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Sunday, May 31, 2015

As Assad loses ground, he gains a new air force

Recently, the tide of war has been turning against the Assad regime as it has lost ground both to the terrorist army ISIS and to a revolutionary coalition of anti-Assad forces. While the loss of Palmyra has gotten a lot of attention, rebel wins, like this one reported Wednesday by Qasioun News, have also been gaining ground:
Opposition troops defeat regime forces in Jobar

26 May 2015
Damascus – Fierce clashes were conducted between Opposition troops and Syrian regime forces around Jobar neighborhood outskirts in Damascus, the clashes focused on Al-Manasher side and Al-Mutahalak side, clashes came after regime forces has bombed one of the building around the neighborhood, in the same time while regime forces shelled with tank missiles over clashes areas.

In the same context, Syrian regime forces shelled with mortars over Douma city in Rif Dimashq, led to injure 15 civilians, among them women and children. More...
While the Assad regime continues to be bank-rolled and supplied with weapons by Russia and Iran, the strength of the official Syrian Arab Army had long ago been sapped by defection and attrition. For the past several years the regime has had to rely on sectarian gangs like the Iranian trained National Defense Force and foreign armies like the Lebanese Hezbollah or Iraqi Shia militias to do its fighting on the ground. Now these forces are beginning to falter and Assad has no reserves to send in, so he is forced to fall back and give up ground.

The one advantage he still has, thanks to the forbearance of the world's great powers, is the ability to cause almost unlimited death and destruction from above. This is euphemistically known in military circles as "air supremacy." Since August of last year, air space over Syria has been shared by US and Syrian war planes - not attacking each other - but co-ordinating their activities so as to jointly maintain air supremacy over Syria.

President Obama said that he was sending US war planes into Syria only to fight ISIS and another unheard of group they said threatened US national security. Although the Obama administration claimed it wasn't there to help Assad, many observers saw that even by just targeting ISIS, Obama was freeing up Syrian air assets to continue barrel bombing schools, hospitals and breadlines.

Now, just as the Assad regime is losing ground to a big new rebel coalition that includes al Nusra, the FSA and other militias in Idlib and northern Hama provinces, the US has stepped up its air campaign against those attempting to overthrow the Assad regime. From recent reports it sounds like Assad has gained a new air force with Obama targeting opposition forces in Idlib and Aleppo as Assad is fighting to preserve positions there. From Reuters we have:
US led air raid kills 15 al Nusra fighters in Syria -monitor

20 May 2015
BEIRUT - An air raid by U.S.-led forces killed at least 15 members of al Qaeda's Syria wing Nusra Front in the northwest of the country on Wednesday, a group monitoring the Syrian civil war said.

The raid hit the headquarters of the group in Tawama village in the western countryside of Aleppo province, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which gathers information from a network of sources on the ground.

Most of the fighters killed were Turkish, it said, and there were several also wounded. It was not immediately clear how senior they were.

U.S.-led forces have been striking jihadists in Syria and neighbouring Iraq since mid-2014 and have mainly targeted the militant Islamic State group, but have also killed a smaller number of Nusra Front members in Syria. More...
Also Qasioun News reports:
Coalition targets Al-Nusra in Aleppo

8:59pm 20 May 2015
Aleppo (Qasioun) – US-Led Coalition launched airstrikes over Al-Tawama village in Aleppo western countryside, targeting Al-Nusra front centers in Al-Baladya building, and another building over the village’s outskirts, led to kill 12 fighters from Al-Nusra.

Also destroyed the centers completely, while Civil defense men try to search for survivors and take-out the dead bodies under ruins, among heavy spreading for Al-Nusra front’s fighters.

US-Led coalition drones was watched flying over Al-Tawama village’s airspace in Aleppo countryside.

Some of these recent operations might as well as been joint US-Assad strikes:

Qasioun News reports:
Coalition and regime airstrikes over Idlib countryside

9:16pm 20 May 2015
Idlib (Qasioun) – US-Led coalition warplanes launched airstrikes over the area located between Al-Sahara and Al-Tawama villages, northeast of Sarmada city in Idlib northern countryside, targeting Al-Nusra front centers, without any losses reported till now.

In the same context, Syrian regime warplanes launched airstrikes over Magharet Mirza in Maaret Al-Nouman eastern countryside, led to kill a woman and injure 2 civilians.
Qasioun News reports:
International coalition air forces and regime air force are partners in the Sky
10:54am 22 May 2015
Aleppo (Qasioun) regime air forces dropped barrel bombs over Alfardus neighborhood causing material damages only.

Besides two civilian were killed and many were injured including medics due to missiles by regime forces over Abu Jabar village in eastern countryside.

While one civilian was injured in Bustan Alkuser neighborhood due to firing by Regime’s Sniper where he located in Al-Baldi palace, besides regime forces shelled with tank AlShaar neighborhood.

Regime air forces carried out airstrikes over outskirt of Kuwers air force Base in eastern countryside, while International coalition air forces carried out many raids over ISIL’ sites in Sareen town in eastern countryside.
Also, US-led coalition targeted Jaysh al-Fatah rebels' HQ in Idlib, in Basyoon area between Kafranbel and Kasanfra:
#‎Syria‬ ‪#‎Idlib‬: Jabal AlZawiyah: Dozens of injuries were reported due to the coalition's air combats targeting the Nusra Front locations in Tawama town and Basyoon area between Kafar Nobbol and Kasanfra which led to destroying the quarters entirely LCCSY 25m
Note - No notice from the International Alliance re any Idlib strike
Michael Karadjis has provided English translations for these important communications:

Confirmed by rebels and also Nusra:
US-led coalition bombed Nusra positions in Idlib where 7 Nusra members according to the article above were martyred, in addition to a simultaneous bombing happening in Western Aleppo where 15 Nusra members were also killed at the municipality building in the Tawama village.
Shari Muhaisini calls on activists and mujahideen leaders to make large scale protests condemning the recent US strikes
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Monday, May 25, 2015

Response to Veterans for Peace on Syria

Written by Andy Berman, 25 May 2015, republished with permission. Andy Berman is a member of VFP Chapter 27 in Minneapolis, MN and the Committee in Solidarity with the People of Syria [CISPOS]. Earlier he was in the US Peace Corps [1967-69], the US Army [1971-73], a telecommunications engineer and Distinguished Member of Technical Staff at Bell Laboratories. He became a Vietnam war resister and has been a solidarity and peace activist since then. He blogs at andyberman.blogspot.com.

A former VFP board member writes:
No doubt Assad is a scumbag and a murderer. But those against him (Al Nusra and ISIS) are too. So why do you keep harping on this? What is it you think VFP should do about this? In my view we need to get the US the hell out of there, since US bombing only fuels the fire. Every day you harp on this, and it gets tiresome.

Andy responds:

Thanks for your comments and questions. You posed them very civilly and I therefore should respond to you.  There have been more than a few extremely nasty insults directed my way in this vfp-all forum and in personal emails. Those I ignore (and I have the authors emails automatically sent to my spam folder).  But civil discourse is definitely worthwhile. I appreciate your effort.
So here’s my response or all your concerns. It’s a bit long, but the situation in Syria is complex. Please give this serious consideration.
  1. Thanks for saying that Assad is a “scumbag and murderer.”  Several who post on vfp-all are overt supporters of the fascist dictator. We see a lot of forwarded posts here from a group called the “Syria Solidarity Network”.  That group explicitly supports the scumbag-murderer.  You can see that easily at their website. At the recent UNAC conference, which our vice-president reported so positively on, there were several speakers from groups that openly support the scumbag-murderer, including the Syrian-American Forum, ANSWER, IAC, FRSO.org and others.  Some of these folks have travelled to Syria to endorse the fraudulent elections last year or otherwise try to legitimize Assad. You are right. Assad is a tyrannical bastard.  VFP should be clear about that.  Code Pink has denounced Assad’s war crimes. We should too. We do not have to choose between Assad and US Imperialism.

I am sorry to read that you find my posts about Syria “tiresome.”  They are intended to give fellow VFPers  reliable news reports and analysis that encourages them to rethink,  to speak out and to take action to help stop this horrible war. What I find truly tiresome in vfp-all are the repetitious rants and reposts from sensationalist and conspiracy websites. And tiresome too is the knowledge that every single day barrel bombs are being dropped in Syria while so many of my antiwar friends in the US remain silent.

I am glad that you recognize that Assad is a pig, but it is also clear that your understanding is not a universal sentiment in VFP, an organization I have been part of for many years.  Hence I feel the need to post material that is intended to inform my fellow VFP members that we should be very clear about Assad’s brutality.  While we reject US imperial ventures around the world, it is a serious error for peace activists to support in any way tyrants that find themselves in confrontation with the US:  be they Assad, Saddam, Pol Pot, Qaddafi, or anyone else. We can and should speak out against US imperialism and brutal dictators as well.

I am sure you are familiar with US Left history, and are probably aware that there were indeed US “antiwar” activists who, in the name of opposing US militarism, backed Pol Pot in Cambodia. There are other historical precedents, including those in the antiwar movement who claimed in the early 1930s that stories of Hitler’s roundup of communists and Jews was just an excuse by FDR to build up the US Navy.   

I know there are a great many decent and committed peace activists in VFP. I post politely without rancor so that they may see another side of the Syria story. The position that VFP now takes, seeing only US imperialism as the source of all conflict,  and concerned only with the US role, is very misguided. It does not help further the cause of peace. We should be wiser and stop seeing the world only through our “Americanist” eyes.

  1. You ask what should VFP do about Syria, the bloodiest war on the planet.  Here’s what I think we should be doing:  We often issue VFP Position Statements.  We should issue a position statement that includes the following:
  1. VFP urges the resumption of an international conference on Syria, including the parties to the conflict, Russia, Iran, and the US, and others, following the guidelines of the Geneva I protocol, which calls for a transitional government, a ceasefire, and a withdrawal of all foreign fighters.
  2. VFP urges the United Nations Security Council to put enforcement mechanisms in place to support the existing Security Council resolutions for full access by international aid agencies bringing food and medical aid to all parts of Syria and its resolution condemning the use of chemical weapons in Syria including chlorine gas.
  3. VFP urges the US government to conduct serious bilateral discussions with Russia and Iran seeking to find a negotiated end to the war. We recognize that the US still has considerable bargaining power with Russia over issues of NATO expansion and economic re-integration, and considerable common interest in stopping the spread of fanatical ideologies. We recognize that the pending multiparty nuclear agreement with Iran could lead to normalization of US-Iran relations, including a settlement of the Syrian war.

In addition to our criticism of US drone strikes that often kill innocents, VFP should openly criticize the use of barrel bombs, a true weapon of terror, that is now used by the Syrian government on a daily basis, slaughtering far more innocents than US drones.

We should be listening to Syrian voices! There are Syrians and Syrian-Americans in many US cities. They have a variety of viewpoints. Most are desperate for peace, and understand that reconciliation is not possible with Assad in control.  The Syrian American Council is one place to hear and contact them. The Syrian American Medical Society is a great resource for information about the humanitarian crisis. And there are many internet sites, and facebook pages where different Syrian voices are heard.  I will put some links at the end of this message. If you look at them you may be surprised that Syrians in general are much better informed about the America than Americans are informed about Syria!

Syria is the deadliest war on the planet. Why are we not listening to Syrian voices?
We would not think about taking a position on African-American matters without the input of African-Americans.  Yet we basically take our Syria politics from American bloggers.

Another point that needs clarification is your understandable desire to get the “US the hell out of there because it only fuels the fire. “ I agree absolutely! The US track record of military intervention is not a good one. Indeed, the democratic, pluralistic part of the anti-Assad rebels has made it clear that the US bombing, supposedly aimed at ISIS, is in fact bolstering the Assad regime.  

Yes, the US should get out of Syria. But so should Russia and Iran, by far the major suppliers of the weapons of war to Syria. And so should Saudi and Qatar and Hezbollah get out of Syria.  VFP should not be shy about pointing the finger at all the war makers!  A US pullout is a good idea, but alone it stops not one barrel bomb. It stops not one starvation siege.

The war in Syria raged for 3 years without significant US military aid to any of the parties. It would surely continue without US involvement.  Far more than a “US pullout” is needed to stop this war. The war in Syria is now an international war. International action is required to end it. Our focus only on the US is lazy politics, and does not advance our sacred goal of ending war as an instrument of policy.

The world has changed a great deal since the Vietnam era when Dr. King courageously said that the US was the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.  Today there are other big purveyors of violence. Globalization is the new world order. Russia is no longer a socialist country. It is a capitalist oligarchy with military intervention in Ukraine and a base in Syria. Iran has 10,000 military advisors in Syria and is directing a proxy war in Yemen. Saudi bombs Yemen and invades Bahrain.

While our emphasis as an American veterans organization should be on US military intervention, to ignore completely the military aggression of other nations is hypocritical. It betrays our commitment as international citizens. In Syria today, US military intervention is not the main cause of the massive slaughter there of the last four years or the last 50 years of brutal dictatorship. To say so is a fantasy. It is a lie.

One more point needs clarification: The nature of the anti-Assad rebels. The uprising against Assad that began in 2011 was based on massive, non-violent, secular demonstrations of young people throughout Syria. It followed directly anti-dictator uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. Its demands were for an end to the 50 years brutal dictatorship of the Assad family and the establishment of a democratic, pluralistic regime.

Tragically, Assad responded with extreme violence and some demonstrators moved to armed resistance. Defectors from Assad’s army founded the Free Syrian Army. And most tragically, outside powers, namely Saudi, Qatar, Iran, Hezbollah, Turkey and others have intervened massively with their own agendas, not the needs or desires of the Syrian people. A result has been the corruption of the uprising initial goals, and the rise of Islamic-based military groups in the anti-Assad forces, including Al-Nusra, the Islamic Front and several other groups, often not cooperating with each other.  The democratic, secular groups, centered in the Free Syrian Army, are now only a part of the opposition.   

In recent weeks, however, the anti-Assad groups have improved their military cooperation. Assad’s forces have been defeated in several key battles.  The situation is now fluid. The Assad regime is far less stable.  

Complicating all this is the rise of ISIS, coming into Syria from the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s disbanded Iraqi army, fueled by historic Sunni/Shia conflicts and funded by religious fanatics in the region.  The conflict in Syria is now at least a three-way conflict, a bloody mess of historic proportions.  There is no easy solution in sight.  When the Assad regime does indeed fall, as it inevitably will, the aftermath is likely to be messy.

So what should we do? In VFP we should be watching this war closely, keeping ourselves informed and listening to all the parties to the conflict. We should stand by our basic principles, call for serious peace negotiations, condemn war crimes regardless of who commits them, and pressure our government to use diplomacy with Russia and Iran.  We should be involved in fundraising for humanitarian aid to the millions of Syrians inside and outside the country who are suffering so greatly from this conflict.

Thanks for listening.  Go in peace,
Andy Berman, US Army 1971-73, VFP Chapter 27

As promised are some links that can help folks get better informed about Syria:
http://www.syriadeeply.org/     excellent unbiased daily news from Syria
https://planetsyria.org/en          the non-violent civilian resistance
http://www.etilaf.us/                  UN reps of the political wing of the democratic resistance
http://syriatimes.sy/                     mouthpiece of the dictator
https://www.facebook.com/kafrev?fref=ts    from a Syrian city under FSA control

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Obama on Syria this week: Like I've been saying...

On Thursday, 14 May 2015, President Obama held a Press Conference at Camp David. Since it immediately followed the Gulf Cooperation Council summit with representatives of five Arab governments, he couldn't entirely avoid the subject of Syria. This is what he had to say:
... with respect to Syria, we committed to continuing to strengthen the moderate opposition, to oppose all violent extremist groups, and to intensify our efforts to achieve a negotiated political transition toward an inclusive government --without Bashar Assad -- that serves all Syrians.
There are those on the "Left" and the Right that will use these words to say Obama is still moving forward with his regime change plans for Syria. I wonder if they also believe the many other fine words in Obama's speech, like his "urgent need" for a Palestinian State, or do they just selectively decide that he tells the truth about his plans for Assad? 

This YouTube video, published on 8 May 2015, will give you a clue about how much Obama really is supporting the moderate opposition in Syria, and BTW they are only training Syrians to fight ISIS, not Assad. They make that abundantly clear.

Why Is The US Military Training Only 90 Syrian Rebels?

In the Q&A that followed the press conference Michael Viqueira asked a question about Syria:
Q Thank you, Mr. President. On Syria, one of the reasons we're here is because many of the nations in the region were upset that more than two years ago when Bashar al-Assad deployed chemical weapons, there was no military response as you appeared to promise, no retaliation on the part of the U.S. Now there’s a possibility that Assad has once again used chemical weapons. What did you tell these leaders here who were disappointed last time? And will you use a military response if it's confirmed that he used chemical weapons again, once again deployed them?
Never mind a quarter million Syrians murdered since he took over leadership of the "free world," clearly President Obama resented having to answer a question about Syria in this press conference that focused on the Middle East. This is what he had to say:
First of all, Michael, I don't know why you're here, [!!] but the reason I’m here is not because of what happened in Syria a couple of years ago. The reason I’m here is because we’ve got extraordinary challenges throughout the region -- not just in Syria, but in Iraq and Yemen and Libya, and obviously, the development of ISIL; and our interest in making sure that we don't have a nuclear weapon in Iran.

With respect to Syria, my commitment was to make sure that Syria was not using chemical weapons, and mobilizing the international community to assure that that would not happen. And, in fact, we positioned ourselves to be willing to take military action. The reason we did not was because Assad gave up his chemical weapons. That's not speculation on our part. That, in fact, has been confirmed by the organization internationally that is charged with eliminating chemical weapons.

And I don't think that there are a lot of folks in the region who are disappointed that Assad is no longer in possession of one of the biggest stockpiles of chemical weapons of any country on Earth. Those have been eliminated.

It is true that we’ve seen reports about the use of chlorine in bombs that have the effect of chemical weapons. Chlorine itself, historically, has not been listed as a chemical weapon, but when it is used in this fashion can be considered a prohibited use of that particular chemical. And so we're working with the international community to investigate that.

And, in fact, if we have the kinds of confirmation that we need, we will, once again, work with the international community and the organization charged with monitoring compliance by the Syrian government, and we will reach out to patrons of Assad like Russia to put a stop to it.
In a recent post, 3 May 2015, I wrote:
Just Wednesday we have a new report of two chlorine filled barrel-bombs being dropped from helicopters in the village of Sarmin in Idlib Province. Idlib city recently became the second provincial capital to slip from Assad's control. Reports say as many a 20 were killed in this attack.

Human Rights Watch issued a report on use of chlorine gas bombs by the Syrian Government almost a year ago and the United Nations passed a resolution opposing their use on 6 March 2015. These mean nothing to Assad.
Apparently these reports means nothing to Obama as well.

Apparently Obama's intelligence when it comes to WMD is pretty much of the calibre we've come to expect from an American President, except that whereas Bush saw WMD where they didn't exist, Obama refuses to see them even when they are killing people by the thousands.

He may think he has been successful in getting Assad to give up his chemical weapons, at least if you don't count chlorine, but "the organization internationally that is charged with eliminating chemical weapons" certainly isn't "confirming" Obama's illusions. Just this week, Reuthers reported that Assad has been lying all along:
Weapons inspectors find undeclared sarin and VX traces in Syria

8 May 2015
Anthony Deutsch
International inspectors have found traces of sarin and VX nerve agent at a military research site in Syria that had not been declared to the global chemical weapons watchdog, diplomatic sources said on Friday.

Samples taken by experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition and Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in December and January tested positive for chemical precursors needed to make the toxic agents, the sources told Reuters on the condition of anonymity because the information is confidential.

"This is a pretty strong indication they have been lying about what they did with sarin," one diplomatic source said. "They have so far been unable to give a satisfactory explanation about this finding." More...
The Times also reported this story and while US Assad supporters on the "Left" and the Right, have been quick to point out that precursors still have to be mixed to become weapons and traces probably aren't enough to kill many people, the important point here is that they were found at sites that had not been declared by the Assad Regime. Since Assad was only forced to give up chemical weapons he admitted having, Obama's claim that "Assad gave up his chemical weapons" depends on the honesty of a known liar and mass murderer. What a sad joke.

Now, in addition to the chlorine, Assad is experimental with new unknown "designer" CW that technically might not be illegal. CNN is reporting:
Choking agents mark new Syria low

14 May 2015
Zaher Sahloul
[Dr. Zaher Sahloul is the president of the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), a nonprofit organization that represents more than 5,000 Syrian American physicians in the United States. The views expressed are his own.]

(CNN)"I tried to scream, but I couldn't take a deep breath. No one noticed when I tried to scream -- everyone was overwhelmed by the number of victims."

I sat with my colleague Moustafa, a nurse in his early 20s, at a field hospital in Sarmin, Syria, as he described the chaos in his hospital on March 16, when barrel bombs filled with chemical gas struck.

At around 9 p.m. that day, the hospital received a wave of people experiencing chemical exposure symptoms -- difficulty breathing, burning eyes, mouth secretions. He described washing and desperately trying to treat a small boy, Mohammad, who was foaming at the mouth. His sisters lay dead on top of their dead grandmother nearby. Moustafa says that as he treated the boy, he began to cough and was struggling to breathe. He rushed outside to breathe fresh air, but the air smelled like bleach. He passed out and woke up inside the hospital, receiving oxygen.

He survived the chemical exposure. Baby Mohammad did not. He died along with his two sisters, his grandmother, and his parents.

I decided to take the dangerous trip last month to Sarmin and Binnish in the suburbs of the northern city of Idlib, a major battleground in recent months, to speak with the brave doctors and nurses there. There are believed to have been at least six more similar attacks since the one in March, in addition to daily bombing and shelling using "conventional" weapons.

Barrel bombs filled with choking agents have not been as deadly as those filled with shrapnel and explosives, but are particularly dangerous in that they spread fear, panic, and confusion. More...
In spite of all the focus on chemical weapons, the majority of Syrians are killed with the conventional weapons Obama signalled were allowed in his famous "red-line" statement, and in spite of Obama's focus on the terrorist group ISIS, a much greater number of civilians are killed by Assad's "Death from Above" as in this case:

18+ people killed in regime air strike on local market in Saraqeb, Idlib | 16 May 2015

Only a pawn in their games....

For most on the Left, Syria is neither a tragedy worthy of much attention, nor a political struggle against a ruthless fascist dictatorship worthy of much support. It is a game. A point which Vijay Prashad, the Connecticut professor, made in the very title of his most recent piece on Syria, 15 May 2015, "Manoeuvres on the Syrian chessboard". His piece mentions neither Assad's barrel bombs nor his poison gas attacks, but then why should he? After all, the people Assad is slaughtering are "the proxies of Saudi Arabia as well as Qatar and Turkey" who started what Assad now says is “a war, not a battle”, "when the 2011 uprising in Syria took to the gun." Never mind they only started shooting back after Assad's army insisted on the continued slaughter of peaceful protesters.

These folks are now revising history to cover their tracks, Consider these confirmed facts, from Before Its News about the sarin attack of 21 August 2013:
Likewise, the chemical weapons attacks in Ghouta were initially blamed on Assad and the Syrian government but later found to be the work of the Western-backed terrorists who had gone so far as to capture civilians from Lattakia and use them as human stage props for video footage and propaganda purposes.
So for the pro-Assad crowd, the wildest theories about who killed 1400 people, or even if they died at all, are now regarded as facts. Meanwhile Obama is still "investigating." And the Syrians? They are still being murdered.

Like I've been saying:
How Obama has supported Assad's gas murder always
Obama's Real Syria Policy: Endless War
The Courtship Continues: Obama stopped French strike on Assad
The Courtship Continues: Obama's New Gift to Assad
How Obama Helped Assad Kill with Poison Gas in Syria
Win-Win for Assad as Obama Response to CW Mass Murder Put on Hold
Obama Denied Gas Masks to Assad's Victims
Obama's Dilemma and Assad's Opportunity
Barack Obama's Courtship of Bashar al-Assad
Barack Obama's Courtship of Bashar al-Assad Exposed!
Obama "green lights" Assad's slaughter in Syria
Assad's Redline and Obama's Greenlight!
Chemical weapons use 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
Obama: Did the CIA betray Assad's opposition in Syria?
Obama planning drone strikes against Assad's opposition in Syria
How Obama helps Assad: US tried to start war between FSA & al Nusra Front

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Was ISIS "leader" Abu Sayyaf promoted posthumously by Obama?

In the White House statement announcing the US Special Forces operation in Syria yesterday, NSC spokesperson Bernadette Meehan, said the man they got, Abu Sayyaf, was the intended target of the raid:
Abu Sayyaf was a senior ISIL leader who, among other things, had a senior role in overseeing ISIL’s illicit oil and gas operations – a key source of revenue that enables the terrorist organization to carry out their brutal tactics and oppress thousands of innocent civilians. He was also involved with the group’s military operations.
The funny thing about Abu [meaning father of] Sayyaf is that nobody that has been studying ISIS leadership seems to have ever heard of him before. I've been writing about ISIS since July 2013, almost a year before it took Mosul and declared itself a "caliphate." That doesn't make me an expert, so it really doesn't mean much that I've never heard of him, but I do know experts that should have heard of him, and when they say they've never heard of him, I know this guy was not that important.

The hands down best book I know of on the subject of ISIS is ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan. Now, they are experts, and I've followed the work of both of them for a long time, so when I hear Michael Weiss say he's never heard of Abu Sayyaf, I know there is something fishy about the Pentagon story.

Besides, if this guy is really as important as they now say he is, why did they not already have a price on his head like they do for the other top ISIS leaders? If this was like the hunt for the Baathists in Iraq a decade ago, some of which are now in ISIS, I'd have to conclude they weren't playing with a full deck, because before this raid, Abu Sayyaf didn't have his own card.

I think the Pentagon is trying to put lipstick on a pig.

I think this guy is pretty low-level, and not the kind of target that they would risk US soldiers on the ground for. I think they were after a really important target, maybe the leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, maybe somebody else in top leadership or responsible for Kayle Mueller's captivity, but definitely a big cheese, and they missed. Maybe Obama was looking to distract attention from questions about the accuracy of his tale around the bin Laden mission with another daring US Special Ops kill or capture. I don't know about that, but I know one thing for sure: Abu Sayyaf is no bin Laden!

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights [SOHR] is saying 32 IS militants were killed by US air strikes and by a "dropping off operation in al-Omar oil field near al-Besera east of Der-Ezzor." They say among them, "4 commanders 3 of them were Moroccan including the assistant of Abo Omar al-Shishani the military chief in IS." Abu Sayyaf isn't mentioned but that's just a nom de guerre anyway. I don't think Obama put US boots on the ground in Syria to kill an "assistant."

It is interesting that the Syrian Army is also claiming credit for these kills, raising the curious question of to what degree this operation was co-ordinated with the Assad regime. After all, They did openly acknowledge they had "the full consent of Iraqi authorities" and and acted "consistent with domestic and international law." If consistent with international law meant respect for Syrian sovereignty, that would imply the knowledge and consent of the Assad regime, but according to the New York Times:
The White House rejected initial reports from the region that attributed the raid to the forces of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. “The U.S. government did not coordinate with the Syrian regime...,” said Bernadette Meehan, the National Security Council spokeswoman.
I strongly suspect Abu Sayyaf was not the real target, he was just the best they could do, so now, in death, he has been promoted by the Pentagon, the CIA, the White House and the tame media, to top ISIS leadership and the story is the raid was a great success because they got the man they were after all along.

And the idea that they are going to get some "actionable intelligence" from interrogating the wife of Abu Sayyaf. Please!? That line alone marks this mission as a pig being dressed up. Hello! News Flash. ISIS is male chauvinist in the extreme, but I mean extreme! There are no women in the leadership of ISIS. Know why? They aren't even allowed to drive! So if the CIA thinks Umm [meaning mother of] Sayyaf knows much about ISIS operations, they are even stupider than I think they are. Please, leave that poor woman alone. If she has been a "wife" of an ISIS jihadist, she has already been through enough.

And while its great that they freed the Yazidi woman from ISIS slavery, there are still hundreds more, not to mention tens of thousands in Assad's torture archipelago.

Clearly the mainstream media has locked arms on this story and with that, they may be able to fool the American people. But what about ISIS and others who know better? What conclusions will they draw?

There is no shame in saying you don't always get your man and since no US troops were killed or injured in this assault, there should have been no problem saying they were after bigger fish. Handling it the way it looks, very likely has ISIS rolling in the aisles with laughter and might even help their recruitment efforts.
Its kinda like the "Khorasan Group" all over again. Do they really think they can just make up this stuff up as they stumble along?

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Sunday, May 10, 2015

50 earthquakes a day in Syria ignored by the "Left"

Another Left is Possible...
The Syria Campaign

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Sadly, the response of the "Left" to the human carnage caused by Assad's barrel bombs is to ignore it. Fortunately, not everyone is in on the cover-up and others are taking the lead in demanding that the world put a stop to this wanton slaughter.

BBC News reported this week:
Syria conflict: Aleppo civilians suffer 'unthinkable atrocities'

5 May 2015
Civilians in Syria's second city of Aleppo are suffering unthinkable atrocities, Amnesty International says.

A new report alleges that government forces and many rebel groups are committing war crimes on a daily basis.

The government has reportedly stepped up its bombardment of Aleppo in recent weeks in response to a rebel offensive.

President Bashar al-Assad categorically denied that barrel bombs had ever been used by his forces in an interview with the BBC in February.

At least 10 people, including four children and teacher, were killed on Sunday when a barrel bomb hit a nursery school in the Saif al-Dawla district. More...
Bashar al-Assad's claim that he's not the one dropping barrel bombs on neighborhoods is rendered incredible because his army is the only force flying helicopters in Syria. Will the "Left" support Assad's murderous lies about the barrel bomb attacks the way they did with the sarin murders?

Also this week, the Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)  "found traces of precursors for the deadly VX and sarin nerve agents at an undeclared site in Syria." So it seems that Assad still retains the chemical weapons he was suppose to have given up.

The Independence reported this week:
Syrian government forces killing hundreds of civilians in air strikes as world watches Isis

4 November 2015
Lizzie Dearden
As the eyes of the world remain fixed on Isis, Bashar al-Assad’s forces have killed an estimated 330 civilians in Syria since the start of this year alone, observers claim.

Bombings and chemical attacks like the ones that almost led Britain to war in 2013 have been carried out largely unnoticed as the so-called Islamic State continues its bloody campaign.

Isis has provoked global horror with its filmed beheadings, amputations, crucifixions, massacres and murders, most recently with the burning to death of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh.

The group’s horrific cruelty to civilians is well-documented, particularly the persecution of religious minorities and anyone who does not conform to their violent interpretation of Sharia law.

But whereas Isis gleefully spreads its gory propaganda videos around the world, the regime’s atrocities including the use of banned barrel bombs and chemical weapons, goes undocumented and unnoticed.

President Assad’s forces are fighting a civil war on several fronts – against Isis, other Islamist militias, secular rebel groups and to quash the anti-government sentiment that started in the 2011 Arab Spring.

The London-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights chronicled 127 air raids in just 24 hours earlier this week by regime helicopters and planes.

A spokesperson said Britain, the US and other international leaders that “claim to defend human rights” must work harder to stop crimes against humanity being committed daily in Syria.

“It is a shame on those who pretend to respect the Human Rights to just write and publish statements,” he added. More...
Unlike the representatives of the Left that are meeting this weekend in Secaucus, NJ under the banner of the United National AntiWar Coalition, some people care about humanity more than they care about upholding an obsolete political line. Their Statement on Syria doesn't even mention Assad, let alone condemn his actions. The naive reader is led to believe that all the deaths in Syria have been caused by Israel and the US. The UNAC opposes the imposition of a no-fly zone over Syria, which means that in practical terms, as opposed to rhetorical terms, they support Bashar al-Assad's barrel-bombing campaign. They also came out in force to deny Assad's responsibility for the sarin attacks of 2013, and they have remained silent about his use of poison gas and barrel bombs since then.

This goes a long way to explaining why the Left has failed to grow and remains in the hands of old farts that only oppose the slaughter of Palestinians when Israel is doing it. Young people that care about humanity, and include Syrians in their definition of humanity, will be absolutely repelled by the Left and the role it has played in supporting the Syrian government and its Russian and Iranian backers, in there devastating campaign against the Syrian people just because they claim to oppose US imperialism.

This has left a big opening for ISIS and other extreme right-wing groups to recruit many of the same young people the Left should be winning because they at least fledge concern for the Syrian people and claim to be fighting the Assad regime. And make no mistake about it, the main reason these young people travel to Syria is to do something about the horror their elders, including the "Left," are all too willing to ignore, and not to build a mythological caliphate as the mainstream media would have you believe.

Meanwhile, the rulers are now manoeuvring to use the ISIS scare to institute new controls on the Internet and social media because they know the vital role they played in enabling the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall St., and they want it locked down to avoid such uses in the future. And where is the "Left" on this question?

I have focused on the Syrian Revolution since the end of Occupy Los Angeles, over three years ago, because I saw that it had the capacity evolve into the defining struggle of this period. The "Left" has all but ignored it, and in ignoring it, they have lost much credibility in their claim that they could be the force that  leads humanity away from the catastrophes it presently faces.

Not only is another Left possible, another Left is entirely necessary if humanity is to survive this century.

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Cops kill an unarmed Black man in Venice: What do we have to burn down to make the news?

Another unarmed black man was murdered by the police in Venice Beach, CA on Tuesday. His name was Brendon K. Glenn. He was young, just 29. He was new in town and homeless. He is reported to have had mental problems and was drunk on Cinco de Mayo. He had a reputation for giving people hugs whether they wanted them or not but when he tried to hug the bouncer at the Townhouse bar on Windward Ave around 11:30PM, he called the cops. The cops asked Brendon Glenn to show some ID, and when he went into his pocket, one of the cops shot him dead, according to witnesses.

Venice Residents Protest Cop Killing

Having this happen in our community, fresh on the heels of the murder of so many unarmed black men in the past year including Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in Stanton Island, John Crawford in Beavercreek, Ezell Ford in Los Angeles, Dante Parker in Victorville, Naeschylus Vinzant in Aurora, Tony Robinson in Madison, Anthony Hill in Atlanta, Akai Gurley in Brooklyn, Kajieme Powell in St. Louis, Dante Parker in San Bernardino, Tyree Woodson in Baltimore, and so many others, the people of Venice were outraged. Many held an all night vigil at the scene of the murder the next night. Even LAPD police chief Charlie Beck expressed his doubts, saying:
“Any time an unarmed person is shot by a Los Angeles police officer, it takes extraordinary circumstances to justify that, I have not seen those extraordinary circumstances.”
Naturally the police protective league was outraged. There was a hastily called community meeting on Thursday evening that packed the auditorium at Westminster school on Abbot-Kinney Blvd. Many city official and what looked like about half of the LAPD were also in attendance.

Community Meeting at Westminster School

Bree Walker speaks out at community meeting while Petey sleeps

Local TV News Report on Police Killing of Brendon Glenn

Since the shooting, the protests and demonstrations have come non-stop and the shooting has been all over the news in Los Angeles, but it you live outside of Los Angeles you probably haven't heard the news. That is the rather unique prospective I have had on these events because I have been in Texas for work this week. I heard about it from friends. I found more by watching local LA news on the Internet and YouTube, and I waited all week in vain to hear mention of yet another unarmed black man gunned down by police on CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC.

When I wasn't at work, I have been stuck in the hotel with nothing to do but watch the news, so I don't think I've missed the reports. Yesterday morning's news was all about the police. They were still bring non-stop coverage of events relating to the Freddie Gray murder, include live coverage of U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch's press conference announcing a new investigation of the Baltimore police and live coverage of the cop funeral in New York City, but of Brendon Glenn and the police murder in Venice, not a word. Its as though there was a news black out about this death in Venice that was only revealed to me because I have local connections. It made me wonder how many other unarmed black men had been gunned down by police this week and have gone unreported. Because that is the real scandal, not just the individual circumstance of the killing of Freddie Gray, Michael Brown and others that managed to break through to the national news, but the on-going rate at which black men are slaughtered by the police in the United States, and that is what I think the media is trying to hide by refusing national coverage of the death of Brendon Glenn. The people of Venice have protested vigorously, but so far they have protested peacefully, and maybe that is the problem. So my question to CNN, Fox News and MSNBC is:

What do we have to burn down to get you to cover this story?

I hope its not the local CVS Pharmacy, because its right across the street from me and very convenient. But if putting the torch to it is the only way to get the national media to recognize the death of Brendon Glenn, then I say "Burn it down!"

And to the media moguls and politicians who cry crocodile tears whenever property is destroyed in a riot, I say, I hold you responsible because you work to cover up these murders and people have learned from long and bitter experiences that the only way they can get recognition for the grievous loss of human life in such cases is to destroy something dear to the powers that be - their property.

Photos by Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times
An investigation is underway in Venice after a man  was shot and killed by Los Angeles police officers.
Evidence markers on the sidewalk where a man was shot and killed by Los Angeles police officers.

Officers with the LAPD’s Pacific Division were called to the area around Windward and Pacific avenues about 11:30 p.m. after a man described as a transient was reported to be harassing passersby.

An investigation was underway in Venice after a man who had reportedly been in an altercation with a bar bouncer and harassed people was shot and killed by Los Angeles police officers after a struggle.

One officer suffered a leg injury in an incident in which a man was fatally shot by police in Venice on Tuesday.

Allison Holden, left, and friends of the victim, hold a handmade sign near scene of the shooting.

Onlookers stand Wednesday near the site where a man was shot and killed by Los Angeles police officers after a struggle Tuesday night.

Solomon Turner protests the fatal shooting of a homeless man by Los Angeles police in Venice.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck discusses the officer-involved shooting in the Venice area that left a man dead.

LAPD officers keep an eye on protesters near the site of a fatal LAPD officer-involved shooting in Venice.

 Karl Harris, 55, protest the killing of an unarmed homeless man, near the site of a fatal LAPD officer-involved shooting in Venice.

A man places flowers at a growing memorial for a homeless man killed by LAPD in Venice.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck says he's "very concerned" about the fatal shooting by an officer of an unarmed homeless man in Venice.

A man on a bike pedals past a messages written in chalk near the site of a fatal LAPD officer-involved shooting of a homeless man.

People react after hearing about an LAPD shooting of a homeless man in Venice.

Protesters shout at police officers near the scene of the officer-involved shooting in Venice.

A die-in was held to protest the killing of an unarmed homeless man by an LAPD officer in Venice.

Solomon Turner, 54, protests an LAPD officer-involved shooting of a homeless man in Venice.

Matty Flip protest the killing of an unarmed homeless man, near the site of a fatal LAPD officer-involved shooting in Venice

LAPD officials faced an angry, standing-room-only crowd at Westminster Avenue Elementary School in Venice over the department's shooting death of a homeless man. C.R, standing, wore a shirt showing Brendon K. Glenn, the victim in the shooting, and shouted during the meeting.

LAPD officials host a town hall meeting to discuss the fatal officer-involved shooting of an unarmed homeless man near the boardwalk. Community members often shouted complaints, disrupting officials' attempts to speak.

Peggy Kennedy speaks to LAPD officials at the town hall meeting at Westminster Elementary School.

Venice resident Bree Walker with her dog Petey, speaks to a panel of LAPD officials and hundreds of spectators during the town hall meeting to discuss the fatal shooting of an unarmed homeless man near the boardwalk.

King Solomon, the Snake Man of Venice Beach, shouts at LAPD officers after the town hall meeting.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Is the Syrian Revolution winning in spite of the "Left"

Another Left is Possible...

All those on the "Left" that have been predicting and, in truth, cheering for a victory by the fascist Assad Regime in Syria may soon be disappointed. Jisr al-Shughour, the place armed rebellion first broke out in June 2011, has been liberated by a Syrian opposition that has seen a reversal of fortunes in the past few months. Monday, The Daily Beast wrote about these recent changes:
Syria’s Rebels on Winning Streak—In Alliance With Al Qaeda

Important victories may presage major changes in the fortunes of the anti-regime fighters. They may also encourage al Qaeda’s clients to break ranks. A twisted tale.

4 May 2015
Jamie Dettmer

GAZIANTEP, Turkey—The thumbs-up a top rebel commander flashes at me as he returns to this Turkish border town from the front-lines of northern Syria’s battlefields speaks volumes.

There has been little for Syrian insurgents to cheer about in recent months. Even a few weeks ago this man was downcast and appeared adrift and unable to imagine an end to a war that has claimed the lives of 6,000 of his men.

But a new Islamist alliance of brigades backed by al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al Nusra is moving ahead aggressively against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad and the emboldened insurgents, fresh from two significant battlefield gains, say that the four-year-long civil war is entering a new and critical phase—one that didn’t appear likely, or even possible, as recently as February.

And as the gains pile up, talk is intensifying within Jabhat al Nusra, and especially among the group’s Syrian commanders and fighters, of breaking with al Qaeda—a move they hope might entice the West to support this offensive and impose a no-fly zone across northern Syria.

The capture of the cities of Idlib and, last weekend, Jisr al-Shughour had major symbolic significance. This is where the armed rebellion against Assad began in June 2011, after Assad’s security forces fired on a funeral demonstration. And it has boosted the fighters’ morale. The newly confident Sunni rebel militias are focusing now on objectives to the south, seeking to block Syrian government supply lines from the regime’s coastal stronghold of Latakia. That would force the Assad regime to supply it’s remaining forces in the province of Idlib and the city of Aleppo only from Damascus.

Inspiring this new-found coordination among the rebel militias that have made such gains is the realization that they can’t rely on anyone but themselves.

Such is the rebels’ soaring confidence that they talk of taking the war out of northwest Syria and positioning themselves either to put pressure on Latakia or strike south towards Hama, affording them the opportunity to threaten the Syrian capital and coordinate more with rebel militias in the southern and eastern suburbs of Damascus.

From the despair and anger of December and January, when Assad’s forces appeared a skirmish away from encircling rebel-held districts in Aleppo and severing insurgent supply lines to Turkey, the transformation is remarkable. Back then, plagued by infighting and demoralized by the US-led coalition’s focus on the jihadists of the self-styled Islamic State, Syrian rebels were directionless and pessimistic about their chances of toppling Assad. I met many fighters who were throwing in the towel and deciding they had had enough after four years of struggle.

Fighters blamed the West, the Sunni monarchies of the Gulf Arab states and Turkey for their plight, seeing their refusal to supply more advanced weaponry as a betrayal and evidence of duplicity by Washington. They argued the Americans preferred for Assad to remain in power, and accused President Barack Obama of buying into Assad’s argument that his ouster would result in the caliphate of the Islamic State enlarging to include the whole of Syria—that either he is the ruler of Syria or Abu Bakr al Baghdadi will be. More...
While most in the West, including the "Left" paint both ISIS and al Nusra with the same jihadist brush because they preach very similar versions of radical Islam, fighters on the ground have always seen very important practical differences. Muhamed Nabih Osman, an engineering before the revolution who spent 14 years in Assad's infamous Tadmor jail, expects to see al Nusra to break with al Qaeda in the near future, noting that the rank-n-file of al Nusra are Syrian and fighting to overthrow Assad, “You have to understand that al Nusra consists of two very different parts and that one part, mostly local fighters, are not interested in global jihad.”

Noting that some people think they know all because they know what someone says they stand for. Hence, Assad is a secularist which is good, al Nusra are jihadists, which is bad. End of story. Of such simplicity, Osman says, “The West is living in a detached world of philosophical ideas.” We have only to look at the discourse around Syria on what passes for The Left in the West these days, to see exactly what he means. Hundreds of children are murdered by sarin that seeped down into their basements while they slept. They learned to sleep in their basements because for months they have been murdered by Assad's rockets if they tried to sleep in their beds on the upper floors, and the major discourse on the "Left" is designed to raise questions about Assad's responsibility?

The Left should have been the champions of the people. The Left should have been in the forefront of those demanding justice for this crime against humanity. It should have been the honest prosecutor for the people, pursuing the criminals no matter who they may be until they are brought to justice. Instead it acted as Assad's attorney, pointing the finger at others only to raise reasonable doubt and get its client off. Once that was done, the "Left"'s interest in finding the truth vanished like snow in the desert because seeking justice for the people was never a part of this "Left" agenda. Instead, once any punitive action against Assad was cancelled, the celebrations on the "Left" began.

Despicable! Disgusting! Where is the humanity? Were is the concern for the children? Where is the outcry against the reintroduction of these terrible weapons to the class struggle. Where is the demand that the murderers be brought to justice no matter who they are?

Look what Assad has done to Aleppo
While the "Left" rallied in defense of Assad for his chemical murders, the day in, day out, slaughter that Asssad has carried out over the past four years, and about which the "Left" has been largely silent. has been done with the ordinary weapons that Obama told Assad were all right with him in his famous "red-line" statement. Fortunately for humanity, others have not. So I'll end this post with a new important report from Amnesty International, 4 May 2015, Index number: MDE 24/1370/2015:
‘Death everywhere’ - war crimes and human rights abuses in Aleppo, Syria

Civilians in the city of Aleppo, Syria are being subjected to appalling human rights violations committed by the Syrian government and many armed opposition groups. These violations amount to war crimes and in the case of those committed by the Syrian government, are so systematic and widespread that they constitute crimes against humanity. In this report Amnesty International calls upon all parties to the Syrian conflict to end deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian objects; to end the indiscriminate use of explosive weapons; to end arbitrary arrests, torture and other ill-treatment, and enforced disappearances; and to allow unimpeded humanitarian access. DOWNLOAD PDF HERE

They will win!

See also Why Assad is Losing, Charles Lister, Foreign Policy, 5 May 2015
[Syrian National Coalition’s president, Khaled] Khoja said opposition forces, fighting to topple the nearly 45-year-old Syrian regime headed by Assad and previously by his father, have doubled the territory they control in Syria during the past two months.
See also from Middle East Eye:
Rise of Jaish al-Islam marks a turn in Syria conflict

7 May 2015
The seizure of large swathes of Syria's Idlib province by opposition fighters has signalled for many a change in the balance of power in Syria's seemingly unending civil war.

While previously many had been predicting that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was on the verge of reasserting his authority over the country, the loss of the cities of Idlib and Jisr al-Shughur and the continuing consolidation of opposition control throughout the province have led to suggestions that Assad is being put on the backfoot.

Abdurrahman Saleh, head of JAI's international media office, was one of the group's early devotees.

“I am from Aleppo – I was a member of a rebel group fighting the regime and we joined Jaish al-Islam to organise our work against the regime, to get what we want,” he told Middle East Eye.

“But our work with Jaish al-Islam does not mean we are seperated from Syrian society. We are part of the Syrian revolutionaries, we fight under the banner of Jaish al-Islam as a revolutionary Syrian group. Not for anything else.”

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria