1 March 2013
ARTICLES AND INTERVIEWS IN THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA
Most articles in the mainstream media support the simple narrative about Syria. This narrative is best reflected by Kevin Rudd in his interview on The Drum on 14 January 2013: the Syrian president is a brutal dictator and his regime has killed tens of thousands of innocent people; the international community must take action against him.
However, with a careful sifting through of the mainstream media and alternative media, it is not difficult to build a picture of events in Syria that seriously challenges this line.
This Reference List presents links which may help people in the media, politics, and the general public to research events in Syria. Articles from previous years are included since the past has to be known to understand the present. It is hoped this will help the voices of Syria’s 23 million people to be heard.
One Syrian voice is a reverend who uploaded onto Youtube “An Open Letter to President Obama from Aleppo”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Nq4K41qH4E Another Syrian Christian voice Mr Rudd might like to listen to is Rev Adib Awad, whose brother has been a political prisoner: http://vimeo.com/43187181
A recent interview on al-Mayadeen, a Lebanese TV channel, with analyst Aisling Byrne about the media war being waged against Syria is a good beginning for any serious research into the ‘Arab Spring’ in Syria: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=8azATW25nj0
And two documentaries which present the perspective of Syrians who do not support the armed opposition are challenging viewing:
Manufacturing Dissent, produced by journalists Lizzie Phelan and Mostafa Afzalzadeh http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwv7JXgPxLI
The Syrian Diary, directed by Russian reporter Anastasia Popova, presents some of the gruesome nature of the war normally not presented in the media. (18+)
Two European politicians, George Galloway and Nigel Farage, who have recently spoken out in parliament against war might serve as role models for others: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=XN_Kpd1bP5w
And Belgian MP, Laurent Louis, may be considered a hero by many anti-war activists as he speaks in parliament against neo-colonialism in North Africa and the Middle East: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCTZDH3WDjo
Those who believe oil is the reason for ME wars may want to follow German analyst Christof Lehmann, who claims in 2013, it is gas. http://nsnbc.me/2012/12/28/the-dynamics-of-the-crisis-in-syria-conflict-versus-conflict-resolution-part-5/
Rudd calls for arming of Syrian opposition – ABC The Drum (TV Interview)
Updated Mon Jan 14, 2013 7:44pm AEDT
Malcolm Turnbull on ABC QandA (Monday Feb 25 2013) has a different take on Syria
I think the single most important thing that we should be demanding and, indeed, providing encouragement for is the rule of law. Unless you have the rule of law, which means that the majority can’t wipe out the minority, then democracy just becomes majoritarian tyranny. The challenge that the Cops have in Egypt is frightening. That is an existential threat absolutely. As, indeed, is the position potentially faced by the Alawi in Syria and, indeed, the Christians in Syria as well, not to speak of the Shia. I mean if democracy means a Sunni majority can wipe out the minorities then that is not what we can accept as a democracy. But, you know, we need very, very cool heads and we need to be calm about it.
Humanitarian Groups Warn Against Direct Aid to Syrian Rebels –
UN DISPATCH 27 Feb, Mark Leon Goldberg
The Obama administration is weighing proposals to channel humanitarian aid directly to the Syrian opposition. This “Plan B” for Syria already has supporters in US Congress and was given a boost last week by Marc Lynch in a Center for a New American Security policy brief. The Washington Post reported yesterday that the administration is strongly considering the merits of providing direct humanitarian assistance to rebel groups in order to prop up those groups it favors.
Humanitarian aid organizations, however, are expressing deep reservations about this strategy.
“This is the wrong approach,” says one aid expert for a humanitarian relief organization working in Syria that receives funding from USAID. “The ability of US-backed humanitarian actors to get aid into Syria depends on us being an impartial actor and responding to real needs.”
The concerns are manifold. If the Assad government considers humanitarian relief to be a front for an American military agenda, humanitarian organizations will be barred from the country; or worse: targeted as part of a military campaign. Also, channeling food, medicine, and blankets directly to rebel groups in Syria for the expressed goal of boosting the legitimacy of one group over another could mean that aid becomes something over which various rebel factions will fight.
“Who gets credit for aid is heavily politicized and people get killed for it,” says the aid worker. He argues that determining aid recipients by their political affiliation is an impractical way to deliver aid. Should aid groups act as the tip of the spear of an American-led charge to pick favorites, they may become targets in inter-nicene battles and cease operations…..
“When we have seen aid extensively politicized, the humanitarian window does begin to close,” says Sam Worthington. “Our fear is that this will impact peoples’ lives.”
VIDEO OF INTERVIEWS, RALLIES OF SUPPORTERS OF al-Nusra and al-Qaeda in Syria
Support shown for an Islamic Caliphate, the killing of Christians and Alawis
Conversation With a Syrian in Syria
Seth Rutledge Feb 23, 2013
FRANCE 24 REPORT ON AL-NUSRA FRONT IN SYRIA (VIDEO INTERVIEW WITH FIGHTERS)
Al Nusra: Al Qaeda’s Syria Offensive
THE DAILY BEAST by Bruce Riedel Feb 23, 2013 1:15 PM EST
The terror group’s Syrian front, al Nusra, is not only attacking Assad, but building a base from which it can threaten U.S. interests in the region. By Bruce Riedel
Al Qaeda’s franchise in Syria, just one year old, is now the fastest-growing al Qaeda front in the world, attracting fighters from across the Islamic world. Jabhat al Nusra, translated variously as the Victory Front or the Support Front for the Syrian People, was founded in January 2012, almost a year after the first demonstrations against the dictatorship of President Bashar al-Assad. It was created with the assistance of the al Qaeda franchise in Iraq that was formed nearly a decade ago during the American invasion. The Iraqi base provided a safe haven for setting up the front in Syria and still provides sanctuary for the Syrian group to this day.
Saudis Step Up Help for Rebels in Syria With Croatian Arms
New York Times By C. J. CHIVERS and ERIC SCHMITT
Published: February 25, 2013
Saudi Arabia has financed a large purchase of infantry weapons from Croatia and quietly funneled them to antigovernment fighters in Syria in a drive to break the bloody stalemate that has allowed President Bashar al-Assad to cling to power, according to American and Western officials familiar with the purchases.
How to Cover Syria from Beirut, Lebanon
ALAKHBAR ENGLISH By As’ad AbuKhalil – Mon, 2013-02-25 19:20- Angry Corner
Based on the coverage of Syria in US newspapers, it has become possible to identify certain characteristics of this coverage from Beirut.
1. Write the articles but rely on a number of poorly paid local stringers who can translate and interpret for you.
2. Call the Hariri press office and the press offices of Syrian exile groups to basically direct you as soon as you arrive in the city.
3. You don’t have to leave your home: the job requires the use of Skype extensively. You don’t have to look for Skype addresses: the Hariri press office and its allies in the Syrian exile opposition will provide you with names and can even make up names for you.
4. It is OK to be emotional in your coverage in sympathy of the armed Syrian groups, just as it is NOT OK to be emotional in covering the Arab side of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
5. Cover human suffering extensively, unless it is caused by Syrian armed groups themselves.
6. Don’t cite the real leaders of the Islamist-led Syrian exile groups: instead, cite Syrians living in Western countries in order to give a Westernized face to the Syrian exile opposition.
7. Try to minimize the Saudi-Qatari-Kuwaiti-Turkish role on the side of the Syrian armed groups.
8. Feel free to engage in fund-raising campaigning in you articles by constant references to the poverty of the armed groups and their lack of arms and equipment. Show a few tears too.
9. Make an attempt to show the humanity of the armed groups: pictures of a child fighters should underline that they are children after all and that they represent the humane face of the armed groups.
10. Don’t talk to two sides in the conflict. One side (the side supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar) is sufficient……
Syria’s issue are not Syrians, rather ‘regional and neighbouring states’
RT QUESTION MORE Published time: February 26, 2013 11:11
With an increasing death toll and an on-going brutal proxy war the Syria crisis seems at a crossroads with a state on state clash which is being waged on Syrian soil, the only people who can create a solution from the embers of destruction are Syrian.
There is much consensus that a pulverizing military victory on either side is inconceivable, the regional deadlock ensures the sustainability of each embattled side in what is transpiring to be a lengthy war of attrition being fought on Syrian territory.
In the midst of the war there has been a significant change in the tone of the main players, the Syrian government has been speaking of peace rather than war, whispers of the words dialogue and political solution are echoing from Damascus. The opposition coalition too has been busy, sending demands and pre-conditions for any potential peace plan or dialogue, a release of 160,000 prisoners and a visa extension for all Syrians who are abroad.
Under the auspice of Russia, a meeting is due in Moscow at the end of next month between the head of the coalition and the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al Muallem. This reiterates the role Russia has to play, perhaps one of mediation and active diplomacy, a far stretch from the policies of western powers who continue to support a policy of regime change in Syria via proxy.
The Syrian Foreign Minister said on Monday ahead of talks with his Russian counterpart that “We are ready for dialogue with anyone who wants dialogue, including those who are fighting with arms in their hands, because we are confident that reforms cannot be carried out through bloodshed, but through dialogue.” This signifies a crucial and defining change of attitude, faith in an ultimate military solution has been replaced by more pacified calls for an end to hostilities. This statement is important, as since the beginning of the crisis this is the first time a leading official has expressed the government’s readiness to engage in dialogue with the armed opposition.
The insistence on dialogue shows the embattled state views the crisis in the following context; firstly a political solution is an absolute necessity, it is the only way to end the crisis and preserve the strength of the state. Secondly, the quarrel is not between Syrians, but rather regional and neighbouring states that flood Syrian borders with fighters, weapons and extremist ideology, allowing for the presence of radical Islamic groups including Al Qaeda, working under the façade of the al Nusra front, according to Walid al Muallem.
“Today Jabhat al-Nusra, which is affiliated with Al-Qaeda, is involved in main fighting in Syria. It invited fighters from 28 countries including Chechnya.” Foreign radical fighters are what the Syrian government clearly fears the most, their presence; thought to number thousands is encouraged by regional powers such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, making it a state on state clash which is being waged on Syrian soil.
From a political perspective the opposition are boldly making a statement, in a sense reaching out to Assad for a political solution, with al Khatib’s call for dialogue. This can be judged to have the risk of running political suicide and a statement from a position of profound weakness, which is how some in Damascus may view the initiative.
It seems the Coalition has backtracked from its initial viewpoint, where no longer than a month ago Khatib was vehemently and audaciously requesting an apology from Moscow to the ‘Syrian people’ for their continued support for the Syrian government. ….
The Independent Editorial: William Hague has been outflanked on Syria
Mon 18 Feb 2013
Britain’s inability to persuade its fellow EU countries to have weapons supplied to non-Islamist groups in the Syrian opposition was a diplomatic failure waiting to happen. The result is that Britain is left wringing its hands on the sidelines, while Russia’s efforts to guide future peace negotiations between the two sides seem increasingly assured and promising. To invert Douglas Hurd’s famous formulation, we are punching below our weight: pressing for aggressive solutions which we lack both the muscle to impose ourselves, and the powers of argument to convince our allies to support…..
Syria PM Stresses Importance of Intellectuals in Exposing Conspiracy against Nation
ISLAMICINVITATION TURKEY Date and Time:25 February 2013 – 22:18
Prime Minister, Dr. Wael al-Halqi, stressed on Monday the important role of Arab intellectuals in exposing the conspiracies plotted against the Arab nation.
Meeting Arab cultural figures who are participating in The “National Dialogue for Syria” seminar, Dr. al-Halqi pointed out that the participation of Arab intellectuals is a fraternal and genuine expression of their support to Syria and their understanding of the U.S.-Zionist fierce attack which is aimed at destroying the core of resistance in the Arab region.
Amnesty International: A Criminal Organisation in the Service of Western Imperialism
WRONG KIND OF GREEN August 28, 2012 by Metro Gael
What the Syrian death tolls really tell us
THE GUARDIAN 15 Feb 2013 Sharmine Narwani
Unreliable data can incite and escalate a conflict – the latest UN-sponsored figure of 60,000 should not be reported as fact
increasingly, death tolls are used as political tools to scene-set for western-backed “humanitarian interventions” in the Middle East and north Africa and – more broadly – against the kinds of negotiated political settlements that could actually reduce or stop the killing.
It’s time to stop headlining unreliable and easily politicised casualty counts, and use them only as one of several background measures of a conflict. It’s essential too that the media help us avoid such manipulation by asking questions about reported deaths: how were these deaths verified? Are they combatants? Who killed them? How do we know this? Who benefits from these deaths? Was this a violent death or one caused by displacement? How is it even possible to count all these dead in the midst of raging conflict?
Numbers without context or solid foundations can incite and escalate a conflict, leading to even more carnage. Contemporary casualty data have been inaccurate in so many recent conflicts that it’s time to retire these numbers from the telling of the story.
Syria: The Growing Power Of Jihadist Groups
SKY NEWS: 17 Feb 2013
Sky’s Stuart Ramsay meets an increasingly influential group which says jihad is spreading and will not stop at Syria.
The number of Jihadist groups flooding into Syria two years after the start of the uprising is threatening to eclipse the power of mainstream opposition groups as well as the authority of the Free Syrian Army.
One of the increasingly influential groups, Jabah al Haq (The Front for Justice), told Sky News that Jihad is spreading across North Africa and the Middle East and will not stop at Syria but will include Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and even Israel.
William Hague: Speech Countering terrorism overseas
15 February 2013
But in the short term extremists and terrorists will take every opportunity to try to hijack these revolutions. Syria is the most acute case of all.
The vast majority of people opposing the Assad regime are Syrians, fighting for the future of their country. But Syria is now the number one destination for jihadists anywhere in the world today. This includes a number of individuals connected with the United Kingdom and other European countries. They may not pose a threat to us when they first go to Syria, but if they survive some may return ideologically hardened and with experience of weapons and explosives. The longer the conflict continues, the greater this danger will become, a point that should not be lost on policy makers in Russia and elsewhere. More innocent lives will be lost, extremists will be emboldened, sectarianism will increase and the risk of the use of Chemical or Biological Weapons will grow.
Fatwa by Al Jazeera’s Top Cleric: Pro-Gov’t Syrian Civilians Are Legitimate Targets
Published January 2013
Facebook page of group which supports ‘revolution’
VIDEO OF REBELS SHOOTING FROM FLAT AT APARTMENTS IN DAMASCUS; SNIPER
Published 16 Feb, 2013
The legacy of war:
Iraq back at the brink
ASIA TIMES online, 2013, By Ramzy Baroud
UK-based Iraqi writer Hussein Al-alak wrote on the upcoming 10th anniversary of the Iraq invasion with a tribute to the country’s “silent victims”, the children. According to Iraqi Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, he reported, there is an estimated 4.5 million children who are now orphans, with a “shocking 70%” of them having lost their parents since the 2003 invasion.
“From that total number, around 600,000 children are living on the streets, without either shelter or food to survive,” Al-alak wrote. Those living in the few state-run orphanages “are currently lacking in their most essential needs.”
‘People want Assad to stay’
BBC 15th Feb 2013
Life has become difficult for the residents of Damascus, in Syria, but little is reported of the lives of those in Damascus who support the Assad regime. BBC reporter Zubeida Malik spoke on the Today programme to some of the government supporters in Syria’s capital city.
Thirty one-year-old Damascus resident Zenub, a university teacher who supports the Assad regime, explained that her quality of life has deteriorated significantly since the beginning of the uprising: “We are not free to leave our homes. We hear shooting and explosions every night. I feel in danger when the sun starts to set… we are asking for our freedom to live as we did before.”
“Edward Dark”, a Syrian living in Aleppo who is very active on Twitter, originally supported the ‘revolution’, but he has been very critical of the ‘rebels’ since they entered Aleppo and he saw them at close range.
rebels use civilian hostages as human shields, putting them on balconies out in a building after a failed attack on a barracks Aleppo #Syria
Wael Ibrahim (Abu Maryam) prominent activist & protest organizer in Aleppo, arrested & sentenced to flogging by a rebel Islamic court #Syria
Mourning for Syria: I love America, I love Syria, I hate the war, but will things get better if Assad is gone?
POST-GAZETTE.COM August 12, 2012 12:05 am by Dalel Khalil
My position is simple. Governments can be straight-up evil. All governments. No hands are completely clean. Publicly, governments say one thing; privately, they’re in bed with each other. People are different — most just want to make a better life for themselves.
Spending the summer of 2008 in Damascus, it was evident that Syrians loved President Assad. And not out of fear. Not like his father. You could tell they really supported him. He was young, Western-educated and all about reform. His wife, Asma, toured the country incognito to learn the needs of the people.
First sign of an ‘Arab Spring’ in Damascus. February 2011. A government official arrives to defuse the situation.
SYRIAN GIRL: Obama DIRECTLY Backing AL-QAEDA in Public Statement! ALEX JONES
Published January 7, 2013 (“Syrian Girl” is a Syrian Australian woman who participated in SBS’s Dateline program on Syria)
First sign in February 2011 of an ‘Arab Spring’ in Damascus. A government official arrives to defuse the situation.
Americans are fighting in Syria
World powers seek political solution to Syria crisis:: Feroze Mithiborowla
Press TV 17 February
A political analyst says the situation in Syria is beginning to turn around in the political domain and the calls for a political solution and a political dialogue are making sense to the global powers as well as the opposition within Syria.
So now there is an understanding that there is no military solution to this conflict, there is no way that the insurgents from 29 countries that are being [sent] by the Saudis and the Qataris and the Turks, full backed by the Americans, the French and the British, this will not lead to a Libya type of solution. The West will not be able to impose the Libyan solution on Syria.
That is my understanding of what I observed after six days of our stay of Indian delegation of human rights and journalists who just visited Syria.
Syrian Refugees in Lebanon:The Heavy Burden of the Open Borders Policy
Guita Hourani: Most of the Syrian refugees live under very deplorable conditions, in derelict houses; many even don’t have enough to eat or to keep themselves warm during the winter months. They need medical attention, and some are traumatised. Another issue is of course the education of the children of the refugees.
And I am also concerned that, in order to survive economically, many families are forced to marry off their daughters at a very young age. There are cases of exploitation and “forced prostitution” due to financial needs and lack of protection. Another challenge is related to the infiltration of the youth by political or religious radical parties.
Women Soldiers, Syria (Video)
A report in Homs with the NDF women training in their center and then on the streets.
Report by Juhaina News, an independent Syrian based news agency.
Syria News 16.2.2013, Mass Marches in Aleppo Salute Army, Terrorist Confesses
Syria Comment Wednesday, April 13th, 2011
A number of news reports by AFP, the Guardian, and other news agencies and outlets are suggesting that Syrian security forces were responsible for shooting nine Syrian soldiers, who were killed in Banyas on Sunday. Some versions insist that they were shot for refusing orders to shoot at demonstrators.
Considerable evidence suggests this is not true and that western journalists are passing on bad information.
Joshua Landis (Since Joshua Landis wrote the above, it could be claimed he has become a voice of Washington on Syria).
Syria: questions must be asked and answered
1 May 2011 ABC Pool page, Susan Dirgham
To develop a concerned and responsible understanding of what is happening in Syria today, questions that generally aren’t being posed must be.
1. The prominent Egyptian Islamic scholar, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, a cleric with a huge following in the Middle East and North Africa and with links to the Muslim Brotherhood, has recently called on Sunni Muslims to rebel against the “Alawite regime” in Syria, “for Arabs to support protesters in Syria”. Two chants of demonstrators in Daraa have been, “No Hezbollah. No Iran. Syria for Muslims (read “Sunnis”)”, and “Send Christians to Beirut and kill Alawis.” Syrian friends (mostly Sunnis but some Alawis and Christians as well – if that is relevant) have told me soldiers are being killed in cold blood, government workers as well. One friend who lives on the outskirts of Damascus rang me Easter Sunday to tell me that soldiers had been killed – targeted and shot – in his area and in the nearby military hospital. The brother-in-law of a friend was shot and killed in his car along with his two children and nephew. He wasn’t a “human rights activist”; he was an army officer. Are such killings related to Qaradawi’s call?
Where is the truth? Soldier shot by whom? Two different responses to a videoed interview with wounded Syrian soldier. 11 April 2011
The description of the video is false. The person asking the question is forcing the statement 0:59. The soldier never says that he was shot at by his own security forces. When the interviewer forced the words that he was shot at from behind. He said that we were shot at from the front and from the back. (min eddam w min wara) to mean that they were being shot at from all corners. And he said that they stopped shooting (el 3alam battalet tkawwess @ 1:05).
Reconciliation is the only way forward for Syria
THE CONVERSATION 4 December 2012, 6.41am AEST by Dr Fiona Hill
Syria continues to be gutted, physically and psychologically, every day. Her people are terrorised and killed, infrastructure is decimated, and historical monuments are razed with astonishing levels of brutality.
Syrians care more about overdue policy reform than ousting their president.
The AGE, 18 August 2011, by Joseph Wakim
Hope Forum for Societal Work Starts in Lattakia
Feb 16, 2013
Syrians deserve a third way
Online Opinion by Joseph Wakim, 21 December 2012
The reconciliation or Mussalaha movement paths a third way – a way towards peace. Not the status quo of the authoritarian regime where dissonant voices were crushed. Not a bloody revolution that is fuelled and financed from foreign powers. But a third way – evolution that is driven by the will of the Syrian citizens in their own time and in their own way. Driven by their love of re-building their secular society, not ripping it apart along sectarian battle lines. It is this majority of ordinary peace loving people who have been forgotten when the conflict is crudely portrayed as ‘Assad versus rebels’.
Syrian Debate Full | SBS Insight
Debate in studio: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUniwJGQizI
(NB: Mimi, a participant in this SBS debate, is the Marxist activist “Syrian Girl” who has an international profile. She is a Syrian Australian Sunni woman whose voice challenges those in the wider community who may fear that by criticizing Islamist ‘rebels’ in Syria, they criticize Muslims and Islam in general.)
A cri de coeur from a student at Damascus University…
“Mr. Obama, Tear Down These sanctions!”
COUNTERPUNCH Jan 11- 13 2013, by Franklin Lamb (US reporter, peace activist writing from Syria)
Virtually all the NGO’s here attest to the fact that if the US-led sanctions are lifted or even suspended until the spring, it would be a humanitarian gesture consistent with American claimed values. To continue to allow the dying and suffering under the weight of these sanctions suggests that we in America have learned nothing from the results of similar sanctions imposed in Iraq and Afghanistan…
Syrian students follow local and regional events closely and a common view is that from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Jordan and even some on capitol hill in Washington, are coming multiple signals that all are in consultation via their intelligence services with Syria’s government in order to reach a solution because they finallly concede that, despite funding and aiding the rebel panoply with guns, money and training, these countries, including Egypt, that the regime will survive and that the al Nusra type salafists would not be satiated by the fall of Syria but would quickly turn on Doha, Riyad, Amman, the UAE and other countries in the region.
History instructs us that sanctions do not cause regime change and those affected are not the ones wielding power. It’s the wretched, the poor, the huddled refuge seeking to survive, to paraphrase Lazarus’ inscription on our Statute of Liberty who we are being ground into early graves by American government imposed sanctions.
Footage of rally in Syria at which people oppose foreign interference and support peaceful reform
“….it’s these millions of people who will decide the future of Syria..”
A farewell to Al Jazeera: Forget what you have seen!
By Aktham Suliman
11.12.2012, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
The news channel Al Jazeera was committed to the truth. Now the truth is being twisted. It is about politics, not about journalism. For reporters this means: it’s time to go.
….I had just stumbled upon the alleged email communications between Al Jazeera staff published by the so-called “Syrian Electronic Army,” a Syrian pro-government hacker group. In one of the emails, the correspondent Ali Hashem had told Syrian TV presenter Rola Ibrahim, who was working at the network’s headquarters in Qatar, that he had seen and filmed armed Syrian revolutionaries on the border with Lebanon in 2011.
The channel didn’t broadcast the images because they showed an armed deployment, which did not fit the desired narrative of a peaceful uprising. “My bosses told me: forget what you have seen!” Hashem wrote to Rola, as published. She is said to have replied that she was faring no better. She had been “massively humiliated, just because I embarrassed Zuhair Salem, the spokesman for the opposition Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, with my questions during a news broadcast. They threatened to exclude me from interviews relating to Syria and to restrict me to presenting the late night news, under the pretext that I was jeopardizing the station’s balance.”
Intervention in Syria risks blowback and regional war
The Guardian, 19 December 2012, by Seumas Milne
The west’s bid to ramp up the war in Syria will simply escalate the killing. Only negotiation can stop the conflict spreading
The signs are unmistakable. Once again, the west is preparing to escalate military intervention in the Arab and Muslim world. This time the target is Syria. Since the US presidential election, the warnings have multiplied. First, in a breathtaking reprise of the falsehood that paved the way for the invasion of Iraq, US and British leaders claimed the Syrian regime might be about to use chemical weapons against rebel forces, and threatened dire consequences.
Then the US authorised the stationing of Patriot missile batteries along the Turkish-Syrian border. Ostensibly intended to protect Turkey from stray Syrian artillery fire, they could rather more plausibly be used to help enforce a Libya-style no-fly zone. There has since been a flurry of media briefings about increased covert US arms supplies and rebel training, along with plans for intensified intelligence and special forces deployment, or even all-out air and naval power support. Direct intervention, US and British officials are reported to insist, is “now inevitable”.
Next Britain followed France in recognising the new opposition Syrian National Coalition, stitched together under Nato and Gulf tutelage, as the “sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people”. Since the coalition clearly isn’t the sole representative of Syrians, the declaration (which goes beyond even what was said during the Libyan war) sets a precedent that is likely to come back to haunt them. But it was followed by only a slightly less sweeping statement from the US and around 100 allies.
What such support can mean on the ground is demonstrated in the latest real-life horror video circulating among Syrians. It shows two captured officers from President Assad’s Alawite sect being beheaded with a machete in the street, apparently by western-backed Free Syrian Army rebels, one of them a child….
U.S. Weighs Bolder Effort to Intervene in Syria’s Conflict
New York Times, 28 November 2012
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration, hoping that the conflict in Syria has reached a turning point, is considering deeper intervention to help push President Bashar al-Assad from power, according to government officials involved in the discussions…
Violent tide of Salafism threatens the Arab spring
The GUARDIAN THE OBSERVER 10 Feb 2013
A series of repressive dictatorships have been brought down in north Africa, but the ensuing struggles for power have left a vacuum that has allowed the rise of an extremist movement that is gathering both force and supporters.
Syria: The descent into Holy War
The Independent, 16 December 2012, by Patrick Cockburn
World View: The world decided to back the rebels last week, but this is no fight between goodies and baddies
It is one of the most horrifying videos of the war in Syria. It shows two men being beheaded by Syrian rebels, one of them by a child. He hacks with a machete at the neck of a middle-aged man who has been forced to lie in the street with his head on a concrete block. At the end of the film, a soldier, apparently from the Free Syrian Army, holds up the severed heads by their hair in triumph.
The film is being widely watched on YouTube by Syrians, reinforcing their fears that Syria is imitating Iraq’s descent into murderous warfare in the years after the US invasion in 2003. It fosters a belief among Syria’s non-Sunni Muslim minorities, and Sunnis associated with the government as soldiers or civil servants, that there will be no safe future for them in Syria if the rebels win. In one version of the video, several of which are circulating, the men who are beheaded are identified as officers belonging to the 2.5 million-strong Alawite community. This is the Shia sect to which President Bashar al-Assad and core members of his regime belong. The beheadings, so proudly filmed by the perpetrators, may well convince them that they have no alternative but to fight to the end…
This misperception of the reality on the ground in Syria is fuelled in part by propaganda, but more especially by inaccurate and misleading reporting by the media where bias towards the rebels and against the government is unsurpassed since the height of the Cold War. Exaggerated notions are given of rebel strength and popularity. The Syrian government is partially responsible for this. By excluding all but a few foreign journalists, the regime has created a vacuum of information that is naturally filled by its enemies. In the event, a basically false and propagandistic account of events in Syria has been created by a foreign media credulous in using pro-opposition sources as if they were objective reporting.
The execution video is a case in point. I have not met a Syrian in Damascus who has not seen it. It is having great influence on how Syrians judge their future, but the mainstream media outside Syria has scarcely mentioned it. Some may be repulsed by its casual savagery, but more probably it is not shown because it contradicts so much of what foreign leaders and reporters claim is happening here
Syria’s Threatened Christians
New York Times Opinion June 28 2012
Earlier this month, reports came from the Syrian city of Qusayr of an ominous warning to the town’s Christians: Either join the Sunni-led opposition against Bashar al-Assad or leave. Soon after, thousands of Christians fled the town.
After decades of protection by a secular-leaning dictatorship, the Qusayr ultimatum warned of a dark future for Syria’s Christian community. As the 15-month conflict rages with no end in sight, Syria’s many minorities have come face to face with the emerging threat posed by radical Sunni Islamists. These elements have established themselves as a key factor in Syria’s future, backed by immense political and economic support from the Arab world and indifference from the West.
Syria: Islamist Nusra Front gives BBC exclusive interview
BBC News, 17 January 2013 By Paul Wood
An activist was explaining to me how the bread shortage in rebel-held parts of Aleppo was another crime to be heaped on the head of Bashar al-Assad.
He was waved away by a stout matron in a hijab and long black coat.
“Don’t blame Bashar. What’s happening to us is of our own making,” she said as, behind her, Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters struggled to keep order.
It is widely believed in Aleppo that the bread shortage was caused by the FSA stealing flour to sell elsewhere.
An FSA officer confirmed as much when I asked him if this had been done by individual fighters or was ordered by commanders to fund their operations.
Syrian rebels sidetracked by scramble for spoils of war
The Guardian, 27 December 2012
Looting, feuds and divided loyalties threaten to destroy unity of fighters as war enters new phase
It wasn’t the government that killed the Syrian rebel commander Abu Jameel. It was the fight for his loot. The motive for his murder lay in a great warehouse in Aleppo which his unit had captured a week before. The building had been full of rolled steel, which was seized by the fighters as spoils of war.
But squabbling developed over who would take the greater share of the loot and a feud developed between commanders. Threats and counter-threats ensued over the following days….
UPDATE 4-Syrian opposition urges review of al-Nusra blacklisting
Reuters 12 December, 2012
Jihad a legitimate motive for Syrian rebels -opposition leader
* U.S.: al-Nusra a foreign terror group steered by Qaeda in Iraq
* Burns invites Syrian coalition to Washington for talks
By Samia Nakhoul and Khaled Yacoub Oweis
MARRAKECH, Morocco, Dec 12 (Reuters) – The leader of Syria’s opposition coalition urged the United States on Wednesday to reconsider its decision to designate the militant Islamist Jabhat al-Nusra as a terrorist group, saying religion was a legitimate motive for Syrian rebels.
“The decision to consider a party that is fighting the regime as a terrorist party needs to be reviewed,” Mouaz Alkhatib told a “Friends of Syria” meeting in Morocco, where Western and Arab states granted full recognition to the coalition seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad… The United States designated the Jabhat al-Nusra (Nusra Front) as a foreign terrorist organisation and said it was trying to hijack the revolt on behalf of al Qaeda in Iraq.
Without naming al-Nusra, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns urged Alkhatib’s coalition to “take a firm stand against extremists” who could commandeer the revolt.
Syria Is Not Tunisia or Libya
New York Times, Opinion Pages 7 February 2012, Sharmine Narwani
Commentators on the Arab Awakening sometimes make the mistake of assuming that 22 Arab states are one and the same, all destined to oust dictators with the same sequence of events that follow either the Tunisian or Libyan models.
While President Bashar al-Assad has made some gross miscalculations since the crisis began in March, he is still favored by a slight majority of Syrians, according to recent online polls. But popularity is not why his government remains intact. The regime still enjoys the support of its key constituencies: the army, the major cities, the business/regime elite, minorities and Sunni secularists, with limited defections of the sort experienced by other Arab states….
Mother Agnes Mariam’s interview by Ireland’s national broadcasting company – RTE
August 2012, After the interview in the studio, RTE journalists requested that Mother Agnes be interviewed on video
Christians a target for Syrian rebels we back
The Australian, 13 October 2012 Angela Shanahan
ONE might think the recent reports of Australians recruited as jihadist fighters for the rebel cause in Syria would have been given front-page coverage and top billing on the nightly news bulletins. It is cause for alarm about fanaticism in our midst – much more alarm than the actions of an unruly mob a few weeks ago.
However, there are two angles to this story. First, on the home front it shows how opportunistic are the leaders of this particular brand of Islam. Second, it tells us something about what is actually happening in Syria.
Amid the chaos, another strand of the story is beginning to emerge, part of the wider story happening all over the Middle East. It is the fate of the Christians of the Middle East. We have already witnessed in one generation the decline of the Christians of Palestine, the original home of Christianity.
We have seen, despite the so-called Arab Spring in Egypt, the dire situation of the Coptic Christians, the original inhabitants of Egypt who speak the closest living language to pharaonic Egyptian. Now in Syria we see the threatened purge of another even older Christian group. The Syriac Christians are the Christians of Antioch, the oldest Christian church in the world, and the only speakers of Aramaic, the language of Jesus.
Despite the threat to these large minorities, the story of Syria is being interpreted and exploited by the fundamentalists with the unwitting connivance of SBS, which gleans most of its Middle East coverage from the al-Jazeera network. According to this interpretation, the Syrian uprising has been simplistically presented as a populist movement against the oppressive Assad regime, which is inexplicably murdering its own people…..
The Syrian opposition: who’s doing the talking?
Guardian 12th July 2012, by Charlie Skelton
The media have been too passive when it comes to Syrian opposition sources, without scrutinising their backgrounds and their political connections. Time for a closer look …
Syria and Iran: the great game
The Guardian, 4 November 2011, by Alastair Crooke
Regime change in Syria is a strategic prize that outstrips Libya – which is why Saudi Arabia and the west are playing their part
This summer a senior Saudi official told John Hannah, Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, that from the outset of the upheaval in Syria, the king has believed that regime change would be highly beneficial to Saudi interests: “The king knows that other than the collapse of the Islamic Republic itself, nothing would weaken Iran more than losing Syria.”
This is today’s “great game” – losing Syria. And this is how it is played: set up a hurried transitional council as sole representative of the Syrian people, irrespective of whether it has any real legs inside Syria; feed in armed insurgents from neighbouring states; impose sanctions that will hurt the middle classes; mount a media campaign to denigrate any Syrian efforts at reform; try to instigate divisions within the army and the elite; and ultimately President Assad will fall – so its initiators insist.
Europeans, Americans and certain Gulf states may see the Syria “game” as the logical successor to the supposedly successful Libya game in moulding the Arab awakening towards a western cultural paradigm. In terms of regional politics however, Syria is strategically more valuable, and Iran knows this. Iran has said that it will respond to any external intervention in Syria.
It is already no “game”, as the many killed by both sides attests to. The radical armed elements being used in Syria as auxiliaries to depose Assad run counter to the prospect of any outcome emerging within the western paradigm. These groups may well have a bloody and very undemocratic agenda of their own. I warned of this danger in connection to Afghanistan in the 80s: some of the Afghan mujahideen had real roots in the community, I suggested, but others posed a severe danger to people. A kindly American politician at the time placed his arm around my shoulder and told me not to worry: these were the people “kicking Soviet ass”. We chose to look the other way because kicking the Soviets played well to US domestic needs. Today Europe looks the other way, refusing to consider who Syria’s combat-experienced insurgents taking such a toll of Syrian security forces truly are, because losing Assad and confronting Iran plays so well, particularly at a time of domestic difficulty….
The dirty war on WikiLeaks
The Guardian, 9 March 2012, by John Pilger
Media smears suggest Swedish complicity in a Washington-driven push to punish Julian Assange
War by media, says current military doctrine, is as important as the battlefield. This is because the real enemy is the public at home, whose manipulation and deception is essential for starting an unpopular colonial war. Like the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, attacks on Iran and Syria require a steady drip-effect on readers’ and viewers’ consciousness. This is the essence of a propaganda that rarely speaks its name…
(Also, note John Pilger’s blog posting: http://johnpilger.com/articles/the-liberal-way-to-run-the-world-improve-or-we-ll-kill-you )
Syria’s ‘Arab Spring’: failed or hijacked?
ABC The Drum, 14 February 2012, by Dr Fiona Hill
I have just returned from Syria. Like so many who care about what happens there, I went because I wanted to see, listen, ask questions, overhear conversations, watch dedicated 24-hour television propaganda channels (both for and against the government), read graffiti, and experience what sort of realities Syrians are now creating for themselves. There are daily flights out of the UAE. My flight was full.
I also went to Syria specifically to dig out all the details of my adoptive nephew’s kidnapping by opposition ‘forces’ a couple of weeks earlier.
The 18-year-old is in the first months of his obligatory military service and was returning back to his military posting after a short leave pass home, riding a civilian bus between a provincial town near his home and Damascus. The bus was stopped outside Homs by what appeared to be a security roadblock. Eight heavily armed men in military uniform boarded the bus and demanded that those serving in the military raise their hands. My nephew did so, along with a few others. They were taken off the bus, blindfolded, put in cars and driven away.
Two days later the kidnappers called the young man’s family, using his mobile phone, and berated them for letting their son ‘fight for Assad’ instead of fighting against the government and doing his Muslim duty. The family begged for mercy. The phone hung up. An excruciating six days later another call came advising that for a 500,000 Syrian Pound ransom (currently about $8,000), they could collect him.
The heavily armed kidnappers had kept 18 captives in one room and provided food and bedding. Each day of his nine-day confinement, an imam had spoken to the detainees about religious duty. Ultimately my nephew, a Sunni Muslim, had been given four choices – fight with his captors against the government and kill as many police, soldiers, security agents, and non-Muslims (i.e. non-Sunnis) as possible; take ammunition supplied by them to destroy key infrastructure and wreak havoc; pay a substantial ransom; or be killed on the spot…
Syria and the significance of Latakia
LATE NIGHT LIVE with Phillip Adams, 30 January 2013
Interview with journalist, Charles Glass and Jeremy Salt, Associate Professor, Middle Eastern History and Politics, Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey. Previously attached to the University of Melbourne, Department of Middle Eastern Studies.
What’s what with Syria? – 774 ABC Melbourne
21 February, 2012 2:41PM AEDT
Richard Stubbs takes a long hard look at Syria to try and better understand who’s fighting and why
You probably keep hearing about Syria on the news, but how much do you understand?
Richard Stubbs takes the time to talk to people who know about what is going on in Syria in an attempt to broaden our understanding of the issues the country is facing.
- Dr Benjamin McQueen is from the School of Political and Social Inquiry at Monash University.
- Robert Bekhazi is a Lebanese/Australian who imports alcohol and kitchenware from Syria and Lebanon.
Analysing the Syrian situation: Patrick Seale
Radio National Breakfast, 4 June 2012
Claim and counter-claim surrounds latest Syria ‘massacre
Bill Neely ITV 17 Jan 2013
When an opposition group alleges a massacre by regime forces in Syria, it is often very difficult to establish what really happened.
‘Who did what to whom’ is one of the riddles of the Syrian revolution.
But today when a British-based group alleged that 106 people had been killed on the outskirts of Homs by pro-regime forces, I was able to go to the scene and investigate.
The Nation, 9 June 2012, by John Rosenthal
It was, in the words of U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan, the “tipping point” in the Syria conflict: a savage massacre of over 90 people, predominantly women and children, for which the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad was immediately blamed by virtually the entirety of the Western media. Within days of the first reports of the Houla massacre, the U.S., France, Great Britain, Germany, and several other Western countries announced that they were expelling Syria’s ambassadors in protest.
But according to a new report in Germany’s leading daily, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), the Houla massacre was in fact committed by anti-Assad Sunni militants, and the bulk of the victims were member of the Alawi and Shia minorities, which have been largely supportive of Assad. For its account of the massacre, the report cites opponents of Assad, who, however, declined to have their names appear in print out of fear of reprisals from armed opposition groups…
Was there a massacre in the Syrian town of Aqrab
Channel 4, 14 December 2012 by Alex Thomson
Syrian rebels tried to get me killed, says Channel 4 correspondent
The Guardian, 8 June 2012
Alex Thomson says crew was led to ‘free-fire zone’ as deaths would discredit Bashar al-Assad’s regime
Syrian rebels set to execute Ukrainian journalist
13 December 2012
The Arab spring has shaken Arab TV’s credibility
Their biased coverage is undermining viewers’ faith in the Middle Eastern satellite channels that sprang up in the 1990s and 2000s
The Guardian, 3 April 2012, by Ali Hashem
… Over the past 16 years al-Jazeera has emerged as the most credible news source in the region, though it was also joined by other channels such as al-Arabiya, Iran’s Alalam, the American al-Hurra, Russia’s RT and others.
The new Arab TV channels seemed to be flourishing and gaining credibility until the Arab spring came along and they began providing daily coverage of the revolutions. From Tunisia to Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria, people expected TV stations to embrace their dreams and defend their causes, but it seems that major networks decided to adopt some revolutions and dump others.
One example was the way they dealt with the uprising in Bahrain. It was clear that Gulf-financed stations were more interested in regional security than Bahrainis’ dreams of democracy and freedom and their revolt against tyranny.
Meanwhile, mainstream Arab channels gave the Syrian revolution a large portion of airtime, but things took a different path when they started interfering with the coverage. I was one of those who experienced it when al-Jazeera, the channel I used to work for, refused to air footage of gunmen fighting the Syrian regime on the borders between Lebanon and Syria. I saw tens of gunmen crossing the borders in May last year – clear evidence that the Syrian revolution was becoming militarised. This didn’t fit the required narrative of a clean and peaceful uprising, and so my seniors asked me to forget about gunmen.
Robert Fisk: Syrian war of lies and hypocrisy
The Independent: Sunday 29 July 2012
The West’s real target here is not Assad’s brutal regime but his ally, Iran, and its chemical weapons
Has there ever been a Middle Eastern war of such hypocrisy? A war of such cowardice and such mean morality, of such false rhetoric and such public humiliation? I’m not talking about the physical victims of the Syrian tragedy. I’m referring to the utter lies and mendacity of our masters and our own public opinion – eastern as well as western – in response to the slaughter, a vicious pantomime more worthy of Swiftian satire than Tolstoy or Shakespeare.
While Qatar and Saudi Arabia arm and fund the rebels of Syria to overthrow Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite/Shia-Baathist dictatorship, Washington mutters not a word of criticism against them. President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, say they want a democracy in Syria. But Qatar is an autocracy and Saudi Arabia is among the most pernicious of caliphate-kingly-dictatorships in the Arab world. Rulers of both states inherit power from their families – just as Bashar has done – and Saudi Arabia is an ally of the Salafist-Wahabi rebels in Syria, just as it was the most fervent supporter of the medieval Taliban during Afghanistan’s dark ages….
(Robert Fisk refers to the dark ages in his article above. Check a video of Sheik Adnan Arour, some claim is the godfather of the ‘revolution’ in Syria, to understand what he means: “Adnan Al-Arour says that they will chop the Alawaites who oppose…..”
Saudi says negotiated Syria settlement “inconceivable”
Reuters 1/22/13 RIYADH | Tue Jan 22, 2013 8:37am EST
(Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said on Tuesday the scale of violence used by Syria’s government when fighting rebels meant a negotiated settlement of the country’s crisis was unthinkable.
“Damascus… which has been a city for the longest period of time, is carpet bombed. How can you conceive of the possibility of a negotiated settlement with somebody who does that to his own country, to his own history, to his own people? It is inconceivable to us,” Prince Saud al-Faisal told a news conference.
He was speaking after an Arab summit focusing on economic development, which was not attended by Syria.
Sunni Muslim power Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter and birthplace of Islam, has led Arab efforts to isolate the government of President Bashar al-Assad, which is allied to Saudi Arabia’s main regional rival – Shi’ite Muslim Iran…
Report: Saudis sent death-row inmates to fight Syria
USA Today, 21 January 2013, Michael Winter
Secret memo says more than 1,200 prisoners fought Assad regime to avoid beheading.
Saudi Arabia has sent death-row inmates from several nations to fight against the Syrian government in exchange for commuting their sentences, the Assyrian International News Agency reports.
Citing what it calls a “top secret memo” in April from the Ministry of Interior, AINA says the Saudi offered 1,239 inmates a pardon and a monthly stipend for their families, which were were allowed to stay in the Sunni Arab kingdom. Syrian President Bashar Assad is an Alawite, a minority Shiite sect.
According to an English translation of the memo, besides Saudis, the prisoners included Afghans, Egyptians, Iraqis, Jordanians, Kuwaitis, Pakistanis, Palestinians, Somalis, Sudanese, Syrians and Yemenis. All faced “execution by sword” for murder, rape or drug smuggling.
Russia, which has backed Assad, objected to the bargain and allegedly threatened to bring the issue to the United Nations, said an unidentified former Iraqi member of Parliament who confirmed the memo’s authenticity, says AINA, an independent outlet.
“Initially Saudi Arabia denied the existence of this program. But the testimony of the released prisoners forced the Saudi government to admit, in private circles, its existence,” AINA writes. “The Saudis agreed to stop their clandestine activities and work towards finding a political solution on condition that knowledge of this program would not be made public.”….
Islam’s Spiritual ‘Dear Abby’: The Voice of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood
Spiegel Online, By Alexander Smoltczyk
He is a hypermarket of dogma, dispensing advice on subjects ranging from mother’s milk to suicide bombing. But few have as much influence on Sunni Muslims as the Muslim televangelist Youssef al-Qaradawi. He says what the Muslim Brotherhood in Egpyt thinks — and he provides clues to how they might act…
Qaradawi is the father figure of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s best-organized opposition group. The Brotherhood is sure to play a part in deciding what path Egypt will now take.
The Islamist group asked Qaradawi to be their leader in 2002, but he turned them down. Such a position would have been too limiting. He has a different mission. He feels compelled to talk.
The Al-Jazeera television network has been broadcasting Qaradawi’s program “Shariah and Life” every Sunday for the past 15 years. Some 60 million Muslims watch him as he talks imploringly about the genocide in Gaza or the unique dangers of female masturbation (“the hymen is very sensitive and could tear”).
‘Every Last One of Them’
Qaradawi advocates establishing a “United Muslim Nations” as a contemporary form of the caliphate and the only alternative to the hegemony of the West. He hates Israel and would love to take up arms himself. In one of his sermons, he asked God “to kill the Jewish Zionists, every last one of them.”
(Note: Qaradawi on Al-Jazeera justifying the killing of civilians in Syria who support the government, this would presumably include workers repairing pipelines or electricity lines damaged by the ‘rebels’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-e-J2977xB4 In this speech, Qaradawi appears to support Hitler: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcB_DZ4YQYQ )
David Cameron: UK arms sales to Gulf countries ‘legitimate’
The Guardian, 6 November 2012, Ian Black
David Cameron has defended British arms sales to Gulf countries as “entirely legitimate” but insisted that the Arab spring was a positive development and there were no “no-go areas” in talks with autocratic allies who are fretting about changes elsewhere in the region.
Speaking on the first day of a three-day middle east tour, the prime minister rebuffed critics unhappy with the idea of UK defence exports and said his discussions in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, both irritated by rows with Britain, would show “respect and friendship”.
The trip is aimed at drumming up business in both countries for BAE Systems, the defence manufacturer. An important BP oil deal in Abu Dhabi has run into trouble recently.
Thirty thousand jobs in the UK were at stake, sales were “legitimate and right” and his purpose was “to help Britain compete and thrive in the global race” he said. Cameron wants to persuade the UAE to buy Eurofighter Typhoons to replace their ageing fleet of French Mirage jets. The Emiratis have expressed interest in ordering 60 jets. Oman has expressed interest in 12, while the Saudis are considering a second order on top of the 72 they already have…
Saudi deals boosted US arms sales to record $66.3 bln in 2011
Reuters, Mon Aug 27, 2012 By Andrea Shalal-Esa
Saudi Arabia bought $33.4 bln in U.S. weapons* Russia, world’s No. 2 supplier, sees sales nearly halved
* French arms sales more than double
WASHINGTON, Aug 27 (Reuters) – Weapons sales by the United States tripled in 2011 to a record high, pumped up by $33.4 billion in sales to Saudi Arabia, but the international arms market is not likely to continue growing, according to a comprehensive new congressional report.
The United States sold $66.3 billion of weapons overseas in 2011, accounting for nearly 78 percent of all global arms sales, which rose to $85.3 billion in 2011, the highest level seen since 2004. The previous U.S. record was set in 2008, when arms sales reached $38.2 billion, measured in 2011 dollars.
“The extraordinary total value of U.S. weapons orders in 2011 distorts the current picture of the global arms trade market,” said the report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, calling $66.3 billion in U.S. arms sales “a clear outlier figure.”
While Washington remained the world’s leading arms supplier, nearly all other major suppliers, except France, saw declines in 2011, according to the annual report prepared for Congress.
France signed arms sales valued at $4.4 billion in 2011, up from $1.8 billion a year earlier, but Russia, the world’s number two arms dealer, saw its sales nearly halved to $4.8 billion in 2011….
Saudi Arabia was the biggest arms buyer among developing countries, concluding $33.7 billion in weapons deals in 2011, followed by India with purchases of $6.9 billion and the United Arab Emirates with $4.5 billion.
US Congress notified over $60bn arms sale to Saudi Arabia
Obama administration intends to make biggest ever US arms deal with Saudis
The Guardian, 21 October 2010
The Obama administration formally notified Congress yesterday that it is to sell $60bn of weapons to Saudi Arabia, a move designed to boost the US arms industry and help counter growing Iranian power.
The deal, the biggest arms sale in US history, was disclosed last month but the administration, as required by law, has first to seek Congressional approval. Congress has 30 days to block the deal.
A permanent ceasefire is the only hope for Syria
The US needs to change policy. Its one-sided support for armed rebels may condemn Syrians to years of bloodshed
The Guardian, Jonathan Steele Sunday 28 October 2012 20.
… Aleppo has been the focus of terrible recent clashes. It has fallen victim to the worst destruction of any major city in the world since 1945. Over a third of its 2 million residents may have fled. According to Haytham Manna, the head of the National Co-ordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria, Aleppo’s tragedy began when rebels attacked the city without having the strength to win it; whole districts were then destroyed by government counterattacks.
Manna lives in Paris but the rest of his 25-person executive lead opposition groups inside Syria. They still believe the best way to remove the Assad regime is through a ceasefire and a political settlement that provides for a democratic transition in which state institutions are reformed, not destroyed. They condemn the government’s indiscriminate use of air power in built-up areas but are aware of growing civilian criticism of rebel tactics. Manna even claims to detect signs of fatigue among the armed opposition.
He and his colleagues inside Syria consider diplomatic intervention the only solution. Russia and the US must reach a consensus to halt arms supplies and put pressure on each side to have a long-lasting ceasefire. This would be followed by negotiations between the Syrian parties as well as talks among Syria’s neighbours to guarantee no outside power would undermine the transition to a new system. It is a tall order. In their recent debates Romney and Obama produced the usual formulas that have yielded no breakthrough yet: Assad must go now, sanctions must be tightened, and support must increase for the armed opposition while ensuring weapons only go to “moderates”. There was no mention of ceasefires, the UN, Brahimi, or a political solution.
Salafists Vow to Fight Until there Is ‘Islamic State in Syria’
Al-Monitor 16 January 2013
… “Most of the fighters just fight because Assad is evil, but they don’t know anything about this guy or the opposition outside. They just believe Assad needs to go.” He then stressed, “We will fight until we establish an Islamic state in Syria. Even the 75% of the Free Syrian Army is fighting with this in mind. We don’t want it as strict as Saudi Arabia, but we will not let go until we achieve our goal.”…
Hard-line Islamist militias target Arab Spring countries
TRIPOLI, LIBYA — The Globe and Mail GEOFFREY YORK Published Sunday, Feb. 10 2013,
Syrian atrocity: Bodies of postal workers thrown from roof (GRAPHIC VIDEO)
Russia Today 12 August 2012
A horrific amateur video appeared on YouTube, apparently showing an atrocity against public service workers in Syria. The footage displays a crowd of people callously throwing the bodies of slain postal workers from a post office rooftop.
The video, the source of which could not be independently verified, shows several dozen people having surrounded the staircase of the building, some of them chanting “Allahu Akbar!” They watch corpses being thrown out and rolled down the steps.
Also, several people have got to the roof and are throwing down the apparently dead bodies of post servants.
As they hit the ground, the crowd rushes in to catch the appalling images on their mobile phones.
The Killing of Sari Saoud – an investigation
Sari Saoud was a Syrian boy, aged 9/10, killed by an unknown sniper of disputed loyalty, in the city of Homs on November 26 2011. Opposition sources got their story out first, showing his dead body and claiming Sari was killed under fire from government security forces. However, the army reportedly had no presence in Homs at the time. Further, Sari’s mother, Georgina Mtanious al-Jammal, contradicts their version, saying repeatedly that the un-checked regional terrorists pulled the trigger on her son. Further, she claims they briefly stole his body from her care, denying mother and son of aid or comfort in favor of making propaganda videos of his body.
INTERVIEW WITH THE MOTHER OF SARI SAOUD
Syria: TV Host Kidnapped, Executed By Islamists
Syrian state TV host Mohammed al-Saeed has been executed, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. A militant Islamist group has claimed responsibility for the killing.
Al-Saeed was kidnapped on July 19 of this year. The Al-Nusra Front, a little-known Islamist militant group, posted a statement August 4 on an Al-Qaeda-affiliated internet forum.
“The heroes of western Ghouta (in Damascus province) imprisoned the shabih (pro-regime militia) presenter on July 19…He was then killed after he had been interrogated,” AFP reported.
The Syrian Diary
Documentary by Russian reporter in Syria
US Ambassador to Syria in charge of recruiting Arab/Muslim death squads
Opinion Maker, September 12, 2011 By Wayne Madsen
WMR has been informed by reliable sources that the U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert S. Ford, is the key State Department official who has been responsible for recruiting Arab “death squads” from Al Qaeda-affiliated units in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Chechnya to fight against Syrian military and police forces in embattled Syria. Ford served as the Political Officer at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad from 2004 to 2006 under Ambassador John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985. Negroponte was a key figure in the covert U.S. program to arm the Nicaraguan contras and his support for vicious paramilitary units in El Salvador and Honduras earned him the nickname of “Mr. Death Squad.”
Magician’s Diversion: Bleeding Syria to Death
The Palestine Chronicle, 22 December 2012, Dr Jeremy Salt
According to various definitions, politicide can be used to describe the destruction of a government or a specific socio-political group, such as the Palestinians, when it overlaps with genocide. It can be extended to a state, a system and a country. Saddam Hussein attempted politicide by trying to wipe Kuwait off the map. In the 1930s the fascists committed politicide by destroying the Spanish government. Territorially, the country stayed as it was. It was simply emptied of its ideological content and turned into something else.
The destruction of governments, leaders and values who stand in the way of the interests of powerful governments is common practice. Since the Second World War the assassins have often been self-styled liberal democratic governments. There is virtually no global arena which has escaped their attention. In the past eleven years alone, in the Middle East, Iraq and Libya have been the victims of politicide. Their governments, value systems and leaders might have badly needed change but when change came it was not at the hands of the people but outside governments. Now Syria is absorbing their attention. Like Iraq and Libya, the justification for the onslaught on Syria of the past 20 months is the ‘dictator’ or the ‘regime.’ More plausibly, the real target is the country itself. Like Saddam and Qadhafi, the ‘dictator’ is the magician’s diversion, flourished with one hand so the audience does not see what is being done with the other….
Syria: Straining credulity?
Online Asia Times, 9 March 2012, By Alastair Crooke
The UN Secretary General was reported on March 3 saying that he had received “grisly reports” that Syrian government forces were arbitrarily executing, imprisoning and torturing people in Homs after retaking control of the Baba Amr district from insurgents. Did he really believe this; or was he just “saying it”?
“One of the defining bifurcations of the future will be the conflict between information masters and information victims” the US officer assigned to the Deputy Chief of Staff (Intelligence), charged with defining the future of warfare, wrote in the US Army War College Quarterly in 1997.
“But fear not”, he writes later in the article, for “we are already masters of information warfare … Hollywood is ‘preparing the battlefield’ … Information destroys traditional jobs and traditional cultures; it seduces, betrays, yet remains invulnerable. How can you [possibly] counterattack the information [warfare] others have turned upon you? 
“Our sophistication in handling it will enable us to outlast and outperform all hierarchical cultures … Societies that fear or otherwise cannot manage the flow of information simply will not be competitive. They might master the technological wherewithal to watch the videos, but we will be writing the scripts, producing them, and collecting the royalties. Our creativity is devastating.”
This information warfare will not be couched in the rationale of geopolitics, the author suggests, but will be “spawned” – like any Hollywood drama – out of raw emotions. “Hatred, jealousy, and greed – emotions, rather than strategy – will set the terms of [information warfare] struggles”.
Not only the US army, but it seems mainstream Western media insist that the struggle in Syria must be scripted in emotional image and moralistic statements that always – as the War College article rightly asserts – trump rational analysis…
Questioning the Syrian “Casualty List”
MRZINE 28/2/2012 by Sharmine Narwani
“Perception is 100 percent of politics,” the old adage goes. Say something three, five, seven times, and you start to believe it in the same way you “know” aspirin is good for the heart.
Sometimes, though, perception is a dangerous thing. In the dirty game of politics, it is the perception — not the facts — of an issue that invariably wins the day.
In the case of the raging conflict over Syria, the one fundamental issue that motors the entire international debate on the crisis is the death toll and its corollary: the Syrian casualty list.
The “list” has become widely recognized — if not specifically, then certainly when the numbers are bandied about: 4,000, 5,000, 6,000 — sometimes more. These are not mere numbers; they represent dead Syrians.
But this is where the dangers of perception begin. There are many competing Syrian casualty lists with different counts — how does one, for instance gauge if X is an accurate number of deaths? How have the deaths been verified? Who verifies them and do they have a vested interest? Are the dead all civilians? Are they pro-regime or anti-regime civilians? Do these lists include the approximately 2,000 dead Syrian security forces? Do they include members of armed groups? How does the list-aggregator tell the difference between a civilian and a plain-clothes militia member?
Even the logistics baffle. How do they make accurate counts across Syria every single day? A member of the Lebanese fact-finding team investigating the 15 May 2011 shooting deaths of Palestinian protesters by Israelis at the Lebanese border told me that it took them three weeks to discover there were only six fatalities, and not the 11 counted on the day of the incident. And in that case, the entire confrontation lasted a mere few hours….
Amnesty International Silence about Killings by Militia
Socrates And Syria
Failing the Burden of Proof
Amnesty International’s Flawed Syrian Hospitals “Investigation”
COUNTER PUNCH by FRANKLIN LAMB
… AI’s conclusion from its “research” in Syria, which consisted significantly of collecting Al Jazeera and Al Arabia type media accounts including the dubious reports on the same subject by CNN’s Arwa Damon, and sundry anonymous You-tube clips, is virtually identical to what it concluded from its investigation in Libya on the same subject.
However, there is a great distinction between Syria and Libya, their medical professions and their current challenges.
AI claims, without convincing material, probative or relevant evidence that Syrian authorities, including Hospital administrators and staff, have since March 2011 turned Syrian hospital into instruments of repression in order to crush protests and demonstrations.
AI’s report claims that Syrian citizens wounded in protests or incidents related to the current unrest “have been physically assaulted in state-run hospitals by medical staff, and in some cases denied medical care, while others taken to hospital have been detained or have simply disappeared.”
AI offers as its proof of these claims the weakest and seemingly most competition-driven support of any Amnesty International reports I have read….
“Syrian Girl” is a Syrian Australian who is very active on the alternative media:
Syria, an alternate reality. Interview with Russian journalist Anastasia Popova
Posted date: 11 January 2013
Syria: Golden Days of Disinformation – The Houla Massacre and the Battle of Taldou
Information Clearing House Feb 6 2013
Syria: The Druze Are Not Joining The Opposition
Moon of Alabama Feb 8 2013
“Druze are, for the most part, supportive of the Assad government because they view it as secular and tolerant. Druze had a history of persecution and nothing would rattle them more than the likelihood of a Sunni Jihadist coming to power in Syria. The “FSA” and even the Jihadists have tried to avoid dragging the Druze into this battle because they are renowned as ferocious fighters with a deep belief in reincarnation. Druze return to life as Druze, a conviction which makes them less likely to fear death – assuming of course they believe the words of their clergymen.
Yazan Abdallah. Attack on Aleppo University Syria. احداث حلب
Russia Today 17 January 2013
Yazan: “Whoever committed the act has a strong interest in striking civil life” “Terrorists are all about building an Islamic state and Sharia law.” (NB: Yazan, a doctor from Syria, is given quite a lot of coverage on BBC Arabic, but very little on BBC English.)
Report_ Foreign Jihadis Infiltrate Syria and Fight in an Islamist-Infested Syrian CIA
23 January 2013
HRW: Syria rebels attacking Shia and Christian religious sites
al-akhbar English (Lebanese online newspaper), 23 Jan 2013