Category Archives: Syria

57 Years Ago: U.S. and Britain Approved Use of Islamic Extremists to Topple Syrian Government

From Washington’s Blog:

http://heavyeditorial.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/territorial_control_of_the_isis-svg.png?w=640&h=489‘BBC reports that – in 1957 – the British and American leaders approved the use of Islamic extremists and false flag attacks to topple the Syrian government:

Nearly 50 years before the war in Iraq, Britain and America sought a secretive “regime change” in another Arab country… by planning the invasion of Syria and the assassination of leading figures.

Newly discovered documents show how in 1957 [former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom] Harold Macmillan and President Dwight Eisenhower approved a CIA-MI6 plan to stage fake border incidents as an excuse for an invasion by Syria’s pro-western neighbours, and then to “eliminate” the most influential triumvirate in Damascus.

Although historians know that intelligence services had sought to topple the Syrian regime in the autumn of 1957, this is the first time any document has been found showing that the assassination of three leading figures was at the heart of the scheme. In the document drawn up by a top secret and high-level working group that met in Washington in September 1957, Mr Macmillan and President Eisenhower were left in no doubt about the need to assassinate the top men in Damascus.

Mr Macmillan ordered the plan withheld even from British chiefs of staff, because of their tendency “to chatter”.

Driving the call for action was the CIA’s Middle East chief Kermit Roosevelt, grandson of former president Theodore Roosevelt.

Kermit Roosevelt had a proven track record in this sort of thing.  According to the New York Times, he was the leader of the CIA’s coup in Iran in 1953, which – as subsequently admitted by the CIA - used false flag terror to topple the democratically elected leader or Iran.’

READ MORE…

‘Water war’ threatens Syria lifeline

Danya Chudacoff writes for Al Jazeera:

‘When severe water cuts began to hit Aleppo province in early May, residents started referring to a “water war” being waged at the expense of civilians. Images of beleaguered women and children drinking from open channels and carrying jerry cans of untreated groundwater only confirmed that the suffering across northern Syria had taken a turn for the worse. However, lost in the daily reports was a far more pernicious crisis coming to a head: a record six-metre drop in Lake Assad, the reservoir of Syria’s largest hydroelectric dam and the main source of water for drinking and irrigation to about five million people.

Under the watch of the  Islamic State group – formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) - levels in Lake Assad have dropped so low that pumps used to funnel water east and west are either entirely out of commission or functioning at significantly reduced levels. The shortages compel residents in Aleppo and Al Raqqa to draw water from unreliable sources, which can pose serious health risks. The primary reason behind the drop appears to be a dramatic spike in electricity generation at the Euphrates Dam in al-Tabqa, which has been forced to work at alarmingly high rates.’

READ MORE…

Isis Marches Further Into Syria Tipping the Balance of Power in the Civil War

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

Syrian rebels with tank.

‘Isis fighters have captured much of eastern Syria in the past few days while international attention has been focused on the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. Using tanks and artillery seized in Iraq, it has taken almost all of oil-rich Deir Ezzor province and is battling to crush the resistance of the Syrian Kurds.

Isis is establishing dominance over the opposition to Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad, as other rebel groups flee or pledge allegiance to the caliphate declared by the Isis leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, after the capture of Mosul on 10 June. On Monday, the jihadists took over the rebel held half of Deir Ezzor on the Euphrates river, raising their black flag over the city and executing the rebel commander from Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qa’ida affiliate that was previously in control.

The recent Isis advances in Syria, following victories in Iraq last month, are altering the balance of power in the whole region. The opposition military forces not aligned with the Syrian government or Isis are being squeezed out of existence, making obsolete the US, British, Saudi and Turkish policy of backing groups hostile to both Assad and Isis.’

READ MORE…

Aleppo’s fall could prove turning point

Sophie Cousins reports for DW:

‘Aleppo, formerly Syria’s commercial hub, has been the target of the conflict’s most vicious air campaign, with government barrel bombs – oil drums packed with hundreds of kilograms of explosives and metal fragments – killing thousands in the rebel-held areas this year.Fears of a siege by government forces have risen after the army made dramatic gains in the last two weeks, taking the Sheikh Naijar industrial zone in the northeast.

…Yezid Sayigh, senior associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, said the recapture of Aleppo would constitute a shift in the conflict. “The retaking of Aleppo would represent a big blow in terms of morale and political significance,” he told DW. “For the regime to reassert effective control of the city is a big signal of its ability to turn the tide and fight its way back. It doesn’t represent a major military prize, but a political one.”‘

READ MORE…

Assad begins third 7-Year term in Syria, vows to look after its people

Hwaida Saad and Alan Cowell report for The New York Times:

‘Feted by supporters, whom he hailed as the victors of his country’s brutal civil war, a triumphant President Bashar al-Assad was sworn in on Wednesday for a third seven-year term after an election that was widely seen as a gesture of calculated defiance toward the United States and others in the West and in the Arab world seeking his ouster.

With his right hand on the Quran, the holy book of Islam, Mr. Assad took the oath at the People’s Palace overlooking Damascus, the capital. But even as he prepared for a new term, rebels offered a counterpoint, firing five mortar shells into Damascus and killing four people. Two shells landed near the central Umayyad Square, the official news agency SANA said.’

READ MORE…

The New Middle East Map

Sectarian genie is out of the bottle from Syria to Iraq

Samia Nakhoul writes for Reuters:

‘As jihadists storm through the Sunni heartlands of Iraq towards Baghdad, where a Shi’ite government they regard as heretic clings on, they have lifted the veil on deep sectarianism which has also stoked the fires of Syria’s civil war and is spilling over into vulnerable mosaic societies such as Lebanon. The sectarian genie is now well out of the bottle, eclipsing traditional inter-state rivalries that plague the Middle East – even if these still play a part in the drama.

The 1979 Islamic Revolution brought a Shi’ite theocracy to power in non-Arab Iran, giving a sectarian edge to the long-standing, state-to-state contest for influence in the Gulf between Iran and Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy underpinned by the fundamentalist tenets of Sunni Wahhabi doctrine. And the 2003 US invasion shattered Iraq into ethno-sectarian fragments, giving the majority Shi’ites the whip-hand over the Sunni minority and overturning a century-old balance of power. Now the Syrian conflict pitting a government whose core is President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawites, a minority sect descended from Shi’ism, in an all-out war against rebels made up mainly from the Sunni majority, has lured jihadi volunteers to create an almost seamless sectarian battlefield from Baghdad to Beirut.’

READ MORE…

ISIS announces new state in Iraq and Syria, mames leader Caliph

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

‘Reflecting its virtually uncontested control over a broad swath of land in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has announced the formation of a new nation, dubbed simply The Islamic State (TIS). According to the announcement, TIS has been determined by Shura councils to be the “restoration of the Caliphate,” and ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been declared the Caliph.

While TIS has been a de facto state for quite some time, albeit one with ill-defined borders engaged in multiple wars, the declaration of themselves as the new Caliphate is likely to fuel controversy around the world, and a direct challenge to Islamist factions. That’s because a Caliphate claims to be the direct successor of the Prophet Muhammad, and its Caliph would at least claim to be the consensus final religious authority for all of Sunni Islam.’

READ MORE…

Iraq, Syria conflicts merge, feed off each other

Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Zeina Karam write for the Associated Press:

Iraq oil map ISIS‘In a reflection of how intertwined the Syria and Iraq conflicts have become, thousands of Shiite Iraqi militiamen helping President Bashar Assad crush the Sunni-led uprising against him are returning home, putting a strain on the overstretched Syrian military as it struggles to retain territory recaptured in recent months from rebels. The borders between the two countries are being largely ignored, with fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant said to be crossing freely from one side to the other, transporting weapons, equipment and cash in a development that has potential to shift the balance of power in a largely stalemated battle.

The seizure of large chunks of Iraq by militants does offer Assad a messaging victory: he has long insisted that the uprising against him is the work of foreign-inspired Islamic extremists, suggesting that the West needs to work with him to check the influence of jihadis, and that the radicals, not the divided and weaker pro-Western moderate rebels, are the real alternative to his rule. The violent actions and speedy successes of the same group in Iraq, against a government the West does essentially support, seem to align with his argument. And he can relish the fact that the U.S. is weighing airstrikes against Sunni militants in Iraq — and possibly Syria — while shying away from any military action against his government for the past three years.’

READ MORE @ YAHOO! NEWS…

Global refugee figures highest since WW2, UN says

Imogen Foulkes reports for BBC News:

Graphic‘The number of people living as refugees from war or persecution exceeded 50 million in 2013, for the first time since World War Two, the UN says. The overall figure of 51.2 million is six million higher than the year before,a report by the UN refugee agency says. Antonio Guterres, head of the UNHCR, told the BBC the rise was a “dramatic challenge” for aid organisations.

Conflicts in Syria, central Africa and South Sudan fuelled the sharp increase. “Conflicts are multiplying, more and more,” Mr Guterres said. “And at the same time old conflicts seem never to die.” Of particular concern are the estimated 6.3 million people who have been refugees for years, sometimes even decades.’

READ MORE @ BBC NEWS…

The Western-Imposed Partition of the Middle East Is Dead

Robert Fisk writes for The Independent:

‘“Sykes-Picot is dead,” Walid Jumblatt roared at me last night – and he may well be right. The Lebanese Druze leader – who fought in a 15-year civil war that redrew the map of Lebanon – believes that the new battles for Sunni Muslim jihadi control of northern and eastern Syria and western Iraq have finally destroyed the post-World War Anglo-French conspiracy, hatched by Mark Sykes and François Picot, which divided up the old Ottoman Middle East into Arab statelets controlled by the West.

The Islamic Caliphate of Iraq and Syria has been fought into existence – however temporarily – by al-Qa’ida-affiliated Sunni fighters who pay no attention to the artificial borders of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon or Jordan, or even mandate Palestine, created by the British and French. Their capture of the city of Mosul only emphasises the collapse of the secret partition plan which the Allies drew up in the First World War – for Mosul was sought after for its oil wealth by both Britain and France.

The entire Middle East has been haunted by the Sykes-Picot agreement, which also allowed Britain to implement Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour’s 1917 promise to give British support to the creation of a Jewish “homeland” in Palestine. Perhaps only today’s Arabs (and Israelis) fully understand the profound historical changes – and deep political significance – that the extraordinary battles of this past week have wrought on the old colonial map of the Middle East.’

 

READ MORE @ THE INDEPENDENT…

The Neo-Con Travel Agency Is Open for Business

JP Sottile writes for News Vandal:

‘How would you like to spend a week in an exotic locale with “The Boss”? No, not that “Boss,” the other “Boss” – as in the Bruce Springsteen of Neo-Con crooners, the silver-tongued frontman of the rockin’-shockin’-awe-inspiring band that gave America and the world some of the greatest hits on Iraq. Folks, put your hands together for Bill “The Boss” Kristol.

That’s right, America. If you’re planning early for the upcoming holiday season, the travel bugs over at the Weekly Standard invite you to “…study with the boss in Jerusalem this winter at a weeklong seminar” appealingly titled “The Case for Nationalism.” And what a dream vacation it will be, with up to three daily seminars featuring the historical and political stylings of a man touted by the week’s host – The Tikvah Advanced Institutes – as “one of the leading public intellectuals in America.”’

READ MORE @ NEWS VANDAL…

Arming ISIS in Syria … Then Bombing Them in Iraq?

Chris Ernesto writes for Antiwar:

isis-map-ernesto‘Barack Obama has a chance to be a hero. With Republicans and hawks pushing him to do something in Iraq, he could go in front of the nation today and assertively say:

“It was you, Republicans, who got us into this war in Iraq to begin with, based on false assertions and flat out lies. So I will not listen to you now as you tell the American people that the US must again take military action in Iraq. Remember I was opposed to the Iraq war the first time and given the disaster that we see in Iraq today, I was right. So Senator McCain, William Kristol, and all you other “think tank” talking heads who are trying to create more carnage in Iraq, it’s time for you to crawl into your cubbyhole and keep your mouth shut. You got it wrong the first time and you’re getting it wrong again. As the leader of this country, I will not allow the US to make another mistake in Iraq.”

If Obama said these things, 80% of America would give him a standing ovation. The New York Times, the Washington Post, and CNN would all applaud his leadership and American’s reputation around the world would greatly improve. His approval rating would shoot through the roof and it would mean that Obama’s constituency would feel emboldened and proud to be a member of the Democratic Party. But it’s almost a certainty that Obama will not say this, or anything even remotely close to this, primarily for three reasons.’

READ MORE @ ANTIWAR…

US considers talks with Iran on Iraq security

From BBC News:

Map ‘Washington is considering direct talks with Iran on the security situation in Iraq, a US official has told the BBC. The move comes as US President Barack Obama weighs up options on action to take in Iraq… While the US and Iran are old adversaries, both have an interest in curbing the growing threat posed by ISIS and both are considering military support to the Iraqi government, says the BBC’s Rajini Vaidyanathan in Washington.

The US is said to be considering direct discussions with Tehran which could even take place as early as this week. The two countries are due to hold the latest round of talks on Iran’s nuclear programme in Vienna. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said he will consider co-operation if the US takes action in Iraq.

The USS George HW Bush aircraft carrier is already being deployed to the Gulf, accompanied by two more warships. But Washington says no US troops will be deployed on the ground. The US has also announced it is increasing security at its embassy in Baghdad and relocating some staff to safer areas. Meanwhile, there are reports that more than 130 Iranian Revolutionary Guards are in Iraq to provide training and advice.’

READ MORE @ BBC NEWS…

Tony Blair: west must intervene in Iraq

Patrick Wintour, Tracy McVeigh and Mark Townsend report for The Guardian:

Tony BlairTony Blair has urged western governments to recognise that they need to take an active role in the Middle East, saying the west should consider military options short of sending ground troops. The former prime minister said there was a huge range of options available, including air strikes and drones as used in Libya.

Blair was speaking on UK morning TV shows after writing a lengthy essaysetting out how to respond to the Iraq crisis, including his belief that theinvasion of Iraq in 2003 was not the cause of the country’s implosion. He said: “It is in our interests for this jihadist extremist group to be stopped in its tracks. I understand entirely why people say ‘it is nothing to do with us and I don’t want to hear about it’.” But he said the jihadis “are not simply fighting Iraqis and they are also willing to fight us and they will if we don’t stop them”.’

READ MORE @ THE GUARDIAN…

White House calls on Iraq government to ‘step up to the plate’ after ISIS insurgents seize Mosul

Editor’s Note: Mosul, Iraq’s second or third largest city, represents only part of the territory under the control of ISIS/AQI. They have also taken a large part of northern and eastern Syria which gives them an area stretching roughly from the area around Aleppo in Syria, along with Mosul and Fallujah in Iraq. With the how useless the U.S. trained Iraqi army seem to be it would not be surprising to see them take Kirkuk or somewhere else too. 

Dan Roberts writes for The Guardian:

‘The US on Tuesday pressed for a strong response to push Islamic extremists out of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, as a sudden withdrawal of Iraqi government forces from the city led the White House to question whether prime minister Nouri al-Maliki was doing enough to hold his country together. The White House called on the Iraqi government to “step up to the plate” and do more to address political concerns across the country after the fall of Mosul to forces from the Islamic State of Iraq in Syria (Isis) – also known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) – left officials in Washington warning of an “extremely serious” threat that could impact the entire region.

“The United States is deeply concerned about the events that have transpired in Mosul over the last 48 hours where elements of the Islamic State of Iraq (Isil) have taken over significant parts of the city,” added the State Department in a statement. “Isil continues to gain strength from the situation in Syria, from which it transfers recruits, sophisticated munitions, and resources to the fight in Iraq … Isil is not only a threat to the stability of Iraq, but a threat to the entire region.” The US administration also pledged to continue to supply weapons and other advanced military equipment to Iraqi security forces, and to provide “all appropriate assistance”. But in comments that may strain relations with Baghdad, the White House made clear it believed Maliki’s Shia-led government was partly to blame for his forces’ lack of support in other areas of the country.’

READ MORE @ THE GUARDIAN…

Battle to establish Islamic state across Iraq and Syria

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

‘IslaRebel fighters from Islamic State in Iraq and the Levantmic fundamentalists have opened new fronts in their battle to establish an Islamic state across Iraq and Syria as they launch attacks in cities which were previously under the control of the Baghdad government. A multi-pronged assault across central and northern Iraq in the past four days shows that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) has taken over from the al-Qa’ida organisation founded by Osama bin Laden as the most powerful and effective extreme jihadi group in the world.

Isis now controls or can operate with impunity in a great stretch of territory in western Iraq and eastern Syria, making it militarily the most successful jihadi movement ever. Led since 2010 by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, also known as Abu Dua, it has proved itself even more violent and sectarian than what US officials call the “core” al-Qa’ida, led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is based in Pakistan. Isis is highly fanatical, killing Shia Muslims and Christians whenever possible, as well as militarily efficient and under tight direction by top leaders.’

READ MORE…

Susan Rice: US Offers ‘Lethal and Non-Lethal’ Aid to Syrian Rebels

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

‘It’s not exactly a secret, with rebels putting up videos showing themselves wielding US-made weapons, but the Obama Administration seems to finally be admitting to its arming of the Syrian rebellion. National Security Advisor Susan Rice confirmed today on CNN that the US is “providing lethal and non-lethal support” to the “moderate vetted opposition” in Syria.

Rice insisted the she was “heartbroken” about the civil war, and that this was why the US had “ramped up” its involvement in the ongoing conflict. Recently, US weapons, particularly anti-tank rockets, have been showing up across the rebellion. Other administration officials were still refusing to detail the extent of the US armament of rebels, so it’s not clear if Rice’s comment reflects increasingly overt involvement in the war, or simply a one-off interview while they continue on with relative secrecy.’

READ MORE…

Hillary Clinton: I wanted to arm Syrian rebels, but Obama refused

From Haaretz:

Hillary Clinton ‘Hillary Clinton’s soon to be released memoir reveals that the former U.S. secretary of state wanted the United States to arm the Syrian rebels against Syrian President Bashar Assad, but that she was shot down by U.S. President Barack Obama.

“I returned to Washington reasonably confident that if we decided to begin arming and training moderate Syrian rebels, we could put in place effective coordination with our regional partners,” Clinton wrote in her memoir, a copy of which was obtained by CBS.

However, Obama was of a different mind. “The President’s inclination was to stay the present course and not take the significant further step of arming rebels. No one likes to lose a debate, including me. But this was the President’s call and I respected his deliberations and decision,” CBS cites Clinton as writing.’

READ MORE…

Who is former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Stephen Ford?

Michel Chossudovsky writes for Global Research:

‘In recent developments, the Western media is portraying former US Ambassador to Syria Robert Stephen Ford as a “moderate”, committed to supporting so-called “moderate mainstream opposition rebels”. Ford is now upheld as a outspoken critic of US foreign policy,  tacitly blaming the US State Department for gross mismanagement:

“I was no longer in a position where I felt I could defend the American policy… We have been unable to address either the root causes of the conflict in terms of the fighting on the ground and the balance on the ground, and we have a growing extremism threat.”… (quoted in Slate, June 3, 2014, emphasis added)

Ford calls upon Washington to support the moderates:

“We need – and we have long needed – to help moderates in the Syrian opposition with both weapons and other non-lethal assistance. … Had we done that a couple of years ago, had we ramped it up, frankly the al Qaeda groups that have been winning adherents would have been unable to compete with the moderates who frankly we have much in common with,” (Reuters, June 3, 2014, emphasis added)

Responding to Ford’s comments, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said, “He’s a private citizen. He’s entitled to his views.”(Reuters, June 3, 2014)

Who is Robert Stephen Ford? In a bitter irony, Robert Stephen Ford is no “Moderate” as portrayed by the media. Ford played a central role in developing the “extremism threat” scenario including the channeling of military aid to the Al Qaeda affiliated rebels.

Ford was from the outset in the months leading up to the March 2011 insurrection among the key architects involved in the formulation of a  US “Terrorist Option” for Syria including the recruitment and training of death squads in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.’

READ MORE…

Elections in Syria: The People Say No to Foreign Intervention

Ajamu Baraka writes for CounterPunch:

SyriaElection‘Defying threats of violence, tens of thousands of ordinary Syrians went to the polls to cast a vote that was more about Syrian dignity and self-determination than any of the candidates on the ballot. After three years of unimaginable atrocities fomented by a demented and dying U.S. empire, with the assistance of the royalist monarchies of the Middle East and the gangster states of NATO, the Syrian people demonstrated, by their participation, that they had not surrendered their national sovereignty to the geo-strategic interests of the U.S. and its colonial allies in Europe and Israel.

The dominant narrative on Syria, carefully cultivated by Western state propagandists and dutifully disseminated by their auxiliaries in the corporate media, is that the conflict in Syria is a courageous fight on the part of the majority of the Syrian people against the brutal dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad. As the story goes, the al-Assad “regime,” (it is never referred to as a government), can only maintain its power through the use of force. By attacking “its own citizens,” the regime, representing the minority Alawite community, can only maintain its dominance over the rest of the country through sheer terror.

However, events in Syria, with the election being a dramatic example, continue to reveal fissures in that story.’

READ MORE…

US Condemns Syria’s Election, Fine With Egypt’s (And Yemen’s in 2012)

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

‘The US State Department issued a statement today angrily condemning Syria’s presidential elections as a “disgrace” that don’t represent legitimate voting and will confer no credibility to presumptive winner President Bashar Assad. Officials centered their complaints on the lack of real opposition candidates and massacres over the course of the last several years, along with the inability of people in rebel-held regions to vote. If that sounds familiar, you probably remember Egypt holding an election a week ago under extremely similar circumstances.

The US, comfortable with the military coup there and only vaguely concerned with the massacres in Cairo, has been comfortable with Gen. Sisi’s win over his coup-backing non-rival. And while both Syria and Egypt’s elections were a foregone conclusion, they both seem positively Athenian in their democratic principles compared to the 2012 Yemen vote, in which Maj. Gen. Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the US-backed ruler, was “elected” in a single candidate vote in which voting “no” was not an option. Hadi’s rubber stamp election was such a runaway success, by US standards, that President Obama declared it a potential “model” for the Middle East. If Syria is falling short of this model, it can only be in its presumptive victor not having been given an advanced imprimatur by the US.’

SOURCE

Report: Millions driven from homes by civic violence

Robert Evans reports for Reuters:

‘A record 33.3 million people around the world were internally displaced by conflict in their countries at the end of last year, 16 percent or 4.5 million up on 2012, an international report said on Wednesday. The report by the Norwegian Refugee Council said nearly two thirds of the global total were in just five countries – Syria, Colombia, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Sudan.

Syria, with at least 6,5 million driven from their homes in three years of fighting between government forces and insurgents and foreign fighters backing them, took over first place ahead of Colombia, suffering from decades of guerrilla wars. The Middle Eastern country accounted for 43 per cent – 3.5 million – of all the new internally displaced people (IDPs) around the globe in 2013, a total of 8.2 million, according to the report presented at a Geneva news briefing.’

READ MORE…

John Bolton: Forget Syria, Pursue Regime Change in Iran

John Glaser writes for Antiwar:

John-BoltonJohn Bolton is confused. After spending years berating the Obama administration for failing to take action in Syria’s bloody civil war, he has come out against such an intervention…kind of.

In a piece in the New York Post, Bolton criticizes the administration for “vacillating for three years on whether to arm ‘moderate’ opposition forces, by failing to uphold his ‘red line’ on chemical weapons and by indulging in rhetoric unaccompanied by action.” At the same time, he is coming out of the closet as against supporting the rebels or bombing Damascus: “Washington’s ability to affect the outcome in Syria is decidedly limited; aiding the rebels mainly increases the chances of an al Qaeda regime in Damascus — hardly preferable to the current bloodshed.”

Bravo! This is what non-interventionists have been saying since the beginning. But then, Bolton’s piece trades restraint in Syria for overthrowing the Iranian regime.

READ MORE…

Syria: Iran and Assad have won, say top Tehran foreign policy figures

Simon Tisdall reports for The Guardian:

Photograph: Uncredited/APIran and its close ally President Bashar al-Assad have won the war inSyria, and the US-orchestrated campaign in support of the opposition’s attempt to topple the Syrian regime has failed, senior Iranian officials have told the Guardian. In a series of interviews in Tehran, top figures who shape Iranian foreign policy said the west’s strategy in Syria had merely encouraged radicals, caused chaos and ultimately backfired, with government forces now on the front foot. We have won in Syria,” said Alaeddin Borujerdi, chairman of the Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee and an influential government insider. “The regime will stay. The Americans have lost it.”

Terrorism perpetrated by al-Qaida-linked jihadist groups and individuals armed and funded by Sunni Muslim Arab countries was now the main threat facing the Syrian people, Borujerdi said. Many foreign fighters who had travelled to Syria from Britain and other European countries could soon return. “We are worried about the future security of Europe,” he said. “We won the game in Syria easily,” said Amir Mohebbian, a conservative strategist and government adviser. “The US does not understand Syria. The Americans wanted to replace Assad, but what was the alternative? All they have done is encourage radical groups and made the borders less safe. “We accept the need for change in Syria – but gradually. Otherwise, there is chaos,” Mohebbian added.’

READ MORE…

Journalists Fight And Destroy Set On-Air Over Syria On Jordanian Talk Show

U.S. State Dept. report praises GCC for progress in countering terrorism

Taimur Khan reports for The National:

Mourners prayers over the coffins of AFP reporter Sardar Ahmad, his wife and their two children, who were among nine people killed in an attack on a Kabul hotel by Taliban gunmen on March 20. Wakil Kohsar/ AFP / March 23, 2014‘A global terrorism report has praised GCC countries for their strong regional and international counterterrorism cooperation but said Qatar and Kuwait had not done enough to clamp down on private terrorist financing. The US State Department study found the UAE to have made the greatest strides in cutting off illegal flows of money to extremist groups, especially in regulating the informal money transfer operators known as hawaladars. The department singled out Kuwait and Qatar for not enforcing new terrorist financing laws during 2013, and noted that the two countries were major sources of funding for Sunni extremist groups in Syria.

…The annual report said no designations of terrorist fund-raisers were made by Qatari authorities in 2013 and only one suspicious transaction was reported to the public prosecutor as of November. Kuwait was praised for drafting a new antiterrorism funding law in consultation with the International Monetary Fund that forces banks to report suspicious transactions, and allows the government to freeze assets and prosecute fund-raisers. But “multiple agencies have jurisdiction, and inadequate legislation made prosecution … a challenge,” the report said. The UAE was praised for its cooperation with the US over financial law enforcement. New regulations that made hawaladar registration mandatory were issued by the UAE Central Bank last year.’

READ MORE…

In Iraq and Syria, a resurgence of foreign suicide bombers

Mark Hosenball reports for Reuters:

‘During the 2006-2007 civil war in Iraq, when the use of suicide bombings were rampant, foreigners made up the largest proportion of the militants carrying them out. After the U.S. “surge” in 2007, when it rapidly built up its forces, the number of attacks dropped as sectarian violence as a whole waned. Militant attacks are now increasing sharply again in Iraq as the powerful ISIL seeks to impose strict sharia law in the Sunni majority populated regions of the country.

In Syria, the conflict took on a regional dimension and attracted foreign fighters soon after it began with an outbreak of a mostly Sunni popular uprising in 2011 against President Bashar al-Assad. Iran, the main Shi’ite power, and Saudi Arabia, its Sunni rival wedded to the Wahhabi puritanism that inspires jihadis, used Syria as the front line in their Shi’ite-Sunni war for supremacy in the Arab world.

Foreign Sunni fighters have converged on Syria to fight alongside Sunni rebel forces, while Shi’ites from Iraq and Lebanon have joined Assad’s forces. Foreign fighters are coming from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen, Kuwait, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Bosnia, other Arab states, Chechnya, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Western countries, according to several U.S. and European security officials. With Assad using his full firepower against rebels who lack sophisticated arms, the military balance tipped against the rebels last year, driving foreign fighters to carry out suicide attacks to make up for losses on the battleground.’

READ MORE…

Bad Idea of the Day: Bomb Syria to Save Ukraine

Robert Golan-Vilella writes for The National Interest:

It’s not every day that you see a writer assert that the way to solve a crisis in one country is to conduct military strikes in a different one. However, that is precisely the argument that Anne-Marie Slaughter makes at Project Syndicate regarding Syria and Ukraine. According to Slaughter, the problem now is that Russian president Vladimir Putin feels as though he can act virtually without constraints in Ukraine. And so the answer is to use military force against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, as “shots fired by the US in Syria will echo loudly in Russia.” In her words:

It is time for US President Barack Obama to demonstrate that he can order the offensive use of force in circumstances other than secret drone attacks or covert operations. The result will change the strategic calculus not only in Damascus, but also in Moscow.

READ MORE…

Micah Zenko: “Most reported deaths in Syria have not been committed by Assad regime”

Micah Zenko writes for the Council on Foreign Relations:

Syria-StatsEstimates released today [April 1st] by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) portray a different picture of the civil war in Syria than U.S. policymakers and media convey. SOHR’s estimated death toll reinforces the point made in an article published on ForeignPolicy.com in September 2013, when they last released updated data: most of the reported deaths in Syria have not been committed by forces under Bashar al-Assad’s command. Additionally, the involvement of various individuals and groups in the conflict has broadened greatly since SOHR’s September 2013 estimate.

Despite the potential bias and the methodological challenges it faces, SOHR has unrelentingly compiled casualty data since the start of the conflict in Syria more than three years ago. While the United Nations (UN) last updated its estimated death toll in July 2013 at 100,000 killed, and has since stated it will no longer provide updates, SOHR’s update released today estimates a total of 150,344 people killed since March 2011. SOHR’s estimates are presented below.

There are two noticeably provocative elements of SOHR’s estimates. First, while estimates for rebel force casualties were a separate category in SOHR’s previous estimates, SOHR has now included rebel force casualties (24,275) within civilian casualties, totaling 75,487. Above, rebel forces have been listed separately, which reveals that, according to SOHR’s estimates, more pro-regime forces than civilians have been killed during the Syrian civil war.

READ MORE…