Two children are reported to be among the 44 people killed so far today in Dara, Syria as the Assad regime continued it attacks on civilian communities with tank fire and helicopter gunships. Hama was shelled again today, as it has been for a month and attacks continued with shelling in Damascus and Aleppo, Idlib and Homs.
And today, President Barack Obama told the Assad regime there would be no military response or weapons support for the Free Syrian Army as long as it kept doing what it is doing and didn't introduce chemical weapons into the conflict.
Five thousand Syrians have been killed by Assad's thugs in the month of Ramadan alone, raising the total murdered for rising up against the Assad dictatorship to 25,000 as the regime has accelerated the rate of killing through the widespread use of long range artillery, tanks, cluster bombs, helicopter gunships and warplanes dropping bombs on civilian houses and apartment buildings. As President Obama said in a surprise press briefing this afternoon:
On Syria, obviously this is a very tough issue. I have indicated repeatedly that President al-Assad has lost legitimacy, that he needs to step down. So far, he hasnt gotten the message, and instead has double downed in violence on his own people.Asking the devil in Damascus to step down has not saved a single Syrian life and it won't.
It is also clear that those that are trying to protect the people from Assad's campaign of "Death from Above" have not received effective anti-aircraft weapons from anyone. Obama made it clear that they have received no such support from the "Home of the Brave and Land of the Free," and should expect none:
I have, at this point, not ordered military engagement in the situation.This is what he said the US has done:
What weve said is, number one, we want to make sure were providing humanitarian assistance, and weve done that to the tune of $82 million, I believe, so far. And well probably end up doing a little more because we want to make sure that the hundreds of thousands of refugees that are fleeing the mayhem, that they dont end up creating -- or being in a terrible situation, or also destabilizing some of Syrias neighbors.As you can see "humanitarian intervention" to actually stop people from being slaughtered, the reason given for NATO intervention in Libya, plays no role in his "calculus." The US will, however, help provide tents and medical supplies for those lucky enough to escape from Assad's killing fields. Even this is being done less out of concern for the people being oppressed by the Syrian regime and more out of concern for the destabilizing effects it may have on Syria's neighbors. Then Obama went on the tell the world and the Assad regime what might provoke a change in this US policy of non-intervention and it wouldn't be the level of killing, which has been steadily increasing, but a shift in the way killing is done:
We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.So, President Obama has told President Assad today that he can keep doing what he is doing, killing Syrians at a rate better than a thousand a week with indiscriminate weapons like cluster bombs, and even double that rate, and he has nothing to fear from the US military that could swat his helicopter gunships and war planes out of the sky like they were flies.
Q So you're confident its somehow under -- it's safe?
THE PRESIDENT: In a situation this volatile, I wouldnt say that I am absolutely confident. What Im saying is were monitoring that situation very carefully. We have put together a range of contingency plans. We have communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region that thats a red line for us and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons. That would change my calculations significantly.
All right, thank you, everybody.
The US views itself as the "Top Gun" in the world when it comes to military power so in international conflicts US presidents almost never take "the military option" off the table. It is almost boiler plate for a US gov't statement on an international conflict to repeat the mantra "all options are on the table," and everybody knows what that means.
It is easy to understand why the US so often takes this stand, even when it is clear that there almost certainly won't be a military response. Part of the reason for having such a robust military is the threat of its use and even the outside chance that the US may respond with its enormous military power will cause an adversary to think again about what he is doing.
Even if Obama, facing election, plans no military response to Assad's massacre upon massacre, he didn't have to let him know it.
In our culture a "green light" tells you when it is safe to do something, and while it can't be said that what Assad is doing has Obama's approval, he would prefer that he resigns, it can at the very least be said that he has Obama's acquiescence.
I believe the reason is simple, President Obama wants Assad to win but he wants it to look otherwise. That's why there is no "humanitarian intervention" in Syria.
#Syria against chemical weapon use. But on story facts, headline could have been US rules out no fly zone..m.guardian.co.uk/ms/p/gnm/op/sN
Charles Shoebridge (@ShoebridgeC) August 20, 2012
#Obama2012 but chem/bio weapons as redline 4 #Syria intervention?! Must more die of 'conventional' weapons 1st?!backchannel.al-monitor.com/index.php/2012
Maggie M. Salem (@magsmitchell) August 20, 2012
#Obama's red line to #Assad- nothing to do with #Syria people welfare- an electoral gesture to #Israel - to stop chems moving to #Hezbollah
Alexblx (@Alexblx) August 20, 2012
#Obama tells #Assad 'sure, genocide is fine. But if u do it with chemicals well, then, thats probably ok too.'washingtonpost.com/politics/obama #Syria
Time (@SyriaTime) August 20, 2012
More on how the Obama administration is helping the Assad regime and holding back the Free Syrian Army from the Australian:
CIA polices weapons entry to Syria as spooks invade TurkeyIf this is true, then Obama has some Syrian blood on his hands.
by: John Follain and Tony Allen-Mills
August 13, 2012 12:00AM
DESPITE mounting calls in Washington for a more aggressive US military role in Syria, the CIA has been quietly working along its northern border with Turkey to limit the supplies of weapons and ammunition reaching rebel forces, Syrian opposition officials say.
"Not one bullet enters Syria without US approval," one official complained in Istanbul.
"The Americans want the (rebellion) to continue, but they are not allowing enough supplies in to make the Damascus regime fall."
Details of the CIA's policing activities offer a rare insight into the complex struggle for regional advantage that is rapidly developing at the margins of the Syrian civil war.
Conducted mostly by clandestine agents from the US, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Iran, the conflict has turned Turkey's rugged border provinces into a hotbed of arms dealers, spies and would-be fighters.
Over the past 10 months, a Syrian opposition official told The Sunday Times, the CIA has blocked shipments of heavy anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, which rebel units of the Free Syrian Army have long said are vital to their efforts to overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
At the same time they have approved supplies of AK-47 Kalashnikov rifles, and just over a month ago gave the green light to a shipment of 10,000 Russian-made rocket-propelled grenades.
"The weapons are being carried across the border on donkeys," the official said.
Since the fall to rebel forces of Azaz, a Syrian town near the Turkish border, guns have begun to arrive by truck.
The weapons are either bought on the black market in Istanbul or supplied by the rebels' allies in Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
"Qatar sends money and usually says 'Go and buy what you want'," the official said.
"The Turks just give the weapons free of charge, especially light anti-tank weapons."
Yet rebel frustration is mounting at the CIA's reluctance to allow heavy weaponry across the border for fear that it may eventually be used against America's allies.
"The RPGs aren't enough," the opposition official said. "You have to be close to the tank to make any impact, and often the fighter using it gets killed."
The CIA's activities highlight a contradiction in Washington's approach to Syria.
While President Barack Obama's administration supports the rebel uprising, has called for Assad to step down and is supplying opposition forces with millions of dollars in non-lethal aid, it has shied from a more forcible military intervention.
Suggestions that Washington was deliberately prolonging the conflict while it attempted to identify a friendly successor to Assad were described by one former CIA official as "a little too Machiavellian".
Bob Grenier, a former director of the CIA counter-terrorism centre, said the CIA's policing activities along the border were intended to protect the administration from future embarrassment if the rebel groups it supported turned out to be hostile to Israel or the US should they gain power.
"It would not be good if it was later established that weapons reached people identified with al-Qa'ida, and we could have done something about it," he said.
He described the administration's current policy as "hiding behind the CIA".
Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, said in Turkey on Saturday that measures to assist the rebels, including the possible imposition of a no-fly zone, were being considered.
"It is one thing to talk about all kinds of potential actions, but you cannot make reasoned decisions without doing intense analysis and operational planning," she said.
CIA agents have been active along the border, trying to prevent jihadists sympathetic to al-Qa'ida from joining the Syrian fray.
"The CIA vetoes al-Qa'ida and it's not very keen on the Muslim Brotherhood," a Syrian opposition official said.
Khaled Khoja, from the opposition Syrian National Council, said American fears of an Islamist takeover were unfounded.
"Islamists in Syria are a very minor group, no more than 2000 soldiers compared with more than 100,000 FSA members," he said.
"They can be controlled. This won't be a new Iraq (where US forces found themselves confronted by Islamic insurgents)."
With both the CIA and Israel's Mossad trying to locate Syria's stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and Iranian agents keeping a close eye on Western intervention, southern Turkey is beginning to resemble a desert version of Cold War Berlin - teeming with spies engaged in a largely secret battle."
Here are my related diaries on Syria:
Syria: Turning Battlegrounds into Playgrounds
BREAKING: Bashar al-Assad is alive as deaths in Syria reach 25,000
The Left and the Arab Spring
Iran increasing its intervention in Syria
Syria: Images from the Battle of Aleppo
Fears grow of WMD attack in Syria
UPDATED: FSA says it killed Russian General in Syria
BREAKING: Syria releases new images of Bashar al- Assad | Are they fakes?
NOT BREAKING NEWS: Just another massacre in Syria
UPDATED: Syrian prime minister defects
Syria: FSA says Iranian pilgrims really Republican Guard
Syria: Aleppo under Siege!
BREAKING: UN votes to condemn Assad Regime as Reuters posts false story on Syria
BREAKING: Kofi Annan resigns as envoy to Syria
Syria: Bashar al-Assad not heard from on Armed Forces Day!
BREAKING: Senior Syrian diplomat to Armenia defects
BREAKING: Big Explosion hits #Damascus #Syria
UPDATED: Syria's Charge D'Affaires Quits London Post
BREAKING: Ground assault on Aleppo begins!
BREAKING: Protests across Syria in spite of Assad regime violence
ALEPPO: Step outside the Matrix and witness the Horror
UPDATED: US fears massacre in #Aleppo, #Syria
BREAKING: Reports of clashes between Jordan Army & Assad's Syrian army
BRAKING: Obama stops Putin from re-arming Assad in Syria
Syria: Foreign meddling increases as crisis builds
BREAKING: Aleppo, Syria bombed with fighter jets
BREAKING: Syria issues a correction, it has no WMD to use
BREAKING: Arab League asks Assad to step down!
Bashar al-Assad: New images released as slaughter continues in Syria
no blood for oil
BREAKING: Activists report toxic gas attack in Deir ez-Zor, Syria
Glenn Greenwald sees Islamist Terrorism as main issue in Syria
Will Syria's Assad make a chemical attack in Damascus on Saturday?
BREAKING: I know where Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is!
BREAKING: Massive Fire near #Assad's Presidential Palace in #Damascus, #Syria
BREAKING: Is Syria's Bashar al-Assad dead or dying?
BREAKING: Damascus explosion kills Defense Minister, other key figures
The battle for Damascus is coming
BREAKING: General Strike in Damascus
BREAKING: Intense fighting reported in Damascus now!
BREAKING: Syrian defector spills beans as important new defection reported.
Does Syria's Assad have something on Kofi Annan?
Tremseh Massacre in Syria: What we know
BREAKING: ~227 reported massacred by Assad's forces in Tremseh, Syria today!
Syria: Is Assad regime on the verge of collapse?
BREAKING: Russian Warships reported in Syria
BREAKING: #Russia changing on #Assad but not as fast as conditions in #Syria
UN Observers say violence in Syria is Unprecedented
BREAKING: Defection of major Assad insider reported in Syria
BREAKING: WikiLeaks releases 2.4 million #Syria emails
When did "Never Again" become "Whenever?" | #Douma
BREAKING: Incredible mass rally in Aleppo, Syria today!
BREAKING: HRW releases torture report on Syria
BREAKING: Syrian General defects with 293 to Turkey
BREAKING: Items not in the MSM on Syria
My response to Phyllis Bennis: Where is the non-violent opposition in Syria?
BREAKING: Syrian Air Force attacks Douma, 10m from Damascus, thousands flee
BREAKING: As Syria Burns, UN Blows More Smoke
BREAKING: Kofi Annan to propose Syrian unity gov't sans Assad!
BREAKING: Douma, Syria under massive attack, another massacre feared
BREAKING: Another mass defection from Syrian army
BREAKING: #NATO says No War in #Syria shoot down of #Turkey jet
NATO meetup tomorrow as more defect from Syria
BREAKING: Turkey calls for NATO consult on downing of jet by Syria
BREAKING: Senior Syrian Officers Defect
UPDATED: Russia reported to be preparing to evacuate from Syria
BREAKING: Syria fighter pilot defects
BREAKING: Britain stops Russian ship carrying attack helicopters for Syria
BREAKING: Russian troops headed to Syria
Qaddafi forces Strike Back in Libya
BREAKING: UN suspends mission in Syria
Libya & Syria - two videos - no comment
BREAKING: Russia denies supplying Syria with NEW attack helicopters
Syrian people rise up against the massacre
Another "Houla style" massacre in Syria
Fake Houla Massacre Photo: Was the BBC set up?
Idlib, Syria protest today on anniversary of Kent State killings
BREAKING: Massive protests in Syria following Friday pray
Syria is bleeding
Syria: Ceasefire faltering as mass protests breakout
6:39 PM PT: What does Obama mean when he says we can't have a situation where chemical and biological weapons fall into the hands of the "wrong people."
Does that mean that those that currently hold them are not the "wrong people?" Does he want to see the Assad regime triumph so that Assad's WMD doesn't fall into the hands of the "wrong people?"
Wed Aug 22, 2012 at 6:17 AM PT: Now Assad is using incendiary bombs on the forests around Latikia. Still not crossing Obama's "red-line" Just using everything below that now that he knows they'll be no response from Obama.
Wed Aug 22, 2012 at 6:15 PM PT: If this is true:
Over the past 10 months, a Syrian opposition official told The Sunday Times, the CIA has blocked shipments of heavy anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, which rebel units of the Free Syrian Army have long said are vital to their efforts to overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.That is the most cynical and most criminal policy any country can have towards this war.
At the same time they have approved supplies of AK-47 Kalashnikov rifles, and just over a month ago gave the green light to a shipment of 10,000 Russian-made rocket-propelled grenades.
To bring this slaughter of an end, what Syria needs more than anything is a quick resolution to this armed struggle.
I believe that if Assad defeats the FSA there will be a lot more quiet executions while he wipes out anybody who even looked cross-eyed at him. But even so, after maybe 100,000 deaths, things will "die down" to whatever ambient level of killing he finds necessary to maintain his rule - until the next uprising.
Even if the opposition wins there will likely be some more violence while things sort themselves out.
But either way, Syrian's won't keep dying at the current rate of a thousand a week.
So, in my book, either you support the FSA, in which case you give them what they need if you can, but you certainly don't stop them from getting it from others.
Or you support Assad, it which case you don't give the FSA one damn bullet!
But to allow them just enough to continue the fight, but not enough to win it? If that is truly the policy of this country, we should all hang our heads in shame.
Consider the effect of such a policy in the Battle of Aleppo. Clearly the FSA has been able to get [from Turkey, no doubt vetted by the CIA - if the NY Times report is true] just enough small arms to hang in there and keep fighting. So Assad, who obviously doesn't give a fuck about civilian causalities, keeps pounding away with his warplanes. Meanwhile, here's the good old U.S. of A. making sure they don't get anything that could knock down those warplanes!
Can you think of a more shameless approach to this war?
This is what US imperialism policy on endless war looks like in Syria.
Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 7:37 AM PT: Ammar Abduhamid writes in his Syrian Revolution Blog:
Redline and Greenlight!
President Obama's coldly articulated redline regarding the use of chemical weapons might just translate into a greenlight for more frenzied killing sprees by Assad and his militias.
Monday August 20, 2012In his recent White House press briefing, President Obama said that he had not "ordered military engagement" in Syria, but noted that he might change his "calculus" should "we see a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around, or being utilized," by the Assad regime, as this development, for him, as he pointed out, would constitute a "redline."
Cities & Towns Under Shelling: 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, Naeemah, Mseifrah, Jimreen, Hraak (Daraa), Rastan, Talbisseh, Houla, Tal Kalakh, Al-Qusayr, Al-Hosn, Al-Ghanto, Al-Bouaydah, Old Homs (Homs Province), Hreitan, Elbab, Eizaz, Marei, Bayanoun, Dar Azzah, Manbij, Anadan (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, Marrat Al-Nouman, Saraqib, Maar Shoureen, Ariha, Kafroumah, Al-Rami, Khan Shaikhoon (Idlib).
Obama warns Syria chemical weapons use may spark US action
By framing things this way at a time when Assad's MIGs, helicopter gunships, missiles and heavy artillery are pounding residential neighborhoods and civilian installations, including schools and hospitals, in villages, towns and cities all across Syria claiming hundreds of lives every day, President Obama's redline will most likely be taken by Assad as greenlight for sticking to his bloody tactics to the bitter end. After all, he was just told by the most powerful man in the world that he has no plans to stop him.
President Obama, a Nobel Prize laureate, also showed more concern for the regional ramification of using biological weapons than for the humanitarian cost involved. He said: "It doesn't just include Syria. It would concern allies in the region, including Israel, and it would concern us."
Why President Obama would be so callous about the tragedy unfolding in Syria is beyond me. Why slaughter would be deemed tolerable if it happened one way and not another remains an enigma. Be that as it may, President Obama has just told millions of Syrians that their suffering simply does not concern him, that his cold calculus does not leave much room for compassion.
Coming from the most powerful man in the world, the man who just last year invoked the Responsibility to Protect to stop carnage in Libya, this is an unfathomable and cynical abdication of moral responsibility. The Syrian people who dared yearn to be free will pay dearly for it. But down the road, so will America, and so will the rest of the world.
For devoid of her moral compass, America will be no different than Russia and China - just another cynical superpower in it for herself, and nothing more. American exceptionalism will come to an end. Many in America and across the world would rejoice, but the world will be left leaderless, and without any reliable mechanism for collective decision-making and consensus building. This will not be a better world, as so many envision, but a cold dark one, filled with conflicts, suffering and tumult.
Syria will be forgotten then, but her torn pieces will continue to bleed. By the time, the world grasped that Syria is nothing less than its beating heart, it will be too late.
Meanwhile, thank you Mr. President, and Happy Eid to you too.