| How the Western services fabricated the ’’chemical attack’’ of Ghouta!

How the Western services fabricated the ’’chemical attack’’ of Ghouta ~ Thierry Meyssan, VOLTAIRE NETWORK.

Thierry Meyssan analyses the contradictions and incoherences made by the US, British and French secret services about the so-called chemical massacre of Ghouta.

Introduction

Thierry Meyssan : The Western secret services are 100% sure of things that aren’t logical :

1. They think that combat gases can make the difference between men and women.

2. They observed while the concoction of combat gas was being made, but did not intervene to avoid it’s usage. On the other hand, they stepped forward to suggest punishing the ones who used it.

3. They explain that the children were killed on the 21st of August, while the video is dated from before that, and these children come from families that support the Syrian regime and Bashar el-Assad’s government.

4. They assure they possess telephone call recordings. But they are not the ones who made those telephone interceptions.

5. And, finally, the ’’red line’’ affair. According to the joint committee of the British Intelligence service, Jon Day, Syria would have supposedly used combat gas 14 times in the past. But this was never confirmed. Why 14 times before ? Because it is the number of times the US government had use of chemical weapons in Iraq, in 2003-2004. And, of course, it would only be the 15th time of use that would lead the punishment exerted by the great powers.

The Ghouta massacre
The contradictions of the Western secret services

TM : The US and French government assure that the Syrian Arab Army, the legitimate army of the Syria state, carried-out a chemical massacre in the Damascus suburbs, in the agricultural belt of Ghouta, which surrounds Damascus, on August 21st .

I I am going to show you that this affirmation is utterly fabricated and that is conforms in no way to reality. Therefore, I will first take support on official documents, published by the american government, as well as the british and French.

1- The number of victims varies from 1 to 5

TM : In the information note that was published by the american government, we can read that this attack caused the death of at least 1 429 people.

However, when we look at the French equivalent document, only 281 deaths are mentioned, that would have supposedly been counted by watching the internet videos. The same document states that a ’’non government related’’ organization – this has to be said with quotations marks -, Doctors without boarders, would have counted – for the French government – 355 deaths in the hospitals surrounding Damascus.

So, the difference of evaluation of the problem varies from 1 to 5, from source to source.

Then, the West leans solely on the videos to prove the veracity of the facts.

In conclusion, about these videos, almost no one agrees on the number of victims. From what the US document says, their are more that 100, whereas the French one only claims 47.

2- Paris and Washington have validated the videos dated from before August 21st

TM : When we look at these videos, we can notice that some of them are previous to the massacre.

Indeed, if you look on YouTube , you will see that they were posted on august 20th, which could be on the eve of the massacre, but not necessarily when you take into account the time change of 9 hours between Syria and California, where the Youtube server is. However, you can clearly see that the outside scenes are filmed during the time where the sun is at it’s highest.

So, it was filmed around noon and can’t possibly have been recorded before that date.

And yet, these are the unproven facts that the US and French government are relying on.

3- A gas that spares women

TM : In these documents is explained that most of the victims are children.

Indeed, you can see in the videos that many children are in agony. They are all about the same age. There are also adults. But all the adults are men. And generally, are at the age where they can fight.

There are no woman. Aside from two exceptions, there were no women in the officially announced victims. On the 1 429 official victims, only 2 are women.

It would be the first time that a gas would discriminate individuals according to their gender.

4- The victims are prisoners of the jihadists

TM : When these images had been broadcasted, the first thing that jumps to eye is that none of these children are accompanied.

This is very shocking, because in Near-Eastern culture, you never leave a body unaccompanied, even more so when they are children.

But these children are without parents.

Then, we can see them in the hands of people that are presented as medical staff, trying to save them. But it is hard to deduce what exactly the staff is doing.

In fact, their is a simple reason : these children are not victims of a chemical attack.

These are children that were kidnapped two weeks previous, in the beginning of August, in the Latakia region, 200 km away from the Ghouta.

They were taken while a jihadist attack on pro-Assas alaouit villagers. Most of the families were killed. Some survived. In the improvised cemeteries around Latakia were found over a thousand dead.

These children, of whom no one has heard about for two weeks, actually resurfaced on these videos.

Those of which the families were still alive recognized them, and these families pressed charges for assassination. If we don’t understand what kind of care is given to these children on these videos, it’s simply because they are not being treated.

They are being injected poison by intravenous, and being killed in front of the cameras.

5- The secret services would supposedly have a secret way to analyze human samples

TM : The US, Britain and France explain that the victims were gassed, or by sarin gas, or by a mix of gas including sarin gas. They rely on analysis produced by their own laboratories, from their own samples collected in the field.

This is completely impossible, because the United-Nations have also gone the scene and swabbed samples, but need about another ten days in order to analyze them.

So, in fact, what has been explained by the US, the UK and France, is that they have at their disposition secret investigation methods completely unknown to the scientific world, that permits to instantly cultivate human tissue and to have immediate results.

6- The US would have supposedly watched while the preparation of the crime during 4 days without any intervention

TM : Even stranger, in James Clapper’s note, the US’ intelligence boss, we read that – as final proof – the US had observed, during 4 days, the Syrian army mixing the components of sarin gas, and thus preparing it for immediate attack.

However, what we do not understand is, if they did indeed see it happening, why didn’t they say anything ? Why didn’t they intervene ?

7- A telephone call interception delivered by Israel

TM : In the same way, the US, the UK and France declared having intercepted a phone call between a high official of the Syrian minister of Defence of the Unit Chief of combat gas. The Syrian minister would have panicked by the usage of these gases. This would be another proof of the Syrian’s guilt.

However, this piece of information was not collected by the Western services. It was handed to them by the 8200 Unit of the Israeli Mossad, as broadcasted – before these services – by Israeli televison.

Israeli television (Voice over)

The Israeli Defence Forces announce having intercepted the Syrian government’s communications that demonstrate that Bashar el-Assad’s regime is behind the recent chemical attack that made hundreds of dead civilians in a country devastated by war.

8- Not Sarin gas symptoms

TM : On the videos, the victims are trembling and drooling. This is very characteristic of chemical intoxication with combat gas.

Except that sarin gas does not provoke white drool, but a yellow one, that we do not see on this video. So, It cannot be sarin gas that was used to intoxicate the people who were killed.

The US, UK and french leaders and liable to the International Penal Court

TM : In conclusion, this case in completely fabricated. It is the consequence of war propaganda, which is, according to international law, the worst crime, since it is a crime against peace, the one which enable to perpetrate other crimes, including crimes against humanity.

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| UNSC: Now Kerry says Syria needs political solution!

Kerry says Syria needs political solution ~ Al Jazeera.

US secretary of state, meeting Arab League ministers in Paris, says there is no military solution to Syria’s crisis.

 

Kerry, speaking alongside his Qatari counterpart, said US considers going back to UN Security Council on Syria [AFP]
 

US Secretary of State John Kerry has met members of the Arab League in Paris to discuss the crisis in Syria and possible US-led military action against the country.

After more than two years of civil war, the US is trying to drum up support for limited strikes on Syria in response to an apparent chemical weapons attack that Washington blames on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

However, in a joint news conference with Qatari foreign minister, Kerry acknowledged on Sunday that there is only a political solution to Syria’s war, not a military one.

Kerry also said that the US is considering a French suggestion of possibly bringing the Syria issue back to the UN Security Council after UN inspectors who investigated claims of chemical weapons use have finished their report.

He said President Barack Obama had not yet made a decision on the issue.

“Today we discussed the possible deterring methods that a number of countries have agreed on in the G20 meeting and they will make their own announcements in the next 24 hours” Kerry said.

On his part, Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid Bin Mohammad Al Attiyah said his country was studying with its friends and the UN what it might do to protect the Syrian people.

“We will have a joint statement regarding Syria,” Attiyah said.

The US and France are trying to build an international coalition to launch military strikes against the Syrian regime.

Kerry has insisted that international backing to take strong action  is growing, not receding.

Iran warning

Meanwhile, Iran’s new foreign minister said the US will ignite a fire across the Middle East if it attacks Syria, warning Western powers against warmongering.

“We are concerned about warmongering in this region,” Mohammad Javad Zarif said on a visit to Iraq.

“Those who are short-sighted and are beating the drums of war are starting a fire that will burn everyone.”

Over the weekend, Kerry said the US had agreed to provide additional information to those ministers who were not yet convinced that Assad orchestrated the August 21 attack in Damascus suburbs.

The US government insists it has the intelligence to prove the attack was carried out by Assad’s regime.

Kerry said the Obama administration is distributing videos of the August 21 attack to help convince Americans and Congress that a military intervention is needed.

Kerry said the videos make clear that the attack is not something Americans can ignore. He says it is important for the American people to see and “connect” to this.

The US says the attack killed more than 1,400 people. US officials have released videos showing victims, including children, exhibiting what appear to be symptoms of nerve gas poisoning.

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| UN: Ban challenges legality of US strike without Security Council resolution!

UN: Ban challenges legality of US strike without Security Council resolution ~ circa.

 

Copyright 2013 Reuters
The UN Secretary General has called on the Security Council to act if inspectors find Assad used chemical weapons but has warned of the U.S. acting unilaterally.
SEPTEMBER 3, 2013 AT 7:00PM
1

“The use of force is lawful only when in exercise of self-defense in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations charter and/or when the Security Council approves of such action. That is a firm principle of the United Nations.”

Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General
In a press conference on Sept. 3, Ban warned that a strike from the U.S. and France could risk further turmoil in the region.
2

Bashar al-Jaafari, Syria’s UN ambassador, called on “the UN Secretary-General to shoulder his responsibilities for preventing any aggression on Syria and pushing forward reaching a political solution to the crisis in Syria,” state news agency SANA said Sept. 2.
3

“I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets… I will seek authorization of the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress.”

Obama, citing the British Parliament’s vote in Syria, said he “welcomed the debate” on taking military action against Assad. He said that a military strike is not time-sensitive and that it doesn’t matter if it happens “tomorrow, next week, or a month from now.”
4

The British government’s motion proposing military action in Syria was defeated in the House of Commons on Aug. 29. Prime Minister David Cameron said, “It’s clear to me that the British parliament and the British people do not wish to see military action; I get that, and I will act accordingly.”
5

The White House released a statement on Aug. 30 saying that it assessed with “high confidence” that the Assad regime carried out a chemical weapons attack near Damascus on Aug. 21, including the use of a nerve agent. It also released a map indicating where it believes the attack took place.
6

“Syrian government troops are on the offensive and have surrounded the opposition in several regions. In these conditions, to give a trump card to those who are calling for a military intervention is utter nonsense.”

Putin spoke to reporters Aug. 31, claiming that the Syrian regime wouldn’t have risked international intervention by using chemical weapons when, according to Putin, the regime is doing well. He also called on the U.S. to present evidence of the attack to the UN Security Council.
7

“The chemical massacre of Damascus cannot and must not remain unpunished. There are few countries which can have the capacity of enforcing any sanction through the appropriate measures. France will be part of it. France is ready.”

– French President Francois Hollande
Hollande said the British parliament’s rejection of military action had no bearing on how France would act and military action could be taken before the French parliament meets Sept. 4 to debate the issue.
8

<span><span>The German government has ruled out intervention in Syria. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said </span>"such participation has not been sought nor is it being considered." Popular opinion in Germany is overwhelmingly against action.</span>COPYRIGHT 2013 REUTERS
The German government has ruled out intervention in Syria. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said “such participation has not been sought nor is it being considered.” Popular opinion in Germany is overwhelmingly against action.
9

“The threats of direct aggression against Syria will only increase our commitment to our deep-rooted principles and the independent will of our people. Syria will defend itself in the face of any aggression.”

– Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
As Western nations readied for a possible military strike against Syria, Assad was quoted by Syrian state television Aug. 29 telling this to a delegation of Yemeni politicians.
10

The UK put a resolution before the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council Aug. 28. According to PM David Cameron, the draft resolution condemns “the chemical weapons attack by Assad” and authorizes “necessary measures to protect civilians.” Russia has said the Security Council should wait until the findings of the UN chemical weapons inspectors are released before considering a response.
11

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has called for military action to go beyond punitive measures for chemical attacks. Erdogan said, "<span>An intervention akin to that decided for Kosovo must be launched. An operation of one or two days will not be enough. The goal should be to force the regime out."</span><span></span>COPYRIGHT 2013 REUTERS
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has called for military action to go beyond punitive measures for chemical attacks. Erdogan said, “An intervention akin to that decided for Kosovo must be launched. An operation of one or two days will not be enough. The goal should be to force the regime out.”
12

The Israeli military’s gas mask distribution network has been overwhelmed with increased demand as the West considers military options against Syria. Large lines have formed outside post offices, where gas masks are being distributed, and opening hours have been extended.
13

The EU in May agreed to extend financial and economic sanctions against the Syrian government for one year, but it has not been able to reach a deal to support Syrian rebels.
Citations
  1. Britain’s Hague says EU arms embargo on Syrian rebels effectively ends
  2. European Union to lift arms embargo on Syrian rebels
  3. EU lifts embargo to arm Syria rebels: Hague
  4. Syria crisis: Cameron recalls Parliament to vote on response as Russia warns of ‘catastrophic consequences’ of military intervention
  5. Merkel faces pre-election balancing act on Syria
  6. UK drafts Syria UN resolution
  7. David_Cameron: 2/2 Britain has drafted a …
  8. Russia says too early for UN resolution on Syria attack – Al Jazeera Blogs
  9. Assad says Syria will defend itself against aggression
  10. As U.S., allies weigh strike on Syria, nervous Israelis rush for gas masks
  11. Israel braces for worst with Syria as army calls up reserves, nervous citizens line up to receive free gas masks
  12. Long lines in Israel: Syria tensions spur rush for gas masks (+video)
  13. As Syria strike looms, Israeli gas mask centers get extended opening hours
  14. LIVE: Syria crisis: Latest updates
  15. France backs US on Syria action
  16. France’s François Hollande says Syrian’s alleged chemical attack cannot go unpunished
  17. France could act on Syria without Britain, says François Hollande
  18. France backs US on Syria action
  19. The White House
  20. Map put out by White House with the newly declassified information about Syria and chemical weapons – click to see full map – Gretawire
  21. U.N. inspectors start leaving Syria; Obama meets with security team
  22. Turkish PM says Syria intervention should aim to end Assad rule
  23. US claim on Syria ‘nonsense’ – Putin
  24. Obama says U.S. will take military action against Syria, pending Congress’s approval
  25. LIVE UPDATES: U.S. Prepares for Action in Syria | TIME.com
  26. Obama to seek Congress vote on Syria
  27. Syria asks the United Nations to stop U.S. strike
  28. U.N.’s Ban casts doubt on legality of U.S. plans to punish Syria
  29. UN Chief: U.S. Strike In Syria Could Unleash More Turmoil
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/03/us-strike-syria-_n_3861209.html_

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| Syria crisis: Vladimir Putin under growing pressure?

Syria crisis: Vladimir Putin under growing pressure ~  and  in Paris, The Guardian.

Russian president to be urged at G20 summit to come closer to accepting that Bashar al-Assad has to stand aside.

Bashar al-Assad speaking to Le Figaro

Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad told Le Figaro: ‘The Middle East is a powder-keg, and today the spark is getting closer.’ Photograph: Sana/Reuters

Vladimir Putin is to be confronted at the G20 summit of world leaders in St Petersburg this week with an array of western intelligence including damning new French evidence directly linking Syrian government forces with a massive and co-ordinated chemical attack on 21 August that led to hundreds of civilian deaths.

The Russian president will also be urged to show a new diplomatic flexibility and come closer to accepting that the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad, has to stand aside.

A nine-page declassified French intelligence report was released on Monday which claimed to show Assad forces had launched an attack on Damascus suburbs held by opposition units using a combination of conventional weapons and “the massive use of chemical weapons“.

The report follows similar documents from British and American intelligence.

The Nato secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen also insisted that “personally I am convinced, not only that a chemical attack has taken place … but I am also convinced that the Syrian regime is responsible.”

The French intelligence includes satellite imagery showing the attacks coming from government-controlled areas to the east and west of Damascus and targeting rebel-held zones. The report said Assad’s forces had since bombed the areas to wipe out evidence.

“Unlike previous attacks that used small amounts of chemicals and were aimed at terrorising people, this attack was tactical and aimed at regaining territory,” the report said.

Nearly 47 amateur video clips reportedly filmed on the morning of the attack and showing the impact on civilians had been authenticated by French military doctors, according to the intelligence. French evidence gave details of other suspected chemical attacks, in the towns of Saraqib and Jobar in April, which now appeared to have killed about 280 people, the report said.

The fresh information will also help Barack Obama in his uphill efforts to persuade Congress next week to back a punitive military strike against Assad.

Assad, in an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro, again denied the use of chemical weapons. “Whoever makes accusations must provide proof,” he said. “We have challenged the US and France to put forward a single piece of proof. Mr Obama and Mr Hollande have been incapable of doing so. The Middle East is a powder-keg, and today the spark is getting closer.”

The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, also rejected the western intelligence as absolutely unconvincing, saying that there was “nothing concrete, no geographical co-ordinates or details … and no proof the test was done by professionals”.

He urged the west to lift the veil of secrecy over its allegations.

British sources said Putin, host of the G20, will face a concerted challenge at the summit on Thursday and Friday both to accept the intelligence, and propose a fresh diplomatic solution to the crisis by easing his support for the Assad regime.

Some senior Tories continued to put pressure on Downing Street to say it might be willing to hold a second Commons vote on whether Britain would in some circumstances participate in an attack on Syria in retaliation for the chemical attack.

Cameron unexpectedly lost the vote last week, but the former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell led calls for Britain to keep an open mind. “I believe taking legal and proportional action will be better than doing nothing – I think it will be more likely to bring this catastrophe to a close,” he said.

“That’s why I think it’s very important in this rapidly moving situation that we don’t rule anything out and it may be, for example, that after lengthy and careful consideration, Congress affirms its support for the President’s plans and in the light of that our Parliament may well want to consider this matter further”

Advocates of a second vote were briefly given succour when the defence secretary, Philip Hammond, said there might be a second vote if there were a very significant change in circumstances.

But Labour sources poured cold water on a second vote, saying the government had ruled out military action. Apparently raising the bar on military action higher than last week, Labour sources said a second vote could only be countenanced if there was evidence that al-Qaida had got hold of significant stocks of chemical weapons, or there was a direct threat to national security.

The Labour motion last week was less specific about the trigger for action, and it was not clear if all shadow cabinet members were aware of this hardened stance.

Labour instead tried to refocus on diplomacy, with the shadow foreign secretary, Douglas Alexander, telling the Guardian: “An objective for the G20 summit in St Petersburg should be to establish a Syria contact group, like that which helped end the civil war in Lebanon. Unlike the Friends of Syria group, which was established as a forum for supporting the Syrian opposition, a Syria contact group could bring together those countries that are currently backing opposing sides in the Syrian conflict, of course including Russia, but also key sponsors within the region such as Iran and Saudi Arabia.”

The contact group would work to bring the participants in the two-year civil war to talks in Geneva. Washington, with British backing, has opposed Iranian involvement in talks.

Writing in the Guardian, the senior Liberal Democrat peer Lady Williamshas also called for Iran to be involved in the construction of a Syrian political settlement. She writes that the condemnation of the use of chemical weapons by the newly elected Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, “deserves a constructive response. It is time to end the isolation of Iran.”

Plans to stage a second round of peace talks on Syria in Geneva have been stalled since March, partly over the US veto on Iranian attendance, and partly due to disputes in the Syrian rebel forces over the composition of its delegation, and the presence of forces loyal to Assad. Cameron will not have been emboldened by the publication of three separate polls on Monday showing strong opposition to British involvement in military action. A BBC/ICM poll found 71% supporting the Commons decision to stop British involvement in military action with 67% saying that “the special relationship is not relevant to the modern age”.

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| Once Washington made the Middle East tremble – now no one there takes it seriously!

Robert Fisk: Once Washington made the Middle East tremble – now no one there takes it seriouslyROBERT FISKThe Independent.

Our present leaders are paying the price for the dishonesty of Bush and Blair.

Watershed. It’s the only word for it. Once Lebanon and Syria and Egypt trembled when Washington spoke. Now they laugh. It’s not just a question of what happened to the statesmen of the past. No one believed that Cameron was Churchill or that the silly man in the White House was Roosevelt – although Putin might make a rather good Stalin. It’s more a question of credibility; no one in the Middle East takes America seriously anymore. And you only had to watch Obama on Saturday to see why.

For there he was, prattling on in the most racist way about “ancient sectarian differences” in the Middle East. Since when was the president of the United States an expert on these supposed “sectarian differences”? Constantly we are shown maps of the Arab world with Shiites and Sunnis and Christians colour-coded onto the nations which we generously bequeathed to the region after the First World War. But when is an American paper going to carry a colour-coded map of Washington or Chicago with black and white areas delineated by streets?

But what was amazing was the sheer audacity of our leaders in thinking that they could yet again bamboozle their electorates with their lies and trumperies and tomfooleries.

This doesn’t mean that the Syrian regime did not use gas “on its own people” – a phrase we used to use about Saddam when we wanted a war in Iraq – but it does mean that our present leaders are now paying the price for the dishonesty of Bush and Blair.

Obama, who is becoming more and more preacher-like, wants to be the Punisher-in-Chief of the Western World, the Avenger-in-Chief. There issomething oddly Roman about him. And the Romans were good at two things. They believed in law and they believed in crucifixion. The US constitution – American “values” and the cruise missile have a faintly similar focus. The lesser races must be civilized and they must be punished, even if the itsy-bitsy tiny missile launches look more like perniciousness than war. Everyone outside the Roman Empire was called a barbarian. Everyone outside Obama’s empire is called a terrorist.

And as usual, the Big Picture has a habit of taking away some of the little details we should know about.

Take Afghanistan, for example. I had an interesting phone call from Kabul three days ago. And it seems that the Americans are preventing President Karzai purchasing new Russian Mi helicopters – because Moscow sells the same helicopters to Syria. Well, how about that. The US, it seems, is now trying to damage Russian trade relations with Afghanistan – why the Afghans would want to do business with the country that enslaved them for eight years is another matter – because of Damascus.

Now another little piece of news. Just over a week ago, two massive car bombs blew up outside two Salafist mosques in the north Lebanese city of Tripoli. They killed 47 people and wounded another 500. Now it has emerged that five people have been charged by the Lebanese security services over these bombings and one of them is said to be a captain in the Syrian government intelligence service.

His charge is “in absentia”, as they say, and we all like to think that men and women are innocent until proved guilty. But two sheikhs have also been charged, one of them apparently the head of a pro-Damascus Islamist organization. The other sheikh is also said to be close to Syrian intelligence. Typically, Obama is so keen on bombarding Syria for gassing that he has missed out on this nugget of information which has angered and infuriated millions of Lebanese.

But I guess this is what happens when you take your eye off the ball.

It reminds me of a book that was published by Yale University Press in 2005. It was called The New Lion of Damascus by David Lesch, a professor at Trinity University in Texas. Those were the days when Bashar al-Assad was still being held up as the bright new broom in Syria.

“Bashar,” Lesch concluded, “is, indeed, the hope – and the promise of a better future.”

Then last year – by which time the West had abandoned its dreams of Bashar – the good professor came up with another book, again published by Yale. This time it was called Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad, and Lesch concluded: “He (Bashar) was short-sighted and became deluded. He failed miserably.”

As my Beirut bookseller remarked, we must await Lesch’s next book, tentatively entitled, perhaps, Assad is Back. Why, he may well last longer than Obama.

Band of Brothers

Now another book. There’s a remarkable memoir just out of an Englishman teaching in Pakistan. Robin Brooke-Smith was principal of Edwardes College outside Peshawar and his story – his book is called ‘Storm Warning: Riding the Crosswinds in the Pakistan-Afghan Borderlands’ — is the almost unbelievable one of running a college amid Taliban country. Yes, he had threats and warnings and all kinds of vicious backbiting within the academic community but he maintained college standards and on the school’s hundredth anniversary – it was founded by Sir Herbert Edwardes of Shropshire – he even managed to get the band of the Irish Guards to play in college in full dress uniform.

My favourite moment came when Brooke-Smith received a phone call from the British defence attaché in Islamabad, telling him that there had been specific warnings that the school might be attacked (by the ubiquitous ‘terrorists’, of course). Did this mean that the band was not coming, Brooke-Smith asked? I loved the following reply from the defence attaché:

“No, absolutely not, they are still coming. The band is an active military unit of the British army. They have just finished a tour of duty in Bosnia. Their band playing is a sideline. The bandsmen are all professional serving soldiers.” And the Irish Guards went to Peshawar and played their marches in bandit country and that was in April of the year 2000.

And now, it sure makes Cameron look a puny man.

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| The end of taking the Syrian revolution at face value?

| The end of taking the Syrian revolution at face value

Those interested in a revolution that would be considered a significant step forward from the existing Syrian regime, might want to take pause as they steadfastly support some of its main anchors. In particular, months after its establishment, the Syrian National Council (SNC) has failed in providing the leadership, autonomy, and consensus necessary to battle the Syrian regime. This much is no longer a controversial remark, even among some of the ranks of the SNC. But there is more that can and should be systematically discussed, not just to point out the divisiveness and counterproductive alliances associated with the SNC, but precisely to understand how might a robust opposition lead this overdue uprising against decades of tyranny.

Highlighting the role of the SNC is neither meant to reduce the revolution to it nor privilege it as the only opposition force. Rather it reflects the importance that has been placed on it by Syrians and non-Syrians alike since its inception in October 2011. It is simply a starting point. The assumption here is that, generally, the internal independent opposition on the ground and the local Coordinating Committees are the best expression of the Syrian uprising to date, notwithstanding the increasing infiltration by elements with suspect motives. But to face the Syrian regime, a lot more is needed by way of strategy, leadership, and consensus.

The fact that the SNC still has a strong constituency domestically is less a function of its representative nature and political efficacy and much more a function of a constellation of factors that leaves little choice for an embattled and isolated protest movement. More critically, some of the expressed strategies of the SNC—e.g., regional/international alliances, intervention, and future plans–converge with a growing conservative and sectarian trend within the internal opposition, a trend that is growing in number and in terms of regional ties. Whether that trend is itself a desperate response to regime brutality and the shabbiha’s sectarianism or an expression of something more cynical, or both, is not the issue.The SNC has so far failed as an anti-dictatorial leadership in asserting the kind of values and strategies that build consensus and attract further support locally, regionally, and internationally. As a result, to simply assume that this uprising will triumph simply because the regime is authoritarian and is killing its own people, is no longer to be taken for granted. The internal opposition is now armed, and we are looking at a different kind of confrontation, even if the upper-hand militarily is on the regime’s side.

By the same token, those who consider the uprising to be going astray on various levels should not abandon the goal of fighting and overthrowing dictatorship unless, of course, the question of dictatorship for them is completely trumped by other regional considerations. In that case, this camp—whatever one calls it—is the mirror image of the SNC from the other side. (I have engaged that camp elsewhere, and will be completing Part III soon).

Tough Sell in an Explosive Environment

In this atmosphere of continuous killing (overwhelmingly by the regime), pushing for reflexivity and nuance will be a tough task, and a yet tougher sell. But unless cooler and sober minds prevail, the very impetus of rising up against tyranny and social injustice will be compromised considerably. Worse, a catastrophe of much larger proportion will be lurking right around the corner in the event of an all out civil war or foreign military intervention.

This calls for a serious and frank discussion, but only among those who see the importance and absolute necessity of ending decades of dictatorship. A discussion cannot proceed from an emphasis on the status-quo ante. Going back to the pre-March 2011 formula is no longer possible or imaginable. The Syrian regime has lost its ability to govern Syria. It can only enforce its will in certain areas, and in ways that will continue to undermine whatever authority it left for itself as a result of its brutal and, in any case, routine handling of the initial Der`a incident, as well as its aftermath.

Notwithstanding the caveats, the starting point is the seemingly irreconcilable polarization one witnesses among audiences and participants in relation to the Syrian uprising. Getting a word in/out without being called a plethora of names by short-sighed or dogmatic individuals on any “other” side is impossible. Even among those who oppose the regime on principle, a discussion is hardly devoid of a slew of insults related to who is a real Marxist, a radical democrat, a genuine supporter of the people, a real regime detractor, a humanist, a better agent of resistance, or what have you.

Indeed, the discursive situation is frightening and tragic, especially when compared to the other cases of uprisings in the region. At some level, it is partly understandable: so much is at stake for so many parties as well as causes. And what is at stake relates to more than the triumph of dictatorship or the opposition: it is the whole grammar of politics in the region and beyond. It is a war of priorities and big wins versus big losses, a winner-takes-all battle in which the lives of thousands of people lost is routinely compared to the loss of tens of thousands, by way of making a point. I am personally guilty of such comparisons too, but I do admit it and I do consider this a cold-hearted though unavoidable discussion for those who are concerned about Syria and Syrians, today and in the future. Though the urgency of today must take precedence, the constellation of factors stacked against an independent and genuine uprising ultimately makes this calculation less intuitive than it appears at first glance. More specifically, we cannot content ourselves with a narrow humanitarian lens, and discount the future as a result. Given the trajectory of the external opposition, we no longer have this luxury.

But how do you get beyond the moment without losing a part of your humanity, the same humanity that causes some to privilege the big picture and the long haul? One way to do it is to never abandon the fight against the existing dictatorship, despite one’s critique of the opposition, its problematic relations, and its own use as a tool for ends that are neither solely defined by the Syrian people nor desirable in any case. Opposing the regime is more than opposing the Asad rule: it is also opposing any similar formula that might replace it, and the time to begin doing so is now.

When deep polarization is at hand, a counter-productive zero-sum game develops. Arguments and positions for or against the opposition or the question of intervention become fierce and often existential ones. Those who disagree with you are not detractors, they are “traitors,” either against the revolution or pro-imperialists. What is needed is a leadership that can subdue this state of affairs to something far more collective and dignified: one that can melt this rigidity and allow the opposition to match the regime’s guns with a true revolutionary strategy. The SNC has strayed far, and perhaps irreversibly, from this conception.

Rigid Camps Require Serious Shaking

We have two rigid camps. The first considers the revolution to have lost all legitimacy because of concerns that the uprising is, partly or wholly, manipulated. The other camp does not see any significant flaws in the revolution, or discounts the flaws as byproducts of any revolution. Neither is likely to advance the legitimate cause of the uprising in practice. And, given that the brutality of the Syrian regime is not to be excused (now and in the past), the most sober course of action is to stop taking the Syrian revolution at face value and engage in a serious critique and discussion of the various facets of the opposition, their relations, stances, and strategies. From afar, at least, that is one thing one can do.

It is difficult to address all aspects of such endeavor without a concerted effort by those who are strategically positioned to do so. Pontificating like others or I might be doing from afar can be productive only if it engages players on the ground. The problem is that many in such a pool have commitments that make them less free/available to consider such analysis. Or they may have foreclosed such critical inquiry in favor of pushing ahead against the regime regardless of exactly how. And though most of those on the ground cannot be blamed because of their circumstances, we must no longer assume that those circumstances should continue to foreclose what is possible. The stakes are becoming too high, and the opposition is becoming too diluted for us to take for granted that the “revolution” against dictatorship will triumph eventually. That era, in my view, is now behind us. The “revolution” that pits a dictatorship against wholly pro-freedom and pro-democracy protesters can no longer be taken at face value. Triumph, however conceived, must be far more deliberated, and that requires a whole other approach. Even if the regime falls tomorrow, the revolution must continue to achieve the always deeper objectives of revolution, unless the Egyptian model is the aim.

Lest one strays too far from reality, especially for those among the supporters of the big picture, it is undeniable that the Syrian regime is responsible for the state of affairs where genuine and independent (and usually secular) members of the opposition see little else other than the necessity of ending the bloodshed by seeking to remove the regime. I will not rehearse the arguments I made earlier in reference to this point–where I firmly disagreed with and warned against the call for international intervention by many members of the opposition, but submitted that I cannot impose my position on them. Rather, I shall proceed to invite productive and courageous assessment of the current opposition both inside and outside Syria.

How to Critique an Opposition from a Revolutionary Perspective

This is not a simple task, but it is not thoroughly complicated either. Its merits are monumental, as everyone besides die-hard regime supporters has an interest in a robust and effective opposition that is able to build consensus in an independent and autonomous manner. What we have today outside Syria is a weak, fragmented, and largely dependent opposition that is not likely to carry the day now or in the future. Instead, it is likely to oversee the reproduction of many of the existing state of affairs, domestically or regionally. Even those who believe that the above claims are excessive should countenance the argument based on a simple comparison between how they felt about parts of the opposition, namely the SNC, earlier on, and how they regard it today. Most, including SNC members, were far more enthusiastic about its prospects. This is no longer the case. However, unfortunately, the brutality of the Syrian regime pushes people to the lesser evil, so to speak.

Not taking the revolution at face value does not only mean we should be skeptical about some of it’s elements. More practically, it means that a more robust opposition is necessary. The failure of the SNC in particular to leverage the regional and international fronts on position of principle left it with alliances that hold little promise, or legitimacy. It’s inability to bring more Syrians to its side by explicitly and comprehensively denouncing sectarian behavior no matter against whom it was directed reduced its ability to create unity. Its rush to reverse its decision and support military intervention of all sorts ultimately compromised its nationalist credentials and placed it in camps that have long been hostile to Syria and the Syrian people. Most importantly, its increasingly narrow approach has prevented it from serving as an umbrella to smaller opposition groups like the National Body for the Coordinating Committees.

The lynchpin for these deficiencies is the loss of its autonomy from external actors that it may deem necessary politically and/or financially. This “any price” instrumentalism may work when one is receiving support from principled players that believe the cause of revolution and when one believes that it will indeed work. History will be kinder to such instrumentalism. But after the Libyan model that produced death and destruction by the very forces that the SNC clings to, and after the solid veto against condemning the regime at the UN, opposition strategies should have shifted in the direction of more internal solidarity. Instead, we witness more exclusion, lack of transparency, and further dependence on external factors by the SNC. Worst of all, we observe sectarian, obscurantist, and politically suspect voices rise from within the internal and external opposition without any sort of firm reprisal from the putatively dominant opposition force, the SNC. The tragedy is that the SNC will continue to survive because its bloodline is the blood that is being spilled by the regime. But it will remain increasingly incapable of achieving the aims of those whose blood is being spilled on Syrian streets.

Significantly, many among the opposition undermine their cause by excluding their potential allies. It is not only counter-productive, but also wrong, to dismiss the concerns of those who are skeptical about the uprising but from a pro-revolutionary perspective. Such orthodox stances will reproduce the atmosphere of intolerance and repression that most are fighting to end in the first place. This latter concern relates to opposition members who are excommunicating their potential allies who simply have a different take on how to confront and battle the regime. Ironically, this type of thinking among parts of the opposition is similar to that of the rigid left that condemn their natural allies unless they produce precisely the same discourse and, indeed, level of animosity towards various actors and processes. Both are pitiful because they reproduce their ineffectiveness and, in case of the left, isolation and weakness.

The Syrian opposition must be systematically critiqued and, if/when possible, engaged and confronted for the sake of revolution itself. To do this right is to hold it to standards higher than those many of us have initially accepted simply because it was small, isolated, and brutally crushed by the Syrian regime. Otherwise, little will come of it and of the uprising beyond the fall of one brutal dictatorship. The Syrian people suffered for decades. They deserve much more than what the SNC has in store.