Archive for the 'Syria' Category

The general commander of People’s Defense Units (YPG) in an interview with SOHR, “We view al- Hasakah as a nucleus of the new democratic Syria

From the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR)
October 1 2015
For those on Face Book the SOHR has a regular update on clashes and casualties etc..

“Daesh is a force of darkness, it bears no relation to Islam and the humanity, and we appeal to our Arab brothers, who left their villages and towns, to go back home”.

“The war may continue for ten years; it is the nations’ game on my the land of my country, where the victim in this war is my people”.

In these words, Siban Hammo the general commander of People’s Defense Units (YPG) concluded his interview with SOHR.

People’s Defense Units, known by YPG too, established a military force in the last four years, where the number of its fighters reached to 50000. The nucleus formation began in the Syrian Jaziar with the end of 2011, where it was able to achieve victories against “Islamic State” as well as its clashes with the regime forces, Jabhat al- Nusra (al- Qaeda in Levant) and Islamist factions in successive periods. It military formations have distributed in three main region where the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is combined with People’s Defense Units (YPG) within the Democratic Society System, declared the establishment of 3 districts of al- Jazira, Efrin and Kobani in the late January 2014.

YPG has gained world-wide fame during IS attack on Ayn al- Arab (Kobani) and seizing more than 356 towns, villages and farms that guided to the military alliance between YPG and US-led coalition. SOHR could interview the general commander of YPG Siban Hammo, where the main points on the Kurdish and Syrian arena in general.

First of all, how do identify YPG?

“best definition of it is its name People’s Defense Units, its fundamental pillar is the young Syrian Kurdish men who are militarily disciplined, while its mission is to protect the people in Rojava in all its constituents under these deadly mess in the cantons of Rojava”. Rojava is an expression for the regions inhabited mostly by Kurdish people in Syria.

Is it faction from the Krilla forces – the military wing of PKK? And does it fight on Turkish territories with PKK?

“YPG is a military force belongs to the Democratic Self- Management in Rojava, and it is fighting in fierce battles to protect its regions, so YPG has no interest to open a front with Turkey expanding to hundreds of kilo meters, this is a military suicide, and what is said on the contrary of this is meaningless and does not merit a response.

What is your response to the accusations of recruiting children?

“We have issued a lot of statement in response to these allegations but it seems that some people insist on repeating this just to defame the good reputation gained by YPG, we all know who recruit children as fighters and suicide bombers by the name of Jihad.”

What is the relationship between the Self- Defense Forces, which was announced some time ago, and YPG? Is it an attempt to increase YPG personnel obligatorily? And is it a permanent or temporary step?

“The Self- Defense is a step to organize a permanent protection, where the society in all its constituents protects its self, and to that time YPG stays the most experienced in defending our areas. For this reason, the Self- Defense is a goal we seek to reach to, and its first step was YPG.”

Now, let talk about the hottest event, what is the story behind the last clashes in al- Sheikh Maqsoud in Aleppo?

“To answer this question, we have to see the whole picture, provocations have started by attacking our areas in the villages of Deir Ballout and Diwan as well as kidnapping civilians and banditry; the last one was the attempt of arm-twisting by their attack on the neighborhood of al- Sheikh Maqsoud believing that it is the weakest link because it is far from the center of gravity Efrin and due to the difficulties of ensuring logistic support, as the neighborhood besieged for more than a week and the humanitarian situation there is so bad specially because the neighborhood is inhabited by more than 250000 civilians from all society constituents.

We also draw attention to the point that the national members in the opposition were disturbed about this attack on the neighborhood of al- Sheikh Maqsoud, I, in turn, wondered and would you like you to wonder like me, who benefit from this attack? And who benefit from opening a front against the kurds? What is the advantages?

“Simply, Jabhat al- Nusra, al- Soltan Morad Brigade and Ahrar al- Sham Movement are agents for another force in fighting Kurds, and this force or the third-party gave them the orders to open this front.”

What is the prospect of the battle in Aleppo, is it a defensive or offensive measure?

“From our side, the battle is defensive, we respond to the sources of fire and protect the outskirt of the neighborhood. But if the same situation continue surely we are going take more stringent measures, and we are going to change the battle into the offensive position, I do not say that we are going to control more areas but I assure that we are going to hurt them and targeting their held areas.”

Do you think that Ahrar al- Sham, Jabhat al- Nusra, al- Zinki and other factions may alley themselves to attack Efrin?

“Jabhat al- Nusra believe in Bay’ah (in Islamic terminology, is an oath of allegiance to a leader) and does not believe in alliances simply because it does not believe in partnership, it endeavors to control all the factions exist in its-held areas whether by force or enticement by lining the pockets.

In addition, it is practically controls Nour al- Din Zinki Movement, part of al- Shamiyyah Front like al- Sham Legion and even with Soqor al- Jabal battalions supported by US. However, anyone refuses to join Jabhat al- Nusra is going to be assassinated as what happened to Hazem Movement, the Syrian revolutionaries Front and the Division Jabhat al- Nusra is unveiling the reality of its method that is assassination or control, and after that it will mobilize against Efrin. Here, I want to add something, it saddened us that there are some people in the Free Syrian Army who do not differ from Jabhat al- Nusra in their actions.”

Is the truce in Kefrayya and al- Fu’ah in the countryside of Idlib will have negative effect on Efrin particularly on Atmah and Jandirs front?

“We do not count very much on this agreement as it is a periodical and tactical one, we hope to be a success to alleviate the humanitarian suffering of civilians, women and children on both sides. However, as realistic reading, we do not expect it to be a success especially after a lot of breaches occurred in the past 2 days. Concerning Jabhat al- Nusra, we are enemies and what made the situation getting worse is the declarations issued by it several times that when they finish fighting in al- Fu’ah they are going to attack Efrin. Regardless al- Zabadani – al- Fu’ah agreement, the war between us has been declared for a time sometimes directly and sometime indirectly.”

How do you evaluate the current the situation in al- Hasakah, and what is your goal in the area?

“From the military aspect, the situation from al- Hasakah to Kobani is a defensive one. So, after expelling Daesh from al- Hasakah, Kobani and Tal Abyad our units are deployed defensively to repel any possible attack carried by IS militants.

“We view al- Hasakah as a nucleus of the new democratic Syria. For this reason, we are working on establishing joint councils includes Kurds, Arabs and Syriacs, and on increasing the communication among all constituents. So, the success of our project in al- Hasakah is the motivation to fine similar solution that could be applied on the whole Syria where Syria will be free and democratic for all people.

What about the ongoing military actions in the countryside of Ayn al- Arab (Kobani)?

“The military operation in the countryside of Kobani is under the military operation room of Burkan al- Forat that includes YPG and some factions of the Free Army, so this operation is going to continue until we reach al- Raqqa and expel Daesh from it. YPG is committed to providing all kinds of support to the factions of the Free Army affiliated to the military operation room of Burkan al- Forat in order to defeat Daesh and retake al- Raqqa.”

Were you going to achieve these glory victories in Ayna al- Arab (Kobani) without US-led coalition support?

“To be realistic, we cannot deny the role offered by US-led coalition in Koabani battle but frankly speaking, I confirm that the legendary resistance and courage of our fighters as well as their ability to scarify their blood were behind these victories. So, US-led coalition had an important role but it is not the basic one.

Under these victories, there are some parties accuse you of seeking to secede from Syria in order to establish a Kurdish entity.

“These are false accusations, the Turkish government underlies them where it tries to portray any Kurdish strife as if it is a secessionist movement. Rather, those who repeat these accusations should communicate with us and see our project, then they will discover that our main project for Syria is establishing a pluralist parliamentary democratic system, and that it is Syrian project par excellence for all the constituents of Syrian people. It is the real guarantee for the unity of Syria, so stop repeating Erdogan speech like parrots. I would like also to ask them, is the stay of Daesh in Jarablos and the countryside of Aleppo is a guarantee for the unity of Syria?!”

What is your response about that YPG displaces the Arabs from their regions?

Frankly speaking, we got bored of these blatant lies and falsehoods, we issued a formal statement about that, as well as many human rights organizations have refuted these allegations. In war, it is very normal that the civilians will leave the clashing areas towards safer places, and that what happened in all the clashing areas in Syria from Horan to Qameshlo, but those who have been disturbed by our victories and tolerance and humanity turned to confuse what we have achieved. In addition, we have repeatedly launched appeals for the citizens to return to their homes, and allow me to reiterate the call from your rostrum to all citizens on order to come back to their homes.”

Too much talk about your relation with the regime especially after al- Hasakah clashes, how do you explain this relation if any?

“These accusations are the same of accusations of seeking to secede, so those who repeat such accusations have closed their minds on two ways, whether to be with me or with the regime. I said to them we the are the third line. Our revolution against injustice and tyranny has its own special way that is nor similar to anything. We are convinced of the impossibility of the military solution for the Syria crisis but it should be a cultural, intellectual and political one. Therefore, we depend on ensuring protection to the citizen who will build new democratic Syria; the peaceful Syria. We are friends of people and friends of all those who want democracy and equality.

Earlier, you held a truce with Jabhat al- Nusra and other Islamist factions, if there is any mediation are you going to hold a truce with “Islamic State”?

“Our conviction is that Daesh is a force of darkness, it bears no relation to Islam and the humanity, even it is criminal force established to destroy all what is human. In my opinion, there is no big difference between Jabhat al- Nusra and Daesh but the war with al- Nusra is a little bit complicated because there are a lot of Syrians in its ranks and because there are some parties attempting to burnish its image on media. As for the truce, there was no truce between only Jabhat al- Nusra and us but it always was with several factions and Jabhat al- Nusra was signing with them on the truce.”

Lastly, what is your vision for the realistic solution of Syria crisis?

Unfortunately, what is happening in Syria, we can call it clashes of titans; it is more like a third world war, where the major powers are fighting to divide the zones of influence in the world.”

“The solution is not in the hand of Syrian now, it is related with the contesting powers, we see it a war of change of maps, divisions, agreements and mentalities that are hundreds years old. Syria is also a conflict center and the solution of disputes will be on its land. Unfortunately, our point of view is that the war may take dozens of years, and all what the Syrian people can do is having the will and the attempt to achieve a joint project that protects them, reduce the losses and help them to promote strongly at the end of war.”

“The war will not stop in Syria but it will extend to all the Middle East and my extend more than that, and then will see a reverse migration from all countries towards Syria which will be the safest country.”

Russia back on the frontline

I have been asked to publish this for discussion.

by TOM SWITZER

The Australian

September 30, 2015 12:00AM

Since Russia’s incursion into Ukraine 18 months ago, the West has indulged in the rhetoric of moral indignation, punished Moscow with economic sanctions and treated Vladimir Putin as a pariah in world affairs. “Russia is isolated with its economy in tatters,” President Barack Obama declared in January. “That’s how America leads — not with bluster but with persistent, steady resolve.”

Somebody forgot to tell the Russian President. Putin’s address to the UN General Assembly this week, following his lightning military deployment to Syria, marks Russia’s resurgence on the global stage. The Russians, far from being marginalised in international relations, are playing a weak hand rather skilfully and are being allowed to do so because of considerable ineptitude and vacillation on the part of the Obama administration.

The upshot is that Washington will have to take the Kremlin far more seriously in the future. This is not just because Putin’s support for the embattled Assad regime will help degrade and destroy Islamic State jihadists in a four ­year civil war that has claimed nearly 250,000 lives and displaced more than nine million people. Rather, Russia’s intervention in Syria shows how rational Moscow’s concerns over Western policy in the Middle East are, and that the Obama administration had better start treating it like the great power it still is.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Moscow voluntarily jettisoned the Warsaw Pact and acquiesced in the expansion of NATO and the EU on to the frontiers of the former Soviet Union. But the limits of Russia’s post ­Cold War retreat have been evident since the Western ­backed coup against a pro-Russian ally in Kiev in February last year. Putin has played hardball to protect what Russia has deemed as its sphere of influence in the Baltics long before Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin appeared on the scene. And in the Middle East it is determined to protect what it perceives as its vital interests.

Putin fears that if Bashar al­Assad’s regime falls, Russia’s presence in western Syria and its strategic military bases on the Mediterranean will be gone. That is why he has sent tanks, warships, fighter jets and troops to bolster the regime, which has faced a troop shortage and loss of towns as it seeks to maintain Alawite rule over an overwhelming Sunni majority.

And by reaching an understanding with Syria as well as Iraq and Iran to share intelligence about Islamic State, Putin is positioning Russia again as a key player in the Middle East, and one that is more willing than the West to defeat Sunni jihadists. In the process, he has exposed the shortcomings of the White House’s policy towards Syria.

Until recently, the prevailing wisdom held that the Assad regime — the nemesis of Sunni militants was on the verge of collapse, an outcome that Washington, London and Canberra had enthusiastically encouraged for much of the past four years. And although Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop now recognise that Assad must be part of any negotiated political solution, the Obama administration continues to insist that any resolution of the conflict must lead to the exit of the dictator.

US Secretary of State John Kerry warns Russia’s continued support for Assad “risks exacerbating and extending the conflict” and will undermine “our shared goal of fighting extremism”. British Chancellor George Osborne goes so far as to say the West’s aim should to be to defeat both Assad and Islamic State. But given Washington’s futile attempts to destroy the Sunni jihadist network during the past year, most seasoned observers of the Syrian crisis are entitled to think that such strategies are manifest madness.

The consequences of removing Assad would be dire. The regime would collapse and its Alawite army would crumble. Sunni jihadists such as Islamic State and al­Qa’ida’s Syrian affiliate Jabhat al­Nusra, also known as al­Nusra Front, would exploit the security vacuum and dominate all of Syria. The ethnic minorities — the Alawites, Shi’ites and Syrian Christians — would be massacred. And there would be the flight of millions more refugees into Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

If we are to avoid these horrific outcomes, Russia will have to play a central and positive role. It has had significant influence in Damascus during the past half century; indeed, many Syrian military officers have received training in Moscow. Russia’s navy and advanced anti­aircraft missile systems are based along the Mediterranean. It’s likely to deploy ground troops to the eastern coast. And Moscow has recognised that notwithstanding Assad’s brutal conduct, his regime is fighting the jihadists that Western leaders repeatedly say pose a grave and present danger to the world.

Obama says the US would work with any nation to end the fighting in Syria. But to engage Russia, the West needs to change its policy approach substantially. Alas, the prevailing Russophobia in Washington and Brussels remains a serious obstacle in the path of reaching accommodation with Moscow.

The problem in Ukraine is not related to a revival of the Soviet empire, as some hyperventilating politicians and pundits argue. The problem is the widespread Western failure to recognise an old truth of geopolitics: that a great power fights tooth and nail to protect vital security interests in its near abroad. Take Ukraine: it is a conduit for Russian exports to Europe and covers a huge terrain that the French and Germans crossed to attack Russia in the 19th and 20th centuries. Most Crimeans are glad to be part of the country they called home from Catherine’s rule to that of Nikita Khrushchev.

From Moscow’s standpoint, the expansion of NATO and the EU into Russia’s traditional sphere of influence, taken together with efforts to promote democracy, is akin to Moscow expanding military alliances into Central America. Some may respond by saying that Ukraine, however ethnically and politically divided it remains, has every right to join the West. But did communist Cuba have a right to seek political and military ties with the Soviet Union in 1962? Not from Washington’s perspective. Does Taiwan have a right to seek nationhood? Not from Beijing’s perspective.

This is a shame, but it is the way the world works, and always has. Not only does Putin know it, he calculates that a weak, inept and cautious Obama administration won’t push the issue despite the dire threats and warnings from congress and the Pentagon.

And so it was inevitable that the Russians would push back in the Baltics, first to secure the Crimean peninsula, the traditional home of the Russian Black Sea fleet (which Russian intelligence feared would become a NATO base), then to destabilise Ukraine with the aim of persuading Kiev’s anti ­Russian regime to protect the minority rights of ethnic Russians and maintain its status as a buffer state.

As for Syria, the problem here is not the Russians — or even Iran’s Shia crescent of Damascus, Baghdad, Hezbollah and the Yemeni rebels. After all, they’re committed to fighting Sunni jihadists. The problem is that US ­British aligned Sunni states — Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arabs — have aided and abetted the Sunni rebellion that has morphed into Sunni jihadism.

Yet these reactionary regimes still have the temerity to call for Assad’s ouster. Following regime change, we’re told, a US­ led coalition of Arabs and Turks can create a peaceful and prosperous Syria.

Leave aside the fact Assad’s support stems not just from Moscow and Tehran but also from Syria’s military, political and business elites, including many urban Sunnis. Assad is a brutal tyrant. He has used chemical weapons against his own people. And he has launched relentless barrel bombs in rebel areas. But he is more popular than ever in the one ­third of Syria his regime still controls (which happens to be the major cities and the coastland). That is largely because many know his demise would lead to widespread ethnic cleansing.

The idea that Assad’s fall would lead to something approaching a peaceful transition of power is as delusional as the neo­conservative views about Iraq and Libya in 2003 and 2011 respectively. The downfall of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, it was onfidently asserted, would lead to viable democratic states. If anything, both post­Saddam Iraq and post­Gaddafi Libya are failed states that have attracted terrorists like flies to a dying animal.

As in the case of Iraq, Syria is an artificial state and an ethnically divided society created out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. In both nations the invasion and civil war, respectively, have unleashed centrifugal forces that are eroding political structures and borders that have prevailed since the end of World War I.

In Iraq, the 2003 invasion ended the nation’s sectarian imbalance between the minority Sunni and majority Shia communities. Ever since, the Shia have been more interested in seeking revenge against their former Sunni tormentors than in building a nation. The result: a Sunni insurgency that has morphed into a plethora of jihadist groups, including Islamic State.

In Syria, the Arab Spring in 2011 encouraged the Sunni majority to challenge and destroy the minority Alawite regime. The result: centrifugal forces that threaten the viability of Syria as we have known it for nearly a century.

As unfashionable as it is to acknowledge, partition is the likely outcome of the civil war. According to Joshua Landis, a veteran Syria observer and director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, many Syrians, and Alawites in particular, privately acknowledge that the prospect of outright military victory against the Sunni militants is highly unlikely and that it would be impossible to coexist with Sunni fanatics.

For Syria, partition would most likely mean an Alawite Shia state in the regime’s western heartland and a Sunni state to the southeast. Notwithstanding statements to the contrary, this is the emerging reality on the ground.

As long as the regime endures, it at least prevents Sunni jihadists from consolidating their hold over the whole nation and creating a strategic sanctuary along Syria’s coasts.

The moral and political problems posed by Syria’s civil war during the past four years have been real and extremely difficult ones. Assad heads a brutal regime that, according to The Washington Post, has killed about seven times as many people as Islamic State in the first six months of this year.

But the cold, hard reality is that if the US and its allies are serious about defeating the Sunni jihadists, and not merely determined to feel virtuous and moralistic, we will need to tone down our anti­Russian bombast, restore a dialogue with Putin and recognise the madness of regime change in Damascus.  And if that means accommodating Putin’s power play in the Middle East, so be it.

Tom Switzer is a research associate with the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. His interview with Joshua Landis airs on Between the Lines on the ABC’s Radio National on Thursday at 7.30pm and Sunday at 10am.

 

The following pic is from Radio Free Syria and is an image of Russian bombs near Roman ruins and Kafranbel Oct. 1st. 2015

Russiabombs2

Syrian Links

Drop any links that you think may be useful for getting to grips with ‘Syrian issues’ in this thread.

Here is a sample .

 

 

 

End Baath 2

1    I would fully endorse the statements that ‘A GLOBALIZED WORLD WITH OPEN BORDERS CANNOT PEACEFULLY COEXIST WITH FASCISM!’ and that ’FASCISM MEANS WAR’.  So, as there are fascists like Putin all over the world currently in charge of large military formations and busy making war, the question arises; how do anti-fascists unite to fight back?  How do we intend to defeat the fascists? To the extent that western governments are still sitting on the fence; then like Libya the situation will get worse till they get off the fence and in this case end the Assad tyranny as they simultaneously deal with Daesh types.  It is a war of two fronts.

2    IMV ‘a devastating regional war spreading from Syria throughout the region with profound implications for Europe and the rest of the world’ is already underway and thus can’t be avoided. Diplomacy and military actions must now proceed together, but what are the diplomats tasks now?  What are the military tasks?  Who has real skin in the game?

3    I think the evidence is overwhelming that Obama and Putin really are strategic imbeciles but Putin is the fascist not Obama. Obama is just a treacherous liberal that could care less even about ruling class national interests when there is a big price to pay.  Dithering is as dithering does.

4    Turkey, Britain and France cannot directly act against Russian meddling in Syria. It is now quite apparent that the era of imperialism is so long gone for these powers that they are in essence reliant on the U.S. in leading them as a united COW, or better still as a part of a united NATO action. Even though ‘they have no real rapid deployment capability, and no strategic airlift or sealift capability capable of moving any militarily relevant force within any reasonable time frame’ they don’t really require it.  Turkey has the capacity to drive heavy columns straight down the roads to the sound of the guns. Britain and France could deploy strategically useful elements to Cyprus, and Turkey, and even Jordan. They could with a few days notice for some and weeks to months notice for others. The planners ought to have been planning on contingent intervention for some years then refined and adjusted several times over by now. This issue had already long ago got to the point of a vote in the British parliament over bombing in Syria. Now we have had reports of the British using killer drones recently despite the vote.  The vote would I think be different now.

5     It is perfectly true but irrelevant that ‘by simply closing the Mediterranean and hence Syria to hostile shipping, which they can still do quickly, they can remind Russia’s military that Russia is not, never has been and never will be a mediterranean power’  but they will not push against Putin in this manner and he is well aware that they would not because it would mean war if they did. Yet Putin really is an imbecile! Unfortunately so were the likes of Hitler; Tojo; and Mussolini; and there were people like Yamamoto telling them so, but they could not stop the madness unfolding. They will all stand back and shrug that it is NOT ‘their duty to dispose of him quickly’, but only to increase in measured ways what they are doing now, and what they have been doing is so far been little and late. They are useless!

6     Obama really is a strategic imbecile who has been up in Alaska preparing for the Global warming Paris event!  This refugee ‘flood’ is unfolding in the media every day and he is MIA. In 15 months he will been gone! And when it comes to war making he wants to be gone! So, it will be a year or more for everyone, most probably including the U.S. to mobilize a force capable of serious intervention in Syria.

7     Turkey has long advocated removing the Assad regime and has all along pointed out ‘that there is no other way to avoid millions of refugees continuing to pour out of Syria.’  Yet the ‘stable’ democratic Turkish government have got nowhere with Obama and the situation has got worse and themselves much less stable.  A war is resuming again in Turkey with not just the worst of the Kurdish nationalists but with all manner of anti- Turkish forces having an interest in seeing that it break out and bog the Turkish military down. Even the threat of it is beneficial to Assad and Putin.

8     The executive in both Britain and France is terribly conservative and are still only managing the refugees rather than dealing with the source of those refugees.  They are not even raising the alarm about Putin’s ridiculous intervention to establish and preserve in Syria something that resembles Israel. They can’t do that.

9     There could not be any Anglo ­French expeditionary force in 2015 or 16.  The ruling elites of both countries will manage the Syrian casualties but not take any of their own.  There is no effective system that exists after the Europeans deserted Bush and Obama deserted U.S. leadership. There is nothing other than ineffective thrashing about while the war goes on with those that are prepared to put boots on the ground. Enter the fascists led by Putin.

10     In the midst of all this the West’s own little fascist – Netanyahu – is provoking the Palestinians of East Jerusalem and is thus preparing public opinion to make more war on the Palestinians; even no doubt as he prepares to pull out of more of the West Bank and create yet another vast open air prison.

11     Putin has made it impossible to simply declare war on Assad. No one can now announce ‘a no fly zone and an intention to start enforcing it’ without dealing with Russian air assets. It is now a hot war where Russian helicopter gun ships must be shot down in numbers over an extended period. Russians fighting as Martians might have to be copied as tit for tat.  There was ‘European public opinion that would certainly swing behind a no fly zone and accelerate a rapid shift in US public opinion’ but they were not banking on war with Putin’s troops.

12     The ruling elites won’t act quickly enough so the war ‘will take much longer and will be a much bigger and bloodier regional war than if they act immediately while Obama still dithers.’

13     But just because FASCISM MEANS WAR progressives have to propose a fighting response to tyranny. So… All air defences close to the borders of Turkey and Jordan must be extended deeper into Syria. That is to say that what is sauce for Putin in Martian activity is sauce for everyone else in enforcing the shooting down of anything that is dropping barrel bombs on the Syrian people.  Trouble is that really does require boots on the ground and until they are put in Putin will continue to implement real war for the establishment of the fascist enclave.  Russians flying helicopters are going to be the direct enemy of anyone wanting the revolutionary transformation of the now contested part of Syria that Putin has determined to preserve as a predominantly Alawite and Baathist led enclave.

14     As for Germany; Merkel is not any sort of leader worth a cracker like say Mao and he most certainly did not permit uncontrolled sloshing about of peoples’.  The refugee issue is not resolved by open borders! It is childish to think that devil take the hindmost people are even 1st priority in a war where the people under attack are being barrel bombed for wanting to vote. Any form of NO FLY WAR NOW is the priority to stop the – Putin, Assad, Netanyahu style policies of driving refugees off their land!

15     Country shopping for economic benefit is all well and good for the lucky ones but it will not solve anything for the proletarian classes who will lose their doctors; engineers; and so forth with the get up and go initiative who do go off to the ‘good life’ in the developed West.  The West just can’t rob the undeveloped world of their best and brightest and then all the terribly progressive people feel so good about it!

16     No one can, for example, pretend that Abbott did not stop people drowning!  People were drowning. People are now drowning in the Mediterranean sea and no policy that yabbers on about open borders will be acceptable currently to the masses. That desirable distant policy relies on what Europe had to do to get its borders lifted.  The U.S. in the 19thC taking the huddled masses did not prevent the mass slaughter of the 20thC world wars.  When people are being driven in their millions out of THEIR land and cities THAT is the issue.

17     No rubble producing fascist enclave that generates mass deaths and refugees as policy can be permitted to keep going on with their policies!

18     Obama and Putin are engaged in what appears to me as complete imbecility because of their own logic that includes in Obama’s case outright ruthless neglect.  No ‘well executed misinformation campaign’ here just exactly the sort of disaster that we ought to expect from a collapsing international system.  The revanchist sees an opportunity and as his only tool is a hammer then it must be a nail.

19     The ‘US and Russia are NOT cooperating to assist the Assad regime to move out of Damascus and retreat to a coastal enclave’, and so ‘that could NOT still count as America still exhausting every other alternative before eventually doing the right thing.’, but Obama might grasp at this stupid straw.  It may look good to him now that [something like] it is happening anyway. Whatever he thinks I am sure Damascus can not be lost by Assad and any enclave held in the long term. So, I do not think that Putin and Assad have conceded Damascus in any sense at all, and I am sure Obama knows jack shit about what to be getting on with other than some climate change clap trap for Paris.  The f..ing ‘leader of the free world’ is MIA over the refugee flow.

20     Putin does not intend to ‘escort the Assad clan out of Syria’. He is joining the Iranians and making war. Of course if he was ‘providing temporary protection for the Alawi and other minority communities until international peacekeepers can arrive’, then of course ‘nothing should be said or done to prejudice that operation.’  But that is not what is happening because if it was he would not have sprung it on all of them.  He is putting the enemies of Assad between a Western anvil and his hammer and also bringing in his own anvil to smash Western supported FSA types on as and when he chooses.  He is fighting the Western supported FSA types from the start.

21     Without very big U.S. backing Europe and Turkey simply do not have the stomach to stop the war in Syria that is however now a “clear and certain danger” to their vital national interests.  They will continue to try and bumble along managing refugees and being humiliated by Putin bumbling around like a crazed loon with a hammer.  The only international system that was operating was one of U.S. superpower leadership and with Obama at the helm it is currently not functioning as well as on the way out strategically.  So the situation will get even worse!

22     Perhaps as Iyad El-Baghdadi @iyad_elbaghdadi says ‘The Syrian catastrophe was very preventable, if the world’s red line was “killing protesters” rather than “drowned refugee toddlers”.’,  but that is the past and the question for all now is what is to be done to stop Assad and his great and powerful gangster friend killing democratic revolutionaries into the future.

Syria is Charlie Hebdo without the world’s focus

French cartoonists aren’t the only one’s having problems with Islamo-fascists. Cartoonist and anti-Assad activist, Raed Fares is finding it difficult to stay away from the ‘justice’ of thugs when he is in Kafranbel, a town in Syria’s Idlib province. He narrowly survived a shower of bullets on Jan. 28th 2014 after leaving his office around midnight to travel home. His car and the brick wall close by were reportedly riddled with bullets luckily most missed and he survived after being shot twice in the back.

Meanwhile, a year later on January 17th 2015 Jabhat al-Nusra (JAN) soldiers behaved like thugs when they occupied the community offices of the Mazaya women’s centre in response to a wild rumour. It’s a training centre for tailors, hairdressers and nurses, which also houses a Free Syria radio station and office for a publication. Workers and activists were beaten and forced to leave and threatened with beheading if any returned. A pregnant woman was beaten and there were fears for the unborn child but thankfully mother and child have stabilised.

This cowardly attack was prompted by nothing more than false rumours that the publication of ‘mocking and insulting pictures of the Prophet Mohammad’ was ‘imminent’. So it appears that wild and false rumours are all that is needed to disrupt national coalition processes and have these bullies invade the women’s space, where they were uninvited by the unveiled women and where they then beat them and abused them further calling them whores. These thugs were REALLY ‘mocking and insulting’ their own code.

Although real free speech allows for the right to offend, and say what others do not want to hear – in this case in Syria building a united front requires that this not occur just as it requires that atheists have the right to exist and promote their beliefs. Offending each other is not productive and serves the enemy whatever that enemy believes about the after life.

JAN occupiers have now withdrawn from the offices and JAN officials have claimed that the incident was unauthorised and that they will rectify this error.

Banners from Kafranbel have consistently caught the attention of English readers since the outbreak of the fighting in Syria now roughly 4 years ago, and with a death toll over 200,000. It is difficult to concisely convey messages especially in a second language but the Kafranbel activists have poignantly portrayed the demands and hardships of life in Syria and their humour and courage seems to know no limits. It appears that JAN is the only authority at present in Kafranbel as it was necessary to lodge a complaint against these crimes with JAN itself.

Some examples of messages from Kafranbel.
Syria inactivity

to die on the feet Syria

Obama waits people die

For further examples

For background Raed Fares and Kafranbel activists

PKK commander threatens to resume war

Cemil Bayik, the PKK’s top field commander, is interviewed by Al-Monitor in the Kandil Mountains, September 2014. (photo by Amberin Zaman)

Exclusive: From

On Sept. 24, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) issued a highly critical statement. In a nutshell, it said that Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had “eliminated” the conditions of a mutually observed 18-month cease-fire between the PKK and the Turkish army. It said that, in response to “the AKP’s war against our people, our leadership council has decided to step up its struggle in every area and by all possible means.” I had heard similar words on Sept. 21 from Cemil Bayik, the top PKK commander in the field, during a three-hour meeting I had with him in a tent in the Kandil Mountains.

In an exclusive interview, the Kurdistan Workers Party’s (PKK) top military commander, Cemil Bayik, says that Turkey has sabotaged the peace process and the PKK is ready to resume open conflict.
Author Amberin Zaman Posted September 25, 2014

“We may resume our war at the end of September. We have the authority to resume the war,” Bayik said.

“What of the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan?” I asked.

“We have a division of labor. Our leader has the authority to make peace,” he replied.

I couldn’t believe my ears. “Are you sure?” I asked repeatedly, because his words could have profound consequences for Turkey and its government.

Bayik responded positively: “We will be making a statement to this effect,” he said.

I thus decided to wait for the PKK to make its statement before publishing this interview. I did not want to be the first to impart the gloomy news. Because in the repressive climate that is gripping Turkey, I might have been accused of warmongering. So, is there a real risk that the insurgency will resume? Won’t Ocalan have the final say? Is the PKK’s statement no more than a tactical move aimed at putting pressure on the government? I would say yes to both questions. That said, with every passing day that the AKP government fails to take concrete steps to solve the Kurdish problem, the risk of the cease-fire’s ending grows. I raised all of these issues with Bayik, who hasn’t set foot in Turkey since 2000.

The following are the highlights of the interview he gave to Al-Monitor:

Al-Monitor: How is the Islamic State [IS] onslaught against Kobani [the Syrian Kurdish-majority town of Ayn al-Arab on the Turkish border] affecting the peace process in Turkey?

Bayik: The attacks by Daesh [the initials of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham] against Kobani helped elucidate two things. One was whether Turkey’s collaboration with Daesh is continuing or not. The other is whether the peace process is continuing in the north [i.e., Turkey] or not. What emerged is that Turkey is continuing its relations with Daesh and that Turkey will not solve the Kurdish problem in the north. Because a Turkey that supports Daesh’s attacks against Kobani, that seeks to depopulate Kobani and lobbies for the establishment of a buffer zone cannot sever its ties with Daesh. Because if it did so Daesh would expose all of Turkey’s dirty laundry, and document the links between them.

Al-Monitor: Are you able to prove that these links exist?

Bayik: Before Daesh attacked Kobani, Turkish officials contacted the YPG [the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units] official responsible for Kobani. They warned him that should the YPG attack the Shah tomb [the Ottoman Tomb of Suleiman Shah inside Syria, which is guarded by Turkish troops and considered Turkish territory] that Turkey would retaliate in kind. I repeat, they said this before we were aware that Daesh would attack. Isn’t this strange?

Second, two days after the campaign against Kobani started, a Turkish train stopped at an Arab village near [the IS-controlled] Tell Abyad border gate and unloaded weapons and ammunition that were taken by Daesh. There are eyewitnesses to this transfer. And during this period the [Turkish] hostages [held by IS in Mosul] affair is supposedly resolved. These events are all interlinked. Turkey then opens the Mursitpinar border gate with Kobani just as Daesh fires Katyusha rockets at Kobani and surrounding villages to sow panic among the people. Turkey opens the border gate on the third day of the attack so that the people can flee to Turkey. This is what Daesh wants as well. This proves the collusion between them. Because Turkey has long wanted the establishment of a buffer zone. Its aim is to prevent the Kurds in Rojava [Syrian Kurdish areas in western Kurdistan] from winning a formal status. By emptying Kobani and provoking a mass exodus of people, Turkey can then claim before the international community that its own security is at stake and set about establishing a buffer zone.

Al-Monitor: Very senior Iraqi Kurdish officials told me that Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkey’s national spy agency [MIT], had as recently as last week offered to mediate between the Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party [KDP] and the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party [PYD]. Doesn’t this contradict your claims?

Bayik: Not at all. Turkey always supported the KDP against the PYD. Now they [the Turks] are supposedly trying to drive a wedge between the PKK and the PYD and to draw the PYD into an alliance with groups that are close to [the Turks] and to bring them in line with their own [Turks’] Syria policy. There are thousands of Syrian Kurds within the PKK. During the war [against Turkey] 1,500 Syrian Kurds were martyred. Many Syrian Kurd commanders from the PKK went over to Rojava to train YPG forces and to help them in the fight against Daesh. Such matters do not always work the way Turkey intends them to through money and weapons. And there is no friction between the YPG and the PKK as claimed. They are acting together in the south [Iraqi Kurdistan] in Kirkuk, in Shengal, in Rabiya. The only force to defend Rojava is the PKK.

Al-Monitor: IS has some very modern weapons. Aren’t you having trouble combating them?

Bayik: Yes, they have modern American weapons they seized in Mosul. Our own weapons aren’t effective against the American tanks that they use. Besides, we are used to fighting in mountainous terrain and now we are forced to do so in open plains. But we are a movement that adapts quickly to new circumstances.

Al-Monitor: Getting back to the peace process, you say that you have realized that the AKP will not solve the Kurdish problem

Bayik: We realized this a while back. There is tremendous pressure on our leader [Ocalan] and a very ugly psychological war that is being waged against him. Propaganda is being spread to demean him in the eyes of the people.

Al-Monitor: To the contrary, what we see is that Ocalan has been legitimized before the public as never before.

Bayik: You may not see this, but there are those who know and it’s reached all the way to us. I am telling you openly: Turkey must immediately stop these psychological ops tactics and end its pressure on our leader.

Al-Monitor: Can you be more explicit. What kind of pressure?

Bayik: I do not want to share all the details. It may not be appropriate at this time. But there is no improvement in the internment conditions of our leader. Recently, his sister and nephew visited him and they were put in a room where nobody could breathe. The nephew protested to the prison guards, saying they were aware of our leader’s breathing difficulties. Their response was that they would have to meet there and that was all. Moreover, they forced the meeting to end before the allotted time. The new government is trying to force our leader to roll back his demands by applying pressure on him. This applies especially to the negotiating points. But as they know he won’t back down, they are going to use this as an excuse to set the stage for war.

Al-Monitor: Are you saying that Turkey wants to resume the war?

Bayik: Absolutely. If this were not so, they would have worked harder at solving the problem. They would have improved the internment conditions of our leader. They would have accepted the presence of third-party observers in the peace talks. And they would have allowed the negotiating sides to carry equal weight. All they have done is to pass a bill to “end terrorism” in the parliament [legislation that effectively formalized the talks without actually referring to their substance]. And they did so kicking and screaming. We are concerned with actions, not words. The negotiations have still not started. They want to keep the talks on a dialogue level. They want to deceive our people. We have been in dialogue for years. We went back and forth to Oslo for years [the secret Oslo talks that ended in 2009].

Al-Monitor: Did you go to Oslo?

Bayik: No.

Al-Monitor: Have you had contact with any Turkish officials over the phone?

Bayik: No. I haven’t touched a phone since 2003 for personal security reasons.

Al-Monitor: During the presidential campaign of [the left-wing People’s Democracy Party (HDP) Kurdish candidate] Selahattin Demirtas the Kurdish political movement gained a lot of ground. Demirtas won support from most unexpected quarters. By talking in this manner, aren’t you undermining peaceful politics?

Bayik: As we are at the center of this process, if we say there is no progress in the peace progress, that means there is no progress because there is no one better placed to assess this. We have paid a very heavy price during 40 years of conflict. Thousands of our fighters and cadres were martyred. Thousand of Kurdish villages were burned and destroyed. Thousands of our people fell victim to extrajudicial killings. And now we see that the numbers of village guards [a state-paid anti-PKK Kurdish militia] are growing. Army garrisons are being built, together with supply roads. We are sticking to the cease-fire but they are not. And they took advantage of the cease-fire to launch a war against Rojava. We gave them time. We said they had until the end of September to take certain steps. We said that unless they do so by the end of September the war would resume.

Al-Monitor: Did you say “we will resume” or “may resume”?

Bayik: “May resume.”

Al-Monitor: But don’t you need Ocalan’s authorization for this?

Bayik: We decide on war. The authority to end the cease-fire lies with us. But our leader Apo [as Ocalan is often called by his followers] decides on peace, on the continuation of the peace process. His role is different from ours. We are complementary.

Al-Monitor: But if Apo says peace must prevail, you won’t be able to decide on war. Thus, the final decision rests with Apo.

Bayik: Ocalan is our leader. We are a movement that obeys its leader. We are loyal to our leader. But unless Turkey takes some steps, how can our leader say, “No, do not fight?” We are having trouble restraining our fighters as it is.

Al-Monitor: What are your demands from Turkey?

Bayik: The internment conditions of our leader need to be improved. We cannot negotiate in his present conditions. Third-party observers must be allowed to take part in the negotiations. They can be from civil society, from the parliament or from an international organization. It can also be a foreign power. And the support being given to Daesh against Rojava must end. Rojava is part of the peace process. This is clear.

Al-Monitor: Just as you have won plaudits for your role in helping the Yazidis in Sinjar and for your prowess in combating IS, and just as the international community is debating delisting the PKK and American cooperation with the YPG, would you not be throwing this all away by attacking Turkey, a NATO member?

Bayik: No. We are a legal movement. And nobody can blame the PKK. Until now we have declared nine unilateral cease-fires since 1993. In 2013, on the occasion of Nowruz [the Kurdish New Year], we freed all our prisoners. We ended the war and began to withdraw our fighters from Turkey. We are not eyeing anyone’s territory. We are not seeking independence. All we want is to live freely with our own identity, culture and values in democratic conditions.

Al-Monitor: But is it not risky to open a second front against Turkey when you are fighting IS in Rojava?

Bayik: We have been fighting for 40 years. If need be, we shall fight for many more years. We are fighting because we are being forced to do so. We are not going to surrender after 40 years. No power can implement its strategies in the Middle East without taking the PKK into account.

Al-Monitor: You speak of democracy but in recent days a group that calls itself the PKK’s youth wing has been burning down schools in the southeast of Turkey. Do such actions have any place in a democracy?

Bayik: Burning schools is wrong. But our people built schools there with their own means. They want to study in the Kurdish language, so why is the state forbidding this? There is a great deal of anger among our youth. Even we are having trouble restraining them. When we ask them why they burn schools, they respond, “Why are our schools being shut down?” There is a lot of alienation. The number of people joining our ranks last month has exceeded that in 1993. In 1993, around 1,000 people would join every month. Last month, 1,200 people joined.

Al-Monitor: The Turkish government spokesman Huseyin Celik said that we can now talk with Kandil [the PKK leadership]. No sooner did Ahmet Davutoglu become prime minister, he made very positive statements about the peace process. For the first time, a government is talking directly to Ocalan and announcing this to the public. It has done more than any of its predecessors to solve the Kurdish problem. Does none of this mean anything? Besides, why would the government want to go to war before the elections?

Bayik: Yes, the government continues to speak positively about the peace process. And the pro-government media is helping to propagate this upbeat mood. This is a delaying tactic, a deception. They are trying to portray Apo as being optimistic when in fact he continually criticizes the AKP during the talks. They want to drain the process of all its substance and they want to manage it at their whim. What was their aim? To win the [March 2014] local elections and then the [August 2014] presidential elections. And now they want to win the 2015 [parliamentary] elections.

It’s true that they would not want to resume the war before the elections. They want the cease-fire to continue, but they want it to continue without making any concessions, save for a few unimportant gestures. After the 2015 elections, their position may change.
Amberin Zaman
Columnist

Amberin Zaman is an Istanbul-based writer who has covered Turkey for The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Telegraph and the Voice of America. A frequent commentator on Turkish television, she is currently Turkey correspondent for The Economist, a position she has retained since 1999. On Twitter: @amberinzaman
Original Al-Monitor Translations
Türkçe okuyun

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/09/turkey-pkk-commander-bayik-threatens-resume-war.html#ixzz3Ef8umk6J

The myth of the “Secularism” of the Assads

WRITTEN BY JEAN -PIERRE FILIU, translated by Mary Rizzo

04/07/2014 or 07/04/2014 Oz time

fromwewritewhatwelike

Among the arguments put forward constantly by proponents of the Syrian dictatorship , standing out is the presumed ” secularism” of the Assad regime. It is striking that “secularism” is associated with the illusory protection of minorities (while the percentage of Christians in the Syrian population has halved since the advent of Hafez Assad in 1970) and the promotion of women’s rights.

Yet these two concepts have nothing to do with secularism, which expresses the neutrality of the State towards all faiths, whether they can be labelled as religious or not. The French Republic had built its secularism during the crisis with the Catholic Church and the events that emerged thereof.

The separation of church and state in 1905, in France came 40 years before the right to vote for women. And the French Revolution had, according to the famous formula of one of its members, recognised establishment of the rights of religious minorities as rights due to citizens, and not to a community.

This has not prevented the Arab dictators to enhance the idea of their “commitment” to the emancipation of women (Ben Ali in Tunisia) or for the protection of minorities (Copts in Egypt by Mubarak). This has brought about a paternalistic strategy of their propaganda towards the population (“without me, poor subjects, there exists only the greatest threat), and their seemingly “progressive” appearance on the international scene (I’m the only bulwark against the forces of darkness, Islamism, or Al Qaeda).

Yet, never has been such a lie been brought to the level that the Assad regime has taken it.

Hafez al-Assad, the founder of the dynasty, took power in 1970 against those who drafted – the year before – the only constitution in the history of Syria that could actually be described as “secular “. Assad the father “regulated” his manoeuver with a masquerade election, in 1971, attributing 99.2% of the votes to its sole candidate.

It amended the Constitution in 1973 to guarantee the explicit belonging of the Head of State to the Muslim religion.

The term “secularism” is absent from the official propaganda, which celebrates its successes with the words “socialist” and “nationalist” of the Assad regime. In 1979, the Syrian Baath Party, officially “Arab” and “socialist”, had allied with the Islamic Republic of Iran against the Iraqi Baath Party. This alliance, sealed by the war launched by Tehran against Baghdad in 1980, remains the same until this day.

Assad father and son support a Ministry of Religious Affairs (known as “Waqf”) and a Mufti of the Republic to establish an Islamic bureaucracy. The management of a body of religious officials is the exact opposite of the secular separation of religion and state. In Syria, the Imams are expected every Friday to celebrate the glory of the Head of State and his achievements.

In addition to this ministry integrated with the machine politics of the dictatorship, Assad has co-opted Sunni personalities, responsible for consolidating the presidential legitimacy in the ranks of the majority community in Syria. We should remember that, in the absence of official statistics, the percentage of Sunnis in Syria is estimated at four-fifths (mainly Arabs, with a Kurdish minority) and 12% are Alawites (all ethnically Arabs).

Among these public figures, the most notable were Kaftaro Sheikh Ahmad, who died in 2004, and Sheikh Ramadan al-Bouti, who was killed in a bombing in 2013. Both were known for their unconditional support to the Assad regime, and their vigorous attacks against the principle of secularism, which was considered as godlessness.

In February 2006, it was in Damascus where there were the most violent protests against the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in the press of the West: the Syrian secret police organised events that led to the attack of the French Embassy and the destruction of the embassies of Denmark and Norway.

Those who still believe in the “secularism” of Bashar al-Assad could, for example, see this press release by Government Information (SANA) relative to the preaching at the end of Ramadan 2012 (Eid al-Fitr): “The sheikh leading the ceremony praised the struggle of the Head of State at the service of Islam against “conspiracy and terrorism.”

http://sana.sy/fra/51/2012/08/19/437134.htm

But there are none so deaf as those who will not hear …

* Jean -Pierre Filiu is a university lecturer at Sciences Po (Paris).

Arabist and historian, specialist in contemporary Islam.

After a long diplomatic career, he devoted himself to academic research, and has held various positions at prestigious American universities. He is the author of several important books on the Middle East and his essays have been published in a dozen languages ​​.

One of his latest books is dedicated to Syria: “I am writing of Aleppo” (Denoël , 2013).

Original: http://syriemdl.net/2014/04/02/le-mythe-de-la-laicite-des-assad/

Jordan on slippery slope in Syria war

Summary
Jordanian officials worry that allowing the transport of weapons to Syrian rebels across Jordanian territory could make it a target of retaliation, while opening up its borders to foreign fighters.

From al-monitor

Author Osama Al Sharif
Posted February 18, 2014

AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan’s news media regarded King Abdullah’s meeting with US President Barack Obama on Feb. 14 at the Sunnylands estate in southern California a success.

Abdullah announced that the United States would renew a five-year aid package — worth $660 million annually — in addition to guaranteeing $1 billion in loans aimed at supporting Jordan’s frail economy. The two leaders discussed the Syrian crisis and the prospects of US efforts to conclude peace between Israel and the Palestinians, two issues that affect Jordan directly.

The meeting coincided with news from Geneva that the second round of peace talks between the Syrian government and the opposition, under UN auspices, had failed. Speaking to reporters in the presence of Abdullah, Obama announced that he would be seeking “a more aggressive” and “immediate” stance on Syria, especially in delivering humanitarian aid. US Secretary of State John Kerry declared earlier that the president wanted to review fresh options on Syria and senior administration officials told reporters covering the king’s visit that all options remain on the table short of putting American boots on the ground.

These options remain undecided but observers here believe that the United States is considering supplying lethal arms to the Syrian rebels and that Jordan will soon find itself involved in this operation. On Saturday, The Wall Street Journal, quoting an unidentified Arab official and opposition sources, reported that Saudi Arabia would deliver Chinese man-portable air defense systems, or MANPADs, and anti-tank guided missiles from Russia to the rebels. It said that such weapons were already in warehouses in Jordan and Turkey.

And popular columnist Abdel Bari Atwan wrote this week that former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford had asked the Syrian National Council to “heat up” the southern front in Daraa to increase pressure on the Assad regime. Atwan wrote that opening up the southern front, most of which is under the control of the Free Syrian Army, would certainly drag Jordan into the Syria crisis.

Since the collapse of the Geneva talks last week, the Syrian regime has widened the scope of its military operations, launching a sustained attack in the Qalamoun Mountains, north of Damascus, to occupy the strategic town of Yabrud. Kerry accused the Russians of enabling the Syrian government’s “pursuit of a military path.” The Russians retorted by blaming the opposition for the failure in Geneva. It is clear that the coming weeks will witness an increase in military confrontations.

Jordan had always denied reports that it had facilitated the passage of fighters and arms through its borders with Syria. The Syrian regime had warned Jordan not to get involved or bow to US and Saudi pressures. But since the summit in California, Jordanian officials have refused to comment on news that arms would be sent across the borders to Syrian rebels.

In fact, on Feb. 17 the government announced that the armed forces had prevented fighters from crossing from Syria to Jordan, wounding at least three. Jordan’s Salafists claimed that the army is not allowing Jordanian citizens, fighting in Syria, to return to Jordan.

It is not clear how Jordan will react to a Saudi or US request to deliver arms to Syrian rebels in Daraa. If the southern front did heat up, it would be a serious development for Jordan. The kingdom already hosts over 600,000 Syrian refugees, mostly from southern Syria. If fresh fighting flared up in that region, it would create new waves of refugees. But more important, it would bring the fighting closer to Jordan’s borders.

Jordan has tried to distance itself from calls for regime change in Syria. In California, Abdullah underlined the need for a political solution in Syria without going into details. Jordan has kept the Syrian Embassy open in Amman while officials have deliberately avoided meeting the head of the Syrian National Council, Ahmad al-Jarba, publicly. Unconfirmed reports spoke of occasional intelligence cooperation between Amman and Damascus over the passage of arms and fighters.

Officials here would neither confirm nor deny Jordan’s participation last week in a secret meeting of top intelligence chiefs from regional and Western countries. The meeting in Washington, reported by The New York Times, included intelligence officials from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Britain, France and the United Arab Emirates, and several others from the 11-nation group known as the Friends of Syria. The purpose of the meeting, the newspaper said, was to discuss “how to best provide that new lethal aid to rebel groups.”

Jordan’s role in facilitating arms delivery through its borders is an open issue. Officials here insist that Jordan will have no such role, but if the southern front does explode then things could change on the ground. Abdullah has described Jordan as an oasis of stability in the region. So far it has avoided getting sucked into the Syrian crisis and averted any spillover. Obama’s fresh options on Syria, which include sending arms to the rebels, could end all that.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/02/jordan-syria-war-slippery-slope.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=1f1e05ec4f-January_9_20141_8_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-1f1e05ec4f-93145129#ixzz2tpCkRCTZ

Stephen Hawking – “What’s happening in Syria is an abomination”

“We must use our human intelligence to end this war. As a father, I watch the suffering of Syria’s children and say: no more.”

by Stephen Hawking

theguardian.com, Monday 17 February 2014 18.00 AEST

‘Today in Syria we see modern technology in the form of bombs, chemicals and other weapons being used to further so-called intelligent political ends. But it does not feel intelligent.’

The Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that the universe had existed for ever. The reason humanity was not more developed, he believed, was that floods or other natural disasters repeatedly set civilisation back to the beginning.

Today, humans are developing ever faster. Our knowledge is growing exponentially and, with it, our technology. But humans still have the instincts, and in particular the aggressive impulses, that we had in caveman days. Aggression has had definite advantages for survival, but when modern technology meets ancient aggression the entire human race and much of the rest of life on Earth is at risk.

Today in Syria we see modern technology in the form of bombs, chemicals and other weapons being used to further so-called intelligent political ends. But it does not feel intelligent to watch as more than 100,000 people are killed or while children are targeted. It feels downright stupid, and worse, to prevent humanitarian supplies from reaching clinics where, as Save the Children will document in a forthcoming report, children are having limbs amputated for lack of basic facilities, and newborn babies are dying in incubators for lack of power.

What’s happening in Syria is an abomination, one that the world is watching coldly from a distance. Where is our emotional intelligence, our sense of collective justice?

When I discuss intelligent life in the universe, I take this to include the human race, even though much of its behaviour throughout history appears not to have been calculated to aid the survival of the species. And while it is not clear that, unlike aggression, intelligence has any long-term survival value, our very human brand of intelligence denotes an ability to reason and plan for not only our own but also our collective futures.

We must work together to end this war and to protect the children of Syria. The international community has watched from the sidelines for three years as this conflict rages, engulfing all hope. As a father and grandfather I watch the suffering of Syria’s children and must now say: no more.

I often wonder what we must look like to other beings watching from deep space. As we look out at the universe, we are looking back in time, because light leaving distant objects reaches us much, much later. What does the light emitting from Earth today show? When people see our past, will we be proud of what they are shown – how we, as brothers, treat each other? How we allow our brothers to treat our children?

We now know that Aristotle was wrong: the universe has not existed for ever. It began about 14bn years ago. But he was right that great disasters represent major steps backward for civilisation. The war in Syria may not represent the end of humanity, but every injustice committed is a chip in the facade of what holds us together. The universal principle of justice may not be rooted in physics but it is no less fundamental to our existence. For without it, before long, human beings will surely cease to exist.

• A version of this article appeared in the Washington Post

Related articles

15 Feb 2014

Where is the public outrage on Syria?

13 Feb 2014

Syria: save the civilians

12 Feb 2014

Syria aid workers wait to resume Homs evacuation operation

Six hundred Syrians flee besieged Old Homs in aid convoy

By Dominic Evans

BEIRUT Sun Feb 9, 2014 3:14pm EST

(Reuters) – Six hundred people left the besieged ruins of rebel-held central Homs on Sunday, escaping more than a year of hunger and deprivation caused by one of the most protracted blockades of Syria’s devastating conflict.

The evacuees, mainly women, children and old men, were brought out by the United Nations and Syrian Red Crescent on the third day of an operation during which the aid convoys came under fire and were briefly trapped themselves in the city.

siege ofHoms

Video footage from inside Homs showed scores of residents, carrying a few bags of possessions, rushing across an open expanse of no-man’s land towards 10 white vehicles with U.N. markings. Gunshots could be heard as they raced to the cars.

“The last vehicle has arrived and the total is 611 people,” Homs governor Talal Barazi told regional Arab broadcaster Al Mayadeen at a meeting point for evacuees outside the city.

The Red Crescent confirmed that around 600 people were evacuated and said 60 food parcels and more than a ton of flour were delivered to the Old City.

Barazi and Red Crescent officials said they were working to extend the operation beyond Sunday, the final day of a fragile and frequently violated three-day ceasefire in the city.

homs_map976x617_2.gif cachebuster=cb00000002 map clickable

Some of those who came out were men of fighting age who were not originally eligible to leave, Barazi said, but they had agreed to hand themselves over to police and judicial authorities and could win their freedom through amnesty.

Authorities suspect all men of fighting age to be part of rebel forces fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

Assad’s authorities and rebel fighters have traded accusations of responsibility for attacks on Saturday which stranded the joint United Nations and Red Crescent team in central Old Homs for several hours after dark on Saturday.

The convoy was targeted as the relief workers were handing over food and medical supplies in the district where the United Nations says 2,500 people had been stranded by an ever-tightening military siege since the mid-2012.

The Red Crescent said one driver was lightly wounded but the rest of the team eventually left safely.

Video footage released by activists showed the team, led by U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Syria Yacoub el Hillo, taking refuge on Saturday in a basement while explosions rocked the rubble-strewn, devastated streets above them.

In another video filmed inside Homs on Saturday, Hillo said the aid supplies, including food parcels, medicines and hygiene kits, were just a drop in the ocean when set against the conditions endured by people trapped for months on end.

“When I look around me and see the level of need, and suffering of all – especially the children, the women and the elderly – let me say that even though it’s a significant amount of medical and nutritional aid, it’s still just a drop,” he said. “But let’s start with this drop.”

On Friday, the first of the planned three-day humanitarian operation in Homs, 83 women, children and elderly men were evacuated, significantly fewer than the 200 which the city governor had predicted.

Many showed signs of malnutrition, the United Nations said.

BARREL BOMBS IN ALEPPO

Syria’s conflict has killed 130,000 people, driven millions from their homes and devastated whole city districts – particularly in Homs, a centre of protest when the 2011 uprising against 40 years of Assad family rule first erupted.

The evacuation of civilians and delivery of aid was the first concrete, though modest, result of talks launched two weeks ago in Switzerland to try to end the civil war.

At the Geneva peace talks, which resume on Monday, international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi has been pushing for agreement on aid deliveries and prisoner releases, hoping progress on those issues could build momentum to address the far more contentious question of political transition.

The view from the Syria talks.

The view from the Syria talks.

Assad’s government has rejected out of hand any surrender of power in Geneva, and on the ground his forces have made gains while rival rebel forces battle each other in the north and east of the country.

If anything the scale of violence – including internecine rebel fighting, clashes with Assad’s forces and government bombardment – has escalated since the delegates held their first face-to-face meeting just over a fortnight ago.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-Assad monitoring group, said that 304 people were killed across the country on Saturday, including more than 100 civilians.

And in a sign of deep skepticism towards peace talks shared by the opposing parties inside Syria, neither the authorities nor the activists in Homs credited the Geneva talks for the weekend evacuations and aid deliveries.

Homs governor Barazi said the operation had been planned months ago but had been hit by delays, while several Homs activists – angered by a second day of bombardment which killed five people – bitterly criticized the Geneva negotiations.

“Today we have five martyrs and yesterday we had five,” one activist said, pointing to a row of corpses being prepared for wrapping in burial shrouds. “Every day the world sees this regime’s crimes and it remains silent.”

On Sunday, activists reported at least 11 people were killed in the northern city of Aleppo when helicopters dropped barrel bombs on rebel-held neighborhoods.

Video footage purporting to show the aftermath of one such attack in the Haidariya district showed at least nine corpses, including one child, scattered across a wide highway, flooded by a broken water pipe.

Cars were still on fire and black smoke rose from the flames. Wounded men were carried into ambulances and one man could be seen carrying a severed leg from the scene, as women screamed in grief.

(Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Why is the PKK siding with the AKP in the AKP-Gulen conflict?

On Feb. 2, the Turkish daily Vatan published an interview with Cemil Bayik, one of the leading “commanders” of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The interviewer, Rusen Cakir, is a prominent Turkish journalist known for his expertise on the Kurdish issue, political Islam and the current political battle between the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Gulen movement. No wonder Bayik addressed this hot topic in Turkish politics. At the PKK headquarters in northern Iraq’s Kandil Mountains, the guerrilla leader shared various views about Turkish politics, but the bottom line was the Vatan headline: “Behind the [Gulen] community, there is America; they want to get rid of Erdogan.”

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) may believe that the enemy of my friend is my enemy.

From

Author Mustafa Akyol Posted February 3, 2014

Translator Ezgi Akin

This was perfectly in line with the AKP government’s explanations of the recent corruption probe: a foreign-backed conspiracy — if not “coup attempt” — by the pro-Gulen “parallel state” within the Turkish state. Bayik’s statement was, in other words, music to AKP ears.

In fact, it was not just Bayik but also the very leader of the PKK, the jailed Abdullah Ocalan, who recently took a stance supportive of the AKP against Gulen followers. From his prison cell on Imrali Island, he spoke against “those who want to set our country ablaze once again with the fire of a coup.” This was interpreted in the Turkish media as support for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. No wonder AKP deputy Mehmet Metiner, an Erdogan loyalist, publicly commended Ocalan for his stance.

But why is the PKK — a terrorist group, by Turkish and most international definitions — sympathetic to the AKP in Turkey’s new power struggle? And why does this matter?

The first question has a simple answer: The PKK sees the AKP government, especially Erdogan, as its partner for “peace.” The organization has fought the Turkish state relentlessly since 1984 with a guerilla war that has claimed more than 40,000 lives, but the “political solution” that liberals have been advocating became possible only under Erdogan. In late 2012, a “resolution process” began based on covert talks between the Turkish government and Ocalan, and the conflict has been silent ever since. Both sides complain that the other is too timid to take the promised steps, but both sides seem willing to keep the peace as well.

On the other hand, the Gulen movement is known to be skeptical of this peace process. In fact, the AKP has accused the Gulen movement’s “parallel state” within the police and judiciary of trying to “sabotage the peace process.” The “Turkish National Intelligence Organization crisis” of February 2012 is interpreted as one of the earliest signs of this intention. Since then, it has been whispered in Ankara, and lately exposed in the press, that the Gulen community is against peace with the PKK.

One wonders why. The movement is globally known for moderation and pacifism, and Fethullah Gulen publicly praised “peace” when the deal with the PKK first went public. However, journalists close to the movement have repeatedly raised concerns about how the AKP government is “fooled” by the PKK. (I wrote in May 2013 for Al-Monitor that “the Gulen movement is not against the peace process, but is skeptical of its success and critical of its methods.”) Since then, such criticisms of the peace process have only increased in the pro-Gulen media.

These days, the pro-Erdogan camp, in its usual conspiratorial tone, explains the uneasiness of the Gulen movement with the peace process as a sign of its “high treason.” Accordingly, the peace process disturbs “the powers that want to weaken Turkey,” and since the Gulen movement is a puppet for those evil powers, they treacherously sabotage what is good for Turkey. However, using Occam’s razor, one can find a simpler explanation: The Gulen movement considers the PKK a threat, specifically to the movement’s facilities in predominantly Kurdish southeastern Turkey, including a wide network of schools, dormitories and charities. The PKK has targeted these institutions over the years, saying they “steal Kurdish children” from being PKK militants and make them followers of the pro-Turkish teachings of Gulen.

Gulen himself noted this tension recently in a rare interview, given to the BBC. Gulen said Ocalan was “uneasy with what we were doing with the Kurdish people” in reference to the extension of Hizmet schools deep in Kurdish territory. “They didn’t want our activities to prevent young people joining the militants in the mountains. Their politics is to keep enmity between Kurdish and Turkish people.”

This should explain why there is a conflict between the Gulen movement and the PKK, and why the latter supports the AKP, its “peace partner,” against the movement. How this will influence Turkish politics is a separate matter.

The PKK is loathed by the majority of Turkish society, so its support will not be of much help there for the government. Only the left-wing liberals who ardently support the peace process see it as a reason to stand by the AKP. However, the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) has 26 seats in parliament and some 6% to 8% of the votes, according to various polls. This political bloc may be an ally for Erdogan in the coming months, even in the presidential elections of next summer, where Erdogan, if he runs, will need the majority of all votes.

In short, the PKK has taken a clear side in the AKP-Gulen conflict in favor of the AKP, and this has an understandable logic. Instead of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” logic, it’s the other way around: “The enemy of my friend is my enemy.”

Mustafa Akyol
Columnist

Mustafa Akyol is a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Turkey Pulse and a columnist for Turkish Hurriyet Daily News and Star. His articles have also appeared in Foreign Affairs, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian. He is the author of Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty. On Twitter: @AkyolinEnglish

Original Al-Monitor Translations
Türkçe okuyun
Translated with Google
Powered by Translate

More From Turkey Pulse
Turkey-Israel ties may be linked to gas pipeline
Semih Idiz

Gul, Erdogan agree on Gulenists
Nagehan Alci

Erdogan, the Cemaat, CHP: troubled triangle over religion’s place in Turkey
Tulin Daloglu

Gul proposes Turkey-Iran cooperation in Syria
Kadri Gursel

Kemal Dervis: ‘Crisis in Turkey is primarily political’
Riada Ašimović Akyol

Sochi Olympics give boost to Circassian identity in Turkey
Thomas Seibert

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/02/pkk-supports-akp-gulen-conflict.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=e0ae6ede91-January_9_20141_8_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-e0ae6ede91-93145129#ixzz2sOdqiSEi

Gul proposes Turkey-Iran cooperation in Syria

Gul proposes Turkey-Iran cooperation in Syria

In his official visit to Italy Jan. 28-31, President Abdullah Gul met twice with Turkish columnists covering his trip. His remarks provided opportunities to observe how deep his longtime political differences with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have become.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul is distancing himself from the political culture and foreign policy of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Author Kadri Gursel Posted February 3, 2014

Translator(s)Timur Goksel

From

As a columnist who took part in both meetings and asked questions of the president, my observation is this: Gul, who set up the Justice and Development Party (AKP) with Erdogan and who, until he became president, was the party’s second in command. He has plainly distanced himself from Erdogan’s wordview. It is not an exaggeration to say that the distance between them is becoming increasingly ideological.

We all know that the president, in contrast with the AKP government, defends Turkey’s EU perspectives, reforms, state of law and freedom of press. In the days following the dramatic intensification of the strife between the AKP and the Fetullah Gulen movement after the corruption investigations that directly targeted Erdogan’s family and close political associates, the divergence between the narratives of Gul and Erdogan was also reflected by their actions.

We have to remember the initiatives of the government to make legislative moves that would totally eliminate the independence of the judiciary were blocked, thanks to the firm stand of Gul, before the European Union stepped in.

As with many of the political developments in Turkey, it is also impossible to predict how the ideological divergence between Gul and Erdogan will affect the AKP. To make a reasonable guess, one has to wait for the outcome of the March 30 local elections. Only then we will be able to say what kind of role Gul is planning to fill in national politics and in the future of the AKP.

For the time being, let’s lay out how Gul has deviated from his old comrade Erdogan, especially in foreign policy.

The first issue is Syria. We can observe that the president of Turkey is more realistic and has a more rational approach as compared to that of Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, and that he doesn’t ignore politics the way they do.

In his Jan. 30 talk with journalists in Rome, Gul suggested working with Iran on the issue of Syria, saying,

“Iran’s launching of a dialogue with the international community and the Western world and better prospects for solving problems through politics will make the world a more comfortable place. The beginning of a new era with Tehran may also enable engaging Iran on the Syrian issue. We spoke with Iranian President [Hassan] Rouhani on how essential it is to work together on the Syrian issue and develop alternatives. We tasked our foreign ministers to work on this. There is another opportunity that could arise from joint efforts. If Turkey can be in close and sincere cooperation with Iran on Syria, we can come up with proposals to the international community, and the Western world can take our proposals seriously.”

The prerequisite for Gul’s proposal is the development of a Syrian policy along rational and secular lines instead of the ideological basis favored by Erdogan and Davutoglu.

Gul’s words were made even more interesting by their timing, coming a day after Erdogan told the journalists in his plane returning from Tehran that “there was no agreement with Iran on Syria.”

For Ankara to work together with Tehran, which today is in the opposite camp over Syria, it first has to take a reality check and accept that the Syrian regime is not going away in the foreseeable future.

Gul has done this reality check and demonstrates that, unlike Erdogan and Davutoglu, he can empathize with the actors in the opposite camp. He said, “In an interview I gave to Foreign Affairs two years ago, I had said that there are no other countries committed to the opposition as much as Iran and Russia are for Syria. I was talking about the West and about Turkey. For Iran, Syria is an existential issue; for us, it is a humanitarian issue. For Russia, it is an issue of warm seas, of having a single base. On the other side, some talk about how [the United States] will be the one to end the war with its known policies. Today, Damascus has the stronger hand. How did they get to Geneva?”

In terms of Turkey’s threat analysis, Gul’s opinions are distinctly more realistic and up to date than those of Erdogan and Davutolgu, the architects of Ankara’s crumbled Syrian policy. Asked about the Turkish army’s retaliation for a Jan. 30 mortar round fired by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the president said, “We don’t have any reason to be optimistic about when Syria will achieve salvation. If a strong transition government had emerged from Geneva, we would have had some hope, but it wasn’t to be. The second point is the threats and dangers for Turkey of the existing situation. In that environment of uncertainty, many groups emerged. It is not only a war between the regime and the opposition but also within the opposition. There are no targets. If these [battles] are taking place along our 900-kilometer [559-mile] border, you can’t know where they will spread to. Such situations create and provoke extremism, radicalism. You will not know where they will end.

“This is why there is a big difference between our threat perception of four or five years ago, and our threat perception of today. At that time, the biggest threat for us was the struggle against [Kurdistan Workers Party] terror. Today, we see diverse, numerous groups. We have to be much more careful now. I want to say that our southern border is more difficult. If the Turkish armed forces today refrain from getting involved, who knows, tomorrow you may have to deal with a much more formidable force.”

It is a known fact Erdogan is defining the corruption investigations as an international conspiracy to remove him from power. His government allies and supportive media back this discourse.

On the evening of Jan. 28, Gul was asked a question about the conspiracy theory. A journalist from the pro-government media asked, “Don’t you think that in recent days, the Western media is drawing a portrait of an unstable Turkey?” He gave this interesting reply: “You complain. You gripe and demand that they should treat our affairs positively. Because of its nature, the press is generally expected to be critical. … You have to look at this as an objective media analysis. … There may well be those abroad who intentionally want to paint a negative portrait of Turkey, but it is not correct to group them together with ‘They want to show us in negative light; they are campaigning against us.’ Let’s not forget that these are newspapers that used to print headlines about the ‘reformist government in Turkey.’ They used to lavishly praise our successes. That is why we have to be objective. At times, you come across articles that stand out as excessively negative and biased. Some, however, write critically when they observe the debates in Turkey. You should not put them all in same basket as enemies of Turkey. That would be a mistake. We will then see everyone as our enemy, which, of course, is not the case.”

There are four main points to Gul’s response:

Gul is not giving credit to the conspiracy allegations of Erdogan and his coterie.
He is accepting that the press has to be critical, and supporting the freedom of the press.
His suggestion that a press that only sees the positive sides of the government will cease to be “the press,” a strong admonishment of the pro-AKP media.
Gul reminds us that newspapers currently critical of Turkey once wrote favorably of it. This is an implicit criticism by Gul of the negative direction the AKP government has been taking in recent years.

The president referred to recent unfavorable changes in Turkey when responding to a question about preparations for an international campaign on the centennial of the Armenian genocide. He said, “2014 and 2015 will be crucial years. Turkey will confront many tough questions on international platforms. Three or four years ago, as a shining country with many friends, we were thinking that we could overcome these tough questions. To be honest, with the global situation, our problems that require attention and our domestic issues will make these international questions more difficult to handle. Our government is making some preparations. … We have to find ways to remind others of the importance of being friends with Turkey.”

These remarks by Gul contain criticism of how Turkey has become isolated and suffered soft-power losses globally and regionally because of the policies pursued by the Erdogan-Davutoglu team since 2010.

We have to emphasize that Gul’s observations and attitude have strong and favorable reflection in the AKP base and within the party structure, and that he is not alone.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/02/gul-proposed-iran-joint-effort-syria.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=e0ae6ede91-January_9_20141_8_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-e0ae6ede91-93145129##ixzz2sOXJXQe1

Erdogan discusses Syria policy in visit to Iran

TEHRAN, Iran — In public, it was all about economies, treaties and bilateral relations. Behind closed doors, however, the visit to Iran by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was all about Syria, Syria and Syria.

Author Ali Hashem Posted January 30, 2014

Summary
Behind closed doors, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan talked with Iranian leaders about common ground on Syria and a more effective dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition.

“There are still differences, that’s obvious, but they’re not as crucial as they were before,” a source in Tehran commented to Al-Monitor in discussing Erdogan’s visit. “Almost two years ago, Erdogan came to Iran and insisted on meeting [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei to tell him that Iran’s bet on Assad would not yield any benefit. Back then, the leader told the Turkish guest, review your policies, your strategies, and come back. [Bashar al-] Assad won’t fall.”

Erdogan is back, and he is still in favor of toppling Assad, but according to the source, he is almost convinced that this is only a wish.

“There are alternatives that have been discussed during the past months, and in this visit, they were finalized. Turkey has its own people in the opposition, and they’ve been isolated by the current backed by Saudi Arabia,” the source explained. “The need for change in Syria can be met by bringing together both the regime and the opposition. [These] talks can be more efficient than the ones taking place in Montreux. Even if it took place at the same location, the idea is giving the talks a strong push, with both regional powers playing a positive role in convincing their allies to come to terms.”

Both Turkey and Iran have decided that they need to maintain good strategic relations, as both feel the heat of terrorism and regional differences vis-a-vis other powers. The Iranian supreme leader’s words were as clear as day. He was reported as saying that Iranian-Turkish relations are the best in centuries, and both countries have to seize the opportunity to solidify their relations. Erdogan, for his part, offered that when he visits Iran, it feels like a second home. He added that they have to work together to the extent that ministers of both governments feel as if they are working in the same government.

Khamenei is known to be extremely selective in his choice of words. He is, after all, the supreme leader, the head of the regime, the man who makes decisions on strategic matters. In speaking about Syria, he is saying what his allies in Damascus might be too intimidated to say to the Turks, although, according to Al-Monitor’s source, “it’s not the case” since they are aware of all the details and understand the need to have Turkey as an ally and a strategic partner.

The meetings are expected to continue between Ankara and Tehran to assess the situation on the ground. According to the source, coordination on the Syrian crisis is at the highest levels. “The countries are to unify their efforts. They see themselves in the same boat, and they have the same rivals. The region needs three main pillars to stand again. Turkey and Iran are two [of them]. An Arab partner is needed, and this is what they are working on. Iraq could play this role, but so can other countries in the region.”

Three weeks before Erdogan’s visit to Tehran, Al-Monitor learned that a high-ranking delegation from Iran had visited Ankara, carrying information about the situation in Syria. The delegation met high-ranking Turkish officials, including Erdogan, and there was agreement on exchanging information and coordinating closely on the situation in Syria. The meeting also included some non-Iranian and non-Turkish figures. The exchange apparently continues.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/01/erdogan-iran-syria-shift.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=c9c95b63ee-January_9_20141_8_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-c9c95b63ee-93145129#ixzz2s1Bu3o9l

Tunisia’s revolutionary model

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki embraces Tunisia’s outgoing Prime Minister Ali Laarayedh,

Tunis, Jan. 9, 2014. Laarayedh resigned on Thursday to make way for a caretaker administration as part of a deal with his opponents to finish a transition to democracy. (photo by REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi)

Tunisia’s revolutionary model

For Tunisia, its political transition is like its revolution: full of surprises. Less than a month ago, most local and international media asserted that the transition was stuck in place and facing an unsolvable problem. But today, most are praising the “Tunisian model.”

The biggest accomplishment of the new Tunisian constitution is not its content, but the fact that Tunisians have abided by the democratic process by which it was made.

Author Chukri Hamad Posted January 23, 2014
Translator(s)Rani Geha

Original Article اقرا المقال الأصلي باللغة العربية

Compared with Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Bahrain, Tunisia seems to be on the right track. The “national dialogue,” the concessions by the ruling coalition (the “troika”), international pressure, and civil society’s vigilance and actions regarding the splits and unrest that disappeared as fast as they appeared led to the Constituent Assembly going back to its proper work.

It looks like the constitution will be adopted before the end of this week. Moreover, the Islamist government formally resigned and a new government of “independent technocrats” run by former Industry Minister Mehdi Jomaa has been named.

An independent supreme body was formed to supervise the upcoming elections. In such circumstances, we should not spoil the party or put pressure on painful points. But we should examine what looks like a miracle. What model are we talking about regarding the “Tunisian example”? Aside from the democratic transition rhetoric, which ranged from slander to praise, analyzing the revolutionary process that started in December 2010, it appears that political progress in recent months cannot hide the doubts about the dynamic that was started by people calling to bring down the regime. This progress represents a solid foundation for a new social contract whose basic pillars are the state and representative institutions.

Toward a democratic Tunisia

Adopting a new constitution was a central demand for the Tunisian revolution, as expressed during the second Kasba events (February-March 2011), during which the movement was joined by the General Union of Tunisian Workers and some political parties, including Ennahda, demanding the departure of the interim government, dissolving the Democratic Constitutional Rally (President Ben Ali’s party) and the formation of a constituent assembly.

The new constitution is supposed to organize power distribution, the relations between the public authorities, and to identify the basic rights and freedoms in accordance with the revolutionary spirit that produced the Constituent Assembly.

It’s good that the new constitution provided for the freedom of opinion and expression, the freedom of conscience, the freedom to publish, academic freedom, judicial independence, equality between male and female citizens (which is not quite the same as equality between men and women), the right to work and the separation of powers.

All these provisions are effective guarantees for a democratic Tunisia where Tunisians have equal rights and duties, and where abuse of power and the law of the strong are prevented.

A modern and secular constitution?

But the Tunisian model did not adopt a modern and secular constitution. Despite the joy of secularist and progressive Tunisians and foreigners, who share a deep hatred of political Islam, it doesn’t matter whether the constitution proves its “modernity” or “traditionalism” (noting that both are fake concepts), or whether it ensures the neutrality of the state in religious affairs. The media’s focus on referring to a religious text or Sharia in the constitution, or its equivalent, i.e., the debate about women’s rights, ignores the social reality of Tunisia and the Arab world. It is also an artificial palliative for the fears and imaginations about the “Islamist devil” and its allies.

Focusing attention on individual freedoms, especially for women, restores, whether consciously or unconsciously, former leader Habib Bourguiba’s simplistic ideas about Tunisia. (Bourguiba was supposedly “the builder of the new Tunisia and the emancipator of women,” according to the official slogan, while in fact he was the founder of the authoritarian regime.) This is a way to hide the abuses practiced by the Ben Ali regime and women in the name of secularism and universal values​.

That regime is the one that created inequality between men and women in inheritance, in the Personal Status Law of 1956. In fact, that “Green Tunisia,” which the “modern” ​​Bourguiba built, is discriminatory and unfair toward women and toward the weak and disadvantaged classes.

The frustrated hopes for a social democracy

A child joins demonstrators protesting against Libya's Muammar Gaddafi outside the Libyan Embassy in London

The constitution by itself is but one of many revolutionary demands. Economic and social rights and protecting vulnerable groups are still the least important part of the ongoing process of making a new constitution, despite the fact that those were basic demands in the first days of the revolution.

Perhaps this explains why many Tunisians from the lower classes are uninterested in the work of the Constituent Assembly, just as they are uninterested in the negotiations that preceded the national dialogue. For them, the text produced by the political elite did not achieve the social democracy they aspired to and whose importance and meaning they very know very well.

They also know that without the political will of the establishment for fair and democratic institutions, the constitution will remain just ink on paper. They know that adopting such a constitution will by itself not change Tunisian society, which has multiple splits and is founded on an exclusivist economy.

Thus, finding jobs for unemployed university graduates, comprehensive social security and providing protection for social risks — in short, a state that protects the people — is still a fantasy as long as there is no serious public debate about them. In the same token, transitional justice and holding former torturers accountable have so far been done with a lack of professionalism and with political calculations, despite recently adopting a special law for that matter.

The Constituent Assembly is at the heart of the revolutionary process

In the face of all these objectives, the work of the Constituent Assembly was an occasion for the middle and upper classes to reflect their concerns, both real and fake. So it was not easy adopting a constitution that satisfies most political forces, both those represented in the Council and those outside it such as labor unions, employers or the Tunisian League for Human Rights.

Since Jan. 3, 2014, there have been debates about the constitution’s articles as they were being voted on one by one. These debates have been very enthusiastic, even violent at times. But they did reach some kind of agreement. This includes an agreement on the powers of the prime minister (Article 90) and the independence of the judiciary (Article 103 ), on which much was written.

The debates have shown that despite the lack of a sense of responsibility on the part of the political elite, both Islamist and opposition, which is ready to mobilize on minor issues and exacerbate tensions to the point of threatening the political transition itself, the Constituent Assembly was consecrated as the only legal framework for debate and for building the next social contract.

Publicizing the work of the Constituent Assembly in the media (the sessions were broadcast live) has fueled aggressive behavior and speeches by MPs. Despite that, the Council’s work was steadily gaining effectiveness. Its critics have long demanded its dissolution since October 2012. But the distribution of the specialized committees, namely the consensus committee, and the prior preparation for the different versions of the constitution, have shown that the Council’s work was monumental and that success was possible. This success, though not yet complete, enhances the confidence of Tunisians in their institutions and ultimately in the state, which for the people still represents both their main fears and hopes.

In conclusion, two lessons can be drawn from the Tunisian revolutionary experience.

The first is that this experience shatters the myth that Islamic and Arab countries are averse to democracy.

That myth, which is pervasive in the West and among the Arab authoritarian elites, has been revived by the frustrations experienced by the revolutionary movements, especially in Egypt and Syria. On the contrary, the peaceful transfer of power, ensuring freedom of expression, even if violent at times, respecting legal institutions, although their legitimacy is incomplete, and adopting rules of the game that are fair and respected by all, are entrenching a culture of democracy in Tunisia.

The second lesson is that we should not forget that political progress in recent months has been limited to the political field. Much work remains in order to translate the words “jobs, freedom, and national dignity” into something concrete that would form a coherent political program that the people would support.

Pending that, we must rejoice in the “democratic celebration,” with the hope that the road map set by the “national dialogue” will be respected by all the revolution’s components.

The above article was translated from As-Safir Al-Arabi, a special supplement of As-Safir newspaper whose content is provided through a joint venture of As-Safir and Al-Monitor.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/politics/2014/01/tunisia-revolutionary-model-constitution.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=7640220ef5-January_9_20141_8_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-7640220ef5-93145129##ixzz2rMRcMwZ6

Calling Planet Peace Movement 2014

global_economic_crisis_thumb[4]

Once more the people of Earth are calling planet peace movement!

by Patrick Muldowney

The first batch of chemical weapons (CW) recently left port in Syria and given there is a large scale civil war in progress (with all the life and death logistical problems that implies) the compelled program for their destruction is virtually right on schedule! If this continues and there is no reason to think it won’t – the Syrian CW disarmament will be completed in the next 6 months and so a question arises; what manner of progressive would not agree that disarmament is a very good thing?

This good result, is unambiguously not thanks to the efforts of any western ‘peace movement’ or ‘anti-imperialist left’. Indeed not one organized grouping identifying as radically left has made any positive contribution to this part of the process of disarming the Assad regime. All of the ‘3 letter’ groups opposed (even if they verbally or theoretically denounce the Baathist / Alawite regime of the Assad dynasty, and naturally they mostly do so) the very real military threats – when they were made by the reluctant Obama and were imminent – that brought about this capitulation of the Assad regime.

But the reality – and everyone knows this – is that no cruise missile threat no good outcome!

The chemical weapons disarmament now in progress, is the direct result of the aggressive placement of military forces and the clear understanding by the Assad tyranny that these forces would be used in a very substantial way to destroy his air power, command and control and seriously and quite unpredictably disrupt his regime’s war effort against the democratically minded Syrian peoples’ and others that oppose him.

The exact military force that ‘cruise missile Marxists’ like me have advocated the use of, since the earliest stages of this struggle for democratic rights, has been put before the regime and this threat of force has brought about this good result.

If I, as a revolutionary democrat complain now it’s because this military force could just as well have been used much earlier, after for example the more minor use of these chemical weapons. Or when we ‘cruise missile Marxists’ first called for NATO intervention in the NFZ style manner of war that liberated the Libyan people!

In retrospect, it’s plain to see that such an intervention would have spared the lives of a great many Syrians, so it would qualify as a humanitarian intervention; as well as an intervention for the furtherance of the obvious revolutionary goals of transforming this tyranny into another garden variety (by ME standards) bourgeois democracy.

We might all note in passing that sparing Syrian lives is clearly of no real concern to the current POTUS and ditherer in chief Barack Obama. This ‘historical blockage’ of a political leader, is hardly much more than a shameless, self-promoting waste of eight years, as has been demonstrated often enough by comparison to the Syrian policy proposals put forward in contrast by his rival, and the once alternate candidate for POTUS – John McCain. As is now being revealed by the once insider people like Defence Sec., Robert Gates. Gates had to cope with this Administration’s lack of commitment to any war of liberation!

Anyway, it is a reasonable estimate that 120,000 plus casualties have been inflicted on Syrians as a direct result of the resistance to their peaceful democratic demands. The war and its casualties are the result of the intransigence of the regime. That tyrannical regime is well known to be a less murderous tyranny than the Saddam Hussein variety was. Everyone knows Saddam got away with the Halabja mass-murder with nary a threat to his CW back in 1988! How the world has changed.

Right across the western world confused left’s, and the pseudoleftists are currently peculiarly silent while they understand, or ought to, that this disarmament, AFTER the attack that killed perhaps 100th of the total 120,000 is NOT IN THEIR NAME.

The chemical weapons are being destroyed as a result of a threatened and more than credibly imminent ‘cruise missile’ response, which Obama belatedly was shamed into ordering. There was a way to prevent that attack and that was to comply with the U.S. demands for the orderly and verifiable CW disarmament now underway. Having overreached with the attack, Assad had no better choice available than to preserve his Air Force etc..

This ‘cruise missile’ Marxist really does believe that all political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.

I accept that not only is the struggle to rid the world of tyrannies necessarily protracted (and political unit by political unit variable in the how and when) I think it reasonable to remind people that by the time this CW disarmament task is completed, it is likely that a further 20-30,000 Syrians will be dead from the continuation of the conventional methods used. At that point absolute casualty numbers may well be running neck and neck with those sustained over eleven years in the warfare required to liberate and launch the bourgeois democratic revolution for the peoples’ of Iraq.

That number in Syria will have been achieved in ⅓ the time required for the more difficult task in the larger country of Iraq! Events in Iraq may unfold altering that trajectory, but what are the political demands that could bring the fighting to a stop in either country? What politics ought to be sought by radical democrats to win the war and stop the killing in both of these countries?

In six months time, there still won’t be an end in sight to the protracted war in either country, but in Iraq the democratic forces have been fighting off the front foot for years, while in Syria the regime still has all its ‘toys’ – except the chemical one’s responsible for only 100th of the casualties anyway. This is progress. Unfortunately, Assad got a pretty good deal as he continues to ethnically cleanse and cut out and try to build a holdable enclave.

When this issue came to a head last August, The North Star (TNS) a site deliberately set up to foster real debate among leftists after the events of Libya demonstrated to the site’s founder Pham Binh, (PB) that such a site was required, the site imploded.

TNS essentially collapsed under the strain and was ‘re-launched’ after some not so behind the scenes numbers crunch. The relaunched project was essentially a fraud. There is no longer debate to be had at TNS, more on that later.

Specifically, TNS 2, after a dishonest play against PB and quite blatant repudiation of its original raison d’etre for a broadly inclusive site for discussion and debate has imploded in the dishonest repudiation of that required debate and many people have been censored and banned etc., by the new owners.

To be frank, TNS fell into a madness of juvenile pseudoleftism and the bog standard censorship, found across the spectrum at Neverland ‘socialist’ sites, again unfolded with the boringly predictable results that saw the site abandoned by anyone worth a cracker. The new owners can now talk to themselves and the usual no-hopers in the usual echo chamber manner. The behaviour and consequent numbers are now on record to tell the tale. But as I said I will return to that topic later.

Back in the Middle East next ‘door’ to Syria, the Iraqi army is currently surrounding Fallujah, and the Sunni ‘tribe’ irregular troops are assisting the elected government to retake the city and capture or kill as many Al Qaeda forces they can get hold of.

Back over the border up in Aleppo, the FSA type elements are also taking on Al Qaeda types. Further north, the Turkish government;

‘…has removed 350 police officers from their posts in the capital Ankara, following a corruption probe targeting people close to the government.’

and Turkish politicians are fist fighting in the parliament.

John Kerry is doing his best to put pressure on Netanyahu, eight years after Sharon actually left the scene, and less than a decade after the Zionist state led by him pulled all it’s settlers and troops out of the Gaza strip.

So all troops and settlers are finally out of Sinai, Gaza and Lebanon (invaded under ‘defence’ minister Sharon back in 1982).  The war for greater Israel goes on with the Syrian Golan Heights still occupied; Palestinian East Jerusalem; and the West Bank still occupied – BUT these days the U.S. President – since GWB – no longer calls these areas ‘disputed territory’ but occupied territories!

Clearly U.S. interests are not served in continuing the failed war for Greater Israel. Clearly the U.S. even under Obama, is putting pressure on the Israeli government, and the embarrassing ‘settlement’ project. The blatant racism of Zionism has slowly united world opinion against the project for greater Israel launched in 1967.

For my money, a complicated circle of revolutionary transformation has now closed and western political and military power led by the U.S. has played a leading role in the process. U.S., and other NATO forces are busy in Jordan, both training and equipping ‘FSA’, or equivalent fighters and the bloody war launched by Assad grinds on.

The casualties mount right across the region but provided the U.S. and NATO don’t threaten to destroy Assad’s airpower, the western ‘peace’ movement will stay quiet about the arms and training provided to the FSA.  In other words – provided this war is conducted in the most incompetent and costly (in terms of casualties to the Syrian democratic peoples’) manner – as a slow burn against a well supplied tyranny – the pseudoleft will stay in Neverland.

Obama may yet get the Netanyahu government to finalize the defeat and his supporters will delude themselves with his great achievements, but whatever unfolds US interests spelt out under GWB when he declared the territories occupied and not disputed are now clear enough. The general direction is not going to change, and the general pressure will continue to grow!