Friday, September 20, 2013

Kafranbel: the Syrian revolution in 3 minutes كفرنبل:الثورة السورية في ٣ دقائق

Martin Rowson on Syria – cartoon

Martin Rowson cartoon 21.09.13

Dispatches: U.S. Thinks Arresting Peaceful Opposition is OK – in Bahrain, at Least

By Joe Stork

"The US State Department gave Bahrain’s ruling family a big assist yesterday in its efforts to suppress the opposition party Al Wifaq.

Yesterday, Bahraini authorities arrested Al Wifaq’s deputy leader, Khalil al-Marzooq, on what appears to be trumped up charges. But instead of denouncing the arrest, a US spokesperson criticized Bahrain’s opposition groups for withdrawing from a “dialogue” with the government to protest the arrest.

Al-Marzooq is a prominent public figure and a chief interlocutor with Western governments. According to the Public Prosecution Office statement, officials are holding al-Marzooq for 30 days as they investigate charges of “inciting and advocating terrorism.” Al-Marzooq had been “speaking at many forums, inciting violence and promoting terrorist acts, advocating principles which incite such acts, supporting violence committed by the terrorist coalition, and legally justifying criminal activities,” the statement said.

Bahraini authorities provided no examples of remarks by al-Marzooq supporting their allegations.
Marzooq served as deputy speaker in Bahrain’s 40-member parliament before the group walked out in 2011 to protest the violent crackdown on anti-government demonstrators. Al-Marzooq’s arrest came after he spoke at a rally earlier in September. Human Rights Watch reviewed a video of the rally, in which al-Marzooq said, “We support peaceful movements and transparently state […] that we are not part of the violent groups or their actions.” But it’s the following remark that may have triggered his arrest: al-Marzooq said that the anti-government February 14th Youth Coalition is not a terrorist group, contrary to government assertions.

After the arrest, Al Wifaq and other opposition groups withdrew from a “national dialogue” with the government that appeared to be getting nowhere fast in efforts to address Bahrain’s political crisis.
On Wednesday, when a reporter at the State Department daily briefing in Washington DC asked deputy spokesperson Marie Harf to comment on al-Marzooq’s arrest, she said she was “disappointed that opposition groups have suspended their involvement in the national dialogue … we’ll continue to encourage everyone to participate in it.” Her line never wavered, even when she was asked follow-up questions. Thursday evening, US officials expressed concern about al-Marzooq’s detention – but still didn’t denounce it.
Given the failure to produce any evidence that al-Marzooq or Al Wifaq advocated violence, Harf’s ham-fisted evasion on Wednesday of repeated opportunities to criticize al-Marzooq’s arrest must have been sweet music to the ears of Bahrain’s ruling family hardliners who are determined to quash all manner of dissent. Her next-day reversal displays an alarming inconsistency in US messaging aimed at a government known for repression.
Washington now needs to publicly denounce al-Marzooq’s arrest, and condemn the wider escalation of repression in Bahrain."

AFTER DESTROYING THE COUNTRY: Syrian government says war has reached stalemate

Exclusive: Deputy PM says neither side is strong enough to win and government may call for ceasefire at Geneva talks

in Damascus
The Guardian,

Video report: Gaza is being strangled and its people are suffocating

By Ali Abunimah

"“I feel so depressed, I feel detained and humiliated and violated because I’m denied one of the most basic rights, the right to have an education, the right to travel,” says Shahd Abusalama in this video report from Gaza by The Real News Network’s Yousef Al-Helou.
Abusalama, who blogs regularly for The Electronic Intifada, is one of thousands of Palestinians trapped in Gaza, unable to travel due to Egypt’s closure of the Rafah crossing.
The Rafah crossing is the only connection to the outside world for the vast majority of Gaza’s almost 1.7 million residents, since Israel imposed its tightened siege beginning in 2006.
Among the stranded are hundreds of students, like Abusalama, hoping to take up university places or scholarships abroad, as well as many medical patients.
Egypt has closed the border completely for the past week, citing the “security” situation in its Sinai peninsula, where it is engaged in military operations against what it calls Islamist militants.
Since the 3 July military coup that overthrew elected president Muhammad Morsi, Egypt has severely restricted the crossing and on average the number of people passing through the crossing is just 30 percent of what it was before the military takeover.
Egypt opened the crossing for four hours each day on Wednesday and Thursday this week but only for “emergency cases.”
As Al-Helou’s report shows, thousands of people remain at the crossing terminal desperately waiting for their names to be called out by officials.
In another horrifying development, two Palestinian refugees were reported killed on Tuesday when the Egyptian navy opened fire on a boat carrying Syrian and Palestinian refugees from the port of Alexandria toward Italy. Hundreds of other Syrian and Palestinian refugees have been detained.
An Egyptian military court this week sentenced five Palestinian fishermen to one year in prison, allegedly for fishing in Egyptian waters.
Political analyst Haidar Eid told Al-Helou that “what the new Egyptian regime has been doing to Gaza is a form of collective punishment.”
This adds to the collective punishment meted out by Israel. Gaza remains “occupied territory” under international law, says Hamdi Shaqqoura of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, and Israel is therefore responsible for the welfare of the population.
The effective imprisonment of the entire population comes amid near economic collapse in the territory as Egypt has moved to destroy almost all the underground tunnels that have served as a lifeline to bring in basic supplies that are severely restricted by the Israeli siege.
Further reading: The Electronic Intifada’s Rami Almeghari reports on the impact of the border closing on Gaza student Malaka Mohammed, who risks losing a hard-earned scholarship in the UK."

Al-Jazeera Video: حديث الثورة- الحملة الأمنية وأشكال الاحتجاجات بمصر

Insight: Angered by chemical deal, Syrian rebels may lose the West

"(Reuters) - The Syrian opposition feels badly let down by Washington's decision to do a deal with Moscow to eliminate Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons but diplomats are warning the Syrian National Coalition that it risks losing Western support if it cannot adapt to new realities[To hell with "Western support". Syrians have to finally realize that they can only depend on themselves. The West has its own agenda and would rather keep a weakened and compliant Assad; so does Israel.].....

The opposition is therefore furious that Washington suddenly and without its knowledge changed course a week after informing leaders of the main Syrian National Coalition that a strike was imminent, according to coalition members.

In the opposition's view, the deal with Russia contains a de facto admission of the legitimacy of the Assad government, undermining the goal of Syrian uprising and the likelihood that any peace talks will result in Assad's removal....."

From Azmi Bishara's Facebook Page

خلال العمل على كتابي "الدين والعلمانية في سياق تاريخي" تبين لي بشكل مكثف ومركز أنه خلافا للاعتقاد الرائج ليس العرب مميزين أو مختلفين كثيرا عن غيرهم، وأن غالبية النقاشات التي تشغلهم حاليا خاضت فيها شعوب أخرى. مع الفرق أن ذلك حصل ما بين أربعة قرون وقرن واحد قبل العرب. وهذا هو وجه "التميّز" الثابت وجوده.‬

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Cowards in Front of Israel, but Super Men Against Their Own People!

"Egyptian troops and police clashed Thursday morning on the outskirts of Cairo after security forces launched an operation to arrest people accused of torching police stations and killing at least 11 police officers during July clashes. The violence is part of ongoing unrest in the country between security forces and supporters of former President Mohamed Morsi, who was removed from office in a military coup on July 3.

Egypt's official news agency MENA said troops backed by helicopters [Apaches, no doubt!] had surrounded the town of Kerdassah, a known Islamist stronghold, after exchanging fire with suspected militants there.

The clashes have so far killed one policeman -- identified by MENA as an aide to the police chief of the city of Giza -- and at least 48 people were arrested, the interior ministry said, adding that another 135 were wanted for arrest. It said police forces took control of the area and imposed a curfew......"

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

Do the current security operations in Egypt secure stability?

With about 300 responding so far, 92% said no.

Egypt: Open Gaza's Rafah Crossing! مصر : افتحوا معبر رفح الحدودي- غزّة

Why this is important

Egypt: Open Gaza's Rafah Crossing! مصر : افتحوا معبر رفح الحدودي- غزّة

Since July 3, Egypt has closed its border with Gaza to all but a trickle of Palestinian travellers, stranding hundreds of individuals who need medical care, dream of studying abroad or are trying to re-unite with family. At the same time, the interim Egyptian government has systematically destroyed most of the tunnels underneath the border, upon which the Palestinians of Gaza rely for vital supplies such as construction materials and affordable fuel – both of which are largely unavailable from Israel, which has virtually sealed its own border with the strip since 2007 (both for human traffic and exports). While the Egyptian government claims the shutdown of its Rafah crossing with Gaza is necessary to prevent activity by armed militants, the result is collective punishment of the entire 1.7 million population -- exactly the same treatment Palestinians have experienced at the hands of Israel. Such a total blockade only further threatens the region’s security through the desperation and anger it builds. For the sake of both humanity and a peaceful future, the people of Gaza must be allowed to travel and trade! (Signed, the International Campaign to #OpenRafahBorder)
Please Sign This Petition
We call on Egypt’s interim government to: • Re-open the Rafah crossing to travelers going in and out of Gaza, with reasonable security checks and no artificial limits. • Halt the destruction of the tunnels until Egypt has opened the Rafah crossing to commercial traffic, including fuel and construction materials. • Work to open Gaza ‘s borders with both Egypt and Israel on a permanent basis, as well as to allow Palestinians to travel and trade via air and sea -- thus ending the blockade and allowing the residents to build a normal economy.

Enter your email address will protect your privacy and keep you posted about this and similar campaigns.
This petition has been created by International Campaign to #OpenRafahBorder . and may not represent the views of the Avaaz community


Egypt Joins Israel as Gaza's Jailer

by Medea Benjamin and Pam Bailey

A Hamas policeman (R) standing in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on the border with Egypt, on July 5, 2013, talks to an Egyptian soldier standing in the Egyptian side of the border.

"There was a time when activist groups that focused on helping the Palestinians in Gaza reserved their harshest language and protests for Israel, which long has prohibited both air and sea traffic in and out of Gaza; tightly limited exchanges through its Erez terminal; and banned exports altogether.
While movement in and out of Gaza via the Egyptian terminal at Rafah was restricted as well, it nonetheless was a critical lifeline for Palestinians needing to travel, and for humanitarian aid. Likewise, members of the Egyptian government often played a constructive role in facilitating negotiations between the various Palestinian factions, as well as with international parties.
However, in the two months since the Egyptian military took control, it has made clear it will no longer serve as that “bridge”. In fact, as the military and other opponents of ousted President Mohamed Morsi increasingly blame Palestinian “elements” for growing unrest and violence, particularly in the Sinai Peninsula, the interim government of Egypt has increasingly allied itself with Israel in strategy and actions – becoming just as much Gazans’ jailer as its neighbor to the east. As The Washington Post reported, “with Egypt’s military-backed interim government shutting down the tunnels and largely closing its own pedestrian crossing at Rafah, Gaza is increasingly shut off from the world”.
In response, organizations ranging from the European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza to Gaza’s Ark (an international coalition focused on ending the Israeli ban on exports) are directly including Egypt in their messaging. And a petition launched by a grassroots coalition calling itself the International Campaign to #OpenRafahBorder  attracted more than 1,000 signatures from around the world in just the first 24 hours. The coalition’s goal is to collect 25,000 signatures and deliver them to Egyptian ambassadors, the United Nations and human rights organizations.
Stranded students and patients
Before Egypt’s military ousted Morsi on July 3, an estimated 1,200 people-a-day used to cross through Rafah, which was Gaza’s main window to the world. Since then, the average number of permitted travelers has only been 250 each day, if Rafah is open at all. At this article’s writing, Rafah had been closed for six consecutive days. The EuroMid Observer for Human Rights estimates that at least 10,000 Palestinians are currently on the waiting list to cross on the Gaza side alone.
Many of the individuals left stranded are students trying to get to universities after months of effort to apply for scarce scholarships. Malaka Mohammed, a 23-year-old refugee, is set to begin studying global politics and law at the UK’s Sheffield University on Sept. 30, after working hard to obtain a partial scholarship and fundraising through an online campaign. With about half of the needed donations already in, Mohammed took a risk and made arrangements to travel to the UK on September 18. Now she is wondering if all that work was for naught.
Gaza really is the world’s biggest prison and it’s become more so every day. We thought the Rafah crossing was our exit to freedom and happiness. But it has become a place where people lose their hopes,” she posted on Facebook.
Other stranded travelers include persons needing medical care. Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the Gaza Health Ministry, told Reuters that 1,000 individuals a month require medical care in Egypt or other countries due to the shortages and other difficulties in the Strip. While foreign physicians often travel to Gaza to bring vital supplies and provide care, these days they aren’t being allowed in. “Until June, we had received 60 delegations of doctors who performed surgery on 1,000 patients. No delegation has arrived since then,” Qidra told Reuters.
Gazans face fuel shortage
Although word came on September 16, that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had interceded with the Egyptian interim government to open up a few hours for students and sick people, Gazans were unimpressed. Shahd Abusalama, who is trying to leave to study in Istanbul, posted this comment: “Thanks a lot, Abbas, for finding some time to think about us and deciding to take action. We, the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, appreciate that you finally have some sympathy for us. The crisis cannot be solved by opening up for just two days, four working hours each. This is not a solution. If they manage to let 500 people cross, what will happen to the rest? F**k him!”
No more pipeline of supplies
Currently, the only way for goods and supplies to enter Gaza is Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing (Rafah was not constructed to handle freight traffic). However, the volume allowed is far below the population’s needs (179 trucks a day, compared to nearly 600 before Israel imposed the siege in 2007). Thus, underground smuggling tunnels from Egypt to Gaza have played the role of a crucial “safety valve”. According to the EuroMid Observer for Human Rights, Gaza’s businesses have relied on the tunnels for more than 45 percent of their raw materials – including about 7,500 tons of construction materials per day.
However, the Egyptian military now has launched a massive campaign to destroy the tunnels, without a plan for allowing goods in via another route. The operation seems to be part of an effort to cripple Hamas – an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood – which governs the coastal enclave.
Local sources say 90 percent of the tunnels have been forced out of operation; fewer than 10 are still open, compared to an estimated 300 before the crackdown. As a result of the tunnel destruction and other restrictions, says the Euro-Mid Observer, 60 percent of industrial businesses are closed and the rest are operating at partial capacity, putting more than 19,500 people out of work.
A related challenge is that Gazans have come to rely on the cheap, state-subsidised fuel and gas smuggled from Egypt (Israeli gas is twice as expensive and thus not affordable). Long lines at gas stations, as well as a dramatic reduction in cars available for transportation, are now increasingly the reality in Gaza.
Yousef Aljamal, a young Gazan employee of a local NGO, posted on Facebook, “the transportation crisis in Gaza is deepening. I waited half-an-hour this morning to get a ride to my office, to no avail. I had to change the route I take every day, increasing the fees I have to pay. It also took me half-an-hour to get a ride to get home. Exhausted!”
With the irrepressible Gazan “graveyard” humor, another friend commented, “I heard that our electricity company is gonna run their generators on donkeys –  sounds like good news: green energy!”
On September 5, the Palestinian Energy Authority warned that the Gaza Power Plant is in danger of shutting down completely due to lack of fuel. If the plant shuts down, the result would be power outages of 12 to 16 hours-a-day, up from the current 8 to 12 hours, disabling water and waste-disposal systems as well as crippling many businesses.
Even more alarming, warns the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, is the fact that Gaza’s 14 hospitals and 60 health centres have long relied on 250,000 litres of the less-expensive Egyptian fuel each month (likewise, 30 percent of their medicines and other supplies had come through Rafah).
Militarization of the Gaza-Egypt border
Indicative of just how much – and how permanently – the situation on the ground is changing is the news that the Egyptian army has begun bulldozing and blowing up houses on its side of the border near Rafah. The action is step one towards clearing the way for a “buffer zone” hundreds of yards wide between the two sides, replicating the barren no-man’s-land that Israel enforces inside Gaza to keep Palestinians from approaching the Israeli border.  Hamas officials told The Washington Post that the Egyptian military plans to dig a moat along the border and fill it with water.
Meanwhile, this month two Egyptian army tanks crossed into the Gaza side of the border for the first time; although they didn’t go far, it created a precedent.
Gaza fishermen are being attacked as well. On September 14, news reports confirmed that Egyptian naval forces had opened fire at and arrested two fishermen in waters off Rafah. That was the second time in recent weeks that Egyptian forces opened fire at Gaza fishermen.
As if taking their cue from the new bellicosity of Egypt, the Israeli military has begun to abrogate the concessions brokered by Morsi’s government in November 2012, as part of a ceasefire that ended eight days of Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip and retaliatory fire from groups in the territory.
As part of the agreement, Israel had reduced the “buffer zone” along its border with Gaza, from 300 metres to 100. However, after Morsi was ousted by the Egyptian military, farmers reported being shot at as far as 500 metres out. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights documented during July and August that Israel was responsible for one shelling, 12 shootings and seven incursions in the buffer zone – resulting in one death and seven injuries, including two children.
It seems clear that as the world remains focused on Syria and Iran, Israel and Egypt are working in concert to “re-write” the facts on the ground for Gaza. It’s time for the international activist community to mobilize."





Putin Peace

Kap, Cagle Cartoons, Spain

Yemen: Journalists Under Attack

Government Should Investigate Violence

Human Rights Watch

"(Sanaa) – A surge of attacks on journalists since a new president took office in Yemen may overwhelm the recent progress toward freedom of expression, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. While the government of President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi has eased controls on the media as part of broader human rights reforms, it has neither denounced nor prosecuted harassment, threats and assaults by government and private actors against journalists, bloggers, and other critics.
The 45-page report, “‘A Life-Threatening Career’: Attacks on Journalists under Yemen’s New Government,” finds that while Yemenis generally enjoy greater freedom of expression since Hadi replaced Ali Abdullah Saleh as president in February 2012 after three decades of rule, this newfound freedom has been tempered by a rising incidence of threats and violence against the media. In the past, Yemeni journalists faced harassment from government security forces, but they now face threats from other quarters too, including supporters of the former government, Huthi rebels, southern secessionists and religious conservatives.

“President Hadi’s failure to address the attacks on Yemeni journalists not only denies them justice, but makes the media as a whole afraid of further and more serious attacks,” said Joe Stork, acting Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.“If the advances in free speech are to have a real and lasting impact on Yemeni society, the government should condemn and rigorously investigate all attacks on journalists and ensure those responsible are brought to justice.”

During visits to Yemen between February and April 2013, Human Rights Watch researchers documented 20 attacks on journalists. In one case, an outspoken journalist, Wagdy al-Shabi, 28, was murdered in his home in Aden in February, along with a friend. Al-Shabi’s wife heard gunshots in the room where her husband and his friend were talking. “I saw two men wearing civilian dress and military vests with guns,” she said. “They saw me and started shooting in my direction, but I was able to escape to the bedroom and hid with my children.” No arrests have been made in the case.

In other cases, journalists alleged that members of the security forces or of groups they may have criticized assaulted them or issued death threats. The editor of a journal, Ahmed Said Nasser, 35, said that he received many threats after his publication implicated former president Saleh in a 1977 political killing. “If you do not stop investigating this file,” he was warned over the phone, “you will be assassinated.”....."

Dispatches: Bahrain - Stoking Dissent Not Promoting Reform

"The September 17 arrest of prominent Bahraini opposition figure Khalil Marzook marks a significant escalation in the authorities’ attempts to portray all critics as terrorists, a tactic that runs counter to its supposed commitment to reform through a process of national dialogue.

The official Bahrain News Agency claimed that Marzook was “affiliated with the terrorist organization known as [14 February Coalition], a number of the leaders and members of which are on trial for criminal acts” and that the public prosecutor had charged him with “inciting and advocating terrorism.” Marzook, who denounced violence in the speech in which the authorities claim he incited terrorism, is the assistant secretary general of al-Wefaq, the main legal opposition group in Bahrain. Al-Wefaq announced this morning it was suspending its involvement in the national dialogue which resumed on September 14.

Bahrain’s deteriorating human rights record has led to a rash of international criticism in recent weeks. In addition to a joint statement from 47 governments at the UN Human Rights Council, a scathing European Parliament resolution and a public reproach from the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Bahrain endured rebukes from the UK and US ambassadors to Geneva. Both were angered by what they said were misrepresentations of private meetings they held with the Bahrain minister for human rights, after which Bahraini officials proclaimed UK and US support for the government’s human rights record.

It is more likely that Marzook’s arrest relates to the long-standing attempts of Bahraini hardliners to demonize and delegitimize the opposition than an obstinate response to international criticism, but if Bahrain’s recent past is any guide, there can be little doubt that its effect will be to stoke further dissent."

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

In Syria, Israel finds a 'blessed war'

Commentary: The Netanyahu government sees strategic benefits from a chastened Assad

By Max Blumenthal

"Much of the world reeled in horror at the scenes of destruction that accompanied the Iran-Iraq War during the 1980s. But as Iraqi jets pounded Tehran, and Iran struck back by sending waves of indoctrinated youth into the teeth of Iraq’s artillery, the Israeli government sat back and watched its ideal scenario play out. Two of its fiercest foes were grinding one another down in a war of attrition, with its patron in Washington providing both sides with everything from mortar rounds to assistance with chemical weapons.
We used to call the Iran-Iraq War the blessed war,” reflected Caroline Glick, a right-wing Israeli commentator and former aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “May it go on for a hundred years.”
Now Israel finds itself in a remarkably similar -- and equally advantageous -- situation. The civil war in Syria has turned major population centers from Homs to Aleppo into rubble, degrading the Assad regime’s military capacity. Its Lebanese client, Hezbollah, has suffered thousands of casualties in a counterinsurgency campaign across the Syrian border. Rebel forces press on but show no sign that they can topple Assad without aggressive U.S. intervention -- a scenario that the Obama administration has explicitly ruled out with its pledge of “surgical strikes,” and that the Israel’s military-intelligence apparatus appears to oppose as well.
Thus President Bashar al-Assad remains firmly in place, but as a weakened figure loathed by his former friends in the U.S. and Europe, and presiding over a country fragmented by sectarianism and infected with imported Muslim fundamentalists. For Israel, the situation represents the fulfillment of a strategy outlined by the neoconservative scholar Bernard Lewis, a favorite of Netanyahu and many of his advisers. “[A] possibility, which could even be precipitated by [Islamic] fundamentalism, is what has of late been fashionable to call ‘Lebanonization,’” Lewis wrote in an influential 1992 essay in Foreign Affairs called “Rethinking the Middle East.” “If the central power is sufficiently weakened, there is no real civil society to hold the polity together, no real sense of common identity … The state then disintegrates -- as happened in Lebanon -- into a chaos of squabbling, feuding, fighting sects, tribes, regions, and parties.”

An Israeli intelligence officer described Assad as 'the devil we know.'

Assad may represent the intermediary between Israel’s enemies Iran and the Shia militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon, but ultimately, Israel has always enjoyed a comfortable relationship with him. Assad has ensured that the Israeli-occupied frontiers of the Golan Heights have remained calm, and when Palestinian refugees from the Yarmouk camp in Damascus attempted to march on the Israeli-occupied frontier in 2011, Assad remained silent as Israeli soldiers gunned them down. Until the first moments of the Syrian uprising, he was engaged in prolonged negotiations with the Israeli government over the Golan Heights, a process that likely would have involved normalizing relations with Tel Aviv. Before the Syrian masses, Assad roared like a lion, but behind the scenes he treated Israel with a lambskin glove.
It is for these reasons that an Israeli intelligence officer described Assad to The Times of London this May as “the devil we know,” echoing an assessment offered by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon back in 2005. According to the “intelligence sources” quoted by the paper, “an intact, but weakened, Assad regime would be preferable for the country and for the whole troubled region.”
So why has the Israeli government expended so much energy pressing Washington to draw a red line on the Assad regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons, and why was the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the key outfit of America’s pro-Israel lobby, pressing Congress to authorize military force? The answer is not just about Syria. Indeed, in a press release calling for U.S. intervention, AIPAC homed in not on Damascus but Tehran, stating, “As we witness unthinkable horror in Syria, the urgency of stopping Iran’s nuclear ambitions is paramount.”
Zalman Shoval, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington and Netanyahu confidant, put it more succinctly when he declared, “The very fact that the U.S. was getting ready to act militarily in Syria is positive with regards to the situation in Iran. Confidence in an American commitment that Iran won’t get the bomb has been strengthened.”
Since Obama’s decision to seek congressional authorization for a military strike on Syria, Israeli media have depicted him as a weak, dithering figure who has failed to demonstrate “seriousness” in the face of evil. With U.S. missile strikes on hold, and possibly off the table, the Israeli government has begun disseminating threats that it will take matters into its own hands -- by bombing Iran, not Syria.
But even if the U.S. fails to intervene, the Israelis can take heart in knowing that the “blessed war” will continue well into the future."

Al-Jazeera Video: البحرية المصرية تعترض لاجئين سوريين وفلسطينيين

Have the Egyptians Gone Crazy?? Egypt: Frenchman dies in police custody amid rising tide of xenophobia

Jailed Canadian pair on hunger strike while Syrian refugees bear brunt of anger towards foreigners in wake of Morsi ousting

in Cairo
The Guardian,


Videos show Iranian officers supervising Syrian soldiers

Screen capture of a video showing an Iranian officer supervising Syrian army troops. 
France 24 
Videos published online seem to show Iranian military officers working with soldiers from Syria’s regular army, giving them advice and instructions for combat. This footage revives the debate over Iran’s military presence in Syria, even as Iranian authorities continue to deny that they have sent any  fighters there.
The videos surfaced online on September 9. They were published by the Daoud brigade, a rebel group based near Idlib, in northwest Syria, which fights the regime alongside rebel soldiers from the Free Syrian Army as well as jihadists from Jabhat Al Nusra. A spokesman for the Douad brigade told Al-Jazeera that they had obtained these videos from a camera they found during fighting in the Aleppo region. About a dozen regime soldiers were killed that day, according to the Daoud brigade, including an Iranian commander named Ismaïl Haydary, who can be seen in the videos. Iranian authorities claim this footage was faked; however, the footage has been reviewed by France 24 staff who speak Arabic and Persian, and they conclude that several details in the videos are strong evidence of their authenticity.
In this first video, the cameraman films inside a building bearing the inscription “Sayyida Rokaya headquarters” (named after the daughter of Hussein. Hussein was the son of Ali, the Islamic Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law, who is revered as a martyr by Shiite Muslims). The cameraman can be heard reading a poster in Arabic, and then translating it into Persian. He then films banners celebrating Ali and Hussein, who are revered by Iranian Shiites – but not by Alawites, who adhere to the branch of Shiism that Syrian president Bashar Al Assad belongs to. In the video, you can also see posters explaining the rules and security regulations that fighters must follow. This text is written in both Arabic and Persian.
In this second video, an officer gives orders to soldiers. This man’s uniform bears a Syrian flag in the back, but he speaks Persian with the cameraman. He talks to the soldiers in rather poor Arabic, with a thick Persian accent. He asks how many snipers are present (at 0’26”) and orders the soldiers to let enemy troops approach until they are just 50 metres away before opening fire.
At the end of this video, about three minutes in, the officer speaks in Persian to a soldier standing in a tank. This soldier bears a strong resemblance to Mohsen Haydary, a 29-year-old Iranian soldier that a Persian news site claimed died as a “martyr” two weeks ago. This website described Mohsen Haydary as a “defender of the Sayyida Zaynab mausoleum”, a Shiite holy site located near Damascus.
Mohsen Haydary is not the only Iranian identifiable in these videos. This next video features Ismaïl Haydary (no relation to Mohsen), the Iranian commander  the rebels claim they killed.
There has been some confusion as to Ismaïl Haydary’s identity. Some media outlets have described him as a documentary filmmaker. However, an official Iranian website published photos of his funeral, which took place in Iran, describing him as a “martyred general” and – like Mohsen - as a “defender of the Sayyida Zaynab mausoleum”. Portraits of him displayed at his funeral clearly show that he is the same man featured in the videos. 
A portrait of Ismaïl Haydary at the funeral. Published by an Iranian news site
Finally, in this last video, an Iranian officer and a cameraman carry out a conversation in Persian. The officer explains that the battle being fought in the region is particularly decisive, and talks about how hard it is to dislodge the rebels. At 3’50”, he stops to talk to a Syrian man whom he introduces to the cameraman as being a member of the Republican Guard, an elite division of the Syrian army headed by Assad’s brother Maher Al Assad. The two men embrace; the Iranian man then asks the Republican Guard officer to deploy his troops “even if the armed groups attack” (4’03”). The latter says he’ll follow these instructions and adds that he’s got soldiers securing the road.
The Syrian officer in the video does not seem troubled by the presence of a camera. All the videos are filmed in rather high quality, and the frame is stable. This lends credence to the Douad bridage’s claim that the footage was filmed with a camera and not a mobile phone. Perhaps not coincidentally, in late August, when the two Iranians seen in the videos were killed, a Persian news site mentioned that an Iranian filmmaker by the name of Hadi Baghbani had died in Syria. According to this site, Baghbani was killed by “Salafists” while filming “the Syrian army’s progress in its battle against jihadists”. The videos published by the Douad brigade may well have been found in his camera.
The numerous details cited above point to the authenticity of these videos. They show that Iranian military officers are helping supervise soldiers in Syria’s regular army. This is a claim that the rebels from the Free Syrian Army have repeated for a long time, but until now, it was difficult to prove. These videos also show that while these Iranian officers at times act as advisors, they also appear to give operational commands

Red Lines, Green Lights: Israel Still Angling for Attack on Syria and Iran

By Jonathan Cook  – Nazareth
Palestine Chronicle
Obama is not the only one to have set a red line.
But Israel also suspects that Damascus is likely to procrastinate on disarmament. In any case, efforts to locate and destroy its chemical weapons in the midst of a civil war will be lengthy and difficult.
And that may provide Israel with a way back in. Soon, as Israeli analysts are already pointing out, Syria will be hosting international inspectors searching for WMD, not unlike the situation in Iraq shortly before the US-led invasion of 2003. Israel, it can safely be assumed, will quietly meddle, trying to persuade the West that Assad is not cooperating and that Hizbullah and Iran are implicated.
In a vein Israel may mine later, a Syrian opposition leader, Selim Idris, claimed at the weekend that Damascus was seeking to conceal the extent of its stockpiles by passing them to Lebanon and Iraq.
Obama is not the only one to have set a red line. Last year, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, drew one on a cartoon bomb at the United Nations as he warned that the world faced an imminent existential threat from an Iranian nuclear weapon.

Israel still desperately wants its chief foe, Iran, crushed. And if it can find a way to lever the US into doing its dirty work, it will exploit the opening – regardless of whether such action ramps up the suffering in Syria."

Dispatches: Mapping the Sarin Flight Path

Human Rights Watch

"The UN inspectors investigating the chemical weapons attack on two suburbs in Damascus last month weren’t supposed to point the finger at the party responsible for the killings. But even so, the Sellstrom report revealed key details of the attack that strongly suggest the government is to blame, and may even help identify the location from which the Sarin-filled rockets that killed hundreds of people on August 21 were fired.
In appendix 5 of their report, after describing the size and structure of two rocket delivery systems used, they go one step further and actually reveal the direction some of the rockets likely came from. Using standard field investigative techniques examining the debris field and impact area where the rockets struck, the report provides precise azimuths, or angular measurements, that allow us to work out the actual trajectory of the rockets.
“Impact site number 1 (Moadamiya) and impact site number 4 (Ein Tarma),” the inspectors wrote, “provide sufficient evidence to determine, with a sufficient degree of accuracy, the likely trajectory of the projectiles.” They go on to say that 3 of the rockets they inspected had bearings of 34 and 35 degrees for 2 of the rockets that landed in Moadamiya, and 285 degrees for 1 of the rockets that landed in Ein Tarma.
Connecting the dots provided by these numbers allows us to see for ourselves where the rockets were likely launched from and who was responsible.
The two attack locations are located 16 kilometers apart, but when mapping these trajectories, the presumed flight paths of the rockets converge on a well-known military base of the Republican Guard 104th Brigade, situated only a few kilometers north of downtown Damascus and within firing range of the neighborhoods attacked by chemical weapons.
According to declassified reference guides, the 140mm artillery rocket used on impact site number 1 (Moadamiya) has a minimum range of 3.8 kilometers and a maximum range of 9.8 kilometers. The Republican Guard 104th Brigade is approximately 9.5 km from the base. While we don’t know the firing range for the 330mm rocket that hit impact site number 4, the area is only 9.6km away from the base, well within range of most rocket systems.
Click to enlarge map

This isn’t conclusive, given the limited data available to the UN team, but it is highly suggestive and another piece of the puzzle.
While this base will be an early port of call for international teams charged with securing Syria’s chemical weapons under a US-Russian plan to prevent future attacks, it is critical we do not forget about Ghouta’s victims and bring those guilty of this war crime to justice.
We keep saying this because it matters so much: it is vital to hold accountable those who have used chemical weapons in the recent past. The UN Security Council – including Russia and the US – should refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court as part of the upcoming resolution. Only by authorizing an impartial, independent investigation will we ensure justice for the victims in Ghouta.

Guardian Video: Syria: the story of a revolution


"'Maybe if you film the cats here and put them on YouTube people will help' … American filmmaker Matthew VanDyke is taken around the ruined streets of Aleppo by Mowya, a Free Syrian Army fighter and Nour, a photographer. They describe how the war has changed the lives, and how they remain resolved to fight for a democratic Syria despite the threat of death. Warning: this film contains violent scenes that some viewers may find distressing"

Al-Jazeera Video: لماذا تبخر شعار الممانعة والمقاومة من أول تهديد أميركي

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bashar al-Assad and his regime have prospered from the sarin gas attack

Syria's president will survive Ghouta crisis as US and western powers are shown to lack political authority to direct events,

Although the US and Britain have portrayed Syria's untested agreement to give up its chemical weapons stockpile as a great advance, the affair has proved to be largely a sideshow in a conflict in which conventional weapons have killed and maimed vastly more people, and continue to do so. In one sense, Assad has gained the tacit go-ahead to prosecute the war, so long as he eschews nerve gas. In the wake of this dubious deal, the high tide of pressure for direct western action peaked, then subsided. The "killer moment" passed.....

The Syrian leader now knows with a degree of certainty that was lacking before Ghouta that he may do almost anything he wants, while ostensibly observing the new US-Russian framework, free from fear of American military retribution. Since Ghouta was not enough for Obama to win the backing of the American public or congress for the use of force, more routine slaughter of the kind seen in the past two and a half years can hardly be expected to change attitudes.

Assad also knows that the leverage and influence, and therefore the protection afforded him by his main ally, Russia, has been greatly enhanced by the chemical weapons deal. Obama's confusion over his illusory "red lines", exposing his political weakness, gave Moscow an opening it seized with both hands. Russia is now setting the diplomatic pace and can dictate, for example, whether and when a Geneva II peace conference takes place, and what it discusses......"

Salafist Uncle Sam in Syria, by Carlos Latuff

Salafist Uncle Sam Syria

US Hypocrisy



By Eric Margolis
Military strike
"President Barack Obama foolishly backed himself into a corner during the growing Syrian crisis by issuing fatwas about mythological red lines. When his bluff got called, the silver-tongued president was left twisting in the wind.

Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize should be rescinded and given, instead, to Vladimir Putin.

Add a warning to Obama’s amateur foreign policy advisors: “don’t play chess with the KGB!”......"

Al-Jazeera Video: في العمق- مواقف الدول الخليجية من أحداث مصر الأخيرة

Russia and the weapons inspectors

Will Moscow change its tune on Syria chemical attacks?

By Brian Whitaker

Last Saturday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was still claiming that the attacks had been "fabricated" in order to "provoke a retaliation strike against the regime" of Bashar al-Assad.

Yesterday though, after publication of the inspectors' report, Vitaly Churkin, the Russian ambassador at the United Nations, was far more circumspect."The report is diligent but very technical," he said. "It avoids categorical judgments and inferences, and it needs to be studied."

While pointing out that the report offers no "bulletproof data or conclusions" as to who ordered the attacks, he continued: "As people examine it, everyone can draw their own conclusion, but I hope that won't be driven by political motives."

It's hard, of course, to regard Russia's position – its eagerness to exonerate the Assad regime at all costs – as driven by anything other than political motives, but we'll let that pass.

Although Russia's official line on the attacks looks increasingly unsustainable it has not been put directly on the spot because the inspectors were prevented from making "categorical judgments and inferences". Russia's best option, therefore, may be to say as little as possible from now on regarding who was responsible.

Despite the lack of judgments and inferences in the report, however, there is plenty of material for others to make inferences.

The sheer quantity of chemicals used points to a government source rather than the rebels, and Åke Sellström, head of the inspection team, has since told reporters that quality of sarin found in Ghouta was of a higher quality than that used by Saddam Hussein in Iraq's chemical weapons programme – which again points to a government producer....."

UN Security Council: Seize Chance for Justice in Syria

New Resolution Should Include ICC Referral

"(New York) – The resolution the United Nations Security Council is considering about the August 21, 2013 chemical weapon attacks in Syria should include a referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC). An ICC referral of the situation in Syria would be a major step toward achieving justice for victims of the attack and other atrocities by all sides in Syria’s armed conflict.

To lock up the chemical weapons and not prosecute those who used them is an affront to the civilians who died,” said Richard Dicker, international justice director at Human Rights Watch. “Referring Syria to the ICC is essential for justice for the tens of thousands of civilians killed in Syria by all sides since the conflict there began.”

Because Syria is not a member of the ICC treaty, the Security Council would have to give the court jurisdiction. A new Human Rights Watch document provides questions and answers about the referral process.

France included an ICC referral in an early draft of a Syria resolution, but there is concern that the clause could be eliminated for political concessions as negotiations progress, Human Rights Watch said....."

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sarin attack joins a long list of crimes in Syria, whose people cry out for justice

The 21 August chemical weapons attack should be referred to the international criminal court without delay

(Peter Bouckaert is emergencies director at Human Rights Watch),

الشطرنج الدموي في سورية

الياس خوري

زمط بشار الأسد من الضربة الامريكية، وتحقق انتصار قوى ‘الممانعة’ على الامبريالية! هكذا صار تدمير الأسلحة الكيميائية السورية التي قيل انها وجدت من اجل بناء توازن استراتيجي مع اسرائيل النووية، انتصارا على امريكا واسرائيل!يا عيني على اللغو الذي حل مكان اللغة.
‘الممانعة’ انتصرت اليوم كما انتصرت في هزيمة حزيران/يونيو عام 67. يومها افتى فلاسفة البعث ان العدوان الاسرائيلي فشل لأنه لم ينجح في اسقاط الأنظمة التقدمية! ومرت الكذبة وعاش العرب نشوة انتصارهم الكبير وسط مشاهد النابالم واللاجئين الجدد والجنود الهائمين على وجوههم حفاة، وبعدما احتلت اسرائيل سيناء والجولان والضفة وغزة.
اما معسكر المعارضة السورية الذي اهلكنا على الشاشات بحتمية الضربة، فإنه رغم كل امراضه، لم يصل الى احترافية ترقى الى احترافية الممانعين في صناعة الكذب، لذا انكفأ على نفسه، لاعنا خيانة الحليف الامريكي الذي لم يكن يوما حليفا الا في الاوهام.
كان من الممكن ابتلاع هذا الخواء والقول ان لا جديد تحت سماء العرب المرصّعة بفارغ الكلام، لولا ان هذا الكلام يأتي كي يحجب الدم، ويغسل جريمة سفاح الشام وديكتاتور
سورية، محولا سؤال الجريمة الى سؤال عن الأداة وليس عن مسؤولية المجرم.
والله صار الكلام معيبا ومخجلا، كيف تتكلم وسط ‘عصفورية’ المحللين الاستراتيجيين، الذين حولوا السياسة الى مسخرة؟
وبدل ان نستنتج دروس الشطرنج الأمريكي الروسي المغمس بالدماء، تاه الكلام وضاع التحليل، وصارت السياسة احجية تحتاج الى المنجمين!
تعالوا نحاول الخروج من هذا النفق المعتم، من اجل ان نقرأ لعبة الشطرنج التي وصلت الى ذروتها المفاجئة والمدهشة في الاقتراح الامريكي بتدمير السلاح الكيميائي السوري، الذي تحول الى مشروع روسي، ما لبث نظام الأسد ان وافق عليه ‘بأريحية’ مدهشة ومن دون اي تحفظات.
لا شك اننا امام لاعبَين ماهرَين يحسنان تحويل نقاط الضعف الى نقاط قوة، وهذه واحدة من تعريفات الديبلوماسة.
لكن لا بد من ان نشير اولا الى غياب اللاعب السوري او العربي، فهذا اللاعب لم يستطع الوصول الى مرتبة البيدق، بل كان مجرد رقعة الشطرنج. وكل محاولات وليد المعلم وبشّار الجعفري لبيدقة (اي تحويله بيدقا) معلمهما الكيماوي، باءت بالفشل.
الولايات المتحدة كانت تواجه مأزقا حقيقيا، فالخط الأحمر جرى تجاوزه في مجزرة الكيماوي الوحشية في الغوطة، وكان على باراك اوباما الذهاب الى عمل عسكري صغير ورمزي رغما عنه وفي ظل رفض الرأي العام الأمريكي والغربي لأي مغامرة عسكرية بعد البهدلة الامريكية في
اوباما المتردد والحمائمي والذي لا يريد اسقاط الأسد، (وهنا يقع جوهر الحكاية) لاقاه بوتين الصقري ولكن العاجز عن دخول الحرب من اجل انقاذ زبونه السوري. هكذا التقى التردد بالعجز من اجل صوغ واحدة من اكبر الخدع الديبلوماسية في زمننا. بزلة لسان اخرج كيري مشروع الكيماوي من كمه، فألتقطها لافروف وحولها الى اقتراح، ولم يكن على وليد المعلم سوى ان يقرأ بصوت مرتعش وكأنه يقرأ نصه للمرة الأولى، الموافقة السورية والى آخره…
زلة اللسان الامريكية كانت مسرحية اما الاتفاق فرُسمت ملامحه في قمة بيترسبورغ في مناخ ساده التجهم بين الزعيمين الامريكي والروسي، لكنه لم يكن تجهم الخلاف في وجات النظر فقط، بل كان ايضا تجهم الورطة السورية التي وجد الزعيمان نفسيهما عالقين فيها.
الأمور لم تنته هنا، لكن الاتفاق الكيماوي قد يكون الخطوة الأولى نحو تقنين الحالة السورية من قبل الدولتين الكبريين، وتحويلها الى معزل او كرنتينا للقتل والارهاب والى آخره، عبر ضبط تداعياتها ومنعها من الانتشار. اي ان قراءتي لهذا الاتفاق هو انه ليس خطوة نحو انهاء الحرب في سورية، بل هو خطوة نحو تنظيمها ومحاولة محاصرة تداعياتها.نزع الكيماوي يطمئن اسرائيل وهذا هو بيت القصيد الامريكي، ويعطي مظلة حياة مؤقتة لنظام الأسد، وهذا ما يريده الروس، ولا يسمح بانتصار الشعب السوري على جلاديه، وهذا ما تريده الولايات المتحدة وروسيا!
لا شك اننا امام ديبلوماسية مبهرة جاءت لتغطي العجز والتردد، وتوحي بأن ما يسمى بالنظام العالمي الذي لا يزال في طور تشكله، نجح في سحب فتيل الحرب في سياق معالجته لاحدى المشكلات الدولية المستعصية.
النظام السوري ومعه جوقة الممانعين، يرقصون طربا لانتصارهم، وهم يعلمون ان احـــد اســباب التردد الامريكي، ليس الخوف منهم بل الخــــوف علـيــهم من السقوط. فالامبــــريالية الامريكية لا تثق بقدرة اصــــدقائها وعمــــلائها على بناء نظام يضمن امن اسرائيل مثلما فعل نظام الأسد خلال اربعة عقود.
كما انها تتخوف من نفوذ التيارات الاسلامية المتطرفة في المعارضة السورية، وهو نفوذ يعود في جوهره الى عملائها العرب، الذين وجدوا في التيارات التكفيرية وصفة جاهزة لقتل روح الثورة الديموقراطية وتحويلها الى صراع سني شيعي مدمر.
المأزق اذا ليس مأزق الولايات المتحدة وروسيا في لعبة الشطرنج السورية، التي جعلها بوتين نافذته للعودة الى السياسة الدولية كشريك مضارب، بل هو مأزق الشعب السوري في مواجهة الاستبداد، الذي اثبت ان اسلحة الدمار الشامل التي يملكها ليست معدة ضد اسرائيل، بل مخصصة لابادة الشعب السوري، وتدمير احتمالات التغيير.نجح الاستبداد في تحويل سورية الى رقعة شطرنج يتبارى فيها اللاعبان الدوليان فوق انهار الدم والدموع، واثبت ان الجريمة لا حدود لها. لكنه لن ينجح في البقاء في السلطة، ولن يتمكن من سحق ارادة شعب التضحيات والمقاومة والصمود.
وهذا هو الرهان.