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Archive for the ‘Syria’ Category

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Posted by Charles II on August 13, 2014

Blame Turkey for arming ISIS.

[This is not to say Turkey is primarily to blame. This sounds like a narrative to blame Turkey for something the US either approved or acceded to.]

How US destroyed Iraq

Patrick Cockburn on ISIS.

And especially this:

In the face of these failures Iraq’s Shia majority is taking comfort from two beliefs that, if true, would mean the present situation is not as dangerous as it looks. They argue that Iraq’s Sunnis have risen in revolt and Isis fighters are only the shock troops or vanguard of an uprising provoked by the anti-Sunni policies and actions of Maliki. Once he is replaced, as is almost certain, Baghdad will offer the Sunnis a new power-sharing agreement with regional autonomy similar to that enjoyed by the Kurds. Then the Sunni tribes, former military officers and Baathists who have allowed Isis to take the lead in the Sunni revolt will turn on their ferocious allies. Despite all signs to the contrary, Shia at all levels are putting faith in this myth, that Isis is weak and can be easily discarded by Sunni moderates once they’ve achieved their goals. One Shia said to me: ‘I wonder if Isis really exists.’

Unfortunately, Isis not only exists but is an efficient and ruthless organisation that has no intention of waiting for its Sunni allies to betray it. In Mosul it demanded that all opposition fighters swear allegiance to the Caliphate or give up their weapons. In late June and early July they detained between 15 to 20 former officers from Saddam Hussein’s time, including two generals. Groups that had put up pictures of Saddam were told to take them down or face the consequences. ‘It doesn’t seem likely,’ Aymenn al-Tamimi, an expert on jihadists, said, ‘that the rest of the Sunni military opposition will be able to turn against Isis successfully. If they do, they will have to act as quickly as possible before Isis gets too strong.’

It would be a really good time to cut a deal with Putin, Assad, Abbas, and Rouhani, and get back to the business of repressing the really dangerous people in that part of the world. Too bad we don’t have a Congress intelligent enough to see this.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, Iran, Iraq war, Russia, Syria, terrorism | 6 Comments »

Was Turkey behind Syria sarin attack?

Posted by Charles II on April 8, 2014

This story is a few days old, but it’s possibly one of the more important foreign policy stories of the year. Seymour Hersh has published an article in the London Review of Books that suggests that the poison gas attack in Syria that killed so many people may have been instigated by Turkey using a Salafist Al Qaeda affliliate, al-Nusra. Here’s the Democracy Now interview:

AMY GOODMAN: In your piece, you mention the leaked video of a discussion between the Turkish prime minister, Erdogan, and senior officials of a false flag operation that would justify Turkish military intervention in Syria. … Sy Hersh, could you explain what the Erdogan administration’s support for the rebels, the Turkish support for the rebels, has consisted of and where the U.S. now stands on this?

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, … al-Nusra [Salafist terrorist] groups have been inside Turkey buying equipment. There’s also reports that they’ve also received some training from the Turkish intelligence services, which is very—is headed by a man named Fidan, who is very known. There’s reports, wonderful report in The Wall Street Journal recently about Fidan’s closeness not only to Erdogan, the prime minister and the leader of Turkey, but also to the most radical units. And so is Erdogan. They’re all supportin… the more fundamental groups inside Syria. And so, we know they supply training. We know also there’s a—there’s, I guess you could call it, another rat line. There’s a flow—if you’re going to send the chemicals that, when mixed together, meddled together, make sarin, they flow—that flow comes from inside Turkey. A sort of a paramilitary unit known as the gendarmy—Gendarmerie and the MIT [Milli Istihbarat Teskilati] both are responsible for funneling these things into radical groups. There’s actually a flow of trucks that brings the stuff in. And so, Turkish involvement is intense.

Why is this important news? Turkey is a NATO ally. Turkey has nuclear reactors; though it does not have such weapons, it wouldn’t be too hard to divert some material. It would be a real problem if Al Qaeda developed a foothold inside Turkey.

More here.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, Syria, Turkey | 4 Comments »

Hersh: Obama lied about Syrian sarin

Posted by Charles II on December 9, 2013

Via DemocracyNow, Sy Hersh in the 8/12/13 London Review of Books:

Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack.

That lede makes it sound as if it were more of a fudge than a lie. But when one digs into the details, the real lede is buried.

But in recent interviews with intelligence and military officers and consultants past and present, I found intense concern, and on occasion anger, over what was repeatedly seen as the deliberate manipulation of intelligence. One high-level intelligence officer, in an email to a colleague, called the administration’s assurances of Assad’s responsibility a ‘ruse’. The attack ‘was not the result of the current regime’, he wrote. A former senior intelligence official told me that the Obama administration had altered the available information – in terms of its timing and sequence – to enable the president and his advisers to make intelligence retrieved days after the attack look as if it had been picked up and analysed in real time, as the attack was happening.

The complaints focus on what Washington did not have: any advance warning from the assumed source of the attack.

The absence of immediate alarm inside the American intelligence community demonstrates that there was no intelligence about Syrian intentions in the days before the attack. And there are at least two ways the US could have known about it in advance: both were touched on in one of the top secret American intelligence documents that have been made public in recent months by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor.

What the US did not have was reaction from sensors that it has placed near Syrian chemical weapons facilities. If the Syrian army had planned the attack, they would have mixed the binary system, and it would have been picked up by sensors. It also had a gap in wiretapping of Bashar al-Assad.

The sensors had worked in the past, as the Syrian leadership knew all too well. Last December the sensor system picked up signs of what seemed to be sarin production at a chemical weapons depot. It was not immediately clear whether the Syrian army was simulating sarin production as part of an exercise (all militaries constantly carry out such exercises) or actually preparing an attack.

The US continued to lie about the more likely source of the attack, an extremist Islamist group called al-Nusra.

In both its public and private briefings after 21 August, the administration disregarded the available intelligence about al-Nusra’s potential access to sarin and continued to claim that the Assad government was in sole possession of chemical weapons. This was the message conveyed in the various secret briefings that members of Congress received in the days after the attack, when Obama was seeking support for his planned missile offensive against Syrian military installations. One legislator with more than two decades of experience in military affairs told me that he came away from one such briefing persuaded that ‘only the Assad government had sarin and the rebels did not.’ Similarly, following the release of the UN report on 16 September confirming that sarin was used on 21 August, Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, told a press conference: ‘It’s very important to note that only the [Assad] regime possesses sarin, and we have no evidence that the opposition possesses sarin.’

Posted in NSA eavesdropping, Obama Administration, Syria | Comments Off

The new product launch

Posted by Charles II on September 2, 2013

It’s selling season.

From a marketing point of view, you don’t roll out new products in August.” –White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, on why the Bush administration waited until after Labor Day to try to sell the American people on war against Iraq, “New York Times” interview, Sept. 7, 2002

Anybody buying?

Posted in Syria | 3 Comments »

And it was all going so nicely! (Is Assad about to defeat the Syrian uprising?). Also: best wishes for recovery to Stirling

Posted by Charles II on June 13, 2013

I don’t pretend to know whether this is correct, but the Agonist under Sean Paul Kelley was generally a place to go for international news. I am less taken with the current editor, Michael Collins, but it’s certainly a tonic to what we hear in our press:

The war in Syria went from a seeming quagmire to a conflict that may reach a dramatic climax with the coming battle for Aleppo, a city of nearly three million people that was once the commercial center of the nation.

The Syrian Army finished off final rebel resistance in the city of Qusayr last week fighting alongside the Lebanese group Hezbollah. As a result, the rebel supply line from Lebanon is shut down and the major road from Damascus to Aleppo via Qusayr is open. The road will serve the supply line for an attack to end rebel occupation of half of that city.

A victory by the Syrian military in Operation Northern Storm, its name for the Aleppo effort, will leave the rebels with very little in the way of major influence or meaningful territory.

Our press has been telling us that victory is certain for the rebels. Collins seems to believe the opposite. I have no opinion, just a vain hope that when it’s all over, the industrialized nations will not abandon a shattered Syria.

____________
Unrelated. Via the Agonist, this note dated 6/3:

To all Stirling [Newberry]’s friends; please know that he has had a stroke. He is in Mass. General Hospital and will get moved out of intensive care in the next couple of days. He has a long road to rehabilitation ahead of him. Please wish him well and visit with him if you can. (Stirling’s Facebook page is active for wishing him well)

A fast recovery to Mr. Newberry, one of the Internet’s most thoughtful iconoclasts.
_______________
Update. Bill Clinton risks looking like a fool:

Former President Bill Clinton offered a stinging critique of President Barack Obama’s inaction in Syria during a closed-press event this week, Politico reported, arguing that Obama’s hesitance to get involved in the lengthy conflict could end up making him look like a “total fool” and a “wuss.”

While only 15 percent of Americans said they’d back military action in Syria, according to a recent poll

Ex-presidents are not supposed to grade sitting presidents, particularly with this sort of rhetoric.
________________
Update: And now with this background the White House announcement of lethal aid for the Syrian rebels looks very much like an admission that Assad has won and that the only way to impose the American will is through the CIA, which will presumably be filling the gap until the rebels can get armed and trained.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, Syria | 4 Comments »

No news today

Posted by Charles II on December 23, 2012

Julian Borger, The Guardian:

Russian military advisers are manning some of Syria’s more sophisticated air defences – something that would complicate any future US-led intervention, the Guardian has learned.

The advisers have been deployed with new surface-to-air systems and upgrades of old systems, which Moscow has supplied to the Assad regime since the Syrian revolution broke out 21 months ago.

The depth and complexity of Syria’s anti-aircraft defences mean that any direct western campaign, in support of a no-fly zone or in the form of punitive air strikes against the leadership, would be costly, protracted and risky.

Air strikes against chemical weapon depots would potentially disperse lethal gases over a vast area, triggering a humanitarian disaster. US and allied special forces have been trained to seize the air bases where the warheads are kept, but it is unclear what the next step would be. It would be physically impossible to fly the hundreds of warheads out of the country, while it would take thousands of troops to guard the arsenal for what could be many months.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, Russia, Syria | 1 Comment »

A prayer for Riverbend

Posted by Charles II on August 15, 2011

She moved from Iraq to this:

This morning, Syrian tanks and gunboats reportedly shelled the main Mediterranean port city of Latakia, killing one person and bringing the total dead to at least 28 since government forces moved into the city on Saturday. The violence follows massive demonstrations on Friday in which tens of thousands of people turned out to protest the Assad regime. On Saturday, a large crowd of mourners gathered in Douma, a suburb of the capital Damascus, for the funerals of four protesters who activists say were killed by security forces.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, Riverbend, Syria | 1 Comment »

Hariri probe winds down

Posted by Charles II on January 17, 2011

The UN has finally completed its investigation of the assassination of Rafik Hariri. The first probe had to be abandoned because it had been deeply corrupted, with witnesses being offered huge sums in exchange for their testimony. Robert Parry has reviewed the history here:

In 2009, the UN tribunal examining Hariri’s murder and other terrorist acts in Lebanon had acknowledged that it lacked the evidence to indict the four Lebanese security officials who had been held without formal charges since 2005. Finally, Judge Daniel Fransen of a special international tribunal ordered the four imprisoned security officials released.

In a similar situation – say, one that involved a U.S. ally – the release would have been viewed as proof of innocence or at least the absence of significant evidence of guilt.

The report has not yet been unsealed. And, as Parry says, the fact that the original probe was so incompetent and corrupt will weaken the credibility of this report. But this is a story we covered early on and will continue to cover even if the evidence leads us to overcome our skepticism that Syria was behind it.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, Syria | 3 Comments »

Report: bombed Syrian facility resembled a reactor

Posted by Charles II on November 24, 2008

A story we have followed for over a year is the bombing of a facility in northern Syria by Israel on the suspicion that it was a nuclear facility[1, 2, 3].
The Independent:

The nuclear watchdog has said that a Syrian complex bombed by Israel resembled an undeclared nuclear reactor and warned the country to co-operate more with UN inspectors.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that “significant” numbers of uranium particles were found at the site in June, but that it was not enough to prove a reactor was there. The confidential report, published yesterday and obtained by Reuters, said the IAEA would ask Syria to show debris and equipment it removed from the site after the air raid in September 2007.

So, it appears that I was probably wrong in dismissing the likelihood that this was a nuclear facility. But unilateral action was still the wrong way to deal with this.

Posted in nukes, Syria, wrong way to go about it | 5 Comments »

Froomkin Gets It WRT Bush And Syria

Posted by Phoenix Woman on April 26, 2008

The WaPo’s Dan Froomkin nails it right out of the gate:

Intelligence reports from this administration can’t be taken at face value.
President Bush has built up a prodigious track record of selectively disclosing intelligence findings that serve his political agenda. And some of the most important of those findings, of course, turned out to be completely false.

The latest disclosure from the White House’s intelligence apparatus — that Syria secretly built a nuclear reactor with North Korean help — is in many ways a blockbuster. But at the same time, its highly suspicious timing raises doubts about the motivation behind its announcement.

And even if everything the administration says is true, there are many elements of the emerging story that deserve scrutiny.

Consider, for instance, that the Syrians were still nowhere near being able to build a nuclear weapon when the White House tacitly approved Israel’s attack on the facility. Did you think Bush’s pre-emption doctrine was dead? Just listen to the administration officials yesterday speaking sympathetically of Israel’s conclusion that it faced an “existential threat.”

Another obvious question: Why now? Why is the White House going public more than seven months after Israel’s attack?

Administration officials offered an explanation yesterday — saying that they were initially worried about provoking Syrian retaliation, and that the disclosure could actually help the ongoing nuclear negotiations with North Korea.

But there are still some who suspect the announcement is the work of Vice President Cheney and other administration neocons who are trying to upset those negotiations — and further ratchet up tensions with Iran. The White House statement about the Syrian installation insisted that “this development . . . underscores that the international community is right to be very concerned about the nuclear activities of Iran and the risks those activities pose to the stability of the Middle East.”

The timing outraged even Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, who had this to say after his meeting with CIA briefers yesterday: “I think many people believe that we were used today by the administration because – not because they felt they had to inform Congress because it was their legal obligation to do that, but because they had other agendas in mind. . . . I think what we saw in the committee today, I think the chairman would agree that the relationship that we need to get international issues done, foreign policy issues done, a trusting environment between the administration and Congress, does not exist.”

Go read the whole thing. It’s good.

Posted in abuse of power, Bush, BushCo malfeasance, Iraq war, Syria | Comments Off

 
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