US Navy destroyer, the USS Truxtun, has crossed Turkey’s Bosphorus and entered the Black Sea. With the Crimea Peninsula getting ready to hold a referendum on independence from Ukraine in a week, the US is ramping up its military presence in the region.
USS Truxton is heading to “previously planned” training exercises with the Bulgarian and Romanian navies, AFP reported earlier. At the same time, Fox News declared that NATO’s bolstering presence in the Black Sea is a “defensive” measure to counter “Russian military aggression” in Ukraine.
The situation in Ukraine is close to financial and humanitarian catastrophe, urging mass protests in eastern regional centers against self-proclaimed government in Kiev. The autonomous Crimea region is preparing to hold a March-16 referendum on whether it wants to remain part of Ukraine or join Russia, after ousted President Viktor Yanukovich fled the country and the opposition imposed a central government.
Subsequently, Russia’s upper chamber of the parliament approved the possibility of Moscow deploying troops to Ukraine and particularly to Crimea – but only to protect ethnic Russians in Crimea.
On Friday night, Vladimir Putin’s Press Secretary, Dmitry Peskov, warned of possible ethnic cleansing of the Russians in Crimea if the people who seized power in Kiev also grasp autonomy.
Peskov stressed that Russians in Crimea and eastern Ukraine are “scared and are asking for help from Russia”.
“We fully understand the fears that now prevail in the East [of Ukraine,” Peskov acknowledged.
However, the US State Department doesn’t see any possible danger to millions of ethnic Russians.
Russians make up well over 17 percent of Ukraine’s 45 million population, whereas in Crimea Russians are over 58 percent of the autonomy’s nearly two million population.
“There are no confirmed reports of threats to ethnic Russians,” Eric Rubin said, testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Mr Rubin is a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.
USS Truxton, with a crew of about 300, is an Arleigh Burke class destroyer equipped with the Aegis combat system, which integrates the ship’s radar, sensors and missile weapons to engage anti-ship missile threats. The warship is part of the USS George W. Bush Carrier Strike Group currently stationed in Greece. The carrier is not expected to move into the Black Sea in respect of the Montreux Convention of 1936, which closed Turkish Bosphorus and Dardanelles for ships with deadweight over 45,000 tons. With its 97,000 tons, the USS George W. Bush is the world’s largest warship.
USS Truxton has taken up the baton of American military presence in the region from frigate USS Taylor, which ran aground in the Turkish port of Samsun in the Black Sea last month, with a broken propeller hub and blades. On Friday, a tugboat began to tow the damaged warship to Greece’s island of Crete, where it will be repaired at the US Navy base in Souda Bay.
USS Truxton will reportedly stay in the Black Sea till mid-March. The Montreux Convention allows a warship of any non-Black Sea country to stay in the region for 21 days only.
During the military conflict between Russia and Georgia in August 2008, an American ship was also present in the Black Sea with reconnaissance and an officially proclaimed humanitarian mission. In September 2008, the US costal guard ship, Dallas, docked at Sevastopol harbor with a secret mission and had to leave in haste because of mass local protest.
Given the present conditions, an American battleship is highly unlikely to get anywhere near the Crimea shores, let alone Sevastopol, without a risk of repeating a hasty exit from the past.
On February 12, 1988, a Ticonderoga-class cruiser, the USS Yorktown, and a Spruance-class destroyer, the USS Caron, had to flee from Soviet territorial waters off the Crimean Peninsula. After the two American warships ignored the Soviet Navy’s demands to leave country’s territorial waters immediately, the Soviet frigate, Bezzavetny, simply rammed both American ships, forcing them to comply with international maritime rules.
Atlanta, February 26, 2014 – Since the days of President Woodrow Wilson – that is, for roughly 100 years – the USA has been on a self-styled crusade to “make the world safe for democracy.”
Colossal wars, hot and cold, were fought against German kaisers and fuhrers, Russian communists, and Third World nationalists. The American people were told they were “defending democracy.”
Americans slaughtered 3.5 million Vietnamese, and nearly another million Cambodians, to “defend democracy” in Southeast Asia.
They murdered millions of Iraqis through wars and sanctions to “defend democracy” in the Middle East.
According to André Vltchek and Noam Chomsky’s book On Western Terrorism, the US government has murdered between 55 and 60 million people since World War II in wars and interventions all over the world. If we believe the imperial propagandists, this American Holocaust has been one big defense of democracy.
But now, on the eve of the 100th anniversary of World War I, the US has embarked on a new crusade – to make the world UNSAFE for democracy.
In Ukraine, Venezuela, and Thailand, the US is spending billions of dollars to unconstitutionally eject democratically-elected governments. In Palestine, the US has been trying to overthrow the democratically-elected Hamas government ever since it came to power. In Egypt, the US – under Zionist pressure – recently overthrew the only genuinely democratic government in 5,000 years of recorded history. In Syria, the US insists that the people must not be given the opportunity to re-elect Assad, no matter how many international observers and safeguards ensure honest elections. And in Turkey, the US is undermining the democratically-elected Prime Minister Erdogan in favor of CIA puppet Fethullah Gulen.
Taking the long view, the US is working patiently to destroy democracy in Iran, Russia, and Latin America.
Why does the US government hate democracy?
Because the international bankers who own the US government and run the US empire cannot always buy enough votes to impose their will on every country. So democracy is fine – as long as voters elect the New World Order candidate. But if they vote for a candidate who doesn’t suit the oligarchs, get ready for a coup!
The banksters will overthrow any government that stands up to them – even in the USA. The “termination with extreme prejudice” of the presidency of John F. Kennedy sent a message to all future US presidents.
Mayer Rothschild famously said “Give me control of a nation’s money and I care not who makes its laws.” But that was an exaggeration. The New World Order banksters seek to overthrow democratically-elected governments all over the world precisely because they DO care who makes and enforces the laws.
The NWO banksters are destroying Ukraine as a geostrategic move against Russia, where Putin has reined in the Russian-Zionist oligarchs and put a major roadblock in the path of the banksters’ world government project. Yes, Ukrainian President Yanukovich won a free and fair democratic election. But democracy means nothing to the psychopathic pharaohs of finance and their Neocon hired guns.
The banksters (and the Western governments they control) are also trying to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, who took office after the CIA assassinated Hugo Chavez. President Maduro overcame the banksters’ attempts to defeat him in last year’s elections; he is now the constitutional, democratically-elected President of Venezuela. But that hasn’t stopped the banksters from trying to overthrow him in a pseudo-populist coup.
In Thailand, the banksters and their local kleptocracy are trying to overthrow the democratically-elected government of Prime Minister Shinawatra. Apparently Shinawatra’s attempts to fund education, medical care, and infrastructure, and institute a minimum wage, offended the oligarchs.
In Ukraine, Venezuela, and Thailand, as in Syria and Egypt before them, the banksters are adding violence to their “color revolution” game plan for destroying democracy. This may seem incongruous, since the NWO intellectual hired gun Gene Sharp, the so-called “Machiavelli of non-violence,” designed the original color revolutions as purportedly peaceful and democratic uprisings.
But Sharp’s so-called color revolutions, beginning with Georgia’s Rose Revolution of 2003 and Ukraine’s Orange Revolution of 2004, were never genuine people’s revolutions. They were bankster takeover attempts from the beginning. George Soros would funnel Rothschild money to ambitious, power-hungry apparatchiks, who would inundate their target countries with propaganda and hire rent-a-mobs to dress in a particular color and make a spectacle of themselves in the public square, in hopes of duping naive young people into joining the “revolution” – whose real goal is always to install a NWO puppet leader.
But now the pretense of nonviolence and democracy has evaporated. The New World Order’s smiling Mickey Mouse mask has fallen away, revealing the bloodthirsty grin of satanic banksters bent on establishing an Orwellian one-world dictatorship.
In Syria, the “peaceful uprising” of March 2011 became a pretext for sending in heavily armed thugs and terrorists on a destabilization mission. In Egypt, the bankster-generated “uprising” last summer was a manufactured excuse for a violent coup d’état. In Thailand, Venezuela and Ukraine, the banksters are paying hooligans to stage violent protests, destroy public property, fight police, and incite mayhem – in hopes of violently overthrowing democratically-elected governments.
This is pure fascism.
Fascism is fake populism. Self-styled fascist “revolutionaries” are paid to dress up in colors or uniforms, goose-step around the public square, overthrow democratically-elected governments… and institute a veiled dictatorship of the rich, in which corporate and governmental power merge.
That is what Mussolini did in 1922. It is what Hitler did in 1933. And it is what the neoconservatives, and their bankster sponsors, are doing today… all over the world. The 9/11 Reichstag Fire, which turned the world’s sole superpower decisively toward total fascism, was the gunshot that set off the avalanche.
The end-game: A global fascist dictatorship that would make the Third Reich look like a walk in the park.
There is only one way to defeat these monsters. All great fortunes, beginning with the trillion-dollar treasure hordes of the Rothschilds and their friends, must be confiscated and returned to the public treasury. All of the big banks must be nationalized, and their operations must be made completely transparent. All major financial transactions must be taxed and closely regulated. And all of the biggest corporations, starting with those that own the mainstream media, must be broken into small pieces by anti-trust action.
This revolution – the overthrow of the global oligarchy – is the only revolution that matters.
Turkish police have fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse crowds of protesters rallying against “draconian” internet laws approved by parliament.
Police approached the crowd along Istanbul’s Istiklal Avenue and fired water cannons from behind armored vehicles as protesters tried to march to the city’s main square.
“Everywhere is bribery, everywhere is corruption,” protesters chanted.
As riot police fired water cannons at protesters, some of them responded by throwing stones or setting off fireworks aimed at law enforcement officers.
The new bill was passed late Wednesday by the parliament dominated by the Erdogan’s AKP party.
If the president approves the legislation, it would give authorities the power to block web pages without a court order within just hours.
It would also require internet service providers (ISPs) to store data on their clients’ online activities for two years and provide it to the authorities on request.
However, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected any possibility that the regulations would allow authorities to have access to internet users’ personal information.
“Never. It is out of the question that people’s private data will be recorded,” he said in Istanbul on Saturday.
The opposition says the move is part of a government bid to stifle a corruption scandal and accuses the government of limiting Internet freedoms.
Erdogan denies accusations of censorship, saying the legislation would make the internet “more safe and free.”
“These regulations do not impose any censorship at all on the Internet … On the contrary, they make it safer and freer,” he said.
Prepared by the Ministry of Family and Social Policy, the bill provoked mass rallies in mid-January, shortly after it was announced. The protest was dispersed by riot police who used water cannons and tear gas against hundreds of opponents of the bill.
The bill amends Law No. 5651, widely known as Turkey’s Internet Law that came into effect in July 2007.
Mr. President, what do you expect from the Geneva conference?
President Assad: The most basic element, which we continuously refer to, is that the Geneva Conference should produce clear results with regard to the fight against terrorism in Syria. In particular, it needs to put pressure on countries that are exporting terrorism, – by sending terrorists, money and weapons to terrorist organisations, – especially Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and of course the Western countries that provide political cover for these terrorist organisations. This is the most important decision or result that the Geneva Conference could produce. Any political solution that is reached without fighting terrorism has no value. There can be no political action when there is terrorism everywhere, not only in Syria but in neighbouring countries as well. From the political side, it is possible for Geneva to contribute to a process of dialogue between Syrians. There has to be a Syrian process within Syria and whilst Geneva could support this, it cannot be a substitute for it.
AFP: After nearly three years of devastating war and the big challenge of reconstruction in the country, is it likely that you will not be a candidate for the presidency?
President Assad: This depends on two things: It depends on personal aspirations or a personal decision, on the one hand, and on public opinion in Syria, on the other. As far as I am concerned, I see no reason why I shouldn’t stand; as for Syrian public opinion, there is still around four months before the election date is announced. If in that time, there is public desire and a public opinion in favour of my candidacy, I will not hesitate for a second to run for election. In short, we can say that the chances for my candidacy are significant.
AFP: In these past years, have you thought for a moment about losing the battle, and have you thought of an alternative scenario for you and your family?
President Assad: In any battle, there is always the possibility of winning and losing; but when you’re defending your country, it’s obvious that the only choice is to win. Should Syria lose this battle that would mean the spread of chaos throughout the Middle East. This battle is not confined to Syria and is not, as Western propaganda portrays, a popular uprising against a regime suppressing its people and a revolution calling for democracy and freedom. These lies have now become clear to people. A popular revolution doesn’t last for three years only to fail; moreover, a national revolution cannot have a foreign agenda. As for the scenarios that I have considered, of course these types of battles will have numerous scenarios – 1st, 2nd, 3rd……tenth, but they are all focused on defending the country not on running away from it. Fleeing is not an option in these circumstances. I must be at the forefront of those defending this country and this has been the case from day one.
AFP: Do you think you are winning this war?
President Assad: This war is not mine to win; it’s our war as Syrians. I think this war has, if you will, two phases. The first phase, which took the form of plans drawn up at the beginning, was the overthrow of the Syrian state in a matter of weeks or months. Now, three years on, we can safely say that this has failed, and that the Syrian people have won. There were countries that not only wanted to overthrow the state, but that also wanted to partition the country into several ‘mini-states;’ of course this phase failed, and hence the win for the Syrian people. The other phase of the battle is the fight against terrorism, which we are living on a daily basis. As you know, this phase isn’t over yet, so we can’t talk about having won before we eliminate the terrorists. What we can say is that we are making progress and moving forward. This doesn’t mean that victory is near at hand; these kinds of battles are complicated, difficult and they need a lot of time. However, as I said, and I reiterate, we are making progress, but have not yet achieved a victory.
AFP: Returning to Geneva, do you support a call from the conference for all foreign fighters to leave Syria, including Hezbollah?
President Assad: Clearly the job of defending Syria is responsibility of the Syrian people, the Syrian institutions, and in particular the Syrian Army. So, there would be no reason for any non-Syrian fighters to get involved had there not been foreign fighters from dozens of countries attacking civilians and Hezbollah especially on the Syrian-Lebanese border. When we talk about fighters leaving Syria, this would need to be part of a larger package that would see all the foreign fighters leave, and for all armed men – including Syrians – to hand over their weapons to the Syrian state, which would consequently achieve stability. So naturally, yes, one element of the solution in Syria – I wouldn’t say the objective – is for all non-Syrian fighters to leave Syria.
AFP: In addition to the prisoner exchange and a ceasefire in Aleppo, what initiatives are you ready to present at Geneva II?
President Assad: The Syrian initiative was put forward exactly a year ago, in January of last year. It’s a complete initiative that covers both political and security aspects and other dimensions that would lead to stability. All of these details are part of the initiative that Syria previously put forward. However, any initiative, whether this one or any other, must be the result of a dialogue between Syrians. The essence of anything that is proposed, whether it’s the crisis itself, fighting terrorism, or the future political vision and political system for Syria, requires the approval of Syrians. Our initiative was based on a process to facilitate this dialogue rather than a process to express the government’s point of view. It has always been our view that any initiative must be collective and produced by both the political actors in Syria and the Syrian people in general.
AFP: The opposition that will participate in Geneva is divided and many factions on the ground don’t believe it represents them. If an agreement is reached, how can it be implemented on the ground?
President Assad: This is the same question that we are asking as a government: when I negotiate, who am I negotiating with? There are expected to be many sides at Geneva, we don’t know yet who will come, but there will be various parties, including the Syrian government. It is clear to everyone that some of the groups, which might attend the conference, didn’t exist until very recently; in fact they were created during the crisis by foreign intelligence agencies whether in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, France, the United States or other countries. So when we sit down with these groups, we are in fact negotiating with those countries. So, is it logical that France should be a part of the Syrian solution? Or Qatar, or America, or Saudi Arabia, or Turkey? This doesn’t make any sense. Therefore, when we negotiate with these parties, we’re in fact negotiating with the countries that are behind them and that support terrorism in Syria. There are other opposition forces in Syria that have a national agenda; these are parties that we can negotiate with. On the issue of the vision for Syria’s future, we are open for these parties to participate in governing the Syrian state, in the government and in other institutions. But as I mentioned earlier, anything that is agreed with any party, whether in Geneva or in Syria, must be subject to people’s endorsement, through a referendum put to Syrian citizens.
AFP: In this context, could the ceasefire agreements that have been started in Moadimiya and Barzeh be an alternative to Geneva?
President Assad: The truth is that these initiatives may be more important than Geneva, because the majority of those fighting and carrying out terrorist operations on the ground have no political agenda. Some of them have become professional armed robbers, and others, as you know, are takfiri organisations fighting for an extremist Islamic emirate and things of that kind. Geneva means nothing for these groups. For this reason, the direct action and the models that have been achieved in Moadamiyeh, in Barzeh and other places in Syria has proven to be very effective. But this is separate from the political process, which is about the political future of Syria. These reconciliations have helped stability and have eased the bloodshed in Syria, both of which help pave the way for the political dialogue I mentioned earlier.
AFP: Are you prepared to have a prime minister from the opposition in a future government?
President Assad: That depends on who this opposition represents. When it represents a majority, let’s say in parliament, naturally it should lead the government. But to appoint a prime minister from the opposition without having a majority doesn’t make any political sense in any country in the world. In your country, for example, or in Britain or elsewhere, you can’t have a prime minister from a parliamentary minority. This will all depend on the next elections, which we discussed in the Syrian initiative; they will reveal the real size of support for the various opposition forces. As to participation as a principle, we support it, of course it is a good thing.
AFP: Are you prepared to have, for example, Ahmed Jarba or Moaz Khatib, be your next prime minister?
President Assad: This takes us back to the previous question. Do any of these people represent the Syrian people, or even a portion of the Syrian people? Do they even represent themselves, or are they just representatives of the states that created them? This brings us back to what I mentioned earlier: every one of these groups represents the country that created them. The participation of each of these individuals means the participation of each of those states in the Syrian government! This is the first point. Second, let’s assume that we agreed to the participation of these individuals in the government. Do you think that they would dare to come to Syria to take part in the government? Of course they wouldn’t. Last year, they claimed that they had control of 70% of Syria, yet they didn’t even dare to come to the areas that they had supposed control of. They did come to the border for a 30-minute photo opportunity and then they fled. How can they be ministers in the government? Can a foreigner become a Syrian minister? That’s why these propositions are totally unrealistic, but they do make a good joke!
AFP: Mr. President, you said that it depends on the results of the elections, but how can you hold these kinds of elections if part of Syria’s territory is in the hands of insurgents?
President Assad: During this crisis, and after the unrest started in Syria, we have conducted elections twice: the first was municipal elections and the second was parliamentary elections. Of course, the elections cannot be conducted in the same way they are conducted in normal circumstances, but the roads between Syrian regions are open, and people area able to move freely between different regions. Those who live in difficult areas can go to neighbouring areas and participate in the elections. There will be difficulties, but it is not an impossible process.
AFP: Now that opposition fighters are battling jihadists, do you see any difference between the two?
President Assad: The answer I would have given you at the beginning of the events or during its various phases, is completely different to the answer today. Today, there are no longer two opposition groups. We all know that during the past few months the extremist terrorist groups fighting in Syria have wiped out the last remaining positions that were held by the forces the West portrays as moderates, calling them the moderate or secular forces, or the Free Syrian Army. These forces no longer exist. We are now dealing with one extremist group made up of various factions. As to the fighters that used to belong to what the West calls ‘moderate forces,’ these have mostly joined these extremist factions, either for fear or voluntarily through financial incentives. In short, regardless of the labels you read in the Western media, we are now fighting one extremist terrorist group comprising of various factions.
AFP: Would it be possible for the army and the opposition to fight against the jihadists side by side?
President Assad: We cooperate with any party that wants to join the army in fighting terrorists, and this has happened before. There are many militants who have left these organisations and joined the army to fight with it. So this is possible, but these are individual cases. This is not an alliance between ‘moderate’ forces and the army against terrorists. That depiction is false and is an illusion that is used by the West only to justify its support for terrorism in Syria. It supports terrorism under the pretext that it is backing moderation against extremist terrorism, and that is both illogical and false.
AFP: The state accuses the rebels of using civilians as human shields in areas under their control, but when the army shells these areas, do you not think this kills innocent people?
President Assad: The army does not shell neighbourhoods. The army strikes areas where there are terrorists. In most cases, terrorists enter particular areas and force out the civilians. Why do you think we have so many displaced people? Most of the millions of displaced people in Syria have fled their homes because terrorists forcefully entered their neighbourhoods. If there are civilians among these armed groups, why do we have so many displaced people? The army is fighting armed terrorists, and in some cases, terrorists have used civilians as human shields. Civilian casualties are unfortunately the consequences of any war. There is no such thing as a clean war in which there are no innocent civilian victims. This is the unfortunate nature of war, and that is why the only solution is to put an end to it.
AFP: Mr. President, some international organisations have accused the government and the opposition of committing abuses. After this war ends, would you be ready for there to be an investigation into these abuses?
President Assad: There is no logic to this claim made by these organisations. How can the Syrian state be killing its own people, and yet it is still standing three years on, despite the fact that there are dozens of countries working against it. Had the Syrian state been killing its people, they would have revolted against it long ago. Such a state could not survive for more than a few months; the fact that it has resisted for three years means that it has popular support. Such talk is more than illogical: it is unnatural. What these organizations are saying is either a reflection of their ignorance of the situation in Syria, or, in some cases, it shows they are following the political agenda of particular states. The Syrian state has always defended its civilians; it is well documented, through all the videos and the photos circulating, that it is the terrorists who are committing massacres and killing civilians everywhere. From the beginning of this crisis, up until today, these organizations do not have a single document to prove that the Syrian government has committed a massacre against civilians anywhere.
AFP: Mr. President, we know of foreign journalists who were kidnapped by the terrorist groups. Are there any foreign journalists in state prisons?
President Assad: It would be best for you to ask the relevant, specialised agencies on this issue. They would be able to give you an answer.
AFP: Would a reconciliation be possible, one day, between Syria on the one hand, and Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey on the other?
President Assad: Politics changes constantly, but this change depends on two factors: principles and interests. We share no common principles with the states you mention; these states support terrorism and they have contributed to the bloodshed in Syria. As for interests, we need to ask ourselves: will the Syrian people agree to shared interests with these countries after everything that has happened and all the bloodshed in Syria? I don’t want to answer on behalf of the Syrian people. If the people believe they share interests with these states, and if these states change their policy on supporting terrorism, it is plausible that the Syrian people might agree to restore relations. I can’t individually as President, answer on behalf of all the Syrian people at such a time. This is a decision for the people.
AFP: Mr. President, you were welcomed on the occasion of July 14 (Bastille Day) in the Elysee Palace in Paris. Are you now surprised by France’s position, and do you think France may one day play some kind of role in Syria?
President Assad: No, I am not surprised, because when that reception took place, it was during the period – 2008 to 2011 – where there was an attempt to contain Syria’s role and Syria’s policy. France was charged with this role by the United States when Sarkozy became president. There was an agreement between France and the Bush administration over this, since France is an old friend of the Arabs and of Syria and as such it is better suited to play the role. The requirement at that time was to use Syria against Iran and Hezbollah, and to pull it away from supporting resistance organisations in the region. This French policy failed, because its goal was blatantly obvious. Then the so-called Arab Spring began, and France turned against Syria after it had failed to honour the pledge it had made to the United States. This is the reason behind the French position during that period why it changed in 2011.
As for France’s role in future, let’s talk frankly. Ever since 2001 and the terrorist attacks on New York, there has been no European policy-making to speak of (and that’s if we don’t look back even further to the 1990s). In the West, there is only an American policy, which is implemented by some European countries. This has been the case on all the issues in our region in the past decade.
Today, we see the same thing: either European policy is formulated with American blessing, or American policy is adopted by the Europeans as their own. So, I don’t believe that Europe, and particularly France, which used to lead the European policy in the past, is capable of playing any role in the future of Syria, or in neighbouring countries. There is another reason too, and that is that Western officials have lost their credibility. They no longer have double standards; they have triple and quadruple standards. They have all kinds of standards for every political situation. They have lost their credibility; they have sold their principles in return for interests, and therefore it is impossible to build a consistent policy with them. Tomorrow, they might do the exact opposite of what they are doing today. Because of this, I don’t think that France will play a role in the immediate future, unless it changes its policy completely and from its core and returns to the politically independent state it once was.
AFP: How long do you think Syria needs to rid itself completely of its chemical weapons stockpiles?
President Assad: This depends on the extent to which the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will provide Syria with the necessary equipment to carry out the process. So far, the process of making this equipment available has been quite slow. On the other hand, as you know dismantling and neutralizing the chemical materials is not taking place inside Syria nor by the Syrian state. A number of countries in different parts of the world have accepted to carry out that process; some have agreed to deal with the less dangerous materials, whilst others have refused completely. Since, the time-frame is dependent on these two factors – the role of the OPCW and the countries that accept to neutralize the materials on their territories – it is not for Syria to determine a time-frame on this issue. Syria has honoured its part by preparing and collecting data and providing access to inspectors who verified this data and inspected the chemical agents. The rest, as I said, is up to the other parties.
AFP: Mr. President, what has changed in your and your family’s daily, personal lives? Do your children understand what has happened? Do you talk to them about this?
President Assad: There are a few things that haven’t changed. I go to work as usual, and we live in the same house as before, and the children go to school; these things haven’t changed. On the other hand, there are things which have affected every Syrian household, including mine: the sadness which lives with us every day – all the time, because of what we see and experience, because of the pain, because of the fallen victims everywhere and the destruction of the infrastructure and the economy. This has affected every family in Syria, including my own. There is no doubt that children are affected more deeply than adults in these circumstances. This generation will probably grow up too early and mature much faster as a result of the crisis. There are questions put to you by children about the causes of what’s happening, that you don’t usually deal with in normal circumstances. Why are there such evil people? Why are there victims? It’s not easy to explain these things to children, but they remain persistent daily questions and a subject of discussion in every family, including my own.
AFP: Through these years, what was the most difficult situation you went through?
President Assad: It’s not necessarily a particular situation but rather group of elements. There are several things that were hard to come to terms with, and they are still difficult. The first, I believe, is terrorism; the degree of savagery and inhumanity that the terrorists have reached reminds us of what happened in the Middle Ages in Europe over 500 years ago. In more recent modern times, it reminds us of the massacres perpetrated by the Ottomans against the Armenians when they killed a million and a half Armenians and half a million Orthodox Syriacs in Syria and in Turkish territory. The other aspect that is difficult to understand is the extent of Western officials’ superficiality in their failure to understand what happened in this region, and their subsequent inability to have a vision for the present or for the future. They are always very late in realizing things, sometimes even after the situation has been overtaken by a new reality that is completely different. The third thing that is difficult to understand is the extent of influence of petrodollars in changing roles on the international arena. For instance, how Qatar was transformed from a marginal state to a powerful one, while France has become a proxy state implementing Qatari policies. This is also what we see happening now between France and Saudi Arabia. How can petrodollars make western officials, particularly in France, sell their principles and sell the principles of the French Revolution in return for a few billion dollars? These are only a few things, among others, which are difficult for one to understand and accept.
AFP: The trial of those accused of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri has begun. Do you think it will be a fair trial?
President Assad: Nine years have passed since the beginning of this trial. Has justice been served? Every accusation was made for political reasons. Even in the past few days, we have not seen any tangible proof put forward against the parties involved in the case. The real question should be: why the timing? Why now? This court was set up nine years ago. Have the things produced in the last few days been uncovered only now? I believe that the whole thing is politicized and is intended to put pressure on Hezbollah in Lebanon in the same way that it aimed at putting pressure on Syria in the beginning, immediately after al-Hariri’s assassination.
AFP: You have said the war will end when terrorism is eradicated. But the Syrians and everyone else want to know when this war will end. Within months? After a year? In years to come?
President Assad: We hope that the Geneva conference will be able to provide an answer to part of this by exercising pressure on these countries. This aspect has nothing to do with Syria; otherwise we would have put pressure on these states from the beginning and prevented terrorism from entering Syria. From our side, when this terrorism stops coming in, ending the war will not take more than a few months.
AFP: It appears Western intelligence agencies want to re-open channels of communication with Damascus, in order to ask you for help fighting terrorism. Are you ready for that?
President Assad: There have been meetings with several intelligence agencies from a number of countries. Our response has been that security cooperation cannot be separated from political cooperation, and political cooperation cannot be achieved while these states adopt anti-Syrian policies. This was our answer, brief and clear.
AFP: You have said in the past that the state has made mistakes. In your view, what were the mistakes that could have been avoided?
President Assad: I have said that mistakes can be made in any situation. I did not specify what those mistakes were because this cannot be done objectively until the crisis is behind us and we can assess our experience. Evaluating them whilst we are in the middle of the crisis will only yield limited results.
AFP: Mr. President, without Russia, China and Iran’s help, would you have been able to resist in the face of the wars declared against you?
President Assad: This is a hypothetical question, which I cannot answer, because we haven’t experienced the alternative. Reality has shown that Russian, Chinese and Iranian support has been important and has contributed to Syria’s steadfastness. Without this support, things probably would have been much more difficult. How? It is difficult to draw a hypothetical picture at this stage.
AFP: After all that has happened, can you imagine another president rebuilding Syria?
President Assad: If this is what the Syrian people want, I don’t have a problem with it. I am not the kind of person who clings to power. In any case, should the Syrian people not want me to be president, obviously there will be somebody else. I don’t have a personal problem with this issue.
Thank you very much Mr. President.
A medical bill has been signed into law in Turkey that requires doctors to obtain government permission before administering emergency first aid. Critics have blasted the bill as a crackdown on doctors who treat activists injured during protests.
The bill, which was drawn up by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), punishes health care professionals with up to three years in prison or a fine of almost $1 million if they administer emergency first aid without government authorization.
It also bans doctors from practicing outside state medical institutions and aims to stop them from opening private clinics.
President Abdullah Gul signed the legislation into law Friday. It has prompted a flurry of accusations from rights groups, condemning it as an attempt to criminalize emergency health care and deter doctors from treating protesters.
The US-based Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) attacked the legislation as an attempt to quash dissent in Turkey, following last year’s violent protests.
“Passing a bill that criminalizes emergency care and punishes those who care for injured protesters is part of the Turkish government’s relentless effort to silence any opposing voices,” PHR senior medical adviser Vincent Iacopino said in a statement on the PHR website.
Describing the bill as “repugnant,” Iacopino said the legislation not only puts everyone’s health at risk, but also conflicts with the Turkish constitution and “must be blocked through Turkey’s constitutional court.”
The PHR says the bill will also put the medical community at odds with their ethical and professional responsibility to care for the sick and wounded.
The UN has implored the Turkish government to rethink the bill because it will have “chilling effect on the availability and accessibility of emergency medical care in a country prone to natural disasters and a democracy that is not immune from demonstrations.”
In last year’s wave of protests against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, six people were killed and over 8,000 were injured across the country.
The government was accused of cracking down on medical professionals when the Turkish Health Ministry launched a probe into those doctors treating protesters in June. They asked the Turkish Medical Association (TBB) to hand over the names of the doctors and their patients.
“Recently we were inspected by the Ministry of Health, they said what we were doing here is wrong. But there could be no punishment for those who are helping people. There is no such religion or law that could discriminate against us,” Abtullah Cengiz, spokesman for the Gezi Park doctors, told RT in June.
Police used water cannon and fired teargas to disperse hundreds of protesters that gathered in Istanbul’s central Taksim Square on Saturday for a rally calling against a bill that would tighten government control over the Internet.
Protesters ran to the side streets to escape the water cannons and teargas that police used on the peaceful demonstration.
Smaller rallies have been held around Turkey including the capital Ankara and coastal city of Izmir.
In Ankara about 300 protesters gathered chanting slogans opposing the government and the internet bill, calling the Turkish prime minister ‘a dictator.’
Activists have called for protests against the law further limiting the use of the Internet and social media. The campaign is circulating the internet with the hashtag #sansüredurde (#StopInternetCensorshipinTurkey).
The bill that includes the controversial law was adopted on Thursday. It gives the courts power to remove material that “violates individual rights” from the internet. People will be able to apply to the state Telecommunications Directorate (TIB) as well as the courts to block any websites.
Under the new law 26 government officials in Turkey can also block access to information online by a personal decree. These include the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his cabinet and other officials.
Critics argued that the law will enhance monitoring internet user’s activities and will allow officials to limit keywords, local Hurriyet daily reported. The newspaper added that the head of TİB will now be given enough authority to directly limit access, pending a court ruling.
Prosecutors in Turkey have charged 36 people with terrorism in connection with massive anti-government protests that rocked the country last year.
According to the indictment published on Friday, the suspects face a range of charges including membership in a terrorist organization, illegal possession of hazardous material, and terrorist propaganda.
“Protests that began in May went beyond a democratic reaction and turned into propaganda and demonstration outlets of terrorist organizations with the guidance of marginal groups,” read the document.
“As a result, public property was destroyed, civil servants were incapacitated and security forces were injured,” it added.
The defendants will face up to 58 years in prison if convicted.
In December 2013, more than 250 other protesters were indicted with similar charges.
Anti-government demonstrations erupted in late May 2013, when people in Istanbul protested against the planned destruction of Gezi Park, in the city’s Taksim Square.
However, the protests soon spread across the country and snowballed into a nationwide outburst of anger against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rule.
The Greek Coastguard has intercepted a Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship with around 20,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles on board. The intended destination of the vessel, halted near the Imia islets in the eastern Aegean, remains unknown.
The cargo ship Nour M, intercepted on Thursday night, was taken to the island of Symi the following morning under the escort of Coastguard vessels, where it was soon thereafter led to the island of Rhodes.
The vessel’s Turkish captain and seven crew members, two of whom were Turkish and five of whom were Indian, were placed under arrest, coastguard sources told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA).
The cargo was both larger than that declared on the ship’s manifest, and the ship did not have the proper UN documents to deliver cargo to a conflict zone. The Greek Coastguard issued a statement saying attempts to catalogue the firearms and munitions on board were ongoing.
“The exact destination of the arms and ammunition has yet to be verified,” the coastguard statement read. Apart from the large quantity of firearms, the ship was also allegedly carrying a “large” quantity of explosives. A probe determined the ship had previously been used for drug trafficking.
Sources told ANA-MPA that the vessel had set sail from Ukraine, although the ship’s final destination remains unclear. Although the ports of Tartus in Syria and Tripoli in Libya had both been declared as destination ports to marine traffic systems, the Turkish Mediterranean port city of Iskenderun was declared as the destination port by the ship’s captain.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said they are attempting to determine if the Nour departed from the country.
Maritime expert Mikhail Voitenko told Ukraine’s Vesti that the ship likely picked up its cargo in Istanbul.
“I think it was there for no other purpose than to get the weapons. It is also strange that it took the ship two weeks to get from Nikolaev [Ukraine] to Greece when the trip takes a maximum of five days. What it was doing and where it was doing it at the time: that is the question.”
Voitenko said the vessel was likely detained as the result of a tip-off.
“That we have this ship sailing through the Black Sea is strange, but through Greek [territorial] waters it went in a straight line, so police had no reason to detain the ship,” he said.
Turkish border guards seized three vehicles loaded with over 1,000 kg of chemicals as they tried to illegally cross the border into Syria. One of the smugglers was arrested, while others managed to escape.
The Turkish General Staff reported that the chemicals were seized after a convoy of three vehicles refused to stop and attempted to illegally cross the border near the southeastern Turkish town of Reyhanli on Saturday.
Paramilitary police were ordered to shoot out the tires of the vehicles to stop them. As the tires caught on fire, the three drivers jumped out and fled in the direction of Syria. One of them was arrested.
The vehicles contained 20 bags of sulphur, weighing about 50 kg each, and eight sealed barrels. Their contents were not immediately known.
Republican People’s Party (CHP) chairman Faruk Logoglu said in a statement on Monday that the barrels are suspected to contain chemical material. “Traffic was from Turkey to Syria,” he added.
The arrested suspect’s nationality has not been made public. He was taken into custody after interrogation by the Reyhanli district gendarmerie headquarters and is to be sent to the prosecutor’s office.
Chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense (CBRN) units from the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency have started examining the seized material, Logoglu’s statement said.
The Republican People’s Party has also criticized the release of a primary suspect in a similar case, saying that closing the investigation would be “a shame for Turkey,” Hurriyet newspaper reported, citing CHP’s deputy.
In May 2013, Turkish police seized a group of people after being informed that Syrian rebel groups were looking to obtain materials that could be used to produce chemical weapons.
A two -kilogram cylinder with what initially was suggested to be sarin gas was seized while searching the homes of Syrian militants from the Al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra Front following their detention.
Some of the suspects accused of establishing a connection with a network in Turkey to convey chemical materials were released after lab tests proved that the seized chemicals were not sarin gas.
The alleged use of sarin – considered one of the world’s most dangerous chemical warfare agents – in a Damascus suburb on August 21 provoked an international outcry which nearly led to a US military strike against the Syrian regime, as Western countries assumed it was the Assad government who used the chemical weapons.
However, while a UN investigation proved that sarin was used near Damascus, it did not say who was behind the attack. At the same time, Russia also analyzed samples taken in the Syrian town of Aleppo, where chemical weapons were allegedly used in March. Experts concluded that rebels – not the army – were behind the Aleppo sarin attack.
In September, Syria agreed to comply with Moscow’s offer to put its chemical weapons under international control for subsequent destruction, in order to avert a possible military strike. Damascus declared the possession of 1,300 tons of chemicals and precursors needed for chemical weapons production, as well as over 1,200 empty chemical munitions.
On Thursday, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said that Syria’s entire declared stock of chemical weapons has been placed under seal.
The organization acknowledged that Damascus has complied with the watchdog’s requirement, adopted on September 27, for the complete elimination of chemical weapons and production units in Syria before November 1.
The process of eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons stocks has a target finish date of mid-2014.
The Turkish newspaper, Hurriyet, reported that Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will meet Russian President, Vladimir Putin, in Moscow at the end of November, when discussions will focus on the Syrian crisis.
Hurriyet noted that Erdogan will visit the Russian capital where he will head a delegation of a large number of ministers and will preside over the meeting of the joint ministerial committee of the Turkish-Russian Cooperation Council during 21st to the 22nd November. The meeting will discuss several political, trade and investment issues between the two countries.
Deputy Russian foreign minister, Alexei Meshkv, said that the two sides will address several regional and international issues of mutual interest and will discuss ways to develop bilateral relations. In an exclusive interview with the Turkish newspaper Meshkov asserted that Russian-Turkish relations are evolving in several areas, especially in the energy field. The two sides are also cooperating on the construction of the Mersin Nuclear Power and the South Stream natural gas pipeline project, which will pass through the Black Sea.
Until joined by the Islamic government in 1979 and then by Hizbullah in the 1980s, Syria was Israel’s most visceral enemy. This enemy is now being destroyed but not by Israel. So-called Muslims backed by so-called Muslim governments – Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey – are doing the job for it, in alliance with the traditional western enemies of the Arabs. Syria’s cities and towns have been devastated. An estimated 100,000 people have been killed. Millions more have been displaced, scattered across Syria or seeking refuge beyond its borders. Reconstruction will cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Recovery will take decades. Without spending a penny or losing a life, Israel has been handed one of the greatest strategic victories in its existence.
Michael Oren let the scarcely concealed cat out of the bag the other day when he said Israel would prefer a Syria without Bashar al Assad to a Syria in the hands of the jihadists. The outgoing Israeli ambassador in Washington, Oren was only bringing something to the surface that could be seen underneath it despite the vociferous denials of Israel’s lobbyists. Israel wants the government in Damascus destroyed. Netanyahu has been trying to hide its interest behind a mask of indifference but as the likelihood of a US military ‘strike’ – for a war that would engulf the region – slipped away, the lobbyists in Washington broke cover. They buttonholed every congressman and women, only for the vote on war to be postponed indefinitely, much to the chagrin of the gulf and Turkish governments, their armed and political protégés and the Israeli government.
While the Syrian army continues to grind the armed groups down, there seems no end to the volume of money, armaments and men outside governments are still prepared to pour into this conflict. Obama is still trying hard to get Russian agreement on a UNSC resolution that would allow the US to begin another war in the Middle East by attacking Syria. In the meantime the armed groups are continuing with the war they are waging. In his recent interview with former US congressman Dennis Kucinich and Fox news correspondent Greg Palkot, Bashar al Assad estimated that 80 to 90 percent of the armed men are Al Qaida-type takfiri jihadists. The ‘defence’ consultancy HIS- Janes puts the figure at about 50 per cent but whether it is 50 per cent or 90 cent, whether they are foreign or Syrian, the jihadists are dominating the fighting. Talk of moderates is deception. Only in the last few days the main fighting groups – all takfiri – have again rejected the authority of the exile Syrian National Coalition and the so-called Free Syrian Army. This is presented as something new when at least a year ago the very same groups issued the same kind of declaration saying the same things. The so-called FSA is the western standard bearer for ‘moderation’ in this struggle even though its brigades are every bit as fanatical as Jabhat al Nusra or any of the other takfiri groups.
If the Syrian government does fall – and at the moment it is not only holding its ground but steadily driving the takfiris back – chaos would prevail in Syria on a far greater scale than Libya at present or Algeria in the 1980s. The country would implode. This is so self-evident that the US and its allies must know it and if they know it, one has to presume that this is what they want. Saudi Arabia is out to destroy the Syrian government regardless of the consequences. Britain and France are following the US and US policy on any issue in the Middle East is largely fashioned according to the interests of Israel. Turkey is the odd man out. Whatever Recep Tayyip Erdogan thought he was going to get out of confronting Syria his own country has been very adversely affected by his decisions. The breakdown of Arab states into sectarian enclaves permanently at war with each other has been an Israeli strategic objective for decades. It has happened in Iraq and now the specter of the collapse of another unitary Arab state hovers over Syria.
While the takfiris do their best to destroy Syria, Israel is getting on with the colonization of Palestinian territories as fast as it can. The current wave of settlement expansion is the greatest since 1967. In the past year edicts have been pouring out of the Housing Ministry authorizing the construction of thousands of housing ‘units’ in East Jerusalem and across the West Bank. The strategic focus is on settlement expansion in and around East Jerusalem and the construction of highways and roads that will simultaneously integrate the settlements into the greater Jerusalem municipality (enlarged immediately after the 1967 war) and, along with the Separation Wall, further cut the Palestinians off from the city. In the first quarter of 2013 alone there was a 176 per cent increase in settlement expansion over the same quarter for 2012.
In August this year, just as the ‘peace talks’ were resuming, Israel announced the construction of thousands more housing ‘units’ in East Jerusalem settlements. The mainstream media tells us that settlement expansion is ‘impeding’ peace, ‘threatening’ the peace talks and the ‘two state’ solution. The plain fact is that there are no ‘peace talks’. They are the camouflage for the war Israel has been waging against the Palestinians for seven decades. To their discredit and dishonor Mahmud Abbas and Saib Urayqat are giving these ‘talks’ a Palestinian face. By announcing settlement construction in the same breath as announcing the resumption of ‘peace talks’ Israel shows its absolute contempt for both of them.
Land expropriation and development for agricultural purposes continues unabated. So does the theft of water. The Council for European Palestinian Relations estimated recently that the settlers consume an average of 280 liters of water a day compared to 86 liters for the Palestinians, below the World Health Organization’s recommended minimum of 100 liters. Only 60 per cent of the water allocated to the Palestinians is potable. While taking their land Israel simultaneously uses it as a rubbish dump, with solid waste from West Jerusalem being dumped at Abu Dis, once set up by Israel as the Palestinian ‘capital’ of East Jerusalem even though it was not even inside the municipality until Israel put it there. The settlers do the same, dumping their rubbish and household waste water on Palestinian land in the valleys below their settlements on the hilltops.
In a statement handed to the UN Human Rights Council fact-finding mission to Palestine in February this year, Al Haq (Law in the Service of Man) presented some statistics. In 2012, 202 ‘incidents’ of settler violence along with dispossession, home demolitions, forcible evictions and intimidation; more than 200 settlements established since 1967, including 14 in East Jerusalem, and more than 500,000 settlers now living in them; and more than 42 per cent of the land of the West Bank as well as most of its resources allocated to Jewish settlements. Al Haq notes that the Israeli High Court ‘has rendered the question of the settlements non-justiciable’.
The Council for European Palestinian Relations estimates that the population in the West Bank settlements is growing at an average of five per cent a year compared to 1.8 per cent for the rest of occupied Palestine. It puts the total number of settlers at 467,000, of which number 385,000 are living in between the Separation Wall and the 1967 ‘green line.’
Every brick laid by Israel on the West Bank, every liter of water pumped out for settlements swimming pools and lawns and the presence of every settler represents a violation of international law. Yet, says Naftali Bennett, the Religious Services Minister and leader of the Jewish Home Party: ‘We will continue building and you will see this soon.’ He was speaking before the August announcement that more housing ‘units’ would be added to Jewish colonies in East Jerusalem. ‘I am sending the message from here to all the parties in the negotiations: the land of Israel belongs to the nation of Israel’. He has pledged to do ‘everything in my power to make sure they never get a state.’
In a leaked exchange with another cabinet minister Bennett said that ‘I’ve killed many Arabs in my life and there’s no problem with that.’ He complained that the conversation had been taken out of context, because what he meant was that he had ‘only’ killed them in the context of operations. There was one such ‘operation’ on the West Bank last week. Heavily armed soldiers stormed into the Jenin refugee camp, broke into the house of the Tubaisi family, shot Islam al Tubaisi, 19, in the leg, dragged him downstairs, his head banging on every step and shot him dead before an ambulance took him to hospital. Perhaps in time the members of this unit will be bragging in time about how they also have killed many ‘Arabs’.
Dig deep enough into the crises in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and the confrontation with Iran and eventually you will find Palestine. It remains the central issue, the pivot on which US policies, dominated by Israeli interests and demands, has turned for more than six decades, yet for the takfiris affiliated with Al Qaida, killing other Muslims (and Christians) in a variety of countries takes precedence. It is striking that the same heads of government inveighing against terrorism and expressing their outrage at the slaughter of innocents in Nairobi have not once expressed outrage at the slaughter of innocents in Syria unless they thought they could blame the Syrian government.
The call of unity sounds through modern Arab history like the cry of a lost bird. United the Arabs will stand and divided they will continue to fall. As long as they are not able to put common interests first they are going to be ripe for the plucking. What is at stake in Syria is not the political system but Syria itself and for the past three years it has been systematically and deliberately destroyed by an unholy coalition of outside governments and the gangs of armed men doing their dirty work in the name of Islam.
The dominant Arab actors in this deliberately induced catastrophe are the regimes in Riyadh and Doha. They engage with Israel behind the scenes even as it colonizes Palestinian land and sends uniformed gangsters into the Haram al Sharif to beat Muslim worshipers trying to protect one of the holiest sites in Islam. While consorting with the enemy and abandoning the Palestinians these two regimes – infinitely less representative of the will of the people than the government in Damascus – take the lead in the destruction of an Arab state. The greatest beneficiary of their actions on one hand and their inaction and neglect on the other is Israel. This is surely as great a disgrace as any in Arab and Islamic history.
- Jeremy Salt is an associate professor of Middle Eastern history and politics at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey.
Bashar’s acceptance to let go of his “Nukes of the poor” arsenal could mean that the Syrian government has assessed the potential outcome of an American sustained offensive to be a game changer and desperately agreed to any way out.
Handing over chemical weapons in a gradual more controlled manner would have been understandable but giving up the location of the chemical sites with such immediacy hints to a much weakened Syrian position. It is no secret that the details given to the UN will eventually end up in Israeli hands, then why would the Syrian government accept such a deal other than Assad’s real fear of loosening his grip on power?
Netanyahu’s remarks following the chemical handover deal that “negotiating with Syria and Iran with a real and present threat to use force is the only way to make them cooperate” suggests that Syria’s president is indeed at the mode of fighting for survival. But that too is too simplistic provided that, surrendering chemical weapons or not, the US is sure to pursue him to the very bitter end. Then why give up such a strong deterrent?
The fact of the matter is that Bashar al-Assad is an intelligent man who at the very least understands that betraying Russia and Iran, who have been supporting his efforts in the past two years, would be a serious mistake. Therefore, any big decision Syria makes has to have been consulted with its main backers and has been given some sort of guarantees that giving up chemical weapons is not as risky as it might appear and that a credible backup plan is in place.
Smartly, Syria is giving both the US and Russia a face saving mechanism to avoid any further escalation between the two super powers and at the same time it is buying crucial time. Bashar himself declared that at least one full year is required to clear Syria of chemical weapons.
For Syria, chemical weapons are much harder to dispose of than replenish because Syria’s allies have stockpiles upon stockpiles of them. And so if the US chooses to change course somewhere during the period of chemical disarmament and attacks Syria, the very scenario that has been averted would be quickly reintroduced.
One ship full of chemical weapons is all that is required to rearm Syria, after all the main target of such weapons is a country the size of a province; Israel. Moreover, the Iranian and Hezbollah threat of intervening by attacking Israel will not be changed by simply handing over the chemical weapons.
Of course, the decision to hand over the weapons which buys the Syrian government crucial time is unwelcome by the “saboteur” of the region, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The real danger for them is that this could actually lead to further weakening of the Syrian opposition and force them unto Geneva peace talks; talks which have just been strengthened by Syria’s agreement to declare its chemical arsenal.
Turkey and Saudi Arabia know well that their stances on Syria in the past two years makes it impossible for relations with Bashar’s Syria to normalize or even a negotiated Syria where opposition participates in governance.
Regardless of Turkish and Saudi stances, the US administration and Israel had strong interests in making sure that a war is averted in some way. Had the US congress vote gone ahead and disapproved of any attack on Syria in order to fulfill the wishes of the American people, it would have been a huge blow to them.
For Obama, it would have meant being stripped of legitimacy as it relates to Syria and wider international engagements and for Israel it would have meant the weakening of the Zionist lobby within US politics and a disastrous counter attack from Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.
Bashar’s objectives to consolidate alliances and weaken the counter alliance and buying time have all been thus far satisfied. The one year disarmament period that Bashar suggested will be needed is no speculation at all; it is well calculated period during which time to weaken the opposition and its supporters and to deny the US and her allies any legitimate pretext to attack Syria.
Moreover, if Iran and Hezbollah felt justified to intervene early on, now any attack from the US or her allies before the chemical disarmament is complete makes the Iran and Hezbollah retaliation against Israel with the support of Russia even more justified.
On the other hand, the US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, (the latter seeming more keen than the US to overthrow Bashar’s government), provided that the SNC is in a weakened position and the desperation of the trio is acute, places them in a real danger of open colluding with the likes of Al Qaeda and Al-Nusra Front. So much for fighting “terrorism”!
Every time one sees a billboard advertising Syrian International Trade Exhibition across the world one wonders how can a government in a war state for over two years manage to facilitate an environment where its factories can produce? The answer could simply be that Syria is not nearly as chaotic or as weak as Western media portrays it to be. That position has just been strengthened by Syria’s agreement to disarm.
The objective of the US and Israel has always been to disarm any Arab army that might use its weapons against Israel; the issue is not whether a country owns a huge arsenals of weapons or not, but whether it has enough potential will to use them against Israel.
The Saudis are armed to the teeth and so are the Turkish but it is their clear stance on ensuring Israel’s peace that makes them allies rather than enemies. It is for that reason that Syria is a prime target as was Saddam’s Iraq.
Five armies that pose serious threat to Israel were the priorities of the US and Israel namely Iranian, Syrian, Egyptian, Iraqi and Hezbollah and so far only one has been dealt with; that of Iraq. In the case of Egypt, the US and Israel are pleased because the Egyptian army is suspect and they truly believe they will eventually buy out its generals. That means Hezbollah, Iran and Syria are left to fight this war that will not stop until one side secures a clear victory.
Where Russia had disappointed in the past as was the case with Iraq, now it appears poised to put up a stronger posture and as such days ahead will clarify the longevity of the new Russian posture. But the latest events have revealed that Russia is no longer a mere Security Council voter but a physical actor in world events.
Therefore, it is naive to assume that Russia has been blackmailed or tricked by the US into pressuring Syria to surrender her most prized deterrent against Israel. Syria will comply albeit at a calculated pace and will give America and Israel no legitimate pretext to attack it and as such Russia will have no choice but to stand its ground. If an attack takes place, Russia’s response is likely to be far stronger than the recent showdown in the Mediterranean or else Russia becomes a goofball.
The stance of Western media and Aljazeera is a good indication that the US and her allies are not in a war mood. When a war is imminent, there are certain networks that have a duty to fulfill and that is drumming for war. They are not doing that just yet!
While it will be naive to assume that Bashar will hold on to power indefinitely, it is clear that the Syrian civil conflict will be a long term struggle and will not end nor conclude the way the US and Israel are hoping for.
- Nasrallah: Saudi Arabia, Turkey have failed in Syria (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Questions on Syria’s Chemical Weapons disarmament (alethonews.wordpress.com)