measures by Washington to tip the military balance in favor of the anti-Damascus militant gangs in line with the recent aggression by the Zionist regime.
“The greatest humanitarian crisis in the world is unfolding in and around Syria, and the US must play a role in tipping the scales toward opposition groups and working to build a free Syria,” Menendez further claimed.
Such remarks come while Menendez, along with several other pro-Israeli Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the US Congress have been urging the Obama administration to intervene in Syria in support of the insurgents and in a bid to remove President Assad from power.
Furthermore, Menendez is also among those American lawmakers that recently pushed a resolution calling for US backing of the Tel Aviv regime in case it decides to wage a military action against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
This is while the Iranian authorities have made clear that in case the Zionist regime dared to attack the country in any way, major Israeli cities will be “razed to the ground” in response and retaliatory measures against US interests would extend far beyond the immediate region.
The US Senate is to consider the draft bill introduced by Menendez next week. In order for the bill to become law, it has to first be approved by the committee, win passage on the floors of the House and the Senate and then signed by President Barack Obama.
Made in the USA. (Photo: Julie Webb-Pullman)
While the United States peddled the threat of chemical weapon use to justify its arming of the ‘opposition’ in Syria, Israel destroyed a chemical research facility near Damascus which was allegedly developing such weapons – thus unleashing every single potentially-poisonous particle on the Syrian public.
Thus guaranteeing that regardless of whether there actually were chemical weapons being developed or manufactured, regardless of whether the Assad regime actually was intending to use them against the Syrian people, the Syrian people now HAVE been exposed – and in a totally uncontrolled fashion – to not only the known toxic effects of whatever was in the facility, but also to the unknown effects of the random mixing of such chemicals under conditions of extreme heat, and their dissemination who knows how far, causing who knows what extent of environmental and health damage.
Assad mustn’t be permitted to do it – but Israel can – and with US blessing.
Israel’s “right to defend its interests,” Obama immediately called it.
Others would call it a cold-blooded murderous attack on the Syrian civilian population.
Others would call it terrorism.
Since the Twin Towers attacks in 2001, the use of pre-emptive strikes by both the US and Israel to ‘counter terrorism’ or ‘defend security interests’ have escalated to become the single most potent military threat to civilians anywhere on the planet.
Massacre after massacre of civilians by drones, by rockets, by misguided ‘targeted assassinations’ in Afghanistan, Gaza, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan – the list goes on. The list of perpetrators, however, is short – only two. The United States and Israel.
Are such peremptory attacks permissible in international law?
No – international law is very clear on this. Article 51 of the United Nations Charter only allows military actions in self-defence when under direct attack.
Did Syria attack Israel?
Did Syria make any kind of threatening military action towards Israel?
Israel carried out an indefensible-in-international-law military strike in Syria causing direct – and very real – harm to a large civilian population.
A more clear – and potent – case of state terrorism would be hard to find.
Did the US condemn this act, which exposed Syrians to the very harm Obama was trumpeting around the world his intention to protect them from?
He defended Israel’s attack.
A more clear – and potent – case of abject hypocrUSAy would be hard to find.
If the world is not to degenerate into a complete USraeli military dictatorship, the international community must act immediately to curtail this latest slide down the slippery slope of human rights derogation, where notions such as international law and due process are merely quaint antiquities, and self-determination a notion reserved solely for Yanqui and Zionist imperialists – or it won’t just be the end of the alphabet we have reached.
And for those in the US who doubt your country’s role in Israeli military activities, take a look at where your tax-dollars are going. Take a look at this photograph (above) of the remains of the rocket fired by an Israeli military plane at a building housing media agencies in Gaza in November 2012, destroying civilian property and persons. YOU are financing these atrocities. Yes, YOU.
You – and the United Nations – should be reminded of the UN General Assembly’s Measures to prevent and combat terrorism contained in the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy of 2006, where it stated its resolve to “… find, deny safe haven and bring to justice, on the basis of the principle of extradite or prosecute, any person who supports, facilitates, participates or attempts to participate in the financing, planning, preparation or perpetration of terrorist acts…”
The world is waiting – especially all the Syrians just exposed to the cocktail of chemicals the US was claiming to protect them from, while defending Israel’s right to toast them.
- Julie Webb-Pullman is a New Zealand activist and writer currently based in Gaza. She has written on social and political justice issues for New Zealand Independent News website SCOOP since 2003, as well as for websites in Australia, Canada, the US, and Latin America, and participated in several human rights observation missions.
Bush Era’s Good-Ol’ Familiar Faces Resurface again on Operation Syria
With the approaching Finale for Syria’s Assad the Uber-Neocon architects of US foreign policy have been hard at work. Assuming (albeit knowingly) the certainty of the soon-to-come end for Assad’s government, the neocon architects are drafting and crafting their objectives for the Post-Assad regime in Syria. I know the mainstream and pseudo-alternative media use the term “Neocon” loosely and willy-nilly, but I can assure you this is not the case with my usage of “Uber-Neocons’ here. You will see that clearly after reading the following facts.
Yesterday I found this ‘interesting’ article in the Turkish newspaper Zaman [All Emphasis Mine]:
A group of US foreign policy analysts called on President Barack Obama and his government to work towards drawing a common road map with Turkey that will help ensure the formation of a democratic, impartial government in a post-conflict Syrian.
The US think-tank Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) recently formed its Turkey Task Force, co-chaired by former US Ambassadors to Turkey Mort Abramowitz and Eric Edelman. The task force released on Thursday its first report, which points to a critical need for Turkey and the US to cooperate to ensure the formation of a “stable and decent post-Assad Syria.”
The report also analyzes the differences between Turkish and the US interests in a post-Assad Syria, explaining why it is imperative that the US immediately engage with Turkey in establishing joint principles and plans after a possible ouster of the Assad regime.
Do you notice how many times the term “Post-Assad” is used? Also, pay attention to the analysts named in the article and note that we are looking at architects rather than analysts.
Immediately after reading the above article I went to Bipartisan Public Center’s website, and found that the Zaman article had missed the highly-important third name of the architects aka analysts who have already moved to phase 2, Post-Assad regime building, obviously due to their confidence of the soon-to-come fall of the current regime [All Emphasis Mine]:
Ridding Syria of President Bashar al-Assad has been the goal of the United States for almost two years. Should this objective be achieved, however, an enormous challenge will still remain: stabilizing and rebuilding Syria in a way that advances U.S. strategic goals and values. However, this will require the cooperation of Turkey—a U.S. ally with keen interests in Syria. Ankara’s interests, however, do not perfectly match Washington’s, posing the challenge for policymakers of finding the right tools to align more closely the two countries’ visions of Syria’s future.
Join BPC as it announces the creation of its Turkey Task Force, co-chaired by former Ambassadors to Turkey Morton Abramowitz and Eric Edelman, and releases a paper on the opportunities and obstacles to U.S.-Turkish cooperation towards a post-Assad Syria.
And then, at the bottom, BPC lists the task force principals which includes a third name:
Panel discussion and report release featuring
Co-chair, BPC Turkey Task Force
Former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey
Ambassador Eric S. Edelman
Co-chair, BPC Turkey Task Force
Former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
Former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey
Senior Professional Staff Member, House Foreign Affairs Committee
That’s right. We get an additional name: Alan Makovsky.
Now, let us quickly check out the importance of these three personalities and what they have in common:
Those of you who have been following the Uber-Neocon circle and its Uber-Players should immediately recognize Morton Abramowitz. [All Emphasis Mine]:
Morton Abramowitz, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, establishes a number of blue-ribbon commissions, headed by a select group of foreign policy elite, to create a new post-Cold War foreign policy framework for the US. Some of the group’s members are Madeleine Albright, Henry Cisneros, John Deutch, Richard Holbrooke, Alice Rivlin, David Gergen, Admiral William Crowe, Leon Fuerth, as well as Richard Perle and James Schlesinger, the two token conservatives who quickly resign. The commission will issue a number of policy papers recommending the increased use of military force to intervene in the domestic conflicts of other countries.
After six years as the Carnegie Endowment’s president, Morton Abramowitz moves on to the Council on Foreign Relations.
Morton Abramowitz writes a column in the Wall Street Journal calling for a drastic change in US policy toward Kosovo. Abramowitz is highly influential with the US foreign policy elite (see 1991-1997). He argues that the US should support full independence for Kosovo and outlines options the US should consider including bombing Serbia, removing Milosevic, arming and training the KLA, and turning Kosovo into a NATO protectorate through the use of ground forces.
I guess you all would agree with me on Abramowitz’ status as one of the crusty Uber-Neocon architects of our dirty foreign policies and even dirtier foreign operations.
Edelman has close ties to Vice President Cheney and several other administration hardliners. He served under Cheney, then Secretary of Defense, in the first Bush administration. At that time, Cheney set up a “shop” to “think about American foreign policy after the Cold War, at the grand strategic level.” The project also included Paul Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby. [New Yorker, 4/1/02]
From 2001-2003, Edelman served as a national security adviser to Cheney. In 2003, he was named as U.S. ambassador to Turkey, attempting to convince Turkey to cooperate with the Bush administration’s plans to invade Iraq. Turkish columnist Ibrahim Karagul noted, “Edelman is probably the least-liked and trusted American ambassador in Turkish history.”
A good thing this was written by staunch Democrats pre the Obama Administration. Considering Edelman’s current roles under the Obama administration we won’t be hearing much from that same group- the beauty of partisanship in the dumb-ification of Americans. Okay, let’s read more from commentaries and articles written by partisans way-back-when it was okay to expose and criticize Neocons:
But now I discover it was Eric Edelman, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. That makes a whole lot more sense–and really dictates the proper response. You see, Edelman is kind of a poor man’s Dougie Feith. A total shill–and Cheney asset–though apparently with less flair for propaganda. He’s the bright guy who first suggested leaking Plame’s identity to rebut Joe Wilson. And, as it turns out, he realized after he suggested to Libby that the information in question may have been classified.
After a June 2003 article about Iraq and the uranium issues that caused concern to Edelman and Libby, Edelman asked Libby whether information about how the Wilson trip came about could be shared with the press to rebut allegations that the Vice president sent Wilson. Edelman testified that Libby responded by indicating that there would be “complications” at the CIA in disclosing that information publicly. Ambassador Edelman indicated that he understood that he and Libby could not further discuss the matter because they were speaking on an open telephone line and Edelman understood that this might involve classified information.
I guess the above facts on Eric Edelman suffice in establishing him as one of the second-generation Uber-Neocons. Are you with me, so far? Good.
Now, let’s move to the down-played third name: Alan Makovsky. Since WINEP (Washington Institute for Near East Policy) shows up as one of the common denominators among the long-term Uber-Neocons, we’ll start with Makovsky’s role there:
The Turkish Research Program is one of the centers of the institute. The program was founded in 1995. Under the leadership of founding director Alan Makovsky and interim director Helena Kane Finn, the center introduced the Washington policymaking community to Turkey’s leading political, diplomatic, military, and academic figures.
More general background information on Alan Makovsky:
Alan O. Makovsky, a Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, is a specialist on Middle Eastern and Turkish affairs. He joined The Washington Institute in May 1994 after eleven years in the U.S. Department of State, where he had served in a variety of capacities, most notably as Special Advisor to Special Middle East Coordinator Dennis Ross in 1993 and in 1992 as State Department liaison officer and political advisor to Operation Provide Comfort.
And here are a few words on his long-term role in the Turkish-Israeli lobby from an article in NYT:
Probably the most important development in Turkish foreign policy in the last year has been the rapid improvement of its ties with Israel, and this newly strengthened relationship was a topic of much discussion among Turks and Americans at the conference. Alan Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Middle East Politics called the speed with which Turkey and Israel have drawn together ”truly breathtaking” and described it as ”probably the most dramatic strategic development in the Middle East since the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty ended the prospect of a multi-front Arab assault on Israel.”
Makovsky as an ever-present figure in the infamous Turkish-Israeli Lobby ATC:
Speaking at the ATC meetings, Makovsky argued that the most serious problem between Turkey and the United States may stem from the Greek Cypriots’ possible membership in the EU. Indicating that Greece would tell the EU that if the Greek Cypriots are not admitted into the club, Athens would veto enlargement, Makovsky said Washington would have to make a choice: either support the Greek Cypriots’ membership at the expense of Turkey’s anger or oppose the membership. He stressed that the United Sates should not support the Greek Cypriots’ EU membership bid. He also said that he thought the new administration would endorse the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline project.
I have to reluctantly include an excerpt from a site and an author I truly dislike. The only reason I am including this is to show you the gang Alan Makovsky is an integral part of, so forgive me for the source:
The new Israeli-Turkish partnership is a great fit internationally as well. Foiled by human rights groups in Europe, and the Greek and Armenian lobbies in the United States, Turkey needs a reliable source of high-technology military equipment. The Israelis, always the odd man out in their region, are now not so much alone. As for the Turks, always relative strangers in Washington, they now have a well-connected ally, of whom they expect a great deal… And Ankara relies not just on Israelis; to make its case, it also counts on American Jews such as Morton Abramowitz, Douglas Feith, Alan Makovsky, Richard Perle, and Harold Rhode, and on institutions such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.
Now, let me point out another major commonality between Eric Edelman and Alan Makovsky. Last week I wrote an article on the CIA’s Graham Fuller and his role in US BlackOps in Central Asia & the Caucasus, his intimate connections to the Boston Terror Attack, and very importantly, his presence in my State Secrets Privilege Gallery since 2008. It is time to revisit my SSP Gallery again: Click Here
Alan Makovsky and Eric Edelman have both been present together with Graham Fuller in that gallery since 2008.
When we check further we’ll see that Graham Fuller and Morton Abramowitz have also been intimately connected, including their partnership in books and policy paper projects.
There are not many political and intelligence related subjects where I publically engage in and declare ‘absolutism.’ However, there is one point in these areas that has achieved an ‘absolute’ status for me, and that is: There are no coincidences when it comes to the CIA and our foreign policy black deeds. Whether it is CIA’s Graham Fuller’s intimate connections to the Boston Terror Attack, or, Syria-Russia, or the same-old Uber-Neocon architects’ foot-prints and work in the background, a declaration of ‘simple coincidences’ is nothing short of denial.
I have been writing, analyzing and talking about the connections between the Boston Terror, CIA, Graham Fuller, Syria, Russia, and Caucasus-Central Asia. You can read my previous analyses at Boiling Frogs Post, and I encourage you to listen to my recent interview, and watch this video. The operatives and Uber-Neocon architects are now busy preparing the second phase for Syria.
Israel’s reported second air strike on Syria in two days targeted a facility just outside the capital. But there was no escalation toward Israel to justify the attack – and Tel Aviv is only trying to drag the US into the conflict.
That’s the view of journalist and Middle East expert Ali Rizk, who told RT he believes the actions are Israel’s attempt to influence US Middle East policy.
RT: This isn’t just an isolated incident but a series of air offensives above a foreign territory. Why has Israel been so persistent despite the fact that such military action is a clear violation of international law?
Ali Rizk: I think you have to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. Remember that all of the furor and havoc about chemical weapons? Who was the one that made this first announcement…it was Itai Brun, the military intelligence Israeli official who made the announcement about Syria using chemical weapons from the very beginning, after President Obama had said time and again, “that is the red line.”
That didn’t succeed thus far in dragging the US to war against Syria so now I think we had two incidents.
There was a reported Israeli strike on a convoy and now we have indeed an Israeli strike on Jamraya. So I think we have a classical example of what we might call Israel trying to manipulate US policy in the Middle East, trying to drag Obama yet again into another confrontation.
I think that is the case which we have right now, once again. So Israel is going to continue with these practices until it drags the US into conflict.
Why? The reason being that the Syrian army has made military advancements very recently. It seems that Bashar Assad militarily has gained the upper hand so Israel realizes Assad won’t be going unless there’s outside intervention. So Israel is trying to drag the US by saying “If you don’t go in, then we shall wreak havoc. We shall go ahead with our own military escalation.”
RT: We’ve heard from commentators from Israel that the strikes are a balanced reaction. Do you agree?
AR: Balanced reaction to what? It’s in Israel’s interests for this to happen. Has there been any escalation against Israel for Israel to react? Has there been any military action, has Israel been attacked by any side, whether it be Hezbollah or Syria? Has Israel been attacked by any side whatsoever? Israel has not been attacked.
So we hear this talk about game-changing weapons. But that doesn’t give the right or justification for such escalation…I have to emphasize, the clear message if anyone had any doubts I think now it has become clear: Israel wants Bashar Assad to fall. That is Israel’s choice. Netanyahu himself has said time and again: “Syria is the linchpin between Iran and Hezbollah.”
RT: The Assad government, which has been portrayed as warring tyrant by many countries, has now become the victim of a powerful war machine. Could Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran weigh in if Syria did go to war with Israel?
AR: That’s the big question. The Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah made it clear and provides an answer to this question. In a speech last Thursday, he said that Syria’s real friends – meaning Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia – won’t allow Syria to fall into the hands of the US, Israel, or Al-Qaeda affiliates…
I think what you have now is that Iran and Hezbollah now have a new significant ally of real significant weight which is Russia, which is continuing to the Middle East scene once again. So I think that if we do have escalation, Iran will intervene, Hezbollah will intervene, and I think also we might speak about a Russian intervention or some kind of a Russia role because Russia clearly has been very much present and there saying “I am here and I have a significant say.”
- Israel Attempts to Provoke Hezbollah (alethonews.wordpress.com)
United Nations investigators say they have found testimony from victims and medical staff that shows militants have used the nerve agent sarin in Syria, which has been classified as a weapon of mass destruction in UN Resolution 687.
The UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria could not find any evidence that Syrian government forces used chemical weapons against militants, commission member Carla Del Ponte said on Sunday, Reuters reported.
“Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated,” Del Ponte said in television interview.
“This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities,” said Del Ponte, a former Swiss attorney-general who also served as prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
The Syrian government and the foreign-sponsored militants accuse each other of using chemical weapons three times — in March once near Aleppo and second time near Damascus, and another time in Homs in December last year.
On December 17, Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar Ja’afari said in letters to the UN Security Council and the UN secretary general that the foreign-sponsored militants could use chemical weapons against Syrians and try to shift the blame to the government.
Damascus is “genuinely worried” that Syria’s enemies could provide chemical weapons to armed groups “and then claim they had been used by the Syrian government,” Ja’afari stated.
The Syria crisis began in March 2011, and many people, including large numbers of soldiers and security personnel, have been killed in the violence.
The Syrian government says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the militants are foreign nationals.
In an interview recently broadcast on Turkish television, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that if the militants take power in Syria, they could destabilize the entire Middle East region for decades.
TEHRAN – Retired US Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who once served as Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff, believes that the chemical weapons used in Syria may have been an Israeli “false flag” operation aimed at implicating Bashar Assad’s regime.
Wilkerson made his astounding assertion in an interview on Current TV, the network once owned by former Vice President Al Gore and recently purchased by Al-Jazeera, Haaretz reported.
Wilkerson said that the evidence that it was Assad’s regime that had used the chemical weapons was “flaky” and that it could very well have been the rebels or Israel who were the perpetrators. Asked why Israel would do such a thing, Wilkerson said, “I think we’ve got a basically geostrategically, geopolitical inept regime in Tel Aviv right now.”
“I think we saw really startling evidence of that,” Wilkerson continued, “in the fact that President Obama had to tell Bibi Netanyahu ‘Pick up the phone, you idiot, call Ankara and get yourself out of this strategic isolation you’re in right now.’”
A “false flag” operation is a covert attack on foreign or domestic soil carried out by governments or organizations under a false identity, aimed at placing blame on the enemy. It originates with a ruse once used in naval warfare in which ships would hoist the enemy’s flags in order to infiltrate his ranks.
Wilkerson,63, a former Army helicopter pilot who flew combat missions in Vietnam, served as Colin Powell’s chief of staff in 2002-2005. He was responsible for reviewing the intelligence information used by Powell in his by now infamous February 2003 United Nations Security Council appearance on Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.
After his retirement, Wilkerson described this presentation as “a hoax” and became an outspoken critic of the Bush Administration’s handling of the Iraq war. He now serves as a professor at Virginia’s William and Mary College and is a guest commentator on several US television networks.
Speaking on the Current’s Young Turks program, Wilkerson said that because of the instability in the Middle East, Israel’s current geo-strategic situation is “as dangerous as it’s been since 1948.” He added that President Obama “has got to be very circumspect about what he does in exacerbating that situation”.
“Netanyahu is clueless as to this,” Wilkerson said. “I hope President Obama gave him a lecture in geostrategic realities.”
It’s clear that Israel’s strategy is to use the Syrian Civil War to deliberately provoke Hezbollah. The provocation is designed to goad Hezbollah into retaliation for over-flying Lebanon while on their way to apparently destroy weapons that the Israelis say are bound for Hezbollah.
The strategy has worked before. In 2006 the Israelis flew low level high speed jet sorties over Lebanon. Hezbollah responded by launching rockets into Israel. The situation then quickly escalated when the Israelis prepared reconnaissance patrols into south Lebanon. This resulted in an Israeli patrol unit being attacked close to the Lebanese border when three Israelis were killed and two others taken either dead or mortally wounded. The result was a war that the Israelis hoped would put an end to Hezbollah once and for all. However, Hezbollah turned out to be far more tenacious than the Israelis imagined and the war ended when the US under Bush and Condoleezza Rice were no longer able to support Israeli aggression due to international pressure to stop the war as hundreds of Lebanese civilians were being killed. 44 Israeli civilians were killed and 121 Israeli military personnel died. While many Lebanese civilians lost their lives and there was horrendous damage done to Lebanon’s infrastructure, Israel, considering its war aims were to destroy Hezbollah and occupy south Lebanon up to the Litani River, suffered a humiliating defeat. Now the Israelis are trying a different tack except this time their war aims are far grander and they hope to include the US.
The Israelis are clearly hoping that Hezbollah will retaliate in some way to Israeli provocation. So far, Hezbollah have resisted the temptation to launch any anti-aircraft missiles at Israeli aircraft overflying Lebanon and/or launch rockets against Israel in an attempt to deter Israel from further aggression.
As for Israel’s claims that their raids against weapons dumps in Syria are aimed at preventing weapons from reaching Hezbollah, this too is simply part of an overall strategy designed to demonise the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah alliance for propaganda purposes for when a wider regional war breaks out. It also provides a reasonable casus belli for when such a full on regional war does break out. The fact is, there would be no way that President al-Assad would want to provoke Israel by allowing any WMDs to be transferred to Hezbollah and Israel knows this. There is also no way that al-Assad would want to incur America’s wrath by using chemical weapons against anyone. Again, the Israelis know this. Yet it is the Israelis that are pushing this right to the very edge.
Israel is desperate to initiate a regional confrontation with all of their enemies that will allow them to pursue their territorial expansionist ambitions which will result in the long term in realising their dreams of a Greater Israel. There are a number of doors through which Israel can pass through in order to kick off their long sought after war. The civil war in Syria is just another door.
Sunday at dawn, May 5 2013, Syrian sources reported that the Israeli Air Force bombarded a Syrian army center north of Damascus, causing extensive damage.
The official Syrian News Agency (SANA) reported; “the new Israeli aggression on Syria comes to aid the terrorist groups that are being defeated by the army in various areas”, and added that the Israeli attack “is meant to foil the attempts of the Syrian army to restore security and stability”.
“This aggression proves Israel’s direct involvement in the conspiracy against Syria”, SANA reported, “This conspiracy serves Israel’s interests, the terrorist groups that army fighting against the Syrian army are directly financed and supported by regional and international countries, including Arab Gulf countries”.
The Syrian Human Rights Monitor, based in Britain, quoted eyewitnesses in Syria stating that the Israeli Air Force bombarded the Jimraya military base, and a nearby weapons facility, and at least two centers for the Syrian Presidential Guards.
Israel refused to comment on the attack, an Israeli army spokeswoman told Reuters; “Israel does not comment on such reports”.
Earlier in February of this year, the Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations filed an official complaint against Israel for bombarding a site in the country, and for violating Syrian airspace, and for bombarding a research center.
Israel claimed that it targeted what it called “a weapons convoy heading to Lebanon”, but Syria stated that the Israeli Air Force bombarded a military scientific center in a suburban area near the Syrian capital, Damascus. Two persons were killed, and several others were injured.
Israeli security officials claimed that the target was a convoy “carrying weapons that could change the rules of the game in the region”, including advanced Russian Sam 17 surface-to-air missiles that Syria was allegedly transporting to the Lebanon-based Hezbollah party.
A new poll has revealed that most Americans oppose US intervention in Syria amid growing efforts by the Obama administration and pro-Israeli members of Congress to directly engage US troops in yet another Muslim nation.
While 61 percent of those polled expressed opposition to US meddling in the internal Syrian crisis, triggered and sustained by a massive foreign-sponsored armed insurgency, merely 10 percent of participants in the online survey were supportive of the American intervention, according to the results of a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll published on Wednesday.
The findings of the new survey confirm the results of an earlier poll conducted by US-based CBS News and The New York Times, which put the strength of American opposition to the potential US intervention in Syria at 62 percent.
Despite the obvious opposition of most Americans to yet another US military intervention in the Middle East, a number of fervently pro-Israel members of the US congress continue to press the Obama administration to expand its support of anti-Damascus militant gangs in Syria by supplying them with lethal weapons and even to deploy troops in a bid to “hasten” what many consider as a joint US-Israeli vision for the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The development comes just a day after US-based press reports cited senior Obama administration officials as saying that Washington is preparing to deploy troops to Syria and supplying lethal weapons to foreign-backed militants in the country in an intensifying effort to force the ouster of Syrian president.
According to these reports, the decision to vastly expand American intervention measures against Damascus was prompted by the growing realization in Washington that that the US-sponsored Syrian opposition is unable to gather popular support in the Arab nation.
“We’re clearly on an upward trajectory; we’ve moved over to assistance that has a direct military purpose,” a senior Obama administration official was quoted as saying in a Washington Post report.
Further highlighting Washington’s actual aim of removing President Assad from power in Syria at any cost, the administration’s National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said, “We continue to consider all other possible options that would accomplish our objective of hastening a political transition,” which refers to regime change.
This is while openly pro-Israeli Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina recently cited the widely discounted Israeli claims of chemical weapons use in Syria, pressing for swift Washington action to “secure” chemical arms arsenals in the country.
The two lawmakers, however, did not explain how American forces would accomplish such a task.
Moreover, Graham called on the US military to “bomb Syrian air bases with cruise missiles in a bid to “neutralize” the government’s air advantage over the foreign-backed militant gangs and turn the “tide of battle pretty quickly” in favor of the anti-Damascus insurgents.
Senator McCain, meanwhile, said the US should move into Syria as part of an “international force” to secure the country’s chemical weapons, but did not elaborate on how such international military force would be established and which countries would be involved.
Syria has been faced with a foreign-sponsored armed insurgency since 2011. Thousands of people in the country, including a large number of security forces, have been killed in the unrest with many foreign nationals infiltrating the key Arab state in a bid to destabilize the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian opposition is made up of young men with little education, brainwashed into fighting President Assad, journalist Anhar Kocheva told RT. Kocheva spoke about her time as a hostage, describing a ragtag group of men devoid of tangible ideals.
Anhar Kochneva, a Ukrainian citizen and Palestinian national, spent 153 days as a hostage in the custody of Syrian opposition guerilla fighters. She paints an altogether different picture of the rebel fighters to the one in Western media – young men in their twenties conned into fighting for the opposition by the farfetched stories of sheiks.
RT: Can you describe these rebel fighters? What kind of people are they?
Anhar Kochneva: The ones that held me captive were Syrians, Sunnis. There are no foreigners in that particular group. Most of them are former neighbors or relatives from a southern Homs district – Baba Amr. Their apartments and houses were destroyed a year ago, because they were fighting against the army there and, as they put it, they made a tactical decision to withdraw. The withdrawal basically meant crossing the Homs-Tartus highway, moving from its northern to its southern side. They moved into the empty houses in the village and paid some rent to the owners – $50-100. Rent is getting higher, because the demand for housing is growing, since there are more and more refugees. And it is impossible to live in summer houses. In some houses, there are over 30 refugees. Electricity is scarce; there is a schedule for when it comes on. Those who have a generator are considered very lucky. My kidnappers didn’t have a generator.
RT: What kind of guerilla activities are they involved in? Are they constantly attacked by the Army?
AK: The army didn’t really do anything to them. There were occasional shootings. These are just small groups in rural areas. So the army doesn’t really target their residences. They attacked the government forces and their checkpoints every once in a while, kidnapped people.
RT: What is the relationship between the guerilla fighters and the locals?
AK: They try to co-exist peacefully with the people who surround them and give them shelter.
They are mad at the Christian community of El Quseir though. Some time ago there were reports about kidnappings of Christians [in September 2012, almost 300 Catholics, half of them women and children, were kidnapped, when they were picking apples in Rehle, on the border with Lebanon – RT]. But it was not mentioned anywhere that by doing that the rebels tried to bring back four of their friends, who were captured by the Christian community – so it was the Christians who upset the peaceful co-existence.
According to many accounts, this is what happened. Four rebels were kidnapped by the Christians. I was told that these four people were kidnapped when they were not doing anything against this Christian community. They were just going about their business.
In order to set their people free, opposition fighters took almost 100 Christians hostage. The guerilla fighters returned all the hostages alive, whereas their people came back in body bags, cut into pieces.
They were offended by that, saying that these people didn’t harm the Christians in any way.
All this happened during my first days in captivity – and they kept talking about this. I overheard some things. They are mad, because their people were brutally killed, but nobody in the West is saying anything about it. They were ordered not to kill Christians, otherwise the West would stop helping them. These cases have to be brought to light and investigated. Maybe because these four people were killed, a chance to achieve a truce was missed… Now the residents of this Christian suburb don’t go anywhere, they don’t go to Sunni villages to buy groceries.
‘They believe most insane stories’
RT: Who are these people, these Syrian guerilla fighters?
AK: Most of them are in their early twenties. Some have served in the army. Twenty-seven-year-olds are considered very mature. Most of them are single. Some didn’t even graduate from high school. Their parents told them, “You know the alphabet, so go work now.”
They don’t have any clear ideology. They don’t really think about things, don’t discuss anything. At least, they didn’t have any such talks with me, they said right away – it’s impossible to argue with them.
Their logic really suffers – and you can see that in everyday life. They believe the most insane stories, if they hear them from some religious teachers.
My guard’s name was Ahmad, 27 years old, finished four grades in school. He told me that he had heard in a sermon that in 1990, Soviet scientists drilled a tunnel to the center of the Earth, saw fire there and recorded the screams of sinners in hell. He believes in that story, because it supports his worldview.
I tried to argue that in 1990 this was the last thing on Russia’s mind, that there is no recording device that can work in such temperature, that spirits don’t have voices – I couldn’t convince him. Most of them have never been outside the country, and didn’t travel around Syria much either. But they remember the blessed times of low prices, somebody even managed to go to the seashore, which is not far from there. But they cannot draw connections between the current situation and their actions.
They talk about how they used to go to restaurants, to cabaret.
RT: Does religion play any role in their life? Do they pray?
AK: They try, but not always succeed. They might fall asleep or fail to wake up. Some other excuses: “I am cold, I am hungry.” I did not see them pray together, they prayed individually. They don’t quote the Koran, don’t say Bismillah or Insha’Allah all the time. These are simple people, who were thrown into some new circumstances, but it didn’t change who they are.
RT: We read all the time that mercenaries are paid “huge money”. What can you say about that?
AK: They don’t consider themselves mercenaries. They are guerilla fighters, volunteers. They made a conscious decision to be part of the unit, to follow this commander, whom they respect. They are not paid salaries, they only get an allowance.
My captors got $100 per month – they spent 40-50 per cent of that on cigarettes.
Fighters in other units get twice as much, or even more. But those who held me didn’t mind staying on the allowance, as long as Ammar was their leader.
RT: Who is this commander? What sets him apart?
AK: He turned 40 recently. Before the war, he used to be a house painter in Homs. He’s single. His father was a well-known Sufi sheik who could talk to snakes. My guards knew and respected him.
‘Simple provincial folk’
RT: And how do these things go together – their respect for a Sufi sheik and brainwashing the public that this unrest is the Salafist doing?
AK: They are neither radical Muslims nor Salafists, they are simple provincial folk that have been told by sheiks about freedom and democracy.Ammar has been in the guerilla force for over a year.
RT: What made him join?
AK: He saw what he thought to be a major injustice taking place. Both the opposition and the army kept firing, and innocent people kept dying in the crossfire. In his circle, the perception was that it was army’s and the regime’s fault.
I asked him once, “What would you do if this civil war never happened and instead Israel attacked Syria?” He replied, “I would join the army and fight for Syria.”
But there’s no going back for him now.
RT: Any war ends in a truce.
AK: He’s gone way too far. He is the enemy of the state. He is a leader and head of the military council of the Farouq Brigades in Homs area. He supervises attacks on checkpoints, they have partly killed and expelled all the Shia, and all the Alawites. He led the resistance to the army taking over Homs from Bab-Amr. I believe this is the man it would be worth running negotiations with – that’s of course if he chose to resort to a dialogue. He is not beyond compassion and understanding. He can let people free. During my time there, he let two Sunni fighters, professors with Homs University free.
He is a very simple man, he doesn’t require much, and strives to deliver justice. He gave over his room and bed to me and slept on the floor. People often send him gifts of nice clothes and he gives them away to his fighters. He has no material ambition to get rich.
RT: Did he mention what goals the guerilla forces pursue?
AK: No. They thought it wouldn’t take long and hoped to get support from abroad. He believes they have been decoyed and used, as they didn’t receive the help they had been promised and now it’s obvious they are not going to receive it at all.
He is not a bigot or radical – he is a civilized person with that Syrian conception that everybody has the right to have its own idea of how to follow their religion. I was forced to put on a headscarf only for the time of filming [a video about the terms of release – RT].
People respect him as he is reasonable and has no material ambition to get rich.
The man who kidnapped me behaves differently and people notice such things. For instance, when they [people from the 1st detachment – RT] attacked the village of al Haidaria, not only did they steal people’s belongings from the abandoned houses, but they knocked down the walls, pulled out electrical boxes, removed windows and doors, plug sockets and switchers in order to sell them all.
Those who kept me hostage disapproved of that.
Many told me that if I had gotten in hands to some other field commander, I would have had a far harder time.
RT: The rebels’ hatred is focused on Bashar Assad – can you say why?
AK: They hold him responsible for everything. They even say the carrot crop failure is his fault. It’s a trend to hate him. And they get brainwashed to believe that the majority of people think the same. They don’t want to know that the majority actually does not support them.
The brainwashing techniques are quite primitive. For example, their fatigues have been manufactured in Turkey, with each set numbered, and the numbers they used exceed 11 million. But that’s nonsense. Syria doesn’t have that many men. Its entire population is 23 million people, and children account for more than a half of this number. This is the way they’re trying to support the myth that the FSA has the majority on its side. And you know what happens in those small areas they control? Many are forced to keep their real attitude secret.
RT: What about Hafez Assad? Did their parents hate him, too?
AK: They don’t talk about him. I never heard anything. They don’t even need that kind of logical argument.
RT: Do they hate Russia?
AK: They plan to celebrate their victory by blasts in Chechnya and Moscow – these are their exact words. My guards happily assured me this will happen. It’s possible they just said it to dispirit me, and use other words with other people.
RT: You said that the commander of the detachment would have joined the army if Israel had attacked Syria. What do rank-and-file guerrillas think about Israel?
AK: According to some rumors, the Qataris and Saudis became regular visitors to Israel, and their visits were quite friendly. That’s why the command of the opposition ordered to be kind to Israel. As for the Palestinian people, there is another directive – they should treat them with disdain. They say that the Palestinians were selling their own land, and the Jews, on the contrary, are good people. I heard several people saying such things, and it sounds like an echo of some programs, conversations and opinions someone had instilled in them. I repeat that there is no mindset there.
Speaking of the Palestinians, Kurds, coastal population and the population of the regions – they believe that they are all traitors, because they haven’t taken the side of the revolution.
Turkey is not respected either – they don’t get anything essential from them, although some useful small items come from Turkey from time to time. For example, there were book series dedicated to the “Blessed Syrian Revolution” published in Turkey, and they read them. These books include quotes from the Koran and say that God welcomes the events in Syria.
RT: Is hatred towards Alawites religious in character?
AK: No, there’s nothing about religion, although some statements about incorrect believing did take place. But this is not the key point. They have some way stronger emotions. For example, I heard them complaining that the houses of Alawite scum were the only ones that were heated. The thing is they were offered big multi-dwelling units with heating, but they refused saying they wanted to live in their private homes.
RT: And what do they think of the Christians?
AK: They are regarded as wayward, but they don’t dare mess with the Christians fearing Europe would turn away from them. Moreover, we shouldn’t forget there are a lot of Christians in Syria, as well as plenty of different communities and sects. They all live side-by-side with the Muslims and regard them as neighbors, without paying extra attention to what they believe in.
RT: How do they regard the Americans?
AK: They criticize them, claiming the Americans have decoyed them. The guerrillas are told that the Americans might be spies. There was an American man who had pretended to be a journalist and he had been caught before me. According to the guerrillas, he was leaking some information about locations, so he was caught and accused of espionage. I heard he was bartered – there was a grand operation.
‘They are hostile towards opposition groups abroad’
RT: Do they realize how the opposition can represent them abroad? Does anybody monitor and evaluate their activities?
AK: They don’t like the opposition members settled in Europe, Istanbul and Moscow, and have promised to slaughter them if they come back to Syria. Regular fighters say they have been shedding blood and those people just want to get everything for free. So they are quite hostile towards the opposition that settled down abroad.
RT: What arms do guerillas use?
AK: Russian hand grenades, Kalashnikov guns – both Russian and Chinese. As they said themselves, they have got lots of Belgian weapons.
RT: Did you see if they had money?
AK: Two bundles of $8,000. And they were speaking of such sums like pocket change. They were counting money before my own eyes. What’s more, after I had already been released, I ran into a video in which Ammar was counting a huge bundle of money. It is clear they don’t keep this money to themselves – they buy weapons with it.
RT: Did you see anybody get wounded?
AK: Lots of wounded people. I saw about nine people bandaged and loads of murdered. There is a field hospital, but I’d rather call it a regular clinic. The chief doctor is a pharmacist, who – according to my experience – doesn’t know what is what even in terms of pharmacy. There was some wounded man delivered from Homs – he begged to be handed over to the army, as he knew he wouldn’t get proper medical treatment and would die.
RT: What do the rebels think of volunteers from abroad?
AK: They are at odds with Jabhat al-Nusra. There is some killing list with the names of al-Faruk Brigades’ leaders on it, and about five people have already been killed – they try to eliminate the lead figures. Moreover, there are ongoing serious wrangles among the rebels themselves. There were no foreigners in the areas I have been to. To say the least, they are not welcomed and regarded as competitors.
‘People are exhausted’
RT: How do people feel over there?
AK: People are exhausted. Most of them have lost everything. Those who had wanted to take part in the revolution already joined – so human resources inside the country ran out. Still the Syrian people are not used to living in such conditions. They don’t leave their homes after 7pm: any noise and you may be shot.
They eat pigeons and sparrows that they shoot, pluck and roast, which is clearly caused by hunger and distress, but there are some unmotivated actions taking place, too. They can shoot a dog or a little puppy kids have been playing with. I have never seen the soldiers of the regular army turning their guns on living beings.
RT: Which mass media is popular?
AK: They watch Al Jazeera, Orient TV – all in all about eight opposition channels. They use the internet as well. There is an information center where correspondents of Al Jazeera Mohammad Arabi and Hale dabu Saleh worked.
- Captive Ukrainian journalist escapes Syrian rebels (alethonews.wordpress.com)