Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Friends of Syria

What kind of a Move is the U.S. Making in Syria’s calamity?
Note: Article posted in 2013. A great way to analyse the process in the Syrian civil war and foreign interventions
U.S. Secretary of  State, John Kerry, directed that U.S. assistance to the armed Syrian rebels has been  authorized.
It comes in the form of a tranche of $60 million in aid,  initially said to be “non-lethal aid.” Supposedly, that translates as food and  medicine.
Kerry made the announcement this week in Rome, at a meeting  of Friends of Syria, a group of 11 nations.
The leaders of the acknowledged  Syrian opposition were there, too, and they decried the offer as too paltry, but  they are probably wrong to be upset.
 posted on March 1, 2013  in The New Yorker “In Syria, the U.S. Makes a Move”
anderson-syria-aid.jpg . Photo by Pablo Tosco
The odds are good that the declared U.S. assistance is just that—the declared assistance. New weapons of Croatian origin  have been flowing to the rebels since December via the Saudis, and have helped  them here and there on the battlefield.

It has been difficult to account for covert activities or triangulated  logistical operations. The British, too, have announced their willingness to  enhance their support for the rebels.

William Hague’s offer of aid from Britain, which would  require the lifting of E.U. restrictions, is for non-lethal “combat gear,” like night-vision goggles and flak jackets.

Underneath all the opacity and the declarations and the leaks, it seems  evident that the Obama Administration has decided to remain cautious but to  provide backing for Syria’s rebels, who are fighting an increasingly violent war  to unseat the entrenched military regime of Bashar al-Assad.

It is now a  23-month-old conflict with over 70,000 dead and  counting. (to reach 500,000 in 2018). Sometime this week, a million Syrians will have fled their country to neighboring ones as refugees. (To reach 7.5 millions outside and as many inside Syria)

In Jordan, there are now nearly half a million, and more are arriving every day. (And the same is for Lebanon). For the U.N. and other humanitarian agencies, Syria’s war is now the most urgent refugee crisis in the world, with no end in sight.

With Assad’s regime entrenched; fighting taking place daily in most of  Syria’s cities; Iran providing an apparently endless supply of war materiel to  Assad; the Russians, determined to act as power brokers, stubbornly covering the  regime’s back diplomatically.

Additionally, given Syria’s extraordinarily strategic position in the Middle East, it was inevitable that White House would  sooner or later have to come up with a policy to replace its wait-and-see hand-wringing.

Is it wise, or right, to arm Syria’s rebels? (Not wise)

Is it even a U.S. responsibility to do so? History will provide the final verdict, but there is probably not a  wholly right or wrong response at this point.

Syria’s diverse armed opposition is too engaged in war with the Syrian regime to be truly assessed, monitored,  and somehow “made safe” in exchange for U.S. support, and that seems unlikely to  change soon.

This is a hydra-headed war, a bit like a high-stakes poker game, and the best Washington can likely do is take a deep breath and sit down at the table to try  its hand, hoping to make some profit by doing so and not lose the family farm in  the process.

Given the U.S. role in the world, there is no real option but to play,  because out of Syria’s mess will come some kind of new reckoning between the  world’s powers where everyone’s leverage lies in the new Middle East.

The  Russians have staked their bets, and, in their own way, the Chinese, the  Iranians, the Turks, and the Saudis have, too. So has everyone else in the neighborhood, even the small fry. The result is a bloody stalemate.

For better  or worse, everyone is looking to the Americans to tip the balance, because that  is the role that a superpower, still in the game, is expected to play. This is  not about what’s right so much as it is about the game.

If the Americans want  the outcome to favor them and their allies they must try to help mold it. Direct  aid may have its risks, but no move at all means losing, too.

Israeli soldiers using Palestinian kids as shields. Photo by  Nidal Nidal Chehade.
الصورة الاولى من نابلس والثانية من موجهات سجن عوفر<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> جنود الاحتلال الصهيوني يستخدم الاطفال دروعا بشرية

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/03/in-syria-the-us-makes-a-move.html#ixzz2MNintcIn

Terrible mismatch: Every time I visit Syria…

Are you a frequent visitor to Syria? What’s going in the field?

Patrick Cockburn published in The Independent this  June 30, 2013

Every time I come to Syria I am struck by how different the situation is on the ground from the way it is pictured in the outside world. The foreign media reporting of the Syrian conflict is surely as inaccurate and misleading as anything we have seen since the start of the First World War.

I can’t think of any other war or crisis I have covered in which propagandist, biased or second-hand sources have been so readily accepted by journalists as providers of objective facts.

A result of these distortions is that politicians and casual newspaper or television viewers alike have never had a clear idea over the last two years of what is happening inside Syria. Worse, long-term plans are based on these misconceptions. A report on Syria published last week by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group says that “once confident of swift victory, the opposition’s foreign allies shifted to a paradigm dangerously divorced from reality”.

Slogans replace policies: the rebels are pictured as white hats and the government supporters as black hats; given more weapons, the opposition can supposedly win a decisive victory; put under enough military pressure, President Bashar al-Assad will agree to negotiations for which a pre-condition is capitulation by his side in the conflict.

One of the many drawbacks of the demonizing rhetoric indulged in by the incoming US National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and William Hague, is that it rules out serious negotiations and compromise with the powers-that-be in Damascus. And since Assad controls most of Syria, Rice and Hague have devised a recipe for endless war while pretending humanitarian concern for the Syrian people.

It is difficult to prove the truth or falsehood of any generalization about Syria. But, going by my experience this month travelling in central Syria between Damascus, Homs and the Mediterranean coast, it is possible to show how far media reports differ markedly what is really happening.

Only by understanding and dealing with the actual balance of forces on the ground can any progress be made towards a cessation of violence.

On Tuesday I traveled to Tal Kalakh, a town of 55,000 people just north of the border with Lebanon, which was once an opposition bastion. Three days previously, government troops had taken over the town and 39 Free Syrian Army (FSA) leaders had laid down their weapons. Talking to Syrian army commanders, an FSA defector and local people, it was evident there was no straight switch from war to peace. It was rather that there had been a series of truces and ceasefires arranged by leading citizens of Tal Kalakh over the previous year.

But at the very time I was in the town, Al Jazeera Arabic was reporting fighting there between the Syrian army and the opposition. Smoke was supposedly rising from Tal Kalakh as the rebels fought to defend their stronghold. Fortunately, this appears to have been fantasy and, during the several hours I was in the town, there was no shooting, no sign that fighting had taken place and no smoke.

Of course, all sides in a war pretend that no position is lost without a heroic defense against overwhelming numbers of the enemy. But obscured in the media’s accounts of what happened in Tal Kalakh was an important point: the opposition in Syria is fluid in its allegiances.

The US, Britain and the so-called 11-member “Friends of Syria“, who met in Doha last weekend, are to arm non-Islamic fundamentalist rebels, but there is no great chasm between them and those not linked to al-Qa’ida. (these friends have been dwindling at every meeting, from a peak of over 100 friends…)

One fighter with the al-Qa’ida-affiliated al-Nusra Front was reported to have defected to a more moderate group because he could not do without cigarettes. The fundamentalists pay more and, given the total impoverishment of so many Syrian families, the rebels will always be able to win more recruits. “Money counts far more than ideology,” a diplomat in Damascus told me.

While I was in Homs I had an example of why the rebel version of events is so frequently accepted by the foreign media in preference to that of the Syrian government. It may be biased towards the rebels, but often there is no government version of events, leaving a vacuum to be filled by the rebels. For instance, I had asked to go to a military hospital in the al-Waar district of Homs and was granted permission, but when I got there I was refused entrance.

Now, soldiers wounded fighting the rebels are likely to be eloquent and convincing advocates for the government side (I had visited a military hospital in Damascus and spoken to injured soldiers there). But the government’s obsessive secrecy means that the opposition will always run rings around it when it comes to making a convincing case.

Back in the Christian quarter of the Old City of Damascus, where I am staying, there was an explosion near my hotel on Thursday. I went to the scene and what occurred next shows that there can be no replacement for unbiased eyewitness reporting. State television was claiming that it was a suicide bomb, possibly directed at the Greek Orthodox Church or a Shia hospital that is even closer. Four people had been killed.

I could see a small indentation in the pavement which looked to me very much like the impact of a mortar bomb. There was little blood in the immediate vicinity, though there was about 10 yards away. While I was looking around, a second mortar bomb came down on top of a house, killing a woman.

The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, so often used as a source by foreign journalists, later said that its own investigations showed the explosion to have been from a bomb left in the street. In fact, for once, it was possible to know definitively what had happened, because the Shia hospital has CCTV that showed the mortar bomb in the air just before it landed – outlined for a split-second against the white shirt of a passer-by who was killed by the blast. What had probably happened was part of the usual random shelling by mortars from rebels in the nearby district of Jobar.

In the middle of a ferocious civil war it is self-serving credulity on the part of journalists to assume that either side in the conflict, government or rebel, is not going to concoct or manipulate facts to serve its own interests. Yet much foreign media coverage is based on just such an assumption.

The plan of the CIA and the Friends of Syria to somehow seek an end to the war by increasing the flow of weapons is equally absurd.

War will only produce more war. John Milton’s sonnet, written during the English civil war in 1648 in praise of the Parliamentary General Sir Thomas Fairfax, who had just stormed Colchester, shows a much deeper understanding of what civil wars are really like than anything said by David Cameron or William Hague. He wrote:

For what can war but endless war still breed?

Till truth and right from violence be freed,

And public faith clear’d from the shameful brand

Of public fraud. In vain doth valour bleed

While avarice and rapine share the land.

After Bashar Assad falls, what then for the Syrians?

The alliance between foreign jihadists and some Syrians shows the fight for Syria will not end with the fall of the regime.

It is no secret that the entry of the armed opposition into the city of Aleppo was co-ordinated by  the jihadist wahhabi movements of al-Nusra, an al Qaeda front of foreign jihadists at the command of foreign leaders. The al-Tawhid brigade is also Islamist but of Syrian fighters

Smoke rises in the Hanano and Bustan al-Basha districts in the northern city of Aleppo

 City of Aleppo in flame and ruin. Photograph: Javier Manzano/AFP/Getty Images

The Guardian on Dec. 18, 2012 under: Syria: after Assad falls, what then?

“It was not the supposed imminent collapse of the Syrian regime that dominated the recent meeting of the Friends of Syria in Marrakech but the thorny subject of al-Nusra, one of the armed resistance groups operating in the country, which the US has just classified as a “foreign terrorist organisation”.

The chairman of the Syrian National Coalition called for the US to reconsider its decision; the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamad Tayfur condemned it as wrong and hastily made. Many other statements of support for al-Nusra followed, most notably from non-Islamist members of the coalition.

It is no secret that the entry of the armed opposition into the city of Aleppo was co-ordinated by al-Nusra and the al-Tawhid brigade, part of the Syrian Free Army, and that al-Nusra remains an effective fighting force.

But who are they?

Though the al-Tawhid brigade is Islamist, its members are exclusively Syrian. Al-Nusra’s fighters, on the other hand, are mainly foreign, and its emir (leader) is appointed from outside Syria.

What accounts for the support by so many of those attending the Friends of Syria conference for an organisation the US believes to be an al-Qaida front?

From the moment al-Nusra issued its first statement in December 2011, after a suicide bombing in Damascus, both Syria’s armed opposition and the opposition in exile expressed concern about this mysterious new organisation.

The Syrian National Council claimed al-Nusra had been formed by Syrian intelligence to tarnish the image of the Free Army. Syrian human rights defenders spoke out, too, warning of al-Qaida links. Many feared the organization was fast becoming the most attractive group for foreign jihadists in a sectarian war against Alawites, Shias and secular Syrians.

In January, the National Co-ordination Committee asked Turkey to stop letting foreign fighters enter Syria.

In February, the Syrian National Council issued a statement rejecting “all attempts to exploit the uprising by foreign jihadi and sectarian fighters”. Why the apparent shift of opinion within Syria’s opposition groups?

Al-Nusra has indiscriminately targeted non-Sunni people, and in all parts of the state. In this military strategy one can see a point of convergence between the Muslim Brotherhood, the salafists, and al-Nusra: all three groups reject the idea that Assad’s regime and the apparatus of the state are distinct.

The reasons are historical:

Since a 1980 decree sentencing any member of the Muslim Brotherhood to death, there has been no Brotherhood presence in the state. Because of this, the Syrian Islamist movement has long considered the state as inherently alien. This view is not held by all Syrians, however, almost eight million of whom work for the state in various capacities.

The Muslim Brotherhood targeted the military institutions as if they were Assad’s own army. Similarly, al-Nusra considers them to be the Alawite army. This intersection of views explains the lack of support shown by minorities and secular Syrians for the armed opposition groups, which were dominated by Sunni Islamists. The role of secular democrats was marginalised, and the emphasis placed on funding armed action.

Various interested parties have supported the armed opposition.

The Gulf states consider Islamisation as a protection against genuine democracy in Syria, which would pose a threat to their own regimes.

The Turkish government considers Islamisation necessary for the isolation of the Syrian Kurds.

The west, meanwhile, was happy to simply monitor the scene, hoping armed opposition would result in the overthrow of the Syrian regime.

The Syrian National Council, too, co-operated both financially and militarily with al-Nusra, as did the leaders of various armed groups in northern Syria. Despite all the promises made to the US delegation in Tunisia to break with them, co-ordination continued on the ground.

This is why the US deputy secretary of state found himself isolated in Marrakech when he classified al-Nusra as a terrorist organisation.

The British and French remained silent, as did the EU, this year’s Nobel peace prize winner.

This was met with horror by many Syrians, the vast majority of whom reject al-Nusra. When the Syrian army attacks al-Nusra it is not as the suppressor of the popular movement, but the guarantor of the unity of Syria’s diverse society.

It is the alliance between foreign jihadists and some Syrians that risks tearing the country apart, leading to religious extremism, long-term sectarian war, and the persecution of minorities and various civilian groups.

Support for al-Nusra can be seen as both a symptom of the drunkenness of anticipated military victory, prematurely proclaimed, and an attempt to further undermine the political solution the UN still seeks.

What happens as a result will not be decided by a conference in Marrakech, but on the ground.

One thing is certain: the fight for Syria will last a long time, and will not end with the fall of the regime.

Note 1: https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/war-of-lies-and-hypocrisies-in-syria-robert-fisk/

Note 2: https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2012/09/30/syria-fundamental-and-pragmatic-discussions-during-and-after-the-assad-


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