Posts Tagged ‘defected in place’

How the Assad regime with the help of Russia, Iran, China and Hezbollah transformed peaceful protester to fighters

16 augusti, 2012

Our mistake was to ever believe there could be peaceful change in this country,” he said. ”We wasted time and sacrificed many lives trying to be peaceful. We should have just gone straight to an armed uprising.”

By taking such extreme steps against the moderate opposition the regime is pushing all of its opponents to join the armed rebellion; the regime is making it clear there is no place for the peaceful activists,” said a Syrian political analyst.”

”The cases of Mazen Darwish, Kifah Ali Deeb and Rami Hinawi show very plainly the regime is not fighting militant Islamists but is actually at war with any advocates of real reform in this country, even those who insist on peaceful methods.”

There are no more peaceful demonstrations, there’s no point, we’re not able to move a single metre before the security forces and army start shooting at us,” he says.”

“Liberal, secular, often well educated members of the opposition say their influence over the uprising has been undermined, both through widespread use of indiscriminate violence by the authorities and mass arrests of peaceful dissidents, taking them out of circulation and leaving the field open to more radical groups.”

Here in a nutshell is the description how a brutal dictator transformed peaceful protesters, who only wanted some freedom, to fighters.

In ALL of this, the Assad regime was helped by Russia, Iran, China and Hezbollah. With training, advisors and guidance, troops, snipers, material, spare parts, maintenance, weapons, ammunition, intelligence, money, political backing on ALL levels etc.

In ALL of this, the Assad regime was ALSO helped by USA, EU, UN, Turkey, and The Arab League who did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING during 12 months but talked and had meetings. And then they only sent “observers” who dutifully observed the slaughter and massacres taking place, day in day out .

And ALL the TIME the death toll of civilians keep rising, First it was a 1000, then 5000, then 10 000, then 15 000, then 20 000, and now 23 000.

Massacre after Massacre.

Torture, Slaughter, Summarily Executions and Rape.

A systematic assault on human dignity and civilian lives and freedom on a colossal scale.

Day in Day out.

And the TOTAL destruction of block after block, neighbourhood after neighbourhood in countless cities and villages. Using, aside from bombs and howitzers, tanks, rockets etc., the Russian 240mm F-864 high explosive mortar bomb to “fight” against these unarmed civilians.

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.

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

Here is just one small example from Friday August 10 of Cities and Towns under shelling and destruction by the Assad regime. And the list is not complete:

Harasta, Arbeen, Moadamiah, Harran Al-Awameed, Deir Al-Asafeer, Ain Terma, Zabadani, Madaya, Eltal, Dmeir, Hameh, Yelda, Rankous, Qarrah (Damascus Suburbs), Sit Zeinab, Al-Qadam, Midan, Tadamon, Al-Hajar Al-Aswad, Yarmouk, Kafar Sousseh, Mazzeh, Qaboun, Barzeh, Salhiyeh, Ruknaddine, Dafelshawk (Damascus City), Daraa City, Khirbet Al-Ghazaleh, Tafas, Bostra Al-Sham, Na’eemah, Mseifrah, Jimreen, Hraak , Saida, Tal Shihab (Daraa), Rastan, Talbisseh, Houla, Tal Kalakh, Al-Qusayr, Al-Hosn, Al-Ghanto, Al-Bouaydah, Old Homs (Homs Province), Hreitan, Elbab, Eizaz, Marei, Bayanoun (Aleppo Province), Haffeh, Jabal Al-Akrad (Lattakia), Deir Ezzor City, Mouhassan, Albou Kamal (Deir Ezzor Province), Kafar Zeiteh, Hawash, Shahshabo, Hama City (Hama Province), Jabal Al-Zawiyeh, Ma’rrat Al-Nouman, Saraqib, Maar Shoureen, Ariha, Kafroumah, Al-Rami, Khan Shaikhoon (Idlib).

An other example from yesterday August 15 when the “brave and courageous” pilots of Assads Air Force bombed a residential area in Azaz and obliterated a whole block:

The report here including video:

Syria: Fighter Jet Bombing Kills Over 40 Civilians

http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/08/16/syria-fighter-jet-bombing-kills-over-40-civilians

“(Azaz) – A Syrian government fighter jet bombed a residential neighborhood, killing more than 40 civilians and wounding at least 100 others in the town of Azaz, including many women and children, Human Rights Watch said today after visiting the town.  In the attack on August 15, 2012, at least two bombs destroyed an entire block of houses in the al-Hara al-Kablie neighborhood of Azaz, in Syria’s northern Aleppo province.

Human Rights Watch investigated the site of the bombing two hours after the attack and interviewed witnesses, victims, medical personnel, and relatives of those killed.

This horrific attack killed and wounded scores of civilians and destroyed a whole residential block,” said Anna Neistat, acting emergencies director at Human Rights Watch.  “Yet again, Syrian government forces attacked with callous disregard for civilian life.”

What is left of the al-Hara al-Kablie neighborhood of Azaz after the bombing – NOTHING!

An another brave effort by Assads Air Force – They bombed the hospital in Aleppo

Syria: Fighter Planes Strike Aleppo Hospital

http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/08/15/syria-fighter-planes-strike-aleppo-hospital

(Aleppo) – Syrian government fighter planes fired rockets that struck the main emergency hospital in an opposition-controlled area of Aleppo on August 14, 2012, wounding two civilians and causing significant damage, Human Rights Watch said today after visiting the damaged hospital.

A rocket attack by government aircraft on the hospital two days earlier, on August 12, apparently killed four civilians and wounded three, Human Rights Watch said.

Fighter jet attacks on a hospital twice in three days indicate that this was no accident,” said Ole Solvang, emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch. “By firing rockets at a clearly marked hospital, the government shows blatant disregard for civilian lives.”

Dar al Shifaa Hospital in Aleppo after the attack

And by the way, these airplanes are provide by Russia, the pilots trained by Russia, the ammunition supplied by Russia, spare parts and maintenance done by Russia, air control and directions done by Russia, intelligence supplied by Russia etc.

Russian ammunition boxes used by the Assad army in Aleppo

They are SOOO HELPFUL these Russians wouldn’t you say?

And ALL of these politicians, governments, international organisations did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING during these 18 months but observed and talked and had meetings.

I say only one thing: You should be REALLY BE PROUD of yourselves and the children of Syria will remember you. Each one of you.

To the children of Syria!

See my previous post Russia’s solution for Syria – More Carpet Bombing and Total Destruction for links to my previous 18 posts on the situation in Syria.

The National hospital in Homs destroyed by Assad forces

Syria‘s youth found peaceful protest ‘became irrelevant’

http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/syrias-youth-found-peaceful-protest-became-irrelevant

Phil Sands

”DAMASCUS // No great soul-searching accompanied his transformation from peaceful demonstrator to rebel with the Free Syrian Army; it is a path many of his friends had already taken.

Arrested for protesting in the Damascus suburb of Dummar, Mohammed, 23, spent two months in an overcrowded military intelligence detention cell, and was released without charge to find demonstrations had been superseded by armed conflict.

”I wasn’t thinking about taking up a weapon and fighting the regime when I left prison,” he says.

”I went straight out to protest and saw the other opposition people in Dummar were now carrying rifles and I realised I had to do the same.”

Since the start of the Syrian uprising, Mohammed had been part of the Local Coordination Committees, a network of activists organising peaceful demonstrations and tracking civilian deaths.

While the LCCs are still operating and peaceful demonstrations do still take place, Mohammed and other rebels in Damascus say circumstances have rendered the unarmed protests irrelevant.

There are no more peaceful demonstrations, there’s no point, we’re not able to move a single metre before the security forces and army start shooting at us,” he says.

(The hospital in Qusier, Homs. destroyed by Assad forces. The sign reads – Smoking is Forbidden in The Patients Room)

Not all of those involved in the grassroots opposition movement agree, but a broad range of activists concede that those advocating peaceful revolt have been squeezed out by the demands of war.

Liberal, secular, often well educated members of the opposition say their influence over the uprising has been undermined, both through widespread use of indiscriminate violence by the authorities and mass arrests of peaceful dissidents, taking them out of circulation and leaving the field open to more radical groups.

On Sunday two prominent grassroots activists, Kifah Ali Deeb and Rami Hinawi, were detained by a Popular Committee – a pro-government armed militia – in their home neighbourhood of Sahnaya, south of Damascus.

Ms Deeb, an artist and author of children’s books, sits on the governing board of the opposition National Coordination Committees, a political bloc that has called for non-violent democratic change in Syria.

The NCC has been at odds with other opposition factions, including the exiled Syrian National Council, which has called for foreign military intervention to aid rebels.

Ms Deeb, 30, is a member of the Alawite sect, which forms the nucleus of Bashar Al Assad’s regime and dominates ultra-loyalist branches of the security forces and military.

Mr Hinawi, 33, who has long campaigned peacefully for democratic reforms alongside Ms Deeb, is a Druze.

Both are believed to be in the hands of air force intelligence, the most feared branch of the Syrian security forces, although, as with other detentions, no information has been released by the authorities in connection with the detentions.

Sectarian politics are complex in Syria but one of the key arguments made by supporters of Mr Al Assad is that his regime is all that protects Christian, Druze, Alawite and other minority groups from annihilation at the hands of the Sunni majority.

That has brought even sharper focus on members of those minorities who stand with the opposition, rather than the authorities.

                           (Ramadan in Aleppo)

Another influential advocate of a peaceful uprising in Syria, Mazen Darwish, also an Alawite, has been held by air force security for six months.

Although a civilian, he is facing prosecution in a military court usually reserved for army officers. There is no chance of appeal and no defence lawyer, proceedings are secret and the military judge can choose to issue a death sentence.

The human rights lawyer Anwar Al Bunni, a regular fixture at the Damascus courts of justice, said Mr Darwish and thousands of others facing special military courts had been thrown into a black hole, outside of Syria’s regular – and highly flawed – legal system.

”They have had all of their basic rights taken from them, we know nothing about their situation, all the files are kept secret. We are not even allowed to know the names of all of those facing military trials,” he said.

It emerged that Mr Darwish is facing a military court only when a judge summoned him to appear as a witness in another case, and air force security said they would not permit him to do so because he was being held for military trial.

Syrian officials do not talk about court cases but the authorities have long insisted they act in accordance with national laws and have dismissed evidence of widespread torture of detainees that has been compiled by the United Nations and rights monitors.

The use of draconian measures against advocates of non-violence has only accelerated the slide into an increasingly brutal conflict, one that rights monitors say has already killed upwards of 20,000 people, a majority of them civilians.

By taking such extreme steps against the moderate opposition the regime is pushing all of its opponents to join the armed rebellion; the regime is making it clear there is no place for the peaceful activists,” said a Syrian political analyst.

”The cases of Mazen Darwish, Kifah Ali Deeb and Rami Hinawi show very plainly the regime is not fighting militant Islamists but is actually at war with any advocates of real reform in this country, even those who insist on peaceful methods.”

In Dummar, Mohammed admits he has little idea of how to wage war as a guerrilla, never having been in the army or taught how to fire a weapon.

A shortage of arms and ammunition among rebels in Damascus means he is used as a runner to convey messages between fighters when they are in action.

Nevertheless, he believes that is a more productive way of trying to overthrow the Syrian regime than stinging street protests.

Our mistake was to ever believe there could be peaceful change in this country,” he said. ”We wasted time and sacrificed many lives trying to be peaceful. We should have just gone straight to an armed uprising.”

Hezbollah Mercenaries fighting for Assad in front of the Citadel in Aleppo

LEAKED VIDEO – Inside a helicopter gunship over Syria used to bomb and kill civilians in cities

(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.)

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Russia’s solution for Syria – More Carpet Bombing and Total Destruction

29 juli, 2012

Just a quick comment of the accelerated slaughter going on in Syria. And Russia’s continued role as the main weapons, ammunition, economic, personal, training, intelligence, diplomatic etc provider and support for Assad.

Here is what captain Konstantin Sivkov, a former strategist for the Russian General Staff between 1995 and 2007, now the first vice-president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, Doctor of Military Sciences, concluded after a “visit” in May and talks with the Assad’s gang:

http://world.time.com/2012/07/26/russia-and-syrias-assad-the-end-of-the-affair/

Sivkov was surprised, he says, with how “gentle” Assad has been in crushing the revolution. “Believe me, some of our guys have told Bashar to adopt much harsher methods, carpet bombing, total destruction,” Sivkov told TIME after returning to Moscow. “If that approach was chosen in Syria, there would be no rebels left after one week, and everyone would be happy.”

Yeah, that’s the Russian way – Total destruction and Carpet bombings of civilians. After all, they have a long experience in Afghanistan, Chechnya etc. And they taught their Syrian pupils well.

Here are just some pictures of the according to Russia “to gentle” Assad treatment of civilians in cities.

In this case from Homs, a major industrial center, and with a population of at least 652,609 people according to the 2004 census:

This is the guy who also told Izvestiya on March 22 this year regarding project 949A, were Antei nuclear-powered submarines will be completed and modernized and armed with new cruise missiles with range up to 1,500 km.

http://rusnavy.com/news/navy/index.php?ELEMENT_ID=14659

“In particular, the newspaper cites Capt 1 rank (retired) Konstantin Sivkov, vice president of Geopolitics Academy saying that Antei-class subs would be equipped with Caliber missiles in order to destroy missile defense assets deployed in Europe.”

That is in plain language EU. Who have done everything possible not to “irritate” Russia and have bent over backwards every time Russia raises its eyebrow.

And this is what he said on March 25 2010 “World War III Has Already Begun”

World War III Has Already Begun

http://english.pravda.ru/world/americas/25-03-2010/112718-world_war_three-0/

http://moodle.fhs.cuni.cz/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=4137

“A resource-poor countries and people, but rich in modern technology and weapons will also want their share. From this perspective, Russia has become the primary objective of aggression.”

“The only limiting factor at this moment is Russia’s nuclear arsenal. According to the experts they predicted that the West will attempt to remove the Russian nuclear shield. “

Yeah, these as always helpful and peaceful Russians.

This is the country, and the persons, that the Obama administration had a “reset” with and has given de facto veto power of the US foreign policy.

Here are my previous posts on Syria:

My first series:

Part 1 – Introduction

Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 1

Part 2 – Reports

Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 2

Part 3 – Russia

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

Part 4 – Iran

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

Part 5 – China

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

Part 6 – Turkey

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

Part 7 – Arab League

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

Part 8 – EU and NATO

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

Part 9 – UN and Kofi Annan

Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 9

Part 10 – US and the Obama administartion

Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 10

Part 11 – Paul Conroy and the targeting and killing of journalists

Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 11

My second series:

It is now nearly one month since I finished my 11 parts series of background on what is going on in Syria (Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs  Part 1-11). So I thought it would be appropriate to give an update of what has happened or not happened since then. And here are some more updates.

The Houla Massacre and the Assad thugs

The Slaughter in Syria and the countries that make it possible – 1

Russia, Iran and China

The Slaughter in Syria and the countries that make it possible – 2

Turkey and EU

The Slaughter in Syria and the countries that make it possible – 3

NATO and UN

The Slaughter in Syria and the countries that make it possible – 4

USA and the Obama Administration

The Slaughter in Syria and the countries that make it possible – 5

What Does the Syrian Opposition Believe, The Shabiha and the armed opposition

The Slaughter in Syria and the countries that make it possible – 6

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The Slaughter in Syria and the countries that make it possible – 6

16 juni, 2012

Some observations:

We have come to the end of this follow up after my first series about what is going on in Syria. I could easily write 250 pages of observations but I am going to spare you that. Instead, I am just going to write about three things: the perception of the opposition in Syria, the Shabiha and the armed opposition.

First the perception of the opposition in Syria.

It has always amassed me that the “do nothing crowd”, (i.e. The Obama administration, NATO, EU, Turkey, Arab league etc), are actually the same ones that are ACTIVELY promoting and supporting the muslim fundamentalist i.e. SNC/The Muslim Brotherhood.

One of the excuses from the west (Obama administration, NATO, EU) has always been that they don’t want to give support to extreme/fundamentalist muslims. Which is quite “funny” if it weren’t so hypocritical because that is what you EXACTLY did in Libya. You armed, trained and fought with al-Qaida and other fundamentalist groups.

So the brutal fact, which so many don’t want to admit, is that most of the opposition are normal people how just want do defend themselves from the attacks of the Assad regime. And they also want a change for the better regarding basic freedoms and liberties.

I would say that these are very reasonable demands wouldn’t you say?

So instead of supporting this secular, civil opposition the Obama administration, NATO and EU is ACTIVELY supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, which literally hates these countries and what their societies stands for.

And if the Muslim Brotherhood came to power, with the help of the money and support of the west, their policy would be ANTI USA, ANTI EU, ANTI NATO and of course destroy Israel.

Seems like a VERY smart policy wouldn’t you say?

And our tax money goes to this madness!

And in the meantime the civilian population in Syria, including the secular, civil opposition, is getting slaughtered and massacred.

The big difference as I wrote in my original series is that after over 45 years of brutal dictatorship the FEAR IS GONE. If you don’t understand that you don’t understand very much of what is going on now.

Here is one of the very, very few opinion polls of what the opposition really thinks:

What Does the Syrian Opposition Believe?

http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/what-does-the-syrian-opposition-believe

“There are increasing calls for international intervention inSyriaafter this weekend’s massacre in Houla, where Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces murdered more than 100 civilians. Obstacles to intervention remain, however, especially concern that the opposition to Assad’s regime is dominated by religious fundamentalists. Until recently, for example, the Syrian National Council, a group of exiled opponents of the regime, was led by Burhan Ghalioun, whose unwillingness to counter the Muslim Brotherhood was widely viewed in the West as a troubling sign of Islamist influence.

But a confidential survey of opposition activists living inSyriareveals that Islamists are only a minority among them. Domestic opponents of Assad, the survey indicates, look toTurkeyas a model for Syrian governance — and even widely admire theUnited States.

Pechter Polls, which conducts opinion surveys in tough spots in theMiddle East,AfricaandAsia, completed the Syria opposition poll in December 2011. Respondents were contacted over a secure Skype connection by someone they could trust — all native Syrians — who asked them to fill out a short questionnaire anonymously in Arabic. Interviewers were selected from different social and political groups to ensure that respondents reflected a rough cross-section of overall opposition attitudes. To ensure confidentiality, the online survey could be accessed only through a series of proxy servers, bypassing the regime-controlled Internet.

Given the survey’s unusual security requirements, respondents were selected by a referral (or ”controlled snowball”) technique, rather than in a purely random fashion. To be as representative as possible, the survey employed five different starting points for independent referral chains, all operating from different locations. The resulting sample consisted of 186 individuals inSyriaidentified as either opposition activists themselves (two-thirds of the total) or in contact with the opposition.

What do these ”inside” opposition supporters believe? Only about one-third expressed a favorable opinion of the Muslim Brotherhood. Almost half voiced a negative view, and the remainder were neutral. On this question, no significant differences emerged across regions.

Most of the survey’s questions asked, ”On a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 means the most negative and 7 the most positive, how would you rate your opinion of X?” Answers of 1 to 3 were considered negative, 4 as neutral, and 5 to 7 as positive.

While many respondents supported religious values in public life, only a small fraction strongly favored Shariah law, clerical influence in government, or heavy emphasis on Islamic education. A large majority (73%) said it was ”important for the new Syrian government to protect the rights of Christians.” Only 20% said that religious leaders have a great influence on their political views.

This broad rejection of Islamic fundamentalism was also reflected in the respondents’ views on government. The poll asked each respondent what country he or she would ”like to see Syria emulate politically,” and which countries the respondent ”would like to see Syria emulate economically.” The poll listed 12 countries, each with a scale of 1 to 7. Just 5% had even a mildly positive view of Saudi Arabia as a political model. In contrast, 82% gave Turkey a favorable rating as both a political and economic model (including over 40% extremely favorable). The U.S. earned 69% favorable ratings as a political model, with France, Germany and Britain close behind. Tunisia rated only 37% and Egypt 22%.

Iran was rated lowest of any country included in the survey, including Russia and China: Not even 2% of respondents had positive views of Iran as a political model. Fully 90% expressed an unfavorable view of Hezbollah, including 78% with the most negative possible attitude.

One of the surprises in the results is the scope of the opposition’s network inside Damascus, despite their difficulties in demonstrating publicly. One-third of the respondents, whether activists or sympathizers, said they live in the Syrian capital. (To protect their privacy, the survey did not ask for more precise identification.)

This ”inside” opposition is well-educated, with just over half identifying as college graduates. The ratio of male to female respondents was approximately 3 to 1, and 86% were Sunni Arab.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, they were ambivalent about Syrian Kurdish demands for ”political decentralization” (like autonomy). Views of ”Kurdish parties” were evenly divided among negative, neutral and positive. (Such feelings are evidently mutual: In the six months since the survey was completed, Syrian Kurdish organizations have increasingly decided to go their own way, separate from the other opposition groups.)

Based on a statistical analysis of the survey, most secularists among the respondents prefer weak central government, presumably as a way to safeguard their personal freedoms. On the other hand, the one-third of respondents who support the Muslim Brotherhood also tend to have a favorable view of Hamas, despite the latter movement’s previous association with the Assad regime.

The survey demonstrates that the core of the Syrian opposition inside the country is not made up of the Muslim Brotherhood or other fundamentalist forces, and certainly not of al Qaeda or other jihadi organizations. To be sure, a revolution started by secularists could pave the way for Islamists to win elections, as has occurred in Egypt. But the Syrian opposition is solidly favorable to the U.S. and overwhelmingly negative toward both Hezbollah and Iran.”

David Pollock is the Kaufman fellow at The Washington Institute and a consultant to Pechter Polls.

The Shabiha, the murderous thugs that do most of the massacres

Assad’s Pact With the Devil

Syrian Regime Using Hired Killers to Cling to Power

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/analysis-of-the-aftermath-of-houla-massacre-in-syria-a-836848.html

“The regime of Syrian ruler Bashar Assad has enlisted gangs of murderous thugs known as ‘Shabiha.’ No assignment is too brutal or bloody for these men who are free to kill, plunder and rape. Assad knows that outright victory over the opposition is his only remaining chance to stay in power.”

“Europe, the United States and perhaps even Kofi Annan are slowly realizing that there will be no compromise with Syrian President Bashar Assad, because there can be no compromise with Assad. Now that more than 10,000 people have died and tens of thousands have been tortured, the phase in which protesters were still staging peaceful demonstrations, and in which negotiations, transitional governments and compromises were possible is irrevocably over.

When the regime was still able to negotiate its own exit, it didn’t want to. Now it no longer has that option, because any sign of weakness would lead to its overthrow.

This realization hasn’t been triggered by the fact that the regime is massacring civilians to save itself. Similar bloodbaths have already taken place in the past. In April of last year, more than 60 people disappeared without a trace in Homs, after government troops had mowed down a group of peaceful protesters. In January, several families in a southeastern Homs neighborhood were massacred in a way that resembled the Houla killings. And when the Bab Amr neighborhood was captured by regime troops several weeks later, after having been almost destroyed by artillery fire, witnesses said that there were mass executions of those who hadn’t fled.

What was different this time was that on Saturday morning, only hours after the killing frenzy, a team of UN observers managed to reach Houla, where they saw and counted the bodies, heard what the survivors had to say and saw the tracks the tanks had made. ”The evidence is clear — it is not murky,” said German UN Ambassador Peter Wittig. ”There is a clear government footprint in those killings.” Whereas earlier massacres were only documented in reports by the Syrian opposition and video recordings that could not be corroborated, this was a different situation.

By failing, the UN mission appears finally to be having an impact. The roughly 300 unarmed observers cannot possibly monitor a nonexistent cease-fire, during which more than 2,000 people had been killed by the end of last week. The UN observers cannot prevent what is happening, but they can prevent it from being covered up. This isn’t much, and for angry Syrians who burned images of Annan, it’s far too little. ”We called the observers during the massacre,” a man from Houla who calls himself Abu Emad was quoted as saying, ”but they refused to come and stop the murders. Damn then, and damn the entire mission!”

“The men, some in civilian clothing and others dressed in army uniforms, went from house to house, reported survivors like 11-year-old Ali, who told CBS News: ”They came to our house at night. First they took out my father and then my oldest brother. My mother shouted: Why are you doing this? Then they shot both of them, and after that my mother. Then one of the men came in with a flashlight and saw my sister Rasha. He shot her in the head.Ali hid with his two little brothers. The man saw them and shot the brothers, but he missed Ali.

Other survivors who hid or played dead consistently gave the same accounts: The men combed through house after house and room after room, killing everyone, some with knives and some with guns. The massacre continued until the morning hours. When the UN observers arrived, they found nothing but corpses in the villages controlled by regime forces. The survivors had fled to neighborhoods held by the FSA, where they placed the bodies they had recovered on mats in the mosques before filming and burying them.

The regime in Damascus could not deny that the massacre had taken place. But Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi, parroting the government’s standard position, promptly blamed the killings on ”armed terrorists” and ”Islamists.” The Russian government, which had blocked every Security Council resolution condemning Syria, launched into a bizarre attempt to apportion the blame. The regime was apparently responsible for the assault by tanks and mortars, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. But the brutish murders, said Alexey Puchkov, chairman of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, ”were definitely committed by the other side.”

Igor Pankin, Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, agreed: ”We cannot imagine that it is in the Syrian regime’s interest to sabotage Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s visit to Damascus.” And he is right in one respect. In PR terms, a massacre of children cannot be helpful to the Assad regime. But he was wrong in another sense, inadvertently putting his finger on Russia’s growing frustration with its ally: Syria‘s leadership is no longer taking decisions that would make sense for a government hoping to reach a political solution to the crisis.

By gradually concentrating power in the hands of the Alawite minority, to which the Assad clan belongs, the regime is fomenting a religious war against the Sunni majority, the very conflict it claims it wants to prevent. Now Assad has backed himself into a corner from which he believes there is only way out: victory. This is why the latest proposal from Berlin and Washington to attempt the ”Yemeni solution,” which would be to depose Assad but keep the regime in power, will not work. The regime is relying solely on violence, accompanied by an outrageous propaganda narrative that blames foreign terrorists and al-Qaida for the uprising.

This conspiratorial obsession is nothing new. Starting in 2003, the intelligence services began secretly organizing the transfer of jihadists from Saudi Arabia, Libya and Kuwait across the Syrian border into Iraq, to deter the Americans from seeking regime change in Damascus as well. At the same time, the regime painted itself as a bulwark in the fight against al-Qaida. Foreigners who were later arrested reported how they had been kept in Syrian intelligence camps in Homs while waiting to be transferred into Iraq.

The attacks on several Scandinavian embassies in Damascus after the Danish cartoon controversy in early 2006 were blamed on an Islamist mob, but as it turned out, the regime had planted Islamists in the crowd. As a precaution, it also removed the guards from in front of a general’s house next to the Norwegian Embassy. Although there was no evidence that the regime was behind the major bombing attacks in Damascus, Aleppo and Deir al-Zor in recent months, they had several strange elements in common: The bombers had immense quantities of explosives, which they easily managed to get through all government checkpoints, and they detonated most of their bombs in front of empty buildings. When the regime published its death tolls after the first attack on Dec. 23, they included the names of men who had already died elsewhere. During the ostentatious burial service at the Umayyad Mosque, signs attached to many of the coffins read ”anonymous martyr.” On May 9, just before a bomb exploded near the convoy of UN observer mission chief Robert Mood, the vehicles were detained at a military checkpoint just long enough so that they would be nearby at the time of detonation.

“Murderous ‘Ghosts’

What happened in Houla followed the pattern of earlier attacks like the one in Homs. First, the target is bombarded with tanks and artillery from a great distance. Then the regular troops move in and drive out or shoot the last remaining rebels. Finally, the regime sends in its helpers, the Shabiha (”ghosts”), over which it has less and less control.

What were once gangs of thugs and smugglers from the hills around Latakia, the home turf of the Assad clan, have turned into an army of irregular troops numbering in the thousands. The gangs are backed by the beneficiaries of the regime, those who profit the most from Syria‘s façade of a market economy, and who now have the most to lose. It’s a Faustian bargain. As long as they are loyal to Assad, they are permitted to murder, loot and rape, as was the case in Houla, where the Shabiha came from neighboring villages to the south.

The Shabiha were also active in the capital Damascusin August 2011. Every evening during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, dozens of them stood in front of mosques in Sunni neighborhoods, prepared to bludgeon and drag off anyone who said anything derogatory about the regime after emerging from prayers. At about 8 p.m., swarms of Shabiha thugs emerged from the intelligence service quarters, were loaded into requisitioned buses and driven to their deployment locations, where they lay in wait until the faithful dispersed after leaving the mosques.

The Shabiha are criminals and day laborers, mostly Alawites, but also Kurds with the PKK terrorist group, members of Sunni clans from Aleppo loyal to the regime, and some Christians. The Shabiha are the shadow force of a regime that no longer trusts its own army, but instead has created a monster that is taking on a life of its own, undermining the Syrian government long before it suffers a military defeat.

Months ago, the author and dissident Yassin al-Haj Saleh, who is in hiding in Damascus, wrote: ”The current heads of the security services may very well reform themselves into a mafia-type organization after the collapse of the regime and continue to practice the violence, theft and discrimination at which they are so adept.”Syria could eventually be controlled by marauding gangs, driven by greed and the fear of reprisal, which becomes more justified with each new wave of killings.”

The Shabiha: Inside Assad’s death squads

The Shabiha started off as racketeers and smugglers. But now, as ultra-loyal enforcers ofSyria’s brutal regime, they have taken on a far more bloodthirsty role, write Harriet Alexander and Ruth Sherlock.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9307411/The-Shabiha-Inside-Assads-death-squads.html

“The door to Dr Mousab Azzawi’s clinic, on the Mediterranean coast ofSyria, was always open to anyone who needed help. But, operating in the heartland of the feared Shabiha militia, there were some patients the doctor would have preferred not to treat.

They were like monsters,” said Dr Azzawi, who worked in Latakia. ”They had huge muscles, big bellies, big beards. They were all very tall and frightening, and took steroids to pump up their bodies.

I had to talk to them like children, because the Shabiha likes people with low intelligence. But that is what makes them so terrifying – the combination of brute strength and blind allegiance to the regime.”

As President Bashar al-Assad’s country continues its savage slide towards full-blown civil war, the violent, dark and secretive world of the Shabiha is coming out into the open.

Nine days ago, 108 people were butchered by the Shabiha in the town of Houla. The pro-Assad thugs went through the village, house to house, and slit the throats of anyone they came across – including 49 children. Exactly a week later, the Shabiha pulled 12 factory workers off a bus in the town of Qusayr, 40 miles to the south; tied their hands behind their backs, and shot them in the head. “

“The world is learning just how bloodthirsty the Shabiha can be. But insideSyria, their capacity for hideous brutality has long been known.

”Even before the revolution, any time there was unrest they would go out into the streets and stop it for the government,” said Selma, who comes from a prominent Alawite family – a Shia Muslim sect, into which the Assad family was born, and to which almost all of the Shabiha belong. Her cousins are Shabiha.

They would just break people’s arms and legs. They would fight for Bashar to the death. It is natural – they have to defend their sect.”

Her cousins wore civilian clothes, she explained – ”then the television can say that these are just civilians who love Bashar.”

President Assad, and his father Hafez before him, used the Shabiha to terrorise Syrians into obedience, brainwashing the militia into believing the Sunni majority was their enemy. “

“After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Syria’s French rulers needed soldiers willing to defend the regime from a Sunni uprising, so they incorporated large numbers of Alawites into the army, who were only too happy to fight their Sunni ”oppressors”.

They became the most politically powerful sect in Syria, and the vast majority of the country’s top intelligence and military officers adhere to the faith. It was from the army that Hafez al-Assad emerged to stage his coup.

Initially the Shabiha were a mafia clan, making money through racketeering. Selma, the Alawite with Shabiha family, said her cousins were ”filthy rich” through smuggling in diesel, milk and electronics. ”Anything toLebanon that is cheaper inSyria, and whatever is needed inSyria fromLebanon,” she said.

The ruling Assad family turned a blind eye to their criminal behaviour and violent methods. In return, the Shabiha became the Assads’ fiercely loyal defenders and enforcers.

”They are fuelled by this belief that they are fighting for their survival,” said Dr Azzawi. ”Assad tells them that they must defend the government or else they will be destroyed; it’s kill, or be killed.”

“An enormous man, identified on the video as Areen al-Assad – a member of the president’s family clan – posed with his gun, grinned from the steering wheel of his car, and flexed his muscles. His huge bicep bulged with a tattoo of the president’s face.

At the end of the video, the posturing Shabiha militants proclaim: ”Bashar, do not be sad: you have men who drink blood.”

”It is their motto,” explained Dr Azzawi, who said that many of the men were recruited from bodybuilding clubs and encouraged to take steroids. ”They are treated like animals, and manipulated by their bosses to carry out these murders. They are unstoppable.”

“The militia operated with blind devotion to the leaders, referred to as ”muallim”, meaning boss, or ”khaal”, uncle. And indeed, it was in many ways a family business.

Mr Assad’s cousin Numir has taken over as one of the key rulers of the Shabiha – even though the government is careful to avoid direct association with the militia and their murderous acts.

How the men are paid is unclear, although many claim the Shabiha is funded by businessmen tied into the Alawite clique that dominates the government.

What is known is that the Shabiha have a strong economic motives for backing the regime. Foot soldiers can earn up to £120 for a day’s thuggery – a fortune in Syria.”

“”If they know the whole area is against the regime they have no problem killing everybody,” she said. ”That is how it works.”

The armed opposition

It has been fascinating to watch the development during the last 15 months of the opposition’s developing from the first few demonstrations. How the demonstrations started spreading and got bigger and bigger.

To the first sporadic attempts from civilians to defend themselves and their families, villages, neighbourhoods etc. against the attacks by the Assad regime. Via the first appearance of the defectors from the Assad army. Until today where you have a lot of groups going from hit-and-run attacks to learning how to coordinate and organize more sophisticated attacks against stronger targets.

They are learning, and they are learning fast because they have to.

In addition, they have increased the pressure on the regime many times over, increasing attrition and increasing defections etc

Still the armed opposition desperately lacks weapons and ammunition, especially to defend against Assad’s tanks and helicopter gunships.

The rebels are also gaining confidence. “Every day we control more territory, every day we have more defections, and we are having better organization in our ranks,” said Maj. Sami al-Kurdi, a spokesman for the Homs Military Council, one of the new military structures that are being established around the country. “The regime now controls only the territory under its tanks, and the evidence is that they don’t dare step out of their tanks.”

And as I said, they are growing in effectiveness and strength.

After driving rebels from strongholds in the Baba Amr district of Homs and several Idlib towns in March, the government has since been unable to press home the advantage. Repeated efforts to dislodge the FSA from the provincial Homs towns of Rastan and Qusair have failed, and a major offensive launched last week against a rebel stronghold in the town of Haffa, northeast of Latakia, faltered despite intense shelling and the deployment of combat helicopters.

The Assad regime can go in and suppress an area with heavy weapons, but as soon as they leave it, it losses the control.

The result is that many parts of northern and central Syria have effectively fallen under the sway of the opposition,

Which also makes it really hard for the regime to move around, and for them to get out of their checkpoints that they are barricaded in. The Assad forces are in many cases pinned down.

Remember that I two months ago talked about how the Syrian army de facto had defected “in place”? Well, now the defections have started to increase and continues at a steady rate. And regular troops are weary after nearly 15 months of continuous deployment since no new conscripts have been called in.

One example – Of 400 soldiers originally stationed in the provincial capital of Idlib, just around 60 remained last week defending their base near the centre of the city, which has seen significant fighting. In the small city of Maraa, near Aleppo, 15 soldiers defected within the space of a weekas many as in the entire previous year.

The rebels also are starting to inflict heavy casualties on government troop’s security forces. It is likely to hit a record level in June for the second month in a row. As of Monday, June 11, the state news agency has announced the funerals of 259 soldiers and police officers who were killed in combat with rebels this month, a record 57 of them Saturday June 10 alone. Well ahead of May’s pace, when 404 such burials took place

Just during the period of June 10 to June 13, here are some of the main events:

– FSA Attacked the Taftanaz military airport.

– In Deir Ezzor several BMP:s and tanks where destroyed there alone. In Baba Amr, where the massacre occurred, well the FSA is back and on June 12 they destroyed two BMP:s.

– And on the same day three tanks where destroyed in Haritan,Aleppo

– The FSA captured the Deir Ezzor checkpoint operated by Army and shabiha. They captured lots of weaponry and ammunition after the attack

– FSA attacked a big regime convoy outside Latakia in operation ‘Cutting the snake’.

– Capture by FSA of shabiha and army in one of their strongpoints in Al Qusayr on June 10.

– Syrian rebels on June 11 briefly seized control of the strategic army base al-Ghanto (surface-to-air missiles are stationed there), close to the central town of Rastan before the army rained down artillery and forced them out of the station. They seized a lot of weapons and ammunition.

– On June 3, rebels attacked a Syrian Air Force As Suwayda air base east of the southern town of Deraa opposite the Israeli Golan border – their first such attack in the 14-month uprising,  Several rebel groups firing mortars set fire to fighter aircraft and assault helicopters in their hangars and ripped up runways.

Does this sounds like some “ragtag” wild bands on the lose?

Inside Syria: You will never guess who arms the rebels

In any revolution, getting weapons is a key challenge. Syria’s rebels have found an interesting solution.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/120606/syrian-rebels-weapons-arms-revolution

“JABAL AL-ZAWIYA, Syria— At the Free Syrian Army base here, a group of men led a nervous prisoner from his cell to a car waiting outside. A few hours later, the rebels returned alone, with a trunkload of weapons.

As they loaded the store room with new bullets and rocket-propelled grenades, Hamza Fatahallah, an army defector who joined the Free Syrian Army nine months ago, described the transaction that had taken place.

We have caught many army prisoners,” he said. “We send them back home for a small amount of money on the condition they do not return to the regime. We use the money to buy weapons.”

For the release of this prisoner, Ahmed Haseeba, the group received $500. With this money, Fatahallah said they were able to buy ammunition from their main supplier: Syria’s national army, also known as the enemy.

This strange cycle of exchanging prisoners for weapons has been playing out between rebel forces and President Bashar al-Assad’s army since the beginning of the revolution.

Fatahallah estimated that his village purchased 40 percent of their weapons from the regime. Prisoner exchanges have so far contributed almost $80,000 toward weapons purchases, he said. And they obtain an additional 50 percent of their weapons during battle. The remaining 10 percent are donated and smuggled from outside the country, or are purchased from private merchants, mostly from Iraq.

Occasionally, prisoners are also exchanged directly for weapons, Fatahallah said. They have received up to two Kalashnikov rifles in exchange for a prisoner in the past.

For the regime, or at least the duplicitous members of it, supplying the enemy is a big business. Government officers also sell Kalashnikov bullets, which typically sold for less than 40 cents before the uprising, for about $4 each, according to Ahmed Al Sheikh, the leader of the armed opposition in Jabal al-Zawiya. He leads about 6,000 men from eight battalions that are collectively known as the Sham Falcons.

Kalashnikovs are bought for about $1,000, he said. Rocket-propelled grenade launchers, complete with a set of four rockets, cost up to $4,000, as does a BKT machine gun.

“These officers sell to us not because they love the revolution but because they love money,” Al Sheikh said of his chain of suppliers. “Their loyalty is to their pockets only, not the regime.

While most of the sellers are corrupt officers, they said lower ranking soldiers have occasionally stolen supplies from government weapons storage and sold them to the rebel forces.

The relationship is not always a smooth one.

Back at the base, the men were relaxing after lunch when a loud explosion shocked everyone to their feet. As they feared, the previous night’s purchase of Kalashnikov bullets had been booby-trapped. This time their colleagues were lucky enough to survive the discovery.

The men had learned from prior experience — bullets acquired from the regime are sometimes emptied of their gunpowder and filled with TNT designed to destroy the Kalashnikov and its owner, rather than the enemy.

After several injuries and the loss of two rifles, the men had learned to spot the fakes. To everyone’s relief this had been a controlled explosion, by someone suspicious of the new batch. The damage inflicted was only a blackened hand, some singed hair and a hole in the table.

“These ones here are good bullets,” said battalion leader Asad Ibrahim, showing the red marking on the base of one of the bullets. Holding up another with a slightly darker red off-center mark he said, “These are Bashar’s bullets to explode our guns.”

The men said bullets like these have destroyed many guns and killed or seriously injured several of their fellow fighters. But desperate for ammunition, they take the risk.

Commander Al Sheikh said that half of the Sham Falcon arsenal are seized from the enemy. Most are taken either during battle, or after attacks on government checkpoints. And the rebels carry out organized raids on government weapon stores whenever they can.

During an attack on a checkpoint in Mughara last week, Al Sheikh proudly boasted that his men had managed a rare grab: a T62 tank along with anti-aircraft weapons.

Another source of arms is from the army defectors themselves, who bring their own weapons along when they join the rebel forces.

Sitting at the base, the men laughed as they recalled the story of two friends, both defectors, who told their superior they needed one of the gun-mounted vehicles and some heavy weapons to check on a call regarding rebel activity. Loading the truck with as much ammunition and weapons as they could find, they drove straight toward the rebels, checking in by radio with their boss with stories of hunting down “rebel traitors” hours after they had already betrayed sides.

While the Free Syrian Army has been adept at obtaining weapons, it has also proven skillful in manufacturing their own.

In a secret warehouse across town from the base, fertilizer and sugar were being boiled in a large pot. Everything from teapots to large metal pipes were being filled to make roadside bombs for attacks on tanks and army vehicles. 23mm bullet casings were filled with explosives with a small wick on top, looking more like an ACME special from a Loony Tunes cartoon than a deadly hand grenade.

We are using very simple weapons against the highly sophisticated weapons of the regime — tanks, rockets, missiles. What a government! What a regime. Doing nothing but killing their people,” Fatahallah said during a tour of the busy workshop.

The men from the battalion spoke constantly of the need, not for military intervention from abroad, but for international help in obtaining more weapons. But with or without this support, they vowed to continue the fight until Assad is removed.

“The Quran says to prepare whatever weapons you can to fight your enemy,” said Al Sheikh, the commander, as his local leaders discussed preparations for their next mission.

“Even if no weapons are available and all we have left to use are stones, we will go on with our revolution until Assad falls.”

Syrian rebels in Turkey doubtful over new Arab arms supplies

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/nationworld/sns-rt-us-syria-crisis-turkeybre85d10p-20120614,0,3789440.story

“ANTAKYA, Turkey(Reuters) – Syrian rebels resting and recovering from wounds in Turkeysay that far from receiving a host of heavy weapons to take the fight to government forces, they feel forgotten by their Western and Arab backers.

Some rebels and opposition figures inside and outside Syria say there has been an upsurge in recent weeks of heavier weaponry being smuggled into Syria via Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq from suppliers inSaudi Arabia and Qatar.

The weapons, which according to the rebels are being supplied by private sponsors, include thousands of shells, hundreds of sniper rifles, as well as anti-armor missiles.

But in the verdant hills, wooded mountainsides and languid refugee camps of Turkey’s southern Hatay province, Free Syrian Army rebels returning from the fight to rest and tend their wounds, said they had seen no sign of any new weapons.

One rebel said less than half the fighters in his unit even had a gun. What weapons they did have, the rebels said, came from inside Syria.

This is an absolute lie. We have not seen anything. If they are coming through Lebanon, maybe, but if they were, we would see these weapons. We don’t see them, where are they? said one rebel who gave his name only as Ahmad.

Every household has had one person killed or wounded. If we had weapons we could defend ourselves,” said Ahmad, clean-shaven and dressed in jeans and a white t-shirt, not fitting the typical image of a rebel fighter.”

“After the tanks push their way through the town and surrounding villages, Ahmad said, Assad’s soldiers, move from house to house rounding up young men and looting their homes. What they leave behind, they destroy, he said.

From a hospital ward in Hatay’s main cityAntakya, Ahmad becomes frustrated when speaking about weapons. He motions his hands emphatically to drive home his point.

By God, we don’t trust anyone. We don’t believe anyone anymore. The world has forgotten us,” he said.

Like most of the Syrians inTurkey, Ahmad would only give one name for fear of reprisals against his relatives at home.

As Ahmad spoke, the newest wounded arrival, 31-year-old Lutfi, was wheeled into the emergency department below. Lutfi, a Free Army fighter was shot in the leg during a clash with government troops in Jabal al-Krad near the western city of Latakia.

Lutfi said he and some 150 rebel fighters ambushed around 200-250 of Assad’s men who were on their way to occupy one of the surrounding villages. Two rebels were killed in the clash and another four were wounded.

The right leg of his camouflage military trousers has been ripped off, revealing a bandage covering his bullet wound. Lutfi laughed when asked whether new weapons had reached his men.

There are no new weapons. All we can do is attack and retreat. They are nothing against their weapons,” he said.

ONLY 40 PERCENT HAVE WEAPONS

Some 45 km (30 miles) south of Antakya only minutes from the Syrian border, Nasim, another rebel stands outside the Yayladagi refugee camp – tents erected inside an old, derelict tobacco factory that now serves as his temporary home.

Like at the others camps scattered around Hatay and further to the east, here fighters come to recoup with comrades or family members. Syrians are free to enter and leave the camp but access to the media is restricted.

Nasim says he regularly crosses back into Syriato smuggle food and blankets to fighters stationed inside but said he had not seen any new weapons cross from Turkey into Syria and that all the weapons he had seen had been acquired in the country.

”Three months ago I heard that Arab countries were going to send us money or weapons but I have not seen anything. Not one country has sent us money or weapons,” said Nasim, a short, stocky, scruffily dressed man in his 30s with a full black beard.

”The only weapons we get are by pooling our money together and buying them in Syria, or someone who supports us will come and give us their hunting rifle or something. Sometimes soldiers from the army sell us weapons,” he said.

Only around 40 percent of his unit even had a weapon, Nasim said, ”and these are light weapons. Assad is hitting us with tanks.”

Some 40 rebels and activists who spoke to Reuters this week all said that apart from a small number of light weapons which had been bought on the black market, they had not seen any weapons smuggled to Syria through Turkey.

While Turkey has thrown its support behind Assad’s opposition, has called for the Syrian leader to step down and given sanctuary to senior defected Syrian army officers, it has opposed any outside military intervention in its neighbor.

Turkish officials sayAnkara is not arming the rebels and have denied reports that weapons from other countries are being smuggled over Turkish territory.

Corroborating accounts of what is happening inside Syria is difficult because the government tightly restricts foreign media access. Most rebels also cross into Syria during darkness and Turkish security forces do not allow media near informal border crossings.

But for the rebels it does not matter where the weapons originate or how they get there, as long as they come.

Wherever they come from it does not matter. We want weapons. We want to be able to defend our women and our families. We don’t want money, just weapons,” said Omar, another rebel smuggler at Yayladagi.”

Syrian Army Unable to Stop Flood of Deserters

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/syrian-army-unable-to-stop-flood-of-deserters-a-838188.html

“Yet the cynical joke about the soldiers at the checkpoint reflects a reality that grows closer with each day, one which is welcomed by many Syrians: The regime is finding its soldiers slipping out of its grasp. One noncommissioned officer from the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib, just hours after defecting to the Free Syrian Army (FSA), relates breathlessly how he made his escape: ”The officer was sitting there, and when he was alone with me and a friend of mine, he demanded, ‘What are you still doing here? Go on and get out of here!’ The officer will issue the order to shoot them, the defector says, and he’ll call their families and threaten them, but all that is nothing but show. It’s over, he says, and it was time for them to disappear.

Shooting from a Distance

Of 400 soldiers originally stationed in the provincial capital of Idlib, just a couple dozen remained last week defending their base near the center of the city, which has seen significant fighting. In the small city of Maraa, near Aleppo, 15 soldiers defected within the space of a week — as many as in the entire previous year.

In Azaz, where Assad’s troops still control a checkpoint at the edge of the city, a heavily fortified city quarter and the minarets of the largest mosque, two soldiers defected a few days ago under the cover of a fake attack. They reported they had received hardly any supplies in weeks, and that they were living on dried out bread and brackish water. One earlier defector had taken with him the numbers of everyone in his unit who owned a cell phone. The FSA then contacted each of them, offering to help them escape. Many of the soldiers found it an attractive offer.

This is just one small insight into the situation in northern Syria, but deserters from other parts of the country who have managed to make their way back to their native villages near Aleppo tell of similar conditions in their own units. Reports of the types of attacks carried out by Assad’s troops also suggest the situation in the south, in the area around Damascus, in Deir al-Zor in the east and in Homs in the west is much the same as it is in the north: In many cases, the army no longer deploys its troops, but instead shoots from great distances using tanks and heavy artillery, or from helicopters, strategies which decrease the risk to the army.

One defector from Homs, a city that has also been the site of heavy fighting, describes a cycle of accelerating collapse. ”If I’d left sooner, state security would have arrested my family and burned down my house,” he says. ”But they’re not going to come now, certainly not just because of me.”

Diminishing Fear

With each bit of the country that slips from the regime’s control, the soldiers’ fear diminishes. That in turn increases the number of defectors, more and more of whom join the FSA. One officer, who defected to the FSA and has a precise mind for figures, estimates the group has around 40,000 former army soldiers in its ranks, although the proportion of soldiers and civilians varies among regions.

Outwardly, power dynamics in Syria have changed little in the past 15 months. The rebellion has gripped the cities, but unlike in Libya, here there is no still no large, contiguous region for the rebels to defend. But the appearance of stability is deceptive. While it’s true that soldiers are no longer allowed to travel by intercity bus without a permit, and that many of those who escape still risk being shot by the omnipresent intelligence service, the fact remains that the regime is no longer able to stay the gradual erosion of its army.

The impression of power and control emanating from the centers of Damascus, Aleppo and other major cities may also be deceptive. The Western half of Syria is a land of villages and small cities, which have joined together with the insurgency in the most densely populated provinces. The area around Aleppo, Idlib, Homs, Hama and Daraa together forms a zone in which the government’s troops may attack anywhere, at any time, yet are no longer able to control the area permanently. And in many places, the people living here have switched sides. Sunni Muslims have certainly done so, but so have most Druzes and Ismailis. And though Kurdish villages in the northwest, such as Basuta and Ain Dara, have started flying the Kurdish flag in recent weeks, rather than the revolutionary flag with its three stars, there’s no one left here who still defends the regime.

Around 50 soldiers are stationed on Sheikh Barakat Mountain near the Churchof St. Simeon, northern Syria’s famous late antiquity ruin, but for the past two months they’ve received supplies only by air, because convoys are no longer able to pass through the surrounding area, which is completely under the FSA’s control

‘We Don’t Get Orders’

The FSA itself is a peculiar entity. It’s clear that it’s effectively organized at the village level and in small cities, each group loosely connected with other districts and provinces, but without a set hierarchy or command structure. ”We have a good relationship with the FSA’s commander in exile in Turkey,” says one local commander, ”but we don’t get orders. We’re in charge of ourselves.”

This set-up isn’t enough to allow coordinated attacks on the regime’s centers of power, but it appears to be good enough to control the rest of the country. What’s sustaining the regime is its monopoly on heavy weaponry, as well as its tough core of 100,000 to 200,000 officers, secret police, elite soldiers and militia members, most of whom are Alawis and fear that the regime’s fall would spell their own end as well. These troops have their stronghold in the Ansariyah Mountains in the west of the country and control parts of the larger cities as well, but they no longer hold all the land between.

Everyone — the rebels, the hundreds of thousands of undecided currently fleeing through the country to wherever they feel they will be somewhat safer, even those who support the regime — are all dreading the ”next step,” in the words of Abu Ali al-Dirri, an officer who changed sides six months ago. The next step is the air force.

‘They’re Going to Bomb the Country’

Syria has made massive improvements to its air force in the past year, but so far, aside from the helicopters, hardly put it into action. ”But before the Assads go down, they’re going to bomb the country,” Dirri believes. For years, he says, the regime has made a point of ensuring the loyalty of the air force, the branch of the military where President Bashar Assad’s father Hafez began his career. ”They’ve increased the proportion of Alawi cadets at the military academy in Aleppo constantly, especially in the air force,” he says. ”They knew things would turn against them at some point.”

At most, Dirri says, the regime would face the problem that many older pilots have been discharged in recent years, while many newer pilots have only barely completed the number of flying hours necessary in order to fly a fighter jet. Dirri himself, as a Sunni, hasn’t even been allowed to carry a gun since the revolution began.

For years, the officer says, ”Russia didn’t want to supply replacement parts any more, because we never paid, but now Russia is providing enormous amounts of assistance, even sending over personnel.” He adds that more than 1,000 Russian engineers were present in the country this January. Many of them were officially there as agricultural consultants, ”but their work doesn’t have much to do with agriculture.” Iran has sent arms and ammunition, he adds, but not much in the way of personnel, while China has a group of air force specialists stationed at Aleppo‘s military airports.

Around half of the air force’s 360 fighter jets are fully operational, Dirri says. It’s roughly the same proportion with its 120 helicopters. Its French ”Gazelle” helicopters, equipped with armor-piercing weapons, are in the best condition, ”but not a single one of them has ever taken off — they’re all stationed at the presidential palace airport.”

Where Will the West Draw a Line?

As long as the West continues to declare every few days that it has no intention of carrying out a military intervention, says Colonel Dirri, the regime in Syria will continue to use everything at its disposal. ”Its strength rests in the fact that the whole world is saying, ‘We’re not going to get involved,'” he says. ”If this Rasmussen” — a reference to NATO’s secretary general — ”would just shut his mouth for once, that alone would do Syria a great service!”

At the very latest, after the massacres in Houla two weeks ago and in Mazraat al-Qubair last Wednesday, none of the rebels in northern Syrian still believe the UN’s peace plan will be successful. Instead, their greatest hope is little more than a rumor: that at some point the US must surely draw a line, and perhaps Russia too. What will it take to reach that line? The deployment of Syria‘s air force to carpet-bomb the country? Or perhaps the regime resorting to its arsenal of chemical weapons?

One thing is clear: With or without a vote from the UN Security Council, the rebels want an intervention.”

The T-HOMS 75

Finally the T-HOMS 75. It is a Toyota pickup fitted with steel plates to protect teams of three rebel fighters each behind the rockets and machine guns. Under the motto, “you take what you have”

This is what NATO and Anders Fogh Rasmussen probably would call “a serious proliferation of weapons in the region”.

And this piece from Haaretz on the left and very critical of Israeli policies. Regarding the deafening silence from nearly ALL Israeli Arab artists in Israel and Jewish radicals, the peace movement etc.

A deafening silence

Tolerance in the face of Assad’s bloody murderousness is liable to have the same effect on Arab-Jewish radicalism in Israel.

http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/a-deafening-silence.premium-1.436292

By Ari Shavit

“Remember Deir Yassin? The number of innocent people murdered in Syriaover the past year is 100 times greater than the number of innocent people who were murdered in this Arab village at the edge of Jerusalem in 1948.

Remember the Qibya incident? The number of innocent people killed in Syriaover the past year is 250 times the number of innocent people killed in this pastoral village in Jordan in 1953.

Remember Sabra and Shatila? The number of innocent people butchered during the past year in Syria is 20 times the number of innocent people who were butchered in those Palestinian refugee camps in western Beirut in 1982.

Remember the bloody rioting in October 2000? The number of innocent people who were shot to death in Syria during the past year is 1,000 times the number of innocent people who were shot to death by the Israel Police in the Galilee and the Triangle area in central Israel.

Remember Operation Cast Lead? The number of innocent people who were felled in Syria during this past year is dozens of times the number of innocent people who fell in the Gaza Strip during that widely condemned Israeli military operation in the winter of 2008-09.

The picture is clear: During one year, the secular Arab nationalism of Bashar Assad has spilled more innocent blood than the Zionists have in decades. This Arab tyrant, who in the past was the darling of Arab Knesset members, is massacring his fellow Arabs in a way that Israel never did.

Arab cities are being bombed, Arab women are murdered, Arab children are slaughtered. An Arab society is being shredded, and an Arab state shattered into fragments.

Despite all this, the The High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel is not demanding that the United Nations intervene to stop the bloodshed. Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, is not petitioning the International Criminal Court in the Hague to put the war criminals on trial. Large Land Day type demonstrations have not been called. Protesters who take part in mass marches every October aren’t marching. Arab students who mark the Palestinian Nakba of 1948 aren’t coming out against the Syrian Nakba of 2012. Israel’s Arab minority and its anti-Zionist left are watching as thousands of Arab are massacred – and are standing idly by.

It’s crystal clear that the Syrian tragedy unfolding before our eyes has serious international ramifications. It is taking all meaning out concepts such as international community, international law and the idea of moral validity in international relations.

It’s crystal clear that the Syrian tragedy has serious pan-Arab ramifications. It is taking all meaning out of concepts such as Arab unity, Arab solidarity and the idea that the contemporary Arab world accords any real meaning to human rights.

But the Syrian tragedy has serious ramifications for Israel’s anti-Zionist community as well. The inability of this community to directly confront Arab evil undermines the moral basis for its battle against Israeli evil.

Its unwillingness to demand that universal values be upheld in Hama and in Homs pulls the rug out from under its demands that universal values be upheld in Ramallah and Nazareth. Its silence when faced with the butcher of Damascus makes its condemnations of the State of Israel sound hollow.

The Syrian challenge is a moral challenge. There are some Israeli Arabs who are passing this test honorably. For example, Azmi Bishara, the former MK who fled Israel after being questioned on suspicion of aiding the enemy, who in the past was close to Assad, is today waging a brave and intensive campaign against him on Al Jazeera tv. Unfortunately, few of Bishara’s colleagues in Israel are following suit.

Israeli Arab artists in Israel and Jewish radicals in Israel are silent about what’s going on just over the border. This troublesome silence makes one wonder if their declared humanitarianism is authentic. When they spoke up – against Israel – about human dignity and freedom, perhaps they were simply fooling us?

Communism in the West was destroyed in the 1950s because it tolerated Stalin’s bloody dictatorship. Tolerance in the face of Assad’s bloody murderousness is liable to have the same effect on Arab-Jewish radicalism in Israel.

See Part 1 – Introduction in my original series for more info

Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 1

See Part 2 – Reports in my original series for more info

Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 2

Refusing to arm or help the opposition will not end the conflict or limit it; it will drag on as all the  examples of  like Rwanda, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Darfur, Bosnia (Srebrenica anyone?) etc. shows. Leading to more massacres and atrocities.

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.

The international community’s response has been ludicrous. Syrians on the ground have felt forgotten and betrayed. A system that is supposed to protect civilians from brutal force has failed on a monumental scale.

And to ALL these countries, USA, EU, NATO, Turkey etc. that are supposed to defend and protect freedom, liberty and human rights.

To ALL these global government organisations (UN),and local ones like the Arab League etc.

To ALL the statesmen and politicians that talk so loudly about “responsibility to protect” (Samantha Power anyone?), freedom, liberty and human rights.

I say only one thing: You should be REALLY BE PROUD of yourselves and the children of  Syria will remember you. Each one of you.

                             To the children of Syria!

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Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 9

1 maj, 2012

As usual, I start with some recent news and developments:

As we have seen before the relentless shelling of block after block, neighbourhood after neighbourhood continues during this “ceasefire” as if nothing has happened. Now they are shelling cemeteries:

”EVEN THE DEAD OF SYRIA CANNOT REST IN PEACE – ASSAD’S FORCES SHELL A CEMETERY. Damascus (Douma): Apr 26, 2012- Assad’s forces not only murder the living of Syria, but they try their best to disturb the dead. Multiple times over this 13 month long Revolution, Bashar Al Assad’s forces have attacked and shelled cemeteries … they will not even allow the dead to rest in dignity.”

Video here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWf0weZMXg0&feature=player_embedded

And the UN observers did something good – They shielded families from Assads forces sniper fire so that they could fetch the dead bodies AFTER 45 days:

”ASSAD’S FORCES REFUSED TO ALLOW THEM TO RETRIVE BODIES OF THE DEAD – THEY NEEDED THE U.N. OBSERVERS TO ACCOMPANY THEM. Homs(Bab Dreib): Apr 28, 2012- The bodies had been laying in the street for 45 days. For one month and a half, these bodies lay in the street, murdered by Assad’s forces – they didn’t allow family and friends to retrieve the bodies, so they rotted and decomposed. The only way they were able to get the bodies was for the UN to literally shield them from Assad’s snipers.

Video here:”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KoZkbEQ_78&feature=player_embedded

And some more leaked videos. Remember that these videos were filmed by the Assad militia, thugs, intelligence people etc. to show how “good”, loyal and efficient they are:

”LEAKED VIDEO -I SWEAR TO GOD I DONT WANT FREEDOM!” – IS WHAT THIS BOY TELLS HIS INTERROGATORS AS THEY BEAT AND HUMILIATE HIM. – In this leaked video clip taken by Assad’s thugs, they have a young boy in the back of a car and begin to humiliate, threaten and beat him. They even use a taser on him.

Assad’s thugs repeatedly force the boy to ‘confess’ that he is an armed gunman, that he owns a gun and that he fired on them. They force him to give them the names of all his friends and to ‘admit’ that they too are gunmen. They also force him to confess that he protested and ask him if he wants freedom, to which he replies “i swear i dont want freedom!”

They also tell him repeatedly that they will rape his sister and force him to agree that they will rape her.

These are Assad’s men. This is what they do. These are the people that Assad’s supporters look up to and respect.”

LEAKED VIDEO – ASSAD’S FORCES BEAT AND HUMILIATE THREE MIDDLE-AGED MEN. This is all they know … violence, terror and oppression. These men could be their fathers.”

Video here:

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

LEAKED VIDEO  – ASSAD’S FORCES DRAG A MAN THROUGH THE STREETS TIED TO THE BACK OF A CAR. Homs: (Date Unknown) – This is what Assad’s forces are allowed to do in Assad’s Syria. Only they could drive through town with the body of a man being dragged behind it. Unfortunately, he would most probably have been alive when they started off.

As they drive through town they scream at people who attempt to get close “Back Off!” they shout. When they stop they exclaim “this is what happens to traitors!” in the unmistakable tone of Assad’s thugs.

They did this in order to terrorize the citizens into stopping their protests for freedom.”

Video here:

http://www.youtube.com/verify_age?next_url=/watch%3Fv%3DN41T23fTlKA%26feature%3Dplayer_embedded

And the raping continuous. (see more in my part 1 and 2):

Assad’s thugs are raping and impregnating women in Syria

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/michaelweiss/100153001/assads-thugs-are-raping-and-impregnating-women-in-syria/

One of the least explored aspects of the Syrian regime’s repression is the raping of women. Various human rights monitors have documented cases of sexual violence perpetrated by Bashar al-Assad’s security forces against men, many of them young boys as young as 11 years-old. According to the UN Human Rights Council’s November 2011 report on Syria, former detainees testified to being subjected to “beatings of genitals, forced oral sex, electroshocks and cigarette burns to the anus in detention facilities, including those of the Air Force Intelligence in Damascus, the Military Intelligence in Jisr Al Shughour, the Military Intelligence and the Political Security in Idlib and Al Ladhiqiyah and the intelligence detention facilities in Tartus.”

While rumours of women being raped have run rampant in Syria since the early months of the uprising, first person testimonies have been harder to come by. This is owing to both an Arab cultural stigma on the subject and to fears of regime reprisals. Many of these rape victims have already lost parents or children to the state’s barbarism. They’re told if they want to keep the one who are left, they’ll keep quiet.

I spoke yesterday to a Syrian expat living in Washington, D.C. who asked to be identified as Farha Ghazi.  She left her nativeHama18 years ago and has lately been working with Syrian women’s organisations. I’d been put in touch with Farha by a Syrian doctor friend of mine, and I knew broadly what to expect from our conversation. Still, nothing in a year’s worth of reporting on the carnage and misery of this country has chilled me more than what Farha told me.

Salma was a young girl in Baba Amr whose house was raided last February by the shabbiha – pro-Assad mercenary militias – when that rebel-held neighbourhood in Homs fell after a month-long siege. “She told them, ‘Please, please – don’t you have sisters? Don’t you have mothers?’”, Farha said. “Just leave me, please not in front of my dad.’” They didn’t listen. Instead, the shabbiha strapped Salma’s father to a chair in his own house and forced him to watch as three or four men raped his daughter. “They made him keep his eyes open and watch.”

This is standard practice now in Assad’s Syria. Boys and men might be spirited away to a mukhabarat dungeon for torture, but the women are done over in their own homes, in front of their families.

Farha said that she’s begun coordinating with gynaecologists who can attend to those who have been impregnated by their rapists. These victims’ ages range between 11 and 46. “We have documented 11 cases so far of women needing abortions because they were raped. We had to move them all from either Baba Amr or Idleb to Aleppo, where it was safer to perform this procedure. They are all safe now, but when I called some of them, they were in hysterics. All have suffered severe psychological trauma because of what they’ve gone through.” Many, she said, want reconstructive surgery to repair their hymens so as to make them appear virgins again. ”We are working with a team of doctors, but it’s hard. This is not the medical priority right now.”

And impregnation isn’t the only aftereffect. Some girls have sustained severe internal damage. Farha emailed me the following medical note written by a Syrian doctor and stamped by the Ministry of Health attesting to types of injuries common to rape victims. The names of the doctor and patient and all identifying marks have been blacked out. The note reads:

”To Whom It May Concern:

I have reviewed the case of _______, the daughter of Hassan, on Wednesday, date _______.  She was suffering from bruising and tears along the posterior vaginal wall, along with tears in the anal sphincter.  These injuries were the result of a sexual rape. A surgical procedure was done repairing the wall of the vagina and the sphincter. She is now in the hospital recuperating.

Signed, Surgical consultant. This report was written free from duress”

So according to Ban Ki-moon the violence in Syria has reached ‘intolerable stage’.

Eeehhh…wasn’t the UN ceasefire plan and the observers supposed to put an end to that?

Syria violence has reached ‘intolerable stage’, says Ban Ki-moon UN secretary general condemns crackdown on protests and tells regime to live up to its promise of ceasefire

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/28/syria-violence-intolerable-un-ban-kimoon?

” The UN general secretary Ban Ki-moon said President Bashar al-Assad’s continued crackdown on protests had reached an ”intolerable stage”, and that the UN would try to speed up the deployment of up to 300 monitors to Syria. Only 15 are there now. ”The government of Syria must live up to its promises to the world,” he said.”

Some more videos of the destruction in Hama. And in one attack, more than 70 people are believed to have been killed.

That’s life during a UN ceasefire.

”THE AFTERMATH OF THE HAMA MASSACRE – BUILDING AFTER BUILDING DESTROYED AND REDUCED TO RUBBLE – 70 PEOPLE WERE KILLED. Hama (Mashaa’ Al-Tayyar):Apr 25, 2012- This is where entire families were obliterated as they huddled together waiting for Assad’s forces to fire the next shell at their homes …”

Video here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JusAHgNFM7o&feature=player_embedded

”THEIR HOMES COLLAPSED ON-TOP OF THEM AS SHELLS RAINED DOWN FROM THE SKIES. Hama (Masha’a Al Tayaar): Apr 25, 2012 – 70 people are believed to have been killed in this one single attack alone. The police, fire-fighters, ambulance or any sort of municipal rescue services did not respond to the cries of the dying and injured. The only help they got were from family, friend’s, neighbors and citizens that have hearts and used their bare hands to dig out any survivors.”

Video here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrG3YUQlL2s&feature=player_embedded#!

And here Assad’s forces roll into Douma guns blazing. Another glorious example of the UN ceasefire!

”ASSAD’S FORCES ROLL INTO TO DOUMA TO IMPLEMENT THE CEASEFIRE PLAN – WITH GUN’S BLAZING.Damascus(Douma):Apr 26, 2012- In the words of @HamaEcho “Won’t mention this “ceasefire” again, it’s pointless.” ….

Video here:

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

Assad’s forces are also systematiclay destroying medical clinics, pharmacies and medicine. They are such nice thugs are they not?

Secret medical clinics aid Syrian opposition

Exclusive report on smuggling of entire field hospitals to treat injured fighters and civilians

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/04/2012423113942545792.html

“Al Jazeera has obtained exclusive access to the network of Syrian medical professionals who are trying to help the towns and cities under siege from the government inDamascus.

Medical treatment for people caught up in the violence is becoming increasingly hard to obtain, not just for injured fighters who cannot go to public hospitals for fear of arrest or worse, but for any civilian who the government suspects of helping the opposition.

Medics face mounting challenges as they try to treat injured fighters and civilians, while under attack.

Activists have smuggled entire field hospitals into the country and developed a secret network to bring in supplies.”

And according to Kofi Annan, the guy in charge of this “ceasefire”, what’s going on now IS MUCH BETTER THAN WAR.

Somehow, I think the civilian population in Syria begs to differ.

And he said: “Our patience has been tested severely-close to its limits”.

Well, I don’t think that comes even close to the “patience” tested by the Syrian population.

Annan to Security Council: Diplomacy may suck, but it’s a lot better than war

http://turtlebay.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/04/24/kofi_annan_to_the_un_security_council_diplomacy_may_suck_but_its_a_lot_better_than_

“Special Envoy Kofi Annan told the U.N. Security Council today (April 24) in a closed-door session that an expanding U.N. monitoring mission still stands a chance of calming the violence in Syria, despite a spike in killings on Monday, including a report of a government attack on civilians in the town of Hama after U.N. observers left the town.”

Our patience has been tested severely-close to its limits,” he said. ”But we have also seen signs that there is the possibility for the parties to implement a cessation of violence, which can lead to a political process and peaceful way out of the crisis.”

”Under the circumstances, the peace we are trying to build could never be perfect — and we have all been shocked by events in Syria,” he said. ”But if we succeed, the prospects are far better than any promised through war.”

Annan said that he had received written assurances on Saturday (April 21) from Syrian Foreign Minister Wallid Moallem that ”the withdrawal of massed troops and heavy weapons from in and around population centers is now complete and military operations have ceased.”  Annan said he was ”encouraged” by Moallem’s pledge but that ”it should be understood that the only promises that count are the promises that are kept.”

The resistance has to fight over the few weapons and ammunition there is

FEATURE-Rebel rivalry and suspicions threaten Syria revolt

http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/feature-rebel-rivalry-and-suspicions-threaten-syria-revolt/

”When it comes to getting weapons, every group knows they are on their own,” says the 25-year-old with a patchy beard. ”It’s a fight for resources.”

Nominally Mustafa’s rebels fight for the Free Syrian Army (FSA), but the FSA, lacking international recognition or direct state funding, is a often just a convenient label for a host of local armed groups competing fiercely for scarce financing.

So fiercely, they sometimes turn their guns on each other.

”Everyone needs weapons. There is tension. There is anger and yes, sometimes there is fighting if rebels in one town seem to have an unfair share of weapons,” said Mustafa, who comes fromSyria’s north western province of Idlib, which borders Turkeyand has been a hotbed of resistance to Assad.

Such mistrust is compounded by the competing agendas of outside parties who are further fragmenting the rebel movement.”

“A 60-year-old rebel commander called Abu Shaham, from the central city of Hama, accused the Brotherhood of hanging back from the battlefront to overpower other rebel groups later.

The Brotherhood is pumping money into the rebel units yet their men don’t fight as much as us. They are almost always the first to retreat. Why?” he asked.

They are not thinking about this phase in the battle. They care about what comes next. They want to save themselves for the struggle after Assad falls, to come out the strongest.”

Analyst Joseph Holliday, of the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War, said if foreign powers do not engage with the rebels in an orderly way, their rivalries could create chaos.

If we don’t recognise the rebels, anyone can set up shop in Turkey and start funding opposing groups,” said Joseph Holliday, of the U.S-based Institute for the Study of War. ”We don’t know who is arming who … I’m afraid by the time the West decides to do something it may be too late.”

The case for military intervention in Syria

Former US ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker argues that the West should not wait for a single mass atrocity before it intervenes in Syria, as it did in Bosnia. What is the magic number of deaths that will prompt the international community to act? We’ve already passed 9,000

http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2012/0424/The-case-for-military-intervention-in-Syria/(page)/3

What is missing, therefore, is not an understanding of the case for intervention, or even a means to intervene, but a “catalyst” that justifies and forces action. If that catalyst occurs, the US and others might act. And then America and its friends should ask themselves why they did not act sooner, and prevent the very catastrophe that spurred them into action.”

Kurt Volker, a former US ambassador to NATO, is a professor of practice at Arizona State Universityand a senior fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.

While Syria burns

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/while-syria-burns/2012/04/26/gIQAQUC0jT_story.html

“Last year President Obama ordered U.S. intervention in Libya under the grand new doctrine of “Responsibility to Protect.” Moammar Gaddafi was threatening a massacre in Benghazi. To stand by and do nothing “would have been a betrayal of who we are,” explained the president.

In the year since, the government of Syria has more than threatened massacres. It has carried them out. Nothing hypothetical about the disappearances, executions, indiscriminate shelling of populated neighborhoods. More than 9,000 are dead.

Obama has said that we cannot stand idly by. And what has he done? Stand idly by.

Yes, we’ve imposed economic sanctions. But as with Iran, the economic squeeze has not altered the regime’s behavior. Monday’s announced travel and financial restrictions on those who use social media to track down dissidents is a pinprick. No Disney World trips for the chiefs of the Iranian and Syrian security agencies. And they might now have to park their money in Dubai instead of New York. That’ll stop ’em.

Obama’s other major announcement — at Washington’s Holocaust Museum, no less — was the creation of an Atrocities Prevention Board.

I kid you not. A board. Russia flies planeloads of weapons to Damascus. Iran supplies money, trainers, agents, more weapons. And what does America do? Support a feckless U.N. peace mission that does nothing to stop the killing. (Indeed, some of the civilians who met with the U.N. observers were summarily executed.) And establish an Atrocities Prevention Board.

With multiagency participation, mind you. The liberal faith in the power of bureaucracy and flowcharts, of committees and reports, is legend. But this is parody.

Now, there’s an argument to be made that we do not have a duty to protect. That foreign policy is not social work. That you risk American lives only when national security and/or strategic interests are at stake, not merely to satisfy the humanitarian impulses of some of our leaders.

But Obama does not make this argument. On the contrary. He goes to the Holocaust Museum to commit himself and his country to defend the innocent, to affirm the moral imperative of rescue. And then does nothing of any consequence.

His case for passivity is buttressed by the implication that the only alternative to inaction is military intervention — bombing, boots on the ground.

But that’s false. It’s not the only alternative. Why aren’t we organizing, training and arming the Syrian rebels in their sanctuaries in Turkey? Nothing unilateral here.Saudi Arabia is already planning to do so.Turkey has turned decisively against Bashar al-Assad. And the French are pushing for even more direct intervention.

Instead, Obama insists that we can act only with support of the “international community,” meaning the U.N. Security Council — where Russia and China have a permanent veto. By what logic does the moral legitimacy of U.S. action require the blessing of a thug like Vladimir Putin and the butchers of Tiananmen Square?

Our slavish, mindless self-subordination to “international legitimacy” does nothing but allow Russia — a pretend post-Soviet superpower — to extend a protective umbrella over whichever murderous client it chooses. Obama has all but announced that Russia (or China) has merely to veto international actions — sanctions, military assistance, direct intervention — and America will back off.

For what reason? Not even President Clinton, a confirmed internationalist, would acquiesce to such restraints. With Russia prepared to block U.N. intervention against its client, Serbia, Clinton saved Kosovo by summoning NATO to bomb the hell out of Serbia, the Russians be damned.

If Obama wants to stay out of Syria, fine. Make the case that it’s none of our business. That it’s too hard. That we have no security/national interests there.

In my view, the evidence argues against that, but at least a coherent case for hands-off could be made. That would be an honest, straightforward policy. Instead, the president, basking in the sanctity of the Holocaust Museum, proclaims his solemn allegiance to a doctrine of responsibility — even as he stands by and watches Syria burn.

If we are not prepared to intervene, even indirectly by arming and training Syrians who want to liberate themselves, be candid. And then be quiet. Don’t pretend the U.N. is doing anything. Don’t pretend the U.S. is doing anything. And don’t embarrass the nation with an Atrocities Prevention Board. The tragedies of Rwanda, Darfur and now Syria did not result from lack of information or lack of interagency coordination, but from lack of will. “

Elie Wiesel challenges the world, and Obama

http://blogs.jpost.com/content/elie-wiesel-challenges-world-and-obama

“But Obama didn’t need to reach to the historical catchphrases of the Holocaust and its past to find a challenge. Preceding him on the stage at the event commemorating the Holocaust was Elie Wiesel. And though Wiesel’s soft-spokenness and European accent can make it hard to hear the force in his words, the Nobel Peace Prize winner did throw down a gauntlet to the president.

The greatest tragedy in history could have been prevented had the civilized world spoken up, taken measures,” he said, referring to the Holocaust and how its perpetrators “always wanted to see what would be the reaction in Washington and London and Rome, and there was no reaction so they felt they could continue.”

So he asked the audience at Monday’s ceremony: “Have we learned anything from it? If so, how is it that Assad is still in power?

He raised a similar question of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – “How is it that the No. 1 Holocaust denier Ahmadinejad is still the president?” – and then repeated, “Have we not learned?”

UN

What does Rwanda, Somalia, Darfur, Balkans (Srebrenica) etc.  all have in common, besides genocide and atrocities?

I throw in the biggest corruption and bribe scandal in modern times to, i.e. the United Nations’ Oil for Food Programme in Iraq

Have any idea?

OK, the answer is – Kofi Annan!

Yeap, the present “peace emissary” to Syria himself.

He was directly in charge of the appropriate UN agencies that were supposed to stop things like this.

Short bio:

In 1962, he started working as a Budget Officer for the World Health Organization, an agency of the United Nations (UN).

1987–1990 head of Human Resources,

1990–1992 head of Program Planning, Budget and Finance, and Controller

1993 – 1996 head of Peacekeeping Operations and also served as Under-Secretary-General from 1994-1995

1995-1996 He was appointed a Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the former Yugoslavia.

1997 to 2006 Secretary-General of the United Nations

He directed and was responsible for ALL peacekeeping

He really is the loyal company man.

So it was on his watch that the genocide in Rwanda took place. Remember, he was in charge of ALL peacekeeping operations.

The United Nations Assistance Mission For Rwanda (UNAMIR) lasted from October 1993 to March 1996. Its activities were meant to aid the peace process between the Hutu-dominated Rwandese government and the Tutsi-dominated rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

The Genocide took place in 1994 a mass murder of an estimated 800,000 people. Over the course of approximately 100 days April 6 through mid-July, over 500,000 people were killed, according to a Human Rights Watch estimate. Estimates of the death toll have ranged between 500,000 and 1,000,000.

Roméo Dallaire served as Force Commander of UNAMIR, the peacekeeping force forRwanda between 1993 and 1994.

In his book “Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda” (2003), he gives detaild description of what happened or did not happened.

He claimed that Annan was overly passive in his response to the imminent genocide. General Dallaire asserted that Annan held back UN troops from intervening to settle the conflict, and from providing more logistical and material support. He claimed that Annan failed to provide responses to his repeated faxes asking for access to a weapons depository; such weapons could have helped Dallaire defend the endangered Tutsis.

In 2004, ten years after the genocide in which an estimated 800,000 people were killed, Annan finally said, ”I could and should have done more to sound the alarm and rally support.”

UN chief’s Rwanda genocide regret

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3573229.stm

“At a memorial conference at the UN, Mr Annan said he realised he personally could have done more to rally support for international efforts to stop it.

The international community is guilty of sins of omission,” Mr Annan said.

The genocide – in which some 800,000 people died – occurred when Mr Annan was head of UN peacekeeping forces.

The UN Security Council failed to reinforce the small UN peacekeeping force in the country.

”The international community failed Rwanda and that must leave us always with a sense of bitter regret,” Mr Annan said.

He said the painful memory had influenced many of his later decisions as secretary general.

”I believed at that time that I was doing my best,” he said.

But I realised after the genocide that there was more that I could and should have done to sound the alarm and rally support.”

“In April 2000 the UN Security Council admitted responsibility for failing to stop the genocide.

The Canadian Foreign Minister, Bill Graham, told the conference that 10 years after the genocide the international community had still not learned how to stop such killings from happening again.

We lack the political will to achieve the necessary agreement on how to put in place the type of measures that will prevent a future Rwanda from happening,” he said.

Lessons learned?

The head of the small UN peacekeeping force in Rwandaat the time, Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire, told the conference that no-one was interested in saving Rwandans and the bulk of his force was ordered to leave.

He suggested that attitudes now had not changed.

I still believe that if an organisation decided to wipe out the 320 mountain gorillas there would be still more of a reaction by the international community to curtail or to stop that than there would be still today in attempting to protect thousands of human beings being slaughtered in the same country.

The UN has designated 7 April as international day of reflection on the genocide.

Mr Annan announced he was backing a call from the Rwandan government for the world to observe a minute of silence to remember the victims and resolve to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again.

”Let us be united in a way we were not 10 years ago,” he said.”

It took him 10 YEARS to admit that he “should have done more”!

And as we see now in Syria NOTHING HAS CHANGED, AND NOTHING HAS BEEN LEARNED.  It probably will take another 10 years before he admits the he, and UN, could have done more. The question is how many more civilians will have been killed before that?

Let’s continue to another of Kofi Annas “successes” when he was in charge and did absolutely nothing to prevent the massacre.

Balkans and the massacre in Srebrenica July 1995.

On 16 April 1993, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 819, which demanded that: all parties and others concerned treat Srebrenica and its surroundings as a safe area which should be free from any armed attack or any other hostile act. On 18 April 1993, the first group of UNPROFOR troops arrived in Srebrenica. On 8 May 1993 agreement was reached of demilitarization of Srebrenica. According to UN reports ”General Sefer Halilovic and General Ratko Mladic agreed on measures covering the whole of the Srebrenica enclave and the adjacent enclave of Zepa.

Under the terms of the new agreement, Bosnian forces within the enclave would hand over their weapons, ammunition and mines to UNPROFOR, after which Serbs’ ”heavy weapons and units that constituted a menace to the demilitarized zones which will have been established in Zepa and Srebrenica will be withdrawn.” Unlike the earlier agreement, the agreement of 8 May stated specifically that Srebrenica was to be considered a ”demilitarized zone,” as referred to in article 60 of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I).”.

A Security Council mission led by Diego Arria arrived in Srebrenica on 25 April 1993 and, in their subsequent report to the U.N., condemned the Serbs for perpetrating ”a slow-motion process of genocide.” The mission then stated that ”Serb forces must withdraw to points from which they cannot attack, harass or terrorise the town. UNPROFOR should be in a position to determine the related parameters. The mission believes, as does UNPROFOR, that the actual 4.5 km by 0.5 km decided as a safe area should be greatly expanded.” Specific instructions from United Nations Headquarters in New York stated that UNPROFOR should not be too zealous in searching for Bosnian weapons and, later, that the Serbs should withdraw their heavy weapons before the Bosnians gave up their weapons. The Serbs never did withdraw their heavy weapons

By early 1995, fewer and fewer supply convoys were making it through to the enclave. The already meager resources of the civilian population dwindled further and even the UN forces started running dangerously low on food, medicine, ammunition and fuel, eventually being forced to start patrolling the enclave on foot. Dutchbat soldiers who went out of the area on leave were not allowed to return and their number dropped from 600 to 400 men. In March and April, the Dutch soldiers noticed a build-up of Serb forces near two of the observation posts, ”OP Romeo” and ”OP Quebec”.

By mid 1995, the humanitarian situation of the Bosnian civilians and military personnel in the enclave was catastrophic. In May, following orders, Naser Orić and his staff left the enclave by helicopter to Tuzla, leaving ranking officers in command of the 28th Division. In late June and early July, the 28th Division issued a series of reports including urgent pleas for the humanitarian corridor to the enclave to be reopened. When this failed, Bosnian civilians began dying from starvation. On Friday, 7 July the mayor of Srebrenica reported 8 residents had died of starvation.

On 4 June 1995, the French commander of the UN forces in former Yugoslavia, general Bernard Janvier, secretly met Ratko Mladic to obtain the release of hostages, many of whom were French. Mladic demanded of Janvier that there would be no more air strikes.

The Serb offensive on Srebrenica began in earnest on 6 July 1995. In the following days, the five UNPROFOR observation posts, in the southern part of the enclave, fell one by one in the face of the Serb forces advance. Some of the Dutch soldiers retreated into the enclave after their posts were attacked, but the crews of the other observation posts surrendered into Serb custody. Simultaneously, the defending Bosnian forces came under heavy fire and were pushed back towards the town. Once the southern perimeter began to collapse, about 4,000 Bosnian residents, who had been living in a Swedish housing complex for refugees nearby, fled north into Srebrenica town. Dutch soldiers reported that the advancing Serbs were ”cleansing” the houses in the southern part of the enclave.

Colonel (ret.) Thomas Karremans was the commander of Dutchbat troops in Srebrenica.

In 1994 Karremans was appointed as commander of Dutchbat III battalion that was sent to the Srebrenica enclave. On 11th, 12th and 13th July this battalion had to deal with the capture of the enclave by Serb soldiers. Karremans requested NATO air support to defend the enclave, which arrived too late and was too little to stop the Serbian advance. After Serbian forces entered Srebrenica, Karremans met with Serb General Ratko Mladić. During the meeting Karremans was defensive and submissive, excusing himself from ever requesting air strikes against Bosnian Serb forces, claiming the decision was made by higher authorities based on information he provided. This is in sharp contrast with facts – it was determined that it was Karremans who requested air strikes several times, but they were first denied, then delayed, and later granted by UN General Janvier. After this Karremans was filmed raising a glass with war crimes suspect and Serb General Ratko Mladić.

Following negotiations between UN and Bosnian Serbs, on Friday, July 21st, 1995, lieutenant-colonel Karremans and Dutch UN soldiers were allowed to leave Srebrenica. On the farewell, Colonel Karremans accepted gifts from General Mladić, smiled, shook his hand and departed. Shortly after his return to The Netherlands Karremans was promoted to full colonel.

In July 1995 more than 8,000 Bosnian muslims, mainly men and boys, in and around the town of Srebrenicain Bosnia and Herzegovina, were executed by units of the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) under the command of General Ratko Mladić. The mass murder was described by the Secretary-General of the United Nations as the worst crime on European soil since the Second World War.

A paramilitary unit from Serbiaknown as the Scorpions, officially part of the Serbian Interior Ministry until 1991, also participated in the massacre.

The vast majority of those killed were adult men and teenage boys but the victims included boys aged under 15, men over the age of 65, women and reportedly even several babies. The Preliminary List of People Missing or Killed in Srebrenica compiled by the Bosnian Federal Commission of Missing Persons contains 8,373 names, some 500 of them under 18, and includes several dozen women and girls.

In 2005, in a message to the tenth anniversary commemoration of the genocide, the Secretary-General of the United Nations noted that, while blame lay first and foremost with those who planned and carried out the massacre and those who assisted and harboured them, great nations had failed to respond adequately, the UN itself had made serious errors of judgement and the tragedy of Srebrenica would haunt the UN’s history forever

‘MAY WE ALL LEARN AND ACT ON THE LESSONS OF SREBRENICA’, SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL, IN MESSAGE TO ANNIVERSARY CEREMONY

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2005/sgsm9993.doc.htm

“Today, we pay tribute to the victims of a terrible crime -– the worst on European soil since the Second World War.  Throughout the world, this date is marked as a grim reminder of man’s inhumanity to man.”

“But we cannot evade our own share of responsibility.

As I wrote in my report in 1999, we made serious errors of judgement, rooted in a philosophy of impartiality and non-violence which, however admirable, was unsuited to the conflict in Bosnia.  That is why, as I also wrote, “the tragedy of Srebrenica will haunt our history forever”.

And

May we all learn, and act on, the lessons of Srebrenica.”

Here we go again; it took him another 10 YEARS to admit that he and UN “should have done more”!

And for lessons learned, remember he said the same thing about Rwanda. Eeehh.. and just watch the glorious UN ceasefire and observation plan under Annan in Syria.

The same old same old.

These hypocrites keep repeating at regular intervals how “sorry” they are and how they could have “done more”.  And then they gladly move on to the next catastrophe and do exactly the same again (i.e. nothing). Where a lot of civilians get massacred, slaughtered etc.

That is international and UN “diplomacy” in a nutshell.

And this UN “proudly” upholds its tradition of doing ABSOLUTLY NOTHING when it really maters, like Rwanda, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Darfur, Bosnia (Srebrenica anyone?) etc. And now inSyria.

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 just continues as nothing has happened.

Unforgiven, unforgotten, unresolved: Bosnia 20 years on

Visegrad, site of one of the worst atrocities of the Bosnian war, is still in denial about the past

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/8a698dbe-73af-11e1-aab3-00144feab49a.html#axzz1qB2x2a8t

“I have come, after all, to thelandofSerbnationalist permafrost. Visegrad is in Republika Srpska, the ethnically cleansed enclave carved out by Radovan Karadzic in the 1992-1995 war. When I ask about the picture, the mayor looks a little embarrassed, as he is, understandably, when I ask how Visegrad is confronting its past.

“There are no solutions,” he says. “Time has to pass. Where would we start if we got involved in dealing with the past? Would we not have to begin with theOttoman empire? All truths have to come to the surface and everyone who committed crimes should be prosecuted, but we have to look at everyone equally.”

He speaks, carefully, as if by rote. I recall the words of a young Bosnian Muslim lawyer I had spoken to a day before. His family were stalwarts of Visegrad’s Muslim establishment before the war. “Visegrad was worse than Srebrenica,” he had told me. “It was a small, slow genocide that went on for weeks. Teachers murdered pupils. Pupils murdered teachers. Godfathers murdered each other … It was a hunting party and we were the prey.”

And the final irony, survivors of the July 1995 massacre sued the UN for it’s responsibility in the massacre. But the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that the UN has “the most far-reaching form of immunity and cannot be prosecuted by any national court”.

In other words, regardless how UN screws up and regardless how many civilians get killed, massacred, slaughtered, genocide etc. etc., NOTHING IS EVER GOING TO HAPPEN TO THE ONES RESPONSIBLE!

U.N. can’t be tried for Srebrenica massacre -Dutch court

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/13/us-srebrenica-netherlands-un-idUSBRE83C0WH20120413

“The Dutch Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the United Nations cannot be prosecuted in the Netherlands for failing to prevent genocide against Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica near the end of Bosnia‘s war in 1995.

The final ruling was the last legal option in theNetherlandsfor a group of survivors of the July 1995 massacre, when as many as 8,000 boys and men were killed by Serb forces in an area that the United Nations had declared a ”safe haven”.

Lawyers representing a group of 6,000 survivors calling themselves the Mothers of Srebrenica said they would appeal against the decision at the European Court of Human Rights.

The U.N., as the international human rights champion, should not stand above the law but should take responsibility for its role in the Srebrenica genocide in 1995,” a statement issued by the group said.

This is a violation of fundamental human rights and in contravention of the case law of the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) and the European Court of Justice (ECJ).”

In 2001 the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) judged that the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre was an act of genocide.”

”The Supreme Court upholds the opinion of the (lower) court that the U.N. has the most far-reaching form of immunity and cannot be prosecuted by any national court,” a summary of the ruling said.”

Syria: The evil results of doing good

The Annan Plan is ‘worse than feckless’, because it buys the Assad regime time and precludes more effective options.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/03/2012328723544342.html?utm_content=automateplus&amp

“Yes, all this makes Kofi Annan a logical choice as emissary. He is, after all, a professional peacemaker. He will not choose sides, and his six-point interim peace proposal for Syria is a model of even-handedness, both as between the regime and the rebels, and as between their respective allies. When circumstances will not permit distinctions between oppressor and oppressed, between aggressor and victim, or between right and wrong, Kofi is your man. The patient Ghanaian will deal impartially with anyone. He will sit, as he did over the past weekend with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, to discuss his peace proposal, as though the latter were earnestly seeking justice in the Levant.

But does anyone honestly think that the Syrian regime, committed as it is to a programme of violent intimidation and collective punishment, will provide ”full humanitarian access”, or a daily ”humanitarian pause” for those whom it suspects of aiding its adversaries? What are the chances that the tender Mr Assad will release detainees who may promptly rejoin the struggle against him, or that he will permit foreign journalists to freely document his atrocities? Who would want to bet his life, or the lives of those dear to him, that Bashar and his generals will honour a ceasefire, or engage in good faith in a ”political dialogue” with those who are challenging their power?

Pursuing such ”solutions” is worse than feckless, for it forestalls other, potentially effective actions. By permitting the Syrian regime added time, it is morally equivalent to aiding and abetting Bashar al-Assad.

Diplomats at the UN embraced the Annan proposals – not because they had any chance of implementation, but because they demonstrated ”progress”. Diplomats love a process, and that’s what the Annan Plan provides them. The hope is that when – not if – the proposals are effectively stymied by Syria, the unanimously approved UN ”statement” by which the Annan proposals were launched might then be passed as a ”resolution”. More ”progress”. But a feckless statement will not be any more effective for having become a resolution. This is the diplomatic equivalent of Zeno’s Paradox, for each progressively smaller step forward slowly converges on, but can never pass the hard barrier of Sino-Russian obduracy.

Violence continues

Meanwhile, the Syrian Army that devastated Baba Amr continues its brutal shelling of al-Khalidiya and its offensive in Hama Province. And the rebels of the Free Syrian Army, who are rapidly running out of arms and ammunition, are being progressively forced to flee toTurkey andLebanon.”

But such good as can be done in these circumstances will only be done by those who are willing to climb metaphorically into the ring, and to dirty themselves in the process of providing such assistance as is possible to the oppressed of Syria as they struggle to liberate themselves from an unspeakable regime. It will mean taking sides.”

“For what the situation needs is not high-minded sentiments, but effective, lethal aid to Syrians willing to fight for basic freedoms against a regime that has shed any pretense of legitimacy or respectability.

Edmund Burke famously said that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. The good and high-minded people, the Kofi Annans if you will, who vote on statements and pass resolutions, who promote quixotic peace proposals, who hold earnest parleys with implacable dictators, may appear to have clean hands in the end. Those who engage, who try to do good in an evil world, on the other hand, will be compromised. But when ultimately the smoke has cleared, both literally and metaphorically, and the final accounting is made, and judgments are passed on all those implicated, either for their action or for their inaction, it will be upon the shoulders of the ”good” that the weight of moral opprobrium should fall.”

Douma – ”We do not want to live easily in humiliation rather we die with pride”

Another example under Annans watch, the United Nations’ Oil for Food Programme in Iraq. Below is just a small sample of all the corruption which was going on.

The Oil-for-Food Programme (OFF), established by the United Nations in 1995 (under UN Security Council Resolution 986) was established with the stated intent to allow Iraq to sell oil on the world market in exchange for food, medicine, and other humanitarian needs for ordinary Iraqi citizens without allowing Iraq to boost its military capabilities.

The programme was introduced by United States President Bill Clinton’s administration in 1995, as a response to arguments that ordinary Iraqi citizens were inordinately affected by the international economic sanctions aimed at the demilitarisation of Saddam Hussein’sIraq, imposed in the wake of the first Gulf War. The sanctions were discontinued on November 21, 2003after theU.S.invasion ofIraq, and the humanitarian functions turned over to the Coalition Provisional Authority

In addition to criticism of the basic approach, the programme suffered from widespread corruption and abuse.

Benon Sevan of Cyprus, was head of  the programme. While Benon Sevan was in charge of the programme, he stonewalled efforts to review and investigate the programme. He ordered his staff that complaints about illegal payoffs should be formally filed with the whistleblower’s country, making them public and allowing Iraq to bar any whistleblowers. In 2000, Dileep Nair, the UN corruption watchdog, wanted to determine the programme’s level of vulnerability. Sevan, along with UN Deputy Secretary-General, Louise Frechette, rejected any such investigation, claiming that it would be too expensive to be worthwhile. Sevan ordered the shredding of years’ worth of documents concerning the programme.

In response to these criticisms, and to evidence acquired after the United Statesinvasion of Iraq, UN Secretary-General accusations were made that skimmed profits were being used to buy influence at the UN and with Kofi Annan himself.

According to an interim report released on February 3, 2005by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker’s commission, much of the food aid supplied under the programme ”was unfit for human consumption”. The report concluded that Sevan had accepted nearly $150,000 in bribes over the course of the programme, and in 2005 he was suspended from his position at the United Nations as a result of the investigation of fraud in the programme.

Peter van Walsum, the now-retired Ambassador of the Netherlandsto the United Nations and chairman of the Iraq Sanctions Committee from 1999 to 2000, speculated in a recent book that Iraq deliberately divided the Security Council by awarding contracts to France, Russia, and China but not to the United Kingdom and the United States. He also stated he encountered a number of cases in which he felt the lack of Iraqi cooperation was designed to exacerbate the suffering of its own people. He also claimed that it was his opinion that the sanctions were not an effective deterrent.

Until 2001, the money for the Oil-for-Food Programme transited through the BNP Paribas bank, whose main private share-holder is Iraqi-born Nadhmi Auchi, a man estimated to be worth about $1 billion according to Forbes, and ranks 13th in Britain according to The Guardian. Auchi received a 15-month suspended sentence for his involvement in the Elf scandal, which has been qualified by the British newspaper as ”the biggest fraud inquiry in Europe since the Second World War. Elf became a private bank for its executives who spent £200 million on political favours, mistresses, jewellery, fine art, villas and apartments”. Elf, an oil company, merged with TotalFina to become Total S.A. in 2003.

One of the earliest allegations of wrongdoing in the programme surfaced on 25 January 2004, when al Mada, a daily newspaper in Iraq, published a list of individuals and organizations alleged to have received oil sales contracts via the UN’s Oil-for-Food Programme. The list came from over 15,000 documents which were reportedly found in the state-owned Iraqi oil corporation, which had close links to the Iraqi Oil Ministry.

Named in the list of beneficiaries were British MP George Galloway and his charity, the Mariam Fund; former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua; and Shaker al-Kaffaji, an Iraqi-American businessman, India’s foreign minister, Natwar Singh, was removed from office because of his role in the scandal. Many prominent Russian firms and individuals were also included on the al Mada list. Even the Russian Orthodox Church was supposedly involved in illegal oil trading. The former assistant to the Vatican secretary of state, Reverend Jean-Marie Benjamin, is said to have received rights to sell 4.5 million barrels.

The scheme is alleged to have worked in this way: individuals and organizations sympathetic to the Iraqi regime, or those just easily bribed, were offered oil contracts through the Oil-for-Food Programme. These contracts for Iraqi oil could then be sold on the open world market and the seller was allowed to keep a transaction fee, said to be between $0.15 and $0.50/barrel oil sold. The seller was then to refund the Iraqi government a certain percentage of the commission.

The final official version of the Iraq Survey Group report (Duelfer Report) cites only France, Russia and China as violators who paid kickbacks. According to the report, the top three recipients of oil included Russia (30%), France (15%), and China (10%). The US received 2–3%.

According to high-ranking Russian SVR defector Tretyakov, the Oil-for-Food program was sabotaged by an undercover Russian intelligence officer Alexander Kramar who worked in the UN. Kramar set up the artificially low oil prices in 1998 to allow Saddam to use the oil vouchers as lucrative bribes. The difference between the market price and the artificial price (defined by Kramar) was pocketed by people who received the vouchers from Saddam. Among the bribed were top officials from Russia, France, and China. The biggest part of vouchers (to buy 1,366 billion barrels of oil) went to forty-six individuals or organizations in Russia, including Russian Orthodox Church. They pocketed $476 million. Among Russians who received the money were Alexander Voloshin and Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Sergei Isakov, a buddy of Voloshin, carried bags with money from Moscow to Baghdad to return some of the ”earned” money as kickbacks to Saddam.

This is “sanctions” a la UN.

GAO investigation after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq and subsequent Coalition victory over the Iraqi army, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) was given the task of finalizing all Oil-for-Food related supply contracts made with the now-defunct regime as well as tracking down the personal fortunes of former regime members. During the execution of this task, the GAO found weaknesses in the programme that allowed kickbacks and other sources of wealth for Saddam Hussein.

The GAO estimates that the Saddam Hussein regime generated $10.1 billion in illegal revenues. This figure includes $5.7 billion from oil smuggling and $4.4 billion in illicit surcharges on oil sales and after-sales charges on suppliers. The scale of the fraud was far more extensive than the GAO had previously estimated. A U.S. Department of Defense study, cited by the GAO, evaluated 759 contracts administered through the Oil-for-Food Programme and found that nearly half had been overpriced, by an average of 21 percent.Unlike the 661 committee, members of the Security Council had the authority to launch investigations into contracts and to stop any contract they did not like. The British and the Americans had turned down hundreds of Oil-for-Food contract requests, but these were blocked primarily on the grounds that the items being imported were dual-use technologies.

Joseph A. Christoff, director of international affairs and trade at the General Accounting Office, told a House hearing that UN auditors had refused to release the internal audits of the Oil-for-Food Programme. Benon Sevan, with support from Kofi Annan, had written letters to all former Oil-for-Food contractors asking them to consult Sevan before releasing any documents to GAO or US congressional inquiry panels.Throughout its history, the programme had received both complaints from critics saying that it needed to be more open and complaints from companies about proprietary information being disclosed.

The United Nations has denied all requests by the GAO for access to confidential internal audits of the Oil-for-Food Programme.

GAO report here:

http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d04651t.pdf

The Paul Volcker report here:

http://www.iic-offp.org/documents/IIC%20Final%20Report%2027Oct2005.pdf

And then there where all these allegations against his son Kojo Annan who worked for Cotecna:

The younger Annan stopped working for Cotecna in late 1998, but it now turns out that he continued to receive money from Cotecna not only through 1999, as recently reported, but right up until February of this year. The timing coincides with the entire duration of Cotecna’s work for the U.N. oil-for-food program. It now appears the payments to the younger Annan ended three months after the U.N., in November, 2003, closed out its role in oil-for-food and handed over the remains of the program to the Coalition Provisional Authority inBaghdad.

Cotecna Inspection Services SA, which from 1998-2003 held a lucrative contract with the U.N. to monitor goods arriving in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq under the oil-for-food program

The pattern in this scandal has been that Secretary-General Annan, until confronted by the press, has either failed to spot or failed to disclose timely information about Cotecna’s paychecks for his son

“So far, the secretary-general has refused requests from Congress for inter views with U.N. staff, or access to the U.N.’s 55 internal audits of the oil-for food program. One of those internal audits, which leaked this past May, noted serious irregularities with the U.N.’s handling of the Cotecna contract, including an ”inappropriate” upward revision of Cotecna’s lowball $4.87 million bid, just four days after Cotecna and the U.N. signed the deal.

At every turn, the saga of the secretary-general’s family ties to Cotecna raises questions about Kofi Annan’s handling of potential conflicts of interest. Even if Mr. Annan cannot be held responsible for the decisions of his son, his job does entail responsibility for the actions of the U.N. Secretariat. As the oil-for-food scandal has unfolded, it has become clear that U.N. secrecy and lack of accountability evolved, in effect, into complicity with Saddam’s scams and influence-buying. By now, between congressional and other investigations, there are allegations that Saddam, on Mr. Annan’s watch, under U.N. sanctions and oil-for-food supervision, scammed and smuggled some $17.3 billion in oil money meant for relief, using some of that money to fund terrorism, import weapons, and buy influence with Security Council members France, Russia, and China.

On top of that, only now is it learned that for fully more than eight years, from 1995-2004, the secretary-general’s son was in one way or another on the payroll of Cotecna, which for almost five of those years held a crucial oil-for-food inspection contract with the U.N. Secretariat. All this, said the investigator for Mr. Hyde’s congressional committee, is good reason why ”the U.N. Secretariat should move swiftly to lift the gag order on U.N. employees and contractors and publicly release its oil-for-food program files.”

Are you not impressed with these guys?

Then we have various organization of the UN like the Human Rights Council witch replaced the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights because it was so one-sided and more like a forum for dictators.

Well, it only got worse and it’s funded by our tax money.

These people are supposed to protect the civilian population all over the world, including Syria. Instead, the butchers sit at the table. Totally failing its founding mission to defend the world’s victims of human rights violations.

According to it’s statues:

“The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them. It has the ability to discuss all thematic human rights issues and situations that require its attention throughout the year. It meets at the UN Office atGeneva. “

Here in glaring detail who corrupt and one-sided, selective and politicized this UN Human Rights Council is by Unwatch Director Hillel Neuer in a speech on March 19, 2012 in the Human Rights Council:

With Syria and Mideast Aflame, UN Maintains Permanent Focus onIsrael

http://www.unwatch.org/site/c.bdKKISNqEmG/b.1289203/apps/s/content.asp?ct=11657151

”delivered by Executive Director Hillel Neuer on March 19, 2012, under Agenda Item 7, “Human rights situation inPalestineand other occupied Arab territories.”

“Thank you, Mr. President.

Starting three years ago in Tehran, then spreading the past year from Tunis to Tahrir Square, and continuing as we speak in Hama, Homs and Deraa, millions of young men and women have braved bullets and beatings to peacefully stand up for their rights; to cry out—after decades of corruption, cruelty and oppression—for human dignity and freedom.

As they break the chains of their bondage, many lift their heads up and ask: Where was the world? In all the years that we were imprisoned by brutal bullies that trampled our basic human rights, where was the United Nations?

To these courageous and idealistic youth, we must tell the truth. We must say to them in all candor: Sadly, world policy was to look away from your suffering.

We must tell them: Despite its declared mission to protect human rights, when faced with gross human rights abuses by Col. Qaddafi’s Libya, Assad’s Syria, Mubarak’s Egypt and others, UN policy—this council’s policy—was to look away.

Indeed, until the Arab Spring, abuses by these governments were met by not a single council resolution, inquiry, or urgent session.

We must also tell them: It was worse than that. The policy, embraced in session after session of this council, was to allow these governments to act and be treated as champions of human rights. In 2003, Col. Qaddafi’s Libya was elected Chair. In 2010, it was reelected to this council.

The agenda item under which we meet today—the only one that targets a single country, Israel—is the living symbol of this illogical and immoral policy.

For decades, while thousands were tortured in Libya, Syria and Egypt, the only country to be the object of a permanent agenda item was Israel. Under this item, the countries that introduced the resolutions, and made the accusations, were themselves the violators.

And yet despite everything that happened this past year, despite the sudden realization that hundreds of millions living across the Middle East were being victimized by their governments, this Council has just renewed its permanent agenda item on Israel.

This Council decided that no agenda item was needed on Syria, Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia or any of the other countries in the Middle East—or around the world. Only on Israel.

And so today we ask: What if?

What if the world, what if the United Nations, what if this Council had turned a spotlight on the abuses of the Middle East’s brutal dictators, and held them to account?

What if, over the past decades, these tyrants’ systems of repression had been exposed, if they had been stripped of international legitimacy, if world pressure were brought to bear? Would they still be in power?

Would President Assad still be in power? Would he still be murdering his own citizens today?

Thank you, Mr. President.”

And another one:

Why Does the U.N. Human Rights Council Turn A Blind Eye to Terrorism?

http://www.unwatch.org/site/c.bdKKISNqEmG/b.1289203/apps/s/content.asp?ct=11660747

“UN Watch testimony before the UN Human Rights Council, 19th Session,March 5, 2012,Geneva, delivered by executive director Hillel Neuer.

Thank you, Mr. President.

UN Watch welcomes the report on the issue of human rights of victims of terrorism, A/HRC/19/38, which is before us today. We support the exchange of information on efforts made at the international level to protect the rights of victims of terrorism and their families.

Terrorism does not grow in a vacuum. It breeds on a ground of hatred. It thrives in an atmosphere that teaches extremism, and that legitimizes violence against civilians.

This Council is the world’s highest human rights body. As such, it has the unique ability—through its sessions, resolutions and experts—to send the opposite message. It can educate the hearts and minds of millions with the message that the deliberate killing of civilians is wrong—that terrorism is illegal, immoral and a violation of the right to life. It can show sympathy and support for the victims.

And so we ask: how has the Council responded to acts of terrorism? What messages has it sent? Is its current approach helping victims?

Let us consider the record.

Over the past decade, terrorist attacks were perpetrated in New York; in London; in Madrid; in Mumbai; in Iraq; and in Jerusalem. These attacks, and many more, were carried out in the name of an extremist religious ideology. Thousands of innocents were killed.

How many urgent sessions did this Council convene to condemn these atrocities?

Not one.

How many inquiries were created?

Not one.

How many resolutions were adopted in response to these attacks?

Not one.

Instead, when justice was served on Osama Bin Laden, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay questioned this act.

Instead, after staying silent when Hamas and Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets against civilians, this Council convened sessions, inquiries and reports condemning the victim for defending itself.

Instead, this Council appointed an expert, Richard Falk, whom the Palestinian Authority itself has accused of being “a partisan of Hamas.”

Mr. President,

To protect the human rights of victims of terrorism, it is time to adopt a new approach.

Thank you, Mr. President.”

Another glorious example of this UN madness:

U.N.-ADOPTED REPORT ON QADDAFI RIGHTS RECORD CALLED ”ABHORRENT” BY AMNESTY USA CHIEF

http://www.unwatch.org/site/c.bdKKISNqEmG/b.1289203/apps/s/content.asp?ct=11663531

March 14, 2012   A U.N. report ridiculed worldwide for lavishing praise on the Qaddafi regime’s human rights record was unanimously adopted today by the 47-nation UN Human Rights Council, with president Laura Dupuy Lasserre overruling the objection made in the plenary by UN Watch.

After it was first exposed by UN Watch last year, the report card giving high marks to Qaddafi was mocked by the New York Times, The Economist and other major media worldwide, causing a red-faced UN to postpone the report’s adoption repeatedly — until today.

Said the Times:

Until Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s violent suppression of unrest in recent weeks, the United Nations Human Rights Council was kind in its judgment of Libya. In January, it produced a draft report on the country that reads like an international roll call of fulsome praise, when not delicately suggesting improvements. Evidently, within the 47-nation council, some pots are loath to call kettles black, at least until events force their hand. Last week Libya was suspended from the body, and the report was shelved.” 

Even ardent defenders of the council are slamming the report. Echoing UN Watch’s recent protest, Suzanne Nosssel, the head of Amnesty USA and former top human rights official in the Obama Administration, described the Libya report as ”abhorrent,” and called for a complete ”redo.”

Testimony delivered before UN Human Rights Council by UN Watch director Hillel Neuer,March 14, 2012.

Thank you, Madam President.

In the 16th session last year we outlined our grave concerns with this report, which records this council’s 2010 review of Libya’s human rights record under the rule of Col. Moammar Qaddafi.

We recall that the report before us includes the following:

•“Pakistan praised the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya’s commitment to human rights.”

•“Algeria noted the efforts of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya to promote human rights.”

•“The Islamic Republic of Iran noted that the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya had implemented a number of international human rights instruments and had cooperated with relevant treaty bodies.”

•“Qatar praised the legal framework for the protection of human rights and freedoms.”

•“Sudan noted the country’s positive experience in achieving a high school enrolment rate and improvements in the education of women.”

•“The Syrian Arab Republic praised the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya for its serious commitment to and interaction with the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms. It commended the country for its democratic regime.”

•“North Korea praised the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya for its achievements in the protection of human rights.”

•“Palestine commended the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya for the consultations held with civil society in the preparation of the national report, which demonstrated its commitment to the improved enjoyment of human rights.Palestinepraised the country for the Great Green Document on Human Rights.”

•“Brazil noted the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya’s economic and social progress.”

Madam President,

As delegates here know, for years UN Watch brought victims of Libyan torture to testify before this council, including Bulgarian nurse Kristyana Valchyeva, Ashraf al-Hajouj and the brother of Fathi Eljahmi.  Libyan delegates rudely interrupted them, and called them liars.

In May 2010, we pleaded for Libya not to be elected to this council. Tragically, our voice was ignored; it was elected in great numbers. Not a single country spoke in opposition.

Madam President,

The 2010 review that is before us today does not live up to basic standards. It should be completely redone.

For the victims, is that too much to ask?

Thank you, Madam President.”

And more praise of dictators:

Qaddafi Regime’s Human Rights Record Praised in Controversial Report

http://theglobaljournal.net/news/world/qaddafi-regime-s-human-rights-record-praised-in-controversial-report.html

“A controversial report dealing with the extent of Libya’s pre-revolutionary compliance with human rights norms is currently being debated by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Despite unequivocally praising the record of the notoriously repressive Qaddafi regime, which was found by a separate commission of inquiry to be responsible for gross violations of human rights, it is expected the report will be adopted next week by the 47-nation council.

The report forms part of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism – a state-level peer evaluation process – and was originally scheduled for consideration at a session held last March, following a review undertaken in November 2010. At the time, Libya’s human rights record was lauded by Algeria, Sudan, Qatar, Iran, North Korea and Syria, amongst others. The summary of the report “noted with appreciation the country’s commitment to upholding human rights on the ground.”

And more:

Does Obama have Israel’s back or just the UN’s?

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/03/27/does-obama-have-israels-back-or-just-uns/#ixzz1qLgoxHV0

“The Bush administration refused to lend the UN “Human Rights” Council the credibility offered by U.S. membership and withheld taxpayer dollars accordingly.

In 2009 President Obama, signed on, paid the dues, and is currently seeking a second three-year term for the United States on the Council.

The only trouble is, in just six short years the body created in 2006 as a reform of the discredited UN Human Rights Commission, has gone from very bad to even worse.

As of this past Friday, 42% of all the resolutions and decisions critical of the human rights records of specific states ever adopted by the Council have been directed at Israel. The scorecard was 44 resolutions against Israel and 61 resolutions directed at all of the other 192 UN members combined. And Council resolutions never even mention “Hamas.”

The Council has a permanent agenda governing every regular session composed of ten items, one reserved for criticizingIsraeland one for “human rights situations that require the Council’s attention” anywhere else.

192 of 193 UN members meet in five regional groups before the Council’s public sessions to strategize and share information – Israel is the only UN state excluded.

The Council has commissioned thirty reports condemning Israel alone. That’s compared to five specific reports on Syria’s executioners, three on Iran’s genocidal regime, and none on Council members like Saudi Arabia – which tyrannizes its entire female population, or China – which denies more than a billion people elementary freedoms.

The reports damning Israel all follow the same pattern. Israel’s actions to defend itself – combating rocket attacks from Gaza, preventing a Gaza port for Iranian arms, establishing checkpoints to deny terrorists a way in to Israel, targeting the rocket launchers and terrorist masterminds – all become violations of Palestinian rights. Like the infamous Goldstone report,Israelis the villain and Palestinians are the victims from the outset.

The reports aren’t made for dusty library shelves. They are terrorist manifestos and manuals in what can best be described as Anti-Semitism 101. “

“UN demonization is not idle bureaucratese. Last March Palestinian terrorists stabbed and killed members of the Fogel family, three children and their parents, including a 3-month old baby “settler.” But a year later, the only reference to “violence” in this perverse UN “human rights” resolution was trumped-up “violence by Israeli settlers.”

So where was the Obama administration? Its UN Geneva Ambassador Eileen Donahoe ducked out, and a political counselor and a first secretary were sent in to cast and explain America’s vote against the slew of new anti-Israel resolutions

Team Obama decided to use this moment to criticize Israel– “we do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity” – and to reinforce the Council’s bona fides by depicting Americans as a member of a like-minded club. “As members of the Human Rights Council, we all share a responsibility to promote and protect human rights.”

Everyone listening understood the code language. President Obama cares more about propping up the credibility of the Council than he does about protecting Israel from UN-driven harm.

In case anyone missed it, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland was asked at a Friday briefing: “the council keeps doing these things that you say are unwise and biased and one-sided. Why are you a member?” Her response: “the Human Rights Council…generally provides a good moral bellwether.”

Anne Bayefsky is director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust

This is a good one, a representative of the Assad regime, denounces Israel for, alleged, violations of human rights on the Golan Heights. This is the same regime who had slaughtered around 9000 people at the times, some of them sought refuge on the Israeli side of Golan. 

UN Human Rights Council Exposed

http://www.aim.org/guest-column/un-human-rights-council-exposed/

“On Friday, the HRC will conclude a month long deliberation by submitting four more resolutions condemningIsrael.

The HRC heard testimony from a representative of the Assad regime, in formulating one of the resolutions, which denounces Israel for, alleged, violations of human rights on the Golan Heights.  At the same time, the Assad regime has already murdered 8,000 Syrian dissidents and rebels, causing tens of thousands of refugees, some seeking asylum in Israel’s Golan Heights.

80% of all 2010 UN resolutions criticizing specific countries for human rights violations were directed at Israel. Only six other UN members faced human rights criticism at all, one of which was the United States. The HRC subjected the USA to harsh criticism—by Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, Iran and Russia—for, supposed, human rights violations. The HRC criticized the elimination of Bin-Laden and Israel’s defense against PLO, Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists.”

And

The true face of ‘human rights’ at the UN

http://www.unwatch.org/site/c.bdKKISNqEmG/b.1289203/apps/s/content.asp?ct=11664787

“GENEVA— I have spent the past few days inGenevawith some of the most remarkably brave people one is ever likely to meet. All have suffered horrendously for calling for freedoms in their countries — the kind of freedoms that people elsewhere take for granted.

But none of them were invited to Geneva by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the UN’s most prominent body that is supposed to deal with human rights, which is meeting here in annual session.

This is the organization behind the infamous and now discredited “Goldstone report” on Gaza. This is the organization that in 2009 praised Sri Lanka’s human rights record shortly after that country’s military had killed 40,000 Tamil civilians.

On Monday, I sat in on this year’s UNHRC debate, and listened to the Syrian ambassador — with a straight face and with no gasps of disapproval from other delegates — tell the chamber that it was really Israelis who were behind the ongoing violence in Syria. And I heard delegates from Cuba, Syria, Belarus, Zimbabwe, Venezuela and elsewhere praise the Iranian government’s human rights record. (In fact, in addition to a litany of other abuses, Iran carried out the highest number of executions of any country in the world last year, for such “crimes” as being homosexual, or being a member of the Baha’i faith — though it is true that some other countries’ delegates did condemn Syria and Iran for other matters.) This week, the HRC also adopted a report heaping praise on the Gaddafi regime’s human rights record.

The human rights ambassadors engaged in this activity while sitting under the newly painted ceiling art of the council chamber — a remarkably unimpressive piece that the UN says cost $23-million — money that the UN might have used to, say, feed starving children in Africa.

In the entrance to the chamber, two pieces of art, from the time before its renovation, remain. On one, the plaque reads “A statue of Maat, ancient goddess of truth and justice”; it was donated by Egypt’s Mubarak regime. On the other, it says “A statue of Nemesis, Goddess of justice, donated by the Syrian government.”

Just down the road from the UN, another human-rights summit took place the following day — one where actual human rights heroes were present. That summit was organized by UN Watch, and a coalition of 20 other human-rights groups, fromTibet toUganda.

Among the speakers were Chinese dissidents Ren Wanding, who during more than 10 years in prison produced a two-volume attack on the Chinese government painstakingly written on toilet paper; and Yang Jianli, who was released from jail in 2007, and who in 2010 was asked by the jailed Liu Xiaobo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on his behalf.

Also speaking were Joo-il Kim and Song Ju Kim, who endured a living hell in North Korea before risking their lives to escape. And Nestor Rodriguez Lobaina, who survived 20 years in prisons in Castro’s Cuba, where he was severely tortured and had his bones broken on many occasions. He was finally released last year and immediately expelled from Cuba. He has now taken refuge in Spain.

Then there was Zimbabwean activist Jestina Mukoko, who was imprisoned and tortured for calling for democracy in her country. And Burmese activist Zoya Phan, a member of the Karen minority, which has undergone virtual genocide in recent decades. In addition, there were other brave democracy campaigners fromVietnam, Tibet, Pakistan and elsewhere.

I chaired the final session, which was on the Middle East. Impassioned speeches were given by Maikel Nabil, a young Egyptian veterinary student released seven weeks ago after enduring 302 days in a Cairo prison. For much of this time, he was held in solidarity confinement in a one-metre square space. In other periods, he was packed into a cell with 50 common criminals who were bribed by the guards to beat him. Maikel’s crime? After President Mubarak’s ousting last year, he dared to ask the Egyptian military to cede power too, and wrote blog posts calling for Egyptian society to treat women, gays and Jews with respect. In jail, Maikel went on a hunger strike for 80 days and almost died. But none of this broke him, and on his release on January 24 he waved a “V for victory” sign to waiting supporters.

Also on the panel was Ebrahim Mehtari who, for daring to oppose Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s 2009 presidential bid in his nativeIran, was thrown into prison, raped, tortured and left for dead on the side of a road. Ebrahim’s life is still at risk, since he is one of the few who speak out about the widespread use of sexual torture in Iranian prisons.

Finally, there was 20-year-old Hadeel Kouki, who had been studying English literature in the Syrian city of Aleppo. Caught trying to bring medical supplies to children injured in one of her government’s barbaric and indiscriminate bombardments of civilians last year, she was imprisoned for eight weeks. During that time, she was subjected to electric shocks and repeatedly raped by prison guards. She asked me to tell the world the name of the guard she says was her chief rapist: Abdul Hakeem Abdullatif.

Upon her release, Hadeel managed to escape across the border to Turkey. She has now been offered political asylum by a Western country. I won’t name that country since Syrian thugs — who see her as a particular threat because she is a Christian standing up against the regime when Syria’s Christian leadership are still backing Assad — sent her messages only last week, warning that “we will catch up with you wherever you are and throw acid all over your beautiful face”.

American and Canadian embassy staff came to UN Watch’s alternative Geneva human rights summit. But where were the other ambassadors? Does the UN care about human rights? Or does it prefer to be in league with the criminals of the world?”

And some more of this one-sided madness, this time from UNESCO:

UNESCO condemns Syria, keeps it in rights committee

http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/03/08/unesco-syria-idINDEE8270FP20120308

“U.N. cultural agency UNESCO condemned Syriaon Thursday for its crackdown on a year-long uprising but did not expel Damascus from its human rights committee as some Western and Arab countries had demanded, diplomatic sources said.

The executive board of the U.N. Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) elected Syria to two panels in November, including one that assesses human rights violations.

Angered by Syria’s inclusion on the committee, a group of Western and Arab nations had pressed for Syria‘s expulsion following the violence in the country.

But a resolution, seen by Reuters and submitted by Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Britain, Denmark, and other countries, stopped short of expelling Damascus from the key committee.

Washington and campaigners criticised the ommission.

”The United Statesis profoundly disappointed that this resolution does not call for the outright removal ofSyriafrom the Committee on Conventions and Recommendations – something for which we have repeatedly called for,” said Ambassador David Killion, U.S. Permanent Representative to UNESCO.

Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, which has been campaigning to getSyriaexpelled from UNESCO, called the decision scandalous.

For UNESCO to keep Assad on a human rights committee while his regime mercilessly murders its own people is simply immoral, indefensible and an insult to Syria’s victims,” he said.

The resolution condemned Damascus for ”the continued widespread and systematic violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities.”

“Ambassadors, including those of the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Qatarand Kuwait, had asked in December for Syria’s situation to be discussed at the 58-member UNESCO executive board. Russia last week attempted to block the move and appears to have succeeded in convincing members to water down the resolution.”

I think I stop here. You got the picture.

And the prospect for this UN cease fire with these people in charge.

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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 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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