Archive for april, 2012

Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 8

26 april, 2012

This is “ceasefire” a la UN – and just in Hama:

Al-Jazeera: Syrian forces’ shelling of Hama kills 54 people, activists say (April 25)

So the same UN that outlaws and forbid discrimination and racism is allowing the Syrians regime to pick and chose which colour and country the observers come from:

Syrian Cease-fire Deteriorates With More Violence

http://www.voanews.com/english/news/Syrian-Intelligence-Officer-Killed-in-Damascus-Attack-148650995.html

“Timor Goksel, the former spokesman of the U.N. peacekeepers in Lebanon. defended the observer mission in Syria. He said it will take time for the team to deploy and get acclimated, but that it would ultimately have a positive effect on the situation.

”Once they are there in force with the proper command structure, then they will try to start making themselves felt by going to trouble spots and doing reporting,” said Goksel. ”We are hoping to get unbiased, neutral, impartial reports that we don’t get from anybody else and by their presence in the area, they will calm down the situation and help contribute to an atmosphere of dialogue of some sort, but they are not the ones who are going to solve this problem.”

Goksel said that extra time is needed to get the full observer team on the ground, since the Syrian government insists on approving what nations will participate.

Analyst Nadim Shehadi of Chatham House inLondon, however, said that time is of the essence in deploying the U.N. observer team.

We should not repeat the Iraq experience of the ’90s of allowing Saddam Hussein to massacre his people while the world is undecided about what to do,” said Shehadi. ”Time is not a neutral element. Time is measured by people being killed and by the regime gaining an upper hand.”

Some more examples of the glorious UN ceasefire and its observers:

From Facebook

“From People of Zabadany regarding the UN Observers

We, the residents of the city of Zabadany, draw your attention to the fact that the international delegation of UN observers visited the city yesterday, Monday, April 23, and met with opposition activists. The meeting lasted 10 minutes.

Upon their arrival, only three of the monitors emerged from the UN vehicle: the head of the mission, an Indian; a Brazilian monitor; and a third, a Moroccan, Col. Ahmad Hamishi. The rest of the observers remained in the vehicle.

When we requested that Col. Hamishi receive the lists of detainees, some of whom had been detained for 8 months, and lists of local martyrs and their causes of death, he refused, explaining that it was not part of his mission.

After that, we asked him to take possession of our activists’ Google Earth satellite images of the map of Zabadany. The images show clearly where heavy military equipment is stationed in the city, and where tanks and artillery equipment are deployed; this equipment has a range of approximately 45 kilometers. Col. Hamishi refused to accept the images, providing no reason for his refusal.

When we informed him that we had risked our lives to meet him, and were ready to accompany him so that he could see with his own eyes the widespread military checkpoints, he refused, saying he did not have the time.

As he walked to his car to leave, after fewer than 10 minutes with us, one of our activists pointed to a house in which a wall had been destroyed during Assad forces’ bombing. Col. Hamishi informed us that he did not believe that the damage was the effect of shelling, and that his position was justified by the fact that the house had not completely burned down.

When the mother of a missing person approached to request that he return her son, he refused to listen to her, and informed her that he did not know Arabic.

After that, the UN observers’ delegation met with a regime delegation made up of Intelligence agents and shabiha. The regime representatives informed the UN observers that there was no military or tank deployment in the city – even though they would have had to pass through checkpoints to reach the area where the opposition activists were gathered.

It is important to note that the Syrian Intelligence agents listed the names of the activists who met with the UN delegation, and listed those activists as armed and dangerous criminals who must be prosecuted and executed.

Some more examples of the UN/Annan ceasefire:

Massgrave:

“THERE ARE SO MANY DEAD – THEY MUST ALL BE BURIED IN A MASS GRAVE. Hama (Al-Arbe’en): Apr 24, 2012 – This is the aftermath of the massacre in Al-Arbe’en neighborhood of Hama after Assad’s forces mercilessly shelled the area with an unrelenting barrage of Russian made and supplied shells, rockets and mortars … all falling on residential buildings.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUtT71dZb7w&feature=player_embedded

One of many videos shoving the continuing destruction of neighbourhoods, this one from Mashaa Al Tayyar, Hama April 25:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yi_YQYcHEgw&feature=player_embedded

As I reported in part 4:

“But an activist outside the city of Hama said that demonstrators had been chanting against the presence of U.N. monitors.We don’t want more people to watch us be killed,” said Mousab Alhamadee via Skype, calling instead for practical help for the opposition, including arming rebel forces. “

But killed they are. Sometimes watched by these observers.

And according to the as always very “helpful” Russians, it is the population and resistance that are the culprits:

Russia denounces “terror” by Syrian rebels

http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=389980

“Russia accused the Syrian rebels on Thursday of waging a wide-scale terror campaign that is designed to kill as many civilians as possible despite a formal ceasefire.

”Opposition groups have essentially reverted to waging wide-scale terror in the region,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Alexander Lukashevich.”

So the civilian population is apparently shelling themselves with the Russian 240 mm mortar bombs to destroy their own houses and apartments. And killing themselves so they can put themselves in mass graves.

Yeap that sounds like a very plausible theory doesn’t it?

EU

I was going to write about EU’s part but what’s the point? On Monday April 23, EU imposed the 14th round of sanctions.

14!

I mean come on! 14 in little over one year -That’s one every 24 day. It’s becoming ridiculous.

And as I wrote in part 1 after the 13th round of sanctions:

“EU the other day “strengthened” sanctions, the 13 in a row, banned Assad’s wife from shopping on the Continent. Yea, I bet Syria’s dictator Bashar Hafez al-Assad felt threatened to his core!

This is NOT serious. It’s just cynical and hypocritical.

This is the EU that according to the official rhetoric was set up to be a “big” player on the international arena, be a counterweight to USA, and to promote peace.

The mouse that squeaked?

And EU hasn’t even worked out which goods will be included in the new embargo!

EU imposes new sanctions on Syrian regime

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2012/04/23/financial/f013240D84.DTL&type=business

“EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said the EU’s 27 foreign ministers approved the new set of sanctions — the 14th in the past year — ”because of deep concern about the situation and continuing violence in spite of the cease-fire.”

”We expect the government to withdraw all troops and heavy weapons from towns and cities (and) we want to make sure that the regime gives full access to humanitarian organizations.”

Previous rounds of U.S. and EU sanctions have done little to stop the bloodshed, although there are signs the Syrian economy is suffering. International measures against Assad’s regime have depleted its foreign currency reserves by half, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said last week.

EU experts will work out later precisely which goods will be included in the new embargo. One of the diplomats said so-called ”dual-use” goods can include anything from vehicles to fertilizers and other chemicals.

The only precedent in international relations for the luxury ban is one imposed by the EU in 2007 on North Korea for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Officials said this could serve as a model for the same measure against Syria. That ban included foods such as caviar and truffles, high-quality wines and spirits, fashion accessories including bags and shoes, perfumes, crystal and silverware, and purebred horses.

”We need to continue to intensify pressure on the Assad regime,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said. ”They are not in complete compliance with the cease-fire provisions of the Annan plan.”

EU agrees new sanctions on Syria

http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=388718

”The European Union agreed Monday to slap new sanctions on the Syrian regime, banning luxury goods exports and further restricting the sale of items used to repress dissidents, a diplomat said.

”These sanctions will be put in place against Syria,” the diplomat told AFP after EU ambassadors endorsed the measures ahead of a meeting of foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

The extent of the luxury ban has yet to be defined but the aim is to deliver a symbolic blow against the posh lifestyle of President Bashar al-Assad and his glamorous British-born wife Asma, another diplomat said.

”The Assad couple, as well as his inner circle and leaders of the regime must be made to understand that events in Syria will also impact their personal lives,” the source added.

Brusselsalso decided to expand the blacklist of dual-use goods which can be used for internal repression or for the manufacturing of equipment used for internal repression.

The 14th round of EU sanctions comes as violence continues in Syria despite the presence of  UN truce observers in the country.”

So now after the 14th round of sanctions the EU blacklist is totalling 126 people and 41 firms or utilities.

Yes, the sanctions have some small effect and it annoys the Assad ruling circle but that’s about it.

With the massive help from Russia, Iran and China. And the use of the already established sanction busting network forIran(see part 4), which Syria can use

So what are EU doing about the Russian, Iranian and Chinese massive support and sanction busting?

Nothing of course.

Because then you have to annoy them, and of course you cannot do that.

So instead, ALL the efforts of EU is into these quite meaningless sanctions.

When EU has imposed the say 48th round of sanctions,  maybe will be worth writing a post about it.

NATO

On one side Russia, Iran and China literally pouring in all types of heavy weapons (remember the 240 mm Russian mortar bomb), personal, training etc for the Assad regime.

On the other unarmed civilians and a resistance with some light arms.

And NATO is apparently very worried that if the civilians get anything more than Kalashnikovs and the odd RPG, so they at least can defend themselves and offer some resistance to the Assad forces, that that would constitute “a proliferation of weapons in the region”.

NATO opposes arming Syria rebels

http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=382781

“NATO’s chief on Monday said the alliance was opposed to providing arms to the Syrian opposition seeking to counter a regime crackdown, warning that it would fuel a proliferation of weapons in the region.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen called for a diplomatic solution and reiterated that NATO, which led the Libya air war that contributed to Moammar Qaddafi’s downfall last year, had ”no intention whatsoever to intervene in Syria.”

And to top it off:

We monitor the situation closely,” Rasmussen said, adding that the situation in Syria could impact neighboring Turkey, a NATO member.

It’s absolutely outrageous what we have witnessed in Syria,” he added.”

This must be one of the most hypocritical, cynical and ridiculous statements ever made by NATO.

The people of Syria will “thank you” for your “deep concern” as they are being slaughtered by the Assads forces.

So according to this superb NATO logic, the Russian 240 mm mortar bomb, supplied by the as always helpful Russia, used to destroy block after block, neighbourhood after neighbourhood in CIVILIAN Syrian cities, is NO PROBLEM WHATSOEVER.

It is the largest mortar bomb known to be in production and use. It weighs 130 kilograms and contains 31.93 kilograms of TNT as an explosive charge.

By the way, the use of such weapons in dense urban environments is a war crime.

But giving this to the resistance so they can defend themselves is a serious “proliferation of weapons in the region”.

Really good work there NATO!

This is the same NATO that without any hesitation went in full scale in Libya. Then it wasn’t any talk about “that it would fuel a proliferation of weapons in the region”.

As I wrote in part 1:

“It is also very interesting to compare how eager the Obama administration, EU and NATO was to go into Libya with their do nothing attitude with Syria.

The dictator Gaddafi had not killed as many civilian people as Assad’s regimes have by a long shot. Or destroyed as many neighbourhoods as Assad. Nor did Gaddafi support so many terrorist groups as Assad. Or had the same strategic value for USA as Syria.

Nor did Gaddafi kill so many Americans as did Assad (Bashar and Hafez al-Assad – It is A Family affair). Etc. Etc.

So in every way and shape or form, in comparison Libya under Gaddafi doesn’t even come close to Syria under Assad.

Samantha Power, a prominent advocate of humanitarian intervention and the principle of ”responsibility to protect”, is considered to be the key figure within the Obama administration in persuading the president to intervene militarily in Libya.

Power, was a senior foreign policy adviser to senator Obama, and now a Special Assistant to President Barack Obama and Senior Director of the National Security Council.

But on Syria? NOT A PEEP!

And some of the “excuses” for not doing anything, like “the arms could end up in the wrong hands”, become ABSOLUTELY mind-boggling hypocritical when you remember that NATO and US special operations troops together with their intelligence operatives in Tripoli, armed and put Al-Hakim Belhadj in control over Tripoli. And gave him “the keys” to Gadhafis armoury.

Those arms were advanced items which British and French special operations forces gave the rebels, according to “a senior” American source.

Who is Al-Hakim Belhadj you may ask. He is a leader and commander of LIFG, the Al Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Which by the way is listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. He is an al Qaeda veteran from Afghanistan, he joined the Talliban etc.

He was first captured in Pakistan 2001 and handed over to US security officials, he was repatriated to Libya two months later. Later CIA captured him in Malaysia in 2004. He was then transferred to Bangkok, where he was then placed in the custody of the CIA.  Later they extradited him to Libya where he was kept in prison for six years by Qaddafi.

According to the Spanish, Al-Hakim Belhadj was suspected of complicity in the 2004 Madrid train bombings etc. etc.

For the first time, therefore, the armies of Western members of NATO took part and helped directly in a bid by extremist Islamic forces to capture an Arab capital and overthrow its ruler.”

Then there was NO concernthat it would fuel a proliferation of weapons in the region”. In fact, NATO gave sophisticated weapons to known Al Qaeda groups like LIFG.

As I said before, it is so ABSOLUTELY mind-boggling hypocritical that you just want to throw up.

And while NATO is “concerned”, the Syrian civilian population continues to get slaughtered.

But how cares?

And that Samantha Power, Special Assistant to President Barack Obama and Senior Director of the National Security Council, mentioned above just got apointed by Obama to head the new White House Atrocities Prevention Board.

But still on Syria? NOT A PEEP!

So apparently she is VERY SELECTIVE in which atrocities to “prevent”.

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Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 7

25 april, 2012

And the “ceasefire” continuous.

Al-Jazeera: Syrian forces killed 66 people Monday, activists say (April 23)

Regime forces killed at least 28 civilians with heavy gunfire in the central city of Hama on Monday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. (April 23)

“Déjà Failed!

Another monitoring mission, another set of people from all over the world making excuses, trying to explain the unexplainable and getting frustrated and fired upon to boot. When will the world follow a plan that makes sense. To the world we say: Give us what we need to get the mission accomplished, not what you need to feel good about yourselves.”

Ammar Abduhamid a liberal democracy activist

To really show the absurdity of this UN “ceasefire” and their observers:

Two UN observers come under sniper fire from Assad’s forces in Homs April 21 and had to take cover and the civilian population protected the UN observers. The same civilian population that these UN observers were supposed to “protect”

That what I call a ceasefire a la UN!

I therefore suggest to the UN Security Council a new resolution with a “new” UN observation team that will “protect and observe the first team of observers”.

There are many videos showing this, here are two:

04/21/12  Assad’s Snipers shoot at UN Monitors in Homs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ININuKv5N5w&feature=player_embedded

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYxawA7ShMk&feature=youtu.be

And here is a news story about it:

UN delegation of the ‘terrified’ in Syria

http://arabnews.com/opinion/columns/article615427.ece

“We saw the Free Syrian Army (FSA) protecting the Blue Berets, particularly in Homs, where the head of the observer mission, Col. Ahmed Himmiche, was present.”

“A YouTube video-clip has appeared showing the international monitors being targeted and shot at by forces belonging to the tyrant of Damascus, whilst members of the FSA formed a human barrier to protect them as they were beset by panic. Indeed this video-clip shows one FSA member protecting one of the international monitors from gunfire, reassuring him by saying “don’t be afraid!” Of course, anybody who views this YouTube video-clip understand the extent of the irony inherent in this situation, and as the saying goes, the worst disaster is the one that brings laughter, particularly when we are looking at a UN monitoring delegation transform into a delegation of the “terrified.”

This represents a clear insult from the Assad regime toward the UN and international community, particularly as the targeting of this delegation took place on the same day that the UN Security Council took the decision to send more monitors to Syria! So after all of this, can we say that there is any expected benefit from sending international monitors to Syria? There can be no doubt that this is completely out of the question.

Assad’s shelling of Homs, Deraa, Hama and other cities is ongoing, and Syrian people are being killed on a daily basis, so after all of this how can we say that the delegation of international monitors will play an effective role, or confirm Assad’s compliance with the Annan initiative? The targeting of the international observers, and their being subject to gunfire in Homs, means that Assad has taken aim at Annan’s initiative, and this means that we cannot rely on this initiative, or wait another three months — which is the timeframe provided for the observer mission by the UN initiative — for Assad did not even wait a few days for his forces to fire upon the delegation of the “terrified.”

What is funny is that Washington is claiming that its patience has run out, and that it will not renew the observer mission in 90-days, in other words Washington has already begun to negotiate — from today — about renewing the observer mission, which should end in 3 months! This is the true definition of absurdity, whilst it also makes light of the Syrian blood that has been shed non-stop over the past 12 months, particularly as this delegation of the “terrified” — on Friday — refused to monitor the scene, despite the huge anti-Assad demonstrations taking place, with the head of the observer mission saying that his team would not undertake any field trips for fear that “our presence is used for escalation.”

Is this a joke? Must the FSA now also protect the international delegation of the “terrified” from the Assad forces? It is clear that the international delegation of the “terrified” will not accelerate or delay anything in Syria, particularly at their current level, therefore the Emir of Qatar was right when he said that the Annan initiative has only a 3 percent chance of success!

What everybody must be aware of is the fact that Assad only understands the language of force; anything other than this is nothing more than a license to kill, a waste of time and a deepening of the Syrian crisis.”

And these UN observers WILL NOT “OBSERVE” on Fridays when most of the protests are! Another glorious example of this great UN “ceasefire”.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/21/world/middleeast/syrian-protesters-mock-cease-fire-and-united-nations-observers.html?_r=3&partner=rss&emc=rss

“Col. Ahmed Himmiche, the Moroccan officer heading the advance team of United Nations observers in Syria, was quoted as telling reporters in Damascus that they would avoid Friday patrols, a statement that confirmed suspicions of many who have experienced the brunt of government oppression that the mission would be toothless. “We don’t want to be used as a tool for escalating the situation,” he said.

Those remarks were met with some disbelief, particularly in Damascus, where antigovernment protesters said they faced arrest, bullets, tear gas and a wide deployment of government security forces trying to suppress their demonstrations — all violations of the supposed cease-fire plan. One point of the six-point peace plan negotiated under United Nations auspices is that Syrians be allowed to demonstrate freely.

I have no hope in the monitors; if they don’t tour on Fridays, why did they come to Syria?” said Yaser, 30, a protester in Jober, not far from downtown Damascus, where an attack by government thugs wounded demonstrators. “For us nothing is changed — we are demonstrating, the Assad forces are killing and the monitors are watching.” Demonstrators in Homs, which has endured more than two months of shelling, were more sarcastic. At the beginning of every video from a demonstration, someone off camera held up a piece of paper indicating the place and the date. One from Homs on Friday in Arabic and slightly mangled English read: “Dear Observer. We are waiting. Note: Homs is a city in Syria (can u come please?”).

Abu Omar, 28, an activist reached by telephone, said sardonically that perhaps the Syrian government no longer considered the city part of the country since it evidently had no intention of respecting the cease-fire there or of withdrawing its forces, as the peace plan specifies. “Tanks are still deployed in every corner of the city, and checkpoints are everywhere,” he said. “So what is the meaning of this cease-fire?”

And of course, the shelling continues as usual during this “ceasefire”:

Just two out of many videos showing this continued destruction:

Syria, Homs city: Violent Shelling on Khaldiyeh area by the regime army

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=uZ5JWvufVlI

04/20/12 Syria Homs shelled despite ceasefire

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGv-lHKPAyA&feature=player_embedded

And

Satellite images reveal ruined deserted Homs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUC_8airD6E&feature=player_embedded

“Government forces’ continued shelling of the Syrian city of Homs has left some neighbourhoods unrecognisable.

Satellite images taken this Mach reveal a deserted city centre, destroyed areas and heavy deployment of tanks across the city.

This contracts to the images shot in August, which showed a busy city of around a million.  The latest imagery, commissioned by Al Jazeera, provides a snapshot of what appears to be an increasingly dire situation. “

Remember that in Part 1 I wrote “But for the most part, most of the army stays out of this. They have “defected in place” And one example I gave was from Golan:

“From division level down to battalions and brigades level. Entire units from commander down defy orders from the General Staff in Damascus to fight the rebels without crossing the lines to the opposition. To keep the spreading passive mutiny, Assad keeps the defiant units supplied in their barracks with funds and food.

Another example of this passive mutiny by the Syrian army, was when the five Syrian divisions stationed on Syria’s Golan border with Israel and its frontier with South Lebanon; were told by their commanders in beginning of March to ignore orders from Damascus to join the crackdown on rebels because their mission was “to defend the Syrian homeland from external threats” – another form of “defection in place.”

Well it seems that the situation has gotten worse, according to Israeli sources. Since Assad now have diverted food and supplies from these army units to his militia:

“The wretched plight of the troops manning Syrian defense divisions defending the Golan border and Mt.Hermon was clearly visible from lookout points on the Israeli side in the last two days. The regular water and food supplies to their bases, the backbone of Syria’s defense lines against Israel, were stopped and redirected to the units fighting anti-Assad rebels in other parts of the country. Large groups of armed soldiers have gone AWOL to hunt for food. For the first time in years, some have approached the border fence. They don’t ask Israeli soldiers for food, but parcels thrown across the fence vanish in a trice.

The 5th Division posted in the Golan town of Quneitra has suffered the largest number of desertions, estimated at more than 1,500 officers and men, around 15 percent of the full complement. But hundreds of dropouts occur daily from the 15th, 9th and 7th Divisions stationed in central and southern Golan.

The district commands have meanwhile lost control of the Syrian-Israeli border deployment. Military facilities are deserted with no one to guard against trespassers. Gangs, local and from across Syria’s eastern borders with Jordan and Iraq, were quick to realize the bases are unguarded and have begun stripping them of equipment and looting everything they can lay hands on.“

”For them the palaces, for us the coffins.”

And it seems that slowly the disaffection with Assad is growing among his main internal support the Alawites:

Disaffection, fear growing among Syria’s Alawites

http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/disaffection-fear-growing-among-syrias-alawites#full

“DAMASCUS // In the Alawite heartlands of Latakia and the mountainous rural hinterlands surrounding the city, the regime of President Bashar Al Assad still commands overwhelming support, buttressed by patronage networks and deeply entrenched fears of sectarian bloodshed.

But activists in the region say there are signs disaffection with Al Assad family rule is slowly spreading among those outside of privileged elite circles, a discord encapsulated in a new slogan, increasingly heard among ordinary Alawites: ”For them the palaces, for us the coffins.”

”People are saying, ‘how long will we have to bear this’, more and more army families are wondering what they are sacrificing their children for, they are starting to say ‘where are the martyrs from the Assad family?’,” said an Alawite activist from Latakia, a once bustling port and tourist resort on Syria’s verdant Mediterranean coastline.

Another influential Alawite opposition figure from a village in the Alawite mountains said dissent had become more pronounced since January, when an elderly Alawite widow buried her son, a soldier killed in the uprising. She had lost her husband and father in conflicts during the 1970s and 1980s under the former president Hafez Al Assad.

”She stood at the funeral and said: ‘You Assads have taken my whole family, and all for nothing,‘” the activist said. ”People sympathised with her. Since then there have been similar sentiments at other funerals – not all of them, but some of them, people are becoming angry, the pressure is rising.”

Nonetheless even opposition figures in the region acknowledge most of Syria’s Alawites – members of the same obscure Shiite sect as Mr Al Assad and his ruling faction – continue to side with the regime.

”Ninety per cent of the Alawite community in Latakia and the villages support Assad, either because they have direct interests with the regime or because they are terrified,” said a leading Alawite dissident.

”Alawites believe they are facing a jihad by Sunni extremists who are coming to chop off their heads, they are really sacred of that.”

”The regime has convinced the minorities it is their protector and it has succeeded in neutralising the Alawites though fear, through linking their destiny to the regime’s,” said a Christian protester from Latakia city.

”For that reason, the majority [in Latakia] are not involved in the revolution, while they are in many other places, if you go to Hama you have no doubt the revolution will win, but in Latakia it is like a different world compared to the rest of Syria,” he said.

Demonstrations, typically involving 100 to 150 young protesters and lasting up to 15 minutes, have stubbornly persisted in Latakia city, although they are confined to a few neighbourhoods and outlying villages, all where Sunnis are in the majority.

To keep public protests at that low level, security forces have been deployed in strength throughout much of the city. Activists say it takes just minutes for dozens of security cars to arrive at the scene of any dissent.

The Ramel neighbourhood, an impoverished Sunni ghetto that was assaulted by security units in August, remains sealed off by heavily fortified checkpoints.

In the heart of Latakia, the school where Hafez Al Assad was educated has been shut down and garrisoned by the army, with hundreds of soldiers and plainclothes security officers on hand to prevent it – or the statue of the former president standing on a plinth outside – from being defaced by opposition activists.

While the regime needs to hold Damascus and Aleppo if it is to remain in power, Latakia, as an unofficial capital for Syria‘s Alawites, is just as important.

”The regime hasn’t reached the point where it feels it is losing in Latakia yet, but it is not comfortable. It is working hard to keep the control it has,” said a local doctor who has been supporting protests.

A protest organiser from the city, a 40-year-old engineer, said the opposition was similarly working hard to keep going under immense pressure, including widespread detentions and pervasive surveillance of activists.

We were weakened by the arrests but we have reorganised and adapted,” he said.

As with other parts of Syria, numerous activists in Latakia confirmed an increasing tendency among anti-regime groups to favour taking up weapons, and they reported growing activity by the Free Syrian Army, including raids made from rural areas into the heart of the city to help soldiers trying to defect.

”The regime is weakening slowly, it is breaking up like an iceberg,” said another grassroots activist in the region. ”But as it has become harder to have peaceful demonstrations, the armed opposition has become stronger and everyone is saying the same thing now – a peaceful uprising alone is not going to topple this regime.”

A protester from Ramel, a 23-year-old Sunni, said he would stop peaceful demonstrations and join the armed opposition if it were being supplied with weapons from the West or Arab states.

It is our right to carry arms and to defend ourselves, don’t blame us if that is what we do,” said the protester, whose father and brothers have been arrested and held for months and who was himself detained for 50 days. ”We want any foreign air force over the skies of Syria to protect us from this regime, let them bomb the presidential palace, we would make a pact with the devil if he could help us get rid of the regime.”

”In the beginning I used to say there was no way a civil war could happen here, that the Syrian people would not do that but after one year, we cannot keep saying the same thing. What we saw in Homs [sectarian violence] is a worry because we have the same mix of sects here in Latakia,” the Christian activist said.

The young Sunni protester echoed that alarm. ”I’m afraid of a civil war with the Alawites,” he said. ”They have been fooled by the regime into taking its side and when the regime feels it has reached its end they will murder a lot of people in Latakia, there will be a lot of violence.”

A seasoned Alawite dissident gave an equally bleak assessment of the region’s, and Syria’s, immediate prospects. ”We will be dragged into a civil war by this regime, it will be like the Balkans, it will be Bosnia all over again.”

Arab League

There is a lot to be said about the Arab League and what is has done or mostly not done in the region. This post thou are about what the Arab League has done or not done regarding the civilian uprising inSyria.

A short background and timeline:

On November 3 2011, the Syrian government accepted an Arab League peace plan to halt its crackdown on protesters. The ceasefire quickly broke down, as government forces continued their suppression of protests. From 2 to12 November 2011, more than 250 people were killed.

The peace plan – to allow foreign observers from the Arab League to monitor Syria’s progress in removing troops from protest areas, free political prisoners and negotiate with dissidents.

On December 19, Syria agreed to the Arab League peace plan, agreeing to let observers into the country.

On December 26, 67Arab League monitors arrive in Syria.

On January 22 2012 Saudi Arabia withdraws from the Syrian observers mission.

On January 24 Gulf Arab states announce that they are withdrawing from the Arab League’s observer mission in Syria.

On January 28 The Arab League suspends the monitoring mission due to ”the critical deterioration of the situation” .

Arab League suspends Syria mission as violence rages

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/28/us-syria-idUSTRE8041A820120128

“Reuters) – The Arab League suspended its monitoring mission in Syria on Saturday because of worsening violence, a move Damascus said was an attempt to draw foreign intervention as it struggles to quell a 10-month revolt against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.

The Arab League took the decision days after calling, unsuccessfully, for Assad to step down and make way for a government of national unity. It will take an Arab peace plan to the U.N. Security Council next week.

Given the critical deterioration of the situation in Syria and the continued use of violence … it has been decided to immediately stop the work of the Arab League’s mission to Syria pending presention of the issue to the league’s council,” Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said in a statement.”

UN resolution proposal

On January 31, the Arab League asked the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution, based on the League’s action plan for Syria, including a call for Assad to step down. Yet, on February 4, the resolution was vetoed by China and Russia.

Eventually, a non-binding resolution by the UN General Assembly was endorsed, with China and Russia voting against. The UN General Assembly resolution has no legal force, unlike the UN Security Council.

So the as always very “helpful” Russians and Chinese even voted against a non-binding resolution by the UN General Assembly. Just to show who is in control. They could have abstained but they didn’t want to “risk” anything.

So much for the Arab League peace plan.

”Arab observers- All the claims about Syria are lies. We saw nothing”

And who in their wisdom did the Arab League chose to lead the mission and obsevers in Syria?

The Sudanese general Mustafa al-Dabi.

Just a short reminder here that the Assad regime and Sudanese president Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir are “buddies”. And general Mustafa al-Dabi has been very close and loyal to president Al-Bashir

A short background general’s Dabi’s career:

1989 – Chief of military intelligence

1995-  Chief of Sudan’s foreign intelligence agency

1996 – Deputy chief of General Staff

2000 – Ambassador to Qatar

2005 – Commissioner of security arrangements in Darfur ceasefire monitoring committee

Syria mission a diplomatic coup for Sudan

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-16349870

This has dismayed human rights groups, with Amnesty International warning that it could threaten the credibility of the entire mission.

”The Arab League’s decision to appoint as the head of the observer mission a Sudanese general on whose watch severe human rights violations were committed in Sudan risks undermining the League’s efforts so far and seriously calls into question the mission’s credibility,” it said in a statement.

Gen Dabi served as head of the Sudanese directorate of military intelligence when Mr Bashir seized power in a coup in 1989 – a period marked by ”arbitrary arrest and detention, enforced disappearance and torture”, Amnesty says.

Syrian opposition activists say they have little faith in the Arab League’s initiative His name was also linked with the summary trials and execution of 28 army officers who mounted a failed coup attempt against Mr Bashir in April 1990, an anti-government Sudanese news site, Alrakoba, reports.”

Syrian opposition groups have also expressed concern about Gen Dabi’s strong military background.

He won’t be neutral, and would sympathise with those in similar positions, thus it won’t be surprising if he supports and sympathises with the Syrian regime and its henchmen who are committing crimes against humanity round the clock in Syria,” said the head of the Syrian League, Abd-al-Karim al-Rayhawi.”

Activists alarmed over Sudanese head of Syria mission

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/28/us-syria-monitors-dabi-idUSTRE7BQ1DO20111228

“(Reuters) – The choice of a Sudanese general to head an Arab League mission in Syria has alarmed opposition activists who say Sudan’s own defiance of a war crimes tribunal means the monitors probably won’t recommend strong action against Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.

But some critics of Khartoum say it is all but impossible to imagine a Sudanese general ever recommending strong outside intervention, much less an international tribunal, to respond to human rights abuses in a fellow Arab state.

Eric Reeves, a professor at Smith College in Massachusetts, who studies Sudan and has written strong criticisms of its government, said the choice of a Sudanese general was a sign the Arab League might not want its monitors to produce findings that would force it to take stronger action.

”There is a broader question of why you would pick someone to lead this investigation … when he is part of an army that is guilty of precisely the sort of crimes that are being investigated in Syria,” Reeves said.

”I think a Sudanese general would be one of the least likely people in the world to acknowledge these findings even if they are right there before him… It doesn’t make any sense unless you want to shape the finding. They want it shaped in ways that will minimize the obligation to do more than they already have.”

Syrian opposition activists are reluctant to publicly criticize a monitoring mission in which they have invested high hopes. But several have privately voiced concern over whether a Sudanese military man would be willing or able to take a hard stance towards Assad.”

Amnesty International said Sudan’s military intelligence, at the time Dabi led it, ”was responsible for the arbitrary arrest and detention, enforced disappearance, and torture or other ill-treatment of numerous people in Sudan.”

”The Arab League’s decision to appoint as the head of the observer mission a Sudanese general on whose watch severe human rights violations were committed in Sudan risks undermining the League’s efforts so far and seriously calls into question the mission’s credibility.”

“Jehanne Henry, Sudan researcher at New York-based Human Rights Watch, said that as head of Sudan’s military intelligence in the 1990s, Dabi ”certainly would have been in a position to know what the security services were doing at that time.”

”As we and others have documented in reports from that period, the security services were implicated in serious human rights violations such as the arbitrary arrest and detention of political activists and their ill treatment and torture.…”

She said rebel leaders had accused Dabi of violations in Darfur, although Dabi was not one of the figures Human Rights Watch had linked to specific abuse documented in its research.

”He obviously does not fit the profile as a human rights monitor,” she added.”

“But that will not be enough to persuade rights groups. Omer Ismail from the Enough Project, an anti-genocide campaign organized by the influential U.S. think-tank the Center for American Progress, said the choice of Dabi was ”perplexing.”

”Instead of heading a team entrusted with a probe of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity by Syria, the general should be investigated by the ICC for evidence of similar crimes in Sudan,” Ismail said in a statement.

”When he served as Sudan’s former head of Military Intelligence, and when he oversaw implementation of the Darfur Security Arrangement, alleged war crimes including genocide were committed on his watch.”

And his direct involvement in the Darfur genocide by the Arab Janjaweed:

(In Darfur the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court says the army carried out war crimes and the United Nations says 300,000 people may have died. Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has been indicted by the Hague-based International Criminal Court for genocide and crimes against humanity.)

The World’s Worst Human Rights Observer.

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/12/27/the_worlds_worst_human_rights_observer

“As Arab League monitors work to expose President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown, the head of the mission is a Sudanese general accused of creating the fearsome ”janjaweed,” which was responsible for the worst atrocities during the Darfur genocide.

”I am going to Homs,” insisted Sudanese Gen. Mohammad Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, the head of the Arab League observer mission, telling reporters that so far the Assad regime had been ”very cooperative.”

But Dabi may be the unlikeliest leader of a humanitarian mission the world has ever seen. He is a staunch loyalist of Sudan‘s President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide and crimes against humanity for his government’s policies in Darfur. And Dabi’s own record in the restive Sudanese region, where he stands accused of presiding over the creation of the feared Arab militias known as the ”janjaweed,” is enough to make any human rights activist blanch.

Dabi’s involvement in Darfur began in 1999, four years before the region would explode in the violence that Secretary of State Colin Powell labeled as ”genocide.” Darfur was descending into war between the Arab and Masalit communities — the same fault line that would widen into a bloodier interethnic war in a few years’ time. As the situation escalated out of control, Bashir sent Dabi to Darfur to restore order.

According to Julie Flint and Alex De Waal’s Darfur: A New History of a Long War, Dabi arrived in Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, on Feb. 9, 1999, with two helicopter gunships and 120 soldiers. He would stay until the end of June. During this time, he would make an enemy of the Masalit governor of West Sudan. Flint and De Waal write:

Governor Ibrahim Yahya describes the period as ‘the beginning of the organization of the Janjawiid’, with [Arab] militia leaders like Hamid Dawai and Shineibat receiving money from the government for the first time. ‘The army would search and disarm villages, and two days later the Janjawiid would go in. They would attack and loot from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., only ten minutes away from the army. By this process all of  Dar Masalit was burned.’

Yahya’s account was supported five years later by a commander of the Sudan Liberation Army, a rebel organization movement in the region. ”[T]hings changed in 1999,” he told Flint and De Waal. ”The PDF [Popular Defense Forces, a government militia] ended and the Janjawiid came; the Janjawiid occupied all PDF places.”

”[T]he army command finds the militia useful and fearsome in equal measure,” De Waal said.  ”So al-Dabi’s regularization of the Arab militia served both to rein them in, but also to legitimize their activities and retain them as a future strike force.”

Dabi’s role in Darfuris only one episode in a decades-long career that has been spent protecting the interests of Bashir’s regime. He has regularly been trusted with authority over the regime’s most sensitive portfolios: The day Bashir took power in a coup in 1989, he was promoted to head of military intelligence. In August 1995, after protesters at Khartoum University rattled the regime, Dabi became head of Sudan’s foreign intelligence agency — pushing aside a loyalist of Hassan al-Turabi, the hard-line Islamist cleric who helped Bashir rise to power but would be pushed aside several years later. And as civil war ravaged south Sudan, Dabi was tasked from 1996 to 1999 as chief of Sudan’s military operations. “

Doesn’t this sound like the prefect qualifications for leading a mission observing human rights violations?

And after this “promising” selection what happened during this mission? Well, surprise, surprise:

Arab League observers see ‘nothing frightening’ in Syria hotspot

http://worldnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/12/28/9762725-arab-league-observers-see-nothing-frightening-in-syria-hotspot

”Campaigners expressed alarm Wednesday after Arab League observers in Syriasaid they saw ”nothing frightening” during a visit to Homs, the city activists say is the epicenter of nine months of deadly clashes with government forces.

”Some places looked a bit of a mess but there was nothing frightening,” Sudanese General Mustafa al-Dabi, the chief of the monitoring contingent, told Reuters by telephone fromDamascus.

”The situation seemed reassuring so far,” he added after his team’s short visit to the city of one million people, Syria’s third largest.

Head of Syria monitors says ‘nothing frightening’ in Homs

http://maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=448397

”Yesterday was quiet and there were no clashes. We did not see tanks but we did see some armoured vehicles.”

Who could have guessed??

 And these astute observations was done during the most brutal onslaught against Homs by the Assad forces.

But not all was as blind as the head of the mission:

Arab League observer quits, slams Syria war crimes

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iOopJQLs2bnTmk3TRzytK_NIKcXg?docId=CNG.0fe739f1f49df34b937ed993417cb269.721

“An Arab League observer in unrest-swept Syria said Wednesday he has quit the mission, accusing the regime of committing a series of war crimes against its people and of duping his colleagues.

I withdrew from the Arab observers mission because I found myself serving the regime, and not part of an independent observer group,” Anwar Malek told the Doha-based news channel Al-Jazeera.

The Syrian regime is playing ”dirty,” charged the Algerian observer. ”It even began killing its supporters to convince the Arab observers that it is carrying out its duties and to gain their sympathy.”

The mission was a farce and the observers have been fooled. The regime orchestrated it and fabricated most of what we saw to stop the Arab League from taking action against the regime,” Malek said.

”What I saw was a humanitarian disaster. The regime isn’t committing one war crime but a series of crimes against its people, he said. ”Children are killed and they are starved and terrorised.”

But an official at the Cairo-based Arab League dismissed Malek’s accusations, saying they were all unfounded because he was bedridden and was never in the field.

”He was ill and bedridden at his Syria hotel. So how could he make those claims?” said the unnamed official.

The observer who said he spent 15 days in the flashpoint central city of Homs said it must be declared a ”disaster” zone. ”I saw charred and skinned bodies that had been tortured,” said Malek.

Soldiers ”attempting to flee or defect were executed,” said Malek. ”I saw three bodies of executed soldiers. They were shot from the back.”

In the interview, Malek said that there had been ”an assassination attempt on Monday as we were being taken by car from Homs to Damascus” via the restive Baba Amro district where the mission came under gunfire.

Malek accused the Syrian regime of plotting the attack on the road ”controlled by the army and pro-regime ‘shabiha’ militiamen.

Also on Monday, two Kuwaiti army officers in the observer mission were ”slightly hurt” in an attack by ”unidentified protesters,” the Gulf state’s defence ministry has reported.

The observers were attacked while heading to the coastal city of Latakia, said the ministry.

Malek accused the Syrian regime of sending ”spies and intelligence officers with our team to act as drivers and minders to get our information, and as soon as we left an area they attacked people.”

On the detainees, he said that ”none of the real prisoners on the lists of detainees the opposition has provided us with have been released.”

Aparently he was on another planet than the Sudanese general Mustafa al-Dabi.

But of course he was just hallucinating in his hotelroom as the official at the Cairo-based Arab League HQ said when he dismissed Malek’s accusations, saying they were all unfounded because he was bedridden and was never in the field.

Good job Arab League!

And more:

Observing the Observers

The Arab League’s monitoring mission in Syria has been a miserable failure, and no international white knight is waiting in the wings. Syrians are on their own.

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/01/09/observing_the_observers

”In December, after months of stalling and facing enforced sanctions, the Syrian regime finally seemed to buckle under pressure from the Arab League and agreed to sign a ”protocol” ostensibly aimed at quelling the uprising. The agreement called for the regime to remove heavy artillery from urban areas, halt the use of force against civilians, release all political prisoners, and allow independent media into the country. Late last month, an advance team of 15 Arab League observers arrived in Syria on a one-month mission to monitor the regime’s compliance with the protocol. They have since increased to 153 observers; that number still falls far below the 500 observers that was part of the original agreement.

”Observe” is a banal word sucked of accountability, responsibility, action — a fitting way to describe an Arab League mission. Monitoring abuses of power is a function one would not expect from the Arab League, which, let’s face it, represents mostly dictatorships and absolute monarchies that have less-than-stellar human rights records. But observing Syria is an activity we have all become complicit in — observing the meetings, agreements, conferences, opposition groups forming and reforming, while Syrians are killed every day.

These discussions, devoid of action, build a cruel barrier between ruthless international power games and innocent people who are being played. This is why the Syrian people suspiciously view the Arab League as a protector of the regime and by extension its brutality.

The observers’ arrival changed the rules of the game. The regime sends spies to take pictures of the protesters who dare speak to the observers. Before every excursion, the streets are secured in any way necessary, by bullets or arrests (for the safety of the observers or to preserve what’s left of the regime’s tarnished image?). The streets of Deraa have to be scrubbed clean of its people, silencing their voices and erasing any sign of dissent, to present an image of control, safely guarded by snipers lurking on rooftops.

(You can se a video here on what was going on

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rX8lBxEy7z4&feature=share )

”When the observers first arrived, the people were extremely optimistic,” he tells me. ”On the first day the team met with the mayor, so we couldn’t do anything. The second day, we invited them to a protest at a martyr’s funeral. They said, ‘We don’t have cars for transportation.’ We asked, ‘How could the team of observers not have cars?‘ So we postponed the protest. The third day, we asked them to come and observe the protest, but the regime took them somewhere else. Their work is not even at 1 percent. Nothing is happening. They aren’t gathering testimonies from the families. They are witnessing the snipers and the army on the streets. They see this with their own eyes. A stranger walking in the streets would know.”

So far, the regime has freed 3,500 prisoners, but an estimated 30,000 more still remain imprisoned, and according to Syrian activists, 5,700 people have been detained since the Arab League mission began. One week before the observers arrived, the regime escalated the crackdown, killing at least 250 people in four days. Since then, the casualties have gone down to an average of a couple of dozen people a day, according to numbers tallied by various human rights groups and local coordination committees.

The Arab League mission has been declared a failure for multiple reasons: the insufficient number of observers to cover all the ”hot spots”; the questionable integrity of the head of the mission, Sudanese Lt. Gen. Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi; and the observers’ heavily monitored movement by security forces, which limits their ability to ”observe.” As Qatar’s prime minister and head of the Arab League committee on Syria, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, admitted last week, ”There are mistakes, but we went there not to stop the killing, but to monitor.” He cited the Arab League’s inexperience with leading this type of mission as one of the main concerns.“

“One of the most important shifts in the revolution during the Arab League mission has been its coverage, not by the media but by citizen journalists. Protesters who have been filming demonstrations and atrocities for months have turned their lens to film the observers filming the regime’s atrocities. Their powerful YouTube clips feature the monitors in their bright orange vests surrounded by the sounds of gunfire, confronted with dead bodies of children, and bombarded by protesters’ complaints and grievances. Observing the observers has emerged as the people’s powerful media weapon against the regime and its propaganda.

(The video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9FG8gGUAqI)

Khaled Abu Salah, a prominent activist in Homseven confronted Dabi. ”Our problem is not with you as individuals,” he told him. ”Our problem is with the protocol itself. The first article of the protocol is ‘stop the killing.’ When 15 people die in one day while you’re here, then what have we benefited from your presence?” (The Russian Foreign Ministry later said Dabi’s remarks about the situation inSyria were ”reassuring.” He has since claimed the statement as ”unfounded and not true.”)

“On Sunday, Arab League ministers met in Cairoto discuss the mission’s progress. Opposition groups and activists hoped the league would admit the mission’s failure to stop the continuing violence and refer Syria’s case to the U.N. Security Council. Instead, Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby confirmed the mission would carry on as planned. Another Arab League meeting has been scheduled for Jan. 19 to re-evaluate the observers’ progress. On the rejection of any kind of assistance from the United Nations, Elaraby said, ”We do not live in an ideal world, and there is no country in the world that is willing to use force.”

“Turning a strategically blind eye has become the norm to Syrians. Once again, the headlines tell the same story: ”Arab League Asks Syria to Halt Violence” on a day when activists claim 26 people were killed, and the Syrian regime insists, observed or not, it’s going to be bloody business as usual.

”Instead of seeing reality, observers watch movies by the regime”

And

Arab League observers in Syria labelled a farce

http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2011/s3399762.htm

“Human rights activists now fear the Arab League mission is turning into a farce, as shootings and killings take place almost under the observers’ noses in places like Homs, Hama and other trouble spots.

There are also questions about the head of the mission – a Sudanese general who is himself accused of human rights abuses.”

“Local witnesses claim tanks had been removed from the streets just ahead of the mission’s arrival only to be hidden nearby, where they could supposedly be redeployed as soon as the monitors were gone.

Soazig Dollet from the organisation Reporters Without Borders says the Syrian regime is simply exploiting the observers’ visit for its own ends.

(Soazig Dollet speaking)

”This visit is totally biased,” she says. ”It’s a farce. The Syrian regime is making a mockery of respecting the Arab League agreement by accepting the presence of observers.”

She also claims that Syrian authorities are engaged in an elaborate game to show the observers what they want to see.

(Soazig Dollet speaking)

Some prisons in Homs were emptied and detainees transferred to other places,” she says. ”Fake armed soldiers were shown to observers in order to demonstrate that the Syrian resistance is an armed one. It is armed, but that is not the only kind of resistance. It’s obvious that it has all been staged for the observers of the Arab League.”

And the final humiliation.

To recapitulate:

After having Assad making a mockery of the Arab League peace plan. And their observers mission in Syriaa total failure. The Arab League took the same peace plan to the UN Security Council only to be vetoed by the as always helpful Russians and Chinese.  And to REALLY rub it in the Russians and Chinese even voted against a non-binding resolution by the UN General Assembly.

So what did the humiliated Arab League do after that? Eehhh… they went to one of the powers behind their humiliation, Russia, and literally “begged” the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov for ANY kind of a deal.

So in the end the Arab League got a new, even more watered-down deal dictated to them by Russia,  which then became the UN/Annan peace plan. And as a result got even more humiliated.

Because when they tried (Qatar) to make some amends to the total sellout, as they well know, they were literally repriminded by Lavrov like naughty/misbehaving school children.

“Lavrov lords it over the Arab League foreign ministers

Assad’s victory has therefore vindicated Putin and awarded Russia a political and military achievement on a scale that has eluded Moscow for many years. Putin proved he could win over an Arab country to Russian influence, shut doors to the Obama administration’s interference and wind up calling the shots in Damascus. The Russian Foreign Minister arrived in Caro Saturday, March 10, ready collect kudos..

It was strange to see Lavrov sitting in a place of honor at the 22-member Arab League foreign ministers’ meeting Saturday, March, 10. Stranger still, they let him talk the Arab ministers down and dictate Russia’s five-point plan for the Arab world to follow for resolving the Syrian crisis.

It called for a complete cease-fire, monitoring procedures, no foreign interference, humanitarian aid supplies and “firm support” for international envoy Kofi Annan’s mission to promote dialogue between the government and opposition.

Russia will be there for Iran at nuclear talks too

Aware of the true situation in Syria the Arab foreign ministers bowed to the Russian plan although it was clearly tilted in Assad’s favor.

And when the Qatari prime minister and foreign minister Sheikh Hamad Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani tried later to undo some of the damage by demanding military intervention to stop the bloodletting in Syria after he had despaired of a Libyan-style Western-Arab operation, he was publicly rebuked from New York by Lavrov.

Arriving there to meet US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Russian foreign minister said: “I was amazed …that while I was in the air my colleague, with whom we agreed on these principles, the prime minister and foreign minister of Qatar, called publicly for dispatching Arab or international forces to Syria. It absolutely contradicts what we agreed on and announced publicly.”

Lavrov’s tone strikingly demonstrated Moscow’s utter confidence in its ability to dictate the course of events in the Arab world in contrast to Washington’s withdrawal from the scene.

Not exactly one of the proudest moments in the Arab Leagues history. And as usual the ones paying the price the people of Syria.

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Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 6

23 april, 2012

And the “ceasefire” continuous.

“Al-Arabiya: Friday’s death toll in Syria rises to 45 people, activists say” (April 20)

Five, yeap you read right, five UN observers today made a BRIEF visit toHoms.

UN monitors visit Syria opposition stronghold

http://hosted2.ap.org/APDEFAULT/3d281c11a96b4ad082fe88aa0db04305/Article_2012-04-21-ML-Syria/id-70fb3cdd81e24521b702a39149379c59

“But the situation was relatively calm as the five observers toured rebel-held areas in Homson Saturday. Activists said fighting and government shelling stopped and troops hid tanks in advance of the visit by U.N. cease-fire observers, their first to the city.”

“In the Jouret el-Shayah neighborhood of Homs, the observers were quickly thronged by residents who chanted, ”The people want military intervention,” according to video broadcast on the Al-Jazeera satellite TV station.

In amateur video from the same neighborhood, posted online Saturday, observers are seen walking silently through rubble-strewn deserted streets lined by heavily damaged apartment buildings.

A man in military uniform, apparently a rebel, pointed to the destruction, telling the team that ”it’s all destroyed buildings.” Dozens of residents chanted, ”The people want to execute the president,” and ”Freedom forever, against your will, Assad.”

As reported before by HWR and others (se my post 2), rape is useed as a weapon by Assad’s forces.

Rape as a weapon in Syria

http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=388100

“On April 1, a Syrian doctor named Moussa al-Kurdi told Al-Jazeera that he received a report regarding the rape of two girls, aged 10 and 14, by government forces in southern Syria, which resulted in their being impregnated.

According to Kurdi, these two girls are part of a group of around 260 child refugees, boys and girls, whose parents were killed or arrested and who live in a hotel provided by a charity. Intelligence services in Syria prevented doctors from documenting the rapes and filing an official report about it. Kurdi said that the children are being threatened.

This story is a sample of the horrors committed against the Syrian people. For more than a year now, the Syrian regime has been fighting a war against its own people to regain control of the country. Rape may be the best means to destroy the morale of the enemy, not only in the present, but also for the future, as victims, especially those who became pregnant as a result of the rape, have to live with it for the rest of their lives, according to writer Hazem Saghiyeh. “

“However, according to a HRW researcher who did not want to be named because he is not authorized to speak on the subject, it has been confirmed that rape is being used as a method of torture against men and women in Syrian prisons. The researcher also mentioned reports of sexual assault against women when the army raids houses in search of wanted men or weapons. “

And the Iraqis have a problem:

Central Bank of Iraq: $10B Siphoned Off in Support of Iranian and Syrian Currencies

http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/6293.htm

“The deputy governor of the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI), Mudhhir Mohammad Saleh, has revealed that Iraq’s foreign currency reserves, estimated at $54 billion, have declined by $10 billion since last November, and that the money was used by banks, money-changers and money-transfer companies in support of the Iranian and Syrian economies, which are subject to sanctions. He asserted that speculators have exploited the monetary crisis in the two neighboring countries to make a quick profit. The rush to buy dollars has caused the Iraqi dinar to lose 11% of its value against the dollar, despite considerable foreign currency reserves available to support it. “

Same old same old:

US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice wrote on Twitter April 18 that the “Syrian regime lied to the world, lied to its people & the biggest fabricator is Asad himself. Words are meaningless. Actions are what matter.”

http://twitter.com/#!/AmbassadorRice/status/192446044200648706

Ok, after this “great” and “sudden” insight after more than a year keeping up appearance while Assad was killing unarmed civilians, what then??

Well, who could have guessed – MORE OF THE SAME! I.E. doing nothing.

“Ambassador Rice’s interview with CNN the other day. When asked the most pressing question – what next? – Rice replied that the “next step really is for those who have maximum influence on Assad to continue to use it,”

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1204/17/ampr.01.html

That is of course the very helpful Russians and Iranians. And if you have read any of my previous post, you know how “helpful” they have been. So this is the “great” Obama and Clinton plan – The two countries that has done the most to prop up and secure the Assad regime, with all means possible, are supposed to put “pressure on him???

Really???

Assad a “mafia bacteria”.

This is quite interesting. The people inside Syria has made some contacts withIsrael before. Like when the put the same message on the IDF Facebook site.

Syrian opposition leader, in unprecedented interview with Israel Radio, says Syrians want peace with Israel Speaking from Paris, Nofal Al-Dalawibi, son of a former Syrian PM, calls Assad a ‘mafia bacteria’ and says opposition will not negotiate with him

http://www.timesofisrael.com/syrian-opposition-leader-in-unprecedented-interview-with-israel-radio-says-syrians-want-peace-with-israel/

“In an unprecedented interview with Israel Radio, Nofal Al-Dalawibi, a Syrian opposition leader and son of former two-time Syrian prime minister Maarouf Al-Dalawibi, said that the Syrian people want peace, including with Israel, and seek stability after the ongoing bloodshed.

The interview comes against a background of decades of overt Syrian hostility to Israel, and shatters a taboo of Syrian representatives in any forum talking openly with Israelis. At international events, Syrian leaders have always sought to ensure that Israeli journalists are kept out of their press conferences, and ignored questions from Israeli reporters on the rare occasions when Israelis did manage to address them directly. Israeli journalists are never granted visas to enterSyria.”

”Dalawibi’s interview marked the potential beginning of a change from that mindset, should the Syrian opposition struggle prevail. When asked about the “fear that many Israelis have” that Islamic forces may occupy the political vacuum in Syria if Assad falls — and what effect that would have on Syria’s relationship with Israel — Dalawibi replied that the Syrian people do not want any more fighting. Syrian civilians have been left out of the political process for over 40 years and they only want peace, he added.

“Dalawibi also commented on the “long struggle” of the Syrian opposition. “We are not interested in negotiating with Assad,” Dalawibi told Zinger, and referred to the Syrian president as “mafia bacteria.”

Turkey

Recep Erdogan and his Islamic AKP party have ruledTurkeysince 2002. Their slow, but gradual, islamization of Turkish society has progressed. AKP has very effectively neutralized all the secular parties and organisations.

Including the military which was supposed to be the last guarantee of Ataturks legacy – a civilian society with separation of mosque and state.

Erdogan was imprisoned in 1998 for his involvement with the banned Welfare Party, which the Turkish government considered Islamist. Soner Cagaptay of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy describes the Welfare Party as the “motherboard of Turkish Islamists since the 1980s,” saying it was inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood.

In 2001, he founded the AKP, which took a more moderate line, portraying itself as committed to separation of mosque and state but “faithful governance,” as Dr. Essam El-Erian, the chief of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political bureau, described the AKP’s “moderate Islamist” ideology.

Dr. El-Erian praised Erdogan’s victory, saying that it was the result of the “exposing of the failure of the secular trend.” El-Erian confirmed that the Muslim Brotherhood had close ties to the AKP, but the West treated Turkey as if nothing had changed. It wasn’t until Turkey steadfastly refused to allow U.S. soldiers to transit their territory to overthrow Saddam Hussein that the West began questioning the allegiance of Erdogan’s government.

As Erdogan said in the beginning of February this year, “We want to raise a religious youth”:

Erdogan resurrects debates of Islamization

http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/02/09/193621.html

We want to raise a religious youth,” said Erdogan, himself a graduate of a clerical school and the leader of the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP), during a parliamentary address last week.”

“Secular quarters argue Erdogan’s conservative government is also step by step imposing religion in every aspect of life, saying many restaurants already refuse to serve alcohol during Ramadan.”

“But since then the influence of the military, considered as guardian of secularism, has waned.

Dozens of retired and active army officers, academics, journalists and lawyers have been put behind bars in probes into alleged plots against Erdogan’s government.

Critics accuse the government of launching the probes as a tool to silence opponents and impose authoritarianism.

Secular quarters argue Erdogan’s conservative government is also step by step imposing religion in every aspect of life, saying many restaurants already refuse to serve alcohol during Ramadan.

They also criticize recent changes to legislation under which religious school graduates will now be able to access any university branch they like, while in the past they had only access to theology schools.

Birand expressed fears that the changes would not be confined to this and would lead to censorship in television broadcasts.

The Turkish television watchdog RTUK “will restrict all kissing scenes; they will confuse pornography with explicit broadcast and all television screens will be made pious,” he added.

Then will come religious foundations. After them, it will be municipalities. All kinds of Koran teaching courses, legal or illegal, will mushroom.”

As Turkish Penal Code specifies, ”Anyone who openly denigrates the religious values of a part of the population shall be sentenced to imprisonment of from six months to one year, where the act is sufficient to breach public peace.”

In the referendum 2010 26 amendments where made to the constitution. One example: It now permits the parliament to select who sits on the Supreme Board of Prosecutors and Judges. Previously, the judiciary was independent, choosing its own leadership free of political influence. And since the AKP holds a majority in the parliament, its allows the party to oversee the judiciary without any significant checks and balances.

And a quote from Erdoğan:

Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2270642.stm

The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers.”

Another example:

Paul Auster refuses Turkey visit over jailed scribes

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/paul-auster-refuses-turkey-visit-over-jailed-scribes-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=12523&NewsCatID=339

“Renowned U.S. author Paul Auster said he refused to visit Turkey because of the number of journalists and writers that have been jailed in the country.

Speaking to daily Hürriyet’s Buket Şahin, Auster said he had protested the Turkish and Chinese governments for their treatment of journalists.

I refuse to come to Turkey because of imprisoned journalists and writers. How many are jailed now? Over 100?” Auster said, adding that Turkey was the country he was most worried about.“

Erdogan and the Decline of the Turks

When I asked the prime minister about stories alleging a U.S.-Israeli murder and organ selling scheme in Iraq, he could not bring himself to condemn them..

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704875604575281392195250402.html

“To follow Turkish discourse in recent years has been to follow a national decline into madness.”

“For example, while there was much hand-wringing in our own media about ”Who lost Turkey?” when U.S. forces were denied entry to Iraq from the north in 2003, no such introspection was evident in Ankara and Istanbul. Instead, Turks were fed a steady diet of imagined atrocities perpetrated by U.S. forces in Iraq, often with the implication that they were acting as muscle for the Jews. The newspaper Yeni Safak, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s daily read, claimed that Americans were tossing so many Iraqi bodies into the Euphrates that local mullahs had issued a fatwa ordering residents not to eat the fish. The same paper repeatedly claimed that the U.S. used chemical weapons in Fallujah. And it reported that Israeli soldiers had been deployed alongside U.S. forces in Iraq and that U.S. forces were harvesting the innards of dead Iraqis for sale on the U.S. ”organ market.”

The secular Hurriyet newspaper, meanwhile, accused Israeli soldiers of assassinating Turkish security personnel in Mosul and said the U.S.was starting an occupation of (Muslim) Indonesia under the guise of humanitarian assistance. Then U.S. ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman actually felt the need to organize a conference call to explain to the Turkish media that secret U.S. nuclear testing did not cause the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. One of the craziest theories circulating in Ankara was that the U.S.was colonizing the Middle East because its scientists were aware of an impending asteroid strike on North America.

The Mosul and organ harvesting stories were soon brought together in a hit Turkish movie called ”Valley of the Wolves,” which I saw in 2006 at a mall in Ankara. My poor Turkish was little barrier to understanding. The body parts of dead Iraqis could be clearly seen being placed into crates marked New York and Tel Aviv. It is no exaggeration to say that such anti-Semitic fare had not been played to mass audiences in Europe since the Third Reich.

When I interviewed Prime Minister Erdogan (one of several encounters) in 2006, he was unabashed about the narrative.

Erdogan: ”I believe the people who made this movie took media reports as their basis . . . for example, Abu Ghraib prison—we have seen this on TV, and now we are watching Guantanamo Bay in the world media, and of course it could be that this movie was prepared under these influences.”

Me: ”But do you believe that many Turks have such a view ofAmerica, that we’re the kind of people who’d go to Iraq and kill people to take their organs?”

Erdogan: ”These kind of things happen in the world. If it’s not happening in Iraq, then its happening in other countries.”

Me: ”Which kind of things? Killing people to take their organs?”

Erdogan: ”I’m not saying they are being killed. . . . There are people in poverty who use this as a means to get money.”

I was somewhat taken aback that the prime minister could not bring himself to condemn a fictional blood libel. I should not have been. He and his party have traded on America and Israel hatred ever since. There can be little doubt the Turkish flotilla that challenged the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza was organized with his approval, if not encouragement. Mr. Erodogan’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, is a proponent of a philosophy which calls on Turkey to loosen Western ties to the U.S., NATO and the European Union and seek its own sphere of influence to the east. Turkey‘s recent deal to help Iran enrich uranium should come as no surprise.”

‘Muslims Don’t Cause Genocide, especially in Sudan:

Erdogan: Israel Worse than Sudan, ‘Muslims Don’t Cause Genocide’

Turkish PM Erdogan says he would rather talk to Sudanese leader al-Bashir than to Israeli PM Netanyahu, because “Muslims cannot commit genocide.”

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/134297

“Erdogan claimed to know that Bashir is innocent, and that there is no genocide taking place in Sudan. “A Muslim can never commit genocide,” he said in explanation. “It’s not possible.”

The Turkish PM added that he had visited Darfur and did not see evidence of genocide during his trip.”

Much more can be said about AKP andTurkeybut that’s maybe for a later post.

So lets move on to Turkeysr elations with Syria, Iran and its foreign policy ambitions.

Yes, we are the New Ottomans

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/12/09ANKARA1717.html

“SUMMARY:  In a recent speech before the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) retreat, Turkey‘s Foreign Minister Davutoglu appeared to embrace the concept of  Neo-Ottomanism as a framework for Turkish foreign policy.”

“Twice yearly, AKP party leaders and members of  parliament meet at Kizilcahamam for a consultative retreat to go over party policies and the state ofTurkeyin a relaxed, informal environment.  At the most recent retreat, held November 21 and 22, FM Davutoglu co-opted his critics’ derisive term for his personalized foreign policy, saying,

”Yes, we are the New Ottomans.”  In so doing, he made coherent the past six years of Turkish foreign policy, which has seen an intensive interest in being part of peace negotiations stretching from Bosnia through Palestine to Afghanistan, the opening of embassies throughout much of  Africa, and rapprochement with previous rivals, such as Iran, Syria, andArmenia.

Davutoglu had previously hinted at such a policy in a speech made in Sarajevo on October 16, in which he envisioned an economically and culturally integrated Balkans and Middle East as the driver of a peaceful, affluent civilization, and not the crisis-ridden periphery it is perceived to be today. In his estimation, the Ottoman Empire is the ”only positive exception” to have created such an entity, and Turkey, as successor to the Ottoman state, should be the focus of the re-establishment of a strong Eastern Mediterranean.”

“Borrowing from Western rhetoric that Turkey is a bridge between the East and the West, Turkey is aspiring to broaden its horizons to include not just Europe but the

Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia in its strategic considerations as well.  The policy also attempts to promote two popular trains of thought among conservative Turkish intellectuals:  the concepts of a global Islamic solidarity (previously promoted by former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan) and the concept of a Turkish-Islamist synthesis (popular in nationalist circles and also among members of the Fethullah Gulen religious community).

AKP’s domestic detractors, however, see the policy as more evidence of Turkish society slowly turning away from the West; embracing regional autocrats, such as Bashar al-Assad, Mahmud Ahmedinejad, and Omar al-Bashir; and Islamization of the populace as part of their plan to one day install Sharia law ”overnight.”  Turkey’s choice of regional friends does at times highlight its religious outlook more than cultural ones:  estranging historical trade and military partner Israel over the Gaza crisis sits unsteadily when Turkey comes to Sudan’s defense.”

I think that sets the tone.

And then there is all the treats and demands on it’s “allies” in NATO, EU:

Erdogan issued a direct threat on NATO when he warned on September 27, 2011:

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/09/27/v-print/125417/bellicose-talk-as-turkey-debuts.html

“ISTANBUL—Turkey officially accepted delivery of its first domestically manufactured warship Tuesday at a ceremony that underscored the country’s push to become a regional power.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan used the occasion to criticize oil drilling in the eastern Mediterranean by Greek interests. He pointedly noted that the ceremony took place on the 473rd anniversary of the Battle of Preveza in northwestern Greece, where a fleet from the Ottoman Turkish empire defeated a much larger Christian force.

”I recommend the international community take the necessary lessons from the Preveza victory”, Erdogan said. ”Turkey’s national interests in the seas reach from its surrounding waters to the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean.”

The battle of  Preveza 1538 was a” decisive Turkish/Ottoman naval battle against a Papal “Holy League” Pan-Christian Alliance”.

And

‘Turkeywill never share intelligence from NATO radar system with Israel’

http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=3173

Turkey will never share intelligence gathered by a NATO radar system stationed on its soil with Israel, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Friday, during a joint news conference with visiting NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Ankara.

Turkey agreed late last year to deploy the early warning radar system after seeking guarantees from the U.S. that Israel would not have access to intelligence gathered by it. NATO also agreed to post a high-ranking Turkish general at its headquarters in Germany, where intelligence gathered through the radar system would be processed, according to the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet.

The radar system has been up and running since January, and has already drawn criticism from Tehran. “The U.S. radar stationed inTurkeyis no good for any Muslim country,” Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said at a mid-January press conference. “But we have confidence in our Turkish friends,” he said, adding that Iran would request more information on the matter.”

US senators voice worry over radar deal with Turkey

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5ib10aqtbTnD_aXypBfZG3lTWYJmg?docId=CNG.0ab2ac77281cfe1c695dd46990421301.d11

“Two key US senators expressed concerns Tuesday about a possible agreement to base a missile-shield radar in Turkey, citing the NATO ally’s strained ties with Israel and relations with Iran.

Republican Senators Jon Kyl and Mark Kirk wrote Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seeking reassurances on the possible deal, which was described in a news report last week.

The lawmakers asked for ”written assurances” that data collected by a so-called X-band radar ”will be made available, in real time” to staunch US ally Israel to be ”fully integrated into its battlement management and control.”

They also sought a guarantee that ”Turkish entities are not engaged, or suspected of engaging” in activities that fall afoul of various US laws aimed at curbing suspected nuclear weapons programs in Iran and Syria and keeping sensitive know-how from North Korea.

And President Barack Obama’s administration must also certify that the powerful radar will only be operated by US personnel, and for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except for maintenance breaks, the senators said.

Kirk and Kyl, the number-two Senate Republican, also questioned whether the reported decision to locate the radar in Turkey would ”ensure the best defense of the United States against the Iranian long-range ballistic missile threat.”

They cited a US Missile Defense Agency study that found that the South Caucasus to be ”the optimum placement” if the system is designed to defend against an eventual Iranian ballistic missile attack.

”The administration’s plans for missile defense will require the cooperation of the Congress; the prospects for such cooperation are jeopardized if the Congress is not provided the information it requests,” they warned.”

And

Turkey blocks Israeli bid for opening NATO office

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/default.aspx?pageid=438&n=turkey-blocks-israeli-bid-for-opening-nato-office-2011-09-18

“Turkish objections have thwarted Israel’s attempt to open a NATO office, says Turkish FM, stressing determination to also keepIsrael out of data-sharing after a high-powered US radar system is deployed inTurkey.

Turkey has blocked an Israeli move to open a representation office at NATO headquarters, its foreign minister said Sunday, adding that data collected by a radar system in eastern Turkey would not be shared with Israel.

“Israelrecently made an attempt to open an office at NATO [headquarters] in Brussels. We said we would veto this attempt and the issue was not even put on the agenda,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said in an interview with the CNNTürk “news channel.

Turkey refused to allowIsrael to participate in annual military exercises also involving Italyand the U.S. Instead Turkeywill hold military exercises withSyria:

After snubbing Israel, Turkey to hold defense drills with Syria

Syrian defense minister says two nations to hold drills days afterTurkeynixed maneuvers withIsrael.

http://www.haaretz.com/news/after-snubbing-israel-turkey-to-hold-defense-drills-with-syria-1.6129

“Syriasaid on Tuesday it would hold military exercises with Turkey, shortly after Turkeycanceled maneuvers with Israel.

Ankara’s decision, which was commended by Syria, revived fears of cooler relations betweenIsrael and NATO memberTurkey.

We held our first joint land military exercise (with Turkey) last spring. And today we have agreed to do a more comprehensive, a bigger one,” said Syrian Defense Minister Ali Habib, speaking at a news conference. “

“In Washington, the U.S. State Department on Tuesday objected to Turkey‘s last-minute decision to exclude Israel from the exercise.

We think it’s inappropriate for any nation to be removed from an exercise like this at the last minute,” said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. “

And in a ironic twist when one consider what Turkey has “done” or not done regarding Syria, Turkey blocked in the beginning the US/NATO intervention in Libya.

Turkey Blocks NATO Mission in Libya

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,752222,00.html

“So far, the NATO alliance has been unable to reach an agreement on participation in the military implementation of the no-fly zone. Turkey is resisting the measure and is calling for a new review of other possible measures the alliance could take in Libya. Ankara has also called for an immediate Western cease-fire, with Turkish officials calling on NATO to give greater consideration in its discussions to the possibility of civilian deaths, a NATO diplomat told the news agency AFP under the condition of anonymity. Ankara has rejected any NATO intervention against Libya, including the implementation of a no-fly zone.

Another example:

Turkey to freeze EU ties if Cyprus gets EU presidency

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/18/us-turkey-cyprus-idUSTRE78H20L20110918

“Reuters) -EU-candidate Turkey will freeze relations with the European Union if Cyprusis given the EU presidency in 2012, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay was quoted as saying by the state-run news agency Anatolian late on Saturday.”

Another:

Turkey warns Greek Cyprus on oil drilling ahead of Israeli PM visit

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-warns-greek-cyprus-on-oil-drilling-ahead-of-israeli-pm-visit–.aspx?pageID=238&nID=13894&NewsCatID=338

“Turkeywarned Thursday that it will not allow under any circumstances foreign oil companies to conduct unauthorized oil and natural gas exploration and exploitation activities in the Eastern Mediterranean and will take all necessary measures to protect its rights in the areas within its continental shelf.

Turkey’s strong worded warning came after an announcement published in the EU Official Journal dated11 February 2012 that the Greek Cypriot administration has called for a new international tender for off-shore hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation within its so-called economic exclusive zone.”

“This situation would bring those international companies  that might be interested in bidding for this illegal tender  into confrontation with the TRNC (TurkishRepublicof NorthernCyprus) and the TPAO (Turkish Petroleum Corporation) , and thus would lead to an  undesired tension in the region,” the statement said. “

Greek PM calls Erdogan to calm Cyprus gas tension

http://www.globalenergyworld.com/news/1845/Greek_PM_calls_Erdogan_to_calm_Cyprus_gas_tension.htm

“Greece’s prime minister called his Turkish counterpart Monday in a bid to calm a spiralling dispute over energy resources off Cyprus as a Turkish ship began explorations under military protection.

George Papandreou ”called for calm and restraint” and reiterated that Cyprus ”was entitled to decide what it wants to do”, said Greek government spokesman Elias Mossialos.

Papandreou also told Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Turkey has to ”avoid unilateral acts”, referring to Ankara‘s decision to retaliate in kind for the Greek Cypriot government’s launch of offshore energy exploration.”

“Cyprus government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou on Monday told reporters Nicosia was monitoring the situation closely.

”Where necessary it will make representations and form a political and diplomatic shield for Cyprus‘ right” to explore and exploit possible deposits, he said.

Stefanou also accused Turkey of violating international law and causing tension in the region.”

Etc. Etc.

But lets move on to Turkeys policies an actions regarding Iran and Syria. They have shifted drastically. First, as part of this “ottoman” expansion I talked about above, Turkey became very friendly with Iran and Syria. And cooperated on ALL matters with both of them building a strategic alliance. Including helping Syria and Iran fight their internal opposition and uprising.

That policies only started to change last summer and even more so at the beginning of this year.

Lets start with Iran

Turkey has never accepted any of the official EU and US sanction against Iran:

Gates Criticizes TurkeyVote Against Sanctions

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/12/world/europe/12nato.html?_r=1

“Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates expressed frustration withTurkeyon Friday over its refusal to support a new round of United Nations sanctions against Iran, but he suggested that the alliance betweenWashington and Ankara remained robust.”

“I’ll be honest, I was disappointed in Turkey’s vote on the Iranian sanctions,” Mr. Gates said at the end of a two-day meeting of defense ministers at the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels. “Allies don’t always agree on things, but we move forward from here.

The Security Council on Wednesday approved its fourth round of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. Twelve of the 15 nations on the Security Council voted for the measure, while Brazil and Turkey, which had negotiated a deal with Iran to swap some of its nuclear fuel, voted against, and Lebanon abstained. “

“Among other things, the sanctions took aim at military purchases, trade and financial transactions by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which controls Iran’s nuclear program and has taken a more central role in running the country and the economy. “

And

Turkey: Not bound by US sanctions against Iran

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-not-bound-by-us-sanctions-against-iran-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=11309&NewsCatID=338

“Turkey, which imports oil and gas from Iran, says it is only bound by U.N. sanctions against its eastern neighbor, despite the U.S. campaign to sanctionIran further over its nuclear program.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal said Turkey would evaluate the content of the U.S.sanctions but it ”does not feel it is bound by any other sanctions.” Unal spoke during a weekly news conference, which followed a meeting between Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Iran’s parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani.”

Ads the Turkish trade with Iran keeps growing, in direct contradiction of US and EU supposed strategy!

And as I said in my previous posts, Turkey too has its hands deep in sanctions-busting transactions with Iran: Its seventh largest bank, the state-owned Halkbank, is a conduit for Iran’s oil-related earnings. To facilitate Iran’s international oil sales

Turkey import large quantities of Iranian oil, and Iran use Turkish banks to facilitate its international oil sales.

Turkeyis also deeply involved in an effort to have the new Iranian and Iraqi pipelines to Europe routed through Turkey, reducing the Strait of  Hormuz’s crucial importance as a primary route for the world’s oil supplies. This pipeline would also hurt Saudi Arabiaand the other Gulf oil producers, all of whom are dead set against Erdogan’s hegemonic aspirations in the Middle East.

Turkey and Iran’s military alliance:

Turkey Forms Alliance With Iran Against Kurds

http://www.newsmax.com/KenTimmerman/turkey-iran-/2007/10/15/id/337383

U.S.  ally Turkey and U.S. arch-enemy Iran have formed a military alliance to drive opposition Kurds from bases in northern Iraq they have used since 2004 to launch guerrilla operations inside Iran, rebel leaders told Newsmax at a secret base in the Qandil mountains.

Both Iran and Turkeyhave vowed to send troops into northern Iraq, but until now evidence of active military cooperation between them has remained a closely-held secret.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stepped up political and diplomatic threats in recent days, telling the United States he would cut off U.S. access to the strategic Incirlik airbase in eastern Turkey if the U.S. tried to prevent Turkey from sending troops against the Kurdish bases in northern Iraq.

Leaders of the Party of Free Life of Iranian Kurdistan, known as PJAK, provided Newsmax with extensive evidence of the Iran-Turkey alliance in two days of exclusive interviews at a secret guerilla base deep in the Qandil mountains. An Iranian Revolutionary Guards outpost was visible on a nearby mountain peak.

“Iran and Turkey attacked jointly on August 16 against our forces inside Iran and against Turkish self-defense forces in northern Iraq,” a PJAK commander using the nom de guerre Xerat told Newsmax at the Iranian rebel base.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards “attacked us across a broad front in the areas of Sardasht, Piranshahr, Shaho, Urmieh, and along the border line,” Xerat said, citing the names of major cities in Iranian Kurdistan where PJAK rebels have been operating.

While those ground operations were underway, Iranian and Turkish artillery simultaneously began shelling civilian villages inside Iraqi Kurdistan from Metina, Zaab, Haftani, and Hakurke in the north, to Haji Oumran, Qalatdizza, Zeh, Marado, and Xinera in the south, he added.

Turkish artillery hit the northern villages, while Iranian gunners hit the southern ones.

Iranian troops attempted to cross into Iraq through the mountain passes, but PJAK fighters held the line.

The goal of the Iranians is to drive us from the border area,” rebel leader Biryar Gabar told Newsmax. “They want to turn this area into a no-man’s land, so they can use it to smuggle weapons and Islamist guerillas into Iraq to fight the Americans.”

He called the Iran-Turkey entente “an anti-American alliance,” not just an anti-Kurdish agreement, and said that it resulted from deliberate decisions from the ruling Islamist AKP party of Prime Minister Erdogan to transform Turkey into an increasingly Islamist state.

A senior European official, who was involved in talks to bring Turkey into the European Union, told Newsmax recently he had been “stunned” by the hard-line toward the Kurds taken by AKP party leader Abdullah Gul, now Turkey’s president.

He was totally uncompromising,” the official said. “He took a harder line than the Turkish military.”

Iran has been offering Turkeyan economic agreement with Iran in July to build a strategic pipeline that will bring Iranian natural gas to Europe, in defiance of a U.S. led effort to increase the economic squeeze on Iran.”

“Since the liberation of Iraq by the Coalition, PJAK has maintained control of the Iran-Iraq border in this area, and prevented infiltration by Iran or al-Qaida-related terrorists.

The U.S. military sent liaison officers to meet with PJAK in 2003 and again in 2005 to discuss Iranian efforts to infiltrateIraq, but have not pursued discussions further, PJAK officials said.

“From August 16-24, the Iranians tried to cross the border along the mountain ridge line, but we pushed them back,” Biryar Gabar said.

During the Iranian ground attacks, PJAK learned from its operatives on the ground inside Iran that Turkish officers were acting as military advisors to the Iranian troops, he told Newsmax.”

“Since the failed ground offensive by the Iranians, Turkish officers have begun training Iranian Revolutionary Guards troops in counter-insurgency operations at the Soleiman training camp near the Iranian city of Urmieh.

“The Iranians had little experience in counter-insurgency operations, so the Turks are training them,” guerilla leader Xenat said.

Our friends saw Turkish officers coordinating the operations of the Iranian army in the Kelaresh area,” he added. Kelaresh is in the border region outside of Salmas andUrmieh,Iran.

An exclusive Newsmax source in Iran reported in late August that eight Turkish officers were then in Urmieh, coordinating the anti-Kurdish military campaign with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

At the command level, Iranian and Turkish military officers have held monthly coordination meetings in the Turkish cities of Harakeh, Van, Bashakale, and in the Iranian cities of Urmieh, Mahabad, and Salmas, PJAK officials said.

The Iranian government sent a 12-member delegation to Hakkari, Turkey, for a summit meeting with Turkish officials on Sept. 10, PJAK officials said.”

“PJAK guerilla leaders also pointed to the recent creation by Iran of civilian village guards, known as “jash,” in the Iranian Kurdish areas, as another sign of Turkish military cooperation with Iran.

The Turkish army used a similar tactic when fighting the PKK in the 1990s,” said Xenat, a former PKK fighter who is originally fromTurkey but joined PJAK once the PKK dissolved its military wing in early 2000.

The “jash” village guards act as spies for the Revolutionary Guards to identify PJAK guerilla fighters., he said. They are also dressing up in Kurdish guerilla uniforms and attacking Iranian villagers, pretending to be PJAK fighters.

The Turks have been fighting a dirty war in anti-guerilla operations for 30 years. Now they are teaching this to the Iranians,” Xenat said.”

And Turkey supports Iran’s nuclear program

Turkey voices support for Iran’s nuclear program

http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=381390

The government and nation of Turkey has always clearly supported the nuclear positions of the Islamic republic of Iran, and will continue to firmly follow the same policy in the future,” Erdogan was quoted as saying in the statement issued by Ahmadinejad’s office.

Ahmadinejad thanked Turkey for its ”clear and frank” stance on the issue, the statement added.”

Another interesting fact, in October 2011 the Chinese air force was in Turkey and took part in joint exercise with the Turkish air force. Before arriving inTurkey, the Chinese air force had been in Iran and had a similar joint exercise there.

And Israel was very concerned with what was going on inTurkeyand its relations with Iran:

If there is not a change in personality, then Turkeywill become Iran No. 2

http://www.worldtribune.com/worldtribune/WTARC/2010/me_turkey0896_09_15.asp

Israel‘s defense community has assessed that Turkey was moving toward becoming a radical and nuclear Islamic state.

Officials and leading analysts asserted that the government of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan was rapidly dismantling the secular Turkish state. They said Erdogan could turn Turkey into another Iran, a radical Muslim state with nuclear weapons.

There could be a deep strategic change,” Amos Gilad, a senior Defense Ministry official, said.

Officials cited Turkey’s referendum that would revise the secular constitution. They said the 26 amendments approved by 58 percent of voters on Sept. 12 would significantly increase the authority of Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party while marginalizingTurkey’s military.

Leading officials expressed concern over Erdogan’s growing power in Turkey and his success in intimidating the once-powerful Turkish military. They said Erdogan could use his referendum victory to expand Turkey‘s alliance with neighboring Iran and Syria while fomenting another crisis with Israel.

If there is not a change in personality, then Turkey will become Iran No. 2,” former National Security Council director Uzi Dayan said.”

And most devious at all: Turkey has allowed Iran to supply Syria with arms to crush the civilian uprising through its territory. It only stopped in January this year.

Iran army supplies to Syria via the Turkish Dogubayazit route

In the middle of January, Turkey reported halting five Iranian trucks loaded with weapons for Syria at the Killis Turkish-Syrian border crossing and impounding its freight. Actually, the Iranian convoy was not really stopped at Killis but at the eastern Turkish Dobubayazit border crossing with Iran, near Mount Ararat. This supply route for Syria had been going strong for months. Ankara‘s decision to suspend it has reduced its volume by 60 percent.

The Turks kept very quiet about the Dogubayazit route because disclosure would have exposed them as working two sides of the Syrian conflict – letting Tehran set up a clandestine arms route for helping the Assad regime crack down on protest, while publicly posing as the leading champions of the Syrian protest movement – even to providing the Free Syria Army with bases and training facilities.

The influx of Iranian arms supplies via Turkey gave the Syrian army a major boost in quelling the uprising especially in the restive towns of Hama, Homs and Idlib, where demonstrations have dwindled. Now Ankara is worried about the consequences. Thursday, President Abdullah Gul raised fears of the Syrian uprising mutating into civil war.Ankara is concerned that sectarian conflict inSyria could spill over intoTurkey.

With “friends” like this how need enemies?

Over to Syria

A year ago Turkey’s prime minister Erdogan addressed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus as “my brother”.

And Hakan Fidan (very pro Iranian), chief of Turkish MIT intelligence service, has on Erdogans orders gone frequently to Damascus to update Assad’s regime on Syrian opposition activities. One of Assad’s key sources of information about what the opposition is up to.

This stopped on May 24, and even more so in August,  2011 when Erdogan finally realised that after three months of unstinting support for the Assad regime, the Turkish government circles seek to shun finding themselves ”backing a regime which shoots to kill Muslims in the street.” After the number of Syrian deaths rose past 1,100, one high-ranking official commented, ”Turkey is a Muslim democracy. It must not lend support to dictators who murder their citizens.”

So at least then Erdogan stopped to openly supporting Assad. It would take longer for Turkeyto actually start doing something. That happened in January this year.

And the rhetoric of setting up “safe” or “buffer zone” has been talked about by the Turks for nearly a year buy now and nothing has been done.

Turkey recalibrates its approach to Syria

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/03/21/uk-turkey-syria-idUKBRE82K11Y20120321

(Reuters) – Just over a year ago, Turkey’s prime minister addressed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus as “my brother”. Today, illusions of kinship are long gone and the region’s rising power finds itself marshalling efforts to press him from power, but increasingly wary of being pitched into military action.

The falling out between Assad and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan grew personal as well as diplomatic as Syria’s president ignored Turkish calls for restraint and pressed his attacks on protesters. Erdogan drew a comparison with Nazi Germany in some of the strongest words of any major leader onSyria.

In one email, intercepted and published in Britain’s Guardian newspaper, Assad’s wife Asma is asked if she would pass her email address to Erdogan’s wife. “I use this account only for family and friends,” she replies. “It would be difficult for me at this stage to consider her in either category after the insults they have directed towards the president.”

The Syrian insurrection has tested the limits of Turkish regional diplomatic power that has grown markedly under Erdogan’s stewardship. For years Ankara invested heavily in relations with Syria and Assad, calculating closer ties could foster both trade and reforms in its southern neighbour, as well as weaken its reliance on Iran, for centuries Turkey’s main regional rival.

“They thought that because of the personal relationship that had developed between Erdogan and Bashar, the Syrians would be a pushover,” said Philip Robins of Oxford University.

“There was a complete misunderstanding based on an assumption that they had manoeuvred the other side so that they would do their bidding, and that absolutely was not the case.”

Syrian protests escalated from March last year. Assad failed to heed ever more insistent telephone calls from Erdogan and visits from Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu appealing for reform. By August, Ankara had had enough.

TURKEY SEES RED LINES

Having seen the rapid revolution in Egypt and with the overthrow of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi seemingly imminent, Turkey sharply turned against its erstwhile ally in Damascus.

They wanted to position themselves on the right side of history, expecting the Syrian regime to fall in weeks as in Tunisia and Egypt,” said Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut.

Turkey now hosts Syria’s main opposition groups and shelters the rebel Free Syria Army on its side of the common frontier. On April 1, it will be the venue of a meeting of Western and Middle Eastern officials and groups involved with Syria.

Assad has shown himself to be impervious to verbal assault and resilient to increasingly violent protests and guerrilla attacks. He is also for now at least largely insulated from strong United Nations-backed action due to the vetoes of China and his backer Russia on the Security Council.

“Right now there is a disappointing situation for Ankara,” said Salem. “What they banked on didn’t happen. Their bluff and bluster was met by bluff and bluster from the Syrian side and now we are certainly in a bit of a stalemate.”

Without backing from the U.N., or at least the Arab League and NATO, Turkey is unwilling to go it alone in Syria. But with a 900-km (560-mile) border with Syria, more than 16,000 Syrian refugees on its soil and hundreds more arriving each day, it is not a problem from which Ankara can simply walk away.

Turkey has signalled a huge flood of refugees or massacres on its door-step would be red lines that would force it to act, but short of military intervention, there are few effective options available, analysts said.

Erdogan said last week setting up a “safe” or “buffer zone” along the border was one of the options under consideration, but that would mean troops going into Syria to seize and secure territory which the rebel Free Syrian Army has failed to do.

“We need to consider maybe to have a buffer zone inside Syrian territory, but without Syrian consent this may lead to some kind of military conflict … and this may escalate the situation,” said Kamer Kasim of the International Strategic Research Organisation (USAK), Turkish think-tank.

Like it or not, Turkey finds itself centre stage of diplomatic efforts to dislodge Assad, and would be on the front line of any military intervention, whether an Arab peace force or arming the Free Syrian Army, both measures the Arab League could discuss when it holds a summit in Baghdad next week.

REGIONAL REALITIES

But there are very good reasons why Turkey should be wary of intervening in Syria, given its strategic backing by Turkey’s neighbour and regional power Iran, and the closeness to Iran of Ankara’s other Middle Eastern neighbour, Iraq.

Turkey has got itself into a position where it has a major foreign policy issue with its three Middle Eastern neighbours,” said Robins. “This is really not clever, especially in a part of the world where power politics is still the name of the game.”

“If it were just Turkey versus Syria then the Turks if they were minded to could probably just pile in,” he said. “But when you factor in the presence of other regional powers … and you also have Israel which is getting closer to Cyprus and Greece, and then of course you have the Russians to the north who are supporting Syria, it suddenly becomes much more complex.”

Some in Turkey see a Western attempt to pushAnkara into taking the leading role, and a large part of the risk, inSyria.

Parliament speaker Cemil Cicek, from Erdogan’s AK Party, blamed what he called “Western cunning” for trying to push Turkey into action. “Everyone is on the sidelines as if they are watching a match and saying ‘let Turkey sort it out’.”

That at least was how many observers saw last week’s visit to Ankara of CIA Director David Petraeus.

“It seems Turkeyhas been left holding the baby,” said Ali Nihat Ozcan, a security analyst at the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey.

The Americans, he said, “are probably trying to encourage Turkey to get more involved. Turkey is having second thoughts.”

Turkey has not yet rowed back, but much of the rhetoric has been replaced by a determined attempt to forge more consensus on Syria, hosting a “Friends of Syria” meeting in Istanbul on April 1 to try keep it high on the international agenda.

There Turkey will do what it diplomatically does best, bringing together the West and the Middle East where it uniquely has a foot in both camps.

“I would have thought the thing to do is to get back in the pack as far as NATO and the Western alliance is concerned; you are not exposed in the way that Turkey has been,” said Robins.

“You can have your own perspective on what is happening. You are still deeply alarmed at the loss of life and devastation in Syria, but you can only really move in tandem with the alliance more generally and with the Americans in particular.”

What really turned the Turks to doing something was when Assda played the PKK card in January this year. And opened a direct route fromIraq via Syria to Turkey for PKK.

Remember that Turkey nearly invaded Syria in 1998 for sponsoring Kurdish terrorism.

On October 20, 1998, Syria and Turkey signed the Adana Agreement under pressure from Iran and Egypt. The agreement was for Syria to keep the PKK from threatening Turkish sovereignty from Syrian bases.

After that PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan was expelled by Syrian authorities. Abdullah Öcalan then bounced around the capitals ofEurope, only to be captured in Kenya and handed over to the Turks by the CIA.

After the undeclared war between Turkey and Syria, Syria placed restrictions on PKK activity on its soil.

Idlib Binnish -”The People Who Represent Us are Those Fighting in the Trenches Not The Ones Sleeping in Hotels (SNC Members)”

And then there is the Turkish effort, with the Obama administrations backing and collaboration, to make SNC the sole voice of the opposition. So the SNC can receive all money and all supply toSyria must be funneled and coordinated through them so they are in full control.

Only one problem, SNC is in reality a Muslim Brotherhood controlled organization even if it pretends to be “neutral”.

See this video which shows Muslim Brotherhood leader Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni claiming that the Brotherhood chose Birhan Ghalioun to be the SNC leader as a front man because he would be more appealing to the West than an open Islamist.

Video here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=FWi7Rnpemkg

But the Syrian National Council (SNC) has failed. The people of Syria has seen trough this and rejected SNC as “a sole voice of the opposition”.

In fact, several SNC members, including Kamal al-Labwani and Haitham Maleh, have announced their resignations. They are both elderly veteran dissidents who are not Islamists. The reason being given most often for this crack-up is that the group’s leadership is “autocratic,” excluding most of the membership from any role in decision-making.

 Leaving aside the element of personal ambition, however, why is it autocratic? Because it is imposing the Muslim Brotherhood line rather than responding to the preferences of the activists within Syria, that’s why.

As the New York Times admits, al-Labwani, “accused Muslim Brotherhood members within the exile opposition of `monopolizing funding and military support.’” Yet there is not a word about how the Obama Administration pushed this Brotherhood-dominated leadership onto the Syrian opposition.

Most of the Kurds involved in the original talks angrily walked out of the negotiations because of their objection to Islamist leadership. The Obama Administration’s choice of  Turkey to coordinate this operation made it even harder to bring in Syrian Kurds, who play an important role in the revolution, since Turkey has fought a long war against Kurdish nationalism at home. Another issue of conflict is the SNC’s bad relationship with the FSA (Free Syrian Army) and its rejection of armed struggle to overthrow the dictatorship.

The opposition inside Syria say that this is because the Islamists hope to make a deal with the regime that would empower them (and they hope would eventually bring them to power in the longer-term) rather than fight it out.

Of the nineteen announced members of the top leadership of SNC, ten of them were Islamists, (Muslim Brotherhood or Salafist). A reliable Syrian opposition source tells that two more members are secretly Islamist tools.

In short, the U.S. government was helping to turn Syria’s revolution over to the Islamists. If this group had succeeded, the West would be facing still another radical Islamist regime that hated the West, wanted to go to war with Israel, and would be imposing a new dictatorship on its country.

That’s one of the reasons why there are more than a half-dozen other opposition groups have developed as rivals to the SNC.

And by the way, Erdogan is close personal friend of Obama which have made Turkeya key cornerstone in his Middle East policy.

Or as Barry Rubin puts it:

http://pjmedia.com/barryrubin/2012/03/26/obama-hearts-turkish-leader-erdogan-as-he-oppresses-his-own-people-and-stabs-america-in-the-back/

“President Barack Obama is continuing his love affair with Turkish Islamist leader Recep Erdogan. As Erdogan continues to undermine Turkish democracy, throw hundreds of moderates into jail, destroy the nation’s institutions, help Iran, throw hysterical tantrums about how much he hates Israel, promote Islamism in the region, and is fresh from still another meeting with Hamas leaders, Obama continues to use Erdogan as his guru.

When the two men met at the Seoul, South Korea, Nuclear Security Summit on March 25, Obama practically slobbered over the anti-American ruler, calling Erdogan his “friend and colleague….We find ourselves in frequent agreement upon a wide range of issues.”

When Erdogan goes to elections or is criticized by the opposition he uses statements like this to “prove” that his policies aren’t radical or anti-Western at all. Here’s a man whose regime can help terrorist groups organize a violent confrontation with Israel, preside over a virulently anti-American media, insist Iran isn’t seeking nuclear weapons and has a wonderful government, and then be lionized by the president of the United States.

Obama adds:

“I think it’s fair to say that over the last several years, the relationship between Turkey and the United States has continued to grow across every dimension.  And I find Prime Minister Erdogan to be an outstanding partner and an outstanding friend on a wide range of issues.”

What did the two men talk about? Well, they first discussed Syria, an issue on which Obama praised Erdogan’s “outstanding leadership.” In fact, Turkey has helped to engineer an Islamist leadership in the Syrian National Council that wrecked any chance that the opposition could unite.Turkey’s rulers did this not to promote democracy but to promote the Muslim Brotherhood.

Now, according to reliable sources, Obama is discouraging Erdogan from advocating a no-fly zone and safe haven in northern Syria because the U.S. government has basically decided not to help the opposition, which will ensure that the Syrian dictatorship crushes it and continues to be Iran’s main ally in the region.

Instead, Obama is opting, in his words, for “a process whereby a transition to a representative and legitimate government in Syria takes place.” In other words, Obama advocates a deal between the opposition and the dictatorship of President Bashar al-Assad  If this sounds like a contradiction, remember that this is also the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood line but is opposed by both the Free Syrian Army and the moderate oppositionists.

Of course, however, this strategy will merely buy time for the regime to achieve a bloody victory.  Erdogan is now headed to Tehran where he will try to convince his friends there to stop helping their friends in Syria. Does that sound like a mission likely to succeed?”

“Erdogan can well be delighted. He can do whatever he wants, trample on human rights at home; court radicals abroad including Hamas, Hizballah, and Iran; subvert U.S. interests, and still have Obama sit worshipfully at his feet.”

And to further prove that point that the Obama administration is ACTIVLY discouraging and opposing ANY small step Turkey wants to take regarding Syria:

US tells Turkey to back off  Syria

http://nowlebanon.com/NewsArchiveDetails.aspx?ID=378866

”In a previously unreported turn of events, it has now come to light that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in her meeting with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu last month, emphatically dismissed a number of forward leaning options on Syria that the Turkish top diplomat proposed to the Obama administration.

What this means is that Washington, which at one point subcontracted its Syria policy to Ankara, has now called the Turks off the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

According to well-informed Turkish and US sources, during his meeting with Secretary Clinton, Davutoğlu put forward a set of measures, including, among others, creating a buffer zone and/or a humanitarian corridor, as well as organizing and equipping the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The secretary of state responded in no uncertain terms that the Obama administration had no interest in pursuing any of these options. In fact, according to one account, Clinton told her Turkish counterpart no less than three times, “We are not there.”

This conversation fits well with the administration’s message to other regional allies, namely Saudi Arabia, against arming the FSA and pushing Washington’s preferred policy of going through the Russians, in an attempt to reach a “political solution” to the Syrian crisis.”

“Apparently, the Turks, much like the Saudis, were looking to the first Friends of Syria meeting in Tunis as a possible forum to bypass the Russians and begin a more muscular effort, with US backing. The Saudis found out at the meeting that no such action was forthcoming, and withdrew in frustration, while publicly voicing their preference for arming the Syrian rebels.

The Turks got their answer from Secretary Clinton well before the Tunis gathering, and, according to the Turkish sources, were dismayed at the Obama administration’s extraordinary passivity and refusal to lead.

The message conveyed to the Turks was the same one made clear to the Saudis. According to one US source, when Davutoğlu ended up asking Clinton where the administration was on the issue, her response simply repeated the mantra about the Arab League initiative and going to the Security Council again for another go at the Russians. In other words, it was more of the same.”

“As a result, the administration has found itself in the surreal position of siding closer with Assad’s Russian ally and at cross-purposes with its own regional allies – and, most significantly, in contradiction with its own stated policy of regime change in Syria.”

With “allies” like this who need enemies?

And finally some FSA comedy:

THE FREE SYRIAN ARMY COLLECTS DONATIONS FOR THE TURKISH ARMY – The FSA, who barely have enough weapons and supplies for themselves, conduct a charity drive for the Turkish Army.

Assad’s forces attacked a refugee camp in the town of Kilis on the Turkish side of the border and injured a couple of Turks in addition to wounding a dozen Syrians and killing two.

The Turkish Army has yet to respond to the attack, so the FSA conducted this donations drive for them.

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Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 5

19 april, 2012

The peace plan and ceasefire is working brilliantly wouldn’t you say?

“Al-Jazeera: Syria’s Tuesday death toll rises to 77, activists say “(April 18)

Yeap, that’s what I call a ceasefire.

And the as always “helpful” Russians:

Lavrov: Syrian armed opposition exercises provocative acts to foil Annan’s plan

http://www.sana.sy/eng/22/2012/04/18/413309.htm

“Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday said that the Syrian armed opposition exercises provocative acts to bring back violence and foil Annan’s plan.”

“Lavrov added that Moscow calls to solve all issues in peaceful methods through dialogue without foreign interference in accordance to the international law and within respecting the countries’ sovereignty and independence.”

So according to the Russians it is the unarmed civilians that are provoking the SYSTEMATIC destruction of cities, block by block, neighbourhood after neighbourhood.

And remember the destruction is done by Russian weapons, sold by Russia, the Syrian crews and troops trained by Russia, with Russian advisers attached etc.: T-72s, 240mm mortar bomb system etc.

So that is what Lavrov means when he said “Moscow calls to solve all issues in peaceful methods through dialogue”.

This is the Russian version of “peaceful methods through dialogue”

And remember, as I said in my previous posts, one of the weapons used by the Syrian regime in Homs was the Russian 240mm F-864 high explosive mortar bomb. The world’s largest high explosive mortar bomb designed to “demolish fortifications and fieldworks” according to a Russian arms merchandizing catalogue. It weighs 130 kilograms and contains 31.93 kilograms of TNT as an explosive charge.

This weapon system is notable for its capability to conduct a “plunging attack,” in which the munition is fired at a high angle and comes down nearly perpendicular to penetrate a building or fortification.

And Russians used a LOT of that “peaceful methods through dialogue” when the same weapon was used to destroy Grozny in 1994-96. And now they have passed on these “peaceful methods” to the Syrians

Remember also that Russia has blocked every attempt of a UN arms embargo. Just another helpful and friendly Russian way of “Moscow calls to solve all issues in peaceful methods through dialogue”.

And the French President Sarkozy has “discovered that Assad is lying and destroying Homs:

Sarkozy says Assad wants to “wipe Homs from the map”

http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=387500

“French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday accused Syria‘s Bashar al-Assad of seeking to ”wipe Homs from the map,” comparing his campaign to the Libyan regime’s attacks on the city of Benghazi.

Bashar al-Assad is lying in a shameful way, he wants to wipe Homs from the map like [former Libyan strongman Moammar] Qaddafi wanted to wipe Benghazi from the map,” Sarkozy told Europe 1 radio station.

”The solution is the creation of humanitarian corridors so an opposition can exist inSyria,” he said.

The French president and other Western leaders had cited the Qaddafi regime’s attacks on Benghazi as reason for the international community to intervene in Libya.”

OK, so now you “got it”. And what exactly are you doing about it? More bombastic statements?

“Sarkozy also said that the isolation of Russia and China on Syria ”will not last” and that the two countries will eventually join the rest of the international community against Damascus.

”The Chinese and the Russians do not like being isolated,” he said.”

Well I wouldn’t bet on it. Russia and China will only change if the real costs are getting to high. And so far it is costing them nothing to protect and support Assad. On the contrary they feel that they have bolstered their position.

Some interesting stories from Syrian intelligence, police and army officers why they defected. Usually when they found out that the regime they where actively supporting had arrested, killed or destroyed houses of their relatives or family members.

Defectors Recount Tales of Conflict; ‘Blood on My Hands’ .

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304356604577337940580477550.html

“RAMTHA, JORDAN—Sitting among family in this Jordanian town on the Syrian border, an ex-army intelligence officer recounted how he worked against rebel forces by intimidating family members to prevent military defections.

Now he’s a defector.

At the start of the Syrian revolution a year ago, the 21-year-old said he sat in his barracks with colleagues and watched TV reports of widespread protests against the government that met with increasingly brutal crackdowns. One day, he said, the TVs were removed and his commanders told him and his colleagues they were fighting against terrorists aligned with the U.S. and Israel who were plotting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

The intelligence officer said he worked tirelessly to crush the uprising in western Homs for five months, finally being granted two days of leave in July. He returned to his home in southern Deraa but it was riddled with bullets. His brother had been arrested under the charge of ”protesting” and his cousin killed by bullets fired by Syrian troops while demonstrating, he and his family members said in interviews.

The officer then realized he hadn’t been fighting terrorists, but his own people, he said.

I have innocent blood on my hands,” he said, staring at the floor as his 3-year-old sister played beside him and his father and brother smoked cigarettes.”

“Here in Ramtha, a former lieutenant colonel recounted his swift—and short-lived—decision to desert the Syrian police and join rebel forces.

I fought until they locked up my father, interrogated my sisters and burned down my house,” said the former officer, while sitting on floor cushions with other refugees. ”Now that I’m no longer fighting and left Syria, the pressure on my family is less.”

“Elsewhere in Ramtha, a former soldier who escaped to Irbid, Jordan, near the Syrian border, said his brother defected from the Syrian air force in April only to be caught and arrested. When their father went to the prison to inquire about the brother, he too was locked up, the soldier said.

The rest of the family is too scared to ask after the father and son, worried they too will be jailed, the former soldier said.

”No country is providing us weapons, Saudi and Qatarsay they want to, but don’t,” said the former solider, 29 years old. ”If the West doesn’t help us or other Arab countries, we’ll go to Al Qaeda. We don’t want to accept them, but what can we do when our children are being killed?

“He said that what especially haunts him is the intelligence he provided to colleagues to arrest defectors’ female family members, a way to pressure the former soldiers to turn themselves in. He said he heard reports of rape perpetrated by his colleagues as another form of intimidation against family members, but hadn’t seen any firsthand.

I defected because of what I saw how they killed people, like my own cousin, and destroyed their houses,” he said. ”I decided I couldn’t do this.”

A normal sign on any road wouldn’t you say?

STOP. WATCH OUT FOR THE SNIPER

And here is former Syrian General Akil Hashem take on the Uprising in Syria:

(His background: Joined the Syrian Army in 1962 and were promoted in the Military ranks until Brigadier General. He served in the armoured military units to become the Head of Operations for the Armoured Brigade.

He fought in 1967 June War and the 1973 October War, were he was badly injured, for that he was granted medals for his bravery: He retired – upon his request – in 1989.)

Former Syrian General Akil Hashem on the Uprising in Syria

Without Intervention, No End in Sight

http://www.foreignaffairs.com/discussions/interviews/former-syrian-general-akil-hashem-on-the-uprising-in-syria?page=show

“For a military perspective, Foreign Affairs’ Jordan Hirsch spoke with former Syrian Brigadier General Akil Hashem about the overall state of the rebellion, the capabilities of the military and the opposition, and what it will take to oust Assad. Excerpts:

Over a year after the uprising in Syria began, what is the state of the revolution?

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is rapidly escalating its military campaign and will continue killing no matter what. But at the same time, the revolution will continue no matter what. This stalemate will not end unless the international community intervenes militarily.

One of the main reasons given by Western powers for their reluctance to intervene in Syriais the power of Syria’s military and air defenses. As a former brigadier general, what is your assessment?

I cannot believe that the United States, Britain, and France, with all of their intelligence capabilities, do not realize that the Syrian military is weak, largely thanks to rampant corruption. It’s one thing to have equipment and weapons, but it’s another thing to have the leadership to deploy them. And the leadership of the Syrian military is particularly decrepit. It starts with junior officers who ask soldiers to buy them cigarettes and then refuse to pay them back and goes all the way up to division commanders who divert army matériel to build their castles, villas, and mansions, ordering soldiers to construct them without compensation.

What about matériel?

The Syrian military is relatively well equipped, but the weapons that it does have are severely outdated. The T-72 tank, the top-of-the-line tank in Syrianow, entered service in 1979. The air defense missiles, except for some new ones from Iran, were purchased in that era as well. The same goes for armed vehicles. So this notion that Syria has a sophisticated air defense system or army is ridiculous

“Where do you see the uprising heading over the next several months?

Assad cannot put down the rebellion. More than 10,000 people have been killed, but there are millions of Syrians participating directly or indirectly in the revolt, so the revolution will continue. That said, the rebels cannot win on their own. If the international community does not intervene, the conflict will persist indefinitely unless there is a military coup, an assassination of Assad or of top members of his regime, or a mass defection among the Alawite sect itself. The battle could continue like this for at least a year, if not longer. “

“What would it take for the West to intervene?

Western countries will only intervene if the Assad regime escalates its killing, or there is a massacre on the scale of Srebrenica. According to my sources, the regime actually regulates how many should be killed per day. At the beginning of the armed uprising, the number was about 50; after the assault on the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs, the number increased to 100. Assad knows that if he commits a large-scale massacre, he will trigger intervention. So if the numbers climb to 30,000 or 40,000 dead, or many thousands are killed at once, then you may see the international community act.Syria may also provoke its neighbors — similar to what happened last week, when Syrian troops fired across the border into a Turkish refugee camp.

If Assad were to fall, what would Syria look like?

There will be chaos. It will be like Iraq — a totalitarian regime that controlled everything suddenly collapsing, opening the door for all kinds of problems, even sectarian violence. But anything that comes after the regime would be a million times better than what we currently have. The doomsday scenarios of the Muslim Brotherhood or al Qaeda taking over Syria are ridiculous. Eventually, the opposition forces in the diaspora and within the country will find a way to unite to establish a free, democratic country.”

And the wifes of Britain’s U.N. envoy and Germany’s U.N. ambassador (Sheila Lyall Grant and Huberta von Voss-Wittig) have produce a video were they appeal to Assads wife Asma ‘Stop your husband’

“Stand up for peace, Asma. Speak out now. For the sake of your people. Stop your husband,” asks the video. “Stop being a bystander. No one cares about your image. We care about your action

“We strongly believe in Asma’s responsibility as a woman, as a wife and as a mother. As the vocal female Arab leader that she used to be, as a champion of female equality, she can not hide behind her husband,” Lyall Grant and Wittig said in a statement, according to Reuters.

Well good luck with that. But I wouldn’t count on anything.

Video here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzUViTShIAo

China

I was going to write about Chinas help and support for the Assad regime but it became to long. So I just am going to make two quick points.

First, that China, together with Russia, has blocked ANY international intervention or condemnation of the Syrian regime. Through vetos in the UN Security Council, voted against sanctions, voted against condemnations of the Assads regimes human rights record in various international bodies etc.

And China doesn’t recognize ANY of sanctions by the UN, EU etc.

Second, that China helps Assad mostly through Iran.

China has helped Iran to sidestep the regular global financial system to create a huge clandestine money-transfer, commercial and currency exchange machine for getting around the US-led Western sanctions hurting Irans international trade.

They are assisting in the construction of this underground network as a pipeline through whichIran can continue to conduct its commercial business with the outside world. And to help Iran evade the financial isolation because of the sanctions regarding its nuclear weapons program.

China also profits enormously from these sanctions-busting measures. Two years ago, anticipating the blockage of its regular trade relations, Iran began transferring billions of dollars to Chinese banks, which as a rule do not enter into foreign currency transactions with foreign banks.

However, the sums were so vast and the profits so tempting that China was persuaded to make an exception to this rule. International financial circles estimate that Iran transferred sums in the $ 25-50 billion range to Chinese banks.

China undertook to make available the amounts need to buy essential goods that the embargo prevents Iran from acquiring directly.

Beijing does the shopping and draws on the Iranian deposits to pay for the purchases. The goods are delivered to China and transferred to Iran via Pakistan.

China is making a very tidy profit from its shopping service for Iran. China is charging Iran an extra four-percent to cover insurance dues and another four percent surcharge as a “risk fee,” over and above the expensive roundabout delivery route. Already, China may be clearing as much as a billion dollars a year from this service alone.

When Washington found out about these arrangements about a month ago, US officials turned to China to get them stopped. They ran into a blank wall; the Chinese refused to give up their hugely profitable service for Iran

And the Chinese use this system to also help Assad with ALL the things he needs to suppress the uprising.

And as I told you in my previous post that Assad is short of money to pay for all the costly fuel (via Lebanon) his troops need to suppress the uprising. Because the embargo on fuel sales to Syria puts Assad in the hands of these Lebanese merchants.

So he has offered Russia and China $30 billion worth of government bonds for a massive injection of funds to his government.

Anyone want to buy?

And here is a “funny one”:

China says considering sending observers to Syria

http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=387513

“China said Thursday it was considering sending observers to monitor a Syrian ceasefire that came into force last week but is under threat as violence escalates.

”China is earnestly looking into whether to send observers to Syria or not,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Weimin told reporters at a regular briefing.”

OK, lets see if I got it: first you send money, arms, specialist, training etc. to help Assad to suppress the uprising and killing unarmed civilians, And then you send “observers” to see and make sure that the help you sent Assad has the effect it was supposed to. Of course all in the name of “observing the peace plan”.

The future for this peace plan and ceasefire looks better and better wouldn’t you say?

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Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 4

17 april, 2012

“What will the monitors do?” Asked one banner. “Make sure that it’s real blood they are seeing and not Ketchup?”

The six unarmed U.N. military observers have arrived in Damascus. It started “well” as you would have expected:

In Syria, U.N. observers face tough task

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/un-observers-face-tough-task-in-syria/2012/04/15/gIQAlRWXJT_story.html

“The extent to which the monitors would be able to work independently was also called into question Sunday, as Syrian officials insisted that they take an active role in the work of the observers.

Government spokeswoman Bouthaina Shaaban told reporters Sunday that the government could not be responsible for the safety of the monitors unless it was involved in “all steps on the ground.” She added that Syria reserved the right to reject observers according to nationality. “

Ehhh, maybe I have misunderstood something here but that’s called discrimination and racism. In addition, it is wildly condemned and outlawed according to various UN charters. So the same UN that outlaws and forbid discrimination and racism is allowing the Syrians regime to pick and chose which colour and country the observers come from.

“But an activist outside the city of Hama said that demonstrators had been chanting against the presence of U.N. monitors.We don’t want more people to watch us be killed,” said Mousab Alhamadee via Skype, calling instead for practical help for the opposition, including arming rebel forces. “

We don’t want more people to watch us be killed,” I would say that that is a reasonably demand wouldn’t you?

And wasn’t there supposed to be a truce with the observers in place and all?

“Al-Arabiya: Syrian security forces killed 45 people Monday, activists say”

And the destruction and shelling of block after block, neigbourhood after neigbourhood continues as if nothing has happened from the Syrian regime.

One example of this “ceasfire” and destruction from the Syrian regime you can see here:

“Homs (Khalidiyeh): Apr 15, 2012 – Unbelievable level of destruction. Five (5) shells land in the span of 54 seconds on this small area alone.”

And in this video, also from Homs, you can litterally hear one shell a second.

“SO MANY SHELLS HIT THIS NEIGHBORHOOD, YOU CAN COUNT ONE EVERY SECOND Homs (Qarabis): Apr 15, 2012 – Assad’s forces are literally blanket-shelling the city of Homs. They are erasing the entire city and wiping off the map of Syria. There are no military targets in the city – only Syrian residents.

The world pats itself on its back for every shell that lands – after all, Assad ‘agreed’ to the so-called ‘ceasefire’ …. no response was thought of when he broke it … “

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XNxOB0U7i0&feature=player_embedded

And an Assad minister have built a “modest” palace:

“At a time when pro-Assad troops and death squads are busy pounding towns and villages all over the country, the country’s Minister of Economy (note: I had earlier said Interior, which was a mistake of course), a George Washington University Alumnus, Nedal Alchaar, was busy putting the final touches on his villa in Aleppo City. Work was “finally” done, to use his own words, and he posted pictures of the villa on his Facebook page earlier yesterday, before he removed it when people began chatting about it on the net. Too late. It’s this kind of impunity by Assad officials that paved the way to the revolution. It’s this kind of impunity that will continue to fuel it, until the whole regime is brought down.”

Ammar Abduhamid a liberal democracy activist

Russia, as always “helpful”, announced on Friday, April 13, “A decision has been made to deploy Russian warships near the Syrian shores on a permanent basis.”

Russian Warships to Patrol Syrian Coast

http://en.rian.ru/world/20120413/172799962.html

Russian warships will be continuously deployed for patrol duty off the Syrian coast in the Mediterranean, a high-ranking source in the Russian Defense Ministry said on Friday.

A decision has been made to deploy Russian warships near the Syrian shores on a permanent basis,” the source said. The Russian Kashin-class guided-missile destroyer Smetlivy is currently deployed near the Syrian coast.

“Another Black Sea Fleet ship will replace the Smetlivy in May,” the source said, adding that several Russian warships were on their way to the Mediterranean.”

It is the first time that Russia officially has announced the permanent deployment of naval vessels in the eastern Mediterranean and off Syria. Thus extending a protective shield over Assad and his regime against outside military intervention.

IRAN

Like Russia, Iran’s strategic interest and massive support forSyria in all shapes and form goes way back, to the 1979 revolution in Iran.

For Iran, Syria plays a vital roll in it’s ambitions to control parts of the Middle East. And Syria is crucial for Iran’s support and control of Hezbollah and Lebanon.  And Hamas in Gaza.

Syria was the first Arab country to recognize the provisional government of Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan after the shah’s ouster. Syria also provided invaluable diplomatic and military support to Iran after Iraq’s 1980 invasion.

Both countries worked together against their mutual foe Saddam Hussein and Iraq, Syria was also a channel for arms shipments to Iran during the Iran-Iraq conflict.  Etc

The alliance was first formalized in March 1982 with a series of bilateral agreements on oil, trade and a secret pact on military cooperation.

They cooperated on everything from development of ballistic missiles. To arming, training and supporting Hezbollah and Hamas. To influence events in Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority. Etc.

Both also provided significant aid to internal and foreign forces in Iraq, challenging the U.S. military and the new government in Baghdad.

Interestingly the balance of power in the Syrian-Iranian alliance has shifted since 1979. Syria was the dominant partner in the 1980-90s. Today Iran is the stronger partner and Assad depends on Iran (together with Russia) for his survival.

One example: From 1976 to 2005, Syria was the more dominant player in Lebanon due to its military presence. But its leverage weakened after Damascus was forced to pull out troops in 2005. Hezbollah, the pro-Iranian party and militia, has since become the most influential ally in Lebanese politics even if Syria still has a very strong influence there.

Another interesting aspect is that they cooperate very well even if they have very different ideological and political goals.

For example,Syria and Iraq were intense political rivals, and often came close to military blows, because they shared the same Baa’thist ideology. The political elites in Tehran and Damascus were never competing.

Iran has vied for leadership of the Islamist bloc in the Middle East and beyond, a role in which secular Syria has no interest. Syria has long sought to be ”the beating heart of Arabism,” a role in which Iran, a non-Arab country, has no interest. Except for a brief period of rival ambitions in Lebanon, the two countries have never been in competition — ideologically, economically, or militarily. Neither has tried to upstage the other.

But enough of background, lets go to present times.

As I said above, today Iran is the stronger partner and Assad TOTALLY depends on Iran (together with Russia and China) for his survival.

Iran has spent many billions on shoring up the survival of the Assad regime and the Syrian economy against the uprising. It has sent thousands of Iranian military, intelligence, cyber warfare and drone warfare personnel and civilian experts to fight on its behalf.

Iran thinks that by backing the “winning horse” in Damascus they have empowered their Russian partnership as well as the pro-Iranian bloc embracing Assad’s Syria, the Lebanese Hizballah and the Hamaz on the Gaza Strip.

Iran is de facto the banker of last resort for Assad. So far, every time Assad has asked the Iranians for more money he got it. Although Iran is enduring hard times itself.

It is estimated that Iran has sent more than two billion dollars into the Syrian treasury emptied by Western sanctions.

Iranian financial and banking agents also act for Syriain overseas transactions. Iran arranged for Syrian oil to reach buyers, putting to work the sanctions-busting measures it had developed to overcome the sanctions imposed on Iran itself by the US, Europe and Arab countries.

One example:

Iran helps Syria ship oil to China

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/30/us-china-iran-syria-idUSBRE82T0D420120330

Iran is helping its ally Syria defy Western sanctions by providing a vessel to ship Syrian oil to a state-run company in China, potentially giving the government of President Bashar al-Assad a financial boost worth an estimated $80 million.”

Another:

Iran covers the payroll for the military and security personnel and the government departments that’s keep the regime functioning – to the tune of more than half a billion dollars a month, according to estimates.

Assad’s biggest problem now is to keep the money flowing to buy fuel for the Syrian war machine. All the Russian tanks, self-propelled artillery, trucks etc. are constantly on the move from one rebel flashpoint to another, reinforcing units and ferrying troops, equipment and ammunition.

But the embargo on fuel sales to Syria puts Assad in the hands of Lebanese merchants. He has run out of funds to meet their exorbitant charges for petrol and diesel, without which his military crackdown would grind to a stop. So now, Russia and China have therefore been asked for the necessary funding since Iranis already paying for so much.

Assad has survived so far thanks to massive Russian and Iranian backing and cooperation.

Another example of this cooperation and High-level Iranian-Russian coordination:

As I wrote in my previous post:

“Russia knew exactly what Assad needed after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Foreign Intelligence Service Mikhail Fradkov had paid a visit to Damascus on February 7 and talked to Assad.

While the visit was billed as a Russian bid to persuade him to accept political reforms, “They were seeking to find ways for stabilisation in Syria through democratic reforms.” http://www.itar-tass.com/en/c142/337363_print.html, it actually focused on the ways and means in which Russia could help the Syrian ruler quickly stamp out the armed revolt against his rule.

Moreover, this move was coordinated with Iran. Iran and Russia have a division of labour so to say between themselves. They have divided who does what in a high-level coordination.”

Well guess what,

Iran’s al Qods Brigades commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani was there February 5-6 at the head of a large military-intelligence delegation. And when the Iranians left, the Russians arrived.

Their combined missions: to finalize Russian-Iranian-Syrian collaboration in Syria and the Middle East after the regime finally suppresses the revolt.

So while the Obama administration was working through Moscow to bring Iran to the negotiating table with the Six Powers on its nuclear program, Russian and Iranian clandestine agencies were busy working together in Syria to undercut US and Western positions.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei put two top officials in charge of the Save Assad mission and the cementing of Iranian-Syrian ties: Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi and Al-Qods Brigades’ commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

The pair operated in close sync both with the Syrian leadership and their Russian colleagues, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Foreign Intelligence Service chief Mikhail Fradkov and Mikhail Margelov, the Kremlin’s ambassador-at-large in Arabia, whose formal title is Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation.

The Quds Force is normally Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) special department tasked with furthering the Islamic revolution outside of the country’s borders, and is also responsible for arming and training Hezbollah, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad – as well as supporting Iran-backed terror operations around the world.

As the Iranian Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi claimed with some justification on March 27 “Iran has the most powerful intelligence service in the region”

http://irna.ir/ENNewsShow.aspx?NID=80053141

The ‘men’ in the house are: Bashar Al Assad, Vladimir Putin, Ayatollah Khaemeni and Hassan Nasrallah.

Another area where Iran has really helped Assad is in controlling and suppressing civilian uprising in the cities and social media.

Iran sent Syria thousands of military, intelligence and security strategists and riot dispersal experts, surveillance equipment for guidance and training in cracking down on the uprising in the cities. Cyber warfare specialists to help the work of Syrian security and intelligence services. It has also shared techniques on Internet surveillance and disruption. Etc.

The Iranians become masters of this during the crackdown on the Green Revolution witch started June 13 2009. And they are now passing on this lessons to Assda’s regime.

(You can see some of the names of the killed and detained here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/interactive/2009/jun/29/iran-election-dead-detained)

And by the way, Obama did nothing to support that uprising either. Except some platitudes of course.

On example:

It was the Iranians agents and special operations units that disabled the Western logistical intelligence network in beleaguered Homs and helped Syrian intelligence block Syrian rebel arms smuggling routes incoming fromIraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Etc.

Remember the killed journalist in Homs? A “successful” cooperation of Russian SIGINT satellite tracking and Iranian special forces on the ground.

They have been so successful that Assad has lifted restrictions on social networking web sties to lure dissents out into the open.

Iran reportedly aiding Syrian crackdown

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/iran-reportedly-aiding-syrian-crackdown/2011/05/27/AGUJe0CH_story.html

Iranian-assisted computer surveillance is believed to have led to the arrests of hundreds of Syrians seized from their homes in recent weeks” (May 2011).

“In the account provided by the diplomat and the U.S. officials, the Iranian military trainers were being brought to Damascus to instruct Syrians in techniques Iran used against the nation’s “Green Movement’’ in 2009, the diplomat said. The Iranians were brutally effective in crushing those protests.

Officers from Iran’s notorious Quds Force have played a key role in Syria’s crackdown since at least mid-April (2011), said the U.S. and allied officials. They said U.S. sanctions imposed against the Quds Force in April were implicitly intended as a warning to Iran to halt the practice.”

“The Obama administration mentioned the role of the Quds Forces in announcing two sets of sanctions imposed against Syrian government officials in the past month. A White House executive order last week that targeted Assad and six other top government officials also included a little-noticed reference to Mohsen Chizari, an Iranian military officer who is the No. 3 leader in the Quds Force in charge of training.”

Imagine how EASY it is to track the opposition if they use Facebook, Twitter, Youtube etc, In an INSTANT you have hundreds of names and contact details. YUM for any dictator.

And by the way, that “warning” one year ago from the Obama administration to Iran to halt it’s “practice” seems to have fallen on totally deaf ears.

Iran helping Assad to put down protests – officials

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/03/24/uk-iran-syria-crackdown-idUKBRE82M16H20120324

“Iranian security officials have also travelled to Damascus to advise Assad’s entourage how to counter dissent, the official said. Some Iranian officials have stayed on inSyriato advise Assad’s forces, he added.

A European official said that the Iranians were providing Syrian security agencies with hardware and software that would help them disrupt efforts to organize protests inside Syria and efforts by anti-government elements to spread their message to supporters outside the country.

Officials said that Syria had also obtained some surveillance technology from European suppliers.

The Treasury imposed U.S. economic sanctions on Ismail Ahmadi Moghadam and Ahmad-Reza Radan, chief and deputy chief of Iran’s national police force, because their agency had ”provided support to the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate and dispatched personnel to Damascus in April to assist the Syrian government in suppressing the Syrian people.”

The Treasury alleged that Radan had travelled to Damascus to meet with Syrian security agencies, to whom he allegedly provided ”expertise to aid in the Syrian government crackdown on the Syrian people.”

“WITHDRAWL OF THE CITIES FROM ARMY (HELD) AREAS” … Assad’s army has not withdrawn from all cities as agreed to in the UN brokered ‘Ceasefire’ plan. So, the people of Kafranbel have anther suggestion…

How Iran Keeps Assad in Power in Syria

http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/68230/geneive-abdo/how-iran-keeps-assad-in-power-in-syria

“The Iranian regime has also provided Assad with technology to monitor e-mail, cell phones, and social media. Iran developed these capabilities in the wake of the 2009 protests and spent millions of dollars establishing a ”cyber army” to track down dissidents online. Iran’s monitoring technology is believed to be among the most sophisticated in the world — second, perhaps, only to China. Shortly after Iran shared its know-how with Syria this summer, Assad lifted restrictions on social networking Web sties, presumably to lure dissents out into the open.

In addition to sharing weapons and surveillance tools credible reports from Syrian refugees indicate that Tehran sent its own forces to Syriato quash the protests. A number of revolutionary guards from the elite Quds Force are also reported to be there, presumably to train Syrian forces. On May 18, the U.S. Treasury Department mentioned the role of the Quds Force directly, asserting that Mohsen Chizari, the Quds Force’s third-in-command, was training the security services to fight against the protestors”

In really desperate situation for the Syrian regime the Iranians “come out of their shadows” and take directly part:

Syrian refugees say Iranian forces involved in crackdown

http://www.payvand.com/n ews/11/jun/1103.html

“Mostafa, an injured Syrian refugee, said: ”There were both plainclothes and uniformed Iranian soldiers. I saw them with my own eyes. We asked them not to attack us, but they didn’t speak Arabic.”

The 23-year-old man added that his attackers wore black shirts, which is uncommon in Syria, and wore beards. He added that the Syrian military is forbidden to wear beards.

A 17-year-old Syrian student named Akram reported: ”Most of these people are snipers. They do not speak Arabic and, most significantly, they carry weapons that are unfamiliar to us.”

Guardian correspondent Martin Chulov on Iranian soldiers inSyria

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MSalUBcGqs&feature=player_embedded

And Iran is also helping with surveillance drones:

Iran helping Assad to put down protests – officials

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/03/24/uk-iran-syria-crackdown-idUKBRE82M16H20120324

”Over the past year,Iran has provided security assistance to Damascus to help shore up Assad. Tehran during the last couple of months has been aiding the Syrian regime with lethal assistance – including rifles, ammunition, and other military equipment – to help it put down the opposition,” a U.S. official said.

”Iran has provided Damascus (with) monitoring tools to help the regime suppress the opposition. It has also shared techniques on Internet surveillance and disruption,” the official continued.

He added that Iran had also provided Assad’s government with ”unarmed drones that Damascus is using along with its own technology to monitor opposition forces.”

The more advanced drones Iran supply directly to Syria. But Syria’s military industry manufactures some less advanced Iranian drones. The drones are manufactured at Syria’s Scientific Research Center, where rockets and advanced missiles are also manufactured.

And then there is the Iran-Iraq-Syria and of course Lebanon axis.

As it is now  Iran has a massive leverage in Baghdad. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s is considered by the Saudis and the Gulf States to be just a Iranian agent or at least committed to a very pro-Iranian policy.

In 1979, al-Maliki fled Iraq after he was discovered to be a member of the outlawed Islamic Dawa Party. He left Iraq via Jordan and to Syria. He then left Syria for Iran in 1982, where he lived inTehran until 1990, before returning to Damascus where he remained until U.S. coalition forces invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam’s regime in 2003. While living inSyria, he worked as a political officer for Dawa, developing close ties with Hezbollah and particularly withIran, supporting that country’s effort to topple Saddam’s regime.

Why is this important? Well most of the massive Iranian aid and support for Assad goes via or over Iraq.

In February this year, Iran organized the biggest airlift with aid to Assad. The biggest Iran had ever organized and it was critical in helping Assad win out over the revolt.

As OC US Central Command Gen. James Mattis explained March 3 to the Senate Armed Services Committee: They (Iranians) are working earnestly to keep Assad in power. They have flown in experts. They are flying in weapons. It is a full-throated effort by Iran to keep Assad there and oppressing his own people.”

And this heavy airlift was made possible by Baghdad’s permission to fly over Iraq directly to Syria. Obama tried interceding with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to block the Iranian transport flights to Syria only to be turned down.

US concerned about Iranian flights over Iraq to Syria

http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArchiveDetails.aspx?ID=376918

The United States said Friday it is concerned about Iranian cargo flights over Iraq to Syria, saying it has warned Iraq they might contain arms that could be used by Damascus to crush protests.

”Without getting into intelligence matters, we are concerned about the over flight of Iraq by Iranian cargo flights headed to Syria,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters.

We are consulting with Iraq about them and we are making the point that any export of arms or related materials from Iran, frankly, to any destination would be a violation of UN Security Council resolution 1747,” she said.

Nuland said the Iraqis were also being told ”that any arms sent to the Syrian regime at this time would obviously be used in the brutal repression that the regime is exacting on its own people.”

She added: ”So we are in consultation with Iraq… encouraging the government of Iraq to be absolutely sure about any cargo that is overflying its territory.”

Iraqi Premier Nuri al-Maliki insisted Friday that all items transported through Iraq to Syria were humanitarian goods, after a US newspaper reported Iran was moving weapons to Syria via Iraqi air space.”

Very strange “humanitarian goods” since it’s sole purpose is to kill people.

And Obama was turned down by Nouri al-Maliki and this exceptionally heavy airlift by the Iranian military was just “humanitarian goods”.

Yeap, that was a VERY good return for overthrowing Saddam and installing Nuri al-Maliki as premier in Iraq.

Was it worth ALL these allied lives??

Killed in Iraq

US    –   4486

UK     –    179

Other  –  139

And the ENORMOUS money you spent??

Total cost for US around $2 Trillion.

And by the way, Iran now ALSO have a permanent naval base in Latakia  inSyria.

On February. 25, an Iranian-Syrian naval cooperation accord was signed providing for Iranto build its first Mediterranean naval base at the Syrian port. The base will include a large Iranian Revolutionary Guards weapons depot stocked with hardware chosen by the IRGC subject to prior notification to Damascus. Latakia harbor will be deepened, widened and provided with new “coastal installations” to accommodate the large warships and submarines destined to use these facilities.

Quiet a coup for Iran. It has acquired its first military foothold on a Mediterranean shore and its first permanent military presence on Syrian soil. Tehran will be setting in place the logistical infrastructure for accommodating incoming Iranian troops to fight in a potential Middle East war.

Syrian Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Ali Mohammad Habib said:” At a ceremony in honor of the Iranian Navy Commander Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, Habib said: ”Iranian warships’ presence in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time after 32 years is a great move that is going to cripple Israel.”

So for the first time in 32 years two Iranian warships were allowed to pass through the Suez Canal (the Egyptians have stopped them before), and they are now building a permanent naval base in the Mediterranean.

And the as always very helpful Russians have said that they are willing to contribute towards the Iranian port’s defenses and looking forward to cooperation between the Russian, Iranian and Syrian fleets in the eastern Mediterranean opposite the US Sixth Fleet’s regular beat.

I think I stop here.

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Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 3

14 april, 2012

I think this sums it up quiet well:

Nothing impresses anymore: killing entire families by smashing their skulls or slashing their throats, pounding residential neighborhood with tanks, missiles, choppers and heavy artillery, burning people alive, commanding snipers to target children… nothing! The world remains indifferent to our suffering. After all, it’s nothing people haven’t seen before. Just another dictator torturing and killing his people, so what! So what!”

Ammar Abdulhamid  a liberal democracy activist

And there are signs of ethnic cleansing:

“In the mountains along the coast, where Sunni, Alawite, Christian, Kurdish and Turkmen communities intermingle, pro-Assad militias have conducted a major raid against Sunni communities (namely the villages of Al-Kabaneh and ‘Akko) near the town of Slenfehin Al-Akrad Mountain. The ensuing clashes left at least 2 dead and drove hundreds away from their homes, as pro-Assad militias ransacked their homes. Another troubling report from the Coast comes from the city of Jablehwhere local activists say that walls have recently been constructed to separate Sunni and Alawite neighborhoods. The Sunnis represent a little less than 30% of the local population and seldom venture out of their neighborhoods at this stage, as they are often subject to harassment and arrests. Pro-Assad militias, made up mostly of Alawite inhabitants, periodically ransack and loot their shops”

The issue of ethnic cleansing in the coastal regions and surrounding mountains is something that requires careful monitoring, because, regardless of what people say about the viability or non-viability of an Alawite state, most pro-Assad militias seem to have adopted a philosophy that calls for cleansing their traditional strongholds of Sunnis, irrespective of whether the end product is the creation of an Alawite state or not. It’s a philosophy inspired in part by pure sectarian vindictiveness (preventative vindictiveness to be specific), and in another by a just-in-case mentality. In either case, it’s a dire foreteller of things to come.”

Russia

The Russian strategic interest and massive support in all shapes and form goes way back to the1950s and Soviet times.

Most of the Syrian political and military “structures” where modelled after the Soviet ideas and structures and Soviet methods. Done to the smallest lever and minute detail.

The command structure, which used to be modelled on that of France, was restructured after that of the Soviet Union. Some uniforms, such as the army combat clothing, have been changed to resemble Soviet prototypes. Etc.

Virtually all Syrians sent abroad for military training went to the Soviet Bloc and all foreign instructors have come from there. A Soviet style ”political department” was introduced to assure ideological homogeneity among the soldiers and officers. The Syrian military introduced a fourth service, the Air-Defence Command, patterned on the Soviet Troops of Air Defence. Etc.

And Soviet personnel have taken over military operations within Syria in emergencies. During the 1973 war with Israel, the headquarter staffs of a Soviet airborne division was flown to Damascus to prepare for the defence of that city.

Soviet pilots flew combat missions in Syrian airplanes and operated a reconnaissance squadron of MiG-25s in the 1970s with their own soviet ground crews. Etc.

The Syrians acquire over 95 percent of their weapons, some of them extremely advanced, from the Soviet Union. A practice that goes on still to day with Russia.

In the mid 1980s, Syria has contracted for $19 billion in Soviet military hardware.

For example, Syria had the most sophisticated and densest Soviet-supplied air defence system outside the Soviet Union.

This air-defence network in Syria was (and is) linked electronically to stations in the Soviet Union/Russia. And to Soviet/Russian ships in the Mediterranean. Making Syria an integral part of the Soviet/Russian security apparatus. The Soviets had ”hands on” control of air activity based in Syria: according to U.S. intelligence. All of the radar data, missile readiness status, interceptor aircraft conditions-such as fuel and armaments-and other battle information that is fed into central command posts in Syria will also be displayed for Soviet/Russian generals in the Soviet Union/Russia via space relayed transmissions.

And at all times, there was a huge number of Soviet/Russian troops, advisors, technicians etc, more than in any other Third Worldcountry.

Not to forget the Soviet/Russian bases in Syria. Soviet submarines operating in the Mediterraneanwhere based primarily at Tartus and their naval airplanes have access to the Tiyas field etc

Syrian leaders consistently and closely identified with Soviet goals. For example, Syria was one of very few states freely choosing to vote at the UN in favour of Soviet troops in Afghanistan. And it agreed with the Soviet Union on every issue in the UN etc.

Damascus supported all the causes of the Soviet bloc and in return, Syria’s received support from the whole Soviet bloc. Just one example, when Syria needed military help in 1973 and 1974, Cuba provided tank operators, MiG- and helicopter pilots.

Another example, the 1980 Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, created a ”strategic alliance between the two great forces of socialism and national liberation.” So the Syrian-Soviet ties were VERY CLOSE.

And the Soviet Union and now Russia built up and trained, and supervised, the Syrian intelligence and internal protection forces.

One example:  In mid-1980, at the peak of a revolt by the Muslim Brotherhood, 500 KGB advisors were training Syrian intelligence officers at an army base south of Damascus. Other Syrians went to the Soviet Union for similar training. A few days after the rebellion in Hama erupted in 1982, the chief of Syrian internal security, ‘Ali Duba, requested help from the Soviets. Twelve Soviet officers, experts in street fighting, went to Hama, where three of them were killed.

Somewhere between 20 000 to 40 000 civilians, from the youngest child to the oldest person – no “discrimination” in killing here, were slaughtered in Hama in February 1982. The Syrian army, under the orders of the president, Hafez al-Assad, conducted a scorched earth operation against the town of Hama in order to quell a revolt by the Sunni Muslim community against the regime of al-Assad. The Hama massacre was carried out by the Syrian Army under General Rifaat al-Assad, president Assad’s younger brother.

So to recapitulate:Soviet Union trained, “advised” and took part with the troops that slaughtered the civilians in Hama. Besides supplying the weapons used.

There was another massacre in Hama in April 1981. The Syrian, Alawite dominated, army massacred about 400 of the Sunni Hama’s inhabitants, chosen randomly among the male population over the age of 14.

As you can see, it is really a “family affair” and a tradition of the Assad’s. And the “business model” seems to be slaughter of civilians.

But enough of background, lets go to present times.

As we have already established, first theSoviet Union, and nowRussia, have a long history of massive support and protection of the Assad’s and the Syrian regime.

So let’s start with the arms.

Russian arms STILL accounts for around 95 % of Syrian weapons imports

According to the latest “official” figures just released by SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute):

http://www.sipri.org/media/pressreleases/rise-in-international-arms-transfers-is-driven-by-asian-demand-says-sipri

Russia supplied 78 per cent of Syria’s imports in 2007–11. During 2011 Russia continued deliveries of Buk-M2E SAM systems and Bastion-P coastal defence missile systems to Syria, as well as securing an order for 36 Yak-130 trainer / combat aircraft. These deliveries contributed to a 580 per cent increase in the volume of Syrian arms imports between 2002–2006 and 2007–11.”

Nearly $1bn worth of Russian missiles and aircraft upgrades were reportedly sold to Syria in 2011, while shipments of smaller weapons have been harder to trace.

The second biggest supplier in 2007-2011 was Belarus, which supplied 17% of the total.

Remember that the Belarus weapons in reality are Russian weapons.

The third one was Iran with 5% of imported weapons to Syria. Some of these weapons are also Russian.

And remember, as I said in my previous posts, one of the weapons used by the Syrian regime in Homs was the Russian 240mm F-864 high explosive mortar bomb. The world’s largest high explosive mortar bomb designed to “demolish fortifications and fieldworks” according to a Russian arms merchandizing catalogue. It weighs 130 kilograms and contains 31.93 kilograms of TNT as an explosive charge.

This weapon system is notable for its capability to conduct a “plunging attack,” in which the munition is fired at a high angle and comes down nearly perpendicular to penetrate a building or fortification.

This is the same weapon that Russia used to destroy Grozny in 1994-96. And now they have passed on these “skills” to the Syrians.

Remember also that Russia has blocked every attempt of a UN arms embargo.

“In addition, SIPRI experts point out that the main importer of weapons to SyriaRussia – ignores the UN proposal to impose an embargo on arms supplies to Syria and plans further deliveries, including 24 combat aircraft MiG-29M2 and 36 Yak-130.”

Virtually all of Moscow’s arms sales are processed by the state-owned corporation Rosoboronexport, the Russian treasury have much to gain from a spike in Syrian arms deals.

Here is an example of the length Russia will go to break the arms embargo:

Russia boosts arms sales to Syria despite world pressure

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/21/us-syria-russia-arms-idUSTRE81K13420120221

In January, the Russian ship Chariot, loaded with arms and ammunition, was halted during a refuelling stop in Limassol, Cyprus. It gave reassurances it was not travelling to Syria. However, after being released, the ship dropped off the tracking systems and radar and sailed quietly to the Syrian port of Tartus.

To avoid attracting the attention of world powers increasingly frustrated byRussia and China’s refusal to back U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at ending violence,

“But rebel soldiers and an official who defected from the government say Moscow’s small arms trade with Damascusis booming, and the government doubled its military budget in 2011 to pay for the crackdown on the opposition.

I would say that on average the funds (for Defence Ministry expenditure) were doubled for 2011,” said Mahmoud Suleiman Haj Hamad, the former chief auditor for Syria‘s Defence Ministry who defected in January.

He said by telephone from Cairo that Russian arms accounted for 50 percent of all deals before Assad’s crackdown on the protesters. China and North Korea provided 30 percent, and Iran and other suppliers 20 percent, he said.

The government had boosted its defence budget and arms imports by cutting funds to other ministries in areas such as education and health by as much as 30 percent, he said.

Before the uprising, Russia was trading weapons with Syria in a more limited manner. More recently … Russia began giving more weapons to Syria,” he said.

”To my knowledge, Russia was shipping monthly,” he said, referring to deliveries prior to his defection last month.

Thomson Reuters shipping data shows at least four cargo ships since December that left the Black Sea port of Oktyabrsk – used by Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport for arms shipments – have headed for or reached the Syrianport of Tartous.

Separately was the Chariot, a Russian ship which docked at the Cypriot port of Limassol during stormy weather in mid-January. It promised to change its destination in accordance with a European Union ban on weapons to Syria but, hours after leaving Limassol, reset its course for Syria.

A Cypriot source said it was carrying a load of ammunition and a European security source said the ship was hauling ammunition and sniper rifles of the kind used increasingly by Syrian government forces against protesters.

The source also said Russian manufacturers had increased production to meet the demand from Syria. The ship’s owner Westberg said that the ship was carrying a ”dangerous cargo.”

Syria hosts a Russian naval facility on its Mediterranean coast, a rare outpost abroad forMoscow’s military. Damascus has also been a loyal Russian arms customer since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, when it used Soviet-made weapons against Israelwhich was largely supplied by theUnited States.

Numerous Russian weapons advisers work in Syria and Rosoboronexport has an office with a staff of about 20 in the country, a source close to the company said.

CAST, a Moscow-based defence think tank, says Russia sent Syria at least $960 million worth of heavy arms – which included several missile systems – in 2011 and has some $4 billion in outstanding contracts.

Hamad, the former military auditor, said many sales of Russian small arms are carried out through traders. It was not clear if they had the Kremlin’s blessing to trade the weapons.

Soviet arms are also sold by other states that have stockpiles of Soviet-era weapons that can be confused with arms coming from Russia.

”I know that Syria is paying for some of the weapons through traders and middlemen, not through contracts between states,” said Hamad.

But shipments of Russian arms to Syria have become so frequent that rebel soldiers try to track the deliveries from Syria’s ports to military bases in the interior.

A former army lieutenant who defected in August and gave his name only as Omar explained how he and dozens of other fighters use a network of port workers to find out when shipments of arms arrive and where they are going, sometimes ambushing convoys.

Every few weeks, trucks move weapons from the coast to bases in the interior,” he said. ”Almost all of them are Russian.

Another example from December 2011:

“Expanded Russian military and diplomatic support for the Assad regime was underscored by the deployment Friday, Dec. 16 (2011), of advanced Moscow-supplied Yakhont (SSN-26) shore-to-sea missiles along Syria‘s Mediterranean shore to fend off a potential Western-Turkish invasion by sea. Last week, Russia airlifted to Syria 3 million face masks against chemical and biological weapons and the Admiral Kutznetsov carrier and strike group was sent on its way to Syria‘s Mediterranean port of Tartus.

Russian naval sources in Moscow stressed that the flotilla is armed with the most advanced weapons against submarines and aerial attack. Upon arrival, the Russian craft will launch a major marine-air maneuver in which Syrian units will take part.

Syria has received from Russia 72 Yakhont missiles able to hit marine targets up to a distance of 300 kilometers – i.e., over the horizon, our military sources report. The missile’s radar remains inert, making it hard to detect, until it is close to target. It is then switched on to guide its aim.

Its high speed – 2,000 kmh – enables the Yakhont to strike before its target has time to activate self-defense systems.

Thursday night, in response to the deployment of 21 Syrian Scuds on the Turkish border, including five with chemical warheads, Ankara convened its top military council and declared its armed forces ready for war. Syria also rushed armored reinforcements to the Jordanian border.”

Another:

The 50 Pantsyr-S1 interceptor batteries, now the backbone of Syrian air and missile defenses, which Moscow sold Syria.  And that Russian military crews have since mid-January taken over their operation from Syrian personnel.

Another:

The only Russian naval base in the Middle East is Tartus, a deep-water military port in Syria. And Moscow has been restoring and upgrading that base since 2008. It also has permanently stationed ships and troops there.

And do the Russian have any intention of stopping the accelerated arms export to Syria? On the contrary, they boldly states that they will continue:

The Russian Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov claimed in a speech to Russia’s lower house of parliament in the beginning of March, with a straight face, that Russian weapons sent to Syria were for “external threats” and have not been used against civilians or peaceful demonstrators.

And on March 14, Russia‘s Deputy Defence Minister insisted his government would not halt weapons sales to Damascus. Despite the US and Europe imposing arms embargoes, Anatoly Antonov insisted that Russia’s deals with Syria were ”perfectly legitimate” and would continue.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/russia-were-happy-to-sell-arms-to-assad-7565725.htm

Russia enjoys good and strong military technical co-operation with Syria, and we see no reason today to reconsider it. Russian-Syrian military co-operation is perfectly legitimate,” said Russian Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov. “It’s part of our contractual obligations. When we supply weapons, we have to provide training

Despite this growing evidence that the arms it sells the regime are being used against civilians, Russia remains defiant. ”Russia enjoys good and strong military technical co-operation with Syria, and we see no reason today to reconsider it,” Mr Antonov said yesterday. ”Russian-Syrian military co-operation is perfectly legitimate,” he added. Mr Antonov admitted that Russia has military instructors on the ground in Syria training the Syrian army.

”It’s part of our contractual obligations,” said the minister. ”When we supply weapons, we have to provide training.” He denied thatRussia had sent special forces to assist in military planning.”

And are the Russian government upset with, or in any shape or form protesting the Syrian regimes mass slaughter of unarmed civilians?

Remember that in 1982 they ACTIVELY took part in the slaughter in Hama

On the contrary, they vigorously deny it and defend the Syrian regime.

One small example by Russian Embassy inWashington:

Russia makes its Syria case on Capitol Hill

(http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/04/03/russian_makes_its_syria_case_on_capitol_hill

“That the U.S.and most Western nations are at odds with Russian policy should not come as a surprise. Nevertheless, the manner in which Moscow is shamelessly pushing its case demonstrates the seriousness with which they view the Syrian issue. Take, for instance, the Capitol Hill briefing on Tuesday afternoon held by the Russian embassy and hosted by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL). Led by embassy officials Anton Vushkarnik and Sergey Kuznetsov, they refused to even acknowledge that Bashar al-Assad was killing his own people. They brazenly defended their ongoing sale of arms to the Assad regime by citing that there was no international law that prevents such sales — even though it was Russia and China that vetoed the very UN Security Council resolution that would have put the ban in place.

The Russian embassy officials refused to acknowledge basic facts about the burgeoning conflict in Syria, including that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continues to kill his own people. The Russia officials also claimed that an equal number of Syrian civilians have died at the hands of the Syrian opposition.

The Russian officials also defended their country’s ongoing arms sales to the Syrian regime, pointing out that there is no international law preventing such sales. (Of course, it was Russia along with China that vetoed the U.N. Security Council resolution that would have instituted such an arms embargo.) “

Another:

UN rights council orders extension of Syria probe

http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=379320

”The UN Human Rights Council ordered Friday an extension of a probe into violations inSyria, asking investigators to map out abuses since a deadly crackdown on protests in the country erupted a year ago.

The resolution was passed by the 47-member state council with 41 votes in favor, two abstentions and three — Russia, China and Cuba — against.”

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

Human Rights Watch issued the following statement on March 23, 2012, concerning the Russian Foreign Ministry’s use of a Human Rights Watch statement to support a one-sided position onSyria:

http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/03/23/russia-selective-use-syria-findings

“Since the beginning of the protests in Syria, Human Rights Watch has produced over 60 publications, including three extensive reports, on human rights violations by Syrian government forces. These publications contain detailed documentation of widespread and systematic abuses, including killings of peaceful protesters, shelling of residential neighborhoods, large-scale arbitrary detention and torture, “disappearances,” executions, denial of medical assistance, and looting.

Human Rights Watch concluded that that some of these violations constitute crimes against humanity and repeatedly called for an end to abuses and accountability for the perpetrators. Human Rights Watch presented the findings directly to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, urgingRussia to use its strong bilateral relations with the Syrian government as well as its weight in the international arena to put an end to government abuses.

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

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

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

Russian anti-personal PMN-2  mines planted by Syria on the border with Turkey

And there is the Russian help to bypass all embargos and sanctions. Since the outbreak of the Syrian protests last March, Russia has undermined every possibility of external intervention. The fact that Russia is continuing to arm and assist the Assad regime makes Russia complicit in the growing list of Syrian government atrocities.

Russia, like China, does not recognize the legitimacy of the oil embargo or the financial sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe.

Western financial sources suspect a number of local Russian banks which have no business dealings with the American banking system may be handling transactions between Syrian, Iranian and Far Eastern banking institutions

Not to mention the veto’s in the UN security council. And the Russians work very had to ensure that there is NO hard conditions put on the Syrian regime.

Russia rejects deadline for Annan’s Syria peace plan

http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=382719

Russia on Monday rejected Arab and Western calls for a deadline to be set for the Syrian regime’s implementation of a peace plan put forward by international mediator Kofi Annan.

”Ultimatums and artificial deadlines rarely help matters,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said while on a visit to the former Soviet nation of Armenia.

Lavrov added that only the UN Security Council, where Russia wields veto power, could put any time restrictions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s compliance with the six-point initiative.

”Annan has a Security Council mandate and it is up to the UN Security Council to decide who is complying with this plan and how,” he said.

The so-called ”Friends of Syria” meeting of Arab and Western nations in Istanbulagreed this weekend to ask the UN to give Assad a deadline to cooperate with Annan’s solution to the year-long conflict.

The plan itself demands that Assad pull out his forces from major flashpoint cities and introduce a daily two-hour ceasefire that could let aid workers deliver supplies and treat the thousands of injured civilians.

But it puts forward no time frame in which Assad has to comply.

Lavrov said the peace plan would not work unless rebel forces also agreed to halt fire.

”The demands should be put to all sides of the barricades,” Lavrov said.”

Another point of this cooperation:

Russia knew exactly what Assad needed after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Foreign Intelligence Service Mikhail Fradkov had paid a visit to Damascus on February 7 and talked to Assad.

While the visit was billed as a Russian bid to persuade him to accept political reforms, “They were seeking to find ways for stabilisation in Syria through democratic reforms.” http://www.itar-tass.com/en/c142/337363_print.html, it actually focused on the ways and means in which Russia could help the Syrian ruler quickly stamp out the armed revolt against his rule.

Moreover, this move was coordinated with Iran. Iran and Russia have a division of labour so to say between themselves. They have divided who does what in a high-level coordination..

And in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin is claiming as his personal victory the policy of holding the line against American and Western intervention in the Syrian uprising and their attempts to make Assad’s overthrow part of the Arab Spring against autocratic rulers. It was his idea to threaten to deploy Russian troops to Syria to stand in for local units transferred from their regular duties to suppressing dissidence.

And there is the intelligence cooperation and assistance.

One example:

In November two Russian (SIGINT) spy satellites monitoring military movements in the eastern Mediterranean, Turkey, Israel and Syria began feeding Syrian president Assad‘s strategists precise intelligence on FSA units in Turkey and rebel concentrations within Syrian cities (military sources report).

This new resource enabled the special syrian forces stationed along the Syria-Turkey border to ambush the deserters moving back and forth, capturing some and liquidating many.

Since Assad gained access to reliable Russian intelligence, he no longer seeks to capture deserters for information and has ordered his troops to shoot them on sight where they stand.

These capabilities was also used to track, destroy an kill the  western journalist (Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik) in the makeshift “press centre” in Baba Amr (Homs).

The Russians have a long and expert practice of this, which they showed in Chechnya.

On April 21, 1996, Chechnya’s breakaway president, Dzhokhar Dudayev, was speaking on a satellite phone with Russian envoy Konstantin Borovoi about setting peace talks with Yeltsin. During the phone call, he was killed by a signal-guided missile fired from a Russian jet fighter. The warplane had received Dudayev’s coordinates from a Russian ELINT (electronic intelligence) plane that had picked up and locked on to the signal emitted by the satellite phone. It was Russian deception and brutality at its finest.

Another:

The Russians have a electronic and surveillance station at Jabal Al Harrah south of Damascus, They have now upgraded and expanded this complex with advanced technology and manpower. Today, its range extends to all parts of Israel and Jordan, the Gulf of Aqaba and northern Saudi Arabia

One reason behind the expansion was to add resources especially tailored to give Tehran early warning of an oncoming US or Israeli attack. Partly as a response to a complaint from Tehran that it could not longer count on Russiafor a real-time alert on an incoming US or Israeli military strike, because those resources were stretched to the limit in support of the Assad regime.

The Russians have also upgraded the Russian-equipped Syrian radar stationed on Lebanon’s Mount Sannine and connecting it to the Jabal Al Harrah facility in Syria. Russia is now able to track US and Israeli naval and aerial movements in the Eastern Mediterranean, up to and including Cyprus and Greece.

The Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kutznetsov’s stay at the Syrian port of  Tartus through most of January and up to mid-February had the special mission of keeping an eye out for any Israeli preparations for attacking Iran, Syriaor Hizballah. It filled the gap left by the Russian station south of Damascus which was fully occupied with feeding data on Syrian opposition movements to Bashar Assad and watching out for signs of foreign intervention, military or covert, against his regime.

The Russian vessel meanwhile followed increased traffic of US drone over Syria keeping track of the Syrian arsenal of missiles with chemical, biological and nerve gas warheads.

Moscow ordered the Admiral Kutznetsov to depart Tartus on Feb. 13 and sail to home port at Severomorsk on the Kola Peninsula. The Russian stations in Syria and Lebanon were by then ready for their expanded missions.

Also the Russians have permanently stationed a Russian naval reconnaissance and surveillance ship in their naval base in Tartus.

I think I stop there. You get the picture.

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Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 2

12 april, 2012

April 10 was the latest day that Assad was supposed to stop all attacks and withdraw troops from the cities, according to the “peace” plan. Well, we already know that he did, as usual, the exact opposite. Also “as usual” following his previous pattern of seemingly agreeing to a “plan” or “accord” but with NO intention of ever following it. Instead, he is using these plans to buy time and at the same time crush all opposition.  .

Because he knows, he can get away with it. And the world let him do that as I said before again and again.

Especially the “brilliant minds” behind all these “peace” plans including the latest one, which put NO TIME FRAME OR DEADLINE in which Assad has to comply.

That’s REALLY a brilliant idea wouldn’t you say?

REPORTS

Here are some (and there is many out there), of the more important reports about the human rights situation in Syria:

Press release:

Syria: Extrajudicial Executions

http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/04/09/syria-extrajudicial-executions

“In a desperate attempt to crush the uprising, Syrian forces have executed people in cold blood, civilians and opposition fighters alike,” said Ole Solvang, emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch. “They are doing it in broad daylight and in front of witnesses, evidently not concerned about any accountability for their crimes.”

Syrian security forces will stop the executions only if they sense that accountability is inevitable,” Solvang said. “It is up to the Security Council to send this message.”

Report here:

In Cold Blood: Summary Executions by Syrian Security Forces and Pro-Government Militias

http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/syria0412webwcover.pdf

The 25-page report, “In Cold Blood: Summary Executions by Syrian Security Forces and Pro-Government Militias,” documents more than a dozen incidents involving at least 101 victims since late 2011, many of them in March 2012

Press release:

Syria: ‘Shoot to Kill’ Commanders Named

Security Council Should Refer Syria to ICC for Crimes Against Humanity

http://www.hrw.org/news/2011/12/15/syria-shoot-kill-commanders-named

“Former Syrian soldiers identified by name 74 commanders and officials responsible for attacks on unarmed protesters, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The report names commanders and officials from the Syrian military and intelligence agencies who allegedly ordered, authorized, or condoned widespread killings, torture, and unlawful arrests during the 2011 anti-government protests. Human Rights Watch has urged the Security Council to refer the situation inSyriato the International Criminal Court (ICC) and impose sanctions against the officials implicated in abuses.

The defectors’ statements leave no doubt that the Syrian security forces committed widespread and systematic abuses, including killings, arbitrary detention, and torture, as part of a state policy targeting the civilian population, Human Rights Watch said. These abuses constitute crimes against humanity.

About half the defectors Human Rights Watch interviewed said the commanders of their units or other officers also gave them direct orders to open fire at protesters or bystanders, and reassured them that they would not be held accountable. In some cases, officers themselves participated in the killings.”

“Amjad,” who was deployed to Daraa with the 35th Special Forces Regiment, said that he received direct verbal orders from his commander to open fire at the protestors on April 25:”

“Three defectors described to Human Rights Watch incidents of summary executions and deaths from torture, involving 19 victims. Lieutenant-Colonel “Ghassan,” who served in the Presidential Guard, said that around August 7, he witnessed a summary execution of a detainee at a checkpoint in Douma:”

Report here:

By All Means Necessary!”

Individual and Command Responsibility for Crimes against Humanity in Syria

http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/syria1211webwcover_0.pdf

The 88-page report, “‘By All Means Necessary!’: Individual and Command Responsibility for Crimes against Humanity in Syria,” is based on more than 60 interviews with defectors from the Syrian military and intelligence agencies. The defectors provided detailed information about their units’ participation in attacks, abuses against Syrian citizens, and the orders they received from commanders and officials at various levels, who are named in the report.

Press release:

Syria: Crimes Against Humanity in Homs

Arab League Should Suspend Syria

http://www.hrw.org/news/2011/11/11/syria-crimes-against-humanity-homs

“The systematic nature of abuses against civilians in Homs by Syrian government forces, including torture and unlawful killings, indicate that crimes against humanity have been committed, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today. Human Rights Watch urged the Arab League, meeting inCairo onNovember 12, 2011, to suspendSyria’s membership in the League and to ask the United Nations Security Council to impose an arms embargo and sanctions against individuals responsible for the violations, and referSyria to the International Criminal Court.

As in much of the rest of Syria, security forces in Homs governorate subjected thousands of people to arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, and systematic torture in detention. While most were released after several weeks in detention, several hundred remain missing. Most detainees were young men in their 20s or 30s, but security forces also detained children, women, and elderly people. Several witnesses reported that their parents or even grandparents – people in their 60s and 70s – had been detained.”

Report here:

“We Live as in War

Crackdown on Protesters in the Governorate of Homs,Syria

http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/syria1111webwcover_0.pdf

The 63-page report, “‘We Live as in War’: Crackdown on Protesters in the Governorate of Homs,” is based on more than 110 interviews with victims and witnesses from Homs, both the city and the surrounding governorate of the same name. The area has emerged as a center of opposition to the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The report focuses on violations by Syrian security forces from mid-April to the end of August, during which time security forces killed at least 587 civilians, the highest number of casualties for any single governorate.

Press release:

Syria: Crimes Against Humanity in Daraa

Killings, Torture in a Locked-Down City Under Siege

http://www.hrw.org/news/2011/06/01/syria-crimes-against-humanity-daraa

“Systematic killings and torture by Syrian security forces in the city ofDaraasince protests began there onMarch 18, 2011, strongly suggest that these qualify as crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

”For more than two months now, Syrian security forces have been killing and torturing their own people with complete impunity,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. ”They need to stop – and if they don’t, it is the Security Council’s responsibility to make sure that the people responsible face justice.”

“Witnesses from Daraa interviewed by Human Rights Watch provided consistent accounts of security forces using lethal force against protesters and bystanders, in most cases without advance warning or any effort to disperse the protesters by nonviolent means. Members of various branches of the mukhabarat (security services) and numerous snipers positioned on rooftops deliberately targeted the protesters, and many of the victims had lethal head, neck, and chest wounds. Human Rights Watch documented a number of cases in which security forces participating in the operations against protesters in Daraa and other cities had received ”shoot-to-kill” orders from their commanders. “

Syrian authorities also routinely denied wounded protesters access to medical assistance by preventing ambulances from reaching the wounded, and on several occasions opening fire on medical personnel or rescuers who tried to carry the wounded away. Security forces took control of most of the hospitals in Daraa and detained the wounded who were brought in. As a result, many wounded people avoided the hospitals and were treated in makeshift hospitals with limited facilities. In at least two cases documented by Human Rights Watch, people died because they were denied needed medical care.”

Syrian authorities also imposed an information blockade on Daraa. They prevented any independent observers from entering the town, and shut down all means of communication. Security forces searched for and confiscated cellphones that contained footage of events in Daraa, and arrested and tortured those whom they suspected of trying to get images or other information out, including some foreign nationals. In some areas, electricity and communications remain cut off. “

Report here:

We’ve Never Seen Such Horror

Crimes against Humanity by Syrian Security Forces

http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/syria0611webwcover.pdf

This 54-page report is based on more than 50 interviews with victims and witnesses to abuses. The report focuses on violations in Daraa governorate, where some of the worst violence took place after protests seeking greater freedoms began in various parts of the country. The specifics went largely unreported due to the information blockade imposed by the Syrian authorities. Victims and witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch described systematic killings, beatings, torture using electroshock devices, and detention of people seeking medical care.

Syria: Local Residents Used as Human Shields

Reports of Residents Forced to March in Front of Soldiers in Idlib

http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/03/25/syria-local-residents-used-human-shields

“Witnesses from the towns of al-Janoudyah, Kafr Nabl, Kafr Rouma, and Ayn Larouz in the Idlib governorate in northern Syria told Human Rights Watch that they saw the army and pro-government armed men, referred to locally as shabeeha, force people to march in front of the advancing army during the March 2012 offensive to retake control of areas that had fallen into the hands of the opposition. From the circumstances of these incidents, it was clear to the witnesses that the purpose of this was to protect the army from attack.”

By using civilians as human shields, the Syrian army is showing blatant disregard for their safety,” said Ole Solvang, emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Syrian army should immediately stop this abhorrent practice.”

“The Syrian army’s use of human shields is yet another reason why the UN Security Council should refer Syria to the International Criminal Court” Solvang said. “Somebody should be made to answer for these violations.”

Syria: Government Uses Homs Tactics on Border Town

Indiscriminate Shelling, Sniper Killings, Attacks on Fleeing Residents

http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/03/22/syria-government-uses-homs-tactics-border-town

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

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

‘Friends of Syria’: Push to End Indiscriminate Shelling

http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/02/24/friends-syria-push-end-indiscriminate-shelling

“Local sources have reported that approximately 700 civilians have been killed and thousands wounded in Homs since the Syrian military began its current assault on the city onFebruary 3, 2012.

Video footage from Homsreviewed by Human Rights Watch indicates that the army has used Russian-made 240mm mortar systems against Homs. These systems fire the world’s largest high explosive mortar bomb, designed to “demolish fortifications and fieldworks” according to a Russian arms merchandizing catalogue.

This Russian-made munition shown in the video is the largest mortar bomb known to be in production and use. It weighs 130 kilograms and contains 31.93 kilograms of TNT as an explosive charge.

The indiscriminate attacks on populated areas with heavy-duty weapons in Homs and other cities demonstrate the price of blocking an international consensus to end the horrific human rights violations in Syria,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Russia and China have a particular responsibility to put pressure on Syria, given that they vetoed Security Council consensus, and Syria has so far shown itself impervious to condemnation by most other states of its actions.”

Marie Colvin, one of two Western journalists killed in Baba Amr on February 22 by Syrian army shelling, had reported the previous day that she had witnessed 14 shells fall on the neighborhood in the span of 30 seconds and had watched a baby die of shrapnel wounds for lack of proper medical care. Another Western journalist who was in Baba Amr from February 15 to 17 told Human Rights Watch that “on a good day, a shell hit the neighborhood every 4 to 5 minutes while on a bad day, they heard 55 shells in 15 minutes.”

UNICEF steps up its response to children affected by the crisis in Syria

http://www.unicef.org/media/media_62075.html

“The UN says that at least 500 Syrian children have been killed in the violence thus far, while hundreds more have been injured, put in detention or abused. Schools have closed and health centres have shut down or become too dangerous for families to reach. “

UNICEF denounces killings of children, women in Syrian city of Homs

http://www.unicef.org/media/media_61971.html

“UNICEF today denounced the reported killing of children and women whose bodies were found in the Syrian city ofHomson Sunday.

According to Syrian and international media reports, young children were among the victims discovered in the Homsneighbourhood of Karm el-Zeytoun. Some of the bodies had their throats slit. Others bore marks of torture.

It’s hard to come to terms with savagery on this scale especially when it involves children paying the highest price for events over which they have no control,” said UNICEF Regional Director Maria Calivis. “We urgently call on all sides in this crisis to live up to their responsibility to safeguard children.”

UNICEF statement on children caught in the bloodshed in Syria

http://www.unicef.org/media/media_61584.html

This must stop. Even one child killed in the violence is one child too many,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “We urge the Syrian authorities to allow help to all those who need it desperately.”

Statement by UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake in Bangkok on the Human Rights Council Resolution on the human rights situation in Syria

http://www.unicef.org/media/media_60788.html

UNICEF is greatly disturbed by the confirmed reports of violent attacks on children in Syria. We share the deep concerns presented in the recent report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry, and welcome the Human Rights Council’s Special Session that addressed among other things these grave violations of children’s rights.

“The HRC’s resolution reflects global outrage over the more than 300 children killed by state forces in Syria since March 2011 and confirmed reports of abhorrent abuses, including sexual violence against children in places of detention.

“Such blatant disregard for children’s lives must not be ignored. UNICEF urges the government of Syria to abide by its commitments to uphold the rights of children, and in particular to protect them from arbitrary arrest, detention, torture or sexual violence.”

UNICEF alarmed about reported extreme violence against children in Syria

http://www.unicef.org/media/media_58707.html

“Since mid-March, reports of children injured, detained, displaced and at times killed have been increasing.  While UNICEF cannot verify the reported cases and events, we are particularly disturbed by the recent video images of children who were arbitrarily detained and suffered torture or ill-treatment during their detention, leading in some cases to their death.  We call on the government to thoroughly investigate these reports and ensure that perpetrators of such horrific acts are identified and brought to justice. “

Syria: Security Forces Barring Protesters from Medical Care

At Least 28 Killed in Bloody Friday Crackdown in Daraa, Harasta, and Douma

http://www.hrw.org/news/2011/04/12/syria-security-forces-barring-protesters-medical-care

“”Syrian security forces in at least two towns prevented medical personnel and others from reaching wounded protesters on April 8, 2011, and prevented injured protesters from accessing hospitals, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch, which interviewed 20 witnesses from three Syrian towns, urged Syrian authorities to allow injured protesters unimpeded access to medical treatment and to stop using unjustified lethal force against anti-government protesters.

To deprive wounded people of critical and perhaps life-saving medical treatment is both inhumane and illegal,” said Sarah Leah Whitson,Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Report reveals crimes against humanity in Syrian town

https://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/report/report-reveals-crimes-against-humanity-syrian-town-2011-07-06

“The brutal methods used in a devastating Syrian security operation in the western town of Tell Kalakhmay constitute crimes against humanity, Amnesty International said today in a new report.

Crackdown inSyria: Terror in Tell Kalakh documents deaths in custody, torture and arbitrary detention that took place in May when Syrian army and security forces mounted a broad security sweep, lasting less than a week, against residents of the town near the Lebanese border.”

Syria: ‘I wanted to die’: Syria’s torture survivors speak out

https://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE24/016/2012/en

“A grim catalogue of torture has emerged from former detainees describing their treatment in Syria’s detention centres since the predominantly peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s government began in March 2011. This report reveals that all the various security forces are routinely torturing and ill-treating detainees held in the context of the protests and unrest, using methods of cruelty mostly used for decades. The torture carried out appears to be part of a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population as part of Syrian government policy to crush dissent. “

Report here:

https://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE24/016/2012/en/708c3f40-538e-46a9-9798-ebae27f56946/mde240162012en.pdf

Syria: Health crisis: Syrian government targets the wounded and health workers

https://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE24/059/2011/en/74190b0e-cbc4-4596-91fc-eb89863362d8/mde240592011en.pdf

“The Syrian authorities have been blocking and manipulating access to health care for people wounded during the unrest that has swept across the country since mid-March 2011, putting many lives at risk. They have routinely deemed those wounded by firearms as opponents of the government and treated them as detainees and held them incommunicado. The patterns of abuse recorded in this report show how the authorities are preventing health care professionals from treating those wounded freely and without fear. Such actions flagrantly violateSyria’s obligations under international human rights law.”

Syria: Deadly detention: Deaths in custody amid popular protest in Syria

https://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE24/035/2011/en/874dfa1c-2041-4681-a610-dffe1aa1421c/mde240352011en.pdf

“Relentless repression has marked Syriasince March 2011, as the government continues its efforts to stifle increasing numbers of pro-reform protests. Scores of people – believed to have been detained for their actual or suspected involvement in the protests – are reported to have died in custody. Some were children. However, the Syrian authorities have failed to carry out credible investigations into any of the cases or ensure accountability for the perpetrators. Amnesty International is calling on the UN Security Council to refer the situation inSyria immediately to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.”

Syria: The long reach of the Mukhabaraat: Violence and harassment against Syrians abroad and their relatives back home

https://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE24/057/2011/en/31e11754-c369-4f17-8956-548b2f7e1766/mde240572011en.pdf

“Many Syrians abroad have been vocally expressing their solidarity with the mass pro-reform protests which have rocked Syriasince March. In this briefing, Amnesty International is documenting the cases of more than 30 Syrian activists living in eight countries in Europeand North and South Americawho say they have faced intimidation from embassy officials and others apparently because of their activities in solidarity with the pro-reform movement in Syria. The long reach of the feared Syrian mukhabaraat, or intelligence services, seems to be in evidence.”

Press Conference by Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria

http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs/2011/111128_Syria.doc.htm

“The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syriahad concluded that Syria’s army and security forces committed crimes against humanity in their repression of a largely civilian population in the context of peaceful protests, members of the United Nations-backed panel said today. “

The widespread and systematic violations of human rights in Syria could not have happened without the consent of the highest ranking State officials,” he continued, noting that under international law, “the State of Syria is responsible for these violations and bears the duty to ensure that the perpetrators are punished and that the victims received reparations.”

Mr. Pinheiro said excessive force — including by live fire and snipers — was used against peaceful demonstrators.  Further, the State had shown little or no recognition of the rights of children in quelling dissent, and reliable sources had indicated that some 256 children had been killed by State forces as of 9 NovemberTorture, sexual violence and other forms of ill treatment were also inflicted against people sympathetic to the protests, regardless of their gender or age. “

The report here:

Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic

http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/SY/A.HRC.S-17.2.Add.1_en.pdf

The Human Rights Violations Documenting Center in Syria

Covers the period 15 March -15 October 2011 with details and names of killed

http://www.lccsyria.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/SYR_HR_Violations_Mar15_Oct15_Final-3.pdf

“The oppressive regime inSyriaused all its military and security forces against their unarmed people, waging open war on the crowds of peaceful demonstrators. In some documented cases, the regime used military equipment such as helicopters, armored sea vessels, and military tanks, to bomb residential neighborhoods in many cities. This is in addition to using internationally banned weapons, such as poison gas and expanding bullets, to disperse peaceful demonstrators.

Many public venues, such as cinemas, stadiums, and theaters, were turned into detention centers in which systematic brutal torture occurred, resulting in many death-under-torture cases. In addition, there have been several forced disappearance of citizens who were kidnapped for months, and disappeared completely thereafter.

There are many documented cases of hospitals that were invaded to prevent treating the wounded; in some cases, the wounded were detained or even killed. All of the above happened during seven months of an almost complete international silence, save a few shy statements by the international community that did not reach the point of condemning those documented cases as crimes against humanity.

It is unacceptable for the Arab nations, the Arab League, and the United Nations and their organizations to remain on an undecided weak stance. They have not been able, so far, to adopt one serious and strong move to stop the instruments of this regime from committing more crimes and violations against the peaceful people who are merely demanding their basic rights.

This hesitance and the lack of a conclusive stance is sending very negative signs to the Syrian people, who are starting to consider this indirect participation in the ongoing assault against. This also gives the regime the leeway to continue its nihilistic approach, and provides incentives to similar regimes in the world to commit atrocities against their own people and remain unaccountable.”

More reports from LCC Syria here: http://www.lccsyria.org/category/reports

The number of people killed

The Rising Death Toll inSyria

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/03/21/world/middleeast/death-toll-of-the-syrian-uprising.html?ref=syria#

With graphs, by day, week etc.

”One of the more detailed accounts — from the Violations Documenting Center (V.D.C.) — shows almost 10,000 deaths since the protest began last year on March 15.”

The number of killed (by age, sex, place, crowd map etc.) in the conflict, according to the Syrian opposition website

http://www.syrianshuhada.com/?lang=en&

                             Children killed by age

Women under siege – Reports, crowd map and documentation of rape

https://womenundersiegesyria.crowdmap.com/reports

“The stories are more atrocious than I could have imagined. We have evidence that there’s possible sexual enslavement going on, mutilation — really horrific atrocities,” Wolfe said.

Crowd Map, Reports plus detailed graphs

https://syriatracker.crowdmap.com/

11,813 Individuals killed,March 18, 2011thruMarch 25, 2012

Amnesty’s Syria page

http://www.eyesonsyria.org/

Human Rights Watch’s Syria page

http://www.hrw.org/middle-eastn-africa/syria

The destruction of Homs and Baba Amr

Syria: New Satellite Images Show Homs Shelling

http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/03/02/syria-new-satellite-images-show-homs-shelling

                                     Homs and Baba Amr

Picture

Red Dots are destroyed or damaged buildings, yellow dots are craters in fields or roads (pic taken on 25 Feb 2012, Baba Amr was retaken by Assad`s troops on March 1)

If you click on the picture it gets much larger

Picture2

Another close-up also shows a number of large dust clouds caused by the probable impact of several shells that landed within an estimated 10 to 15 minutes before the satellite image was recorded. It also shows hundreds of smaller impact craters across the adjacent fields next to the buildings, most of which are heavily damaged.

If you click on the picture it gets much larger

“These new satellite photos and witness accounts show the extent of the brutality unleashed on Baba Amr,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Despite the killing, Russia and China continue to block any international action.”

And remember, as I said in my previous post, one of the weapons used by the Syrian regime was the Russian 240mm F-864 high explosive mortar bomb. The world’s largest high explosive mortar bomb designed to “demolish fortifications and fieldworks” according to a Russian arms merchandizing catalogue. It weighs 130 kilograms and contains 31.93 kilograms of TNT as an explosive charge.

This weapon system is notable for its capability to conduct a “plunging attack,” in which the munition is fired at a high angle and comes down nearly perpendicular to penetrate a building or fortification

In this video, you can see the total destruction and some pices of the mortar bomb. The footage was filmed in the old part of Baba Amr, known as al-Hakura

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=iPVcw1Dd_0s#!

According to “The Military Balance 2011,” published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Syria possesses ten 240mm mortar systems.

But of course, any respectable “army” need these kind of weapons to fight very dangerous unarmed civilians. Especially since they are hiding in their own homes.

What a threat!

And by the way, this system has been used in the past to bring devastation to civilian neighbourhoods, by the Russians during the siege of the Chechen capital of Grozny over a decade ago, where thousands of civilians were killed and hundreds of buildings reduced to rubble.  So the Syrians have learned well from their master.

The use of such weapons in dense urban environments is a war crime.

The Syrian army also used 122mm howitzers and 120mm mortars and 81mm and 121mm shells and 107mm ground-to-ground rockets to “fight” against these unarmed civilians.

The secret Assad emails

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/assad-emails

The documents:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/series/assad-emails-the-documents

How the Assad emails came to light

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/14/how-assad-emails-came-light

“In late March last year, Syrian opposition activists say, a young government worker inDamascusnervously handed a scrap of paper to a friend. On it were four handwritten codes that the friend was instructed to pass to a small group of exiled Syrians who would know what to do with them.

The paper contained two email addresses: sam@alshahba.com and ak@alshahba.com. They are thought to have been the personal email usernames and passwords of the president, Bashar al-Assad, and his wife, Asma.

For the next nine months they were to offer a cell of activists an extraordinary window into what appeared to be the private lives ofSyria’s first family and their attempts to turn around the country’s steady descent towards the abyss.”

Very interesting reading to say the least!

As this one on December 24 from Hussein Mortada, an influential Lebanese businessman with strong connections to Iran.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/14/bashar-al-assad-syria12

“It is not in our interest to say that Al-Qaida is behind the operation because such statements clear theUSadministration and the Syrian opposition of any responsibility;Americais fighting Al-Qaida and it will condemn the operation.

Based on what we saw from events on the ground yesterday, we have to acknowledge how well orchestrated it was, and we have to say that the US administration, the opposition and the states which infiltrated weapons are behind the operation so that we can start the attack.

But blaming Al-Qaida alone won’t be in anyone’s interest but Al-Qaida’s, because the organisation has been in existence for decades and this is nothing new. I have even received contacts from Iran and Hezbollah – me being the head of many Iranian and Lebanese media channels – and they directed me not to mention that Al-Qaida was behind the operation cause it would be a blatant media and tactical mistake and futile.”

VIDEOS

There are soooo many videos out there taken by brave civilians, showing the brutal and barbaric killings and executions, And the destruction of whole blocks and neighbourhoods in cities.

So these are just a sample.

I am going to start with a special type of videos – the leaked ones. These videos where taken by Assad troops themselves to show how “good” they are at killing civilians, as trophies, to prove their loyalty etc. etc.

The text and translations are from opposition sites.

LEAKED VIDEO – Assad’s forces show off their latest mass excecution – Homs (Baba Amr): Date Unknown – An Assad lojaist clearly says to his commander “Sir, I shot this one in his eye, and in his eye and in his eye!”

Contains some sequence from the video above

LEAKED VIDEO –  An assadist soldier films the DESTRUCTION he and his FORCES BROUGHT UPON THE NEIGHBORHOOD of BABA AMR. Homs(Baba Amr) – He takes us through the destroyed streets and past the obliterated buildings. He then shows us a glimpse of a half dozen men in a room, all executed (as shown in this video of Assad mercenaries gloating about it).

To think that the world just sat back and watched an entire neighborhood of 12sq/km be erased off the map and it’s people cleansed …

LEAKED VIDEO –  Syrian Government snipers in action from a rooftop in Aleppo’s Atareb

More snipers:

LEAKED VIDEO –  ASSAD’S FORCES HAVE A “GRAND OL’ TIME” LAUGHING, JOKING, MURDERING …. Damascus(Dier Qanoun): This is what the “battle” looks like from the vantage point of Bashar Al Assad’s forces. They have no fears that anything remotely bad may happen to them … they know exactly who they are firing at … unarmed Syrian civilians. Watch as they joke, make small talk, smoke a cigarette in one hand and fire their guns with the other ….

LEAKED VIDEO – ASSAD’S FORCES FIRE RANDOMLY INTO PEOPLE’S HOUSES TO SCARE THEM. Lattakia : (Date unknown) – Watch Bashar Al Assad’s mercenaries fire randomly down streets. Then they take aim at building directly above them and start firing away … laughing and joking until one of them finally says “ok guys, enough …”

Methodical destruction of homes:

LEAKED VIDEO – UNBELIEVABLE FOOTAGE OF ASSAD’S RUSSIAN MADE TANK FIRING RANDOMLY INTO THE HOMES OF SYRIAN CIVILIANS. Homs- As the tank fires randomly into the homes of innocent men, women and children, the cameraman (a fellow Assadist mercenary) cheers on with each explosion, exclaiming “God, Syria & Bashar!”.

LEAKED VIDEO – ASSAD’S FORCES CASUALLY FILM THEMSELVES AND MAKE SMALL TALK AS THEY SHELL AND ATTACK THE TOWN. Homs (Quseir) – No, these men are not preparing to liberate the Golan Heights, they are casually shelling a small town of innocent and unarmed Syrians – their supposed brothers and sisters that Assad has successfully de-humanized in his propaganda campaign fed to his forces.

They are shelling the town of Quseirin preparation to invade. The tank you see firing a machine-gun is actually a Russian made “Shilka” anti-aircraft tank that can fire upto 1,000 rounds per minute. It’s meant to bring down fighter-jets, but in this case it’s used against human-beings. The other tanks are randomly shelling the town in order to “soften” it up for an all out invasion.

Notice how casual Assad’s forces are, laughing and joking and all eagerly filming the “action” as mementos…

LEAKED VIDEO – THIS IS WHAT A DESTROYED AND ANNIHILATED CITY LOOKS LIKE – FROM THE EYES OF THE PERPETRATORS THAT DID IT. Homs (Baba Amr)The footage is unbelievable as it is devastating. Every building on every street is destroyed. The entire neighborhood of Baba Amr has been literally wiped off the map. Its inhabitants either “cleansed” in Assad’s ordered genocide, arrested or expelled from their homes.

Assad’s mercenaries take pride in what they did to this town with their Russian backed weapons and supply lines. Filming themselves and waving to fellow cowards.

Never forget that it took 7,000 of the most elite mercenaries from Assad’s army along with 30 days of shelling by the world’s heaviest shells, complete blockade of all food, water, fuel and medicine in addition to the cut of all electricity and supply lines to the neighborhood in order for Assad’s forces to enter an area of 12 sq/km that was guarded by no more than a few hundred lightly armed and ill-trained Free Syrian Army fighters and thousands of unarmed civilians. Even then the FSA actually withdrew when they ran out of ammunition.

LEAKED VIDEO – A terrible massacre by Al-Assad and his thugs in Doumma-Damascus-Syria and “thugs” are celebrating

LEAKED VIDEO – A genocide by Al-Assad and his thugs in Baba Amr-Homs-Syria

Now to the videos taken by brave civilians.

A BRAVE CITIZEN JOURNALIST CONTINUES TO REPORT DESPITE ROCKETS LITERALLY FALLING ALL AROUND HIM. Homs: Apr 3, 2012- I don’t know his name yet and he’s been featured in a number of similar videos before. Watch as the rockets hit nearby buildings as he reports with his cameraman. They risk everything in order to show the world the miserable hell they live in.

Stark WARNING!these next five videos are VERY STRONG AND GRAPHIC with pictures of executed children, teenagers, women and old people.

If you are sensitive – DO NOT LOOK!

And remember these videos are just a few, there are HUNDREDS LIKE THIS out there!

Which show the shocking scale and barbarism of the Assad regime

There is still no clear idea about the final number of killed civilians in the last ten days, but what we documented is more than thundered person killed. The most brutal one was in al-Adawi, the following videos bring you close to the event:

Adawiyah: pro-Assad death squads break into a house and execute its occupants, all women

Homs, Martyrs of the massacres of Al-Rifai and Karm Al-Zetoon neighborhoods .. Mar 20, 2012

SyriaFreedom Fighters Captured an Assad Hitman

March 25, 2012 – Free Syria Army Captures this Assad Air Force Mukhabarat Secret Police Officer who admits in this video that he and Iranian and Hezbollah Accomplices kidnapped and killed a famous Syrian Freedom Activist- This Guy is a cold blooded killer and was the leader of the group of secret police who kidnapped , tortured and killed Ghrias Mattar, a famous pro Democracy Organizer in Dariya , Damascus.

The Secret Police killed Gaith Mattar and then Mattar’s Wake Was Attended by dignitaries such asUSAmbassador Robert Ford and the French Ambassador and the German Ambassador — It is important to note that immediately after the Ambassadors left the Wake the Assad Forces came and shot at the other people, The Syrians, who were attending the ceremony.

English Translation:

“I am sergent Rabi3 Abdallah Ramadan in the intelligence aviation (under) the branch of special missions

Question:  what was your mission in Daraya ?

A: I’m a driver of a black jeep, a black Mitsubishi.

Question: What were the missions you took part in?

A: We captured and shot the activist Ghiyath Matar..took him to the hospital  and  we  finished him there  (in the hospital) with the help of sergent Bashar Daher (also) known by the name of Abou Haidar

Question: Who was giving orders?

A: The officer Jamil Hassan and officer Ghassan Ismail

Question: Were there foreigners with you? 

A: Yes, the Irananian Revolutionary Guards and members of Hezbollah as well

Question: How (did you) break into Daraya houses?

A: We were getting orders to loot and steal (from) activist houses and burning them

Question: What is your advice to security forces?

Answer: I advice them to defect because this regime will fall for sure”

CNN – Syrians try to clear Russian ANTIPERSONNEL MINES NEAR TURKISH BORDER

CNN’s Ivan Watson reports on evidence Syrian forces mined border areas to stop fleeing civilians

http://cnn.com/video/?/video/world/2012/03/29/watson-syria-land-mines.cnn

He took one out and brushed dirt off its green molded plastic case. It was about the size of a soup bowl and stamped with Cyrillic letters. Hajisa pointed at a raised black cross on the top of the device. “If you put pressure on this trigger,” he said, “It will explode.”

Hajisa’s deadly stash of booby-traps are just a fraction of more than 300 similar devices he claimed he and several other Syrian volunteers dug up from the border between Syria and Turkey over the last two months.

See also:

http://cnn.com/video/?/video/world/2012/03/28/lkl-watson-turkey-syrian-refugees.cnn

And finally some desperate black humour from people inside Syria as they describe their situation:

”In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate … We, the free men of Idlib, announce the formation of the ‘We Hope to Be Armed’ brigade,” the speaker says. ”We do not have any weapons. We ask the National Council and the commander of the Free Army to fulfill their lying promises and to stop serenading the revolutionaries on the ground without sending weapons, because your serenades are killing us.”

And another one where a fighter is begging for bullets.

Brother, Can You Spare A Loaded Arms Clip?” FromHoms

”Just Give Me A Bullet Clip”, says this Syrian Freedom Fighter in Homs City as he mocks the failure of the World to arm the Syria Army Defectors who are struggling to bring Freedom and Democracy to the long suffering nation of Syria. The USA under Obama has sold out the Syrian people the same way that Obama sold out the Iranian Green Revolution a few years ago. After one whole year of Protests and Violent Repression and thousands of Dead Civlians – the US politicians like Hillary Clinton are still on TV even as of today talking Bullshit about ”setting Timetables” for Assad to stop killing his people. This is a sick joke as Assad is never going to stop killing Democracy Activists and he is never going to step down peacefully. The only thing the Assad Baathist Regime understands is Sheer Military Power, which is how they got in power in the first place, and the world must smarten up and must send a flood of arms to the Free Syria Army now , including anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons. This is one of those once-in-a-generation moments in time where the USA has the opportunity to get a ”4 for 1” victory for very little investment.

1) If the USarms the Syrian people they will overthrow the Assad Regime and bring Freedom to a nation that has lived under a Dictatorship for 50 years.

2) The US gets to screw the Iranians real good if Assad goes down –no more Iranian dreams of a new Persian Shiite Empire stretching fromTehran toBeirut.

3) the US gets to screw Hezbollah real good if Assad falls – They will be cut off fromIran and the Sunni Syrians will kick them all out ofSyria and they will shrink into a small local militia

4) the US gets to screw the Russians real good -Russia will get kicked out of its only navy port outside ofRussia and will lose air force landing rights inSyria and will lose its military contracts which can then go to the Western Democracies.

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Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 1

10 april, 2012

Introduction

There is so much to be said about the uprising in Syria and the extremely brutal suppression by the Assad regime. And as usual, most of it is not said in the mainstream media.

So I thought I give you some pieces that are to the point and that give you some perspective of this slaughter of civilians. In other words, some insight into the world of real politics. This is a different universe that the normal platitudes and declarations our political elites are so good at excelling at.

I have so much material, all from public and open sources, that it is ridiculously big and unwieldy. Therefore, I have to drastically cut it down. Otherwise, it would become a book. The focus is therefore going to be on some countries and international organisations and what they have done or not done in 11 posts.

Part 1- Introduction. Part 2-Repports/Videos/Photos, Part 3- Russia, Part 4- Iran, Part 5- China, Part 6- Turkey, Part 7- Arab league, Part 8- UN, Part 9- EU/NATO, Part 10- US and the Obama administration and Part 11- Paul Conroy

The explanation for the headline you get at the end of this post.

This Syrian uprising started little over a year ago. The movement began in Syria on March 15th of 2011 with spontaneous demonstrations that demanded that the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad reform Syria to a free and democratic state. Assad responded, as usual, with relentless force and a brutal crackdown. Which led to the people to call for the president to step down, and heed to his people’s will to relinquish his power. And for a peaceful transition to democracy.

All reasonably demands wouldn’t you say?

And from this start the Assad’s regimes force and a brutal crackdown have just intensified and widened. The death toll is around 11 000. Mostly civilians: children, women, families, elderly etc. Many of them executed in the most barbaric way.

On top of that, the deliberate destruction of WHOLE blocks of cities, Block after block, neighbourhood after neighbourhood.

Turning of electricity, water, telecommunications etc for cities and neighbourhoods. Destroying hospitals and preventing medicine and food to reach these areas etc.

I can add systematic rape to that mix of systematic violation of human rights.

Wouldn’t you say that this regime seems utterly barbaric and worthy of world condemnation?

And wouldn’t you have thought that the world would have done something by now?

And the answer to these questions is of course – YES ands as usual NO.

NOTHING have in realty been done except some cheap and empty rhetoric. A lot of grandstanding as usual with these people. And of course a lot of meetings, summits, conferences etc. Usually in very nice places very far from the reality they are supposed to talk about.

EU the other day “strengthened” sanctions, the 13 in a row, banned Assad’s wife from shopping on the Continent. Yea, I bet Syria’s dictator Bashar Hafez al-Assad felt threatened to his core!

Some of these people, for over a year now, have assured us that the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad is about to fall. These assurances from the so-called “experts” are always delivered with great confidence.

And yet Assad, hangs on, slaughtering his own people, destroying and despoiling whole neighbourhoods, calling the bluff of the Arab League, Turkey, UN, USA and EU/NATO.

Helped to a very large degree by the enormous material support, weapons, training, intelligence, troops,  personal etc. from Russia, Iran, China and Hezbollah.

And by a traditional policy of dived and conquer the different ethnic and religious groups in Syria. And of course by terror and fear.

Nonetheless, this is a regime, with an enormous arsenal of heavy weapons, which in a year has not been able to dispatch a divided, badly organized, having hardly any weapons, and disparate opposition. It can be defeated and it will implode  from the inside.  The slaughter would end much faster if the people got some, any support, from abroad.  And the fear is gone.

It is also very interesting to compare how eager the Obama administration, EU and NATO was to go into Libya with their do nothing attitude with Syria.

The dictator Gaddafi had not killed as many civilian people as Assad’s regimes have by a long shot. Or destroyed as many neighbourhoods as Assad. Nor did Gaddafi support so many terrorist groups as Assad. Or had the same strategic value for USA as Syria.

Nor did Gaddafi kill so many Americans as did Assad (Bashar  and Hafez al-Assad – It is A Faimly affair). Etc. Etc.

So in every way and shape or form, in comparison Libya under Gaddafi doesn’t even come close to Syria under Assad.

Samantha Power, a prominent advocate of humanitarian intervention and the principle of ”responsibility to protect”, is considered to be the key figure within the Obama administration in persuading the president to intervene militarily in Libya.

Power, was a senior foreign policy adviser to senator Obama, and now a Special Assistant to President Barack Obama and Senior Director of the National Security Council.

But on Syria? NOT A PEEP!

And some of the “excuses” for not doing anything, like “the arms could end up in the wrong hands”, become ABSOLUTELY mind-boggling hypocritical when you remember that NATO and US special operations troops together with their intelligence operatives in Tripoli, armed and put Al-Hakim Belhadj in control over Tripoli. And gave him “the keys” to Gadhafis armoury.

Those arms were advanced items which British and French special operations forces gave the rebels, according to “a senior” American source.

Who is Al-Hakim Belhadj you may ask. He is a leader and commander of LIFG, the Al Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Which by the way is listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. He is an al Qaeda veteran from Afghanistan, he joined the Talliban etc.

He was first captured in Pakistan 2001 and handed over to US security officials, he was repatriated to Libya two months later. Later CIA captured him in Malaysia in 2004. He was then transferred to Bangkok, where he was then placed in the custody of the CIA.  Later they extradited him to Libya where he was kept in prison for six years by Qaddafi.

According to the Spanish, Al-Hakim Belhadj was suspected of complicity in the 2004 Madrid train bombings etc. etc.

For the first time, therefore, the armies of Western members of NATO took part and helped directly in a bid by extremist Islamic forces to capture an Arab capital and overthrow its ruler.

As for the do nothing as usual UN, it “proudly” upholds its tradition of doing ABSOLUTLY NOTHING when it really maters, like Rwanda, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Darfur, Bosnia (Srebrenica anyone?) etc.

Refusing to arm or help the opposition will not end the conflict or limit it, it will drag on as all the above examples shows.

And by waiting the situation gets worse and much more complex, then “they” used its complexity as an excuse not to intervene while decrying the lost opportunity for intervention. And ALL this time the killing and atrocities committed by Assad’s regime just continues as nothing has happened.

On the contrary, the Assad regime has increased it’s attacks since Bashar al-Assad agreed to implement the “new” peace plan.

From Kafrnabel, Idleb

A snapshot from Idlib province

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-syria-idlib-offensive-20120401,0,6769772.story?page=2

“The feeling here is one of desperation — and steadfast defiance”

”They are planning to retake the region piece by piece,” said Abu Hamdo, a member of the Revolution Command Council in Idlib. ”But there is no going back, because if they catch us we are dead, and if we fight them we are dead.”

It is a scenario that is playing out repeatedly here: The army and security forces sweep into village after village, leaving behind bodies and burned homes, and the routed rebels must regroup.

Mazen Arja, an agricultural engineer “We have to organize anew and figure out who was killed and bring people together to begin the liberation of the northern region,” Arja said. “If we’re not patient and fight, we’re all dead anyway.”

When we first went out in protests, we had hope for foreign support, but that hope was dashed. We had hope for buffer areas; that was dashed. We had hope for support for the Free Syrian Army, and that was dashed,” said the militia’s 25-year-old leader, Bilal Khabeet, who like Free Syrian Army members is a military defector. ”A rifle and 120 bullets, that’s all I have. Once they are finished, I am finished.”

Or as Ammar Abdulhamid  a liberal democracy activist said:

“Of April Fools and Useless Tools!

The irony involved in holding an international conference on Syria on April Fools is all too noticeable, and the fact that just on the day before, an Assad official would claim victory simply adds a certain “je ne sais quoi” to the mix. But the Revolution-cum-Devolution goes on, no amount of irony or wishful thinking will make it go away.”

And

“Whatever the geopolitical calculations of Arab, regional and international leaders may be, ours is still a revolution for freedom, dignity, justice and equality. Is there any power in heaven or earth whose basic interests are commensurate with these aspirations of ours? If so, act now! Or forever be damned.”

Another snapshot from Daraa province:

http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=383043

“Sayyed Mahmud, an activist in Daraa reached by Skype, told AFP the situation was extremely tense in Dael.

They burned down 14 houses yesterday. They are arresting people and have sent in troop reinforcements,” he said.

As part of the regime’s campaign to starve the people, troops are raiding homes, destroying food stocks and equipment,” he added. ”For example, if they see a sowing machine, they destroy it.

They go into bakeries and destroy the dough. There are 15-hour power cuts a day.”

You REALLY get “impressed” by these “brave soldiers” who “attacks” and destroy dough and sowing machines. Not to mention killing unarmed civilians.

That is really a “worthy” adversary for a real soldier.

And the endless deception and chicanery, round 27, of the Assad regime continues. Making a mockery of all so called “peace” deals. In addition, the world let him get away with it again and again.  Without doing ANYTHING except generate “new peace” plans.

With all the usual strong and optimistic words and platitudes. Or as one Syrian said:

“As Obama and Erdogan talk, Assad kills”

You can put whatever country and organisation there instead, it doesn’t change anything.

Assad’s Vision for Reform

Here is the latest:

Damascus sees no deadline to withdraw troops

http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=383883

“The Syrian regime is not bound by a deadline to withdraw its troops from strife-torn areas, pro-government daily Al-Watan on Thursday quoted a government official as saying.

There is no set date or deadline,” the unnamed official said.

”April 10 is the date set for the beginning, not the end, of the withdrawal of troops and it does not constitute a deadline.”

Before that:

Syria says army will not be first to lay down arms, rejecting appeal by UN chief

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/syrian-official-says-army-will-not-make-1st-move-withdraw-troops-from-flashpoint-areas/2012/03/31/gIQAJhcpmS_story.html

Syria rejected international envoy Kofi Annan’s call for the regime to halt violence first just days after the government agreed to a cease-fire plan. A senior official declared victory over the opposition.

It was the government’s first response to an appeal by Annan, the U.N.-Arab League envoy, to stop military operations first as “the stronger party” in a “gesture of good faith” to the lightly armed opposition. Annan brokered the agreement aimed at stopping the bloodshed and Assad agreed to it on Monday.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdessi said the government will not pull tanks and troops from towns and cities engulfed by unrest before life returns to normal there.

“The battle to bring down the state in Syria has already ended and the battle of reinforcing stability has started,” Makdessi said in an apparent reference to a string of recent regime offensives that drove rebels from key strongholds. He spoke on state TV late Friday.”

An to rely prove this point :

“Certain he is safe from Western-Arab intervention, Bashar Assad Sunday unleashed an across-the board air and ground offensive against the last surviving rebel locations. 

Starting Sunday noon, April 8, 30 towns and villages were hit simultaneously. For the first time since the outbreak of revolt thirteen months ago, heavy long-range artillery and air force helicopters pounded the rebel positions remaining in the northern mountains of Idlib near the Turkish border. The scale of the onslaught was such that it is hard to come by casualty figures, but they certainly run into hundreds.

As he lifts all restraints, the Syrian ruler is also certain he is backed to the hilt byTehranandMoscow.”

And today, April 9 Assad’s forces attacked a Syrian refuge camp in Turkey.

Turkey: Three wounded as Syrian forces fire over border

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-three-wounded-as-syrian-forces-fire-over-border.aspx?pageID=238&nID=17975&NewsCatID=341

”A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government rules, saidTurkeyimmediately protested the incident to the Syrian charge d’affaires and asked that the fire be halted, the Associated Press reported.

Two refugees and one Turkish citizen, a translator, were wounded inside the camp near the town of Kilisin the southwestern Gaziantep province, he said.”

Yeap, that’s REALLY showing respect for the “ceasefire” and UN “peace plan”. And the “world” will let Assad get away with again, and again.

Waiting for Syria’s regime to Change

And another snapshot from Kastanaz:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/06/us-turkey-syria-refugees-idUSBRE8341DC20120406

The army is destroying buildings and bombing them till they turn to charcoal,” said Mohammed Khatib, a refugee who said he came from Kastanaz, a Syrian town of 20,000 people.

”The army wants people to move out of their houses. If the residents refuse, they destroy them with the people inside.”

For the past three days there have been bodies lying in the streets. Around 200 have been killed. The town is now abandoned.”

I could go on an on to give one witness after another of atrocities and planed destruction.

Another from Sarmin:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9177910/Syria-eyewitness-dispatch-I-watched-as-Assads-tanks-rolled-in-to-destroy-a-rebel-town.html

“Using information stored on laptops, army intelligence officers detain all manner of people. Bad-mouthing the regime? Arrested. Seen at a protest? Arrested. Got an internet connection? Arrested. The list goes on.

”The shabiha (pro-government militia) came to my house and took my children,” said Fatoum Haj Housin, a resident of the town Sarmin, five miles north-west of Saraqeb, which had been attacked a few days earlier.

They took all three of them. They were young men in the army but they defected in January. The militia shot them in the head and burned their bodies in front of me in our courtyard. In the name of God, bring me a Kalashnikov and I will kill Assad myself!

There was still scorching and ash in front of her house – and much evidence elsewhere in Sarmin of destruction by ground forces. The field hospital had been torched, walls and houses sprayed with AK47 fire and the mosque smashed by three shells.

When the tanks leave the city centres and the ground forces come in, this is what happens – with nobody from the outside to see.

Yet for every person killed the rebels’ resolve seems to grow day by day.

”We can never go back now,” said Feras Mulheen, a student from Saraqeb who had just seen his house destroyed by the tanks. ”There’s nothing to go back to. We either win or we die trying. There’s nothing in between.”

The situation for the FSA (Free Syrian Army):

http://syrianfreedomls.tumblr.com/post/20479724510/free-syrian-army-has-the-worlds-support-but-no

“We are getting money mainly from individuals, from Syrians living abroad. We hear a lot of promises from the international community, but nobody will support us,” said Mohammed.

His unit has 50 men and two satellite phones in a country where mobile telephone networks are down, security forces tap landlines, and the Internet is dysfunctional.

As for the guns, Mohammed said, his unit has just light weapons, not enough to confront the Syrian army.

“The air force attacks us and we do not have artillery to fight back,” said the commander.

He said there are a lot of soldiers in the regular army who are too afraid to defect, but help the FSA from the inside.

Our unit exchanged a carton of cigarettes for 200 bullets; we get gasoline from a soldier who steals it from the tanks in the bases,” he said.

Other local commanders described their constant hustle to-and-fro across the Syrian-Turkish border to secure money for their supplies.

“We have enough men. The defectors’ numbers have increased. But they do not have weapons. If they have a gun, they do not have ammunition,” he said while busily working on his laptop.

Communications technologies are a precious commodity. Asked about internal FSA communications, Abu Muhammed, commander of a unit in the Idlib countryside, replied with sadness and irony, We use pigeons.”

“There’s not a lot of direct communication between the ground and the leadership,” he said, explaining how his men do not take specific daily orders from the officers sitting in the Turkish camps, like Col. Riad al Asaad, nominal head of the FSA.

“With the means we have, this is only self-defense,” he admitted.

See also (excerpts):

Undergunned and Overwhelmed

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/03/30/syria_undergunned_and_overwhelmed

“It’s a view widely shared by defectors, arms dealers, and refugees alike here along the Turkish-Syrian border. For months, Assad’s opponents have been buying black-market weapons from the countries bordering their volatile state — from Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan — as well as from within Syria, primarily from members of the corrupt regime or military sympathizers who remain embedded with loyalists. But it’s getting harder. Money doesn’t seem to be the main problem. Securing supplies is.

Nor have Assad’s staunchest enemies — the Arab Gulf kingdoms — opened their armories to the rebels. In late February, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal raised the FSA’s hopes when he said that arming Assad’s opponents was ”an excellent idea.” Yet, more than a month later, Saudi supplies have not made their way to the front, according to the FSA leadership as well as numerous rebel commanders inside Syria.

Still, the ire and resentment of many activists and fighters on the ground is directed primarily toward the so-called leaders of the opposition, all of whom are in exile. The depth of anger was perhaps best expressed in a short video in which a small group of men in civilian garb stand in two neat rows in front of an olive tree, scarves concealing their identities. The clip is not unlike countless others purporting to show members of the FSA, except that none of the nine men featured in it holds any weapons. Some carry lemons instead of grenades; others hold sticks as if they were rifles. One wields a hammer.

”In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate … We, the free men of Idlib, announce the formation of the ‘We Hope to Be Armed’ brigade,” the speaker says. ”We do not have any weapons. We ask the National Council and the commander of the Free Army to fulfill their lying promises and to stop serenading the revolutionaries on the ground without sending weapons, because your serenades are killing us.”

Col. Ahmad Hijazi, the FSA’s chief of staff, says he can understand the resentment. ”I don’t blame them,” he says. ”The people are angry and they are taking out their frustrations on us. But what can we do? They are asking us for more than what we can do. Governments must support the Free Army.”

In the absence of such aid, Syria‘s military defectors just wait. The camp housing the FSA officers looks just like the others Turkey has established for the thousands of civilians who have fled across its border — rows of white tents are neatly pitched along lanes of uneven loose white gravel. But unlike most of the others, the officers’ camp is isolated from nearby towns and villages. It’s in the middle of a lush agricultural plain in Apaydin, about 12 miles from Antakya, where verdant fields abut plowed, upturned earth, and snow-capped hills rim the horizon.

The FSA may claim to be operating a ”command and control center” for the anti-Assad military effort from the camp, but it’s unclear whether they can control much of anything from a base with regular power cuts. Its critics, like the ”We Hope to Be Armed Brigade,” say it has offered little to the men fighting and dying inside Syria in its name. How do the FSA’s commanders account for their seeming lack of impact on the ground?

Hijazi shifts uncomfortably in his plastic chair inside one of the many identical tents in the officers’ camp. He doesn’t like the question. Nor does his fellow officer, Major Maher Nuami, who is seated on a single bed (the only one) in the tent. ”It’s sensitive,” Hijazi finally says. They won’t say if the FSA has sent emissaries to Saudi Arabia, Qatar or Libya — which recently pledged $100 million to the Syrian opposition — but insist that they have received no help on the ground from these states.

If the international community doesn’t arm them and provide logistical support, ”everything” the world fears from the fall of Assad will come to pass, Nuami argues.

”The people will get weapons, one way or another, so help us,” Nuami continues. ”If you give us weapons, we can control them. We want the fall of the regime, not the fall of the state. If the international community helps us, we’ll help them. If it doesn’t, our people offer no guarantees.”

According to the FSA officers, the claims of foreign fighters in Syria — eagerly touted by the Assad regime — are wildly overblown. A lone Libyan had reportedly volunteered to fight with their FSA unit recently, but left after a few days. ”He said, ‘You guys are crazy, this is suicide, you don’t have weapons’,” Mokbat said. ”He was right. I wish the revolution would go back, it was better before. We used to shoot into the air, we didn’t worry about ammunition. Now we think twice about using each bullet.”

Although Turkey houses the FSA, it ”does not allow any weapon to be transferred to Syria in [an] illegal way,” a Turkish government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said. Anyone caught trying will be arrested and the weapons confiscated, he added.

That’s exactly what many Syrian refugees, defectors and civilian revolutionaries accuse the high-level defectors in the camp of doing — just sitting there. In the absence of an organized military effort, the burden of securing weapons and funding has fallen to lower-level officers like Alaa, as well as ordinary Syrians like Abdel-Salim, a taxi driver turned thuwar who commands the ”Free Syrians,” a ragtag bunch of farmers, taxi drivers and other civilians from a string of villages abutting the Turkish border. Abdel-Salim, a 40-year-old with a bushy salt-and-pepper beard and high cheekbones, had crossed the border into southernTurkey to try and secure supplies for his group: 3,000 bullets, to be precise.

The ”Free Syrians” are under the FSA banner, he explains, and are in regular communication with its leadership via a few defectors in his group. ”We ask the defectors to go to the officers’ camp to ask for help but we haven’t got anything from the Free Army yet,” Abdel-Salim says. ”But to be fair, I don’t think the Free Army has anything itself.” 

Abdel-Salim recalls that he participated in peaceful protests for months, and only picked up a weapon four months ago, when he ”lost hope” in protests. He was shot about a month before that, in his stomach and his right leg, and spent 10 days recuperating in a Turkish hospital. He walks with a limp, but that didn’t deter him from crossing back into Syria to fight Assad’s army. ”I didn’t want to pick up a weapon,” he says, ”but I think Israel is more honorable than the Syrian regime.”

The longer Abdel-Salim speaks, the angrier he gets. ”Where is the money the Syrian opposition got from the Libyans?” he seethes. ”We haven’t seen any of the [Syrian] National Council members down here. … What is Riad al-Assad doing in Turkey anyway? Army commander? He should cross the border, lift people’s morale. What is he scared of — dying?”

             The Assad System – to kill more

Another from defected soldiers:

Defectors: Torture of children, rape by #Syrian army ‘routine’ !

http://syrianfreedomls.tumblr.com/post/20372447508/defectors-torture-of-children-rape-by-syrian-army

In addition to shooting unarmed civilians, Syrian military personnel routinely have raped women and girls, tortured children and encouraged troops to loot the houses they storm, former foot soldiers say.

“What I have seen with my own eyes, it was indescribable,” said Rolat Azad, 21, who said he’d served as a master sergeant in Idlib province in the northeast of Syria. There, he commanded 10 men who’d break into houses seeking to arrest men whose names they’d been given by the country’s intelligence agencies. “They gave us orders: ‘You are free to do what you like,’ ” he recalled.

Starting last July, he said, his unit arrested and tortured five to 10 people daily. “We had a torture room on our base,” he said. “There was physical torture — beatings — and psychological tortures,” said Azad, a Syrian Kurd who deserted and fled in March to the Kurdistan region of Iraq. “They also brought women and girls through. They put them in the closed room and called soldiers to rape them.”

The women often were killed, he said.

Azad — as with other former soldiers here, the name is a pseudonym assumed to protect his family, still in Syria — was interviewed at a camp that Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government set up for Syrian army deserters. He recalled the torture of two young teenage boys. He said they’d been arrested either for shooting videos of the military or showing disrespect for the military and the regime, something that wasn’t uncommon, even among children. “I once asked a small kid why he wasn’t going to school,” Azad said. “He said, ‘We won’t until this regime is gone.’ “

One boy, about 13, was brought into the torture room and given electrical shocks, Azad said. Another, 14, was brought into the room in late February. His screams could be heard in the camp outside the town of Jisr al Shughour. “It was painful for all the soldiers,” he said. Azad said he had no idea of the boy’s fate. “They held him one or two days. Either they killed him or sent him to military security,” he said.

Even worse, he said, was hearing the wailing and screaming of old men being tortured: “When they tortured old men, I couldn’t stand it. I went outside. Others closed their eyes. I could not stay.”

An independent U.N. commission of inquiry has described the Syrian government’s offensive against civilians as possible “crimes against humanity.” The commission, which reports to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, detailed arbitrary arrests, disappearances and torture, including the torture of children, in its latest report, issued in February, but it didn’t detail the practice of rape. Commission officials said they had yet to talk with a rape victim.

He was assigned to a military construction unit but was ordered to the scenes of demonstrations, where troops would shoot at civilians.

“It was an ugly scene. We were at the top of a building and would shoot at civilians: children, women, men, anyone against the regime.” He said the Syrian intelligence agencies stationed personnel to make sure they shot civilians. “They were watching anyone not shooting and taking down names,” he said.

Several soldiers said Kurdish and Sunni Muslim troops tried wherever possible to fire over people’s heads, but Alawites — members of the sect related to Shiite Islam that President Bashar Assad belongs to — boasted about how many demonstrators they’d killed.

“We had an order to shoot and kill,” said Khaled Derecki, 20. “But some of those demonstrating were my friends, and we fired over their heads. “But the Alawites in my unit were very proud. They’d say: ‘Today, we killed seven or eight.’ “

240mm mortar bombs

One of the weapons used by the Assad’s regime in “attacking” and destroying cities and neighbourhoods is the Russian SM-240 (2S4) 240-mm self-propelled mortar known to the West as the M-1975.

This systems fire the world’s largest high explosive mortar bomb (240mm F-864), designed to “demolish fortifications and fieldworks” according to a Russian arms merchandizing catalogue.

It is the largest mortar bomb known to be in production and use. It weighs 130 kilograms and contains 31.93 kilograms of TNT as an explosive charge.

Other munitions used by Assad’s regime on the “attack”  is Russian 122mm howitzers and 120mm mortars and 121-mm and 81-mm shells.

You REALLY get “impressed” by these “brave soldiers” who attacks civilian cities and destroy whole blocks and neighbourhoods by using among other things 240mm mortar bombs. Designed to “demolish fortifications and fieldworks”

That is really a “worthy” adversary for a real soldier – killing unarmed civilians in their homes.

This is a photo of the 240mm mortar bomb. I cut it from a Russian instructional video.

So who are these “brave” men slaughtering unarmed civilians?

The main force is Assad’s loyal shabiha, a militia of an estimated 35,000 Alawites who have pledged loyalty to Assad and are his regime’s key prop.

The Syrian opposition refers to this ragtag band of Assad loyalists as jaysh abu shahhata— or the “army of the sandals,” referring to its shoddy equipment and lack of discipline.

Another one is the infamous Fourth Armored Division, under the control of the president’s brother, Maher. The Syrian 14th Infantry Division and the 40th and 90th mechanized brigades has also taken part.

In addition, they are not very “professional” or good at their work, except of course to destroy cities and kill civilians.

For example when the 4th Armored Division were sent (February 28) to the Baba Amr district of Homs, after Syrian forces failed in their three-week long offensive (including intensive shelling) to enter the city. It wasn’t until the army shut off the  last supply line that it was able to enter Baba Amr—spearheaded by nearly 7000 soldiers from the 4th Armored Division, which is roughly the entire unit.

The resistance there was carried by one of the most professional Syrian rebel group, The Al Farouk Brigades, which kept the Syrian military at bay for nearly a month although they have no ties with the FSA and number no more than 300 to 400 fighters. The rebel movement has some 40 small “brigades”, mixed freelancers who fight at random here and there but demonstrate little operational ability.

And what did this “glorious elite” Armored Division do after the capture?

Well one of the first thing it did was to behead 17 civilians.

A “normal routine” for any professional soldier wouldn’t you say?

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/michaelweiss/100140744/assads-security-forces-have-beheaded-17-civilians-in-baba-amr/

”Assad’s security forces have just beheaded – yes, beheaded – 17 civilians in Baba Amr, according to the human rights group Avaaz. I have been speaking to Will Davies, Avaaz’s media campaigner, who confirmed with me that he is ”100 per cent” sure that this story is true as it’s been corroborated by independent sources. In fact, he provided a list of all the victims:

1. Abdul-Haleem Sabouh 2. Abdul-Naser Sabouh 3. Abdul-Hameed Sabouh
4. Abdul-Rahman Sabouh 5. Abdul-Baset Sabouh 6. Amer son of Omer Sabouh
7. Abdul-Moueen Daboul 8. Abdul-Salam Kujuk 9. Barri al-Akidy
10. Ez al-Deen al-Akidy 11. Ahmad al-Akidy 12. Abdul-Rahman Jneed
13. Abdul-Kafi Juneed 14. Radwan Bitar 15. Mahmoud al-Zoubi
16. Mahmoud al-louz 17. Alaa al-Ali”

But for the most part, most of the army stays out of this. They have “defected in place”

From division level down to battalions and brigades level. Entire units from commander down defy orders from the General Staff in Damascus to fight the rebels without crossing the lines to the opposition. To keep the spreading passive mutiny, Assad keeps the defiant units supplied in their barracks with funds and food.

Another example of this passive mutiny by the Syrian army, was when the five Syrian divisions stationed on Syria’s Golan border with Israel and its frontier with South Lebanon; were told by their commanders in beginning of March to ignore orders from Damascus to join the crackdown on rebels because their mission was “to defend the Syrian homeland from external threats” – another form of “defection in place.”

In other words, we are so “busy” protecting the borders so we don’t want to and don’t have time for this kind of “nonsense”.

For the most part, the Syrian army is a declining, anachronistic force, whose high officers is afraid of the leader, and watch each other’s backs. The problems with corruption, nepotism, poorly organized technical and maintenance support etc. This keeps much of the army paralyzed.

Some Special Forces and armored units are exceptions, but promotion is highly dependent on favoritism and nepotism.

That is why – contrary to what the West believes – Assad is not using his army to crack down on the uprising but the loyal Alawite Shabiha brigades and battalions.

Many artists, writers etc have taken part in the protests and uprising. To name some:

Samar Yazbeck, Ibrahim Qashoush, Rasha Omran, Ali Farzat, Mai Skaf, Khaled Khalifa, Samih Shqair, Fadwa Sulaiman —there’s an impressive list of Syrian writers, musicians and artists who have bravely and unambiguously supported the people’s aspirations for dignity.

As the Alawi actress Fadwa Sulaiman, on November 8, 2011,  leading the crowd in besieged and blood-soaked Homsin chants of “No Muslim Brotherhood, No Salafis, We All Want Freedom.” And “One, One, the Syrian People are One.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZT1PdiQVNI&feature=player_embedded

A video statement she made on November 10, 2011, excerpts :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlQlLxh5rEE&feature=player_embedded

“Districts are being raided since last night, searching for me. People are being beaten to reveal my hiding place. In case I get arrested by the security or army forces, who might force me to appear on Al-Dunia channel to make me to admit that I am part of the conspiracy against Syria the way they did with the honorable Sheik Al-Sayasneh and the brave officier Hussein Harmoush. If they hurt me or any members of my family in any way, then I hold the government and its security apparatus and thugs fully responsible.”

“I urge the great Syrian people to continue their peaceful struggle until they topple the regime and achieve the democratic civic state that all Syrians dream of. And I invite you to unite and stand together to overthrow the regime which lost its legitimacy the moment the constitution was changed to accommodate the appointment of Bashar Al-Assad as president ofSyria, for no reason other than being the son of the late president.

I urge you to come out to the streets and squares today and every day to declare civil disobedience and hunger strike until the withdrawal of the security and military forces from the streets and the release of all the political and opinion prisoners which are currently in the oppressive jails and to spare the blood of all Syrians.

I urge all the Syrians around the world, and all people to support us and stand in front of our embassies around the world declaring hunger strike to express the right of people to express their opinion about their regimes without being killed by these regimes.”

“Baba Amr is living a real humanitarian disaster. Stand by Baba Amr, because no district or road in Syria is exempt from a fate similar to that of Bab Amr, as long as the Arab league is providing the regime with one extension after another so that it continues repressing the Syrian people, and depriving them from their freedom, dignity and life, and peace be upon Syria and its people.”

And journalist, writer and screenwriter Samar Yazbek speaks up on Syria in an Italian magazine, April 24, 2011

http://www.rayaagency.org/2011/04/samar-yazbek-speaks-up-on-syria-in-an-italian-magazine/

“I’m not optimistic, to the contrary. In recent weeks people have finally broken the silence and fear, I myself have participated in the demonstrations”, she says. “We have found the courage to ask for freedom and democracy, an end to emergency laws that oppress us since 1963. We demand real political parties and elections, the right to express ourselves. But the repression is very hard, with many deaths and arrests. As always, the regime makes promises, but does not maintain them. The army and security forces control everything.”

“The regime has indeed destroyed the Alawite religion, a peaceful religion, as it engaged in things foreign to the faith, leading some to become its Alawite thugs. But many of us are opponents, in jail, in exile, or banned from travel. The regime is playing with sectarianism to terrify “its” minority and get support. A game that will end, but first, I fear, there will be clashes between the communities. ”

In Syria, Holding a Camera is a Death Sentence

Most of the documentation, videos, photos etc from the Assad’s regimes slaughter of it’s own people has been documented by very brave civilians who risk their life every time they try to document and record what is happening. Many has paid with their life for this “crime”

Here is an interview with the founder of the of Syria’s Dier Press Network. How a group of doctors became the vanguard of Eastern Syria’s free press.

http://www.guernicamag.com/blog/3584/danny_thiemann_holding_a_camer/#.T2hKD2-TG5U.twitter

“In the town of Dierez-Zour on the road from Syria to Iraq, a doctor, who we’ll call Kareem, put down his medicine bottles. It wasMarch 15, 2011. The media blackout in Syria had just begun. Kareem had no experience as a journalist. But when he turned on the TV and saw the blackout, he picked up the phone. On the other end is his cousin, who we’ll call Ahmed, a young law student in theUK.

When Syria’s crackdown on protests began to intensify, Ahmed and Kareem made a commitment to respond. On March 21, they formed a network of smugglers, cameramen, and tech support that has become known as the Dier Press Network (DPN.), Syria’s first citizen-journalist media company.

One year later, Ahmed and Kareem reflect on the small company that has grown into a satellite TV network, the colleagues they’ve lost, and the future of the Syrian free press. Their names have been changed to protect their families.”

”Guernica: How did you start?

Ahmed: Kareem gave me a call one day. The government started using live ammunition on protesters, beating them up, and if you were caught you risked torture. You could hear the metal clang of tanks outside the classroom windows, the drone of airplanes above the teacher’s voice, the plodding of artillery, like footsteps of a faraway giant. I had already left the country about a year ago. But he was seeing all these things with his own eyes and he wanted to show the world what he saw.

Kareem: Most news was on the Western side ofSyria, but the East was rebelling and no one knew about it. I wanted to do something, but I was really starting from zero. It was a process of trial and error at the beginning.

Guernica: How did you build a citizen-journalist network? How would others do so?

Kareem: First thing was to start a Facebook page. The problem with this, we found out, was that Facebook was heavily monitored by the government. But still, we felt the most prominent way to spread the news during the media blackout was through Facebook.”

“Guernica: What is DPN exactly?

Ahmed: It stands for Dier ez-Zour Press Network. Dier ez-Zour is our province in Syria. DPN. is a non-partisan, non-sectarian news group. We rely on a mix of volunteers within and without the company. It is a sort of crowd-sourced journalism that relies on ordinary citizens.

Guernica: What are the next steps in expanding this kind of media network?

Ahmed: You need a lot of public support. We had it. But after the media blackout worsened, we depended less and less on trusted friends and more and more on anonymous volunteers. Basically, we went from one cameraman and Kareem to hundreds cameramen and hundreds of Kareems [smugglers]. The problem was that when the army entered towns like Dier ez-Zour, filming any citizens getting killed was very dangerous, and yet DPN. was carrying all of these videos. Carrying a camera was a death sentence.”

Some recent headlines from local media:

Al-Arabiya: Saturday’s death toll in Syriareaches 133 people (April 7)

Turkeysays 2,800 fleeSyria in one day (April 5)

More than 1,000 Syrian refugees flee toTurkey in single day (April 4)

Al-Jazeera: Wednesday’s death toll in Syriarises to 92 (April 4)

Al-Arabiya: Sunday’s death toll in Syriarises to 57 people (April 1)

Al-Jazeera: Syrian forces kill 50 people on Saturday, activists say (March 24)

Al-Jazeera: Syria’s Thursday death toll rises to 81, activists say (March 22)

Wednesday’s death toll in Syriarises to 70, Local Coordination Committees say (March 21)

Al-Arabiya: Syrian forces kill 55 people on Tuesday (March 20)

Monday March 19, 2012

Death toll: 52, including 6 inDeraaProvince, and 6 inDeirEzzorProvince. Explosions were heard in Arbeen and Harasta inEastern Ghoutah region ofDamascus, as well as in Qaboun District inDamascusCity itself. The pounding of Old Homs continues, as locals find 6 bodies belonging to local women killed by pro-Assad death squads.

Al-Arabiya: Friday’s death toll in Syriarises to 41 (March 16)

Al-Jazeera: Thursday’s death toll in Syriarises to 72 (March 15)

Syria planting border mines to stop refugee flight,Turkey says (March 15)

One thousand Syrians flee toTurkey in single day, official says (March 15)

More than 9,000 killed inSyria violence, monitors say (March 15)

Syria– one year after the revolution: 10,000 confirmed dead.20,000 missing / 120,000 detained / 230,000 internally displaced / 150,000 refugees(Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Gulf, Europe) / 1,400,000 at risk of famine(according to FAO).

Wednesday March 15, 2012

Tuesday: Forty people were executed by pro-Assad death squads near Bilal Mosque inIdlibCity. But ten loyalist troops were killed in an ambush in the city of Ma’aratAl-Nouman. In Homs City, the pounding of Jub Al-Jandali Neighborhood continued,leading to the death of at least 5 residents. In nearby Talbisseh, poundingleft 14 locals wounded. In the town ofDa’el,DeraaProvince, 12loyalists were killed in an ambush by local FSA units.

Wednesday: 85 people were killed mostly inIdlib City as pro-Assad death squads took controlover the city. The death toll also includes 6 who died under torture in HamaCity (3) and AleppoCity (3), 6 killed inDamascus and suburbs, and 11 who werekilled in a renewed incursion intoDeraaCity.

Thursday: 91 people were killed including at least 23 who were executed by pro-Assad death squadsinIdlib City. Death toll also includes 5 children and 4 defectors.

Al-Jazeera: Syrian security forces kill 76, activists say (March 14)

And by the way, the headline Vladimir Putin ‘The Butcher of Homswas given by the people on the streets in Homs and Babr Amr.  That’s as he so “fondly” known on the streets of Babr Amr.

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