Saturday, March 24, 2012

“Stability” Trumps Democracy in Egypt

For America's Weapons Makers, There's Big Money at Stake


"Confronted with popular protest, the country’s unelected rulers have doubled down on repression, jailing peaceful activists and killing dozens of civilians who have the gall to exercise their rights. Those who state security forces haven’t killed for demanding democracy have been tear-gassed and brought before the perverted justice of a military court, even as the ruling clique promises the world and its red-eyed subjects democratic reform. Eventually.

Were it Syria or Iran, the rhetoric from Washington would be stern, aggressive even. But since the repressive ruling clique is the military junta in Egypt, the lectures are timid – and coupled with a handout. Indeed, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just announced, the Obama administration is waiving a legislative requirement that made military assistance to Egypt conditional on its rulers “implementing policies to protect freedom of expression, association, and religion, and due process of law.”

This allows the U.S. government to send Egypt’s rulers $1.5 billion in taxpayer money, more than 85 percent of which is explicitly set aside for the armed forces......

Here’s the thing, though: a bandit is no less a bandit because he talks a lot about being a saint. One’s true values are reflected in one’s actions, not words. And in the case of U.S. relations with Egypt, under Obama just as much as George W. Bush, those actions have been firmly in support of dictatorship and repressive – but pro-American – rule. Unfortunately, that doesn’t cause a tension with our values: it exposes them for what they are."

Video emerges of Israeli mob shouting "Death to the Arabs" that attacked Palestinians at Jerusalem mall

By Ali Abunimah

"Video has emerged from a shocking mob attack by hundreds of Israeli football fans on Arab workers and shoppers at the Malha Mall in western Jerusalem.

The video shows a large crowd, some wearing the colors of the Jerusalem Beitar football team, whose fans are notorious for their ultra-nationalism and racism shouting “mavet la ‘aravim” – death to the Arabs – in Hebrew. The chant can be heard at 2:30 and 5:21 in the video.

Haaretz reported on the mob attack earlier today – four days after the incident – in a story headlined “Hundreds of Beitar Jerusalem fans beat up Arab workers in mall; no arrests”:

Hundreds of Beitar Jerusalem supporters assaulted Arab cleaning personnel at the capital’s Malha shopping center on Monday, in what was said to be one of Jerusalem’s biggest-ever ethnic clashes. “It was a mass lynching attempt,” said Mohammed Yusuf, a team leader for Or-Orly cleaning services.

Despite CCTV footage of the events, no one was arrested. Jerusalem police said that is because no complaint was filed. Witnesses said that after a soccer game in the nearby Teddy Stadium, hundreds of mostly teenage supporters flooded into the shopping center, hurling racial abuse at Arab workers and customers and chanting anti-Arab slogans, and filled the food hall on the second floor...... "

Al-Jazeera Video: Bahrain protesters battle with police

"There has been more dissent in Bahrain, with protests calling for reform in the tiny Gulf state.

The demonstrations were largely peaceful but there were clashes with police in some parts of the capital.

Al Jazeera's Mohamed Vall reports from Manama."

Al-Jazeera Video: انطلاق معرض فنان الكاريكاتير السوري علي فرزات

"انطلق معرض فني لأعمال رسام الكاريكاتير السوري علي فرزات. ويجوب فرزات بمعرضه عواصم دولية عدة لدعم الثورة السورية. ويأتي المعرض في إطار أنشطة تشهدها لندن، للاحتفال بالذكرى الأولى للثورة."

Assads hit by EU sanctions but regime unlikely to change course

Blacklisting of Syrian president's family and relatives a symbolic action but its impact on the crisis remain unclear

Ian Black, Middle East editor, Friday 23 March 2012

".....Syrian opposition figures welcomed the ban but cautioned that it would have little effect. "The EU sanctions send a clear message that the more the regime carries on killing civilians the more the doors will shut to any exit strategy," said Ghassan Ibrahim, an independent. "Hitting the family underlines the fact that the country is run like a family business not as a legitimate state. They are like a mafia gang.

"Look: Assad's brother looks after the military, one brother-in-law runs the business and another runs the mukhabarat [secret police], Anisa behaves as if the family owns the country and the opposition are just terrorists. The sanctions themselves won't stop the massacres. They won't change anything on the ground. But they send a moral message to the regime. Their money is probably already safely in Dubai and Russia. It is the Syrian people who are paying the price. Sanctions are not enough to get rid of the regime. It did not happen in Iraq or Libya and it won't happen in Syria. But if the sanctions are lifted the regime will declare victory, so the pressure must continue."

Malik al-Abdeh, who runs the opposition Barada TV, said: "This is important for Asma personally. Her public image has been damaged beyond repair. She can no longer market herself as anything other than a dictator's wife. But the actual effect will be inconsequential.""

Russia: Selective Use of Syria Findings

Human Rights Watch
March 23, 2012

"(New York) – Human Rights Watch issued the following statement on March 23, 2012, concerning the Russian Foreign Ministry’s use of a Human Rights Watch statement to support a one-sided position on Syria:

In its March 22, 2012 statement, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its “deep concern” over human rights violations committed by armed groups affiliated with the Syrian opposition, extensively citing an open letter on this issue published by Human Rights Watch. Human Rights Watch also learned that Russian diplomats used the open letter in informal Security Council discussions on March 22 in an attempt to equate the violence by both sides.....

...... The selective use of the findings, however, causes serious concern.

Since the beginning of the protests in Syria, Human Rights Watch has produced over 60 publications, including three extensive reports, on human rights violations by Syrian government forces. These publications contain detailed documentation of widespread and systematic abuses, including killings of peaceful protesters, shelling of residential neighborhoods, large-scale arbitrary detention and torture, “disappearances,” executions, denial of medical assistance, and looting.
Human Rights Watch concluded that that some of these violations constitute crimes against humanity and repeatedly called for an end to abuses and accountability for the perpetrators. Human Rights Watch presented the findings directly to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, urging Russia to use its strong bilateral relations with the Syrian government as well as its weight in the international arena to put an end to government abuses.

None of these findings have been ever acknowledged by Russian officials.

Instead, despite overwhelming evidence of egregious crimes committed by the Syrian security forces, Russia provides diplomatic and military support to Bashar al-Assad’s government and has repeatedly blocked international action aimed at stopping the violations and bringing those responsible for these crimes to justice......

Russia should not pick and choose. If it relies on Human Rights Watch’s findings to support its condemnation of abuses by the Syrian opposition, it should pay equal attention to the extensive documentation of violations by government forces and support international efforts to stop those violations."

Palestinian hunger striker ‘at risk of death’ highlights injustice of administrative detention

Amnesty International
23 March 2012

"The Israeli authorities should immediately release a Palestinian detainee or charge her with a recognizable criminal offence and promptly try her, Amnesty International said amid fears that the woman could die in detention after 37 days on hunger strike.

Hana Shalabi, 30, from the village of Burqin in the northern West Bank, is allegedly affiliated with the Islamic Jihad movement but has never been charged with a criminal offence.

She was transferred to Meir Hospital in the central Israeli town of Kfar Saba on Tuesday night, but remains under Israeli custody and constant armed guard.

“When her lawyers and independent physicians have been given access to her, Hana Shalabi has reported that Israel Prison Service officers have handled her violently while transferring her to hospital or the military court, and consistently pressured her to end her hunger strike,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the Israeli authorities to release Hana Shalabi and other Palestinians held in administrative detention, unless they are promptly charged with internationally recognizable criminal offences and tried in accordance with international fair trial standards.”

Under administrative detention, Israeli military orders allow the authorities to detain Palestinians from the occupied West Bank without trial indefinitely if they are deemed to be a “security threat”.

Hana Shalabi began her hunger strike in protest against ill-treatment during her arrest on 16 February, and continued in protest against her detention without charge or trial after receiving an administrative detention order five days later.

A doctor from Physicians for Human Rights - Israel (PHR) who saw her on Monday reported that she was at risk of death because she could suffer from heart failure at any moment, and called for her immediate hospitalization.

According to PHR, she has lost 14kg (31lbs) since her arrest, and suffers from impaired thyroid functions and severe pain, weakness and dizziness......"

Palestinian prisoner of conscience on trial for defending right to protest

Amnesty International

"It’s a year since Bassem Tamimi was arrested by the Israeli army for organizing non-violent protests against the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements on land belonging to his village.

The 44-year-old father of three lives in al-Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank. Prior to his arrest on 24 March 2011 he was a public employee and studied for a Masters degree. His military trial continues.

In the meantime, Bassem, a prisoner of conscience, remains in detention awaiting the verdict, while his family in al-Nabi Saleh continue to be harassed by the Israeli military.

Most recently, Israeli forces raided his house at around 2am on 21 March, when his wife, mother, and three children were sleeping. About 10 heavily armed soldiers entered and searched the house without presenting a warrant. They left after an hour and confiscated two computers, a camera, and some CDs and papers.

A video of the raid shows Nariman, Bassem’s wife, asking the soldiers to explain their actions, but the soldiers refuse to answer. It also shows five armed soldiers, some of them masked, searching a room where the terrified children are in bed.....

This injustice should not be allowed to continue.

Bassem Tamimi should be released immediately and unconditionally, and the Israeli authorities should immediately stop the construction and expansion of Israeli settlements – which violate international law – as a first step towards removing Israeli civilians living in them.

At the very least, the residents of al-Nabi Saleh must be allowed to protest peacefully against illegal Israeli settlements without the fear of Israeli military violence."

Friday, March 23, 2012

Real News Video : Palestinian on Hunger Strike "in Mortal Danger"

Hanaa Shalabi, a Palestinian prisoner under Administrative Detention without charge or trial enters 36th day of her hunger strike

More at The Real News

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

Do you believe that the hunger strike of the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons accomplishes their objectives?

With over 500 responding, 54% said yes.

Al-Jazeera Video: 'Emo' youth targeted in Iraq

Real News Video : Israel, the US Elections and the "Jewish Swing Vote"

Hawkish stands on Israel taken by US political leaders have less to do with the so-called "Jewish Vote" than they have to do with a few "Zionist Hawks" billionaires

More at The Real News

For French Muslims, this horror only makes matters worse

Nabila Ramdani
The Independent
Friday 23 March 2012

"....Extremist rhetoric underpinned by policies designed to stigmatise will attract disillusioned nationalist voters in the race for the Elysée Palace, but they ignore the real problems facing Muslim communities in modern France: those of discrimination and underachievement. Yes, there are thousands of young men with the same Algerian background as Mohamed Merah, but that does not make them all murderous criminals. Many are the sons of immigrants forced to leave a North African country crippled by 132 years of colonial exploitation. It is now exactly half-a-century since the end of the Algerian War of Independence – one in which up to 1.5 million died and which opened huge divisions between aggrieved survivors. The legacy of hatred between expats forced to return to France and the Algerian economic migrants who joined them burns with a uniquely Gallic ferocity.

Such discord was exacerbated by Mr Sarkozy last month when he said that France would "not repent" for what went on during the war, even though close to 2.5 million Algerians live in the Republic today. They not only form the largest Muslim community, but for the most part still live in those marginalised urban estates which rose out of their forebears' refugee camps. Life has traditionally been hard for all French Muslims, but the kind of images which have been coming out of Toulouse over the past fortnight will make it even worse."

France is a deeply racist country, and Toulouse will only make that worse

The French have transferred their resentments from Jews to Arabs

By Adrian Hamilton
The Independent

"Barely had Mohammed Merah leapt from his bathroom widow in Toulouse yesterday, still blasting away with his gun, than politicians and experts were analysing just what it might mean for the President and the other candidates in the coming election.

It's unseemly. It's obscene. It has precious little to do with the facts of the case, the question of religion or the future of society in France. But it is what politics is now about, as much in France as the US.

And, of course, it does matter in electoral terms. Think back only two days when the gunman was thought to be a man of the extreme right, very probably a dismissed soldier, who was as eager to take his revenge on Muslims and blacks as Jews. Then it seemed as if the loser might be Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Front, and the question was whether Sarkozy could draw some of her support to him or whether the Socialists, under Francois Hollande, would reap the benefit.

Once the assassin was fingered as a Muslim with allegedly al-Qa'ida connections, however, the whole focus changed. Now it is Le Pen, despite the halt to campaigning during this time, who is on the offensive again with a rallying call to "fight this war against these politico-religious fundamentalists who are killing our Christian children, our young Christian men", and Sarkozy, already tacking hard to the right, who is caught trying to catch up......"

Hizbullah and the Bloody Assad Regime: A Marriage of Convenience (Muta'a Marriage)?

Does She Act and Look Like the Wife of the "Resistance" to You Mr. Nasrallah?

Lebanon: Stop Abuse of Domestic Workers

Investigate Recent Suicide; Enact Labor, Immigration Protections

Human Rights Watch
March 23, 2012

"(Beirut) – Lebanese authorities should act quickly to reform restrictive visa regulations and adopt a labor law on domestic work to address high levels of abuse and deaths among migrant domestic workers, a group of eight concerned civil society groupssaid today. The government should also announce publicly the outcome of the investigation into the recent abuse and subsequent suicide of Alem Dechasa-Desisa, an Ethiopian domestic worker.

The eight groups are Human Rights Watch, Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center, KAFA (enough) Violence & Exploitation, Anti Racism Movement, Amel Association International, Insan, Danish Refugee Council, and Nasawiya.

On March 8, 2012, Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International (LBCI), a Lebanese television network, released a video filmed on February 24 by an anonymous bystander in which a labor recruiter physically abused Dechasa-Desisa outside the Ethiopian consulate in Beirut. As she protests, he and another man drag her into a car. LBCI later identified the man beating Dechasa-Desisa as Ali Mahfouz,the brother of the head of the recruiting agency that brought her to Lebanon. Mahfouz agreed to be interviewed on television and alleged that his brother’s agency had been trying to return her to her home country because she had mental health problems.....

Alem Dechasa-Desisa’s death is an outrage on two levels – the violent treatment she endured and the absence of safeguards that could have prevented this tragedy,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The government should adopt long overdue protections to end rampant abuses against domestic workers and bring down their death toll in the country.”....."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

UN peace call fails to halt Syria violence

Ten civilians fleeing to Turkey on a bus among dozens killed, as violence rages despite Security Council statement.


"Fierce clashes have raged across Syria despite a UN Security Council peace call, with 10 civilians on a bus trying to flee to Turkey among at least 26 people killed, monitors and activists said.

The AFP news agency reported that the bus, with women and children on board, was attacked near the town of Sermin in the northwestern province of Idlib on Thursday. There have also been unconfirmed reports of deadly clashes in Damascus, Latakia, Homs and Hama.

The escalation in violence came just hours after the Security Council passed a statement urging President Basha al-Assad and his foes to implement "fully and immediately" a peace plan by joint UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan......

'More time to kill'

But the Syrian National Council, Syria's main opposition group, said the UN statement will simply give the government more time to continue killing its own people.

"Such statements, issued amid continued killings, offer the regime the opportunity to push ahead with its repression in order to crush the revolt by the Syrian people," said Samir Nashar, a member of the council's executive committee....."

Shielding the Butcher of Damascus, by Emad Hajjaj

Top 10 Lessons of the Iraq War

Now that the war is officially over and most U.S. forces have withdrawn, what are the most important takeaways?

By Stephen M. Walt

"This month marks the ninth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Regardless of your views on the wisdom of that decision, it's fair to say that the results were not what most Americans expected. Now that the war is officially over and most U.S. forces have withdrawn, what lessons should Americans (and others) draw from the experience? There are many lessons that one might learn, of course, but here are my Top 10 Lessons from the Iraq War.

Lesson #1: The United States lost.....

Lesson #2: It's not that hard to hijack the United States into a war.....

Lesson #3: The United States gets in big trouble when the "marketplace of ideas" breaks down and when the public and our leadership do not have an open debate about what to do.

Given the stakes involved, it is remarkable how little serious debate there actually was about the decision to invade. This was a bipartisan failure...."

Al-Jazeera Video: Bahrain's "reforms" leave monarchy and opposition divided

"On Tuesday, Bahrain's National Commission released a report detailing numerous reforms undertaken in the wake of a mass uprising last year. King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa praised the efforts as an "impressive beginning," and the government launched a well-choreographed media campaign to trumpet them.

But the country's opposition, including the largest Shia bloc Al Wefaq, has says those reforms are more imaginary than real. Wefaq has refused to take part in the government's efforts.

Al Jazeera's Mohamed Vall reports from Manama."

Real News Video : Qatari Agenda Drove Al Jazeera Coverage of Bahrain says Journalist Who Resigned in Protest

Ali Hashem: Al Jazeera gave voice to dreams of the Arab world but has lost its credibility

More at The Real News

Israel 'turning blind eye' to West Bank settlers' attacks on Palestinians

EU reports say farmers are bearing the brunt of intimidation in systematic and expanding campaign of violence

Ian Traynor in Brussels, Wednesday 21 March 2012

"Jewish settlers in the West Bank are conducting a systematic and expanding campaign of violence against Palestinian farmers, families and children with the Israeli authorities turning a blind eye, according to confidential reports from senior European Union officials.

In two reports to Brussels from EU heads of mission in Jerusalem and Ramallah, obtained by the Guardian, the officials found that settler violence against Palestinians has more than tripled in three years to total hundreds of incidents.

"Acts of settler violence are becoming a serious concern for the Israeli state which has so far failed to effectively protect the Palestinian population," says the report sent to EU ambassadors in Brussels last month.

The report notes 411 attacks by settlers last year resulting in Palestinian casualties and damage to property, against 132 attacks in 2009.

The campaign of intimidation is especially targeted at Palestinian farmers and their livelihood, the reports found, noting that settlers damaged or destroyed Palestinian olive groves en masse....."

Syria: Government Uses Homs Tactics on Border Town

Indiscriminate Shelling, Sniper Killings, Attacks on Fleeing Residents

March 22, 2012

"(New York) – Syrian security forces are committing serious abuses in their military campaign on al-Qusayr, a city of approximately 40,000 in Homs governorate near the Lebanese border, Human Rights Watch said today. Witnesses describe heavy shelling of residential neighborhoods, snipers shooting residents on the streets, and attacks on fleeing residents. Humanitarian conditions are dire, including food and water shortages, communications blackouts, and virtually non-existent medical assistance.

Eighteen witnesses from al-Qusayr, including an international journalist who stayed there from March 8 to 15, 2012, described shelling by the security forces, attacks on fleeing residents, and sniper fire at residents. Their accounts reflect similar tactics used by government forces in Idlib and Homs previously documented by Human Rights Watch, suggesting a coordinated policy of abuse.

Following their bloody siege of Homs, the Assad forces are applying their same brutal methods in al-Qusayr,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Having seen the devastation inflicted on Homs, the Russian government should stop arms sales to the Syrian government or risk becoming further implicated in human rights violations.”.....

Human Rights Watch has urged the Security Council to impose an arms embargo on the Syrian government, targeted sanctions against Syrian leaders implicated in human rights violations, and a referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court.

“With each passing day of international inaction, the situation in Syria gets worse,” Whitson said. “Each day Russia and China delay Security Council actions, Syrians are being killed.”"

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bahrain abuse reported

Wed, 21 Mar 2012, 17:29 GMT+3 - Bahrain
Rights groups say Ali al-Singace, a 16-year-old boy from Sanabis, was kidnapped, beaten and sexually assaulted today by plainclothes men, Al Jazeera's Gregg Carlstrom reports from Manama.
Singace was stabbed and sexually assaulted with a hose before being dumped, bound and half-naked, in a garage, according to the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. A representative from the group met with Singace this afternoon. He went to a police station shortly afterwards to file a complaint.  
Bahrain's interior ministry told Al Jazeera it is investigating the incident.
A member of the centre posted several images on Twitter of Singace as he was purportedly found:
File 62581
Singace has reportedly been kidnapped several other times. He is related to Abduljalil al-Singace, one of 14 prominent opposition activists convicted by a military court last year, who is currently serving a life sentence in prison.
The incident led to clashes this afternoon in Sanabis. Protesters say they were attacked by riot police, while the interior ministry says "thugs" attacked officers investigating the crime scene.

ايران واسرائيل: من يضرب اولا؟

ايران واسرائيل: من يضرب اولا؟
عبد الباري عطوان

"بنيامين نتنياهو رئيس الوزراء الاسرائيلي يهدد كل يوم بتوجيه ضربات 'قاتلة' للمنشآت النووية الايرانية، التي يراها تشكل تهديدا 'وجوديا' لدولة اسرائيل، ويذهب بعض الخبراء القانونيين الاسرائيليين والامريكيين الى توفير تغطية قانونية 'تشرّع' هذه الضربات، باعتبارها نوعا من الدفاع عن النفس.
اذا طبقنا المبدأ نفسه حرفيا، فإن من حق ايران، وفي ظل هذه التهديدات الاسرائيلية المتصاعدة، ان تبادر الى توجيه صواريخها الى اسرائيل، او حتى البوارج وحاملات الطائرات الامريكية، في ضربة استباقية في اطار الدفاع عن النفس، مثلما قال بالامس المرشد الايراني الاعلى السيد علي خامنئي في خطابه الذي القاه بمناسبة بدء العام الفارسي الجديد.
ندرك جيدا ان الفارق في التسليح ضخم جدا بين ايران من ناحية، والولايات المتحدة الامريكية واسرائيل من ناحية اخرى، والمقارنة هنا في غير محلها تماما، بل لا تجوز اساسا، ولكن اذا جرى فرض الحرب على ايران، او اي دولة اخرى فليس هناك الا احد خيارين:
الاستسلام ورفع الرايات البيضاء او النزول الى ميدان القتال، وخوض المعارك حتى النهاية.
الايرانيون، ومثلما تفيد مواقفهم وتصريحاتهم، مصممون على المضي قدما في برامجهم النووية، ويؤكدون دائما انها برامج سلمية مشروعة، وهذا يعني انهم غير معنيين، بالتهديدات التي تستهدفهم، ايا كان مصدرها.
لا نستبعد ان يكون الايرانيون هم البادئين بالهجوم، فهم يعيشون حاليا تحت حصار خانق قد يصبح اشد بعد ثلاثة اشهر، عندما تفرض اوروبا حظرا شاملا على استيراد النفط الايراني، وعلينا ان نتذكر بأن حصارا مماثلا، وان كان اقل حدة، دفع بالرئيس العراقي صدام حسين الى احتلال الكويت، ونحن هنا لا نناقش النتائج التي نعرفها جيدا، وانما نتوقف عند مخاطر الحصار والتجويع واستفزاز الكرامة الوطنية لدى الشعوب وقيادتها.
' ' '
الحصار بدأ يعطي ثماره المريرة والمهينة في ايران، واسعار المواد الاساسية باتت في ارتفاع متصاعد، واسعار العملة الايرانية 'الريال' في هبوط قياسي، وفرض نظام منع تحويل العملات الى ايران الذي بدأ قبل ايام سيعيد البلاد الى معاملات العصر الحجري، في زمن القرن الواحد والعشرين، اي دجاجة مقابل حفنة ارز. واذا كان هذا النظام جائزا بين مجموعات او افراد، فإنه مستحيل على مستوى الدول وعشرات الملايين من مواطنيها.
الولايات المتحدة ترتكب خطأ فادحا اذا اعتقدت ان سيناريو التجويع الذي نجح في كوريا الشمالية وارغمها على الانصياع للشروط الامريكية وتجميد برامجها النووية مقابل الطعام يمكن ان ينجح في ايران لاختلاف الظروف والجينات البشرية. فإيران قارة اكبر من المانيا وفرنسا واسبانيا وفوقها ايطاليا مجتمعة، وشعبها البالغ تعداده اكثر من سبعين مليونا قد لا يركع بسهولة، لانه معروف بعزة نفسه مثل كل الشعوب العربية والاسلامية الاخرى، ان لم يكن اكثر.
الرئيس باراك اوباما الذي اعتبر البرنامج النووي الايراني ليس خطرا على اسرائيل فقط وانما على أمن امريكا والعالم بأسره، اثبت في خطابه امام اللوبي اليهودي الامريكي بأنه اكثر الزعماء الامريكيين ولاء ومساندة لاسرائيل في التاريخ. اوباما قال انه لن يسمح لإيران بامتلاك اسلحة نووية ثم يعمل على احتوائها، مثلما فعل مع الاتحاد السوفييتي، وانما سيمنعها قبل ان تصل الى هذه المرحلة، لان هذا ليس في مصلحة اسرائيل وامريكا معا.
ذريعة اوباما تتلخص في عدم وصول الاسلحة النووية الى ايدي 'الارهابيين' في حال امتلاك ايران لها، واطلاق سباق تسليح نووي في المنطقة العربية، حيث ستلجأ دول مثل السعودية ومصر الى السعي من اجل امتلاكها.
بمعنى آخر لا يريد اوباما ان يمتلك العرب اسلحة نووية، ولا ان تصل هذه الاسلحة الى 'الارهابيين' العرب والمسلمين حتى لا يستخدموها ضد اسرائيل التي قال ان أمنها مقدس بالنسبة اليه، والولايات المتحدة الامريكية التي يتزعمها. فالتفوق العسكري الاسرائيلي، مثلما قال في الخطاب نفسه، يجب ان يستمر وان تحميه واشنطن بكل الطرق والوسائل.
الرئيس اوباما يجافي الحقيقة في وضح النهار، فامتلاك اسرائيل لأسلحة نووية لاكثر من خمسين عاما لم يطلق سباق تسلح نووي في المنطقة، والاسلحة النووية توجد حاليا في ايدي دولة تمارس الارهاب علنا، وتعتدي على الجيران، وتقتل الاطفال بقنابل الفوسفور الابيض في قطاع غزة وجنوب لبنان، وتحتل اراضي دول عربية، وجهزت رؤوسها النووية لضرب مصر وسورية اثناء حرب اكتوبر رمضان عام 1973 ، ومذكرات غولدا مائير رئيسة وزراء اسرائيل في حينها تثبت هذه الحقيقة.
ما زلنا نتمسك برأينا بأن اسرائيل هي التي تقرع طبول الحرب، وقد تكون البادئة فيها، والرئيس اوباما لا يستطيع ان يمنعها بعد ان شاهدنا تزلفه للوبي اليهودي الداعم لها بطريقة مخجلة، مضافا الى ذلك ان نتنياهو اقوى منه في امريكا بسبب دعم الكونغرس له.
' ' '
ما يعزز رأينا هذا عدة مؤشرات قوية نوجزها في النقاط التالية:
اولا: اتفاق ديفيد كاميرون رئيس وزراء بريطانيا مع مضيفه الامريكي اوباما على اطلاق الاحتياط الاستراتيجي من النفط في الاسواق العالمية، لمنع ارتفاع الاسعار، وهذا يعني ان الحرب قادمة.
ثانيا: توجيه خبراء الاستثمار الغربيين نصائح لزبائنهم
بالاستثمار في الذهب والمعادن النفيسة الاخرى بدلا من الاسهم والسندات في الاسابيع المقبلة، لان الحرب في الشرق الاوسط حتمية. والذهب هو الملاذ الآمن في زمن الحروب.
حصول نتنياهو على اغلبية الاصوات (ثمانية مع مقابل اربعة ضد) في المجلس الوزاري الاسرائيلي المصغر في حال تنفيذ قرار ضرب ايران.
رابعا: اقدام اسرائيل على اغتيال الشهيد زهير القيسي أمين عام لجان المقاومة الشعبية لاستفزاز فصائل المقاومة ودفعها لاطلاق صواريخ على اسدود وعسقلان، بهدف
اختبار 'القبة الحديدية' المختصة بالتصدي لهذه الصواريخ استعدادا لصواريخ ايران وحزب الله، وربما سورية ايضا.
تقرير استراتيجي امريكي جرى نشره امس افاد بأن اي ضربة اسرائيلية على ايران ستؤدي الى حرب اقليمية واسعة تجر اليها الولايات المتحدة، مما ستترتب عليه خسائر كبيرة في صفوف القوات الامريكية
قبل اربعة اعوام قال ديك تشيني نائب الرئيس الامريكي ان امريكا ستتردد في شن حرب ضد ايران، ولكنها لا تستطيع منع اسرائيل اذا ما اقدمت عليها، وستهرع لحمايتها، ولهذا لا نستغرب ان يكون اوباما اتفق مع نتنياهو على هذا السيناريو، وكل ما يقال عن معارضته لضربة اسرائيلية قبل الانتخابات الامريكية هو نوع من التضليل.
ايهود باراك وزير الدفاع الاسرائيلي تنبأ بأن تخسر اسرائيل 500 قتيل في حال نشوب حرب مع ايران. تنبؤات باراك صادقة ودقيقة، ألم يتوقع قبل تسعة اشهر بأن سقوط نظام الرئيس بشار الاسد سيكون خلال ايام؟
انها حرب، لو اشتعلت قد تحرق الاخضر واليابس، والاخضر هنا هو آبار نفطنا ومدننا ومنشآتنا، واليابس هو بعض السفن الامريكية والاهداف الاسرائيلية التي لا تعد ولا تحصى.. قطعا ستكون حربا مختلفة عن كل الحروب، ان لم تكن آخرها والايام بيننا.

Al-Jazeera Video: Syria's opposition fighters regroup in Lebanon

"In the face of sustained shelling by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad on opposition strongholds, the Free Syrian Army fighters are regrouping in northern Lebanon to plan alternative military tactics.

They say their aim is to carry out hit-and-run attacks to try to undermine the Syrian government's dominance.

However, the armed opposition faces several challenges, including the lack of ammunitions.

Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reports from northern Lebanon."

What Palestinian political prisoners are fighting for

Ameer Makhoul
The Electronic Intifada

Gilboa Prison
20 March 2012

"The case of the freedom fighter Khader Adnan reminds us of where the strength of the Palestinian people lies. This is the strength that was squandered and dissipated in the Oslo process and the pursuit of a state at the expense of national liberation.

With his historic hunger strike and his heroic resolve in his fight against the occupying state, Adnan has reaffirmed an important principle of resistance to colonialist regimes: when the people, or individuals, who are their victims remain resolute, the world will react. Sympathy turns into solidarity, and that in turn can nurture a growing movement of support for the struggle which is capable of shaking the foundations of the colonialist system...."

B’Tselem role in J Street’s gala featuring Olmert "incredibly damaging" says Palestinian rights group PCHR

By Ali Abunimah

"The decision of Israeli human rights group B’Tselem to participate in J Street’s upcoming conference featuring former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is “incredibly damaging” to the effort to achieve justice and accountability for victims of war crimes.

This sharp criticism came in a letter to B’Tselem’s Executive Director Jessica Montell from Raji Sourani, the Director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)....."

Al-Jazeera Video: Assad stokes sectarian divide to rule Syria

"As the violence continues to escalate in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad is sending a clear message that he has no intention of giving up power.

So far, international mediation efforts have failed.

But it seems Assad's government has tried to exploit the deep sectarian divisions in the country to their advantage by pitting minorities such as Christians and Alawites against the Sunnis.

In order to have tight control of the regime, close family members have been placed to positions of power and officials and commanders belong to the Alawite sect.

Al Jazeera's Jonah Hull reports."

Al-Jazeera Video: Inside Story - Is Bahrain's reform real or cosmetic?

"Bahrain's king praised government efforts in implementing the recommendations of an independent commission, but critics feel otherwise. Did the commission aim for comprehensive or cosmetic change? Guests: Jamal Fakhro, Michael Stephens, Ali al-Aswad."

Pentagon predicts Israel will drag US into war with Iran

Secret US simulation assumes Tehran would retaliate against ships if nuclear sites bombed

David Usborne
The Independent
Wednesday 21 March 2012

"Classified war games conducted by the Pentagon have sketched a scenario in which an attack by Israel on Iran's suspected nuclear facilities would lead to Tehran launching a counter-strike against a US ship in the Gulf. That in turn would drag a reluctant US into a fresh war in the Middle East.

The results of the simulation, meant primarily to test co-ordination and communications between the various arms of the US military in the event of a flare-up with Iran, were reported by The New York Times.

The revelations came as Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned yesterday that Tehran would attack any enemy "on the same level" as it attacks Iran. He named both Israel and the US as enemies, in remarks on state television.

The war games were completed earlier this month under a long-standing programme called Internal Look to test the readiness of the Pentagon, Central Command in Florida and military resources in the Middle East to respond to any fallout from an Israeli strike.

That fallout, the simulation showed, might include the Iranian leadership reasoning that any Israeli incursion would have come with an American stamp of approval and would justify a counter-strike against a US target. Under that scenario, Tehran would hit a US Navy vessel in the Gulf with the loss of 200 or more American lives. At that point, the US would feel bound to retaliate......"

Shellfire in Damascus suburbs, say Syrian rebels

Free Syrian Army says army is retaliating after opposition forces attacked local headquarters of secret police unit, Wednesday 21 March 2012

"Two large suburbs of Damascus came under heavy tank bombardment on Wednesday following renewed Free Syrian Army attacks on forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, opposition activists said.

Artillery and anti-aircraft gun barrages hit the suburbs of Harasta and Irbin, retaken from rebels by Assad's forces two months ago, and army helicopters were heard flying over the area, on the eastern edge of the capital, the activists said.

Assad's forces reasserted their control of Damascus suburbs in January after days of tank and artillery shelling that beat back rebels and lessened street protests against the 42-year rule of Assad and his father, the late President Hafez al-Assad....

But as Assad made advances on the ground, he appeared to suffer a setback on the diplomatic front, with key ally Moscow adopting a sharper tone after months of publicly standing by his government.

"We believe the Syrian leadership reacted wrongly to the first appearance of peaceful protests and ... is making very many mistakes," foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told Russian radio station Kommersant-FM.

"This, unfortunately, has in many ways led the conflict to reach such a severe stage."

Lavrov spoke of a "future transition" period for Syria....

After failing to hold significant stretches of land, analysts say the rebels appear to be switching to insurgency tactics, pointing to bloody car bomb attacks in two major Syrian cities at the weekend and the sabotage of a major rail link...."

Preparing Israel for war

Recent raids on Gaza were not just about allocating more money to defence - they were also about war with Iran.

By Neve Gordon

".....The recent attack is, however, not only about allocating more money to the military; it is also about Iran. The media continuously drew a connection between the Islamic jihad, which launched most of the rockets against Israel, and Iran. The IDF spokesperson pointed an accusing finger towards Teheran, claiming that it is transferring weapons and money to the Islamic Jihad. A couple of days later a headline in Yisrael Hayom declared, "Iran is Behind the Jihad's Rocket Attack". Hence, another objective was to show the Israeli public that Iran, by means of a proxy, had already begun attacking Israel.

Next, a link was drawn between Iron Dome's success and the perceived Iranian threat. Ynet cited a military general who stated that the escalation is about Gaza today, "but I am not sure that this is the scenario for which I am preparing the fighters. There are threats from the north and threats from further away". A columnist noted that Iron Dome's effectiveness "helped demonstrate to everyone that the Israeli home front enjoys a relatively good defense today... Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran will have to reconsider their strategy of missile terrorism..."

Indeed, many analysts emphasised that only a handful of Israelis had been injured, but none fatally. The fighting, they accordingly claimed, produced relatively little pressure on the home front. Alon Ben David from Channel Ten summed up this perspective when he wrote: "There is no doubt that Iron Dome alongside the population's exemplary behaviour prevented casualties on the Israeli side and enabled Israel to come out of this cycle - I would say - with a sense of satisfaction. Twenty-two [combatants] were killed on the other side, and another three or four civilians; we have zero losses… under these conditions we can conduct a monitored [fray] that we initiate…"

Zvi Barel from Haaretz was one of the lone critical voices, providing readers some insight into Israel's real objectives. He exposed the logic behind the Iron Dome's glorification, claiming that it helps Netanyahu "sell" the planned attack against Iran: "After Iron Dome demonstrated its 95 per cent effectiveness, there is no better proof to Israeli citizens that they will not suffer serious damage following an assault against Iran. Escalation in Gaza is good for Israel, meaning for those who support attacking Iran".

In a slightly different context and using Netanyahu's duck allegory, Haaretz's editor-in-chief Aluf Benn wrote, "what looks like a preparation for war, acts like a preparation for war, and quacks like a preparation for war, is a preparation for war, and not just a 'bluff' or a diversion tactic"."

Killing emos, and the future, in Iraq

Youths identifying with the 'emo' music subculture are among the martyrs of the Arab world's revolutionary wave.

By Mark LeVine

"Irvine, CA - With everything else plaguing Iraq today - continued sectarianism, rampant corruption, irregular electricity, barely functioning healthcare, ten years' worth of depleted uranium shells (courtesy of the US occupation) causing cancer and birth defects - hardcore Shia militants have decided that the gravest threat to Iraq comes from the small (but growing) number of fans of the genre of post-punk music known as "emo".

In the past several weeks, an unknown number of young Iraqis have been murdered - in cold blood - reportedly because of their supposed love for emo, a genre of hardcore rock that emerged in Washington, DC, in the late 1980s and early 1990s and known originally as "emotional hardcore" or "emocore". Emo is distinguished from other forms of hardcore by its more "pop" sound and its lyrical focus on emotional, expressive or confessional lyrics.....
Attacks on young people in the Muslim world because of their taste in music is neither new nor unique to the region. So-called "extreme" forms of heavy metal, hip-hop, punk and hardcore music have long been popular, not merely in the West but globally - precisely because the anger, despair and intensity of the music reflects the tumult of emotions and uncertain identities that define adolescence and young adulthood in every culture.

The Middle East is a particularly welcoming environment for these types of music because young people across the region have suffered the pain and ravages of war, authoritarian and social oppression with particular ferocity. As a founder of the Moroccan metal scene put it: "We play heavy metal because our lives are heavy metal."

If that's how the kids feel in Morocco, imagine the appeal of metal in a war-torn, occupation-torn and terror-torn country such as Iraq....."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A crude summary of the last year in Syria by Rana Kabbani

It is just over a year since our Syrian people – men, women and children, young and old – burst into revolution against the world's most macabre regime. The fuse was lit by the arrest of 11-year old boys who had written on the wall of their run-down school in Dar'aa 'Down with the regime,' as they had seen the Tunisian and Egyptian people do in their televised revolutions. Mukhabarat men stormed the school – tipped off by their mole there – and took the children away. They beat them savagely and ripped out their tender nails. When their anguished fathers came to try to retrieve them, they were told by an Assad cousin in command there that the boys had been killed. He had happy news, though, he said: he would round up their mothers at once and his Allawite guards would rape them, to make them pregnant with far better sons!

Syrians had been humiliated, abused and mass murdered by the Assads for 42 years, but this proved a galvanising moment. They came out onto streets made ugly by this family mafia belonging to a sectarian hardcore of a tiny minority, armed with nothing but their dignity and natural desire for justice. They defied Russian-made bullets that Assad rained down on them; Iranian missiles; Hizballah snipers; as well as his own ruthlessly sectarian killing-machine, which murdered them in cold blood by the hundreds, then the thousands, then the tens of thousands. Their fields were burnt; their patient farm animals shot; their houses looted and shelled; their mosque minarets and church spires desecrated and destroyed. All basic services were cut off -- water, electricity, gas -- in outrageous communal punishment. Syrians found themselves besieged and starved in towns across their generous beautiful country. One image that is seared into my mind forever is this: two young men who sought to smuggle in a little baby formula and three tins of sardines to hungry Dar'aa, were shot in the head by Assad Shabbiha, who then photographed themselves on stolen iPhones, laughing and pointing at the blown-out brains splashed across their boots.

The psychopathic eye-doctor imposed by force on the Syrian people by the Stalinist junta of his father 12 years earlier, thought nothing of gouging out the eyes of protestors. National hospitals became torture centres, where doctors of his ilk drilled holes into people's flesh and chained them to beds so that security thugs could interrogate them with pokers and pliers. Girls as young as 9 were brought to prisons to be gang-raped, so as to better persuade their tied-up brothers or fathers – by the hundreds of thousands – not to rebel. Assadist torturers had nurses on standby to remove internal organs for sale on the black market. This was the nature of the beast -- a corrupt Assad police state, that had bled our country dry for 42 years, and conspired to make a dynamic, capable people impoverished, even as its own members became obscenely rich, with their fortunes sent abroad. Our own United Kingdom is peaceful home to Assad's war criminal uncle Rifa'at -- mastermind of the infamous Hama genocide of 1982, that wiped out 20,000 Syrians in a month, and disappeared 17,000 others.

For the better part of a year, we were told, and glibly, by Western democracies that Assad was a reformer -- perhaps because he wore suits and ties, and did not look scarily Arab like Saddam or Qadhafi. Turkey talked a lot but quickly caved in to his terrorist blackmail -- though it did take in floods of refugees, who ended up in snow-covered tents across the border, traumatised and destitute. Russia intensified arms sales to Assad. China stood by him. Israel preferred him in power, while Arab states did nothing meaningful to prise him out of it. And so we became the loneliest people on earth.

Though it is easy to be bitter at having been so utterly abandoned to Assad's slaughter by the international community, we the Syrian people have far better things to do than to hark on such a grave moral and political failure of will. We have a horrifying police state to dismantle -- alone. Millions around the world tune in on a daily basis to the Assad snuff movie of castrated children, disfigured women, destroyed neighbourhoods, and mass graves. Our eleven thousand dead, sixty thousand disappeared, two hundred thousand arrested, and many more made refugees both internally and externally, add up to one thing, and one thing alone:

Syria will be free. Syria will be free. Syria will be free! 

Rana Kabbani was born in Damascus in 1958 to a political family of democrats on her mother's side, and artists and poets on her father's side. She was educated at Jesus College, Cambridge. She is a writer and broadcaster, and a regular contributor to The Guardian and the BBC.

Assad's father-in-law under pressure to quit British Syrian Society

Fawaz Akhras' email advice to Bashar al-Assad on crisis is 'last straw' after society's British board members resign

Ian Black, Middle East editor, Tuesday 20 March 2012

"President Bashar al-Assad's father-in-law is under pressure to step down as co-chairman of the British Syrian Society after the resignation of all its British board members over the brutal repression of protests against the Damascus regime.

Dr Fawaz Akhras, a Harley street cardiologist, faced embarasssment last week over leaked emails published in the Guardian which showed him advising Assad on how to handle the crisis and his daughter Asma – the president's wife – shopping for luxury goods while violence raged.

Sir Andrew Green, a former British ambassador to Syria and co-chairman of the society, admitted it had faced disarray over the past year and that the emails – especially those showing Akhras advising Assad how to rebutt evidence of civilians being tortured – were the last straw....

The BSS has been in crisis since the uprising began last March. In September HSBC said it would no longer represent the society and Wafic Said, the British-Syrian billionaire and philanthropist, resigned as a director.

"The problem is that the BSS has buried its head in the sand, maintaining a policy of silence which amounts to tacit support for the current regime in Syria and what is happening there," Said wrote in a letter obtained by the Guardian. "This is unacceptable. The BSS has lost all credibility."....."

Obama energy order feeds Iran war speculation

Market Watch

"Energy industry analysts are trying to assess the implications of a new executive order that effectively gives the government control over the nation’s natural resources in the event of a national emergency.

The measure was signed by President Obama on Friday.

According to the order, “the domestic industrial and technological base is the foundation for national defense preparedness. The authorities provided in the Act shall be used to strengthen this base and to ensure it is capable of responding to the national defense needs of the United States.”

Executive departments and agencies responsible for plans and programs relating to national defense should “be prepared, in the event of a potential threat to the security of the United States, to take actions necessary to ensure the availability of adequate resources and production capability, including services and critical technology for national defense requirements.” Read the executive order.

The order “is either a serious power grip or another sign that inside the deep recesses of the White House, they are preparing for war,” said Phil Flynn, an energy analyst at PFGBest.

In a blog Monday published by the Huffington Post, book author Edwin Black suggested that the move may have been made in anticipation of an outbreak of war between Israel, the West and Iran......."

Fast-forward Syria: Three terrible scenarios and one good option

Syria's uprising could end up looking like Libya, Algeria, Kosovo, or perhaps something different altogether.

By Marwan Bishara

"As the Syrian revolution enters its second year, three scenarios loom on the horizon. However, as they say in Arabic: “their sweetest is bitter”....

The balance sheet is hardly encouraging. With more than eight thousand Syrians dead, a quarter of a million displaced and countless imprisoned or tortured, the opposition is arming itself in self-defence and its regional supporters are chipping in with western complicity....

But time is NOT on Assad’s side. Nor is it for that matter on Syria’s side.

The arming of Syria’s popular opposition despite the crackdown has for all practical purpose torpedoed the regime’s deterrence and undermined its military gains.

Alas, thousands more are bound to die and Syria could descend into civil war if the nation’s wrong-headed leadership doesn’t draw the right conclusions.

If 2011 was a divisive year, 2012 might prove decisive.

The people are showing formidable capacity to withstand the crackdown and organise.

Time is on the side of those willing to sacrifice everything for a free nation, not those willing to sacrifice their nation for their own privileges....

The Algerian scenario

Two decades ago, the secular military regime in Algeria was able to crackdown hard on the opposition following its substantial electoral gains thanks, in no small measure, to France’s explicit and US’s implicit support.

The deaths of tens of thousands of civilians and security forces were 'justified' in Western circles on the basis of the right of a regime to fight terrorists and extremists within a sovereign country.
The Assad regime hopes Russia and China will provide it with a similar cover to ‘finish the job’.....

The Libyan scenario

Syrian opposition leaders are hopeful Arab/Gulf pressure, recent declarations and visits by Russian and Chinese diplomats to the region, and mounting pressure from Western nations on their UNSC counterparts in light of the spiralling of violence in Syria, could lead to greater consensus in the international community in favor of isolating the Syrian regime.

Increasing numbers of Syrian opposition leaders hope that serious overtures towards Moscow and Beijing will lead to consensus around foreign military intervention under the "Right to Protect" on the Libyan model that includes a no-fly zone.

If between 25,000 and 40,000 Libyans died after the NATO intervention, the number of deaths in Syria is bound to be higher.....

Back to the future: The “Syrbian nightmare”

As the regime builds on the Algerian scenario and many in the opposition bet on the Libyan scenario, regional and Western powers might entertain a Serbia/Kosovo like scenario.

Back in the late 1990s, Kosovo’s opposition to Belgrade was armed and for a whole year. In 1998-1999, it fought against the Serb government. When the humanitarian and security situation deteriorated, a Western led ‘Coalition of the Willing’ intervened militarily without a UN Security Council resolution that Moscow was likely to veto.

Seventy eight days of US bombardment followed by NATO direct intervention and the division of the country. They argued their decision was ‘legitimate’ even if it wasn’t necessarily legal.

Something similar is building up in Syria....

Assad, and the test of patriotism

The Syrian revolution has taken far longer than the other Arab revolutions due to the regime’s unity and divisions in the opposition.

Despite its secular-nationalist rhetoric, which shouldn’t be discounted nor underestimated as source of legitimacy in a country like Syria or in the Mashreq (East) in general, the regime has based its power mostly on sectarian and personal loyalties.

For more than four decades the regime has made sure there is no day light between leader, family, clan, sect, regime, army and state.

These layers of power have secured the position of Assad family and clan at the helm of the country. But it also led to terrible repression and injustice.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, no less Sunnis benefited from the regime than Alawaites. Indeed many if not most Alawaites remain marginal and poor in Assad’s Syria....

Ultimately, when the chips are down, personal sacrifice for public good is the test of patriotism.

Otherwise, clan and the Alawaite minority, and military must sacrifice the dictator for the sake of future unity, peace and justice in the country.

Indeed, they need to do it for their own sake."

What the Egyptian Summer Might Bring

By Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani

"CAIRO - More than 800 Egyptians of varied backgrounds and political orientations have officially registered their candidacies for the country's first post- Mubarak presidential election. Although more candidates are expected to emerge before the registration process ends Apr. 8, most local analysts say the contest - slated for late May - will be dominated by a small handful of high-profile contenders....."

Russian Anti-Terror Troops Deploy in Syria

Major Fighting Reported in Damascus
"A unit for Russian anti-terror troops has been deployed inside Syria, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency, a move which UN sources termed a “bomb” with the potential of serious ramifications on the ongoing civil war.

The nature of the revelation and the scant details are somewhat curious. The troops were apparently on the Iman, which has been docked in Tartus for 10 days, and the report was headline news on the state-run RIA Novosti, but only in the Arabic-language version.

Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov has denied claims that Russian troops were operating on the ground in Syria, though he did confirm “advisers” were on the ground. The nature and size of the current deployment is not readily apparent.

The deployment comes as fighting is escalating again in the nation, with major clashes reported in Damascus. Rebels also bombed a security convoy in Daraa, killing eight soldiers......"

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

Do you expect Kofi Annan's mission to Syria to succeed?

With less than 100 responding so far, 96% said no.

Real News Video :Al Jazeera Journalist Explains Resignation over Syria and Bahrain Coverage

Ali Hashem: Al Jazeera has become a "media war machine" and is "committing journalistic suicide"

More at The Real News

Real News Video : Iraq Nine Years Later: Poverty and Violence Continue

Sahar Issa: In spite of growing oil revenues most Iraqis live without water, power and housing

More at The Real News

Assad's wife to face EU sanctions

UK-born Asma al-Assad, who apparently shopped for luxury goods during the brutal Syrian crackdown, to be added to official sanctions list

Peter Walker, Tuesday 20 March 2012

"Asma al-Assad, the British-born wife of Syria's president whose luxury shopping sprees during the regime's brutal crackdown on internal dissent were revealed by the Guardian last week, is set to be added to an EU sanctions list targeting the country.

The 36-year-old former banker, who grew up in Acton, west London, will be among a number of Assad family members formally placed on the list when foreign ministers from the bloc gather in Brussels on Friday, an EU official said, speaking anonymously.

Last week, a cache of what appear to be private emails from the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, his wife and other members of their inner circle, obtained by the Guardian showed Asma al-Assad busy buying luxury goods from London and Paris, including jewellery, a £2,650 vase and £10,000 worth of candlesticks, tables and chandeliers.

"Asma al-Assad and several other family members will be added to the sanctions list later at the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council, part of efforts to maintain the pressure on the Syrian government," the official said, adding that there would be no announcement before Friday......"

Syria: Armed Opposition Groups Committing Abuses

End Kidnappings, Forced Confessions, and Executions

(New York) – Armed opposition elements have carried out serious human rights abuses, Human Rights Watch said today in a public letter to the Syrian National Council (SNC) and other leading Syrian opposition groups. Abuses include kidnapping, detention, and torture of security force members, government supporters, and people identified as members of pro-government militias, called shabeeha. Human Rights Watch has also received reports of executions by armed opposition groups of security force members and civilians.

Leaders of Syrian opposition groups should condemn and forbid their members from carrying out abuses, Human Rights Watch said. Some of the statements collected suggest that certain armed attacks by opposition groups were motivated by anti-Shia or anti-Alawite sentiments arising from the association of these communities with government policies.

The Syrian government’s brutal tactics cannot justify abuses by armed opposition groups,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Opposition leaders should make it clear to their followers that they must not torture, kidnap, or execute under any circumstances.”
Human Rights Watch has repeatedly documented and condemned widespread violations by Syrian government forces, including disappearances, rampant use of torture, arbitrary detentions, and indiscriminate shelling of neighborhoods.

The protest movement in Syria was overwhelmingly peaceful until September 2011. Since then, an increasing number of media and other reports have said that a growing number of military defectors and local residents have decided to resort to arms, saying they are defending themselves against security forces’ raids or attacking checkpoints and security facilities in their cities. The intensity of the fighting has increased since early February 2012, when the government began large-scale military attacks against opposition strongholds throughout the country....."

Monday, March 19, 2012

Syria: leaked documents reveal Bashar al-Assad's role in crushing protests

Documents leaked by defector from Syrian regime show that Assad personally signs off security crackdown plans

Ian Black
, Middle East editor, Monday 19 March 2012

"Leaks of what appear to be official Syrian documents reveal how the country's president, Bashar al-Assad, personally signs off plans drawn up by his government's crisis management centre, prioritising a security crackdown to prevent demonstrations against his regime spreading to Damascus.

Hundreds of pages of confidential papers shown to al-Jazeera TV by a defector describe daily meetings of the heads of all Syria's security and intelligence agencies, who review events and issue orders that are then approved by the president.

Amid reports of fighting in the Mezzeh area of Damascus – the heaviest in the capital since the uprising began a year ago – al-Jazeera said on Monday that the documents were smuggled out of Syria by Abdel-Majid Barakat, head of information for the crisis management unit, who is now hiding in Turkey with opposition activists.

Emails published by the Guardian last week, which were also obtained from Syrian opposition sources, showed the gilded lifestyle of Assad and his wife, Asma, apparently insulated from the bloodshed and violence raging across the country.

The emails included details of iTunes purchases, flirtatious exchanges with a female aide and advice on PR and media policy.

The latest documents appear to shed more direct light on the regime's strategy against the uprising, including the deployment of thousands of militia known as "shabiha" and members of the Ba'ath party in operations designed to cut off Damascus, Aleppo, Idlib and other large cities from their surrounding regions......"

Guardian Video: Damascus clashes between Syrian rebels and Assad troops

Unverified film obtained from a social media site in which gunshots can purportedly be heard in Damascus on Monday. Syrian state TV footage shows a block of flats in the upmarket al-Mezze district, home to intelligence offices and foreign embassies, and where Free Syrian Army rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad clashed in gun battles, Monday 19 March 2012

Al Jazeera obtains secret Syria files

Papers prepared for President Assad by intelligence and security chiefs throw light on his strategy to quell protests.


"Al Jazeera has gained access to confidential documents prepared for the Syrian president by his intelligence and security chiefs on the conflict raging across the nation.

The files provide an insight into President Bashar al-Assad’s strategy to suppress anti-government protests, including the lengths the government went to for protecting its strongholds.

The documents, running into hundreds of pages, point to a government desperate to keep control of the capital Damascus and include clear orders to stop protesters from getting into the city.

They also revealed detailed security plans for crushing protests in the cities of Aleppo and Idlib.

One leaked paper spelled out clear orders to top officials to give financial and moral support to Assad's supporters in Aleppo, the second major city.

The documents were passed on to Al Jazeera by Abdel Majid Barakat, who until recently was one of the government’s most trusted officials.

The former Baath party member, who was in charge of collating information from across Syria at the secret joint crisis management cell in Damascus, has fled to Turkey.

For months, the opposition had a mole at the heart of Assad’s security apparatus working in this joint co-ordination cell that co-ordinates the work of all the intelligence agencies across the country,“ Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from Turkey, said.

"This man was leaking information to the opposition. Finally he was compromised and realised that he had to get out of Syria to save his own life. As he left the country he took with him some of Syria's most secret documents."

In one leaked cable marked confidential, the government cautioned the Syrian foreign minister about countries trying to influence Syrian diplomats to defect....."