The roving eye
EXPOSED: THE ARAB AGENDA IN SYRIA
By Pepe Escobar
Asia Times Online
February 4, 2012
Here's a crash course on the "democratic" machinations of the Arab League -- rather the GCC League, as real power in this pan-Arab organization is wielded by two of the six Persian Gulf monarchies composing the Gulf Cooperation Council, also known as Gulf Counter-revolution Club: Qatar and the House of Saud.
Essentially, the GCC created an Arab League group to monitor what's going on in Syria. The Syrian National Council -- based in North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member countries Turkey and France -- enthusiastically supported it. It's telling that Syria's neighbor Lebanon did not.
When the over 160 monitors, after one month of enquiries, issued their report . . . surprise! The report did not follow the official GCC line -- which is that the "evil" Bashar al-Assad government is indiscriminately, and unilaterally, killing its own people, and so regime change is in order.
The Arab League's Ministerial Committee had approved the report, with four votes in favor (Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, and GCC member Oman) and only one against; guess who, Qatar -- which is now presiding the Arab League because the emirate bought their (rotating) turn from the Palestinian Authority.
So the report was either ignored (by Western corporate media) or mercilessly destroyed -- by Arab media, virtually all of it financed by either the House of Saud or Qatar. It was not even discussed -- because it was prevented by the GCC from being translated from Arabic into English and published in the Arab League's website.
Until it was leaked. Here it is, in full.
The report is adamant. There was no organized, lethal repression by the Syrian government against peaceful protesters. Instead, the report points to shady armed gangs as responsible for hundreds of deaths among Syrian civilians, and over one thousand among the Syrian army, using lethal tactics such as bombing of civilian buses, bombing of trains carrying diesel oil, bombing of police buses and bombing of bridges and pipelines.
Once again, the official NATOGCC version of Syria is of a popular uprising smashed by bullets and tanks. Instead, BRICS members Russia and China, and large swathes of the developing world see it as the Syrian government fighting heavily armed foreign mercenaries. The report largely confirms these suspicions.
The Syrian National Council is essentially a Muslim Brotherhood outfit affiliated with both the House of Saud and Qatar -- with an uneasy Israel quietly supporting it in the background. Legitimacy is not exactly its cup of green tea. As for the Free Syrian Army, it does have its defectors, and well-meaning opponents of the Assad regime, but most of all is infested with these foreign mercenaries weaponized by the GCC, especially Salafist gangs.
Still NATOGCC, blocked from applying in Syria its one-size-fits-all model of promoting "democracy" by bombing a country and getting rid of the proverbial evil dictator, won't be deterred. GCC leaders House of Saud and Qatar bluntly dismissed their own report and went straight to the meat of the matter; impose a NATOGCC regime change via the U.N. Security Council.
So the current "Arab-led drive to secure a peaceful end to the 10-month crackdown" in Syria at the U.N. is no less than a crude regime change drive. Usual suspects Washington, London, and Paris have been forced to fall over themselves to assure the real international community this is not another mandate for NATO bombing --à la Libya. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described it as "a path for a political transition that would preserve Syria's unity and institutions."
But BRICS members Russia and China see it for what it is. Another BRICS member -- India -- alongside Pakistan and South Africa, have all raised serious objections to the NATOGCC-peddled draft U.N. resolution.
There won't be another Libya-style no fly zone; after all the Assad regime is not exactly deploying Migs against civilians. A U.N. regime change resolution will be blocked -- again -- by Russia and China. Even NATOGCC is in disarray, as each block of players -- Washington, Ankara, and the House of Saud-Doha duo - has a different long-term geopolitical agenda. Not to mention crucial Syrian neighbor and trading partner Iraq; Baghdad is on the record against any regime change scheme.
So here's a suggestion to the House of Saud and Qatar; since you're so seduced by the prospect of "democracy" in Syria, why don't you use all your American weaponry and invade in the dead of night -- like you did to Bahrain -- and execute regime change by yourselves?
--Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World Is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad during the Surge. His most recent is Obama Does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
ARMED GROUPS INSIDE SYRIA: PRELUDE TO A U.S.-NATO INTERVENTION?
By Michel Chossudovsky
February 5, 2012
Russia and China have vetoed the U.N. Security Council draft resolution on Syria pointing to the existence of armed groups involved in terrorist acts including the killing of civilians.
These armed groups have been involved since the outset of the "protest movement" in Daraa, southern Syria, in March 2011.
The statement of Russia's envoy to the U.N. Viktor Churkin remains within the realm of international diplomacy. It does not mention who is behind these armed groups and the fact that NATO is supporting an armed insurrection.
"Churkin said that resolution's Western co-sponsors had not included key proposals such as isolating the Syrian opposition from violent extremist groups or a call to arms for other states to use their influence to prevent such alliances" (Russia Today, February 4, 2012).
Ironically, Russia's decision to veto the resolution is consistent with the report of the Arab League's Observer Mission to Syria, which confirms the existence of an "Armed Entity."
Unexpectedly, however, neither Washington nor the Arab League, which commissioned the Observer Mission to Syria in the first place, have accepted the interim report presented by the A.L. Mission.
Why? Because the Mission --integrated by independent observers from Arab League countries-- provides a balanced and objective assessment of what is happening on the ground inside Syria. It does not serve as a mouthpiece for Washington and the governments of Arab states.
It points to the existence of an "armed entity"; it acknowledges that "armed opposition groups" including the Syria Free Army are involved in criminal and terrorist acts. "In some zones, this armed entity reacted by attacking Syrian security forces and citizens, causing the Government to respond with further violence. In the end, innocent citizens pay the price for those actions with life and limb.
"In Homs, Idlib, and Hama, the Observer Mission witnessed acts of violence being committed against Government forces and civilians that resulted in several deaths and injuries. Examples of those acts include the bombing of a civilian bus, killing eight persons and injuring others, including women and children, and the bombing of a train carrying diesel oil. In another incident in Homs, a police bus was blown up, killing two police officers. A fuel pipeline and some small bridges were also bombed.
"Such incidents include the bombing of buildings, trains carrying fuel, vehicles carrying diesel oil and explosions targeting the police, members of the media and fuel pipelines. Some of those attacks have been carried out by the Free Syrian Army and some by other armed opposition groups."
While the Mission does not identify the foreign powers behind "the armed entity," its report dispels the mainstream media lies and fabrications, used by Washington to push for "regime change" in Syria.
The A.L. Mission report also intimates that political pressure was exerted by officials of Arab League states to unreservedly support Washington's political stance.
Moreover, the Mission was also pressured into upholding the lies and fabrications of the mainstream media, which have been used to demonize the government of Bashar al Assad: "Some observers reneged on their duties and broke the oath they had taken. They made contact with officials from their countries and gave them exaggerated accounts of events. Those officials consequently developed a bleak and unfounded picture of the situation."
In recent development, the Arab League has announced that the Observer Mission will be withdrawn from Syria.
ARMED GROUPS INSIDE SYRIA
There is ample evidence that the armed groups, including Salafists, Al Qaeda affiliated militia, as well as Muslim Brotherhood, are covertly supported by Turkey, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.
The insurgency in Syria has similar features to that of Libya, which was directly supported by British special forces operating out of Benghazi. British and French special forces operating out of Turkey are training Syrian rebel forces.
According to former CIA official Philip Giraldi: "NATO is already clandestinely engaged in the Syrian conflict, with Turkey taking the lead as U.S. proxy. Ankara’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davitoglu, has openly admitted that his country is prepared to invade as soon as there is agreement among the Western allies to do so. The intervention would be based on humanitarian principles, to defend the civilian population based on the “responsibility to protect” doctrine that was invoked to justify Libya. Turkish sources suggest that intervention would start with creation of a buffer zone along the Turkish-Syrian border and then be expanded. Aleppo, Syria’s largest and most cosmopolitan city, would be the crown jewel targeted by liberation forces.
"Unmarked NATO warplanes are arriving at Turkish military bases close to Iskenderum on the Syrian border, delivering weapons from the late Muammar Gaddafi’s arsenals as well as volunteers from the Libyan Transitional National Council who are experienced in pitting local volunteers against trained soldiers, a skill they acquired confronting Gaddafi’s army. Iskenderum is also the seat of the Free Syrian Army, the armed wing of the Syrian National Council. French and British special forces trainers are on the ground, assisting the Syrian rebels while the CIA and U.S. Spec Ops are providing communications equipment and intelligence to assist the rebel cause, enabling the fighters to avoid concentrations of Syrian soldiers.
THE ROLE OF U.S. AMBASSADOR ROBERT STEPHEN FORD
U.S. Ambassador Robert Stephen Ford, who arrived in Damascus in January 2011, played a central role in setting the stage for an armed insurrection in Syria. As "Number Two" at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad (2004-2005) under the helm of Ambassador John D. Negroponte, Ford played a key role in implementing the Pentagon's "Iraq Salvador Option." The latter consisted in supporting Iraqi death squadrons and paramilitary forces modelled on the experience of Central America in the early 1980s.
Ford's mandate in Damascus is to replicate the "Salvador Option" in Syria, by promoting covertly the development of an armed insurrection. In this context, the killings of civilians perpetrated by armed gangs (supported covertly by the Western military alliance) are casually blamed on the Syrian government, thereby upholding the U.S.-NATO mandate to intervene on "humanitarian grounds".
Reports point to the development of a full-fledged and well organized armed insurgency supported, trained and equiped by NATO and Turkey's High Command. According to Israeli intelligence sources: "NATO headquarters in Brussels and the Turkish high command are meanwhile drawing up plans for their first military step in Syria, which is to arm the rebels with weapons for combating the tanks and helicopters spearheading the Assad regime's crackdown on dissent. Instead of repeating the Libyan model of air strikes, NATO strategists are thinking more in terms of pouring large quantities of anti-tank and anti-air rockets, mortars, and heavy machine guns into the protest centers for beating back the government armored forces (DEBKAfile, "NATO to give rebels anti-tank weapons," August 14, 2011).
A U.S.-NATO led intervention, which would inevitably involve Israel, is already on the drawing board of the Pentagon. According to military and intelligence sources, NATO, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia have been discussing "the form this intervention [in Syria] would take" (ibid).
CYNICISM AROUND SYRIA
By Vijay Prashad
February 4, 2012
Rehearsed statements filled the stale air of the U.N. Security Council on the last day of January. The Arab League’s Nabil el-Araby pleaded with the Council to adopt a draft resolution on Syria furnished by the Moroccan delegation to the U.N. The Moroccan resolution is based on a report by the Arab League’s human rights mission to Syria. This draft called for an immediate cessation of violence in Syria and a national dialogue. “We are attempting to avoid any foreign intervention,” el-Araby told the Council, “especially military intervention.”
The League’s human rights monitoring mission had presented a report, which was tabled in the Council but not discussed (an omission mentioned repeatedly by Syria’s ambassador Bashar Ja’afari). Reading the Arab League’s report is disquieting. It mentions the Syrian governments heavy-handed attacks on the protestors, but raises questions about the latter’s intentions and methods. The report details the “bombing of buildings, trains carrying fuel, vehicles carrying diesel oil and explosions targeting the police” conducted by groups affiliated to the rebel’s Free Syrian Army. It says of this “armed entity” that it attacked the “Syrian security forces and citizens, causing the Government to respond with further violence.” The report is light on its criticism of the government, which is curious given the character of the media reports elsewhere. The League’s report notes that some members of its mission (the Saudis and the Jordanians) “broke the oath they had taken” and gave an “exaggerated account of events” to officials from their countries.
The leader of the Arab League’s mission is General Mohamed Ahmad al-Dabi, a stalwart supporter of Sudan’s President Umar al-Bashir. Questions remain about General al-Dabi’s role in the suppression of the uprising in Dar Massalit in February 1999. Why was al-Dabi chosen to lead the mission? It is clear to close observers of the Gulf that while al-Dabi was Sudan’s ambassador to Qatar (1999-2004) he became close to its ruling family. The Qataris are exerting themselves in the region, and assumed that al-Dabi would do their bidding. He turned in a report that did not please them.
The Qataris have taken a hostile position to the Arab League in general. Last May, the Arab League rejected Qatar’s Abdelrahman bin Hamad al-Attiya in favor of el-Araby as head of the body. This was payback from many of the countries for the Qataris’ role with NATO in the U.N. Security Council on Libya. Sitting next to el-Araby in the U.N. Security Council on January 31 was Qatar’s Foreign Affairs minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani who was furious with what he saw as the League’s timidity. The League’s efforts “have been in vain,” he said, suggesting that the time had come for some kind of “intervention.” The Jordanians left the human rights mission, and the Saudi member of the mission Saudi Shura Council member Dr. Ibrahim Suleiman noted, “It is not right that we should be false witnesses to what is happening in Syria.” The Gulf Arabs did not want al-Dabi’s report to be discussed.
The Qataris are eager to install their allies in the Muslim Brotherhood to authority in the region. They have funded the Brotherhood lavishly from Tunisia to Egypt. They would like to move their influence into the Mashriq, bringing their influence to bear against their principle enemy: Iran. Here events are more complex than they will admit. It was all very well to toss out Qaddafi, whom the G7, NATO, and the Gulf Arabs hated equally. It is far harder to tackle a country that borders Israel.
ISRAEL'S BORDER GUARD
The Arab League’s el-Araby need not have been worried about the Security Council sanctioning intervention. This is not on the cards. The Russians, burned by the example of UNSC resolution 1973 for Libya, are unwilling to allow any open-ended statement from the Council. They seem to have come to terms with the reality that any Council authorization for intervention by anyone means military action by NATO. No other power has the military capability to act with the kind of force demonstrated by NATO. Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin approved the Arab League’s mission as a mechanism to pressure the regime into a political dialogue with the opposition. In the midst of this violence, Churkin noted, talk of reform of Syrian institutions is a “theoretical conversation.”
Is Russia holding back a condemnation of Syria in the U.N. Security Council, as the NATO media suggests? Churkin told the Moscow media that the Moroccan resolution was “missing the most important thing: a clear clause ruling out the possibility that the resolution could be used to justify military intervention in Syrian affairs from outside.” Absent such a clause “we will not allow it to be passed.” This is how we get to the idea of the Russian veto over international (namely, NATO) action in Syria.
But if the Russians are standing on principle, why is the United States not more aggressive on Syria? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted, “Syria is a unique situation that requires its own approach, tailored to the specific circumstances occurring there. And that is exactly what the Arab League has proposed -- a path for a political transition that would preserve Syria’s unity and institutions.” On February 28, 2011, Clinton went before the U.N. Human Rights Council to offer the U.S. position on Libya: “We have seen Colonel Gaddafi’s security forces open fire on peaceful protestors. They have used heavy weapons on unarmed civilians. Mercenaries and thugs have been turned loose to attack demonstrators. Through their actions, they have lost the legitimacy to govern. And the people of Libya have made themselves clear: It is time for Gaddafi to go -- now, without further violence or delay.” Why doesn’t Clinton simply substitute al-Assad for Colonel Gaddafi and Syria for Libya? Clinton sees the Syrian case as much more complex. Why is Syria more “unique” than Libya?
In Beirut last month I asked Fawwaz Trabulsi (author of the 2007 A History of Modern Lebanon) just this question. Trabulsi, who is starting a new journal called Bidayat, has been in touch with various currents inside and around Syria. He tells me that the problem for Syria is its location. The Arab Spring has transformed the security arrangements carefully constructed by Israel (with US oversight). The fall of Mubarak in Egypt leaves in doubt the 1979 peace treaty, and so raises questions about Israel’s Southwestern border. New energy in the Palestinian movement threatens the stability of the West Bank, and despite the pacification policy through settlements and walls, there is a sense that political fissures might open up at any point. Lebanon and Israel remain in an uneasy state, with the border patrolled by a weak-kneed U.N. force (the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, deployed in 1978 should no longer have interim status). This leaves Syria, where Bashar al-Assad’s regime has operated as Israel’s loyal border guard. Israel is not willing to see a violent regime change in Syria. There is simply no credible or reliable alternative to al-Assad. Neither Israel nor the U.S., therefore, has aggressively sought to remove al-Assad from power. That energy is reserved for the drumbeats against Iran.
Writing in the Israeli paper Haaretz, Zvi Bar’el writes that Washington and Tel Aviv do not wish the precipitous departure of al-Assad. “He is seen as a safety valve against a violent attack by Hezbollah on Israel or against its physical takeover of Lebanon. He has also made known his disagreements with Iran following the controversial visit of Ahmadinejad to Lebanon [in 2010].” One member of the Israeli cabinet told the *Washington Post*, “We know Assad. We knew his father. Of course, we’d love to have a democratic Syria as our neighbor. But do I think that’s going to happen? No.”
The U.S. and Israel are currently hiding behind the Russians (and to some extent the Chinese) in the U.N. Security Council. None of them have any interest in the removal of al-Assad from power. To their minds, Syria should not have a Libyan solution but a Yemeni one: the violence will simmer, the opposition will tire, then al-Assad will be allowed to create a successor in name only who will retain the lineaments of the regime intact but will provide a new face for Syria. Just as the “new” Yemen cannot be allowed to be a threat to Saudi Arabia, the “new” Syria cannot be allowed to upset the Israeli applecart.
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