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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Is Assad Dead? Forgive me if I'm a bit more cautious this time

There is a lot of chatter on Twitter that Bashar al-Assad may finally have a chance to talk old times with Qaddafi.

Speculation has been growing since March 24th when the rumors emerged that he had been shot by one of his body guards.
Report: Assad Shot By Bodyguard – Hospitalized in Damascus
Posted by Jim Hoft on Sunday, March 24, 2013, 12:22 PM
Translated from JSS News:
According to Arab media www.eltira.org , Bashar al-Assad would have been seriously wounded by gunfire last night Saturday, March 23 by his bodyguard but Iran is not dead. He is currently hospitalized, between life and death, Shami Hospital in Damascus which the streets were closed
Last year one of Assad’s bodyguards blew himself up in a suicide blast in Damascus.
Then this video, in which claimed credit for the deed was posted to YouTube.

Now today, with power mysteriously out in Damascus all day and a promised speech and appearance of Assad schedule for today not happening, the rumor mill is in over drive.

Is Assad dead?

I certainly hope so. Having been through this movie before, please forgive me if I'm a bit more cautious this time.

July 18, 2012 Damascus explosion kills Defense Minister, other key figures
July 18, 2012 Is Syria's Bashar al-Assad dead or dying?
July 19, 2012 I know where Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is!
July 21, 2012 Bashar al-Assad: New images released as slaughter continues in Syria
July 31, 2012 Syria: Bashar al-Assad not heard from on Armed Forces Day!
August 6, 2012 Syria releases new images of Bashar al- Assad | Are they fakes?

For a solid month after the Damascus explosion, Assad didn't show his face in public, while the rumors swelled, then he performed Eid al-Fitr prayers at Al-Hamad Mosque.
August 18, 2012 Bashar al-Assad is alive as deaths in Syria reach 25,000
When he gave his first TV interview after the Damascus explosion on August 28 [Assad: "Syria doesn't need a green light!"] , and the interviewer suggested to Assad:
The president should appear everyday on TV so we don't hear rumors, where are you now Mr. president? [00:53]
I felt like he was giving those of us who had our hopes up then a hard time.

So remembering what a sneaky bastard Bashar is, I'm not ready to get my hopes up quite yet.

But I am quite sure that we will have satisfaction sooner or later.

More, later...

UPDATE:From YaLibnan
Franjieh, confirmed that Assad is still alive and well
March 31, 2013 ⋅ 4:36 am
Marada Movement leader MP Suleiman Franjieh, called Syrian president Bashar al Assad on Saturday and found out he is ok. His call came after a Friday report by one of the Free Syrian Army brigades ( Martyrs brigade) claiming that the Syrian president was assassinated .

Franjieh,, a staunch ally of Assad confirmed that the Syrian president is alive and well and what was reported was strictly a rumor. More...

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Friday, March 29, 2013

France reneges on arming Syrian rebels: More empty promises from NATO

Two weeks ago, when the EU summit failed to lift the arms embargo for Assad's opposition, France declared its plans to go it alone and arm the Syria opposition anyway. Britain's Foreign Minister William Hague declared that France and the UK were "on the same page" and for a short while it seemed that France and the UK would be providing the badly needed heavy weapons to the rebels in spite of the EU & US resistance.

Then in an apparent contradiction, William Hague declared that while France and the UK were "on the same page" with regards to arming the opposition, Britain had no plans to do so.

Yesterday, this apparent contradiction was resolved when French President Francois Hollande said France wasn't going to be arming Assad's opposition either. After two year of violent suppression by the Assad government of the Syrian people that has cost more than 70,000 lives, Hollande has declared it's "too early" to arm the Syrian opposition. Al Jazeera English is reporting:
France backtracks on arming Syria's rebels

French President Francoise Hollande says 'no guarantee' weapons to Syria's rebels will end up in the wrong hands.
29 Mar 2013 02:18
France will uphold the EU embargo on weapon deliveries for Syrian rebels after all, changing course from just two weeks ago, according to comments by President Francois Hollande.

France would have to be convinced that the weapons would not fall into the hands of terrorists, Hollande said in an interview with France 2. More...
So the reality is that Hollande and British PM Cameron are on the "same page" as Obama with regards to Syria, namely flowery words of support, a little money for "humanitarian aid," but no military support for the opposition and nothing that will put an end to Assad's slaughter on the ground. Wednesday, Bloomberg had a good piece critiquing Obama's policy:
How Obama Is Failing Syria

Mar 27, 2013
By Fouad Ajami
In the matter of the Syrian rebellion, the U.S. hasn’t even “led from behind.” The Obama administration has pioneered a new role for a great power: We are now the traffic controllers, directing the flow of weapons to the rebels.

The money isn’t ours; it is Qatari and Saudi and Libyan. The planes hauling the weapons are Jordanian, Qatari and Saudi. And the risks are run by Syria’s neighbors, principally Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.

Our officials have opinions on Syria, but no one in the Greater Middle East can divine them. We want Bashar al-Assad gone -- our president said so in August 2011 -- a full five months into a brutal war. Then again, through winks and nods, we suggest that the alternative to Assad might be worse than his despotism.

No sooner do we make one definitive statement against the dictator than we hedge it with an invitation to both the dictatorship and the opposition to come to the negotiating table. Great crimes are committed by the Syrian regime, but we are full of worries about the jihadis who have converged on that country. For American officials, the lengths of the fighters’ beards, one Syrian opposition leader lamented, are more important than the massacres. More...
From the beginning of the uprising, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has claimed that he was fighting Islamic terrorist gangs exclusively, and the choice was between supporting his continued rule or handing Syria over to these "armed terrorist gangs." This is a false choice but it is the view that has been adopted by the NATO countries to excuse their inaction while they allow Assad to continue the slaughter of his own people. The truth is that a democratic and independent Syria is not what they really want.

The arrest and charging yesterday of Eric Harroun, a US citizen and army veteran, as soon as he returned to the US, for fighting with the Syrian opposition, is yet one more practical example of which side the US is really on. To justify the charges that threaten him with life imprisonment, the US has stretched the definition of WMD to include the RPGs he used to shoot down one of Assad's "Death from Above" helicopters. Assad will applaud this arrest or any other US moves designed to curtain support for his opposition.

After two years of broken promises and faux support, the Syrian people have come to understand that the West would really like to see something like the Assad regime survive and they can expect no help from them. The Syrian people will have to defeat the dictatorship by their own efforts.

Meanwhile, in the US Left, such lunatic views as those of Stephen Lendman writing in OpEd News, 19 March 2013, are given credibility along with chemtrails and a variety of 9/11 conspiracy theories.
Syria is Washington's war. It was planned years ago. At issue is regime change. America tolerates no independent governments.
This is how certain elements on the Left give Assad, Russia and Iran a pass on the slaughter, dis the brave Syrians fighting for democracy as mercenaries, and preserve their own, warped US centric view of the world.

Of course these Leftist offer no proof of their claims beyond a 2007 interview with Wesley Clark. Even though after two years of war, NATO is still embargoing arms to the Syria rebels, people like Lendman claim that the US has been supply arms to the resistance from the beginning. They offer no proof, but if their claims are true, there should be ample proof.

Recently Eliot Higgins, who blogs as Brown Moses, showed how it can be done. He tracks the weapons being used by both sides in Syria through a careful examination of the many battlefield videos posted to YouTube everyday. From them he was able to show that the Syrian opposition had recently received a large supply of heavy weapons produced in Croaria via financing from Saudi Arabia and Qatar and transport through Jordan, most likely with a wink and a nod from Washington. Those that still claim that the West has been supplying the opposition with weapons from the beginning should subject those early battlefield videos to the same sort of analysis and make their case. They should do this or they should shut up because all they are doing is propagating the lies of a criminal regime.

Meanwhile, in spite of claims from the Left that "Syria is Washington's war", Assad's slaughter of civilians continues with the heavy weapons he is receiving from Russia:And in spite of the lack of support from the West, the Syrian people are winning their struggle to overthrow the dictatorship. Today they announced that they are in control of Daraa Province, which gives them access to the Jordanian border and cuts a key road to Damascus.

Also, two years in, the peaceful Friday mass protests that started the rebellion, continue:

Anti-Assad protests today in Yabroud, Damascus | 29 March 2013

Kobani| Kurdish friday protest against Assad regime

Assad's days are numbered and the Syrian people will win this revolution in spite to the back stabbing they continue to receive from the imperialist and their followers on the Left.

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Report says Russia threatens to use its army in Syria

The fighters attempting to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad are now carrying out a new offensive to take the massive Syrian Nairab airbase attached to Aleppo International Airport. This airbase is being used for ongoing airlifts of weapons and supplies from Russia and Iran that are vital to keeping Assad's slaughter going.

Now, according to DEBKAfile, Russia is warning Assad's opposition that if any of their planes are attacked, they will bring Russian soldiers to protect the base:
Russia brings down its cargo planes loaded with weapons and replacement parts for the Syrian army at Nairab after the air facilities around Damascus were targeted by rebel fire. Moscow has since warned the rebels that if they attack incoming or outgoing Russian planes at Nairab, Russian special forces will come in to wipe out their strength around the base and take over its protection themselves.
The Assad regime is dependent on Russian and Iranian weapons more than ever now, but it is getting harder to them to get their weapons into Syria.

At the Arab League summit, Saudi Arabia announce that it has been supplying heavy weapons to the Syrian rebels in an effort to take this base which they believe will substantially reduce the dying in Syria. Mike Rowse writes in his blog:
Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi Arabia's chief of intelligence admitted that his agents purchased Russian made MLRS and Hurricane 957 launchers capable of firing scores of 220 mm rockets up to 70 kilometers away. They have put them in the hands of Syrian rebels with the specific purpose of helping them to capture the Syrian air base at Nairab; part of Aleppo's international airport.

For the first two years of this conflict, Russia has been able to use its own naval port at Tartus. This ended a week ago, 21 March 2013, when Russian warships were ordered to avoid Tartus and divert to Lebanon's Beirut port. In Tartus, Russian seamen were finding their piers and facilities crowded with Alawite refugees begging for food, water and medical aid, so they have had to find other ways of bring more weapons in. Now arms airlifts to Nairab have doubled.

Russia has been playing a greater role in sustaining Assad as more Syrians defect from his regime and the opposition gains more ground and takes more bases. A year ago, Russian special forces arrived in Syria, supposedly to protect the naval base at Tartus, although as yet, they have not been involved in the fighting AFAIK, and near the end of last year, Russians were reported to be running much of the Syrian air defense systems, Now, according to this latest report, they are threatening to intervene directly with Russian soldiers killing Syrians.

Mike Rowse asks:
If Russia inserts its military directly into the conflict, what would the U.S. do? Nothing, given Obama's history. Oh, there would be lots of words but no action of importance.
I agree.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Reports say Dr Mohammed al-Bouti was leaving Assad when murdered

Dr Mohammed al-Bouti, who has been described as a top pro-regime Sunni cleric, was murdered, along with 41 other people by a suicide bomber at the Iman mosque in Damascus 21 Mar 2013. 84 people were injured.

The Assad regime blames the bombing on their usual suspects, "armed terrorist gangs", but both the Free Syrian Army and the al Nusra Front are denying responsibility, so what we have here is a big who-dunnit.

Amidst all of this, I have stumbled upon, via Google translates, a very interesting narrative being discussed in the Arab forum yanabi.com (- reviving the spirit of Islam).

They are saying that al-Bouti had recently dropped his support for the Assad regime and wanted to leave Syria. In response, the regime had surrounded him with heavy security and limited his movements before he was assassinated.

We know that the Assad regime had both the means and the opportunity to commit this crime. These new revelations, if true, give them the motive. Dr. Mohammed al-Bouti, martyred, martyred by the FSA, is much better for the regime than Dr. Mohammed al-Bouti defected to Assad's opposition. The advantage of a suicide bombing in the mosque is that it also probably took out a whole group of people close to al-Bouti who could testify to any recent changes.

Much of the discussion in the forum is focused on the following statement from Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi to one of his facebook pages:
"We have sadly received the news that the great Allamah Dr. Sa` eed Ramadan al-Bouti was martyred today in a car bomb in Damascus. It is a big calamity for Muslims in losing such a great figure who was a Mujaddid for the deen and who defended Islam and the doctrine of Ahl us-Sunnah for several decades.

We received news that he was planning to move out of Syria and that he began to understand the atrocities of the Assad regime there. On hearing this, the regime decided to get rid of him, hence he was surrounded by heavy security who limited his movement. However, we denounce his killing whether the regime did it or the takfiri groups. People should not be killed in a political struggle especially because of their opinions.

We offer our condolences to his family, his students, and to the people of Damascus and we pray for him and for all who were killed with him - 21 matryrs - that Allah Almighty grant him and them the highest ranks in al-Firdous. "
That was the English version of his statement, apparently there was more, according to seeker:
I don't know why he didn't put it in the English version but anyway:

In the news received from Syrian television that he had died in a suicide bombing. We culprit is the system because we have sensitive and accurate information from those close to him stating that Dr. Buti was looking for a way out of Syria and the system has imposed severe security cordon. The boards insults Alnasirien and calls them doomed.

"In the news as reported by Syrian state television, [Shaykh Buti] was killed in a suicide bombing. We, however, point the finger of blame towards the regime, as we have it on good and accurate authority from those close to Doctor Buti that he looking for a means of escape from Syria, and that the regime security forces were imposing severe restrictions on him. (Not sure of this bit of translation but anyway will give it a stab ...) And in fact, in his lectures , Dr Buti was speaking out against the Nusayris and openly praying for their end. "
Here is the Arabic he has translated.
وفي الأخبار التي وردت من التلفزة السورية أنه توفي في تفجير انتحاري. ونحن نوجه أصابع الاتهام إلى النظام لأن لدينا معلومات حساسة ودقيقة من المقربين إليه تفيد بأن الدكتور البوطي كان يبحث عن طريق للخروج من سورية وكان النظام قد فرض عليه طوقا أمنيا شديدا. وكان في مجالسه الخاصة يسب النصيريين ويدعو عليهم بالهلاك.
So there is a lot more to this suicide bombing than the story being pushed by Syrian State TV and its various allies. The truth will come out.

There were also these competing initial reports from Addounia TV:
A rocket fell in the mosqueA suicide bomber

Facts are stubborn things!

From SunniPort.com:
Shaykh Muĥammad Abu’l Hudā al-Yáqūbī, on Shaykh Boūţī's stand regarding the regime and differences among Muslims in the revolution
The first: is an immense lack of knowledge of the situation, except one-sided information which he receives from the regime and he trusts them and believes everything they tell him; as if, he is the person described by Ibn Tathriyah:

The desire for her came to me; of desire I was unaware,
It chanced upon a vacant heart and gained a foothold there.

Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawānī says in his Epistle – and it was originally said by Sayyidunā Álī (may Allāh táālā ennoble his blessed face) – “the heart that readily accepts virtue and goodness is that, upon which evil has not crossed before”.

It is therefore that Dr.Sayid [Buti] does not accept any report about the Revolution from other sources after he has ratified and accepted the propaganda of the regime. This is because of his closeness with a number of senior officials [of the regime] and this proximity has influenced his decisions and thus, he views everything from the prism of the regime and repeats their propaganda innocently. Sometimes, a truthful person thinks that everybody is as truthful as himself. And the reason for his stand is this [blind acceptance of regime propaganda,] which is the result of years of friendship and cordial relations with officers and administrators of the regime.

The second: is his animosity with the Salafis and Muslim Brotherhood to the point that he has chosen to side with the enemies of Allāh in his opposition to them! He believes in the propaganda of the regime that all these revolutionaries are Wahabis, who will burn and demolish mausoleums of Awliyā’a, as they did in Libya. Indeed, the Salafis and Brotherhood were the foremost in the uprising that seeks to bring down the regime, because of the revolutionary ideology which is widespread and common in their discourse, and what is prevalent among the [sect] in the name of jihād. Yet, this revolution is mainly a revolution of common people who are religious Sunni Muslims, who are protesting against a brutal dictatorship, and seeking to abolish tyrannical repression and torture.

Even though we oppose the Salafis for many of their opinions and ideas; and we differ with the Brotherhood in their political views, that which brings us together is Islām. And similarly, that which binds us [in this conflict] is the standard of jihad against repression and cruelty and to establish righteousness and truth. We cannot imagine ourselves standing in the ranks of the enemies of Allāh against them [the Salafis and Brotherhood fighting in Syria] and the revolution is not THEIR revolution, even if they were the foremost in the uprising. And from the beginning itself many joined the revolution, a great number of imams [of the mosques, ] preachers, teachers, [people from] universities and followers of Sufi traditions and an overwhelming majority of common folk.

Sufi Brigades have been formed [to fight in this revolution;] alongside a brigade that bears the name of Taqiyuddin Ibn Taymiyyah, there is a brigade in the name of Muhiyuddin Ibn Arabi. This is the diversity of the revolution which is a fact, whether we like it or not.

It is necessary for Dr.Sayid to desist from such speech denouncing the people’s revolution, whether a group or a brigade [fighting in the revolution] because there is not a city or a village in Syria, which has not sent brave men and heroic soldiers to fight this criminal, tyrannical and ruthless regime. No city or village has been spared the merciless killing and destruction of this regime or escaped the flames of oppression.

UPDATE 23 Mar 2013: Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi has published this further update:
Syrian Regime kills Dr. Bouti
We strongly condemn the bombing of mosques and the killing of people inside them. We have no doubt that the regime is responsible for the killing of Dr. Bouti, as we have reliable information on this. In fact, we were working towards to convince him defect from the regime and move outside Syria. The last article we wrote refuting his stance entitled "To Dr Bouti: Wake up from Your State of intoxication" had reached him, and he had begun thinking seriously about breaking away. One of his inner circle was assisting in this effort, Dr. Bouti was preparing to declare something against the regime on Friday as a suprise. We have no doubt that the regime was listening in on all his discussions, and therefore decided to get rid of him.

More, later ....

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The #Obama connection to #Congo warlord Bosco #Ntaganda

Yesterday Bosco Ntaganda, the M23 general wanted for countless atrocities by the International Criminal Court, turned himself in at the US Embassy in Kigali, Rwanda.

There is no question that Ntaganda is a bad actor in a region that has seen far too many of them. Human Rights Watch has a complete file on him in which they say:
Human Rights Watch has documented atrocities by troops under General Bosco Ntaganda’s command for over 10 years. Ntaganda is wanted by the International Criminal Court since 2006 for allegedly committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in northeastern Congo in 2002 and 2003, including recruiting and using child soldiers, murder, rape and sexual slavery, and persecution.
Apparently Ntaganda hasn't been too badly put upon by his fugitive status in the past seven years. Two years ago Mac McClelland reported on his search for Ntaganda in Goma and said:
He dines at the finest restaurants. He's a leading military official. He owns a bar, a dairy farm, and a pretty mansion. And the International Criminal Court has a warrant for his arrest. So why isn't Bosco Ntaganda in jail?
At least part of the answer to McClelland's question can be gathered from a US State Department cable dated 11 Jan 2010 [10KIGALI24] and made available by Wikileaks. It sounds like the fix is in and Ntaganda has friends in high places:
(C) SUMMARY: Joseph Nzabamwita, head of the National Security Service (NSS)'s Department of External Intelligence and Security, on December 14, pressed visiting EU Great Lakes Special Envoy Roeland van de Geer and Deputy to the U.S. Special Advisor for the Great Lakes James Yellin for Western support to combat FDLR leadership, warned that an arrest of CNDP leader Bosco Ntaganda would be destabilizing,..
The US has also been protecting Bosco Ntaganda on the world stage. A year ago, HRW accused the US of "covering up information about rebels led by a man wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court." The BBC reported:
The global watchdog [HRW] says Washington is blocking publication of a UN inquiry into rebels led by Bosco Ntaganda in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The UN has reportedly uncovered detailed information that neighbouring Rwanda, a key US ally, is backing the rebels in the east of the country.
It is no secret that Rwanda is a key US ally, according to a Rwandan news agency [RNA] report in the Stratfor GI file [707643] released in a journalistic partnership with Wikileaks:
The US is a major source of support for Rwanda's military.
Nor is it any real secret that the Congolese rebel group that has been terrorizing the people of the region is a creation of the Rwandan military. According to Jason Stearns, an American writer who worked for ten years in the Congo:
The CNDP was created by telephone calls from Rwandan security services to Nkunda and other Tutsi officers who were in the RCD rebel outfit...The CNDP was therefore a "top-down creation."
The US has had a hand in training them. According to another US State Department cable [09KINSHASA1149] there was a leadership workshop organized by the Wilson Center in Goma involving Ntaganda's people in November 2009. Apparently things could have gone better:
Kassa [from the Wilson Center] readily admitted that the leadership training discussion in Goma did not take into account the internal strife within the CNDP in general and Bosco Ntaganda's own agenda in particular. He noted that Bosco had a tendency to act like this when he is under stress.
CNDP stands for National Congress for the Defense of the People, and the top leaders, who have now had a falling out, were Bosco Ntaganda and Laurent Nkunda. According to an RNA report [707643], their eventual fate was considered 18 months ago at a meeting between three Rwandan generals and a "US embassy official at an undisclosed location where they discussed various regional security issues":
the generals stated Bosco "could end up in front" of the International Criminal Court and Nkunda "will likely be extradited in the future" to the DRC.
Bosco Ntaganda, himself, was described by Alison Des Forges, a senior adviser for Africa at HRW, as
"somebody who has made his career out of being a useful military person regardless of the cause."..."he is someone who can transfer his loyalties and adapt his position depending on his interests."
In other words, he is a mercenary.

Just who has been paying him for the chaos he has been creating in the Congo isn't clear but what is clear is that big money and big international players have an intense game going on there for the purpose of looting the country's vast mineral wealth. As this GI file [51770] reported:
The value of the DRC's ore exports in 2010 was estimated at $1.6 billion, out of a gross domestic product of $13.1 billion - a number that does not include the value of illegal exports smuggled across the DRC's porous borders. estimates of the DRC's untapped mineral wealth have been reported in the trillions of dollars. Judged by the value of its resources, the DRC is a very wealthy country, yet its vast size, poor infrastructure and numerous competing local interests make the DRC exceedingly difficult to govern.
Once you scratch beneath the surface of regional and tribal issues, you will find the exploitative interests of world capitalism are very much behind the humanitarian tragedy that is the Congo today, and the US, under Obama, is a leading player with its funding of the Rwanda military and providing cover for the likes of Bosco Ntaganda.

For that reason, I found it particularly hypocritical when President Obama sought to juxtapose the need for humanitarian intervention in Syria and the Congo, saying "And how do I weigh tens of thousands who've been killed in Syria versus the tens of thousands who are currently being killed in the Congo?"

In both cases, Syria and the Congo, the United States, under his leadership, is more problem than solution.

By most accounts, Bosco Ntaganda has been living well and remains a player in Rwanda/Congo politics, so when the news broke that he had surrendered, the Washington Post put the question that most informed observers were pondering in its headline:
Why did infamous war criminal Bosco Ntaganda just surrender at a U.S. embassy?
That is actually two questions in one. First there is the question: Why did he turn himself in now?

Events on the ground may best answer that question. Recently, a split in the Congolese rebel group M23 lead to infighting in which Ntaganda's men came up short with many being killed, many fleeing into Rwanda and others surrendering to UN peacekeekers, according to Reuters on Saturday.

UPDATE: I now have this very informative report from the Communist Party of Rwanda that says the whole split in M23 is a ruse.

The second question is why did he turn himself into the US Embassy? It's not the obvious choice, particularly since the United States has declined to become a member of the ICC. This question now begs for an answer. Does Bosco Ntaganda have a direct connection to the United States?

Beyond US covert support for certain destabilizing elements in the Congo, there is a more direct connection between Barack Obama and Bosco Ntaganda. His name is Kase Lawai.

Kase Lawai is a US oil tycoon who was born in Nigeria. He was the chairman and chief executive of the Houston-based oil firm Camac according to the Guardian. He has also been described as "a prolific Democratic bundler and Clinton family confidante." In Nigeria, he was also a member of the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC) for Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in 2010, according to this Stratford Global Intelligence file [5068127].

In 2010 President Obama put Lawai on the White House’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, and all was well until his dealings with Ntaganda became public. The Guardian reported:
Obama-appointed US trade adviser linked to illegal deal in Congolese gold
UN report says Kase Lawal knew he was dealing with the wanted warlord Bosco Ntaganda
Pete Jones
Sunday 5 February 2012 11.01 EST
A US trade adviser appointed by Barack Obama orchestrated a deal to buy gold worth millions of dollars from a wanted Congolese warlord, according to a UN report.

Kase Lawal, a Nigerian-born US oil tycoon, transferred millions of dollars to the notorious rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda between December 2010 and February 2011 as part of the deal, the report by the UN's Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) states.

If true, this would be a contravention of UN resolutions banning individuals or organisations from financing illegal armed groups in the war torn eastern DRC.

The UN report says Lawal, the chairman and chief executive of the Houston-based oil firm Camac, was aware he was paying Ntaganda.

Obama put Lawal on the US advisory committee for trade and policy negotiations in September 2010, just months before the deal with Ntaganda. More...
It has also been reported that Lawal threw Obama's name around a lot while he was making this deal. The deal unraveled when Congolese authorities confiscated a Gulfstream V jet they were using. David Disiere, owner of Southlake Aviation, who leased Lawai the plane, claimed to know nothing of the scheme, “You’ve got a man on this international economic advisory council appointed by President Obama. I just expected more,” he said. When Disiere sued him over the loss of the plane, Lawai pleaded the fifth amendment over a hundred time in civil depositions.

After this story broke, Kase Lawal was quietly dropped from the presidential committee.

Bosco Ntaganda has surprised everyone by turning himself in at the US embassy and demanding he be sent to the Hague. What's his game? What does he know and what will he say if he is really called upon to testify in open court?

These are still the early days in this whole interesting affair and so far, there are a lot more questions than answers.

Late Monday, State Department spokeswoman Victor Nuland confirmed the report and said "He specifically asked to be transferred to the ICC in The Hague. We're currently consulting with a number of governments, including the Rwandan government, in order to facilitate his request."

As of Tuesday morning, AP is reporting that Ntaganda remains at the US embassy:
Six years of freedom unexpectedly came to an end at 7:30 a.m. on Monday morning, when the 39-year-old warlord nicknamed "The Terminator" showed up at the gates of the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda's capital, Kigali. He came to the embassy by car after making his way over the 150 kilometers (90 miles) of road separating Kigali from his base in eastern Congo. Ntaganda presented himself to officials at the embassy and asked to be handed over to the International Criminal Court, which issued its first arrest warrant for him in 2006. A U.S. official, who was not authorized to speak publicly and insisted on anonymity, said Ntaganda remained ensconced at the embassy on Tuesday.
Amnesty International is demanding:
DRC: Bosco Ntaganda must be surrendered to the ICC

19 March 2013
The United States and Rwandan governments must move quickly to ensure the safe surrender of Bosco Ntaganda, to the International Criminal Court (ICC), Amnesty International said today. More...

The UN has also now issued a statement looking forward to the transfer of Ntaganda to the ICC:
Kinshasa - The United Nations mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday said transferring wanted Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda, who has surrendered in Kigali, to the international war crimes court will be a solid move towards peace.

“The surrender of Bosco Ntaganda and his imminent transfer to the International Criminal Court will allow the peace process in DR Congo to move forward,” Roger Meece, head of the UN mission, known as MONUSCO, said in a statement.

“This is also a strong message to other people that violate human rights that they will not escape justice,” added Meece, who is a special representative of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

UPDATE 20 March 2013: Ntaganda is still at the US embassy for a third day where US officials say he will remain until he is transferred to the ICC. Bloomberg News is reporting that ICC officials are on their way to Kigali for Ntaganga according to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson.

Some troubling indications have emerged that Rwanda may try to block the transfer of NTaganda to the Hague. According to Melanie Gouby and Mike Corder of AP:
The United States government appears to be worried that Rwanda won’t allow a warlord from Congo now camped out in the U.S. Embassy safe passage to the airport to be flown to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.

The U.S. hopes Rwanda will help facilitate the transfer of Congolese rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda from the U.S. Embassy in Kigali to the airport for a flight to the ICC in the Netherlands, the top U.S. State Department official on Africa, Johnnie Carson, said Wednesday.

“We hope that the Rwandan government will do its part,” Carson said in a telephone press conference from Washington. “It is a small but significant part to ensure that Bosco Ntaganda is able to move freely from the American embassy compound to the airport where he will board a plane and go to The Hague.”

Carson said it’s important that Ntaganda’s movement from the embassy to the airport “in no way be inhibited.”

Carson also indicated that Rwanda hasn’t yet assured cooperation with ICC officials en route to Rwanda. He noted that Rwanda, like the United States, is not a signatory to the Rome Statue that created the ICC and is not bound by international obligations to hand Ntaganda to the ICC.

UPDATE - This just in from BBC News Africa:
DR Congo's Bosco Ntaganda in ICC custody

22 March 2013 Last updated at 13:54 ET
Congolese war crimes suspect Bosco Ntaganda has left Rwanda and is on the way to The Hague in the custody of the International Criminal Court.

Gen Ntaganda, a key figure in the conflict in eastern DR Congo, surrendered to the US embassy in Kigali on Monday.

The ICC has charged him with 10 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, which Gen Ntaganda denies.

His first appearance before judges is scheduled for next Tuesday. More...

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria
Click here for a list of my other diaries on Libya

Monday, March 18, 2013

Allies say US holding back fight against Assad in Syria

US President Barack Obama has clearly emerged as the best friend Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has among those countries thought to be supporters of Assad's opposition. Readers of my blog since Barack Obama's Courtship of Bashar al-Assad will not be surprised by that. Now according to the Washington Post, key US allies in Europe and the region are becoming increasing frustrated with what I consider Barack Obama's passive-aggressive support for Assad. From the Washington Post, we have this report:
U.S. hesi­ta­tion on arms shipments to rebels in Syria frustrates
some close allies in Europe and the Middle East

By Karen DeYoung
Published: March 16
Decisions by France and Britain to step up direct support for Syrian opposition forces, possibly with arms shipments to the rebels, threaten to leave the United States on the sidelines of what many see as the approaching climax of a two-year-old effort to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

That may be precisely where the Obama administration decides to stay, once it concludes a renewed internal debate over whether to pursue a more aggressive policy in Syria.

But U.S. hesi­ta­tion has frustrated some of Washington’s closest European and Middle Eastern friends, who say that the time for debate is fast running out. More than 70,000 Syrians have been killed and millions have fled their homes. The raging conflict has begun to spill over Syria’s borders, and no negotiated end is in sight. ­

“We’re at the point where we have to show some real progress,” said a senior official from a Middle Eastern government that actively supports the Syrian rebels. Sophisticated weapons that could help break a months-long military stalemate in and around Damascus and consolidate rebel gains in other parts of the country, he said, could finally persuade regime supporters to break with Assad and hasten his downfall.

Beginning last fall, “everyone was waiting for a new administration, then a new cabinet” in Washington to formulate and lead a new joint strategy, the official said. If Assad and his military now “see business as usual, then he could survive,” the official said.

Anti-Assad governments in the region, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, are privately acerbic in their assessment of U.S. dithering. The Europeans express more understanding, even as they question whether the Obama doctrine of close coordination on issues of shared foreign policy concern is viable if the United States declines to participate.

“It slightly undermines the model” established with the military intervention in Libya, a senior European official said. There, President Obama took credit for organizing and supporting a strategy implemented along with European and Persian Gulf partners.

“We would hope the Americans would join us” on Syria, the official said. More...
A group called human right first has started a political campaign targeting Assad enablers around the world, including in such unlikely places as the US, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Lebanon, South Africa and Venezuela. They have also established a
New Interactive Website, Report Chronicle Syrian Enables
and U.S. Options to Stop Them

March 15, 2013
Washington, D.C. – Today marks two years since the start of the Syrian uprising that has claimed nearly 70,000 lives, caused over one millions refugees to flee the country and sparked an international debate about how the world should respond to ongoing atrocities. Human Rights First notes that the conflict in Syria is a human rights catastrophe perpetuated by a complex network of supply chains that have supported the Assad regime. To shed light on these actors, Human Rights First today released a new interactive online site and accompanying report, The Enablers of the Syrian Conflict: How Targeting Third Parties Can Slow the Atrocities in Syria, detailing the countries and commercial entities that are enabling Syrian President Bashir Assad’s crackdown. The group also offers specific recommendations for how the United States can disrupt these supply chains. More...
Here is a bit from the human rights first report:
President Obama has made stopping mass atrocities a “core national security interest” of the United States, which manifestly applies to Syria. As neighboring countries struggle to absorb the nearly one million refugees and regional powers become more involved in the conflict, the possibility of wider violence and instability looms.

Yet U.S. efforts to slow or stop the crisis—diplomacy and sanctions against the regime, primarily—have had little effect. Amid calls to arm the rebels, we urge the United
States to approach the conflict from the other end: to choke off the flow of arms, resources, and money to Assad. While no single strategy could resolve this crisis,
this low-risk, nonviolent one could help stem the bloodshed and put pressure on Assad to stop the bloodshed.

The Syrian regime’s mass atrocities—like all mass atrocities—are complex, organized crimes requiring the support of third party “enablers.” This report provides both
a unique overview of Assad’s enablers and a roadmap the U.S. government can follow to crack down on them.
Here is a petition you can sign from human rights first.

Here are some of my other blogs on Obama's support for Assad:
Obama "green lights" Assad's slaughter in Syria
Assad's Redline and Obama's Greenlight!
Chemical weapons use reported in Syria, Has Obama's red-line has been crossed?
AP weighs in on Obama's Green Light for Assad's slaughter in Syria
Syria: Obama's moves Assad's "red line" back as SOHR reports 42,000 dead!
SecState John Kerry and his "dear friend" Bashar al-Assad
How Obama's 'No MANPADS for you' policy in Syria is backfiring

More thoughts on Obama's 'No MANPADS for you!' policy

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Sunday, March 17, 2013

HRW reports mounting casualties from cluster bombs in Syria since Obama warned Assad on WMD

Seven months ago, on 20 August 2012 US President Barack Obama very publicly warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that the use of "a whole bunch of chemical weapons" would be a red-line that might cause him to change his calculus on Syria and intervene militarily. I wrote, at the time, Obama "green lights" Assad's slaughter in Syria.

After Obama issued his prohibition against the use of chemical weapons, Assad began using his other deadly weapons with a vengeance. Especially notable with regards to the carnage they have caused among women, children and other civilians has been his use of the unquided, but powerful, Scud ballistic missiles, and his use of cluster munitions, which are designed to mutilate people, on neighborhoods.

Human Rights Watch has just come out with a new report in which they document 156 attacks with cluster munitions in the past six months, in other words, since Obama told Assad that cluster bombs weren't a red-line for him:
Syria: Mounting Casualties from Cluster Munitions

More Than 150 Documented Attacks in 6 Months
March 16, 2013

New York) – Syrian forces’ use of cluster munitions in residential areas is causing mounting civilian casualties, Human Rights Watch said today. An initial review of available information has identified at least 119 locations across Syria where at least 156 cluster bombs have been used in the past six months.

Human Rights Watch has investigated two cluster bomb attacks in the past two weeks – in Deir Jamal, near Aleppo and Talbiseh, near Homs – that have killed 11 civilians, including 2 women and 5 children, and wounded 27 others.

“Syria is expanding its relentless use of cluster munitions, a banned weapon, and civilians are paying the price with their lives and limbs,” said Steve Goose, director of the Arms division at Human Rights Watch. “The initial toll is only the beginning because cluster munitions often leave unexploded bomblets that kill and maim long afterward.” More...
Earlier this month, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, reported that Assad had fired as many as 90 Scuds into residential areas since the beginning of 2013. The Hurriyet Daily News reported:
Syria fired up to 90 Scuds, says Turkish FM

The Syrian regime has fired up to 90 Scud-type ballistic missiles into residential areas in the last two months, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said in a recent television interview.

“The Syrian regime first used snipers, then artillery, tanks and then jets, helicopters. Now it is using Scud missiles. Al-Assad’s forces have fired 85-90 Scud missiles in the last two months,” the foreign minister said in an interview with private broadcaster NTV. “They press a button in Damascus and the missile lands in a residential area in Aleppo and kills civilians.” More...
Since Obama warned Assad not to use chemical weapons, 50,000 Syrians have been slaughtered by other means. The Assad regime is using ballistic missiles and cluster bombs against unarmed civilians as documented above. So what does Obama do? He puts Assad opposition group al-Nusra Front on his terrorist list and instructs the CIA to start planning military operations against these "terrorists" but not Assad.

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Australia puts group fighting Assad in Syria on terrorist list

The al-Nursa Front has come to notice recently because it is a jhadist fighting group in Syria that has had great success on the battlefield. It has managed seize a number of Syrian military bases and put a significant dent in Assad's campaign of "Death from Above." It has also gained the approval of a growing number of Syrians because it has shown both great courage and great integrity in dealing with the people. This is in spite of its strict, fundamentalist Islamic beliefs which are not supported by most Syrians and stand in stark contrast to the secular Syria most revolutionaries are seeking to build.

But AFAIK, the al Nusra Front has conducted no operations, military or otherwise, in Australia, has not murdered or abducted any Australians, or made any threats against Australia, and yet the government of Australian has named the anti-Assad fighting group the newest addition to its terrorist list. Of course, the Australians are merely following the lead of the United States on this, as is usually the case. No doubt, they are responding to a request from the Obama Administration to back Obama's play. He put the al Nusra Front on the US terrorist blacklist in December.

Assad is losing the war he started against his own people. Even now he is faced with a whole new crop of high level defections as he loses more of Damascus and the battle creeps closer to the presidential palace, the year-long siege of Homs has finally been broken as his opposition begins to set up an interim government. More and more, he is dependent of outside supporters to keep him in power. More and bigger weapons from Russia, more support from Lebanon, more fighters from Hezbollah, Iran and even Iraq. All of this supporters, both overt and hidden are being called upon to help him put down his people's revolt.

For the US to come in militarily on the side of Bashar al-Assad would be unthinkable, given the mask the US has been wearing in this struggle, but it would seem that a basis is being laid for the US to come into this struggle militarily against some of the most extreme elements fighting Assad in the name of fighting the "War on Terror."

When the news I reported yesterday, that the CIA is planning for drone strikes against jhadist fighting Assad in Syria is taken together with this news out of close ally Australia today, it is hard to come to any other conclusion. From The Sydney Morning Herald National Times we have this report:
Group fighting Assad put on terrorism list
March 18, 2013

The Australian government has placed on its terrorist blacklist a prominent Islamic group fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr has announced Australia will list the Al-Nusra Front as a terrorist organisation to try to starve the group of funding and support.

The listing means anyone in Australia who makes funds or assets available to the group could face up to 10 years in jail.

Assets known to be owned or controlled by Al-Nusra must be frozen and reported immediately to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Unknown before the uprising, the Al-Nusra Front since mid-2012 has become the spearhead of the insurgency with the mainstream rebel Free Syrian Army.

Senator Carr said the Al-Nusra Front, which has 5000 fighters in Syria, had a history of suicide attacks and bombings.

''I'm advised Al-Nusra is active against the Syrian military but also against civilian targets,'' he said. ''There is no place for violent extremist groups such as Al-Nusra in Syria or elsewhere.''

The Islamist jihadist faction has captured army bases and is believed to have set up a religious council to administer rebel-controlled areas in eastern Syria.

Senator Carr said there was evidence the Al-Nusra Front had direct links with al-Qaeda in Iraq, which supplied it with weapons, recruits and equipment.

The US placed the group on its terrorism blacklist in December, citing its links to al-Qaeda.
Uthman Badar, media representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia, thinks that Australia has an Islamiphobic foreign policy and had this to say:
“We remind the Foreign Minister, first and foremost, that he has no place dictating what should or should not happen in Syria. Australia should mind its own business and cease interfering in the affairs of the Muslim World. We also remind him that he is in no position on lecturing others about terrorism given the horrendous record of his own government and its allies, greater terrorists than whom the 21st century has not seen.”

“The juxtaposition of Australia’s policy on Syria and Burma reveal clearly the anti-Islamic nature of its foreign policy. On Syria, Australia has watched on from the sidelines, offering little more than rhetoric, as the Assad regime has butchered the people of Syria in the tens of thousands and in the most inhumane of ways. Now, it seeks to take a stand against sincere Muslims groups defending themselves against the brutality of the Assad regime. It is clear that the Australia’s position has little to do with terrorism. Rather, it is based on its desire to suffocate the Syrian uprising and prevent it from reaching its natural end in the establishment of the Islamic state.

On the other hand, Australia rolls out the red carpet for proven terrorists such as President Thein Sein whose hands have not yet dried from the blood of the Royhinga Muslims of Arakan province which his regime spilt with impunity less than a year ago. The Australian Government is sending a clear message that it is not only an enemy of Muslims itself, but also a close friend of all those who have enmity for Muslims.”

“The question is do Australian policymakers, who carry this anti-Islam policy, really care about the true interests of their own people, in the short and long-term? Are they really aware of the consequences of waging war against a great nation like the Muslims whose return to leading the world is imminent?”

Media Office
Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia
18 March 2013

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Obama planning drone strikes against Assad's opposition in Syria

From the LA Times today we have breaking news that the Obama Administration is presently in the planning stages for a direct US armed intervention into the Syrian civil war. The plan will be to intervene on the side of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with a series of armed drone strikes against his opposition.

According to the LA times, the motive is to have contingency plans "to protect the United States and its allies." Exactly how those currently fighting the Assad regime, even the Islamic militants, pose a threat to the US is not explained, and in the case of Israel, even a completely secular and completely democratic Syria is likely to demand the Golan Heights back with more vigor, and justice for the Palestinians with greater resolve, and in that way pose a threat to "the United States and its allies."

While drone strikes against Islamist militants fighting Assad may be taken in the name of saving US lives in some hypothetical future, they won't save any Syrian lives now or hinder Assad's massive "Death from Above" campaign against Syrian civilians. Actually, since al-Nustra has been most effective in relieving Assad of bases for his air operations and are attempting to implement a "no-fly zone" over Syria, any Obama attack against al-Nusra would certainly be most welcomed by the embattled Assad regime.

If Obama has the CIA seeking out new targets for his killer drones simply as an extension of his war against al Qaeda, rather than to help the out Assad regime, it's a wonder he doesn't have them looking somewhere else, say Northern Mali, where al Qaeda actually is, and where he would be in sync with other NATO allies, rather than in Syria.

The LA Times article ends by raising some of the very important questions about the presidential powers implicit in this radical new extension of Obama's killer drone policy:
Some former CIA officials expressed skepticism about any idea of using armed drones in Syria. There is no evidence, they said, that Syrian militants pose a threat to the U.S. homeland.

"If we do this, why don't we start droning people in Hezbollah?" asked a former CIA officer who worked in Iraq, referring to the Lebanon-based militant group that Washington considers a terrorist organization. "It opens the door for a lot of other things."
Nobody is claiming that the al Nusra front has threaten Americans, and up till now, they have had no reason to, and waging the "War on Terror" against any force currently fighting Assad, makes about as much sense and waging the "War on Communism" against the USSR while it was fighting Hitler.

As one young Islamic fighter in Syria said last week about Obama's classification of Jabhat al-Nusra as terrorist organization:
It did not commit any terrorist acts outside Syria, and it doesn't have any links to al-Qaida, but it was classified as a terrorist organization. Why? Because it resisted [Syrian president] Bashar al Assad.
Now we can guess why Obama declared al-Nusra Front a terrorist organization just when they are leading so many successful attacks against the Assad regime. It wasn't just a diplomatic gesture of support for Assad's "War Against Terror", it was to lay the "legal" and administrative basis for moving practical support for the Assad regime from the passive-aggressive stage to planning military moves against President Assad's enemies.

The LA Times article doesn't address the issues of Syrian sovereignty and the Russian veto that have been blamed for the lack of a US armed response to Assad's campaign of "Death from Above" that has cost so many Syrian lives in the past year, presumably because the Russians and the Assad regime will be on the same page as the Obama administration with regards to attacks against the "terrorists gangs", that won't be much of a problem:
CIA begins sizing up Islamic extremists in Syria for drone strikes

The strategy is part of the agency's secret contingency planning to protect the U.S. and its allies as the violence there grows. Some militants in Syria are seen as closely linked to Al Qaeda.

By Ken Dilanian and Brian Bennett
March 15, 2013, 4:32 p.m.
WASHINGTON — The CIA has stepped up secret contingency planning to protect the United States and its allies as the turmoil expands in Syria, including collecting intelligence on Islamic extremists for the first time for possible lethal drone strikes, according to current and former U.S. officials.

President Obama has not authorized drone missile strikes in Syria, however, and none are under consideration.

The Counterterrorism Center, which runs the CIA’s covert drone killing program in Pakistan and Yemen, recently shifted several targeting officers to improve intelligence collection on militants in Syria who could pose a terrorist threat, the officials said.

The targeting officers have formed a unit with colleagues who were tracking Al Qaeda operatives and fighters in Iraq. U.S. officials believe that some of these operatives have moved to Syria and joined Islamic militias battling to overthrow President Bashar Assad. More...
Again, we can see why the Daily Kos had to banned me from their site for my "bizarre CT assertions" when they did. They had to denounce what they called a "conspiracy theory," my thesis that the Obama administration favors preserving the Assad regime in Syria because it is true, and they had to try to shut me up because the facts are proving it true more and more every day.

Here are some of my other blogs on Obama's support for Assad:
Barack Obama's Courtship of Bashar al-Assad
Obama "green lights" Assad's slaughter in Syria
Assad's Redline and Obama's Greenlight!
Chemical weapons use reported in Syria, Has Obama's red-line has been crossed?
AP weighs in on Obama's Green Light for Assad's slaughter in Syria
Syria: Obama's moves Assad's "red line" back as SOHR reports 42,000 dead!
SecState John Kerry and his "dear friend" Bashar al-Assad
How Obama's 'No MANPADS for you' policy in Syria is backfiring

More thoughts on Obama's 'No MANPADS for you!' policy

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Syria: for #Mar15, @AmyGoodman has Assad 'regime apologist' on Democracy Now

On the second anniversary of the uprising to overthrow Bashar al-Assad, Amy Goodman finally did a Democracy Now segment on the struggle in Syria.

First it should be noted that Amy, co-host Juan Gonzalez and their two guests were very careful not to say anything negative about Bashar al-Assad, Iran or Russia. There was, however, a lot of focus on Saudi Arabia "allowing the supply of arms and even the infiltration of militants" to Syria.

Her guests where Reese Erlich and Rim Turkmani. Reese Erlich was introduced as a "freelance foreign correspondent" and talked mostly about Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. First came Rim Turkmani, who spoke as a member of the Syrian non-violent opposition and was introduced as "an astrophysicist and member of the Syrian Civil Democratic Alliance who’s in New York meeting with Security Council members discussing possible political solutions to the situation in Syria."

So who is Rim Turkmani, when she is not representing the Syrian opposition on Democracy Now?
"There have been external actors who were supporting the arming of the opposition, and unfortunately that fueled the violence, increased dramatically the number of casualties, and turned the whole thing into more than a war, rather than a revolution."
Over a year ago Lucy Lips, writing at Hurry Up Harry, named her one of the:
Syrian Regime Apologists Posing as Oppositionists

February 29th 2012, 10:46 am
Dr Rim Turkmani is a British-Syrian astrophysicist at Imperial College London and a sometime commentator on Syrian affairs. Up until recently, she was a director of the British Syrian Society, which claims to work:
“consistently and very effectively to foster relations at all levels between Britain and Syria through a wide range of social, cultural, business and other public events both in the UK and Syria which include lectures, conferences, seminars and exhibitions.”
The founding co-chairman of the Society is Dr Fawaz Akhras, a London-based cardiologist, who also happens to be Asma al-Assad’s father. As The Guardian described him about a year ago:
“Informally, Akhras plays a role as gatekeeper for Assad, vetting British journalists who wish to interview the president. He is close to the Syrian ambassador to Britain, the economist Sami Khiyami, who serves with him on the advisory board of the Centre for Syrian Studies at St Andrews University.”
A journalist who met him at a dinner discussion about Iraq recalled: “Akhras pulled out some written notes and began by saying he was only a humble doctor and not an expert on Middle East politics, and here was his personal opinion … what followed was a pure Ba’athist line straight from Damascus.”
According to Assad regime emails that were hacked by cyberactivist Anonymous, Akhras also believes that Mossad was responsible for 9/11.

Turkmani is something of a package deal. She is very active in Arab charity groups in the UK alongside her husband Chris Doyle. Doyle is the executive director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU).

Together, Turkmani and Doyle serve as trustess of the Damask Rose Trust, which claims, according to the UK Charity Commission, to “support welfare and development projects in Syria and [to promote] appreciation of Syria’s cultural heritage among British audiences. Yet Damask Rose has received its “core cost donation from Gulfsands Petroleum, a UK oil company that was recently forced to clarify and then suspend its relationship with various business holdings of Rami Makhlouf, Bashar al-Assad’s billionaire industrialist cousin who has been sanctioned by the United States and European Union for being complicit in the regime’s violence. Makhlouf owns or owned a 5.75 per cent minority stake in Gulfsands. More...
This is the type of person that Amy Goodman found to present the Syrian opposition on the second anniversary of the beginning of the Syrian Revolution.

I just wanted you to be aware.

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Friday, March 15, 2013

Syrians protest on 2nd anniversary of the Day of Rage

Even after two years suppression as brutal as any the world has ever seen, the spirit of the people remains unbroken. If you want to understand why I keep writing about Syria, take a look at a few of these videos. I can't let these people down.

Let us start with a 6 minute film by Syrian Films:

Two Years on the fight | Uploaded 15 March 2012

From the Google Translates version of the Arabic description:
Published on Mar 15, 2013

Video consists of more than eighty clips of dropping, burning and cracking of idols, tyrants and their pictures and symbols in Syria, in all provinces without exception, fun to watch.
On the second anniversary of the launch of the revolution blessed against tyrants criminals Al-Assad and their loyalists and Sandem salute sons Syria Miami who stood in the face of the most notorious criminal regime sectarians in history and this video gift to all heroes brave who participated peaceful demonstrations or jihad with weapons or even the word free courage .. A tribute to the sons and daughters of men, women and children and our beloved Syria .. Lived and lived free Syria proud
We will celebrate O our beloved people on the date of toppling the brutal criminals which will be the national day of the new modern Syria ..

In the advent of the second anniversary of launching the blessed revolution against the brutal criminal tyrants, ASSAD family and whoever supported them, we are issuing our warm greetings to the brave sons and daughters of Syria who challenged the most notorious sectarian regime ever known .. This video is a gift to all the brave heroes who participated with the peaceful demonstrations, with the armed fighting or even by the brave said or written word .. Greetings to the sons, daughters, men, women and children of our beloved country SYRIA.
Long live the Syrian people, long live SYRIA
Muhannad Al-Boshi

Syrian Revolution | Multimedia team.. Syria team of all monitoring and translation.
With special thanks to Brother sighting of the book Code of our initiative.
And thanks to the professor Muhannad al-Boushi enrichment script.
(03-15-13) Al-Tel | Damascus | Victory for Our Revolution

(03-15-13) Al-Wa'er | Homs | Beautiful Demonstration as Brave Continue Call for Freedom

(03-15-13) Alexandria | Egypt | Syrians Demonstrate for Freedom

(03-15-13) Bebeila | Damascus | We Only Have you God

Syria فري برس مظاهرات الجالية السورية في الإسكندرية 15-3-2013 ج5

(03-15-13) Al-Dirbasia | Al-Hasaka | Demonstration for Freedom

Syria فري برس مظاهرات الجالية السورية في الإسكندرية 15-3-2013 ج6

(03-15-13) Al-Atarib | Aleppo | Funeral of Martyr & Hero Hamdo Obayd, Khan Tuman Battle

Syria فري برس مظاهرات الجالية السورية في الإسكندرية 15-3-2013 ج1

(03-15-13) Hama | Chanting: We Will Step on the Baath Heads

Protest in Aleppo |15 March 2013

(03-15-13) Al-Jarsi | Deir ez-Zor | Two Years: The Baath Will End, We Want Freedom

(03-15-13) Syria - Friday two years of Struggle and victory of our Revolution has loomed

(03-15-13) Khan Shaykhoun | Idlib | Revolution, Revolution O Syria!

Syria فري برس مظاهرات الجالية السورية في الإسكندرية 15-3-0132

Syria فري برس مظاهرات الجالية السورية في الإسكندرية 15-3-2013 ج2

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

BREAKING: EU to Syrian opposition: No Arms for You!

Today is the second anniversary of March 15th, the mass protests that heralded the beginning for the popular uprising of the Syrian people against the 42 year Assad regime autocracy. On this day two years ago, the people of Syria boldly announced the arrive of the Arab uprising to this country by holding peaceful mass demonstrations across the country under the banner "Day of Rage."

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad immediately showed his people that they had no right to peacefully petition their government. He had the non-violent protesters shot dead. The number have grown alarmingly since then as the opposition took up arms in self-defense and favor

So, as the struggle to topple the Assad regime enters its third year, please remember the toll it has exacted so far: 75,000 murdered, 82,000 missing, 252,000 prisoners, more than one million refugees from Syria and three million forced from their homes. Also please remember that these are not just numbers, these are human beings. These numbers can be expected to more than triple in the next year if the Assad regime is allowed to continue its current rate of attrition

Also, please recognize the fact that this slaughter is happening because the world powers are enabling it. Bashar Assad may be a mad dog killer but his weapons come from outside of Syria as do a growing number of those who are killing for him.

There are a thousand reasons for the failure of the world powers to provide a no-fly zone and put an end to Assad's campaign of "Death from Above" and they all outrank a desire to save the children.

There are a million reasons for not giving the defender of those children weapons to shoot down Assad's air force, but a desire to see an end to the carnage isn't one of them.

Neither Putin, Obama, Cameron nor Holland have wanted to see the Assad regime go because it was bad for the Syrian people. The truth is that none of the world powers really wants to see a government overturned by a popular revolt

Today, on the second anniversary of this revolt that has turned so bloody, the European Union has refused to lift the arms embargo to Assad's opposition, with Germany's Merkel repeating the off heard mantra that arms to the people being attacked would risk "further fueling conflict."

While British PM Cameron and French President Hollande hinted that they may go it alone and provide military assistance to the opposition anyway. British FM Hague has been singing a different tune, according to him, those fighting Assad shouldn't expect any military assistance from Britain any time soon:

Bloomberg has this:
U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters in London today that while Britain’s policy was largely similar to France’s, it has no plans to send lethal weapons to the rebels. “We are on the same page in many ways,” Hague said. “We have no plans at the moment to do anything different to what I announced in Parliament last week.” That included the provision of armored vehicles and body armor.

It remains to be seen if the French will deliver more than words but in my opinion, the Syrian people will have to win this fight by their own efforts and with whatever support comes to them from the world's people on a people to people basis because the governments of the world want the current government of Syria to prevail.

Among the most prominent of reasons for allowing this state of affairs is the myth that the Syrian civil war is, at its heart, sectarian conflict that is as old as the sects and we just have to let it play itself out. The Atlantic has just published a powerful rejoinder to such talk:
Stop Trying to Make Syria's War Into a Sectarian Conflict
Mar 15 2013, 11:34 AM ET
To be sure, a compelling story is making the rounds. Such voices as Patrick Cockburn at The Independent , Joseph Olmert in The Huffington Post, and countless others describe the Syrian war as an armed conflict pitting Sunnis, who make up the majority of Syria's population, against the Alawites, who back the Assad regime, and their Shiite allies, Iran and Hezbollah. In this telling, Christians and other innocent minorities are under siege, caught in the crossfire and afraid they will be oppressed by a Sunni majority in a post-Assad Syria. This would make Syria just the latest in a long string of Middle Eastern countries riven by intractable sectarian differences that lead to interminable chaos and violence. Because religious divisions define people's identities in this region, the story goes, history tells us that there is no choice but to let them "fight it out" while we do everything in our power, including possibly arming the opposition, to ensure that those who support U.S. interests in the region prevail.

This all-too-familiar story appeals to a range of interests inside and outside Syria. It paints a picture of a Middle Eastern conflict in which religious and sectarian differences inexorably determine political outcomes. Because it suggests that such violence is inevitable and may even be biologically or culturally predetermined, it exonerates the Assad regime and other countries that have failed to act even in the face of extreme state-sponsored violence against innocent civilians -- as when Syrian government forces bound and shot 49 children during a massacre of 108 civilians in Houla last spring.

The sectarian story is also wrong for a less obvious reason. Syrians -- the real people on the ground who happen to live in Syria -- don't conform to the sectarian stereotypes that policymakers and pundits are promoting with such gusto. Of course, some Syrians identify strongly with their ethnic or religious communities. But like people all over the world -- including here in the United States -- many Syrians hold multiple allegiances, sympathizing with more than one sectarian identity or none at all, or are of mixed backgrounds. Such individuals do not fit neatly into the boxes of religious identification demanded by the narrative of sectarianism. More...

What's wrong with this picture?
Russia Today reported this alarming news six months ago:

France to give heavy artillery to Syria rebels to 'smash Assad regime'

Published on Sep 6, 2012
France is considering supplying heavy artillery to the Syrian rebels to help them fight President Assad's forces. That's according to diplomatic sources, who say Paris is also stepping up support for the Syrian opposition to help them forge a government-in-waiting.

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