Syria revisited

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nimblecivet's picture

Is Russia abandoning Assad?

Are the rebels taking hostages?

Ron Paul will introduce legislation forbidding US involvement. If Iran becomes Syria's best ally, and Russia either backs off or settles for a seat at the table to influence the transition, this could drag on until the Iran issue comes front and center. At that point, the Obama administration meme could become "Syria to unstable to allow Iranian opportunism" or "Syria is a friend of our enemy, Iran".


nimblecivet's picture
original post, 6-15-12: Well,

original post, 6-15-12:

Well, the horrors of war are becoming more apparent daily as reports of rape and torture mount. The NGOs (Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, etc.) tend to shift most of the blame on the Assad regime while the U.N. and the general reportage tends to place the blame on both factions. The most extreme accusations involve using children as human shields by strapping them to tanks, except for the claim by Israeli military officials that Assad has used mustard gas (which it can be said has not happened).

A lot of problems are involved in assessing these occurrances. When do people have a right to revolution or to split of into an autonomy or independance? The rebels of Syria have made so many sacrifices that surely their demands ought to be respected. However, it is in the interest of civilization that Assad and his regime be dealt with properly. For this reason, the U.S. should not be the primary agent for the removal of Assad.

The question of moral status should be addressed. If, as I suspect, the fighting will eventually wane, hopefully sooner than later (again, to emphasize, the U.S. should promote peaceful resolution above any particular outcome) accusations of criminality (crimes against humanity) will be part of the discourse and rhetoric involved. On the side of the rebels, the Free Syrian Army does not have control over the factions employing suicide bombings. In fact, even suicide bombings are not categorically equivalent to slaughter of civilians, as, if you thoroughly examine the links below, you will see that these types of actions are usually targetted at military assets, and in an attempt to counter the slaughter of civilians by Syrian military and paramilitary factions. It is not known whether those conducting such actions have been coerced into doing so. On the part of the Assad regime, it should be borne in mind that the actions of particular contingents within the military or paramilitary forces may be operating more or less often on their own in committing atrocities. Of course, human rights violations carried out by those of the FSA are even less likely to be carried out by design. The point is that an immediate peaceful resolution must be political in nature. If the U.S. attempts to use humanitarian grounds for assisting the rebels, that's one thing. If it attempts to do so in order to acheive a desired outcome, that's another.

The links below show both the armed struggle of the Syrian people in revolt against their government, but also the marches and vigils which the regime attempted to crush. The news media has of course focused on the ongoing violence, but the origin of the struggle in the demand for political freedoms and freedom from police-state repression is clear from the media linked to below. You can also make a contribution to the rebels if you like.

nimblecivet's picture
6-19-12: There is no


There is no indication that the US is moving any closer to providing arms to the rebels. Obama met with Putin and they issued a statement that the violence should cease. A Russian ship apparently loaded with arms for the Assad regime has turned around after having its insurance revoked (by a British company). Obama states that Russia's aspirations to join the WTO will not be used as leverage in respect to Russia's relationship with Syria. Coincidentally, British Petroleum has recently inked a deal with a Russian oil company to explore oil drilling in the Arctic.

Of course, the Assad regime is armed and the fighting continues with civilians among the casualties. The rebels have called for the U.N. observers to be armed. The hope is that if the U.N. observers can operate then the truth will out and the Assad regime will back off. How long will this drag out, who knows. Rumors that China, Russia, Iran and Syria were to engage in joint military excercises ("war games") have been denied. But with the US continuing to deny Russian accusations that it is arming the rebels and showing no inclination to become unilateraly involved in aiding the rebels, the question becomes whether the rebels will be able to continue to obtain arms. If their provisions of such were obtained either through hopes of the US and its allies in the region being able to intervene Libya-style it is likely that US public opinion has negated the possibility of that scenario; interest in the situation (evident from its continued presence in the headlines) is thought to motivate the Obama administration away from becoming engaged in another military venture (the public seems to have grown more sceptical over time). If Assad continues to crack down, low-level conflict may continue assuming those that have supplied the rebels with self-defense equiptment continue to do so out of whatever motivation. If not, the crackdown will have been successful, and it is likely that the human rights organizations which have decried Assad will not have access to ascertain what follows.

douglaslee's picture
Turkey is aiding and arming

Turkey is aiding and arming some rebel factions. They are also training, and coordinating with some intelligence sources which rebel factions to recruit and further encourage. Turkey is a NATO ally, and should they be attacked the whole nato alliance per that treaty is considered to be under attack. Greece is also NATO, and could assist and at the same time receive monetary aid for such assistance, which would coincidently stablize their own books.

nimblecivet's picture
Russian Foreign minister

Russian Foreign minister Lavrov has made a compelling statement well worth the read.

For one, he makes the point that what happened in Libya has changed the situation such that Russia cannot allow the same series of events to transpire. He denies the "client state" characterization of Syria, and asserts Russia's condemnation of Assad's actions in brutally repressing free-speech. If Assad falls, sectarian conflict will likely develop. If a peaceful transition can be effected, such violence, which Russia asserts follows from the continued arming of the rebels, can be avoided.

Lavrov wrote:

Responsible external actors should help Syrians avoid that scenario and bring about evolutionary rather than revolutionary reform of the Syrian political system through a national dialogue rather than by means of coercion from the outside.

Of course, they probably only say stuff like that because its in their best interest.

Lavrov goes on to note the importance of larger cultural frames in developing an internationalist ethos in a multi-polar world.

Lavrov wrote:

However, this should be done employing honest, transparent methods that will foster the export of national culture, education and science while showing full respect for the values of other peoples' civilisations as a safeguard for the world's diversity and esteem for pluralism in international affairs.

The crux of the matter?

Lavrov wrote:

We stand for the integration of the Syrian opposition only on the platform of preparedness for political dialogue with the government - in exact accordance with the Annan Plan.

He lays some blame at the feet of the Syrian National Council for requesting outside military assistance.

Absent an International Cross-Border Hug Patrol of epic proportions there aren't many other options for a successful resolution, even if the US continues to facilitate arming the rebels.

nimblecivet's picture
Turkey, once an ally of

Turkey, once an ally of Syria, is now invoking NATO and the US (unlike after North Korea's sinking of a South Korean naval vessel which was not breaching North Korean territory) has vowed to assist.  Turkey has hosted Syrian rebels in its border territories, as well as an influx of refugees. Turkey contends that the jet which was shot down received no warning. Iran is reaching out to Egypt. Russia is cozying up to Israel (trade in important sectors between the two countries has grown).

Iran has reportedly received assistance from Venezuela in the form of the latter having lent a U.S.-issue fighter jet to allow Iran to "calibrate" its defense systems. (Those familiar with Israel's role in South America know that it involves not only the hunting down of Nazis there but the selling of Israeli military aircraft to right-wing administrations, probably at US behest). Russia worries that provoking Iran will have negative consequences due to the sensibilities of its own muslim population.

Meanwhile the US and Israel are conducting excercises which simulate a missile attack on Israel. In the case of Egypt, the removal of a secular ruler has possibly meant a less favorable outcome for Israel in regard to Egypt-Israel relations. Israel is not as worried as otherwise would be that the same would be true with Syria, due to the Syria-Iran connection being just as much or more of a problem that a weakened Syria possibly being influenced to some degree or another by an Islamist faction would be. Many maintain that such factions are not influential in Syria. Russia, on the other hand, does have to worry due to the aforementioned (long standing) concerns over muslims in Russia.

When speaking of Assad as a dictator, etc., (and this is seperate from the issue of his response to peaceful protests) it is well to remember that the state of "emergency" which we in the US suppossedly live with (with its consequences to the Constitution) has been quite real in Syria since the various factions contending over the fate of Israel have taken shape during the history of the region.

nimblecivet's picture
What's new: Iran and Saudi

What's new: Iran and Saudi Arabia are both excluded from Annan's new talks. Russia and the U.S. are included, but while a transition without Assad will be discussed Russia maintains that any plan for removing Assad is unacceptable. Sec. of State Clinton will meet with her counterpart Lavrov. Russia has not yet delivered the helicopters in question, nor other military supplies (jets, missiles) purchased by Syria after Russia forgave Syrian debt upon condition that Syria enter these contracts.

Some members of the Syrian oppossition may be excluded from the talks, as well as Assad's government, and the Syrian National Council (including the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood) have stated they will boycott any result that includes Assad staying in power. Civilian oppossition to Assad's regime is reportedly at odds with the SNC insofar as the former do not call for outside assistance, especially a no-fly zone. This faction included the National Coordination Committee "made up of 13 political parties including some leftist forces, and independent mainly secular activists." (Phyllis Bennis, "Can We Stop a Civil War in Syria?, June 28 2012)

The downing of a Turkish fighter jet is of major interest to the Turkish press, government and people, causing internal contention between the government and its political oppossition. Syria's rather conciliatory statements are interpreted by some as masking a provokation, and as an extention of Russia's falling out with Turkey over the regime change question. Turkey has reinforced its border and the ongoing fighting includes Syria's operation in border towns.

One of the better analyses, in that it points out the absurdity of defining "diplomacy" merely as an alternative to military policy, is that of Dr Alia Brahimi.


The Assad regime's principal local ally, Hezbollah, has taken a similarly problematic stance on the violence in Syria. For years Hezbollah built up its credibility on the Arab street, beyond its social base among the Shia community in Lebanon, by championing the rights of the oppressed. In fact, Hezbollah finds itself in bed with the Assad regime in the first place because of their combined "axis of resistance", together with Iran, against Israeli imperialism. Nasrallah himself has championed an Arab nationalist narrative built around the notion of solidarity and premised upon inalienable Islamic and human rights. His continued support for the (Shia) Assad regime dramatically undercuts the moral and political foundations of Hezbollah's ideological framework and dilutes the group's raison d'etre to its sectarian core. No wonder Hezbollah has dramatically toned down its pro-Syrian rhetoric!

Members of the Palestinian Liberation army have been "kidnapped" by the Free Syrian Army. Ehud Barak says "Assad will fall, the forces of the opposition control significant parts of Syria. But the longer it takes, the more difficult it will be to stabilise the situation." (Mossad accused after Hamas member killed in Syria, BEIRUT- Agence France-Presse June/28/2012


As events unfold, the discourse more and more revolves around universal or common views of force and right, applied according to different apprisals of the propriety and advisability of action by parties internal and external to the theatre of operations (that is, including apprisals by different parties of the possibility and reality of outside participation in the conflict between the Syrian government and Syrian citizens in revolt). Is Iran truly interested in Syria per-se, or can they be eliminated as a player by assuaging their concerns that the Syria conflict is being used by the US as a means toward fulfilliing foreign policy goals related to Iran? The Israel-Palestine conflict no longer forms a basis for pan-Arab or pan-Islamic political alliances. The promise of the "Arab Spring" is for a new future for the people of the middle-east, one not defined by the conflicts of the Cold War (I or II) but by political and economic autonomy. Iran has characterized the Arab Spring as echoing the Islamic Revolution. Others see the CIA behind the Muslim Brotherhood. Others see a people throwing off the yoke of imperialism, like the Vietnamese before them, from whatever source it emanates, with all parties struggling by various means to protect their interests, forming legal and illegal, political and business, overt and secret relationships and schemes of action, reacting to events as they happen.

Given the complexity of the situation it is improper for any faction outside Syria to unilaterally demand the removal of Assad as a precondition for diplomacy which will bring an end to the bloodshed. Such a position, stemming from an attitude contrary to Obama's campaign pledge to use diplomacy rather than brute military force, can only be seen as a desperate bid for power as likely to produce results disasterous for the Syrian people including the opposite result of its stated intent, that is resulting in Assad's remaining in power rather than being removed from power. If power is the goal of such outside actors (Clinton, Hollande), they may come to the conclusion that Assad's remaining in power is more desireable than the success of a revolution they cannot control. This form of diplomacy is contrary to the democratic principles touted by these players, as it was when Hamas was voted into power by the Palestinian people due to the corruption within the PLO (including shopping sprees, etc. in Paris).

Syria, like Libya and Poland, by the way, is one of the countries to which the U.S. has sent people to be tortured during interrogation.