Archive for March 20th, 2012

Putin plays hardball in Syria, uses Lavrov to distract gullible UN and international community—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #13 (March 20)

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

AP reporter Vladimir Isachenkov reported from Moscow a week ago that:

Russia has no intention of curtailing military cooperation with Syria despite calls from the West to stop arming President Bashar Assad’s regime, a senior Russian government official said Tuesday.

Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said Russia will abide by existing contracts to deliver weapons to Syria despite Assad’s yearlong crackdown on the opposition, in which over 7,500 people have been killed.

“Russia enjoys good and strong military technical cooperation with Syria, and we see no reason today to reconsider it,” Antonov told reporters.

(I)n January, a Russian ship allegedly carrying tons of munitions made a dash for Syria after telling officials in EU member Cyprus, where it had made an unexpected stop, that it was heading for Turkey. Turkish officials said the ship had instead charted course for Tartus.

Antonov said Russia’s supply of weapons to Syria is in line with international law and will continue. “Russian-Syrian military cooperation is perfectly legitimate,” he said.

“The only thing that worries us today is the security of our citizens,” Antonov said in a reference to Russian military personnel in Syria that are training the Syrians in the use of weapons supplied by Russia.

He declined to say how many of them are currently stationed in Syria.

“It’s part of our contractual obligations,” said Antonov, who oversees military technical cooperation with foreign countries. “When we supply weapons, we have to provide training.”

–Vladimir Isachenkov (AP), “Russia says it will keep selling weapons to Syria,” The Guardian, March 13 2012.

While Russia continues to furnish the weapons and ammunition that are being used by the Syrian regime to commit crimes against humanity and war crimes in Syria, and to train the Syrian military in the use of those weapons through Russian military personnel on the ground in Syria, Vladimir Putin is using Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to sound notes critical of al-Assad and indicating frustration with al-Assad’s approach to the opposition.

Obama and the West and the Arab countries of the Middle East hang on the hope that Kofi Annan may persuade al-Assad to slacken the pace of the slaughter of his opponents in Syria, and make a few concessions in the direction of humanitarian measures. Instead of a total ceasefire by the Syrian forces and a withdrawal of tanks from cities, as called for in the Arab League’s November 2, 2011 peace plan, their goal now is to have two hours a day of humanitarian relief access–while al-Assad’s murderous assault on his opponents, armed and unarmed, goes unchecked.

Let us keep our eyes on the ball: The Russian game has as its clear goals 1) the maintenance of Bashar al-Assad in power; 2) continued military-technical cooperation with Syria, including the continuing supply of arms and ammunition, and Russian trainers and training; 3) continued presence and operation of Russia’s naval base at the port of Tartus (Tartous); 4) continued maintenance in Syria of its communications and listening post for the region; and 5) presumably its continued use of Syria as a platform for clandestine operations in the Middle East.

Nothing Lavrov has said, or which the Security Council might agree to in a new resolution accepted by Russia and China, along the lines being discussed, will change the realities on the ground. Al-Assad will continue to control the game of what he will or will not allow the UN to do, which diverts attention from what his own military and security forces are doing every day throughout the country.

Moreover, a new resolution could make things worse, by establishing a Security Council commitment to leave al-Assad in power while he continues to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity, with strong and continued Russian and Chinese backing to block any meaningful action by the Security Council in the future.

Heads, Russia and al-Assad win.
Tails, the West, the Arab countries and the international community lose.

With any new Security Council resolution catering to the demands of Russia, what will be the chances that detainees in Syria will not be tortured and killed? What will be the chances that they will have fact-based charges brought against them, a right to an attorney, and a fair trial by an independent judiciary?

What prospects will there be for al-Assad and his henchmen to be brought to justice before an international court?

What kind of peaceful transition removing al-Assad from power will be possible as long as he is making the decisions? As long as he and his Russian backers are calling the shots?

The United States had better wake up and grasp the fact that Putin is out to play hardball–and not only in Syria–and that U.S.-Russian relations are not likely to return to a stable orbit until Obama demonstrates some resolve and pushes back.

U.S.-Russian relations may be in fact at an extremely dangerous point, as Putin, flush with his vistory at the polls and a new term as president before him, may have taken the measure of President Obama and could judge him lacking in resolve, much as Nikita Kruschev misjudged John F. Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs invasion in April, 1961 and after his meeting with Kennedy at the Vienna summit on June 4, 1961, making a colossal miscalculation by deciding to introduce nuclear missiles into Cuba. That decision led the world to the edge of the precipice of nuclear war–much closer to the edge than is commonly appreciated.

The UN “mediation” remains a gambit that plays to the Russians’ demands, and which even if successful, will leave al-Assad in power, free to unleash his military or security forces against anyone and everyone at will, with the real chances of a peaceful transition resulting from this process being close to nil.

The Trenchant Observer

observer@trenchantobserver.com
www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv

***

–For earlier articles by The Trenchant Observer, see the Articles on Syria page.
–To use the Search function, click on “The Trenchant Observer” at the top of this page to go to the home page, and then enter your search term in the box at the upper right.
–A list of the most recent 15 articles (on all subjects) is also found on the home page, on the right.

***

How to find news reports from around the world
–Google and other major search engines use a series of filters amounting to what has been termed a “filter bubble” to limit search results to those keyed to the location, language, and previous search results of the user. See Eli Pariser, The Filter Bubble (2011).
–To find the latest news from around the world on Syria (or any other subject), you can bypass the “filter bubble” of Google and other search engines by going to and beginning your search at www.startpage.com

***

“eide shoma mobarak”—President Obama sends 2012 Nowruz greetings to Persians, denounces “electronic curtain” in Iran

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

***
Presdent Barack Obama has sent the Persian people his New Year’s Greetings on Nowruz, 2012.

Links to the text and videos of the message in English, Farsi and Arabic can be found here.

The text of the President Obama’s remarks follows:

Today, Michelle and I extend our best wishes to all those who are celebrating Nowruz around the world. In communities and homes from America to southwest Asia, families and friends are coming together to celebrate the hope that comes with renewal.

To the people of Iran, this holiday comes at a time of continued tension between our two countries. But as people gather with their families, do good deeds, and welcome a new season, we are also reminded of the common humanity that we share.

There is no reason for the United States and Iran to be divided from one another. Here in the United States, Iranian-Americans prosper and contribute greatly to our culture. This year, an Iranian production – “A Separation” – won America’s highest honor for a foreign film. Our navies have confronted the danger of piracy, with U.S. sailors even rescuing Iranian citizens who had been taken hostage. And from Facebook to Twitter – from cell phones to the Internet – our people use the same tools to talk to one another, and to enrich our lives.

Yet increasingly, the Iranian people are denied the basic freedom to access the information that they want. Instead, the Iranian government jams satellite signals to shut down television and radio broadcasts. It censors the Internet to control what the Iranian people can see and say. The regime monitors computers and cell phones for the sole purpose of protecting its own power. And in recent weeks, Internet restrictions have become so severe that Iranians cannot communicate freely with their loved ones within Iran, or beyond its borders. Technologies that should empower citizens are being used to repress them.

Because of the actions of the Iranian regime, an electronic curtain has fallen around Iran – a barrier that stops the free flow of information and ideas into the country, and denies the rest of the world the benefit of interacting with the Iranian people, who have so much to offer.

I want the Iranian people to know that America seeks a dialogue to hear your views and understand your aspirations. That’s why we set up a Virtual Embassy, so you can see for yourselves what the United States is saying and doing. We’re using Farsi on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. And even as we’ve imposed sanctions on the Iranian government, today, my Administration is issuing new guidelines to make it easier for American businesses to provide software and services into Iran that will make it easier for the Iranian people to use the Internet.

The United States will continue to draw attention to the electronic curtain that is cutting the Iranian people off from the world. And we hope that others will join us in advancing a basic freedom for the Iranian people: the freedom to connect with one another, and with their fellow human beings.

Over the last year, we have learned once more that suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people are the heirs to a great and ancient civilization. Like people everywhere, they have the universal right to think and speak for themselves. The Iranian government has a responsibility to respect these rights, just as it has a responsibility to meet its obligations with regard to its nuclear program. Let me say again that if the Iranian government pursues a responsible path, it will be welcomed once more among the community of nations, and the Iranian people will have greater opportunities to prosper.

So in this season of new beginnings, the people of Iran should know that the United States of America seeks a future of deeper connections between our people – a time when the electronic curtain that divides us is lifted and your voices are heard; a season in which mistrust and fear are overcome by mutual understanding and our common hopes as human beings.

Thank you, and Eid-eh Shoma Mobarak.

***
No mention was made of Iran’s involvement in Syria, or the presdent’s statements regarding Iran during the recent visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
***

The Trenchant Observer

observer@trenchantobserver.com
www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv

–For earlier articles by The Trenchant Observer on Syria, see the Articles on Syria page.
–To use the Search function, click on “The Trenchant Observer” at the top of this page to go to the home page, and then enter your search term in the box at the upper right.
–A list of the most recent 15 articles (on all subjects) is also found on the home page, on the right.
–A list of all articles by The Trenchant Observer and published here is found on the Articles in Chronological Order page, which has a link in the top right-hand corner of the homepage, or here.

***

How to find news reports from around the world
–Google and other major search engines use a series of filters amounting to what has been termed a “filter bubble” to limit search results to those keyed to the location, language, and previous search results of the user. See Eli Pariser, The Filter Bubble (2011).
–To find the latest news from around the world on any subject, you can bypass the “filter bubble” of Google and other search engines by going to and beginning your search at www.startpage.com

***