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Man behind the Curtain for al-Qaeda in Syria is Assad

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad wanted the recent Geneva II peace conference to focus on terrorism. He says terrorism is the main problem a...

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

VIPS to rescue as Dissenting Diplomats oppose Obama's courtship of Assad

Monday The Times reported:
Russia ‘using phosphorous bombs’ to break Aleppo

10 days of intense bombing by Russian & Syrian bombers have caused large fires to break out across the cityAP
Tom Coghlan, Beirut
June 27 2016, 12:01am
The last rebel lifeline to Aleppo has been battered by some of the heaviest airstrikes of the war, amid growing concerns that Russia is using phosphorous and cluster bombs against the city.

Russian and Syrian jets have mounted ten days of intense bombing as government troops attack areas north of the city in an attempt to complete the siege.

“What’s been happening in Aleppo in the last two days is surely unprecedented,” said Bibars Mishal, a civil defence volunteer in the city. “The warplanes never leave the skies of Aleppo and its countryside, it’s crazy and terrifying.” More...

It is recognized that these are tumultuous times for the British media and The Times is to be congratulated for publishing this story in spite all the other demands for its ink the week after Brexit. It is an important story although it is one on which both the western media and the world's politicians would rather pretend doesn't exist. Aleppo isn't just burning. This isn't a forest fire or some other natural disaster. Aleppo is being fire bombed by Russian and Syrian war planes. Like the US campaign in Vietnam that killed 3 million, they claim to be taking out only "bad guys," when they are in fact targeting the whole civilian population. Like the US campaign in Vietnam that killed 3 million, they are using incendiary weapons and cluster bombs to commit mass murder.

Of course Russia and Syria deny that this is what they are doing, but facts keep stubbornly bubbling to the surface, as in this Telegraph report from last week:
Russia 'caught out' using incendiary weapons
in Syria by its own channel Russia Today
A screengrab of the video showing a pilot next to the incendiary bombs, known as RBK-500 ZAB-2.5SM munitions Credit: RT
By Josie Ensor, Beirut
22 June 2016 • 4:34pm
Russia has been caught using incendiary weapons in Syria by its own TV channel Russia Today, which later tried to edit the footage out of its broadcast.

The Kremlin has previously denied that its warplanes were carrying these bombs, which are restricted by an international convention.

The English-language news station, which is funded by Moscow, broadcast footage of Sergei Shoigu, the defence minister, visiting Hmeymim airbase in the Syrian province of Latakia last Saturday.

A pilot can be seen next to a plane loaded with munitions marked with identifying numbers.

Experts from Human Rights Watch, and Conflict Intelligence Team, an open-source intelligence group based in Russia, concluded that it showed incendiary weapons mounted on a Su-34 ground attack aircraft – specifically RBK-500 ZAB-2.5SM bombs.

They said they believed the weapons contained a metal powder fuel known as thermite that ignites while falling, which has led witnesses of attacks to describe them as “fireballs.” It is the hottest burning man-made substance in the world. More...
Aleppo was once Syria's largest city. For many years now, much of it, nearly half, has been cleared of government control, liberated, in the terms of the Syrian revolution. In spite of the years of attacks, they still hang on, organized in the local coordinating committees [LCCs], White Helmet volunteer rescuers, community organizations looking after the day to day needs in the neighborhoods, and Free Syrian Army fighters looking after their defense.

Now the Assad regime and its allies are waging a campaign of carnage unprecedented, even in the Syrian conflict, to destroy liberated Aleppo with fire while hundreds of thousands of civilians still live there. Although Europe and the United States may see fit to ignore what is happening in Aleppo, they can't ignore the consequences. They can fail to mention this mass murder of Arabs, now being done largely by Russians, on US TV, and they can refuse to do anything to stop it.
Aleppo today
However these air attacks are forcing many more to flee Aleppo and Syria altogether. They too will join the refugee stream coming out of the world's conflict zones, and that they can't stop. They can refuse to stop the bombing and they can refuse to talk about what the Syrian refugees are running from but they can't stop them from trying to run. In the US presidential campaign everybody talks about the Syrian refugees but few talk about why they are refugees. America's response to Syrians fleeing the first holocaust of the 21th century makes their disregard for the Jews fleeing the Nazis before World War II look almost humane.

How Obama's "No MANPADS for you!" policy backfired

Ever since the beginning of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's brutal response to popular demands for an end to his family's 40 year dictatorship, politicians of all stripes in the West, on both the Left and the Right, thought it safe to ignore what was going on and the rising death toll that was being caused by what Assad's supporters excuse as his "over reaction." They thought what was happening in Syria would stay in Syria. Now one has to wonder if the FSA had been allowed MANPADS [ man portable anti-aircraft systems] when they asked for them in 2012, or if any effective measures had been taken to stop the Assad regime from simply clearing liberated areas from the air, would we in 2016 still be looking at the Brexit vote and the Donald Truman presidential campaign? The twin reactions behind them both are the refugees and the ISIS terrorists. Both have strong roots in the Syrian conflict. The Syrian refugees are fleeing that cesspool of war that has also allowed Daesh to breed, particularly in the Raqqa safe haven granted to them by President Assad.

One of the reasons Assad has been able to get away with murder for so long is that western governments have always supported rule by fear and violence, "free world" rhetoric to the contrary. Also President Barack Obama has always been a closet supporter of Bashar al-Assad, in spite of his numerous and obligatory calls for Assad to "step down." I detailed many of the reasons for this almost four years ago in Barack Obama's Courtship of Bashar al-Assad. So while the United States government may have made loud protests to the ongoing slaughter through diplomatic channels and even sprinkled a little money around for some military hardware and training, under Obama's leadership, it also made sure the Syrian's being bombed got no effective anti-aircraft weapons while those doing the bombing enjoyed a free fly zone. That's what the CIA was doing in Benghazi. One thing we can be certain of, they weren't helping the Syrian opposition get Gaddafi's MANPADS because we've seen only a few in rebel hands. Obama may have played "Good Cop" to his opposition, but as the person that was suppose to be leading international opposition to the Syrian regime's bloodletting, Barack Obama was just what the Doctor ordered.

US diplomat's "dissent channel" airs new grievances 

President Obama's policy of toothless action and benign neglect towards the Syrian people, as their body count rose from a few hundred to half a million and the conflict morphed into the first holocaust of the 21st century, has not been without opposition, even from within his own State Department. Ten days ago the New York Times published a draft version of a State Department memo that was very critical of Obama's Syria policy. The memo was signed by 51 diplomats and was sent through a "dissent channel" that was established to air internal opposition during the Vietnam War. Most controversially, the memo calls for,
the use of military force as an option to enforce the Cessation of Hostilities (CoH) and compel the Syrian regime to abide by its terms
It calls for an enforced no-fly zone to stop the bombing, saying
Assad’s systemic violations against the Syrian people are the root cause of the instability that continues to grip Syria and the broader region.
They call on the International Syrian Support Group (ISSG) to,
end the daily mass killing of civilians and egregious violations of human rights, cajole the warring parties to make necessary compromises at the negotiating table, bolster moderate rebel groups’ role in defeating Da’esh, and help bring an end to the broader instability the conflict generates.
They argue that allowing this carnage to continue is bad:
With over 400,000 people dead, hundreds of thousands still at risk from regime sieges, and 12 million people from a population of 23 million displaced from their homes, we believe the moral rationale for taking steps to end the deaths and suffering in Syria, after five years of brutal war, is evident and unquestionable. The regime’s actions directly result in broader instability and undermine the international system responsible for protection of civilians, prevention of mass atrocities, and accountability for grave violations.
Then they lay out what they expect can be achieved with this more interventionist policy in Syria:
5. (SBU) First, with the regime deploying tactics that overwhelmingly target civilians (barrel bombs and air strikes in cities) to achieve battlefield objectives and undermine support for the moderate opposition, impeding or ending such atrocities will not only save lives but further our political objectives.

6. (SBU) Secondly, a more assertive U.S. role to protect and preserve opposition-held communities, by defending them from Asad’s air force and artillery, presents the best chance for defeating Da’esh in Syria. The prospects for rolling back Da’esh’s hold on territory are bleak without the Sunni Arabs, who the regime continues to bomb and starve.

7. (SBU) Third, putting additional constraints on the regime’s ability to bomb and shell both fighting forces and the unambiguously civilian targets would have a direct, mitigating impact on the refugee and IDP crisis. This crisis has deeply affected Syria’s neighbors for years and is now impacting our European partners in far-reaching ways that may ultimately jeopardize their very character as open, unified, and democratic societies. Even in the United States, the crisis in Syria has lent credence to prejudiced ideologies that we thought had been discredited years ago.
That last bit is obviously a nod to the rise of Donald Trump, who is not a supporter of Obama but is a fan of Putin. Needless to say, supporters of President Obama's current policy, as well as supporters of the Assad regime, have been very critical of this memo.

VIPS to the rescue!

Into this fray has jumped the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. You may remember them from their defense of Assad after he was accused of killing more than 1400 people, including hundreds of children, with sarin on 21 August 2013 in East Ghouta and other Damascus suburbs.

At that time they came out to back claims that Assad was innocent of this sarin attack. They said that "US-backed rebels" had murdered their own people. They didn't address the many conventional attacks by the Assad regime on East Ghouta or the many other chemical weapons attack he has conduct in many locations in Syria before and since. They didn't address the findings of the Syrian activists in East Ghouta, the doctors who treated the victims or the local Free Syrian Army. They treated the matter as if only the US govt was making the charge that Assad had used sarin and they responded to the claims only from that doubtful source.

The statement they signed and claimed to have written was actually plagiarized from one written by an Assad family insider and published on the pro-Putin Global Research five days earlier. This is a very serious charge of intellectual dishonesty so please allow me to provide links as well as a brief example.  This is an excerpt from "Did the White House Help Plan the Syrian Chemical Attack?" written by Yossef Bodansky and published by Global Research on 01 September 2013:
On August 13-14, 2013, Western-sponsored opposition forces in Turkey started advance preparations for a major and irregular military surge. Initial meetings between senior opposition military commanders and representatives of Qatari, Turkish, and US Intelligence [“Mukhabarat Amriki”] took place at the converted Turkish military garrison in Antakya, Hatay Province, used as the command center and headquarters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and their foreign sponsors.
This is from the VIPS memo: Is Syria a Trap? published on 06 September 2013:
on August 13-14, 2013, Western-sponsored opposition forces in Turkey started advance preparations for a major, irregular military surge. Initial meetings between senior opposition military commanders and Qatari, Turkish and U.S. intelligence officials took place at the converted Turkish military garrison in Antakya, Hatay Province, now used as the command center and headquarters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and their foreign sponsors.
Do you see the same violation of copyright laws that I see? Sure they removed the tattletale Syrian security service term for US intelligence, but other than that, the wording is almost exactly the same. That is no accident! And there's a lot more where that came from. I didn't want to bore you but do check it for yourself.

How VIPS helped fuel the rise of Daesh

The combination of Obama's promise of 20 August 2012 that if Assad ever did use "a whole bunch of chemical weapons" it would cross a "red-line" that would trigger a US military response and his reneging on that promise when Assad did exactly that precisely a year later, did much to dishearten Assad's opposition, boaster the regime and fill the ranks of Daesh with demoralized fighters from the Free Syrian Army and other more democratic forces.

VIPS and its chief spokesman, Ray McGovern, did everything they could to discourage any military response to Assad's continuing carnage back then when the body count was less than 150K and they have prevailed. They stuck by their claim that Assad was innocent and his opposition had attacked its own people with sarin in a "false flag" grab for headlines.

Then proof positive emerged that Assad did it

One of the few good things to come out of this episode was that Assad was forced to give up some of his chemical weapons stockpiles. After he had done that, in 2014, and the UN had those sarin stockpiles to compare to the samples taken in the attack, they where able to make this extremely important observation:
In Al-Ghouta, significant quantities of sarin were used in a well-planned indiscriminate attack targeting civilian-inhabited areas, causing mass casualties. The evidence available concerning the nature, quality and quantity of the agents used on 21 August indicated that the perpetrators likely had access to the chemical weapons stockpile of the Syrian military, as well as the expertise and equipment necessary to manipulate safely large amount of chemical agents.
In other words, not the imaginary "homemade" sarin VIPS talks about.

I've added the bold because the UN was actually prohibited by the Russian veto from naming a perpetrator but this is pretty damn close. Still this finding is ignored by VIPS, Veterans for Peace and many others on the Left that have converted the conspiracy theory that it was a false flag attack carried out by anybody but Assad into an article of faith. When I learned that Ray McGovern would be speaking at the Veterans for Peace National convention in August 2015, I commission a large banner to challenge him on this very point.




You can see the UN quote in the upper left corner and the charge of plagiarism in the lower left. Ray McGovern walked by this banner many times during the convention but he never addressed these issues. Then in December 22, 2015 VIPS published A Call for Proof on Syria-Sarin Attack in which they claimed again that there was no evidence linking the Assad regime to that attack but again they failed to address or even mention this determinate report from the UN's Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. That means the title of their piece is a lie.

Now VIPS has come out again. This time its to attack these 51 State Department dissents that are opposed to US government policy on Syria. Neither Assad nor Putin has been terribly troubled by Obama's policy on Syria, and they don't want to see it become more interventionist. VIPs also doesn't want to see this change, so on Saturday they published Intel Vets Call ‘Dissent Memo’ on Syria ‘Reckless’

Whether you agree with the dissenting diplomats call for a no-fly zone or other forms of US military action in Syria, it is clear that they are concerned about the plight of the Syrian civilians that are being slaughtered. VIPS can't say that, at least not based on the content of their memo. They never mention this aspect of the problem, choosing instead to paint the dissent diplomats as bullies, saying:
that 51 “State Department Diplomats” signed a dissent letter advocating direct U.S. bombing as a tool to force Syria into submission to our government’s dictates.
They add:
Unfortunately the dissent signers are calling for America to threaten, and if our bluff is called, commit acts of overt, aggressive war against the forces of a sovereign nation on its own territory.
Even if it is committing genocide on its own territory? Genocide or not, the hundreds of thousands of dead Syrian get no mention from VIPS, instead they say:
The line of thought — that it is America’s right and duty to employ large-scale death to enforce its leaders’ will on other peoples.
They refuse to mention the Syrians dying or already dead because Assad and Putin think they have a right to employ large-scale death to enforce their will. Instead they talk about hypothetical deaths that might be caused by any attempt to halt this carnage, because if stopping Assad's barrel bombs from falling is merely an exercise in American Power for these diplomats, then there is really no need for VIPS to dwell on "the government’s barrel bombing of civilians."

From the VIPS point of view, what is being done to and by ordinary Syrians is of little concern. While the memo they are critiquing speaks of the death and destruction suffered by these people, the VIPS memo does not. They don't see a Syrian freedom movement worth defending and they don't dwell on the regime's civilian causalities. To them any honest Syrians in Assad's opposition are the dupes in a great game being orchestrated by foreign powers:
It’s true that the initial phase of the Syrian Spring seems to have been largely spontaneous. Facts show, however, that outside interveners — primarily the United States, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia — cooperated in lighting the match that brought the inferno of civil war. Covert funding and provision of weapons and other material support to opposition groups for strikes against the Syrian Government provoked a military reaction by Assad...
This also happens to be the Baathist and Russian view of what happened but it is not what happened.

There are other important differences between VIPS and the diplomats on the terrorist threat. While the dissenting diplomats refer to jihadi terrorists that have emerged from Assad's prisons to threaten the whole world as Daesh, the name given to them by the Syrian opposition and most who oppose it, VIPS honors it with its propaganda name, ISIS, although it is neither Islamic nor a state.

Since the beginning to the civil war, Assad has claimed that the only opposition that he faced was from terrorists. Putin has echoed him. VIPS also promotes this view, but they base it on,
Pentagon claims that the opposition and Nusra are one in the same.
Then they go on to say,
We are astonished. After 15 years of strident rhetoric about waging a war on Al Qaeda, we have now come full circle to witness the CIA and a vocal bloc within the State Department advocate to arm and train an Al Qaeda affiliated group.
They sum up Obama's history on Syria,
the President appeared to support the overthrow of Assad but then backed away from the precipice of militarily taking him out.
That's what the Good Cop does every time. Only a fool or supporter of his Good Cop deception would continue to argue that he ever really supported the overthrow of the Assad regime.

Epilogue

Matthew Heimbach, wearing red hat and pushing black woman out of Trump rally.
On Sunday, fights broke out in Sacramento, CA between members of a white supremacist neo-Nazi group and anti-racists protesters. The head of the white supremacist group is Matthew Heimbach, who earlier this year gained notoriety as the Trump supporter seen bating and pushing a black women out of a Trump rally. Like many fascists and "Leftists", this one is also an Assad supporter. This is what he wrote about the conflict on his facebook page:
"While President Obama says he is fighting terrorism, he is actively supporting it by continuing to flood money, training and arms to Syrian rebels. President Obama also says that he is working to topple Assad, the only force in Syria stopping the advance of the Islamic State."
It must be a real embarrassment to VIPS, Veterans for Peace and other "anti-imperialists" to find that with regards to Syria, they are on the same team as scum like that.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Monday, June 20, 2016

Venice Beach Hotel owner gets away with racist murder

This post is a followup to the post we made 31 August, 2015:
Venice Beach hotel owner arrested for ordering racist murder of homeless man

Shakespeare
Jascent Jamal Lee Warren, 26, a homeless activist known as “Shakespeare” to his friends, lay dead and another black man injured, after a security guard for a Venice Beach hotel acted on orders from the hotel owner to "Kill that nigger" and started firing at a group of homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk early Sunday morning. While the man that did the shooting fled and is still at large, LAPD has announced that they have arrested another man associated with the murder, but have not said who he is. I have it on good information he it is Sris Sinnathamby, the owner of the Cadillac Hotel and the man witnesses say ordered this racist murder. The police are holding him on suspicion of murder for $1 million bond. That may sound like a lot but this man can easily afford it and the charge is murder. More ...
That post included a 13 minute video report done by Venice activist Tony Vera that very night. Five minutes is spent interviewing John Rasta White Lion only hours after the killing. He was one of a number of witnesses in this case and he was close enough to the shooting to have a gun pointed at him by the shooter and to have Shakespeare's blood on his shirt. 2:16 into his interview he says:
Mexicans and black people, we need to get along. You know, right before he killed my brother, that man said "kill that nigger, killed that nigger." That's what the guy that owns this building right here [pointing] told the security guy "kill that nigger." He didn't have to go to that level. Everything could have been everything. We could have walked away from this situation. Everything was everything. Next thing you know he pulled a strap on him and he bust on him. Next thing you know my brother's laying over there on the concrete dead. I called the fucking police. Takes police 20 minutes to get here, and the god damn police station's on the thing [beach], but and yet when I make my fucking tent, it takes them 10 muthafucka minutes to get my in my fucking tent and say "Hey Rastafarian, haul your fucking ras." The man's leaking. The man's leaking on the god damn concrete right there and the police station is less than 3,000 yards away, however far that is. It's right there, it's right fuckin there. This shit disrespect dawg.
We ended that post by saying:
The alleged killer and hotel owner, Sris Sinnathamby, is a big contributor to Los Angeles City politicians. It will be interesting to see how this case is handled in that light.
Now we have the sad duty to tell you that the judge has dismissed murder charges against the owner of the Cadillac Hotel. On 8 June, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elden Fox granted a defense motion that argued that there wasn't enough evidence that Cadillac Hotel owner Sris Sinnathamby ordered the murder. In an email to a local paper, Alan Jackson, the hotel owner's attorney, explained the outcome this way:
“To use the judge’s words, in order to hold Mr. Sinnathamby to answer, he would have to believe the prosecution’s witnesses that claimed to hear the statement ‘Shoot that n*****.’ The court stated, ‘I simply don’t believe them,’”
The judge held that the witnesses where all bias against Sinnathamby because many of them were among a group of men that attacked him right after the shooting, and because some had a civil suit against him. The were also young, homeless and minorities. In any case, the judge didn't find their testimony credible when weighed against the denials of a well connected multi-millionaire. End of Story.

The shooter is still awaiting trial in county on $3 million bail but his former boss is back to opening new businesses in the rapidly gentrified Venice.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

From the Syrian Revolution: Important Statement from Manbij City Council

The following statement from the Manbij City Council has been translated by a member of Syria Solidarity UK. For a comprehensive and current view of the struggle around Manbij, I highly recommend Al-Qaeda Wants to Establish an Emirate in Syria, but Not Now by Haid Haid, 9 June 2016, Atlantic Council.

Syrian Arab Republic
Province of Free Aleppo
The Political Committee in the City of Manbij and its Countryside

Statement issued from the Political Committee in the City of Manbij

The PYD "Democratic Union" represented by its military wing "People's Protection Units" is attempting to control the cities and towns and villages of the Eastern countryside of Aleppo, supported by the forces of the US-led International Coalition which takes the responsibility of providing its forces with aerial cover in addition to the offering of all types of financial and logistical support, and that under the slogan of fighting terrorism represented in the "ISIS" organisation. The last few days have witnessed rapid advances by these forces towards the city of Manbij with the intention of taking control over it and kicking out the ISIS organisation. And perhaps there ought to be no need to remind that the Free Army from the children of the city of Manbij are the first who began fighting ISIS, and were able to expel it from the city on January 5th 2014. And after the return of the organisation to the city the people of Manbij organised a strike which was the first of its kind, embodying their refusal of the presence of this terrorist organisation in their city, but the struggles for regional and international interests on the Syrian arena which resulted in the weakening of the Free Army and its exhaustion, and likewise the ability of the Assad regime to use this struggle and employ terrorist organisations to hit at the revolutionary forces, all of this opened the room for Daesh to expand and penetrate into the Syrian land, the issue that transformed it into a power necessitating large international efforts to uproot it. And whilst we strongly support any party that fights terrorism and aims to undermine it, we also on the other hand affirm and strongly that fighting terrorism should not result in its replacement with another terrorist side, and we mean by that that our resistance to terrorism derives from fundamentals and determinants dictated on us by the values and principles of the Syrian revolution and these could be stated as the following:

1 - That the great Syrian Revolution is a revolution of an oppressed people which demanded its freedom and dignity and the overthrow of the tyrannical Assadist regime, and the establishment of the state of justice and law and citizenship, and is represented by the Free Army (with all its negatives and positives), and the two sides that are fighting now for the control of Manbij do not hold these agendas, rather each of these sides hold their own [specific] project that they are fighting for.

2 - Perhaps everyone has come to know that the presence of the ISIS organisation in our areas is a result of a regional and international accordance, and the removal of this organisation or its uprooting will not occur except with International agreement, and specifically, "Turkish-American" agreement. The Assad regime has benefited a great benefit from this disagreement and was able to employ ISIS and others in lengthening its stay in power.

3 - Fighting the ISIS organisation and expelling it from our areas is no longer a local choice, not least that it requires the support of regional or international powers which can provide sufficient aerial and logistical cover, and these issues exceed the capabilities of the Free Army which has [long been] drained and weakened in an intentional and well-planned way.

4 - The sibling Kurds are an authentic component from the components [demographics] of the Syrian people and they have rights that have long been violated throughout the passing of tyrannical ruling regimes in Syria, and the demanding of those rights is the duty of all Syrians not just Kurds. As for the "PYD Democratic Union"it is a faction that does not represent all the Kurdish people with the evidence its disagreement with most Kurdish forces and parties, as for it now enjoying military power and American support and attempting to force its specific agendas on our cities and towns, our speech to it is what follows: Firstly: If you want for your presence to have Syrian national legitimacy, then that legitimacy rather resides in the identification of your behaviour and goals with the aspirations of the Syrian people in bringing down the tyrannical state and Assadist terrorism and the setting up of a free Syria a state of citizenship [belonging] to all its citizens. Secondly: That you today, by the judgement of the current international and regional balances - possess a large military force and enjoy the support of large global powers, and you are seeking to control the city of Manbij and what surrounds it from cities and towns and villages under the slogan of expelling the ISIS organisation, and you now are very close from entering these cities and towns; therefore the safety and security of those cities and the preserving of the lives of its people and their properties and the safeguarding of their dignities, and staying away from revengeful and vindictive practices, and the respect of the geographic and demographic natures of these areas are the test of your honesty and the legitimacy of your words which we have been long accustomed to hearing. So if you succeed in this test then all the doors of discussion are open between us and you, for the nation is for everybody and fits [is wide enough for] everybody; as for if you deduce that your possession of power and land permits you to trespass on the rights then you will affirm that your presence will not differ from the presence of any other occupier, and especially that the very recent memory still retains the details of what happened in Tel Abyad and the villages and towns of the Northern countryside of Aleppo. And the fabricated media interviews that become engineered with some of the compelled residents will not be a measure of that popular support which we know that you are in dire need of, noting that we should remember always that the Kurds are the ones who were subject to injustice and oppression, and one does not presume that a side that seeks to get rid of injustice can do so through practicing it over others.

The great Syrian revolution will succeed with the aid of God without a doubt, and the current balances of power are not the first or last determinant, and we also affirm that Manbij and its environs is a part of Syria, and that the revolution is a revolution for all Syrians and not the revolution of Manbij only.

Long live Syria Free and Dignified, and perpetuity for the souls of our noble martyrs

The political committee in the city of Manbij

6-6-2016

الجمهورية العربية السورية
محافظة حلب الحرة
الهيئة السياسية في مدينة منبج و ريفها
بيان صادر عن الهيئة السياسية في مدينة منبج
يسعى حزب (الاتحاد الديمقراطي pyd ) ممُثّلاً بجناحه العسكري( قوات حماية الشعب) إلى السيطرة على مدن وبلدات وقرى ريف حلب الشرقي،مدعوما بقوات التحالف الدولي بقيادة الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية التي تتولّى قواتها التغطية الجوية الكاملة إضافة إلى تقديم كل أشكال الدعم االمادي واللوجستي،وذلك تحت شعار محاربة الإرهاب مُمثلاً بتنظيم (داعش). وقد شهدت الأيام القليلة الماضية زحفاً لهذه القوات تجاه مدينة منبج بغية السيطرة عليها وطرد تنظيم داعش. ولعلّ لا حاجة للتذكير بأن الجيش الحر من أبناء مدينة منبج هو أول من بدأ بمحاربة تنظيم داعش،وتمكن من طرده من المدينة في 5 كانون الثاني 2014 ، وبعد عودة التنظيم إلى المدينة نفّذ أهالي منبج إضراباً هو الأول من نوعه مجسّدين رفضهم لوجود لهذا التنظيم الإرهابي في مدينتهم،ولكنّ صراع المصالح الإقليمية والدولية على الساحة السورية والتي أفضت إلى إضعاف الجيش الحر واستنزافه،وكذلك قدرة نظام الأسد على استثمار هذا الصراع وتوظيف الجماعات الإرهابية لضرب قوى الثورة،كل ذلك أتاح المجال لداعش أن تتمدّد وتتغوّل في الأرض السورية،الأمر الذي أحالها إلى قوّة يتطلّب استئصالها جهوداً دولية كبيرة. إننا إذ نؤيد بقوّة أيّ جهة تحارب الإرهاب وتسعى إلى تقويضه،فإننا من جهة أخرى نؤكّد وبقوّة على أن محاربة الإرهاب يجب ألّا تفضي إلى استبداله بطرف إرهابي آخر،ونعني بذلك أن مقاومتنا للإرهاب تنطلق من ثوابت ومحدّدات تمليها علينا قيم ومبادىء الثورة السورية ويمكن بيانها بما يلي:
1 - إن الثورة السورية العظيمة هي ثورة شعب مقهور طالب بالحرية الكرامة وإسقاط نظام الاستبداد الأسدي،وإقامة دولة العدل والقانون والمواطنة،ويمثله الجيش الحر(بكل سلبياته وإيجابياته)والطرفان اللذان يتقاتلان الآن على السيطرة على منبج لا يحملان هذه الأجندة،بل لكل طرف مشروعه الخاص الذي يقاتل من أجله.
2 - لعلّ الجميع بات يعلم أن وجود تنظيم داعش في مناطقنا هو نتيجة توافق إقليمي ودولي،وزوال هذا التنظيم أو اجتثاثه لن يتم إلا بتوافق دولي، وحصراً، توافق( أمريكي - تركي).وقد استفاد نظام الأسد فائدة عظيمة من هذا الخلاف واستطاع توظيف داعش وسواها في إطالة بقائه في السلطة.
3 - قتال تنظيم داعش وطرده من مناطقنا لم يعد خياراً محليّاً،فضلاً عن أنه يستوجب دعم قوّة إقليمية أو دولية توفّر غطاء جوياً ولوجستياً كافياً،وهذه الأمور تفوق قدرات الجيش الحر الذي تم استنزافه وإضعافه بطريقة مقصودة ومُخطط لها بإتقان.
4 - الإخوة الأكراد هم مكوّن أصيل من مكونات الشعب السوري ولهم حقوق تم انتهاكها طيلة تعاقب الأنظمة المستبدة على الحكم في سورية،والمطالبة بهذه الحقوق هي من واجب السوريين جميعاً وليس الأكراد فحسب. أما حزب (الاتحاد الديمقراطي pyd) فهو فصيل لا يمثل كل أطياف الشعب الكردي بدليل خلافه مع معظم القوى والأحزاب الكردية، أمّا وأنه الآن يحظى بقوة عسكرية ودعم أمريكي ويسعى لفرض أجندته الخاصة على مدننا وبلداتنا،فإن خطابنا له هو التالي: أولاً: إذا أردتم أن يكون لوجودكم مشروعية وطنية سورية،فإن هذه المشروعية إنما تكمن في تماهي سلوككم وأهدافكم مع طموحات الشعب السوري في إسقاط دولة الاستبداد والإرهاب الأسدي وقيام سورية الحرة دولة المواطنة لكل السوريين. ثانياً:إنكم اليوم،وبحكم التوازنات الدولية والإقليمية الراهنة - تمتلكون قوة عسكرية كبيرة وتحظون بدعم قوة عالمية كبرى،وتسعون للسيطرة على مدينة منبج وما حولها من مدن وبلدات وقرى تحت شعار طرد تنظيم داعش،والآن أنتم قاب قوسين أو أدنى من الدخول إلى تلك المدن والبلدات،فإن سلامة وأمن تلك المدن والحفاظ على أرواح أهلها وممتلكاتهم وصون كرامتهم،والابتعاد عن الممارسات الانتقامية والثأرية،واحترام الطبيعة الجغرافية والديموغرافية لتلك المناطق هي امتحان لمصداقيتكم وشرعية خطابكم الذي اعتدنا سماعه،فإن نجحتم بهذا الامتحان فإن كافة أبواب الحوار مفتوحة بيننا وبينكم،فالوطن للجميع ويتسع الجميع،أمّا ّإذا اعتبرتم أن حيازة القوة والأرض تبيح لكم التجاوز على الحقوق فإنكم عندئذٍ تؤكدون أن وجودكم لن يختلف عن وجود أي محتل آخر،وخاصة أن الذاكرة القريبة جداً مازالت تحتفظ بتفصيلات كل ما جرى في تل أبيض وقرى وبلدات الريف الشمالي من حلب .ولن تكون المقابلات الإعلامية المفبركة التي تتم هندستها مع بعض السكان المجبرين على القول مقياساً لوجود تأييد شعبي نعلم أنكم بأمسّ الحاجة إليه، علماً أننا يجب أن نتذكر دوما أن الأكراد هم ممّن تعرّض للظلم والاضطهاد،ولا أعتقد أن طرفاً يسعى للتخلص من الظلم من خلال ممارسة الظلم على الآخرين.
إن الثورة السورية العظيمة ستنتصر بعون الله لا محالة،وأن موازين القوى الراهنة ليست المقياس الأول والأخير،كما نؤكد أن منبج وما حولها هي جزء من سورية،وأن الثورة هي ثورة جميع السوريين وليست ثورة منبج وحسب.
عاشت سورية حرة أبية ، والخلود لأرواح الشهداء الأبرار
الهيئة السياسية في مدينة منبج.
6 - 6 - 2016
Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Egyptair MS804: What kind of bomb takes 3 minutes to blow up an aircraft?

If you haven't been brain dead to current events this week, you already know about the tragic crash of Egyptair MS804, an Egyptian Airbus A320-200 that went down over the Mediterranean Sea with the loss of all on board, 56 passengers and 10 crew on May 19th.

If you have been tuned into US media reports on this story, you also know that it has widely been used to keep up the terrorism scare. Reports on the crash have been largely used to bring on anti-terrorism experts to speculate on just how the terrorist may have gotten a bomb on board even though a single shred of evidence has yet to been found to point to the plane being brought down by a terrorist bomb.

The did the same thing with TWA Flight 800 in 1996.

This morning we finally have some hard evidence about a sequence of aircraft issues just prior to the crash. These don't come from the black boxes, which they are still looking for, they come from a telemetry reporting system that was in communications with the aircraft until the end. Most often, in the case of an aircraft brought down by an explosion, whether it be a bomb smuggled on board or missile, it is the very absence of problem reports from either the black boxes or the ACARS system, that points to an explosion as the likely cause - one minute the plane is flying straight and normal, no problems, and them - bam - the data just stops! If there is any instrument or audio feedback recorded after the explosion, it is likely to be very brief. That's my opinion and with that said, here are some facts about the Egyptair crash published today by Aviation Herald:
On May 20th 2016 The Aviation Herald received information from three independent channels, that ACARS (Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System) messages with following content were received from the aircraft:

00:26Z 3044 ANTI ICE R WINDOW
00:26Z 561200 R SLIDING WINDOW SENSOR
00:26Z 2600 SMOKE LAVATORY SMOKE
00:27Z 2600 AVIONICS SMOKE
00:28Z 561100 R FIXED WINDOW SENSOR
00:29Z 2200 AUTO FLT FCU 2 FAULT
00:29Z 2700 F/CTL SEC 3 FAULT
no further ACARS messages were received.

Early May 21st 2016 the French BEA confirmed there were ACARS messages just prior to break down of communications warning however that they are insufficient to understand the causes of the accident until flight data or cockpit voice recorders have been found. Priority as of current is to find the wreckage and the recorders.
From this report we can see that there was a problem with a window, and smoke detected both in the lavatory three minutes before and the aircraft electronics (avionics) two minutes before the transmission stopped. I don't think that points to a terrorist bomb as the thing that brought down plane, which is why I think this aspect of the story is being unreported.

Of course, it could still be a terrorist bomb, a small one, not designed to bring down the plane directly, but instead strategically placed to start a fire in critical electronics that then caused the crash minutes later. I just don't think that scenario is very likely. I also believe that this is the first hard evidence we have of what was happening inside the plane just prior to the crash and because it points away from the terrorist bomb fear mongering theories, it is being seriously under reported. That is why I took the time to write this before going in to work this morning.

On CNN this morning they made the release of the last conversations with the air traffic controller the lead and buried this ACARS story. Of course the conversation with the air traffic controllers tells us exactly nothing about the crash or its cause because nobody that was a party to that conversation had a premonition of what was going to happen. Yet they dwell on that and mention the ACARS data only in passing. Makes me suspicious about the timing of the conversation release because it is being used to bury the ACAR story.

Donald Trump didn't wait for any facts before declaring Egyptair a terrorist attack. You do not want this guy's finger on the nuclear trigger.!



The analysts at Stratford Global Intelligence think that fact that no group has taken credit for the crash points away from terrorism:
The Meaning of Jihadist Silence on the EgyptAir Crash
As the investigation into the crash of EgyptAir Flight 804 continues and searchers begin to find evidence, the jihadist world has been strangely silent. Air traffic controllers lost contact with the aircraft early May 19 and we are now nearly outside the timeframe in which jihadist groups have ordinarily taken credit for attacks. The one obvious explanation for this is that a catastrophic mechanical or electrical failure brought down the aircraft rather than a bomb, More...
The Wall St. Journal makes the same point:
EgyptAir Flight Mystery Deepened by Absence of Responsibility Claim
Groups behind attacks usually take responsibility fairly quickly, but so far not in the case of Flight 804
By Robert Wall in London,
Maria Abi-Habib in Beirut and
Tamer El-Ghobashy in Cairo
May 21, 2016 5:10 p.m. ET

Almost 72 hours after the disappearance of Egyptair Flight 804 raised concern that terrorists again may have struck commercial aviation, the absence of anyone taking responsibility has prompted questions about what transpired on the Airbus 320 aircraft. More...

UPDATE: ABC News Good Morning America finally reported on the ACARS story on Monday but they still held out hope. "It could still be terrorism" the commenter promised. CBS This Morning didn't mention ACARS or the Egyptian crash story at all, at least in the news section of its second hour. The story had dropped off of their radar as completely as it had dropped off of the air traffic control radar when it went down into the Med. CNN's Wolf Blitzer spent a quarter hour on the story, still pushing the terrorism angle and never mentioning ACARS.

24 May 2016 CNN mentions ACARS near the end of an article and makes this interesting connection:
The first two messages showed engines were functional, but the next message at 00:26 GMT stated a rise in the co-pilot window temperature and sent out messages of smoke in locations such as the lavatory and avionics compartment below the cockpit. The alerts continued until the plane vanished from radar screens.
...
There have been electrical problems with window anti-ice heaters in A320s. In 2003, the Federal Aviation Administration required windshields replaced in all A320s in the United States. It's not known whether Egypt followed the FAA directive.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Democracy Now discovers the Syrian Revolution

As regular readers of this blog well know, we have been very critical of Amy Goodman's coverage of events in Syria over the past five years. Generally speaking, she has taken the Putin/Assad line on the conflict as truth and she has treated the Syrian Revolution, the energy at the core of this conflict, as though it never even existed. For example, a Google search of democracynow.org for the term "Syrian revolution" turns up only 37 results. The last time the phrase "Syrian revolution" was used on Democracy Now was over 2 years ago, 18 December 2013 when Patrick Cockburn, an avowed enemy of the Syrian Revolution spoke of "a degrading of the Syrian revolution." Apparently it had become so degraded that the term never even came up again.

Since that show, since December 2013, while hundreds of thousands of Syrians have given their lives for it and millions have been forced to flee their homes because of the Assad Regime's response to it, the Syrian Revolution has not existed on Democracy Now, until this Friday. This is an excellent segment. The heart of it is an interview with Yasser Munif, of Emerson College, a long time Syrian activist. Linux Beach published an interview with him 13 September 2013, Inside the Syrian Revolution and what the Left must do. He should have been on DN back then too but I am very happy that Amy has finally allowed the other side to have some time on her show.


As the death toll in Syria’s five-year conflict reportedly reaches half a million people, we look at how Syrians are working at the local level to survive and organize in the midst of war—and to keep the revolutionary spirit of the 2011 Syrian uprising alive. We are joined by Yasser Munif, a Syrian scholar who specializes in grassroots movements in Syria, who describes the ongoing work of media activists, journalists, medical crews and rescue workers. "They don’t perceive the kind of work they are doing as humanitarian or relief work. They perceive it as the backbone of the revolution," Munif notes. "The revolution is still alive. It may be marginal, but if there is a ceasefire … it can come back. It is very much invisible and, for some, unthinkable." Munif is the co-founder of the Campaign for Global Solidarity with the Syrian Revolution.
TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to Syria, where renewed violence has erupted around the embattled city of Aleppo after a ceasefire between the Syrian regime and the opposition expired. A surge in fighting between rebels and the Syrian regime has killed about 300 people there over the past two weeks. At least three people were killed last week when a maternity hospital in a government-controlled section of the city was hit by rocket fire. Secretary of State John Kerry said the rockets appear to have come from a rebel area. The hospital attack came days after the Syrian regime destroyed a Doctors Without Borders-backed hospital, killing at least 14 patients and three doctors, including one of the last pediatricians in rebel-held East Aleppo.

Meanwhile outside Damascus, Syrian government officials turned back an aid convoy carrying the first humanitarian supplies to the rebel-held town of Darayya in more than three years. The Damascus suburb has been under siege by the Syrian regime since 2012. Residents who had gathered to await the aid faced a shelling attack blamed on the Syrian government. Two civilians were killed: a father and son. Opening up besieged areas to aid delivery has been a key demand of the opposition during the latest round of peace talks, as well as a key demand of international aid organizations.

Earlier this week, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States and Russia have agreed to push for the revival of a nationwide ceasefire in Syria, amid hopes of restarting stalled peace talks. On Thursday, the United Nations Security Council expressed outrage over the ongoing violence, including recent attacks on hospitals. Egyptian Representative Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta, the council’s president for this month, issued the condemnation.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA: The members of the Security Council expressed outrage at all recent attacks in Syria directed against civilians and civilian objects, including medical facilities, as well as all indiscriminate attacks, and stressed that these actions may amount to war crimes. They expressed their deep concern at violations of the cessation of hostilities endorsed by Security Council Resolution 2268.

AMY GOODMAN: According to a recent report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the death toll in the five-year conflict has reached close to half a million people, nearly twice the number counted by the United Nations a year and a half ago, when it stopped keeping track of the numbers killed because of the data’s unreliability. The ongoing conflict has displaced about half the prewar population, with more than 6 million Syrians displaced inside Syria and nearly 5 million Syrian refugees outside Syria’s borders.

But beyond the plight of refugees and the violence, there’s another story in Syria that receives far less attention, that of Syrians working at the local level to survive and organize in the midst of war and to keep the revolutionary spirit of the 2011 Syrian uprising alive. To talk more about these efforts, we’re joined by Yasser Munif, a Syrian scholar who specializes in grassroots movements in Syria. He’s made several trips to Syria in recent years, most recently in 2015, when he visited the Syrian-Turkish border. He’s a sociology professor at Emerson College in Boston and a co-founder of the Campaign for Global Solidarity with the Syrian Revolution.

Professor Yasser Munif, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about what’s happening right now in Syria?

YASSER MUNIF: So, there are a number of different things happening, and there is—the spirit of the revolution is still there in Syria. Most recently, with the ceasefire that happened last month between the Russian and the U.S., and imposed on the Syrian regime and the opposition, there were massive protests in the liberated areas, in the Idlib and Aleppo areas, and they were demanding the fall of the Syrian regime, and they were chanting for the revolution of dignity and freedom and for democracy and so on.

And what’s interesting during, you know, those protests was that they were also protesting against al-Nusra. In those regions, there is a powerful presence of al-Nusra. And they were demanding the release of the prisoners that were held in al-Nusra prisons. And al-Nusra was trying to crush those protests. And they were happening for days and days, almost a month. And what happened in the end was that the Syrian regime bombed those cities. For example, Kafr Nabl and another city, it bombed the market there, and it killed 40 in one city and 10 in another city. And the message was very clear: The Syrian regime fears very much that type of peaceful protest, revolutionary spirit, and it wanted to crush it, despite its opposition to both sides, the Syrian regime and the jihadists in al-Nusra.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Yasser Munif, you’ve spent several months in Syria since 2011. So could you tell us where you were in Syria, and also talk about some of the local groups you met there and how they’re organizing in the midst of this brutal war?

YASSER MUNIF: I’ve been several times to Syria since 2011. I’ve been to the suburbs of Damascus, but also to the liberated areas in northern Syria, in Aleppo, Raqqa and mostly Manbij, which is in the suburbs of Aleppo. And I spent several months there in 2013 and 2014, trying to see what’s happening and what people are doing. And what I’ve seen was really impressive, the kind of politics that people were reinventing and the kind of democracy that they were trying to build from the ground up and the institutions that they were trying to create to make their cities and their villages livable. And all that was taking place in a very challenging environment, with the violence of the Syrian regime and the incremental and gradual presence of the jihadists back then in 2013 and 2014. And yet, people were experimenting with new ideas, trying to create a new culture of resistance and dignity, and tried to also provide the basic needs for the population, without any kind of funding, without any kind of support and so on. And that’s the dimension of the Syrian conflict that is basically invisible or hidden for most in the West and beyond.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about, Yasser Munif, where ISIS fits into this story?

YASSER MUNIF: So, ISIS, obviously, has different histories and genealogies. Obviously, we can’t understand the emergence of ISIS in Syria without going back to the history of the U.S. and Saudi Arabia in Afghanistan, and more recently in Iraq, and the push for that kind of radicalization. We should also understand that the Syrian regime fears very much the grassroots, civilian, peaceful resistance that was happening back in 2011. And what it did was the release of many jihadists in 2011 and 2012, thousands of them, many of whom became leaders in the main military jihadist groups, including Ahrar ash-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam, al-Nusra and ISIS. And also, the chemical attacks, the way that the entire world responded to the chemical attacks and what people saw with the chemical attacks radicalized part of the population. And some people basically went and started fighting with ISIS. Combined to a culture of racism in Europe, which is also pushing part of the Muslim population, and also non-Muslim population—there are some Jews and some Christians who convert to Islam and go fight in Iraq and Syria. And so, it’s a combination of all these forces, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey, who are also funding and backing ISIS for very narrow interests that are basically against the Syrian revolution. So I think it’s important to understand the emergence and the hegemony of ISIS in those different dimensions. It’s not simply a creation by the jihadists and the Salafi currents or discourses in Syria.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Yasser Munif, you’ve just spoken of the xenophobia in Europe that has also led people from there to join ISIS. And I want to go to what presumptive Republican presidential nominee here in the U.S., Donald Trump, said about Syrian refugees coming to the U.S. He was speaking Saturday in Washington state.

DONALD TRUMP: We should build safe zones for Syrians. But we can’t bring them to Washington state. And you don’t even know where they’re going. You know, you saw what happened in Paris. You saw what happened at the World Trade Center. You saw what happened in California with the 14 people that they worked with—shot, killed, many people in the hospital, right now, many, many people in the hospital. These are people that nobody knows who they are, and they’re going to be in your community. You can’t do it.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Donald Trump speaking on Saturday. Yasser Munif, your response to what he said?

YASSER MUNIF: So, again, we can’t really understand the Syrian revolution or the Syrian conflict without understanding it in a more global and regional context. And that global context is one where there is a major economic crisis, high unemployment rates in Europe and beyond, creating resentments among white working classes and the marginalization, demonization, vilification of Muslims in Europe and beyond. And that’s also creating alienation among the Muslim population, that is reacting, part of it—we have to also point that this is really a small segment of the Muslim population, which is marginalized, and part of it think that going to Syria and fighting in Syria is a form of salvation, that Syria is heaven and that they could build what is referred to as the caliphate. And so, there is an environment of xenophobia that is very much—has a representation in Syria. For example, the far right also backs the Syrian regime. For example, David Duke and Alex Jones here in the U.S. or the BNP in the U.K. or the Le Pen National Front in France or even the white supremacists in Greece have backed the Syrian regime. And for some of them, they sent people to fight along with the Syrian troops, thinking that this is a war against Muslims and against jihadists and so on.

So, the Syrian conflict has many dimensions. And this is one of them. It’s also referred to as a civil war. It’s referred to as a sectarian conflict, as a proxy war, foreign intervention. But in all these narratives, what is really missing is the Syrian revolution. And for the most part, it’s been absent in any kind of discussion or talk about the Syrian revolution or the Syrian conflict.

And I think the left, the global left, has played a major role in that by dismissing what the Syrian people are doing, for a number of different reasons, in part because the Syrian regime imposed a media blackout and prevented journalists from going there. So there is very little reports from the ground that are in English and that people in the left and the progressive circles in the West and beyond understand. And for some people, they think that the Syrian regime is anti-imperialist, pro-Palestine, it’s allied to Iran and so on, and they have to side with the lesser evil, the lesser evil being the Syrian regime. For example, the—Seymour Hersh, as one example, has written four or five different narratives about the chemical attacks without ever really interviewing journalists or activists on the ground. And those narratives are really conflicting. For example, Robert Fisk, another journalist, who was very much against embedded journalism in Iraq, does only embedded journalism in Syria and has interviewed prisoners in torture chambers in Syria. Tariq Ali suggested that the only way to defeat ISIS is to side and back the Syrian regime. Some antiwar activists here in the U.S. and in Europe brought pictures of Assad in their demonstrations against foreign intervention. In many cases, leftists and progressives have organized conferences and panels about Syria, and oftentimes the Syrian voice was missing. And so, this has made the understanding of the Syrian revolution very much difficult, and marginalized and alienated part of the Syrian population, who think that leftists are against the revolution, that people don’t understand what is happening, that they are only perceived as Muslims and jihadists. And this revolutionary dimension is completely dismissed in those discourses.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to one of the journalists you just talked about, Seymour Hersh. Last month, I interviewed him, and he talked about Russia’s role in Syria.

SEYMOUR HERSH: Russian special forces are in the fight against ISIS with the Syrian army, with Hezbollah, with the Iranian army, the Quds Force. And the Russians have done an awful lot to improve the Syrian army in the past year—retrained them, reoutfitted them, etc., etc., etc. It’s a much better army since the Russians came in.

AMY GOODMAN: Yasser Munif, your response to Seymour Hersh?

YASSER MUNIF: So, Russia is a force of occupation in Syria. Like many others who are intervening in Syria—the U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran—the Russians are playing a very detrimental role. So, for example, in the recent intervention and the airstrikes that they have been conducting since a number of months now, more than 50 percent of the people who were killed are civilian. The Russian airplanes have also bombed bakeries. And that’s a strategies—one of the strategies of the Syrian regime, basically propagating and imposing their politics of despair on the Syrians who live in those liberated areas or besieged areas. And most people despise and really reject that Russian presence or colonization that has—that the Syrian regime has imposed on them. Most recently, the Russians have also organized trips for journalists. And more than a hundred journalists visited military camps and military bases, Russian bases in Syria, and celebrating the Russian presence, which is very detrimental for the Syrian. And it’s basically making the continuation of the conflict possible. It’s backing the Syrian regime and its violence and its vicious war. So I very much oppose what Seymour Hersh is trying to do and represents.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Yasser Munif, just before we conclude, I think one of the issues that we have here is a lot of confusion about who constitutes the Syrian opposition today. There seems to be a conflation of the opposition now with groups like al-Nusra, al-Qaeda, ISIS, etc. So could you tell us how you would characterize the opposition now?

YASSER MUNIF: So we have to understand that the al-Nusra and ISIS and other jihadist groups are part of a counterrevolution. There are a number of different—or the counterrevolution have different dimensions, one of which is those jihadist groups. Obviously, there is the foreign intervention in its different dimensions, whether it’s Russian, Iranian or American and European and so on, or Saudi and Turkish. And there is also, obviously, the Syrian regime. But for the most part, most of the people who look at the Syrian revolt or the Syrian conflict think that the Syrian opposition, the official Syrian opposition, represent the entire revolutionary aspect or the Syrian opposition to Assad, which is far from truth. The official opposition represent a minority. Most people despise that Syrian opposition. And many of the activists, many of the revolutionaries who are on the ground, who continue the revolution, who are creating that and continuing that politics of dignity and freedom, don’t recognize themselves as part of that opposition. They are, for the most part, unaffiliated.

But the type of work that they are doing is tremendous. They are media activists, they are journalists, they are the medical crews, and they are the rescue workers. And they don’t perceive the kind of work they’re doing as part of humanitarian or relief work. They perceive it as, you know, the backbone of the revolution. And that’s, again, part of the confusion. And this is why I think that the revolution is still alive. It may be marginal, but if there is a ceasefire, as we have seen in the past month, it can come back. And it’s still present very much, but very much invisible and, for some, unthinkable.

AMY GOODMAN: Yasser Munif, I want to thank you for being with us, Syrian scholar who specializes in grassroots movements in Syria. Thank you so much for being with us. Yasser Munif teaches at Emerson College in Boston.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we go inside a prison where there’s been a work strike for the last 10 days. We go to Alabama. Stay with us.
Other posts on Democracy Now:
09/27/2015 How Democracy Now helped to create the Syrian refugee crisis
04/10/2015 Crisis in Yarmouk: How Amy backs Assad's play
02/06/2015 On Democracy Now today: Amy sends another Valentine to Bashar
03/16/2013 Syria: for #Mar15, @AmyGoodman has Assad 'regime apologist' on Democracy Now
03/09/2013 What Amy didn't say on International Women's Day

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