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Syria today

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Syria today

Post by Kitkat on Mon 06 Feb 2012, 22:10

No words to add.
The horrific news reports speak for themselves.
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Syria now in civil war

Post by Kitkat on Mon 16 Jul 2012, 00:14

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says fighting in Syria is so widespread that the conflict is now in effect a civil war.

The change in status means combatants will now be officially subject to the Geneva Conventions, leaving them more exposed to war crimes prosecutions.

The Red Cross had previously regarded only the areas around Idlib, Homs and Hama as war zones.

Meanwhile, the Syrian government is disputing claims it used heavy weapons.

Activists initially described fighting on Thursday in the village of Tremseh near Hama as a massacre of dozens of civilians, but later accounts suggested most of the dead were armed rebels.

The UN accused Syrian forces of using heavy artillery, tanks and helicopters, but Damascus denied those allegations and said just two civilians had been killed.

The accusations, if proved, would mean Damascus had broken an agreement it made with envoy Kofi Annan.

Later on Sunday, video footage emerged purporting to show heavy fighting in southern Damascus.

Activists claimed the fighting was the most intense seen in the capital since the start of anti-government protests in March last year.

They said tanks and mortars were used, and in some areas residents were fleeing.

There has been no independent confirmation of their claims.

UN deadline

UN observers arrived in Tremseh as villagers claimed military forces had carried out indiscriminate attacks
The International Committee of the Red Cross, which oversees the Geneva Conventions, said fighting had now spread beyond the three hotspots of Idlib, Homs and Hama.

Spokesman Hicham Hassan said Syria was now regarded as a "non-international armed conflict", which is the technical term for civil war.

"What matters is that international humanitarian law applies wherever hostilities between government forces and opposition groups are taking place across the country," he said.

The BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Geneva says the statement is significant because it is the Red Cross' job to monitor the conduct of the fighting, and to tell warring parties what their obligations are.

Under the Geneva Conventions, indiscriminate attacks on civilians, attacks on medical personnel or the destruction of basic services like water or electricity are forbidden and can be prosecuted as war crimes.

From now on, all those fighting in Syria are officially subject to the laws of war, and could end up at a war crimes tribunal if they disobey them.

Last month, the UN's head of peacekeeping Herve Ladsous also said Syria was in a state of civil war.

And Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has previously said the country is in a state of war.

Some 16,000 people are thought to have been killed since the uprising against Mr Assad's regime began in March 2011.

UN diplomats are attempting to agree a way forward for the organisation's monitoring mission in the country.

The mission's mandate runs out on Friday, and Western nations are trying to get Russia and China to agree to a beefed-up resolution authorising sanctions.
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Why Russia sells Syria arms

Post by Kitkat on Mon 16 Jul 2012, 00:17

At an arms fair outside Moscow, five Russian tanks weave gracefully back and forth, their gun barrels rising and falling in time to a waltz. This unusual "tank ballet" was staged by a choreographer from the Bolshoi Ballet.

But these weapons were not built for dancing.

The tanks fire shells, machine guns spray bullets and the demonstration ground almost disappears in clouds of smoke.

Watching in the stands are potential clients: Delegations from Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Gulf. Russia is the world's second largest arms exporter.

One of its customers is particularly controversial. This year, Syria is due to take delivery of Russian Buk-M2E surface to air missile systems, Pansir-S1 armoured rocket complexes and, according to some reports, Mig-29 fighter jets.

The deals were done before the outbreak of violence in Syria, but despite the fighting there Russia has no intention of tearing up the contracts.

"If the contract was signed before, it's necessary to fulfil," argues Igor Sevastyanov, deputy CEO of Rosoboronexport, the state-controlled arms exporter. "We fulfil our international obligations in accordance with international rules."

Double standards?
Russia employs the same argument for the helicopter gunships it is trying to send back to Syria.

These are Soviet-era attack helicopters which the Russians have been refurbishing. Last week, the Russian cargo ship which was transporting them had its insurance withdrawn in British waters and the vessel was forced to turn back, but Moscow says it is determined to complete the delivery.

The West accuses Russia of shoring up President Assad with weapons shipments. Russia accused the West of double standards.

"Why is the US determined to sell weapons to Bahrain after the Bahraini authorities, with help from the Saudis, suppressed the Arab Spring in Bahrain?" asks defence analyst Ruslan Pukhov, head of the arms trade think tank CAST.

"Russia doesn't see any problems selling weapons to Syria if the CIA and French and British secret services are shipping military hardware via Turkey to the rebels."

Russia's weapons contracts with Syria are worth billions of dollars. But Moscow denies that money is the main reason it continues to deliver military hardware to the Syrian authorities.

Russian officials fear that if the rebels push President Assad from power, radical Islamists could take his place and pose a threat to Russia's national security.

"This is not about kalashnikovs or helicopters. This is about very dangerous things near our door, " argues Andrei Klimov, deputy head of the Russian parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee. "This area is very close to my country and we'd like to avoid any kind of aggression from abroad. Otherwise it may become a hot point on the map near our borders."

Power play
Geo-politics are at play, too. Russia is concerned that if President Assad goes, its influence in the Middle East will disappear with him.

"Syria is the only country in the Middle East which follows our advice, this is the country where we can exercise certain tangible influence," says Ruslan Pukhov.

"Of course, the loss of Syria will mean we will have no influence in this region at all. It has some symbolic value for the Russian authorities and the foreign policy establishment as a sign of Russia as a great power."

Back at the arms show, the Presidential Guard march across the field in their tsarist-era uniforms.

Putin's Russia still sees itself as a superpower; as a country which has just as much right as America to sell weapons to whoever it wants, and gain influence wherever it can.

But the Kremlin is pragmatic. If Moscow begins to feel that it has more to lose than to gain from backing President Assad, the Syrian leader might find himself coming under pressure from the East as well as the West.

"We in Russia have no illusion about this regime," says Russian MP Andrei Klimov, "The only thing we'd like to have is a peaceful exit. We don't want to prolong this regime for decades or centuries. Our task is to find a peaceful solution as soon as possible."

Report by Steve Rosenberg - BBC News
29th June 2012
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Re: Syria today

Post by watchman on Wed 18 Jul 2012, 23:13

The turning of the tide in Syria

The bomb at the National Security headquarters in Damascus yesterday struck a potentially fatal blow at the heart of the Assad regime.

Within hours of the blast that killed the Defence Minister, a general and the President's brother-in-law, Syria's Information Minister was on television to denounce the "terrorists". But the more he blustered about the malign hand of foreign intelligence services and the continued strength of the Syrian army, the Syrian people and the Syrian state, the clearer the sense of a regime with control slipping from its blood-stained fingers.

Little matter who among the country's fragmented opposition was responsible for the blast (in the immediate aftermath, it was claimed by several). That a bomb could be planted inside the National Security building, and kill a relative of the President, is the strongest possible signal that the ruling regime is no longer impregnable, that it can no longer guarantee the safety of its own.

For the rebels, the boost to morale will mean much, not least after the appalling violence in Tremseh last week and government forces' continued defiance of Kofi Annan's peace plan. The message is more potent still for the President's backers. Despite all the bloodshed, the Assad family still enjoys a level of public support. When that melts away, it is the beginning of the end. And it will happen fast if the regime starts to look like it is losing.

I've been following this story for some time now ...

Assad rules through his Alawite and Shiite elite ... but these two groups only amount to 12% of the population.
So with only 12 out of every 100 (nominally)on his side and with 88 out of every 100 against him ...
I do wonder just how Assad sees this ending..

My guess ? Dead in a ditch ... like Gadhafi.
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Re: Syria today

Post by Kitkat on Fri 17 Aug 2012, 16:28

What a veritable unholy mess ... Evil or Very Mad

Syria: how the West is sanctioning sectarianism
In the name of making a PR performance of their moral resolve, Western governments are meddling in Syria in an ever-more lethal way.

For a textbook example of how Western meddling in other states’ affairs makes bad situations worse, look no further than Syria.

Reported by Brendan O'Neill (of Spiked)

In a country that was already being rocked by violent clashes, Western grandstanding has had the effect of upping the ante and intensifying the violence. In the name of scoring some cheap PR points and giving vent to their ‘moral impulse’, a motley crew of immature foreign-policy wonks and narcissistic commentators have backed, with both words and weapons, Syria’s rebels. In the process, they have effectively sanctioned sectarianism, given their blessing to the Balkanisation of Syria, through boosting one side and isolating the other in what is an increasingly ugly ethnic conflict.

The New York Times reports that CIA officers based in southern Turkey are working alongside ‘Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood [and] Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar’ to funnel to Syria’s rebels ‘automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons’. The CIA working with conservative Islamic elements to topple a corrupt secular regime? Clearly the US has learned nothing from history.
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Editor's comment (Brendan O'Neill) from this week's "Spiked"

Post by Kitkat on Fri 05 Oct 2012, 16:04

So now, a member of NATO and aspiring member of the EU – Turkey – is physically embroiled in the mayhem in Syria. This development highlights the profound regional instability that has been unleashed by the internationalisation of the Syrian conflict. A civil war between the collapsing Assad regime and a mish-mash of Assad defectors and Islamic elements is being turned, through the interventions, sabre-rattling and arming antics of outside actors, into an increasingly unpredictable war that threatens to unravel a huge swathe of the Middle East. Proof, once more, that there’s no situation so bad it cannot be made worse by the attentions of the West.

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Syria being destroyed, says envoy

Post by Kitkat on Wed 30 Jan 2013, 12:23

The conflict in Syria has reached "unprecedented levels of horror", peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has told the UN Security Council.
The UN-Arab League envoy said Syria was being destroyed "bit by bit" with grave consequences for the wider region.

He was speaking hours after evidence emerged of a fresh massacre in the northern city of Aleppo.

At least 71 bodies were found by a river in the western Bustan al-Qasr district, opposition activists said.

Most had their hands tied behind their backs and gunshot wounds to the head.

The Security Council simply cannot continue to say: 'We are in disagreement, therefore let's wait for better times.' I think they have to grapple with this problem now”

The UN says the conflict has left more than 60,000 people dead.

The BBC's Barbara Plett at the UN says Mr Brahimi delivered a blunt assessment of the situation in Syria that reflected his frustration with the deadlock in the Security Council.

"Unprecedented levels of horror have been reached. The tragedy does not have an end," Mr Brahimi told a closed meeting of the 15-member council, according to diplomats.

"The country is breaking up before everyone's eyes. Only the international community can help, and first and foremost the Security Council."

Speaking later to reporters, Mr Brahimi said the Syrian government and the opposition were, between them, destroying Syria "bit by bit".

"The region is being pushed into a situation that is extremely bad," he said.

"That is why I believe the Security Council simply cannot continue to say: 'We are in disagreement, therefore let's wait for better times.' I think they have to grapple with this problem now."

The UN Security Council has been divided over Syria for months.

The US, UK, France and other Western powers have pushed for resolutions that threaten sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad's government.

However, Russia and China have vetoed such resolutions three times. Moscow - a close ally of Syria - also refuses to back calls for Mr Assad to step down.

Earlier, video footage of the gruesome discovery in Aleppo was posted by activists on YouTube.

It showed a large number of bodies strewn in and around the banks of the Quwaiq river, which skirts the western side of Aleppo.

The bodies were caked in mud and showed signs of rigor mortis. There were also signs of blood having poured from many of the heads.

The government and opposition have blamed each other for the killings.

The district of Bustan al-Qasr has been hotly contested since fighting broke out in Aleppo last July, correspondents say.
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Stop the war! Until the UN gives the go-ahead!

Post by Kitkat on Mon 02 Sep 2013, 13:22

It’s Wednesday afternoon, and I’m at the Stop the War Coalition’s demonstration in Whitehall against Western intervention in Syria. Having read the statement released by StWC in advance of the demo, I am hopeful that the event will provide an opportunity to make a principled stand against war with Syria. But I’m quickly disappointed. Instead, I meet a collection of conspiracy theorists, each with their own weird idea about what lies behind the UK government’s eagerness to strike the Syrian regime. The primary concern of most of the protesters I talk to is that such an attack would be bad for Britain.

For a hastily arranged protest, there’s a pretty impressive crowd - a few thousand, perhaps. Most of the demonstrators are either elderly veteran activists or students, with a few falling somewhere in the middle. I bump into some of the pseudo-anarchist fracktivists I met at Balcombe a few weeks ago; they greet me in a less-than-polite fashion.

Many of the protestors evidently don’t keep up with contemporary politics. A large group chants, ‘Arrest Tony Blair!’. Others, realising that demand is an anachronism, start chanting ‘Arrest Cameron!’. The resulting cacophony makes it difficult to work out what exactly is being said. ‘Why are they saying “Arrest Tony Benn?”’, one protester asks me.

As with the protests over Iraq and Afghanistan, many of the demonstrators are using the issue of intervention as a way of venting anger about domestic issues. The most common chant is, ‘One, two, three, four / We don’t want your fucking war! / Five, six, seven, eight / Spend it on the welfare state!’. The main sentiment, expressed both on placards and in speeches, seems to be that we just can’t afford a new foreign venture in these times of austerity. This obsession with how a potential conflict will effect us speaks volumes. It seems that some of the narcissism driving Britain towards war has leaked into the anti-war camp, too.

When I ask demonstrators why the West might want to bomb Syria, I’m treated to an array of muddled conspiracy theories, pointing the finger of blame at some combination of big oil companies, big banks and Israel.

In a garbled 30-second section of his speech, veteran leftist Tariq Ali gives us a labyrinthine theory as to what is driving interventionism in Syria: it’s because the US supports Israel but hates Iran, and Iran and Syria both like Hezbollah, who hate Israel, and therefore the US will bomb Syria just to annoy Iran and impress Israel.

The clearest speech comes from Labour’s shadow minister for public health, Diane Abbott. She says it is delusional to think that if he is bombed by the West Assad will realise the error of his ways and step aside. ‘I voted against Iraq, I voted against Afghanistan, and I will not support war with Syria!’ she says, to an enormous cheer from the crowd.

Speaking of Syria, Abbott seems to have had a Damascene conversion in the space of a few hours. On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme earlier in the day, she said things like: ‘We’ll have to see the prime minister’s motion’; ‘I would be in favour of a UN-led intervention’; ‘If we had taken the trouble to get the backing of the international community [in Iraq] it would have been a more thoughtful intervention.’ A far cry from her tub-thumping anti-war posturing at the demo.

Abbott is not alone in favouring a ‘more thoughtful’, UN-led intervention in Syria. Bruce Kent of the Movement for the Abolition of War tells me ‘the UN is the answer, I’m very UN-minded’.

Like Abbott and Kent, many of the protesters I speak to would not actually be opposed to intervention in Syria if it were ‘legal’ and UN-led. Two men hold a placard that says, ‘We’re going to war without evidence’. They tell me: ‘The use of chemical weapons hasn’t been proven yet.’ If it is proven that poison gas was used, would that make the intervention okay? ‘It would make it less bad’, says one. I ask why deaths caused by gas should be viewed differently from deaths caused by other weapons. They stare at me in bafflement.

Among the dozens of people I speak to, and the many speeches I hear, not a single person puts forward any faith in the ability of the Syrian people themselves to determine their destinies and shape the future of their country.

Beneath the railing against the illegality of the proposed intervention and the antics of Zionists and oil companies, there lies a vacuous, confused and unprincipled stance against bombing Syria. This won’t stop the war.
Article by Rossa Minogue:  Rossa Minogue is a documentary maker living in London and is currently interning at spiked.
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Re: Syria today

Post by Kitkat on Fri 06 Sep 2013, 01:55

Syria and the Healthy Skepticism Learned from Iraq
by William Blum
September 4, 2013

Found at last! After searching for 10 years, the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction have finally been found – in Syria!

Secretary of State John Kerry: “There is no doubt that Saddam al-Assad has crossed the red line. … Sorry, did I just say ‘Saddam’?”

A US drone has just taken a photo of Mullah Omar riding on a motorcycle through the streets of Damascus.[1]

So what do we have, as the United States refuses to rule out an attack on Syria and keeps five warships loaded with missiles in the eastern Mediterranean?


  • Only 9 percent of Americans support a US military intervention in Syria.[2]
  • Only 11% of the British supported a UK military intervention; this increased to 25% after the announcement of the alleged chemical attack.[3]
  • British Prime Minister David Cameron lost a parliamentary vote August 29 endorsing military action against Syria 285-272
  • 64% of the French people oppose an intervention by the French Army.[4] “Before acting we need proof,” said a French government spokesperson.[5]
  • Former and current high-ranking US military officers question the use of military force as a punitive measure and suggest that the White House lacks a coherent strategy. “If the administration is ambivalent about the wisdom of defeating or crippling the Syrian leader, possibly setting the stage for Damascus to fall to Islamic fundamentalist rebels, they say, the military objective of strikes on Assad’s military targets is at best ambiguous.”[6]
  • President Obama has no United Nations approval for intervention. (In February a massive bombing attack in Damascus left 100 dead and 250 wounded; in all likelihood the work of Islamic terrorists. The United States blocked a Russian resolution condemning the attack from moving through the UN Security Council)
  • None of NATO’s 28 members has proposed an alliance with the United States in an attack against Syria. NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that he saw “no NATO role in an international reaction to the [Syrian] regime.”[7]
  • The Arab League has not publicly endorsed support of US military action in Syria; nor have key regional players Saudi Arabia and Qatar, concerned about a possible public backlash from open support for US intervention.[8]
  • We don’t even know for sure that there was a real chemical attack. Where does that accusation come from? The United States? The al-Qaeda rebels? Or if there was such an attack, where is the evidence that the Syrian government was the perpetrator? The Assad regime has accused the rebels of the act, releasing a video showing a cave with alleged chemical-weapon equipment as well as claiming to have captured rebels possessing sarin gas. Whoever dispensed the poison gas – why, in this age of ubiquitous cameras, are there no photos of anyone wearing a gas mask? The UN inspection team was originally dispatched to Syria to investigate allegations of earlier chemical weapons use: two allegations made by the rebels and one by the government.
  • The United States insists that Syria refused to allow the UN investigators access to the site of the attack. However, the UN request was made Saturday, August 24; the Syrian government agreed the next day.[9]
  • In rejecting allegations that Syria deployed poison gas, Russian officials have argued that the rebels had a clear motivation: to spur a Western-led attack on Syrian forces; while Assad had every reason to avoid any action that could spur international intervention at a time when his forces were winning the war and the rebels are increasingly losing world support because of their uncivilized and ultra-cruel behavior.
  • President George W. Bush misled the world on Iraq’s WMD, but Bush’s bogus case for war at least had details that could be checked, unlike what the Obama administration released August 29 on Syria’s alleged chemical attacks – no direct quotes, no photographic evidence, no named sources, nothing but “trust us,” points out Robert Parry, intrepid Washington journalist.

So, in light of all of the above, the path for Mr. Obama to take – as a rational, humane being – is of course clear. Is it not? N’est-ce pas? Nicht wahr? – Bombs Away!

Pretty discouraging it is. No, I actually find much to be rather encouraging. So many people seem to have really learned something from the Iraqi pile of lies and horror and from decades of other American interventions. Skepticism – good ol’ healthy skepticism – amongst the American, British and French people. It was stirring to watch the British Parliament in a debate of the kind rarely, if ever, seen in the 21st-century US Congress. And American military officers asking some of the right questions. The Arab League not supporting a US attack, surprising for an organization not enamored of the secular Syrian government. And NATO – even NATO! – refusing so far to blindly fall in line with the White House. When did that last happen? I thought it was against international law.

Secretary of State John Kerry said that if the United States did not respond to the use of chemical weapons the country would become an international “laughingstock”. Yes, that’s really what America and its people have to worry about – not that their country is viewed as a lawless, mass-murdering repeat offender. Other American officials have expressed concern that a lack of a US response might incite threats from Iran and North Korea.[10]

Now that is indeed something to laugh at. It’s comforting to think that the world might be finally losing the stars in their eyes about US foreign policy partly because of countless ridiculous remarks such as these.


  1. The three preceding jokes are courtesy of my friend Viktor Dedaj of Paris
  2. Reuters/Ipsos poll, August 26, 2013
  3. Sunday Times (UK), YouGov poll, August 25
  4. Le Parisien, August 30, 2012
  5. Christian Science Monitor, August 29, 2013
  6. Washington Post, August 29, 2013
  7. The Wall Street Journal, August 30, 2013
  8. Washington Post, August 31, 2013
  9. UN Web TV, August 27, 2013 (starting at minute 12:00)
  10. The Washington Post, August 31, 2013

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Re: Syria today

Post by Kitkat on Sat 07 Sep 2013, 01:27

Stop gloating, Britain – you helped to destroy Syria

The idea that there will be ‘no British intervention in Syria’ is surreal. There already is, and it has proved lethal.

There’s something perverse about the outburst of self-congratulation among Britain’s chattering classes following David Cameron’s defeat over Syria in the House of Commons last week. From the anti-war movement to the military’s top brass, from leftish broadsheets to shrill tabloids, everyone is crowing over (and trying to take credit for) the defeat of Cameron’s militaristic proposal by 285 votes to 272. The Guardian celebrates the fact that ‘there will be no British intervention in Syria’, because such an intervention would only have ‘inflam[ed] an already critical situation’.

No British intervention in Syria? Are these people serious? Britain has been intervening in Syria for two years. Morally, militarily, politically and legalistically, the British and American governments have been meddling in the hellhole that is post-Arab Spring Syria since early 2011. And in the process they exacerbated the conflict, deepened the divisions and shot down in flames any prospect for a negotiated settlement. Stop crowing, Britain – you pushed Syria to the precipice it now stands on.

Almost as soon as it was announced that Cameron’s proposal for military action against Syria was defeated by 13 votes, observers were hailing a new era of anti-war sentiment. From the left to the right, there was hyperbole about Britain’s moral crusading in foreign fields finally receiving a much-needed knock to the head. A leader of the Stop the War movement said ‘a corner has been turned on the road to peace’, as our representatives have finally ‘learned the lessons of Iraq’. From the right, Tory MP Crispin Blunt said he was ‘delighted that we are relieving ourselves of imperial pretension’ by not getting involved in Syria.

This hailing of a new, post-interventionism epoch doesn’t add up, on any level. For a start, if our leaders have ‘learned the lessons of Iraq’, a war that kicked off in 2003, then why just two years ago did an overwhelming majority of 557 MPs vote to bomb Libya, with only 13 voting against? The idea that parliament, especially the Labour section of it, has discovered that Britain doesn’t really have the right to intervene in other people’s conflicts is surreally off-target.

More importantly, to claim, in the words of Crispin Blunt, that the British authorities are ‘not getting involved’ in Syria is to display a wilful ignorance of what has been happening in global affairs over the past two years, when Britain has waded up to its neck in the Syrian debacle.

The political and media classes’ self-satisfied claims that by staying at home we right-minded Brits are avoiding ‘inflaming an already critical situation’ fans the myth that the main reason Syria is a mess is because of Assad’s evil, or maybe because of the wickedness of some of the elements in the anti-Assad opposition forces. In truth, the increasingly dire and desperate situation in Syria is a direct product of Western, including British, intervention. Indeed, the two key upheavals in the conflict in Syria – first, the transformation of it from a civilian uprising into a civil war in July 2011, and second the deadly escalation of the conflict in late 2011 – were directly brought about by the moral grandstanding of UK foreign secretary William Hague and then US secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

In the first part of 2011, Syria was not that different to other Arab countries where civilians were rising up against their rulers. There were mass protests and, in response, both repression and concessions from the Assad regime. Then, in July 2011 the instability crossed over into a civil war, as scores of officers defected from Assad’s army and announced the formation of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which ‘formally marked the beginning of armed resistance to the Assad government’.

What changed in July 2011 to bring about the formation of the FSA and the start of a civil war? The West openly decreed that Assad was no longer the legitimate ruler of Syria. In July 2011, as the Assad regime was holding a ‘national dialogue’ on reforms that might satiate the civil uprising, first William Hague publicly announced that Assad’s concessions were not enough and that he was now ‘losing legitimacy’, and then Hillary Clinton, in mid-July, gave a speech announcing that Assad had ‘lost legitimacy’ and that America has ‘absolutely nothing invested in him remaining in power’. The Assad regime described these Western comments as a ‘provocation’. It had a point. The Western decrees were a tipping point, acting as an invitation to members of Assad’s inner circle to break away and form an opposition movement. Sure enough, within days of Clinton’s and Hague’s public rubbishing of Assad’s legitimacy, some of his military officers announced the formation of the FSA, and the civil war started.

Not content with helping to give rise to the FSA, the West then helped to fund and arm it. It was given shelter in key NATO ally Turkey, and CIA officials started operating along the Turkish-Syrian border, where, in the words of the New York Times, they worked with ‘Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar’ to help funnel ‘automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some anti-tank weapons to the FSA’. President Obama granted a Washington-based NGO a licence to raise money for the FSA. And both America and Britain provided direct funding and ‘non-lethal assistance’ to the FSA. This had the effect of emboldening the rebel forces and intensifying the conflict that was ignited by the West’s removal of legitimacy from Assad.

The escalation of the Syrian conflict in late 2011 and early 2012 was also a direct product of Western meddling. In December 2011 and January 2012, the conflict entered a deadly new phase, as the opposition forces grew in number and launched more attacks, and as Assad started using large-scale artillery operations against rebel strongholds. This escalation must be viewed in the context of the West’s formal adoption of the opposition forces as the legitimate government of Syria. In December 2011 and January 2012, first France and then America and Britain formally recognised the Syrian National Council, a collection of elite Syrian exiles, politicians and academics with links to the FSA, as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. The knock-on effect was swift and deadly – the West’s recognition emboldened the rebel forces and deepened the desperation of the already-isolated Assad, who lashed out ever-more chaotically against those parts of Syria ruled by a new ‘government’ christened by the West.

The West’s formal sanctification of a mishmash of oppositional forces also dealt the death blow to the original Syrian uprising. In the words of Bassam Haddad, director of Middle East Studies at George Mason University in the US, the international blessing of the SNC in late 2011 meant ‘the Syrian revolution [could] no longer be taken at face value’, since the groups chosen to lead it were now ‘totally dependent on external powers and funding’. That is, the West had helped to reduce the Syrian people to the level of observers of – and fundamentally victims of – a civil war between oppositional forces selected and armed with the okay of the West and a regime decreed illegitimate by the West.

‘No British intervention in Syria’? The British government, along with its allies, helped to start the civil war; it then escalated it; it fuelled it with money, material assistance and weaponry; it used those ‘imperial pretensions’ that Crispin Blunt thinks are dead to decree who is legitimate in Syria and who is not, in the process upping both the ante and body count in that benighted nation. The key destructive role which the West has played has been to continually undermine the political and moral authority of the Assad regime. That has acted as a green light to the opposition forces and has further isolated Assad, encouraging him to lash out ever-more rashly against his enemies. The terrible situation Syria finds itself in today, its journey from a country undergoing a civil uprising to one in which whole towns have been destroyed and chemical weapons have desperately been deployed by some force or other, is a product of external intervention. The depravity was set in motion by those nations now congratulating themselves for ‘not getting involved’.

If the cheerers of Cameron’s Commons defeat were merely wrong in their gleeful claims that there will be ‘no British intervention in Syria’, that would be bad enough. But it’s far worse. They’re now demanding the continuation of the very same Western meddling that has all but destroyed Syria. The Guardian, in the same breath as saying Cameron’s military strike would have ‘inflam[ed] an already critical situation’, says that instead ‘the West needs to concentrate on formally criminalising the Assad regime’ and turning it into an ‘international pariah’. The West has already done that. And in the process it started and stoked a dirty civil war. The anti-Cameron peaceniks want Western warmongering by another name.

The New Statesman says it is great the British authorities won’t be launching a strike on Syria because, post-Iraq, we’re all sick of having blood on our hands. No Syrian blood on British hands? Look a bit more closely – you’ll see it.


Further reading:

Bombing Syria: War as therapy

Syria: Semi-impotent West can still make it worse

Syria and the myths of WMD
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Re: Syria today

Post by Kitkat on Thu 27 Feb 2014, 13:02

The full gravity of this dire situation (the photo in this link screams it all):

Desperation amid devastation - a vast crowd of people queue for aid at the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus on 31 January. The camp, which houses about 18,000 Palestinians and an unknown number of Syrians, has seen some of the worst fighting in the capital, leading to severe food shortages. More than 100 people there have died of starvation and hunger-related illnesses, according to the UN who issued this image. The BBC's Lyse Doucet went to the camp, from where she reported on the suffering of the thousands trapped by the siege.
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Re: Syria today

Post by Kitkat on Thu 27 Feb 2014, 18:30

'Fiery end' at Ellesmere Port plant for Syria's chemicals

The BBC's David Shukman goes behind-the-scenes at a waste-handling site in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, which is on standby to receive 150 tonnes of chemicals from Syria.

The plant, run by French-owned Veolia Environmental Services, will incinerate the ingredients needed to make weapons, such as the nerve agent VX.

Four consignments have left Syria so far, with 30 tonnes of mustard gas handed over on Wednesday,

Read more:  Destroying Syria's chemical weapons
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Interview with UK jihadist

Post by Kitkat on Fri 04 Jul 2014, 15:47

4th July 2014 -
Nicky Campbell from BBC's 5 Live Breakfast interviews a young 'jihadist' from the UK fighting in Syria.

Listen here:

Warning:  Some people may find the nature of this interview disturbing or offensive.

(I find it quite horrifying)
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Re: Syria today

Post by Kitkat on Fri 04 Jul 2014, 19:21

and Frank Furedi, in Spiked today, discusses:

The Brits who become jihadists have some very familiar-sounding prejudices.

Throughout the West, we are hearing stories about young Muslims who turn from party animals focused on having a good time into zealous holy warriors off on a mission to turn Syria or Iraq into a theocratic state.

Not so long ago, Jejoen Bontinck, a teenager from Antwerp in Belgium, danced in music videos and partied with his mates. But then this hip-hop-infatuated young man became a convert to Islam. He stopped wearing Western clothes, adopted the manners of a zealous believer, and, before his parents knew what was happening, he was hanging out with jihadist fighters in the ruins of Syria.

The story of Bontinck sounds like that of many Westernised English-born teenagers who, after a quick period of radicalisation, turn into bitter enemies of their home country. Take the following account of the life of Hasib Hussain, one of the suicide bombers responsible for the carnage of the 7/7 bombings in London: ‘He liked playing cricket and hockey, then one day he came into school and had undergone a complete transformation almost overnight… He started wearing a topi hat from the mosque, grew a beard and wore robes. Before that he was always in jeans.’

Here was a young man who was apparently just like us before he underwent a sudden, incomprehensible character transformation, and turned against his neighbours and country. Just like Michael Adebolajo, one the men responsible for the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich, Hussain used to be a regular guy.

So who are these homegrown, globe-trotting warriors and what makes them tick? ....... Read more
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Women stoned to death in Syria for adultery

Post by Kitkat on Sat 09 Aug 2014, 22:41

BEIRUT (AP) — A cleric read the verdict before the truck came and dumped a large pile of stones near the municipal garden. Jihadi fighters then brought in the woman, clad head to toe in black, and put her in a small hole in the ground. When residents gathered, the fighters told them to carry out the sentence: Stoning to death for the alleged adulteress.

None in the crowd stepped forward, said a witness to the event in a northern Syrian city. So the jihadi fighters, mostly foreign extremists, did it themselves, pelting Faddah Ahmad with stones until her body was dragged away.

"Even when she was hit with stones she did not scream or move," said an opposition activist who said he witnessed the stoning near the football stadium and the Bajaa garden in the city of Raqqa, the main Syrian stronghold of the Islamic State group.

The July 18 stoning was the second in a span of 24 hours. A day earlier, 26-year-old Shamseh Abdullah was killed in a similar way in the nearby town of Tabqa by Islamic State fighters. Both were accused of having sex outside marriage.

The killings were the first of their kind in rebel-held northern Syria, where jihadis from the Islamic State group have seized large swaths of territory, terrorizing residents with their strict interpretation of Islamic law, including beheadings and cutting off the hands of thieves. The jihadis recently tied a 14-year-old boy to a cross-like structure and left him for several hours in the scorching summer sun before bringing him down -- punishment for not fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The group has also brutalized Shiite Muslims and others whom it views as apostates. In neighboring Iraq, Islamic State militants have driven members of the Yazidi religious minority out of a string of towns and villages. Thousands of the fleeing Yazidis have been stranded on a mountaintop for days, a humanitarian crisis that prompted the U.S. to airlift aid to them this week.

On Friday, Kamil Amin, the spokesman for Iraq's Human Rights Ministry, said hundreds of Yazidi women under the age of 35 are being held by the Islamic State group in schools in Iraq's second largest city Mosul, which the militants captured in June.

The stonings in Syria last month were not widely publicized at the time, but in the following days three photographs appeared online which appeared to document the grisly spectacle and were consistent with other AP reporting.

The pictures posted on a newly-created Twitter account showed dozens of people gathered in a square, a cleric reading a verdict through a loudspeaker and several bearded men with automatic rifles either carrying or collecting stones.

"A married woman being stoned in the presence of some believers," read the caption of the photographs on the Twitter account, which has since been suspended.

Abu Ibrahim Raqqawi, the activist who witnessed Ahmad's stoning, said locals where angry to see foreign fighters impose their will on the community.

"People were shocked and couldn't understand what was going on. Many were disturbed by the idea that Saudis and Tunisians were issuing (such) orders," he said in an interview via Skype. Ahmad, he said, appeared unconscious, and he had overheard that she was earlier taken to a hospital where she was given anesthesia.

The stoning took place after dark, he said, at about 11 p.m. He could not see blood on the body because of the black clothes she was wearing. Ahmad did not scream or shake, and died silently. "They then took the dead body in one of their cars and left," he said.

The two cases were first reported by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which collects information through a network of activists around the country. Bassam Al-Ahmad, a spokesman for the Violations Documentation Center, a Syrian group that tracks human rights violations, also confirmed the stoning.

An activist based in the northern province of Idlib, who collects information from other activists in northern Syria, said Ahmad was a widow. A man who asked to be identified as Asad for fear of repercussions, said that in the other stoning, in Tabqa, residents also refused to take part, and that the act was carried out by Islamic State members.

The U.S. Embassy in Syria, in a statement posted on its Twitter account, condemned the "barbaric stoning" of a woman in Tabqa.

International human rights groups did not report the stoning, and Human Rights Watch said it had no independent confirmation.

"It is a very worrying trend if true," said Human Rights Watch researcher Lama Fakih.

The Islamic State group has "imposed incredibly restrictive rules on the civilian population which have served to make women and girls particularly vulnerable and to quite clearly discriminate against them," she said, adding that the reports of the stoning were the first the group had received out of Syria.

"This is just a more sort of extreme manifestation of those restrictive rules which are all in violation of international" human rights law, she said.

Such acts have alarmed members of mainstream Syrian opposition groups fighting to remove President Bashar Assad from power since 2011.

"These behaviors have nothing to do with the nature and mentality of Syrian society," said Abdelbaset Sieda, a senior member of the main Western-backed Syrian National Coalition. He said the group had no official confirmation of the stoning cases although he did not rule it out. "We expect such acts to be carried out by the Islamic State," he said.

The Hazm Movement, another rebel group active in northern Syria, said the stonings did take place. It added that such acts "contradict the principals of the revolution" and encourage the world to refrain from giving any support to the rebels.

"The world should know that every day they delay real support to active moderate groups is direct support to extremist factions," the group said in response to written questions from The Associated Press.
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Islamic State militants 'behead reporter'

Post by Kitkat on Wed 20 Aug 2014, 13:23

The Islamic State (IS) has released a video online purporting to show the beheading of US journalist James Foley, who went missing in Syria in 2012

I have no [repeatable] words of my own to add ....   Evil or Very Mad 

In 2012 James Foley told the BBC about the importance of journalists in the frontline at an event to raise money for a colleague who was killed in Libya.

James Foley had also covered the war in Libya and had been detained there for more than 40 days.

"I'm drawn to the drama of the conflict and trying to expose untold stories," he told the BBC in 2012.
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Re: Syria today

Post by Kitkat on Tue 23 Sep 2014, 11:09

Live text from the BBC (23 Sept 2014) :

Starting with:
Hello and welcome to the BBC's live coverage as news emerges that the US and other nations have begun air strikes inside Syria against the jihadist group Islamic State.

Key Points

  • The US says it has begun air strikes in Syria against the Islamic State militant group
  • Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates "participated in or supported" the strikes, the Pentagon says
  • Jihadist group Islamic State has seized large areas of Syria and Iraq
  • The US has already launched 190 air strikes in Iraq since August
  • Some 66,000 Syrian refugees have crossed into Turkey in recent days, fearing attacks from IS

Spoiler contains:
Breaking News as and when it happened - live from the BBC:
03:01: Hello and welcome to the BBC's live coverage as news emerges that the US and other nations have begun air strikes inside Syria against the jihadist group Islamic State."]10:38:
Syrian state TV has been flashing a number of statements from its foreign ministry, BBC Monitoring notes. One says: "Syria supports any international effort that aims at fighting terrorism, whatever the terrorist group - IS, al-Nusra Front or any other one." Another says: "Syria will also continue fighting IS in Raqqa and other districts and will not stop fighting the group in cooperation with states which are directly harmed, principally Iraq."

British Conservative MP John Baron warns against airstrikes in Syria. He says on his website: "IS has to be driven out of Iraq, given our responsibility to the Iraqi people following our misguided intervention in 2003. But air strikes into Syria are a higher risk strategy, with no certain outcome."

Saeed Ahmed, CNN editor
tweets: Twitter breaks news ... again: Raqqa resident the 1st to tweet about airstrikes against #Isis in #Syria

If you're just joining us, welcome to the BBC's live coverage of the US-led air strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria. A quick recap: The US says "partner nations" - Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates - were involved in the operation. The US had previously launched about 190 air strikes on IS targets in Iraq.

The US and its allies cannot rely on air power alone to defeat Islamic State, as the example of Iraq has shown, the BBC's Jonathan Marcus argues.
A US warplane launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush in the Gulf.

reports: "Several (British) Conservative MPs who opposed air strikes in Syria last summer have told the BBC they would now support military action."

A Nato official says the military alliance was not involved in the air strikes in Syria, according to Reuters.

Radio Free Iraq
tweets: Sources in #Raqqa, #Syria: #ISIL members were evacuating offices overnight in anticipation of #US air strikes (#IS #ISIS #Iraq)

The air strikes killed 30 al-Qaeda militants in Syria's western Aleppo province on Tuesday, says the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Reacting to the US-led air strikes, the Russian foreign ministry says "attempts to solve one's own geopolitical objectives, violating the sovereignty of states in the region, only raise tensions and further destabilise the situation."

09:42: Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
says on its Facebook page: "Al-Hasakah province: the international coalition warplanes carried out three air raids on ISIS HQs in both of al-Houl town in the southern eastern countryside of al-Hasakah, and al-Shadadi in the southern countryside, which is considered as a bastion for ISIS in al-Hasakah, reports of human losses in the IS."

Nick Robinson BBC Political editor
tweets: Polling by @yougov shows majority (52%) would approve RAF air strikes against IS in Syria cf 27% opposing (was 37%/37% last month)

The Syrian foreign ministry will make an "important statement", state TV is quoted as saying by Reuters. No further details were given.

Marc Weller, Professor of International Law at the University of Cambridge, looks at what forcible action can be lawfully undertaken against Islamic State.

IS militants pray at the spot where the group said a US drone crashed into a communications tower in the city of Raqqa.
IS militants pray in Raqqa, northern Syria. Photo: 23 September 2014

The Labour MP and former foreign secretary, Jack Straw, says British military action in Syria would need consent "of some kind" from Syrian President Assad's government. "There are quite big legal problems if there isn't consent," he says.

More from the statement (see 08:24 entry) by the US Central Command. It says: "Separately, the US has also taken action to disrupt the imminent attack plotting against the US and Western interests conducted by a network of seasoned al-Qaeda veterans - sometimes referred to as the Khorasan Group - who have established a safe haven in Syria to develop external attacks, construct and test improvised explosive devices and recruit Westerners to conduct operations. These strikes were undertaken only by US assets."

Major Iranian broadcast channels are covering the air strikes as their main international report. Rolling news channel IrinnTV says: "The US air force violated Syria's sovereignty, claiming to fight ISIS." (BBC Monitoring)

Kirit Radia, ABC News Moscow correspondent
tweets: Putin told Ban Ki-moon strikes on #ISIS in #Syria "shouldnt be launched w/out consent of Syrian gov." Call took place before US-led op began

The shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna, says Labour would apply three tests when deciding whether to support British military action: 1. The basis in international law. 2. The plan of action. 3. The plan for after the military action.

Syria's Western-backed National Coalition opposition group has welcomed the air strikes. "This will make us stronger in the fight against (Syrian President) Assad... The campaign should continue until the Islamic State is completely eradicated from Syrian lands", coalition member Monzer Akbik tells Reuters.

The US-led strikes is a top story on Russian TV channels, BBC Monitoring observes. One of the channels says a "massive bombing operation" is being carried out without the permission of the UN and the Syrian authorities "as if it were purely a domestic affair of the US".

Nick Robinson BBC Political editor
says there have been "soundings" that coalition MPs would support British military action in Iraq, but not Syria.

Jordanian government spokesman Mohammed al-Momani tells the BBC: "We think that the Jordanian people will understand" why Jordan joined the US-led air strikes. "This is the right and moral thing to do."

Nick Robinson BBC Political editor
says British PM David Cameron will only recall parliament once he knows that MPs will support British military action. "David Cameron will not risk a repeat of the rebuff that he had in the House of Commons over military action in Syria a year ago," he says.

Frank Gardner BBC security correspondent
says: "Islamic State will be enraged by the air strikes - it has no effective military answers to US air power - so those Arab countries that supported or took part in the action may well now be bracing themselves for possible reprisals."

Lyse Doucet BBC Chief international correspondent in Baghdad
says: "Take it from President Obama himself - he said this war is going to last longer than he is in office, it's going to go into the next US administration, this is a campaign that will take years."

The US "employed 47 TLAMs (see 08:20 entry) launched from USS Arleigh Burke and USS Philippine Sea operating from international waters in the Red Sea and North Arabian Gulf, as well as US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps fighter, remotely-piloted and bomber aircraft deployed to the US Central Command area of operations," the statement says.

The strikes "destroyed or damaged multiple ISIL (former name of IS) targets in the vicinity of Ar-Raqqah, Dayr az-Zawr, Al-Hasakah, and Abu Kamal and included ISIL fighters, training compounds, headquarters and command and control facilities, storage facilities, a finance centre, supply trucks and armed vehicles," the US statement adds.

It says it used "a mix of fighter, bomber, remotely-piloted aircraft and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles" to conduct 14 strikes.

In a statement, the US Central Command says the US and "partner nations", including Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates "undertook military action" against IS militants in Syria.

Israel Radio said the aircraft was a drone and was shot down over the Israeli-held Golan Heights, Reuters reports.

07:58: Breaking News
Israeli missile downs Syrian aircraft over Israeli-controlled air space - Israel Defense Forces say

IS militants in Raqqa say a US drone crashed into a communication tower. Here, local residents inspect what appears to be the wreckage.

Saeed Ahmed, CNN editor
tweets: #ISIS has increased security patrols in Raqqa, an activist said. "I would dance in the streets," the activist said, "but I am too afraid."

The former British Ambassador to Syria, Henry Hogger tells the BBC: "I doubt that many people in the Arab world itself or outside it will feel any sense of regret that that organisation is being dealt with. Clearly, it must be a concern for the unfortunate people of Syria that any attacks that are made on ISIL (former name of IS) should be as precise as possible and civilian casualties should be kept to an absolute minimum."

Targets were also hit in Syria's eastern province of Deir Ezzor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is quoted as saying by AFP news agency. It says there were 22 strikes on the town of Albu Kamal on the Iraqi border.

Some 66,000 refugees - mainly Syrian Kurds - have crossed into Turkey in recent days, fearing attacks by IS militants in northern Syria.
Syrian Kurds wait behind the border fence to cross into Turkey. Photo: 19 September 2014

Brian Katulis from the US Center for American Progress tells the BBC that there is going to be an inevitable counter-reaction from IS to the air strikes. He says there may be more sophisticated propaganda campaign by the militants and retaliatory strikes.

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
says on its Facebook page that: "Warplanes of the International Coalition against IS went in no less than 20 air strikes around the IS HQs and checkpoints in al-Raqqa city and both of its western and northern countrysides, around areas in Tal Abyad, al-Tabaqa, and Ein Essa, targeted the province building which is a bastion of the IS, confirmed reports of human losses in IS, although, the majority of its HQs have been evacuated earlier, no reports of losses in civilians.

It is expected that the warplanes will targeted other fighting groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra"

Lyse Doucet BBC Chief international correspondent in Baghdad
says that weeks of aerial bombardment haven't stopped IS in Iraq and the group maintains its strength in the country. The Iraqi government has said it needs support from the US.

Mohamed Yehia, Head of Output for BBC Arabic
tweets: Strikes hit at least 20 targets in #Raqqa and areas nearby, opposition group #Syria Observatory for Human Rights says.

Syria has not formally consented to the air strikes on its territory. Last month, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said the US must co-ordinate with Damascus before launching any strikes. "Anything outside this is considered aggression," he added.

The focus of the US-led strikes is Syria's northern province of Raqqa, reports say.

Oubai Shahbandar, Political & Strategic Communications Advisor to the Free Syria Foreign Mission
tweets: Remarkable turn of events in past 48 hrs: Syrn oppo received by heads of state at #UNGA, coord w/ anti-ISIS coalition, & now strikes

D. Gartenstein-Ross, Washington
tweets: CNN reports that while Raqqa is the center of activity, other targets outside of Raqqa are also being hit.

Zaid Benjamin, Radio SAWA
tweets: #Syria | Activists say ar-Raqqah is without power since the outset of several waves of airstrikes.

More than 20 IS fighters were killed in two locations alone in Raqqa province early on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

Paul Waugh, Editor of
tweets: So, Assad was 'informed' of the air strikes, as US told Syria UN envoy. But Assad's "approval" not sought.

Daniel Nisman, Security Analyst
tweets: If bombings in Aleppo & Idlib province are correct, then US is providing key air support to moderate Syrian rebels in fight against ISIS

06:43: Breaking News
Jordan confirms its involvement in the air strikes against Islamic State.

Newly arrived Syrian Kurdish refugees carry their belongings after crossing into Turkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, 22 September 2014

Earlier today, these Syrian refugees entered Turkey. At least 130,000 Syrian refugees have crossed the border in recent days, fleeing an advance by IS militants.

Barbara Plett Usher BBC State Department Correspondent
says that from reports in US media and on the ground it looks like the focus of the strikes is northern Syria, the town of Raqqa. It seems that the idea is to deliver a decisive blow in the first night of the strikes.

Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News
tweets: No British planes were used in Syria strikes, Cameron was informed beforehand

Paul Danahar, BBC's Washington Bureau Chief
tweets: Military pundits on US cable news hugely over playing Gulf military role in strikes. They're giving crucial political not military support.

Analysts say it is significant that countries with a Sunni majority, such as Saudi Arabia, appear to be among those supporting US efforts against IS. But their military impact is likely to be small.

Julie Lenarz, director at the Human Security Centre
tweets: I know #Obama is not the special relationship kind of guy, but Britain should be with the #US tonight.

Jon Williams, Foreign Editor, ABC News
tweets: 20 locations targeted in US & allied airstrike. They are mainly in Raqqa, others are in broader areas east and south of city. #ISIS #Syria

Among the military hardware said to be in action over Syria is the F-22 - described as a "tactical stealth fighter" making its first appearance in combat missions.

The Syrian government statement has also seen it confirm that strikes hit Raqqa: "The American side informed Syria's permanent envoy to the UN that strike will be launched against the Daesh terrorist organisation (IS) in Raqqa."

Lyse Doucet Chief international correspondent
tweets: Turning point #Syria war with US air strikes helped by Arab states.. wars in region often turn in unexpected ways.. and will again.

05:25: Breaking News
The US informed Syria's UN envoy about the air strikes before they took place, the Syrian foreign ministry says.

Where do key countries stand on Islamic State? Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Jordan have all signed a communique pledging to fight IS.

US media are reporting that Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the Arab countries involved in the strikes in Syria - citing anonymous US officials.

Earlier this month, US President Barack Obama said that any group that threatened America would "find no safe haven", including inside Syria.

A quick recap. The US says it has started air strikes in Syria against the Islamic State militant group, in collaboration with "partner nations". The BBC special report on Islamic State has more background on the ongoing crisis.

05:01: Josh Rogin National Security Correspondent, Daily Beast
tells the BBC "an obvious target for a first round of air strikes" would be the IS headquarters in Raqqa. "This is a well-known, well-identified building that they've been using for well over a year and they're really operating in plain sight," he says.

PJ Crowley says the Syrian government is "probably delighted that the international community is dropping weapons on Islamic State".

The US will be keen to make clear that people understand the air strikes are attacks against IS, not attacks helping the Syrian regime, he adds.

Paul Danahar, BBC's Washington Bureau Chief
tweets: There'll be bluster from Syria about these air strikes but no military response, wouldn't want to give US & Gulf a reason to hit them too

Julian E Barnes, Pentagon Reporter, the Wall Street Journal
tweets a quote from an unnamed US official on the new operation: "It is shock, without the awe."

PJ Crowley, former US assistant secretary of state, tells the BBC the air strikes are "a very significant action by the US and in particular by several Sunni majority countries. The neighbourhood is taking the lead in striking at what has been an ISIS [IS] safe haven in Syria."

Ian Pannell, BBC International Correspondent
tweets: Reports of civilian casualties following US lead air strikes v's #IS As with all rpts right now - ex social media and unconfirmed #Syria

Ahmad Al-Issa, Syria
tweets: The #American airstrikes over #Syria started two hours ago. The #Syrian media has not said anything so far.

04:24: Jon Sopel North America editor, BBC News
This is only a first step. The Pentagon acknowledges that air power alone is not going to defeat Islamic State, and crucial to that goal will be equipping and training the free Syrian Army. What we can say is that the campaign against Islamic State has now begun in earnest.

"We have five Arab Muslim Sunni-based nations attacking a Sunni-based terrorist organisation and that is... something we have not seen in the past. That is really quite an accomplishment," Gen Jack Keane adds.

General Jack Keane, a former vice-chief of the US Army, tells the BBC the air strikes are "really quite significant".

There are reports of IS fighters in Raqqa City fanning out and heading towards the rural areas. Some reports suggest IS ordered the evacuation of its HQs in Raqqa following suspicions of a circling drone. (BBC Monitoring)

Social media posts suggest that there have been airstrikes in Raqqa City, BBC Monitoring reports. Buildings said to have been hit there include the Governor's House, The Equestrian Club and the National Hospital.

Luis Martinez, ABC News Pentagon Digital Journalist
tweets: US official says that among the aircraft used tonight were F-22 Raptors. Marks the first time the stealth aircraft's been used in combat.

Josh Rogin, a senior correspondent at US news site Daily Beast, tells the BBC that the "contribution of the Arab nations is largely symbolic". The real firepower will be coming from the US, he says.

Ian Pannell BBC International Correspondent
tweets: More (unconfirmed), #Raqqa Governor's House, Equestrian Club, National Hospital & Tal Abyad, Tabaqa Airport hit by US lead strikes V's #IS

03:52: Barbara Plett Usher BBC State Department Correspondent
Syria presents a different situation for the Obama administration compared to Iraq - the Iraqi government invited the US, whereas the Syrians have not, so this puts the US in the position of bombing an Arab country without the country's consent.

The jihadist group Islamic State has seized large swathes of territory in eastern Syria and across northern and western Iraq. It is known for brutal tactics including mass killings. The BBC looks at what the group wants.

Ian Pannell BBC International Correspondent
tweets: Unconfirmed - US lead air strikes v's #IS hit Tal Abyad, 93 Brig, 17th Div in Raqqa, Raqqa City, Tabaqa Airport & City, W Aleppo #Syria

Paul Danahar BBC Washington Bureau Chief
tweets: Those partner Arab nations who joined US in air strikes likely to include UAE maybe Saudi & Qatar. Their contributions tho entirely symbolic

The UK Ministry of Defence tells the BBC the UK "has not committed anything yet. Conversations are ongoing... We have not ruled ourselves out."

Barbara Plett-Usher BBC State Department Correspondent
Arab nations are involved in the air strikes. Which ones and in what capacity they are involved has not been spelled out but we understand this will be made clear in the coming hours.

Molly Hunter, ABC News journalist
tweets: Diplo source tells @JonKarl: Arab nations involved in tonight's #Syria airstrikes include Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE. #ISIS

The BBC has learned that Arab nations are among those involved in the air strikes in Syria, but there is not yet confirmation which states are involved.

More from Adm John Kirby: "Given that these operations are ongoing, we are not in a position to provide additional details at this time... We will provide more details later as operationally appropriate."

The announcement came in a statement from Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby: "I can confirm that US military and partner nation forces are undertaking military action against ISIL [Islamic State] terrorists in Syria using a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles."

After weeks of air strikes against IS in Iraq, this is the first time the US has launched operations inside Syria against Islamic State (IS) targets.

The Pentagon has announced that the US military "and partner nation forces" are undertaking military action in Syria.

Hello and welcome to the BBC's live coverage as news emerges that the US and other nations have begun air strikes inside Syria against the jihadist group Islamic State.
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Jacob Furedi writes in this week's 'Spiked' : 'We shouldn’t lock up Brits who fight ISIS – we should celebrate them'

Post by Kitkat on Fri 16 Sep 2016, 20:36

We’ve all heard about the worrying number of young British citizens travelling to Syria to join ISIS. Occasionally, one or two decide to scuttle home with their tails between their legs, and are promptly put in jail.

Imprisoning those who fight alongside ISIS seems like a logical course of action. Anybody who actively helps a violent organisation to threaten our national security should be punished. What is illogical, however, is our government’s failure to distinguish between those who fight with ISIS and those who fight against ISIS.

Fortunately for the UK, not all of its citizens who fly out to Syria choose black flags and balaclavas; some brave people have decided to don the keffiyeh and fight in the ranks of the YPG – the Kurdish militia making ISIS squeal.

Like those who joined the International Brigades to fight Franco’s fascists during the Spanish Civil War, Brits from all walks of life have joined the Kurds to fight against ISIS. Bankers, students, IT technicians and even a surfing instructor have all travelled to join the Kurdish fightback. But, despite these heroic ventures, the UK government is insisting that those who fight against ISIS should be imprisoned on their return.

This is what happened to Joe Robinson, a 23-year-old ex-soldier who travelled to Syria to fight with the Kurds after being outraged by the execution of Alan Henning in 2014 and the Tunisian beach attacks in 2015. Instead of being given a hero’s welcome on his return last year, he was arrested on suspicion of terror offences. He consequently spent 10 months on police bail and has only recently been released. This week he spoke out about his ordeal.
in this week's Spiked: Article by Jacob Furedi 'The madness of arresting Britons who sign up with the Kurds'
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Re: Syria today

Post by Kitkat on Fri 28 Oct 2016, 14:18

Syria conflict: Life under siege in rebel-held Aleppo

(Reporting by Nalina Eggert)

Aleppo was once a place of culture and commerce, with a jewel of an old city that was on Unesco's list of world heritage sites.
Now, the five-year civil war that rages in Syria has left much of it destroyed and divided roughly in two, with President Bashar al-Assad's forces controlling the west and the rebels the east.
A month ago, government forces re-imposed a siege on the east, and launched an all-out assault to take full control of the city, accompanied by an intense and sustained aerial bombardment.
Activists say the offensive has left hundreds of civilians dead, but the government and its ally Russia have denied targeting them and blamed rebel fighters for operating in residential areas.
But what about the 275,000 people who are trapped there? Where are they getting their food from? Do they have enough water and medicine?

The quality of daily life depends on where you live

There is no single group in charge in eastern Aleppo - it is divided between mainstream rebels backed by the US and its allies; the al-Qaeda-linked jihadist group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as al-Nusra Front; and Kurdish forces, who say they support neither the government or the opposition.

n the Kurdish-controlled district of Sheikh Maqsoud, markets are well stocked and prices are stable, according to the Reach Initiative, which is in touch with people on the ground to gather regular humanitarian reports.
One road out of Sheikh Maqsoud has opened up in the daytime, allowing people to get out and goods to get in. But the district is surrounded by checkpoints, meaning people from the other areas under siege cannot get in and out easily.

In other parts of eastern Aleppo, the situation is more urgent. Generators are running out of fuel, meaning electric power is sporadic, and some air raid shelters - where residents may spend hours or wait overnight for bombing to stop - are not wired with electric light at all.

Food and water have become weapons of war

Humanitarian aid agencies have been unable to get into eastern Aleppo since the siege resumed on 4 September.
Both the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross have been calling for humanitarian corridors to be opened up since then, but so far those calls have been ignored.

That said, charities are still in contact with people who live there.
Reach says some markets are still up and running in parts of Aleppo under siege, but for key foodstuffs like eggs, flour, vegetables, fruit, chicken and cooking oil, whether you will get them or not is touch-and-go.
In three districts - Qadi Askar, Masakin Hanano and Tariq al-Bab - markets have run out of flour completely. Reach says some people are rationing their last pieces of dried bread and tubes of tomato paste, while others are bartering what is left in their cupboards.

For food that you can get, the price is hugely inflated.
Before the conflict, seven pieces of flatbread cost 15 Syrian pounds. Now, it comes in packets of six pieces, costing 451 Syrian pounds on average (£1.66, $2.12) - expensive in a city under siege, where many ways of earning money have disappeared.

Water, too, has become a weapon in the war as government forces attempt to make the rebels and civilians in eastern Aleppo surrender.
Pumping stations have been damaged in the bombing and most of the city - including parts of the government-held west where some 1.2 million people live - has no running water coming out of the taps.

People are buying water from wells and privately-owned water tankers, and carrying it home in buckets. Many have reported that it tastes bad, and there is no guarantee that it is free of disease.
It is hard to say whether anyone has died of hunger in the siege because with aid agencies unable to get inside, they cannot accurately diagnose the level of malnutrition.
But Pablo Marco from the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said: "The siege is pushing people towards starvation."

There are hardly any doctors left

Many doctors have fled the city as refugees or been killed in the fighting, and there are just 30 doctors remaining in eastern Aleppo.
Using the UN's estimate for the number of people trapped there - 275,000 - that means there is roughly one doctor for every 9,100 people.
This in a place that is being bombed every day - at least 376 people were killed and 1,266 wounded in the first two weeks of the latest government's assault, according to the UN.
The places where doctors work have been repeatedly targeted by government and Russian air strikes, activists and charities say. The UN says six hospitals are still operating, although they are only partially functional.
Two hospitals have been almost totally destroyed in the past two weeks, and three doctors and two nurses killed.
Mr Marco from MSF painted a troubling picture of the state of healthcare in the area.
He said: "The few remaining hospitals are collapsing under a flow of hundreds of wounded lying in agony on the floors of wards and corridors.

"Doctors are performing brain and abdominal surgeries to the victims of bombing on the floors of the emergency rooms, for lack of available operating theatres."
But some creative innovation helps save lives. Some doctors are using Skype to get help carrying out operations that they personally have never done before.
Other medical facts of life in besieged Aleppo:

  • Because of the siege and the violence, 600 patients are in need of medical treatment that cannot be provided, while 200 people are waiting for emergency medical evacuations that cannot take place
  • Some ambulances have been destroyed in attacks and a shortage of fuel means there are fewer private cars on the road, making it harder to get patients to a place where they can be treated
  • Doctors are short of blood for blood transfusions
  • Doctors also say they have been forced to recycle syringes, needles and bandages, operate on patients without anaesthetic and use salted water instead of medical saline to sterilise wounds

And it is not just in the aftermath of air strikes that people's health and lives are at risk. Medications for heart disease, diabetes and other long-term conditions are running short too.
Zulfiye Kazim of Reach Initiative said long-term medical supplies are frequently reported as being the most urgent. She said: "They're not something that can be left out in favour of conflict-related medications. They are actually prioritised."
Women's hygiene products like sanitary pads are not easily available in besieged Aleppo, except in the Kurdish-controlled area. Women and girls who are on their periods are forced to use old rags instead of disposable sanitary pads.
As water is not guaranteed to be clean, doing so means they could get infections.

Tens of thousands of people have had to leave their homes

In August, the UN Children's Fund (Unicef) estimated that 35,000 people were internally displaced inside eastern Aleppo, some of whom were in official shelters run in abandoned buildings, others staying with family or friends, and still others sleeping outdoors in parks and streets.

Not many will have been able to leave since then - and it is likely that the number of people not sleeping in their own homes has gone up. And even those who are still at home know they are not safe.
Ms Kazim told the BBC: "People are saying there is no safe place to go. There may be many who are staying in places that they don't consider to be adequate but they're staying anyway."

What does back-to-school look like in a war zone?

Nearly half the people who live in besieged Aleppo are under the age of 18. Many of their schools have closed or moved. Some of the buildings have been bombed, while others are being used as shelters for displaced people, or fighters in the conflict are using them for military purposes.
It might be difficult to imagine any child going back to school when bombs are falling.

But if not at school, the children who are in Aleppo are still at risk: playing in the street, at home or even swimming in bomb craters. And when schools re-opened last week, some children were there.
One girl, Judy, walks through rubble to get to class. She told Unicef: "I go to school every day except for the times when I hear the planes."

Teacher Wissam Zarqa works at a school in a besieged area. He told the BBC that the number of students was "less than usual" but said parents did not always take the first week of term seriously, and that numbers might pick up as pupils learned where the school's new building was.
A supporter of the rebels, Mr Zarqa said: "After all these crimes we will feel ashamed if we just run away. The next generation should have a better country to live in."

and today's headlines:
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East Aleppo: a catastrophe of the West’s making

Post by Kitkat on Fri 02 Dec 2016, 17:53

How Western meddling pushed Syria over the edge

The terrible siege of East Aleppo may be nearing an end. Syrian government forces backed by Iranian militias, Hezbollah and the Kurdish YPG are retaking areas in East Aleppo that have been held by various jihadi groups. Tens of thousands of civilians have fled the fighting and gone to government- or Kurdish-held areas of Aleppo. Up to 250,000 people (figures vary) are still caught in the warzone. The toll of death and destruction in Syria is staggering. Maybe 400,000 are dead, millions are displaced within Syria, and an estimated five million Syrians are displaced in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt.

> ........

How did Syria fall into such a dire state in the four years before Putin got involved? This is the news about Syria that rarely makes the headlines. The Syrian War has dragged on agonisingly for years because America, Britain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE have sponsored various groups, including jihadi groups, to fight Assad. Far from a lack of intervention, America, Britain and other states have been intervening in Syria from the start of the Arab Spring, and it is this intervention that has kept the catastrophic war alive.
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Re: Syria today

Post by Stardust on Sat 10 Dec 2016, 22:08

The whole thing is so very heartbreaking, and it just seems to get worse.

Be grateful for even the smallest thing, blessings come in many disguises.

    Current date/time is Wed 19 Dec 2018, 15:16