Posts Tagged ‘Al Jazeera’

The Vatican calls on Muslim leaders to condemn violence by jihadists in “the Islamic State”

Friday, August 15th, 2014

The Vatical has called on Muslim religious leaders to denounce the crimes committed by the juhaddist so-called “Islamic State” (formerly known as ISIS)


(1 John Hooper (Rome), “Vatican calls on Muslim leaders to condemn Christian persecution in Iraq; Statement suggests dialogue with Islamic representatives may be cut if leaders fail to denounce crimes in name of religion,” The Guardian, August 12, 2014 (09.37 EDT).

(2) Yasmine Hafiz, “Vatican Urges Muslim Leaders To Condemn The Islamic State Formerly Known As ISIS, The Huffington Post, August 12, 2014.

Hafiz points out that a number of Muslim leaders have already spoken out:

Many have already done that. Iyad Ameen Madani, the Secretary General for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation called the actions of the Islamic State a “crime that cannot be tolerated” in July. Sunni and Shiite Muslim leaders from the UK made a video to condemn the Islamic State in July, and professors from the ancient and influential al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, have also publicly rejected the Caliphate. Most recently, the Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam, Egypt’s top Muslim scholar, denounced the Islamic State as an “extremist and bloody group” on Tuesday.

(3) Shafik Mandhai, “Muslim leaders reject Baghdadi’s caliphate; Prominent Muslim leaders rebuke the Islamic State group’s self-proclaimed caliphate, calling it ‘void’ and ‘deviant’,” Al Jazeera, August 7, 2014.

(4) “World’s top Muslim leaders condemn attacks on Iraqi Christians,” Vatican Radio, July 25, 2014.

(5) Reuters, “Egypt’s Top Muslim Leader Condemns Islamic State: Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam Denounces ‘Bloody Group,'” Huntington Post, August 12, 2014 (Updated: 08/13/2014 6:59 am EDT).

The Trenchant Observer

Political Earthquake in Egypt: Military Takeover Imminent

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Egypt army statement in full

Following demonstrations larger than those at the peak of the 2011 revolution against Hosni Mubarak, estimated by the Interior Ministry to involve some 14-17 million people according to Al Jazeera, the Egyptian Army issued the following statement on Monday, July 1, 2013 (text in full):

Egypt and the whole world witnessed yesterday demonstrations by the great people of Egypt expressing their opinion in an unprecedented, peaceful and civilised way.

Everyone saw the movement of the Egyptian people and heard their voices with the greatest respect and concern. It is necessary that the people receive a reply to their movement and the call from every party with any responsibility in the dangerous circumstances surrounding the nation.

As a main party in the considerations of the future and based on their patriotic and historic responsibilities to protect security and stability, the armed forces state the following:

• The armed forces will not be a party in the circles of politics or governance and are not willing to step out of the role defined for them by the basic ideals of democracy based on the will of the people.

• The national security of the state is exposed to extreme danger by the developments the nation is witnessing, and this places a responsibility on us, each according to his position, to act as is proper to avert these dangers. The armed forces sensed early on the dangers of the current situation and the demands the great people have at this time. Therefore, it previously set a deadline of a week for all political forces in the country to come to a consensus and get out of this crisis. However, the week has passed without any sign of an initiative. This is what led to the people coming out with determination and resolve, in their full freedom, in this glorious way, which inspired surprise, respect and attention at the domestic, regional and international levels.

• Wasting more time will only bring more division and conflict, which we have warned about and continue to warn about. The noble people have suffered and have found no one to treat them with kindness or sympathize with them. That puts a moral and psychological burden on the armed forces, which find it obligatory that everyone drop everything and embrace these proud people, which have shown they are ready to do the impossible if only they feels there is loyalty and dedication to them.

• The armed forces repeat their call for the people’s demands to be met and give everyone 48 hours as a last chance to shoulder the burden of the historic moment that is happening in the nation, which will not forgive or tolerate any party that is lax in shouldering its responsibility.

• The armed forces put everyone on notice that if the demands of the people are not realised in the given time period, it will be obliged by its patriotic and historic responsibilities and by its respect for the demands of the great Egyptian people to announce a road map for the future and the steps for overseeing its implementation, with participation of all patriotic and sincere parties and movements – including the youth, who set off the glorious revolution and continue to do so – without excluding anyone.

• A salute of appreciation and pride to the sincere and loyal men of the Armed Forces, who have always borne and will continue to bear their patriotic responsibilities toward the great people of Egypt with determination, decisiveness and pride. God save Egypt and its proud, great people.

–“Egypt army statement in full; Military says it will not stand idle as “the national security of the state is in severe danger; The Egyptian army on Monday gave politicians 48 hours to resolve the country’s political crisis or face intervention by the military,” Al Jazeera, July 1, 2013 (last updated 19:14)

The demonstrations and the Statement by the Egyptian army represent a political earthquake signaling an imminent military takeover of control of the government, whose impact will reverberate throughout many countries in the Middle East for years to come.

The Obama administration has provided shameful support to Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood as Morsi launched a coup against the Constitutional order on November 22, 2012, assuming all power, then using dictatorial powers to block action by the Constitutional Court which would have held the election of the Upper House of the National Assembly unconstitutional.  He did so through the use of Hitler-style “Brownshirt” tactics to block access to the court by its members, who also reported receiving numerous death threats.

Morsi then pushed through a draft constitution which was illegitimate because the body that drafted it was elected unconstitutionally, calling a forced national referendum on what was—hidden in its provisions–an extreme Islamist constitution, on December 15 and 22, under circumstances where opponents had no time or effective opportunity to analyze its provisions or to organize campaigns against its approval in the referendum.

Latest New Reports

For news reports on these late-breaking events, see

Ulrike Putz (Kairo), “Machtkampf in Ägypten: Militärputsch mit Ankündigung;Ägyptens Militär setzt der Politik ein 48-Stunden-Ultimatum – und hat Präsident Mursi damit wohl praktisch des Amtes enthoben. Nun muss die Opposition nur noch zwei Tage lang einen Kompromiss verzögern, schon müssen die Generäle einschreiten. Fraglich ist nur, wie die Islamisten auf einen Putsch reagieren würden,” Der Spiegel, 1 Juli 2013 (20:11 Uhr).

Bel Trew, “Millions of Egyptians turn out nationwide for anti-Morsi rallies; 7 dead in violence,” Al-Ahram (alahramonline) (Cairo), July 1, 2013.

Egyptian Newspapers

For the latest news from Egyptian newspapers in English, see (in addition to Al-Ahram, above), the following:

Al-Ahram Weekly

Egypt Independent

Egypt Daily News

Aswat Masriya

CoptsUnited: A Newspaper for All Egyptians

Egypt Online (Egyptian State Information Service. The site contains the official text of the army statement of July 1, 2013.

Daily News Egypt

Obama and the Struggle for the Rule of Law in Egypt

As noted above, by supporting the Muslim Brotherhood at the critical moment when Morsi was carrying out a coup d’état on November 22, 2012, Obama and the United States–through excessive caution in revolutionary times–got on the wrong side of history.

It is now time for the president to get out from under the wheel of history, and to get out in front of the struggle for democracy, by voicing his strong support for constitutional government and the rule of law in Egypt, and all those who support these goals. 

This means, at a minimum, abrogation of all of the elections and legal changes, including Morsi’s imposed constitution, that followed his dictatorial decree of November 22, 2012, and erasing their effects. 

What is required as a minimum, in short, is the restoration of the status quo ante before Morsi’s coup on November 22, 2012.

If Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are unable to lead the nation to this result, as is likely, it appears that the Egyptian people will insist that Morsi himself leave the scene, and that the Muslim Brotherhood withdraw from all government positions they may currently hold.

The Trenchant Observer

Morsi’s Coup d’Etat and Rushed Draft Constiution for Egypt (with latest English translation)

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

What is President Obama doing regarding Egypt that might help avoid a second Islamic dictatorship like the one in Tehran?

Background articles by the Trenchant Observer:

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Coup d’Etat in Egypt; William Butler Yeats and “The Second Coming”
November 28, 2012

“L’État, c’est moi”—Mohamed Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood launch coup d’état in Egypt
November 27, 2012

English text of Egypt’s new draft constitution

For the most complete English translation of the first 199 articles of the draft constitution Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has submitted to a referendum to be held on December 15, see

Egypt’s draft constitution (English translation by Nariman Youssef), Egypt Independent, December 1, 2012. Additional articles are being translated and will be added throughout the day.

For analysis of some of the key provisions of the draft constitution and how they differ from the 1971 constitution, see:
Gregg Carlstrom, “Controversial clauses in Egypt’s constitution; Many aspects of draft constitution passed by constituent assembly are unpopular with citizens and global rights groups,” Al Jazeera, November 30, 2012 (20:23 h).

BBC News, “Comparison of Egypt’s suspended and draft constitutions, BBC, November 30, 2012.

Analysis and Commentary

Democracy is not simply a piece of paper called a constitution. As the experience of many countries demonstrates, including the Weimar Republic and Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Germany, would-be dictators and tyrants can subvert democracy through the relentless leveling of independent institutions and political groups which oppose them, as they pursue a strategy of obtaining effective control or acquiescence of all of the institutions of the state. Both the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran offer further chilling examples of how such dictatorships can be established, with a little time.

It is thus not the piece of paper which Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood now seek to shove down the throats of all institutions, parties, political groups and individuals who strive to achieve a pluralistic government based on and subject to the rule of law, including international human rights treaties to which it is a party and the international human rights obligations contained in customary international law, but the realities of power and how it is exercised that will dtermine if Egypt is to have a democratic future. To have such a future, political power needs to be exercised democratically and in accordance with the rule of law, not through dictatorial means.

To Morsi’s appeal, “Trust me,” a great number of people in and outside of Egypt will ask, “What have you done to prove that you are trustworthy?”

Morsi has replaced the editors of leading state-owned newspapers. Morsi has replaced leadership of the military, and now counts on their support by promising them the retention of their economic and other privileges. But these promises too can be revised. Morsi has conducted a coup d’etat abrogating the rule of law, stripping the Constitutional Court and the judiciary of its role of judicial review and placing his decrees beyond their reach. Egypt has a well-developed legal system. Yet at the precise moment of the birth of a new constitution, instead of strengthening the independence of the judiciary and the guarantees for the separation of powers, Morsi has acted to weaken them and ensure they will be subservient to his and the Brotherhood’s will.

Can democracy be established through the consolidation of all power within the hands of a president and his single ruling party, which has a strong ideology, strictly enforced, that is in many respects fundamentally anti-democratic in nature?

This is the question facing Egypt and the drama the country is living, today.

Consider but one article of the draft constitution: There is freedom of religion for Muslims, Christians and Jews, the people of “the book”, in accordance with 14 centuries of Islamic law or sharia. And according to the text of the draft constitution, this freedom of religion exists only for them.

Following World War II, the Western democracies had ample experience watching the fledgling democracies of Eastern Europe subverted and taken over by “the salami technique” employed by communist parties controlled by Moscow and backed by Soviet armed forces. One by one, they fell.

Democracy is a state of national consciousness as well as a country with a piece of paper called a constitution. The Soviet constitution of 1936 was a beautiful piece of paper, in many respects, but it did not stop Stalin’s purges, or his other crimes under a totalitarian system.

Further Commentary and Analysis of the Broader Context for Morsi’s Actions

Tomas Avanasius writes from Cairo the following:

[The following text can be translated into English with Google Translator.]

Religiöse Minderheiten und Frauen behandelt die neue ägyptische Verfassung als Menschen mit eingeschränkten Grundrechten. Die Vielfalt islamischer und ägyptischer Kultur fällt dem Tunnelblick religiöser Eiferer zum Opfer. All das interessiert die Muslimbrüder nicht – sie sind Wegbereiter einer Glaubens- und Gesinnungsdiktatur in Ägypten.

Muslimbrüder und Salafisten schaffen eineinhalb Jahre nach Beginn der Revolte in Ägypten Fakten: Die neue Verfassung ist der erste, der entscheidende Schritt hin zum islamischen Staat. Eine politisch pervertierte Religion und Moral mit Anspruch auf Allgemeingültigkeit soll den Alltag bestimmen – in Politik, Wirtschaft und Kultur, bei der Bildung, in der Ehe, im Privatleben. Das ist totalitär. Christen, gemäßigte Muslime, Säkulare und Freigeister werden zu Menschen zweiter Klasse gestempelt, Frauen auch. Kunst und Kultur werden an Richtlinien gemessen, die nicht ästhetischer, sondern theologischer Natur sind. Die Vielfalt der islamischen und der ägyptischen Kultur fällt dem Tunnelblick religiöser Eiferer zum Opfer. Dass die bärtigen “Verfassungsväter” ernsthaft diskutiert haben, ob neunjährige Mädchen schon verheiratet werden können oder doch erst die Pubertät erreicht haben sollten, sagt alles über diese Rechtsexperten.

Im Grunde sind die viele Muslimbrüder eine religiöse Variante von Lenins Kommunisten – frömmelnde Bolschewiken, die sich als geheimniskrämerische Avantgarde der Muslime sehen. In Wahrheit jedoch sind sie die Wegbereiter einer Glaubens- und Gesinnungsdiktatur in Ägypten.


The last paragraph of Avanasius’ article opinion states, in English, the following:

Basically the many Muslim Brothers are a religious version of Lenin’s Communists – sanctimonious Bolsheviks, who see themselves as the secretive vanguard of the Muslims. In fact, they are the pioneers of a belief and conviction dictatorship in Egypt.

–Tomas Avanasius (Meinung/opinion), “Neue Verfassung für Ägypten: Freifahrtsschein ins Paradies für Islamisten,” Die Südeutsche Zeitung, 1 Dezember 2012.

Con Coughlin, the Defense Editor of The Telegraph, writes:

It is not only the anti-government protesters in Egypt’s Tahrir Square who should be concerned about President Mohammed Morsi’s audacious power grab. Mr Morsi’s claim at the weekend that “God’s will and elections made me the captain of this ship” has echoes of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s claim during the 1979 Iranian revolution that his mission to overthrow the Shah enjoyed divine guidance.

Since his announcement that he was granting himself sweeping new powers, Mr Morsi has been trying to reassure sceptical Egyptian voters that he has no ambition to become Egypt’s new Pharaoh. But you only have to look at the violent scenes that have once again erupted in Tahrir Square to see that the majority of Egyptians remain unconvinced.

Similar sentiments were expressed by Iranian demonstrators during the build-up to the Shah’s overthrow in February 1979 as they sought to remove a similarly corrupt regime.

But as we now know to our cost, the worthy aspirations of the Iranian masses were hijacked by Khomeini’s hardline Islamist agenda, and within months of the Shah’s overthrow Iran had been transformed into an Islamic republic.

I am sure I am not the only one wondering whether Mr Morsi is about to become the new Ayatollah Khomeini.

–Con Coughlin (Defense Editor), “Is Egypt about to become the new Iran?” The Telegraph, November 28, 2012.

What is President Obama doing regarding Egypt that might help avoid a second Islamic dictatorship like the one in Tehran?

The Trenchant Observer

Syrian rebels reportedly commit war crimes; U.N. Security Council should refer crimes in Syria to the ICC—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #71 (August 1)

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Some units of the Free Syrian Army are reported today to have summarily executed opponents under their control, in Aleppo. This is a wrong turn for the opposition, a sad and erroneous step on the path leading to the more widespread commission of war crimes by the rebels, and to certain ruin.


(1) “Regime loyalists ‘executed’ in Syria’s Aleppo; Video of apparent execution emerges as fierce fighting continues over control of the country’s largest city,” Al Jazeera, August 2, 2012 (04:01 h). This article also includes a report on the massacre of some 50 men in a suburb of Damascus by al-Assad’s military forces.

(2) J. David Goodman, “Video Said to Show Execution by Syrian Rebels Stirs Debate,” New York Times, August 1, 2012.

(3) Ian Black (Middle East editor) and Martin Chulov (in Antaky), “Syrian army pounds Aleppo as video appears to show rebels’ revenge killings; Regime forces use artillery and aircraft to attack parts of Syria’s second city as Assad praises army for facing ‘terrorist gangs’, The Guardian, August 1, 2012 (14.05 EDT). Black and Chulov quote Bashir al-Haji, spokesman for the FSA’s Tawhid (“Unity”) Brigade, who told the Guardian in a telephone interview:

“We were able to kill 20 of them and arrest another 50,” he said. “We held a field trial for them. We have judges and lawyers who are in the opposition. They found that seven of the Berri clan were involved in killing and they decided to execute them. Others are being kept for trial after the collapse of the regime.”

The statement shows the FSA is aware of the laws of war. Whether field trials were actually held or not unknown. It sounds dubious.

(4) BBC, “Syria conflict: Aleppo shootings by rebels condemned; Human rights activists have condemned the public shooting in Syria of four apparent Assad loyalists by rebels in the battleground city of Aleppo,” BBC News, August 1, 2012.

(5) Erike Solomon, “Casualties of Aleppo’s grizzly war mount,” The Daily Star, August 2, 2012. Solomon quotes rebels approving of the killing of a government troop in detention, but also reports on the rebles field hospital treating governmnet soldiers as well as rebels.

(6) See also Amnesty International, “Syria: From all-out repression to armed conflict in Aleppo,” August 1, 2012. The news release contains a link to the full Amnesty International Report, “All Out Repression: Purging Dissent in Aleppo, Syria,” August 1, 2012.

By committing war crimes themselves, the rebels undercut the moral justification of their cause. Those who are supporting them now, with weapons, money, intelligence, and logistics and coordination, will come under enormous pressures to diminish or end their support of the insurgents if they continue to commit or tolerate the commission of war crimes.

Part of the problem is that foreign countries have not intervened enough, and soon enough, to help train the rebels in the laws of war (humanitarian law) and to establish processes for holding rebels accountable for the commission of war crimes when they occur. The Free Syrian Army obviously needs to expand its capacity for handling prisoners without abusing them, at the earliest possible date.

What many in Syria are fighting for is the opposite of al-Assad, involving respect for the fundamental rights of individual human beings, and the establishment of the rule of law.

The reports today of summary executions by the rebels constitutes a decisive turning point. If the rebels allow the commission of war crimes to pass without condemnation, they risk losing the moral legitimacy which has enabled their cause to elicit support from abroad.

At a second level, the reported summary executions carried out by insurgents in Syria makes it all the more imperative that the U.N. Security Council refer the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria to the International Criminal Court, at the earliest opportunity.

Both the government forces and militias of Bashar al-Assad and the forces which oppose him, including the Free Syrian Army, must be held accountable for the commission of war crimes, and other international crimes including crimes against humanity.

The Security Council should take up a resolution conferring jurisdiction on the ICC for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other international crimes committed in Syria, whether by the government or by rebel forces, forthwith.

The Trenchant Observer

For links to other articles by The Trenchant Observer, click on the title at the top of this page to go to the home page, and then use the “Search” Box or consult the information in the bottom right hand corner of the home page. The Articles on Syria page can also be found here. The Articles on Targeted Killings page can also be found here.

A Future Foretold: On the ground, al-Assad continues attacks—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #22 (April 4)

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Latest News Reports and Opinion
(Check back for updates.)

Al Jazeera reports that 58 civilian and 18 soldiers were killed in Syria on Tuesday (April 3), according to the opposition sources:

Syrian forces have attacked several opposition bastions despite a ceasefire pledge, according to activist reports, as Russia said the opposition would never defeat President Bashar al-Assad’s army even if “armed to the teeth”.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said troops began shelling several towns and villages early on Wednesday.

“From the Turkish border in the northeast to Daraa in the south, military operations are ongoing,” Rami Abdel Rahman of the Britain-based group, told the AFP news agency.

“Tanks are still shelling or storming towns and villages before going back to their bases.”

The opposition group said 58 civilians and 18 soldiers were killed on Tuesday in assaults taking place even as Assad pledged to implement by April 10 a peace plan brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

–“Syria violence rages despite peace pledge; Activist reports of shelling, tank assaults and dozens killed, despite government’s pledge to begin withdrawing forces,” Al Jazeera, April 4, 2012.

Meanwhile, a glimpse into Russia’s real motivations is provided by the following report:

AFP (Moscow), “Syria rebels will never defeat Assad’s army: Russia; Russia stepped up its backing of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday by warning the West that the rebels would never be able to defeat his army even if “armed to the teeth,” Dawn, April 4, 2012.

AFP reports at least 41 people have been killed in Syria on Wednesday (April 4). AFP, “La répression fait 41 nouvelles victimes en Syrie; En dépit des promesses de Damas, le plan élaboré par Kofi Annan n’est toujours pas mis en application,” Le Point, 4 avril 2012 (19:37 h).

The Trenchant Observer

For links to other articles by The Trenchant Observer on this topic, and others, click on the title at the top of this page to go to the home page, and then consult the information in the bottom right hand corner of the home page. The Articles on Syria page can also be found here.

Syrian onslaught continues in Deraa, Hama, Kalidiya, Homs, Saraqueb, Qalit al-Madiq, and elsewhere—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #17

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Latest News Reports

The Christian Science Monitor reports,

“Robert Grenier, former director of the CIA counterterrorism center, writes in a commentary for Al Jazeera that Annan’s plan merely helps Assad by buying him time to continue the crackdown.

“… does anyone honestly think that the Syrian regime, committed as it is to a programme of violent intimidation and collective punishment, will provide “full humanitarian access”, or a daily “humanitarian pause” for those whom it suspects of aiding its adversaries? What are the chances that the tender Mr Assad will release detainees who may promptly rejoin the struggle against him, or that he will permit foreign journalists to freely document his atrocities? Who would want to bet his life, or the lives of those dear to him, that Bashar and his generals will honour a ceasefire, or engage in good faith in a “political dialogue” with those who are challenging their power?

“Pursuing such “solutions” is worse than feckless, for it forestalls other, potentially effective actions. By permitting the Syrian regime added time, it is morally equivalent to aiding and abetting Bashar al-Assad.

“Such good as can be done in these circumstances will only be done by those who are willing to climb metaphorically into the ring, and to dirty themselves in the process of providing such assistance as is possible to the oppressed of Syria as they struggle to liberate themselves from an unspeakable regime. It will mean taking sides.

–Ariel Zirulnick, “Syria violence raises concerns Assad is only buying time with UN cease-fire deal; The day after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reportedly agreed to UN envoy Kofi Annan’s cease-fire plan, fighting continued in several cities,”The Cristian Science Monitor, March 28, 2012.

Reuters reports, in a late dispatch,

(Reuters) – Syrian forces bombarded cities and towns in southern and northern Syria on Wednesday and stormed villages, forcing thousands to flee after President Bashar al-Assad accepted a peace plan calling for the army to withdraw to barracks.

Assad’s ally Iran backed the peace plan, saying Syria’s crisis “should be dealt with patiently”, and Russia said it was now up to Syria’s opposition groups to also endorse the proposals, which do not require Assad to give up power.

But the United States, Germany and the Arab League called for action not words. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said there was “no time to waste” in implementing a ceasefire.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported military action against towns and villages from the southern province of Deraa to the Hama region 320 kms (200 miles) to the north including shelling in parts of Homs, where Assad on Tuesday toured the devastated streets of a recaptured rebel bastion.

“Military forces accompanied by dozens of armored vehicles stormed the town of Qalaat al-Madiq and nearby villages (in Hama),” the Observatory website reported. The town and its imposing 13th century citadel had been under fire for 18 days, said one activist who gave his name as Abu Dhafer.

“Thousands of people have fled and nearby villagers have gone to homes in safe areas. They are cramming people into their homes, a dozen to a room, men, women and children.”

Four rebels, four civilians and four soldiers were killed In the fighting and five civilians were killed in the shelling of the district of Khalidiya in Homs, activists said.

–Erika Solomon and Douglas Hamilton (Beirut), “Syrian violence ignores peace diplomacy,” Reuters, March 28, 2012 (5:05pm EDT)

And from Beirut, the Associated Press provides an account of the death toll in just one town, Saraqueb:

BEIRUT: Syrian activists are urging international humanitarian organizations to urgently go to the northern Syrian town of Saraqeb, where they say security forces have killed more than 40 people in the past four days.

The Local Coordination Committees network says there are many unidentified corpses and injured people in the streets of Saraqeb.

They say the Syrian army launched a massive military assault on the opposition town on Sunday, leaving a trail of death and destruction.

The Committees and another activist group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Wednesday that hundreds of homes and shops have been pillaged and burned. Video footage from Saraqeb appeared to back those claims.

Activist Fadi al-Yassin in the northern province of Idlib says the army now completely controls the town.

–AP, “Activists: 40 killed this week in north Syria town” The Daily Star, March 28, 2012

In Thursday’s column, Michael Young of The Daily Star argues persuasively that the Annan plan is cynical, full of holes, and likely to encourage war.

The problem is that most Syrians are wise to the dangers of Annan’s plan. Many prefer civil war to more Assad rule, compounded by barbarous retribution if the Syrian president regains his grip. Annan wants Assad’s victims to cede to their president the latitude to subjugate them for years to come. The provisos in his project manufactured in New York won’t change that. Annan’s six points offer only generalities to defend the Syrian people, with no valid implementation mechanism, and no penalties if Assad ignores the conditions.

That is why Annan’s endeavors will likely accelerate a military conflict. The Syrian opposition will refuse to deal with their killer; those who do so will be marginalized. As many Syrians observe the international community endorsing the Russian and Chinese position; as they realize that Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy are patent hypocrites; and as they witness outsiders, including Syrian exiles hostile to the Assad regime, maneuvering without consulting them, they will become more frustrated and angry, and they will purchase weapons. There will be war, all because no one dares show Bashar Assad the exit.
–Michael Young, “The Annan plan will bring more violence” The Daily Star (Beirut), March 29, 2012.

The Trenchant Observer

For links to other articles by The Trenchant Observer on this topic, and others, click on the title at the top of this page to go to the home page, and then consult the information in the bottom right hand corner of the home page.

Security Council issues “presidential statement”; al-Assad’s military onslaught continues unabated—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #14 (March 22)

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

On March 21, 2012, the U.N. Security Council unanimously endorsed the issuance of a “presidential statement” on Syria which was notable primarily for its support by Russia and China. The statement reiterated the proposals Kofi Annan took to Damascus and presented to Bashar al-Assad on his recent visit to Syria–which were not made public previously.

Al-Assad’s response was to continue shelling cities and towns, and to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity–today.


“UN peace push fails to halt Syria violence; Ten civilians fleeing to Turkey on a bus among dozens killed, as violence rages despite Security Council statement,” Al Jazeera, March 22, 2012 (20:02 h)

“Syria: Government Uses Homs Tactics on Border Town; Indiscriminate Shelling, Sniper Killings, Attacks on Fleeing Residents,” Human Rights Watch, March 22, 2012.

Alastair Beach, “UN finally agrees peace plan for Syria – but will it end bloodshed? Russia and China fall into line – but Ban Ki-moon admits fallout from conflict could spread through the region,” The Independent, March 22, 2012.

Ariel Zirulnick, “Syria thumbs its nose at the UN; Despite a UN statement yesterday calling for an end to the violence, which was backed even by Syria ally Russia, 82 people were killed yesterday in clashes around the country,” Christian Science Monitor, March 22, 2012.

“Bürgerkrieg in Syrien; Assad-Truppen rücken gegen Protesthochburgen vor; Alle Appelle der Uno verpuffen: In Syrien sind erneut heftige Kämpfe zwischen Aufständischen und der Assad-Armee ausgebrochen, unter anderem in Daraa, Sabadani und Hama. Nach Angaben von Aktivisten schießen die Regierungstruppen mit Panzern in Wohnviertel,” Der Spiegel, den 22 März 2012.

(Le avec AFP et Reuters), “Répression en Syrie: des roquettes tombent sur le Liban,” Le Monde, le 22 mars 2012 (mis à jour à 15h58).

The statement contains contradictory provisions, with one calling for an immediate ceasefire and another calling for a two-hour “pause” in the fighting to allow humanitarian relief through and the wounded to be evacuated from areas of fighting.

Unfortunately, although the Council’s peace plan contains many positive elements, it has no legal force, and even provisions that would have required a response from al-Assad within seven days were eliminated in order to get the Russians to sign on to the statement.

The text of the operative paragraphs of the March 21 Presidential Statement (U.N. Doc. S/PRST/2012/6) follow:

“To this aim, the Security Council fully supports the initial six-point proposal submitted to the Syrian authorities, as outlined by the Envoy to the Security Council on 16 March 2012, to:

(1) commit to work with the Envoy in an inclusive Syrian-led political process to address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people, and, to this end, commit to appoint an empowered interlocutor when invited to do so by the Envoy;

(2) commit to stop the fighting and achieve urgently an effective United Nations supervised cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties to protect civilians and stabilize the country. To this end, the Syrian government should immediately cease troop movements towards, and end the use of heavy weapons in, population centres, and begin pullback of military concentrations in and around population centres. As these actions are being taken on the ground, the Syrian government should work with the Envoy to bring about a sustained cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties with an effective United Nations supervision mechanism. Similar commitments would be sought by the Envoy from the opposition and all relevant elements to stop the fighting and work with him to bring about a sustained cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties with an effective United Nations supervision mechanism;

(3) ensure timely provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by the fighting, and to this end, as immediate steps, to accept and implement a daily two hour humanitarian pause and to coordinate exact time and modalities of the daily pause through an efficient mechanism, including at local level;

(4) intensify the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons, including especially vulnerable categories of persons, and persons involved in peaceful political activities, provide without delay through appropriate channels a list of all places in which such persons are being detained, immediately begin organizing access to such locations and through appropriate channels respond promptly to all written requests for information, access or release regarding such persons;

(5) ensure freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists and a non-discriminatory visa policy for them;

(6) respect freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully as legally guaranteed.

“The Security Council calls upon the Syrian government and opposition to work in good faith with the Envoy towards a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis and to implement fully and immediately his initial six-point proposal.

“The Security Council requests the Envoy to update the Council regularly and in a timely manner on the progress of his mission. In the light of these reports, the Security Council will consider further steps as appropriate.”

Delay is the enemy. Russia and China vetoed the Security Council resolution aimed at stopping the atrocities on February 4, 2012. Thousands have died as a result of the delay in concerted international action which has occurred to date. Today is March 22.

Thousands more will undoubtedly die before the Security Council authorizes action that can stop the killing by al-Assad, if indeed it can ever reach that point given Russia’s brazen support of the Syrian Dictator as government forces continue to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Syrian population.

What is needed is a Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire, period. Al-Assad’s promises are worthless. What counts is his and Syria’s actions on the ground in implementing the ceasefire.

What is llkely, however, is more delay, while al-Assad proceeds with his murderous onslaught against the oppostion to his reign of terror. Russia, by arguing for not making demands on al-Assad, not setting deadlines, continues its perfidious game of acting to maintain Bashar al-Assad in power and to protect its perceived interests with its last client state in the Middle East (and practically anywhere else). These interests include the maintainance of military-technical cooperation, the naval base at Tartus, and Russia’s communications and listening post for the region.

These are the hard realities.

Watch what is going on in Syria on the ground, not what the diplomats are saying. Words alone will not stop the tanks and artillery that are bombarding civilian population centers, apartment buildings and homes throughout Syria–today.

The sole priority for the Security Council–and all other actors–should be an immediate cessation of hostilities. This demand should not be linked in any way to other demands, such as that for the initiation of a political dialogue (listed as point 1 in the presidential statement!).

The demand for an immediate ceasefire should be contained in a legally binding Security Council resolution. Compliance should be measured by facts of the ground.

Western, Arab, and other civilized nations should–with the greatest urgency–prepare options for the use of military force to bring the killing to a halt.

See Michael O’Hanlon, “What Are Our Military Options in Syria?” The New Republic, March 19, 2012.

Delay is the enemy. Action is required. Leadership–from any quarter–is also required.

We should not forget the people of Syria “for a single day”. In the words of British Foreign Secretary William Hague,

Assad should step aside in the best interests of Syria and the unity of its people. One year after the regime first tried to stamp on dissent, allowing a genuine dialogue on transition would be the most fitting way to mark this tragic anniversary. Until it does, we will not forget the people of Syria for a single day (emphasis added).

–William Hague, “Op-ed: UK Foreign Secretary William Hague vows not to forget Syrian people for a single day,” Opinion, March 22, 2012.

The Trenchant Observer

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Los casos contra Garzón: Las cuestiones prévias en el caso de la memoria histórica

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

En la sesión de hoy, 24 de enero, el Tribunal Supremo escuchó los argumentos de la fiscalía, la defensa, e de los querrellantes en torno a las cuestiones prévias, que se deben dilucidarse antes de entrar en el fondo del juicio contra Baltasar Garzón por prevaricación relacionado con “el caso de la memoria histórica”.

Dos de las cuestiones prévias podrían llevar al sobreseimiento de este caso. La primera es la acusación de que Luciano Varela, el juez quien instruyó la causa, violó las más básicas normas de la imparcialidad judicial cuando en lugar de rechazar una demanda viciada e incompleta, ayudó a los querellantes corregir sus defectos. Los detalles alegados de como lo hizo parecen ser escandalosos.

La segunda cuestión prévia se gira alrededor de la doctrina Botín del mismo Tribunal Suprema, segón la cual el Tribunal no debe conocer una causa que no cuenta con el apoyo de la fiscalía.

Al oír los argumentos, el Tribunal Supremo suspendió el proceso por una semana mientras llegue a las decisiones correspondientes sobre las cuestiones prévias. De aceptar cualquiera de las dos, el caso se clausurá, dejando a Garzón a la espera de la decisión del Tribunal Supremo en el caso de “las escuchas Gürtel”.

Para los últimos reportajes, véase, por ejemplo:

Julio M. Lázaro, “El fiscal y Garzón exigen la nulidad de la “insólita” instrucción de Varela: Durísimo informe de la fiscalía contra la acusación admitida a Manos Limpias,” El País, 24 de enero de 2012.

Lázaro cita al fiscal Luís Navajas, quien declaró lo siguiente:

“En mis 36 años como fiscal, jamás había visto una resolución parecida, ni en el fondo ni en la forma”, dijo sobre las indicaciones de Varela. Para el fiscal, fue una decisión “absolutamente insólita e insostenible” y la consecuencia fue “transmutar una acusación que no se sostenía” y sobre la que el juez del Supremo coadyuvó “a reconstruir lo que era absolutamente irreconstruíble”.

Véase tambíen,

N. Villanueva, “El fiscal defiende a Garzón y pide que la «memoria histórica» se zanje sin juicio: Arremete contra el instructor, Luciano Varela, por sentar al juez en el banquillo: algo «insólito e insostenible»,”, 25 de enero de 2012.

Un comentario por Luis García Montero–quien es poeta, no jurista–sobre el significado más amplio de los casos contra Garzón, que él compara al caso Dreyfuss en Francia al fines del siglo 19, habla de la extrema partidarización de las justicia en España. Además comenta:

Hay situaciones que simbolizan el malestar de una época y, más allá de su significado particular, ponen el dedo en la llaga de un momento histórico. Así ocurrió a finales del sigo XIX con el juicio seguido en Francia contra el capitán Alfred Dreyfus. La falsa acusación de espionaje y la condena a la isla del Diablo tuvo el apoyo decidido del nacionalismo violento y los poderes antisemitas, pero provocó la indignación de una parte de la sociedad, el sector más democrático y concienciado. El caso Dreyfus resumía las contradicciones y las mentiras de la Tercera República francesa.

Ocurrió lo mismo con los debates provocados en España a partir de 1921 por el Desastre de Annual. La tragedia y su polémica pusieron al descubierto no ya las corrupciones dentro de la monarquía de Alfonso XIII, sino la corrupción misma de un régimen fundado en la manipulación de la voluntad popular y en la distancia entre la España oficial y la España real.

Los juicios contra Baltasar Garzón representan un acontecimiento parecido….
Aquí no se discute si Baltasar Garzón es simpático o antipático, si resolvió bien o mal en un caso del pasado o si nos parecen oportunos los jueces estrella. Se discute si actuó como prevaricador en las instrucciones del caso Gürtel o en la causa contra los crímenes del franquismo. La opinión de numerosos juristas nacionales e internacionales defiende las interpretaciones del juez Garzón. Esa es la prueba evidente de que no existe delito de prevaricación, sino una forma posible de interpretar la ley.

¿Qué ocurre entonces? El Poder Judicial español descansa en la misma inercia bipartidista que el juego político. No participar de la disciplina de los unos o los otros, como caras de un sistema de control, significa quedarse a la intemperie. El bipartidismo –yo coloco a los míos y tú a los tuyos– ha generado familias de poder que se autoalimentan y actúan de acuerdo con sus rencores profesionales.

Aunque la Fiscalía y los mandos policiales avalan sus actuaciones contra una trama vergonzosa de corruptos, Baltasar Garzón parece condenado. El descrédito nacional e internacional de la Justicia española es un síntoma. Vivimos en un reino degradado, con una memoria y unas instituciones degradadas. La prevaricación es nuestra propia realidad. Somos una mentira. Damos risa.

–Luis García Montero, “Dreyfus, Annual y Garzón,” Blog “La realidad y el sueño”, Pú (blogs), 22 de enero de 2012.

El Observador Incisivo
(The Trenchant Observer)

Véase otros artículos de Observador Incisivo sobre el Caso Garzón, entre ellos los siguientes:

The legal essence of the cases of “prevaricación” against Baltasar Garzón
January 20, 2012

Complaint before U.N. Special Rapporteur alleges U.S. judicial interference in Garzón torture cases in Spain
January 19, 2012

The Baltasar Garzón Case: In Spain, justice itself is on trial
January 17, 2012

¡Que pena para España! Los casos contra Garzón llegan al juicio
16 de enero de 2012

Tribunal Supremo de Justicia rechaza apelación de Garzón para ordenar pruebas; quedan pendientes otros recursos
21 de setiembre de 2010

The Baltasar Garzón Case: In Spain, justice itself is on trial

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

“The Supreme Court of Spain should deserve our respect. What we now appear to see is a court populated by kangaroos, full of malicious and evil intent.

But then the law, and the demand for justice, sometimes produce miracles.

The members of the Spanish Supreme Court are sworn to uphold justice, and have spent their careers pursuing a calling whose end is justice. They may yet respond to the age-old and deeper call for justice, correcting the grave deficiencies in the proceedings to date against Garzón, by reaching a just verdict in both the Gürtel network and the “historical memory” cases. Failure to aquit Garzón in either would constitute a true case of prevaricación.

The brighter the lights on these nefarious proceedings, the louder the critical analysis and the more outspoken the criticism, perhaps the greater the odds will be that such a miracle may still occur in the case of Baltasar Garzón.”

In a kind of perfect storm orchestrated by the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Spain, two of the three cases that have been brought against Investigating Judge Baltasar Garzón of the Audiencia Nacional are coming to trial this week and next. After sitting on the cases for two years, the honorable justices of the Supreme Court appear to have decided to maximize the stress on Garzón and his lawyers by trying him in both cases practically at the same time.

For reports of the cases against Garzón and the first day’s proceedings in the so-called Gürtel Wiretap cases (las escuchas Gürtel), see

“Baltasar Garzon, famed for inquiries into abuses in Spain and Latin America, faces charges of abusing judicial powers, Al Jazeera (English), January 17, 2012 (TV report).

El Observador Incisivo (The Trenchant Observer), “¡Que pena para España! Los casos contra Garzón llegan al juicio,” 16 de enero de 2012. This article may be translated into English using Google Translate, for a pretty good machine translation.

First impressions from today:

To hear this vigorous man speak in a raspy and stress-filled voice in the opening moments of the trial was to appreciate in an instant the enormous human toll that has been extracted from him by the Spanish state, acting through its judiciary. No matter how courageous the judge or defendant, the power of the state is always awesome and, without the defense of the law in action, it can easily crush anyone.

The cases against Garzón, which the Trenchant Observer has been following for over two years, seem to represent an evil attempt to destroy him for being a courageous judge — one willing to expose the immense corruption of the Partido Popular by the Gürtel gang or network, one willing to touch upon–ever so slightly–the massive crimes committed by Franco and his government up until his death on November 20, 1975.

By coincidence, exactly 37 years later to the day, the Partido Popular won parliamentary elections resulting in the ascension of Mariano Rajoy to the position of president of the government (roughly equivalent to prime minister).

There is an interesting U.S. angle to Garzón’s tribulations as well. Garzón authorized investigations into the torture of two Spanish nationals at Guantánamo, and also was poised to investigate six lawyers in the Justice Department and the White House responsible for the architecture of the torture policy of the Bush administration. According to Wikileaks cables, the U.S. intervened with the Spanish government, exercised presssure, and Gárzon was removed from these cases.

See Carlos Yárnoz, “US Embassy conspired to derail cases in Spain’s High Court:
Wikileaks reveals that prosecutors kept diplomats abreast of their legal strategies, with Washington lawmakers also intervening,” El País, November 30, 2011 (English edition);

In October, 2009, the Spanish government secured the amendment of the law to eliminate the exercise of “universal jurisdiction” over the authors of crimes like torture.

So, at the very least, the U.S. signaled to Spain that it wanted to eliminate Garzon’s participation in these cases. Whether that amounted to a green light to go after him and to take him out of action, and if so whether that has any bearing on the extraordinary lengths to which the Spanish Supreme Court has gone in order to end his career, has not been established. However, it seems like a plausible scenario.


Craig Whitlock, “Universal Jurisdiction’: Spain’s Judges Target Torture: High-Ranking US Officials Among Targets of Inquiries,” The Washington Post, May 24, 2009.

José Yoldi, “Las Cortes recortan la jurisdicción universal,” El País, 16 de octubre de 2009

Jesús Duva, “Bajo la lupa de EE.UU.: El antiamericano’ Garzón tuvo especial seguimiento; La Embajada consideraba al magistrado un personaje incómodo y presionó para acabar con la jurisdicción universal,”El País, 2 de diciembre de 2010. (A number of U.S. cables relating to Garzón and released by Wikileaks are reproduced in the December 2, 2010 edition of El País.)

See also Amy Goodman, “Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón on Holding Torturers Accountable, Why He Opposes the Killing of Osama bin Laden, and His Threatened Ouster from the Bench,”Democracy Now, May 12, 2010.

Manifiesto–Plataforma de Apoyo al Juez Garzon,

Europe, the international community, and all advocates of the rule of law should keep bright lights shining on the proceedings underway in the Spanish Supreme Court.

These days will live in history, and may be cited as emblematic of a corrupt society in which the criminals succeeded in ending the career of the magistrate who ordered their detention, and/or the far-right parties reminiscent of Franco’s Spain succeeded in bringing a case against the judge who would have opened the first page in the historical record of the abuses committed under Franco. The plaintiffs were reportedly aided by the active assistance of the first-instance judge in preparing their case. He sits on one of the panels that will judge Garzón.

The Supreme Court of Spain should deserve our respect. What we now appear to see is a court populated by kangaroos, full of malicious and evil intent.

But then the law, and the demand for justice, sometimes produce miracles.

The members of the Spanish Supreme Court are sworn to uphold justice, and have spent their careers pursuing a calling whose end is justice. They may yet respond to the age-old and deeper call for justice, correcting the grave deficiencies in the proceedings against Garzón, by reaching a just verdict in both the Gürtel network and the “historical memory” cases. Failure to aquit Garzón in either would constitute a true case of prevaricación.

The brighter the lights on these nefarious proceedings, the louder the critical analysis and the more outspoken the criticism, perhaps the greater the odds will be that such a miracle may still occur in the case of Baltasar Garzón.

The Trenchant Observer

Afghanistan: Suicide Attack on Contractor DAI Compound in Kunduz / Selbstmord Anschlag auf US-Hilfsorganisation DAI in Kunduz

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

The Taliban is now targeting USAID civilian contractors in Afghanistan, confirming a shift in strategy suggested by earlier attacks.

For details of the attack, see the following articles:

Al Jazeera, “Taliban’s ‘welcome message’ to new US commander in Afghanistan,” Video, July 2, 2010

“Taliban stürmen Büro von US-Hilfsorganisation,” SPEGEL ONLINE,
3 juli 2010