Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

U.S. National Intelligence Estimate points to dire future in Afghanistan

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014


The prospects for the government of Afghanistan following the U.S. pull-out by the end of 2014 are grim, regardless of whether the Status of Forces Agreement is signed by Hamid Karzai and a residual international (or just U.S.) force remains, focusing on training activities and strikes against terrorist targets.

President Obama’s entire foreign policy of the last five years in Afghanistan and the Middle East appears to be in a shambles. The reality that Benghazi was emblematic of is now apparent for all to see: Al Queda and other terrorist organizations have not been controlled, and are now wreaking havoc in Syria and Iraq, while disaster in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of international and U.S. troops seems increasingly probable.

Obama did not keep his eyes on the ball in a fast-moving game. Resolutely refusing to take any effective measures in Syria to halt al-Assad’s war crimes and crimes against humanity, which are continuing, the president failed to understand that Al Qaeda-linked organizations in Syria–and now Iraq–could pose a much more serious and direct threat against the United States and its NATO and Gulf allies than the Taliban ever could.

While he was focused on winding down the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, while bungling the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq by failing to secure a status of forces agreement (and accepting that failure), Syria was exploding and in the process becoming the new battleground for jihadists–much as Afghanistan had been in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

It is all collapsing now. The president’s response to the new National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan has been basically to ignore it while he is on vacation. Even if the U.S. succeeds in hanging on with a residual force in Afghanistan, allowing for a new, more capable and less corrupt leadership to emerge following the April, 2014 presidential election (a possiblle but hardly a likely scenario), the unraveling in Syria and Iraq will continue.

The Geneva II peace conference for Syria, scheduled to begin on January 22, holds very little if any promise for leading to an improvement in the civil war there. The hope and illusion of U.S. and other diplomats has been if that if you could somehow just get the parties to sit down at a table in Geneva, that would by itself lead to progress in resolving the issues of the civil war. This is a chimera, as were all of Kofi Annan’s peace plans which turned out to be but beautiful “castles in the sky”.

The result of the peace conference, like that of all of Kofi Annan’s palaces in the sky, will simply be that al-Assad’s grip on power will remain solidified, with the chemical weapons removal proceeding and with Russian and Iranian and Hesbollah support and even participation, while his commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity continues unabated, as he drives to extirpate all of his opponents, both armed and civilian.

But, for the moment, it is worth just focusing on the National Intelligence Estimate or NIE on Afghanistan.

Obama reacts to challenges with torrents of well-tailored words, but no amount of wordsmithing can obscure the dark realities of Afghanistan and the unraveling of the government toward which the country is heading as the U.S. withdraws. This should come as no surprise, as indeed the previous National Intelligence Estimate in 2012 made clear.

See David S. Cloud, “Insurgents could quickly bounce back in Afghanistan, analysis warns; If U.S. troops fully withdraw next year, a resurgent Taliban could launch serious strikes within months, say officials familiar with a classified assessment,”Los Angeles Times, December 29, 2013 (6:38 p.m.).

Curiously, Ken Dilanian’s and David S. Cloud’s story on the previous National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan is no longer to be found on the Los Angeles  Times web site. For excerpts, see The Trenchant Observer, “New National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan not optimistic,” January 12, 2012. The original article is cited as follows:

Ken Dilanian and David S. Cloud, “U.S. intelligence report on Afghanistan sees stalemate: The sobering judgments in a classified National Intelligence Estimate appear at odds with recent optimistic statements about the war by Pentagon officials,” Los Angeles Times, January 11, 2012.

The original link was,0,3639052.story#axzz2prjVyFldote>

On the 2012 NIE, see also Opinion L.A.: Observations and provocations from The Times’ Opinion staff, “Assessing the Afghan war: Guess what? We aren’t winning,” Los Angeles Times, January 12, 2012.

On the 2010 NIE, see Elisabeth Bumiller, “Intelligence Reports Offer Dim View of Afghan War,” New York Times, December 14, 2010

On the most recent NIE, see also Ernesto Londoño, Karen DeYoung and Greg Miller, “Afghanistan gains will be lost quickly after drawdown, U.S. intelligence estimate warns, Washington Post, December 28, 2013.

The New York Times, the publisher of “All the News That’s Fit to Print”, appears to have not published a report on the latest Afghanistan NIE.

The Trenchant Observer

U.S. sends military assistance to Iraq as Iran, violating U.N. sanctions, sends arms to Syria through Iraq

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

The United States has begun sending missiles and other military assistance to Iraq, maintaining radio silence on Iranian arms shipments to Syria through Iraq and Iraqi airspace.


Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmidt, “U.S. Sends Arms to Aid Iraq Fight With Extremists,” New York Times, December 25, 2013.

Has anyone in the U.S. stopped to think about the propriety of supplying Iraq with missiles and other military equipment, while at the same time Iran, violating U.N. sanctions, flies and sends arms and other military supplies to Syria through Iraq and Iraqi airspace to assist Bashar al-Assad and his murderous regime?

They should.

See Reuters, “Iran, Syria reiterate alliance as Assad government says it’s winning the war; Syrian ministerial delegation travels to Tehran to discuss trade; Iranian vice president says that his country stands alongside Syria in its fight against ‘axis of evil,'” Haaretz, November 30, 2013.

Mark Landler, “On Iran and Syria, Tests of Diplomacy Intertwine,” New York Times, December 19, 2013.

Reuters, “US, Iraq work together to combat Syria spillover effects; United States to provide Iraq with shared intel, F-16 jets in attempt to curb Iran weapons flyovers to Syria,” The Jerusalem Post, August 16, 2013.

Ned Parker, “U.S. official: Iraq continues to allow Iranian overflights to Syria,” Los Angeles Times, February 27, 2013.

Howard LaFranchi, “John Kerry urges Iraq to inspect Iranian overflights to Syria; Secretary of State John Kerry tells Iraq it must curb Iran’s use of Iraqi airspace to aid Syrian regime, but a shrinking US presence is leaving it with less sway over postwar events,” The Christian Science Monitor, March 25,2013.

Kerry chides Iraq over Iran flights to Syria; US secretary of state tells leaders in Iraq to stop Iranian overflights of arms to Syria, saying they are “problematic”. al Jazeera, 24 Mar 2013 (18:30).

U. N. Security Council Resolition 1747 (2007) probinits Iranian arms shipments to other countries, as follows

The Security Council

5. Decides that Iran shall not supply, sell or transfer directly or indirectly from its territory or by its nationals or using its flag vessels or aircraft any arms or related materiel, and that all States shall prohibit the procurement of such items from Iran by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in the territory of Iran;
–See SC/8980 (24 March 2007), reproducing the text of Resolution S/1747 (2007).

Obama’s failure to publicly address this issue is notable, but the failure of the press to raise this question is even more noteworthy.

How can the U.S.provide military assistance to a country which, by allowing Iranian overflights of its territory with arms for Syria, flagrantly violates the U.N. sanctions against Iran?

Is it even legal under U.S. law for the U.S. to provide assistance to an Iraqi regime which is violating the Iran sanctions regime?

Shouldn’t the U.S. at least insist on Iraq halting such Iranian arms shipsments to Syria through its airspace or by land as a condition precedent for any military assistance?

Shouldn’t Congress weigh in on this issue, as it involves the expenditure of U.S. funds?

Is there a problem here?

What is the strategic rationale behind these actions?

The Trenchant Observer

Iran, Syria, and the nuclear question

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

(Developing story)

Iran is within reach of achieving an expansion of its influence through solidifying an arc of Shia states or Shia-led states reaching from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterrean Sea. Iran, Iraq, Syria under Alawite rule, and a Lebanese state where Hezbollah is the largest party, has its own well-trained and well-armed militia and blocking or veto power over the actions of the government, represent a formidable challenge to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, which have significant Shia populations subject to the pull of Iranian influence.

Despite the obvious benefit of removing chemical weapons from Syria and greatly resducing the chances they might fall into the wrong hands, the chemical weapons deal does not signal an advance for U.S. interests in the region, for it leaves al-Assad in power and increasingly dependent on Iranian economic and military support (including troops and commanders), with Hezbollah providing battle-hardened troops from Lebanon to support al-Assad militarily, particularly in decisive battles.

Proponents of a much-touted potential nuclear deal with Iran need to keep these broader considerations in mind. A nuclear deal that doesn’t address the Syrian question or that leaves Iranian nuclear weapons break-out capabilities intact, could prove to be an illusory achievement. In particular, an accord that would allow work on the Awak heavy water reactor to continue during an initial six-month “freeze” on Iran’s nuclear program is viewed by experts as allowing Iran to continue its advance toward achieving a nuclear weapons capability while sanctions are loosened.

Moreover, we must ask what made Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei suddenly become willing to settle the nuclear issue with the group of P5+1, immediately following Obama’s military back-down on Syria and what must have appeared in Tehran as lack of resolve to use military power.

For recent commentary, see:

(1) Jackson Diehl, “John Kerry’s Middle East dream world,” Washinton Post, November 10, 2013.

(2) Raniah Salloum, “Teherans Mann für Syrien: Irans gefährlichster General,” Der Spiegel, 10 November 2013 (17:34 Uhr).

Er ist Teherans Mann für heikle Missionen im Ausland: Kassim Soleimani, Chef der Eliteeinheit al-Kuds. In Afghanistan und im Irak hat er den Amerikanern bereits schwer zu schaffen gemacht. Jetzt soll er Irans Einfluss in Syrien retten.

(3) Julian Borger, “Iran nuclear programme deal in danger of unravelling; US negotiator leaves talks to reassure Israeli prime minister after France sinks bid to seal temporary agreement,” The Guardian, November 10, 2013.

(4) Julian Borger, “Last-minute rethink stalled deal on nuclear Iran; Details have emerged of how talks with Tehran in Geneva broke up at 11th hour after France and US took a robust stance,” The Guardian, November 11, 2013 (13.06 EST).

The Trenchant Observer

Disillisioned with Obama’s chemical weapons deal with the Russians, 12 Free Syrian Army groups form alliance with al-Nusra Front in Syria

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

Twelve “moderate” groups previously aligned with the Free Syrian Army, have given up on Obama and the West, forming a new alliance with the al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front in northern Syria. After Obama’s deal with Russia on chemical weapons, now on the verge of being backed by a relatively good Security Council Resolution—according to news reports—many insurgents have lost hope. They have declared that they will not participate in any Geneva II peace conference in Geneva.

They feel they have been sold out, have given up on Obama and the West, and have gone over to the other side–the al Nusra Front, which is comprised of al-Qaeda jihadists dedicated to imposing their fundamentalist version of the sharia (Islamic law) as the only law in the territory they control. The new groups have accepted this stipulation.

This development makes a negotiated peace settlement seem more distant than ever, unless Obama and the West can persuade Russia and Iran to curtail their military and financial support for the al-Assad regime.

Georges Malbrunot, “Syrie: des rebelles modérés rejoignent le camp des islamistes radicaux,” Le Figaro, le 26/09/2013 (à 13:46).

The Trenchant Observer

Obama, Putin and Syria: Commentary

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

Roger Cohen, “An Anchorless World,” New York Times, September 12, 2013.

Laure Mandevill, “Syrie : Obama sort de la crise affaibli face à Poutine,” Le Figaro, le 15 septembre 2013.

Tomas Avenarius, Kairo (Kommentar), “Abkommen zu Syrien: Tausche Senfgas gegen Machterhalt,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, 15. September 2013.

“Der Plan zur Vernichtung der syrischen Chemiewaffen wird als diplomatische Meisterleistung beklatscht. Es gibt dem Diktator Assad aber auch Zeit, die Rebellion niederzuschlagen – die Aufständischen werden der russisch-amerikanischen Großmachtpolitik geopfert. Dieser Verrat wäre nur auf eine Weise zu rechtfertigen.”

The Trenchant Observer

Syria: Russia and Iran complicit under International Law in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

Sergei Lavrov argues that Russia has to supply modern weapons systems to Bashar al-Assad’s murderous regime in Syria in accordance with contracts that have already been signed, and warns the West and the Arab countries that any military action such as establishing a no-fly zone in Syria (without U.N. Security Council authorization), would violate international law.  

Staff and Agencies, “Syria no-fly zone would violate international law, says Russia; Comments by foreign minister Sergei Lavrov underline G8 challenge faced by US in trying to gain support for intervention,” The Guardian, June 15, 2013 (07:11 EDT).

However, as Lavrov makes this argument, one central fact must be kept foremost in mind:

Under International Law, Russia and Iran are themselves complicit in the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Syria.  The Russians have knowingly supplied weapons, training and personnel to assist al-Assad’s forces in the commission of such crimes. Both Russia and Iran have helped finance the continuing commission, with their own ongoing advice and participation, of these crimes.

Consequently, they themselves are guilty of the commission of these crimes.

On the relevant international law on complicity in the commission of international crimes, see

Helmut Philipp Aust, Complicity and the Law of State Responsibility, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011). Introductory front matter for the book, including a table of contents, is found here.

For a summary of Aust’s book, see Michael Byers, Book Review of Helmut Philipp Aust, Complicity and the Law of State Responsibility, in 23 EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW (EJIL), pp. 583–589 (2012). The full text of the book review is found here.

For an earlier (1996) treatment of the subject, see Bernard Graefrath, “Complicity in the Law of International Responsibility,” 1996 REVUE BELGE DE DROIT INTERNATIONAL, No. 2, pp. 370-381. The full text of the article can be found here.

In view of the above, when Barack Obama and the other G-8 leaders sit down with Vladimir Putin at the G-8 meeting in Belfast on Monday, June 17, they should all bear in mind that they are in the presence of a Russian president who is responsible for Russian aid and assistance to al-Assad’s regime in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and that as a result Russia itself is guilty of committing these crimes.

Putin and Russia cannot cynically argue that they are allowed to assist al-Assad in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity, incurring international responsibility, while under international law the West and the Arab states can do nothing to help protect their victims.

That is not where international law is, today, in 2013.

For an idea of the crimes they are supporting, see the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, articles 1, 7 & 8, which largely represent a codification of existing customary international law relating to these international crimes.  The text of the Statute of the ICC is found here.

It goes without saying that the commission of all international crimes in Syria must be stopped, including those committed by the insurgents.

The Trenchant Observer

The only effective option in Syria: Humanitarian Intervention through the direct use of military force

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

To believe that simply getting the parties to the conference table would quickly lead to a settlement would be like believing that a giant rabbit would suddenly appear on top of the conference table and pull a full resolution to the conflict out of his giant hat.

In a word, while diplomats dither, al-Assad kills.

Yesterday we described the new game in Syria, and suggested that the option of simply arming the rebels is out-of-date. Now, with al-Assad gaining momentum, and allowing for inevitable delays in inplementation, much more will be required to bring his barbarism to a halt.

See The Trenchant Observer, “The new game in Syria and the only real option now: the direct use of military force,” June 11, 2013.

For a glimpse into how much the battlefield has changed, with Hezbollah sending up to 15,000 fighters from Lebanon to participate with al-Assad’s forces in the fighting for al-Qusair, see David Ignatius, “In defeat at Qusair, Syrian rebels’ painful failings,” Washington Post, June 6, 2013 (10:06 PM EDT).

For further background and context, see also the Articles on Syria Page. Because that page has not yet been completely updated, you may also wish to see the Posts in Chronological Order Page, or scroll through the main (top) page of The Trenchant Observer.

The only effective option: Humanitarian Intervention through the direct use of military force

While members of the Obama administration have thrown up a lot of worst-case scenarios or “straw men” to suggest the United States and its allies have few military options in Syria, two columnists have laid out some of the specific military options that are available to President Barack Obama in dealing with the Syrian crisis.


Brett Stephens, “What to Do About Syria; Act now against Assad or risk chemical weapons falling into terrorist hands,” The Wall Street Journal, May 6, 2013, (7:05 p.m. ET).

Charles Krauthammer, “Message from the ruins of Qusair,” Washington Post, June 7, 2013 (12:33 AM EDT).

Stephens lists a range of military options the U.S. could implement without putting “boots on the ground”:

So what should the Obama administration do?

(1) Disable the runways of Syrian air bases, including the international airport in Damascus. A limited military strike prevents the regime from deploying jets against its own people. It prevents Iran (and Russia) from supplying it (and Hezbollah) with arms. And it enforces U.N. Resolution 1701, which bans weapons transfers to Hezbollah, and No. 1747, which bans Iranian arms exports.

(2) Use naval assets to impose a no-fly zone over western Syria, including Aleppo, Syria’s largest (and most embattled) city. A U.S. threat to shoot down Syrian military aircraft, including helicopters, will keep the Syrian air force grounded without requiring the U.S. to destroy Syria’s sophisticated anti-aircraft capabilities.

(3) Supply the Free Syrian Army with heavy military equipment, including armored personnel carriers and light tanks… posing little risk that the equipment could someday be used by terrorists or threaten Syria’s neighbors.

(4) Throw money at Jordan, no questions asked….

(5) Be prepared to seize and remove Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, even if it means putting boots (temporarily) on the ground.

(6) Read “Underground,” Haruki Murakami’s journalistic account of the 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway… (Stephens includes exceerpts from an eyewitness account of the subway attack).

Krauthammer summarizes the policies of the Obama administration toward Syria, and their consequences, as follows:

Assad, in contrast, has a real friend. Putin knows Obama. Having watched Obama’s retreat in Eastern Europe, his passivity at Russian obstructionism on Iran, his bended-knee “reset” policy, Putin knows he has nothing to fear from the U.S. president.

Result? The contemptuous Putin floods Syria with weapons. Iran, equally disdainful, sends Revolutionary Guards to advise and shore up Assad’s forces. Hezbollah invades Syria and seizes Qusair.

Obama’s response? No warning that such balance-altering provocations would trigger even the most minimal American response.

Even Obama’s chemical weapons red line is a farce. Its very pronouncement advertised passivity…

And when that WMD red line was finally crossed, Obama went into lawyerly overdrive to erase it. Is it any wonder that Assad’s allies are on full offensive — Hezbollah brazenly joining the ground war, Russia sending a small armada and mountains of military materiel, Iran warning everyone to stay out?

Obama’s response is to send the secretary of state, hat in hand, to Moscow. And John Kerry returns actually thinking he’s achieved some great diplomatic breakthrough — a “peace” conference that Russia will dominate and use to re-legitimize Assad and marginalize the rebels.

Press reports suggest Obama is once again considering supplying weapons to the insurgents in Syria, and other military options. 

Lacking any experience in military combat or operations, Obama’s approach to military issues throughout his administration has been intellectual in nature. This time, he is likely once again to split the difference, adopting half-measures that are “too little, too late”–actions which don’t get the job done.

President Obama is looking at two years’ of abject failures in his Syria policy, and the consequences of those failures.

Can he now change his approach, his thinking, and his decisiveness of action?

Presidents have surprised us before, as with Nixon’s trip to China, or Reagan’s arms control agreements with Gorbachev.

If he is to salvage his place in history on foreign policy, Barack Obama needs to surprise us now.

The Trenchant Observer

Next: The Legitimacy of Humanitarian Intervention to Halt the Commission of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.

The new game in Syria and the only effective option now: the direct use of military force

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

To believe that simply getting the parties to the conference table would quickly lead to a settlement would be like believing that a giant rabbit would suddenly appear on top of the conference table and pull a full resolution to the conflict out of his giant hat.

In a word, while diplomats dither, al-Assad kills.

Barack Obama, the United States and the West, and the other civilized countries of the world have lost the first war in Syria, the war to bring Bashar al-Assad’s barbarism, his wanton commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity, to an end.

After the fall of al-Qusair, with financing, materiel, sophisticated arms and aerial defense systems, advisers, and intelligence from Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah, al-Assad now seems to have gained the momentum and to be on the verge of methodically defeating the rebels, town by town.

It’s a one-sided fight, with munitions, cash, advisers, and even militiamen now flowing freely to Syria to support the regime, while the West, immobilized by the opposition of the United States to any forceful action, staggers blindly in the diplomatic fog (created by the Russians with U.S. complicity) swirling around the holding of a second Geneva conference. This would be a conference at a unknown future date, where the Syrian regime–united, wielding a powerful united army, would meet with the opposition, at the moment hopelessly divided in both the military and the political spheres, under terms of reference that imply that al-Assad will stay in power, or have a decisive voice in determining who remains in power.

To believe that simply getting the parties to the conference table would quickly lead to a settlement would be like believing that a giant rabbit would suddenly appear on top of the conference table and pull a full resolution to the conflict out of his giant hat.

Putin and Lavrov have achieved–again–a great advantage for themselves and for al-Assad in the sruggle for Syria: while the conference is endlessly delayed, the feckless leaders ofbthe West can hide behind an apparent justification for not proceeding boldly to provide arms to the rebels and to take direct military action against al-Assad, to halt the ongoing commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In a word, while diplomats dither, al-Assad kills.

Let us be clear: while diplomats dither, al-Assad and his supporters– Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah–kill. They kill, while China helps Russia block any effective action by the U.N. Security Council.

In June 2013, Obama and the Europeans debate whether to supply weapons to the insurgents, while essentially doing very little on the ground. They debate an option which may have made sense a year or 18 months ago, but which now though necessary will hardly be enough to turn the tide.

If this game continues to play out with no dramatic changes, al-Assad and his backers will continue to gain the upper hand on the battlefield, as the possibility of the armed opposition being routed or collapsing grows day by day.

So, al-Assad wins, and everyone returns home to resume normal relations?

This is hardly likely. What is likely is that after routing the West’s allies in Syria, iran will almost surely obtain nuclear weapons in the next few years.

If the West and the Arab countries could not stand up to Iran in Syria, does anyone seriously believe that Iran will drop its quest for nuclear weapons and the ultimate guaranty against foreign attack? Does anyone think now that Israel alone could by military means stop them? Or that the United States, led by Barack Obama–the same Barack Obama who is unwilling to engage even with their proxies in Syria, will decide to launch a war against Iran to prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons or a nuclear weapons capability?

So, Assad wins. Iran gets nuclear weapons. What will the U.S. options look like then?

The Trenchant Observer

Tomorrow: The only effective option: Humanitarian Intervention through the direct use of military force

U.N. security Council “Press Statement” on Syria on June 7–meaningless words, without legal force

Friday, June 7th, 2013

Security Council Press Statement on Heavy Fighting in Al-Qusayr, Syria

The U.N. Security Council issued another “Press Statement” on Syria today, June 7, 2013. The text follows:

7 June 2013
Security Council

The following Security Council press statement was issued today by Council President Mark Lyall Grant ( United Kingdom):

“The members of the Security Council express their grave concern about the humanitarian impact of the recent heavy fighting in Al-Qusayr.

The members of the Security Council call upon the Syrian Government to allow immediate, safe and unhindered access, in accordance with the United Nations guiding principles of humanitarian assistance, for relevant humanitarian, including UN, actors, to reach civilians in Al-Qusayr, in urgent need of assistance, in particular, medical assistance.

The members of the Security Council call upon all parties in Syria to do their utmost to protect civilians and avoid civilian casualties, recalling the primary responsibility of the Syrian Government in this regard. They emphasize that those responsible for violations of applicable international law will be held accountable.”

Another Meaningless “Press Statement” Lacking Any Legal Force

These press statements are dangerously misleading, because they are reported in the news as the U.N. or the Security Council taking some kind of action, when this is not the case.

The Security Council remains deadlocked on Syria. The fact that diplomats accord even the slightest significance to a Security Council “Press Statement”, which unlike a Security Council Resolution lacks any legal force, simply underlines the extent to which Russia has triumphed again in bringing the focus of attention back to the Security Council, and to the hoped-for Geneva Conference now backed by the U.S. and Russia.

Worth noting is that even the “press statement” made no comment regarding the destruction of al-Qusair by al-Assad and Hezbollah forces, or the very significant escalation represented by the introduction of foreign forces from Lebanon into the conflict.

Falling into the Russians’ Trap, Playing the Russians’ Game

The extent to which the members of the Security Council have fallen into Russia’s trap is underscored by press accounts which attribute significance to the fact that Russia allowed a statement to be released this week, whereas it blocked one last week.

That is where the Russians want the attention of the world: on whether they agree to the inclusion of words in a meaningless press statement or not, instead of focusing on the facts on the ground in Syria, and Russian and Iranian and Hezbollah support with arms and matériel and money for al-Assad and his continuing commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Secretary of State John Kerry either did not do his homework before agreeing to sponsor a second Geneva conference on Syria with the Russians, or else caved into the cynical direction of Obama to sponsor a conference with no prospects of success, which no serious expert who has followed events in Syria over the last two years could have seen as bearing the slightest promise.

The Russians and the Chinese have neutered the Security Council insofar as Syria is concerned.

Instead of following the diplomatic dance of what Russia might accept in a press statement, or even a toothless resolution, or what Bashar al-Assad might agree to in terms of going to a peace conference in Geneva, or even the terms of any agreement (which we know he will not keep, as he has never kept an agreement), the civilized nations of the world would be much better advised to focus on events on the ground in Syria, and to get to work on implementing concrete measures including the supply of weapons and the direct use of force, which might actually halt al-Assad’s commission of war crimes and other atrocities.

The Trenchant Observer

International human rights in retreat, as Iran, al-Assad, Hezbollah, and Russia gain the upper hand

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

It has been a hard couple of years for advocates of international human rights, and respect for international law of which they form a part. Since the hopes of the 2009 Green Movement in Iran, and the Arab Spring beginning in Tunisia in February, 2011, the struggle for democracy and the rule of law in the Middle East, and elsewhere, has suffered grievous setbacks.

We can only imagine what Europe would be like today had Serbia and Milosovic and Karadzic not been stopped, eventually by the use of military force when that was ultimately required. Actually, long after it was required, when the U.S. and NATO got around to it.

Now we must imagine a future in which Iran, al-Assad, Hezbollah, and Russia, with their ally in the League of Authoritarian States, China, stand triumphant.

One can try to imagine what Europe would have been like had Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich been left standing after World War II.  Jean Monnet’s dream of a united Europe would have been unthinkable, for example.

So, after World War II, we had the vision of international peace and security which was embodied in the United Nations Charter. For 65 years we pursued the goals set forth in the Charter, without ever admitting they were beyond our reach.

But now, as the Middle East is swept into a vortex that is every bit as dangerous as the Balkans in the summer of 1914, that dream of a world made up of democracies governed by the rule of law, and nation states continuously developing treaties and legal institutions in order to achieve in concrete form the goal of peace, appears to be receding.

The dream, after all, can only survive so long as it is shared by the leaders of the world and their peoples.

Now, however, the enemies of that dream — Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Russia, and China (which include the core members of the League of Authoritarian States) — are fighting successfully to replace its hopes with the guns and missiles and bombs and knives of the repression which they represent.

The rest of the world, including those countries which have or aspire to attain democracy and the rule of law, appear to be asleep.

Meanwhile, Iran is defeating the allies of the United States in a hot war in Syria, as Russia resumes its former role of being the ultimate friend of despotic states. The war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed by al-Assad and his allies in Syria do not move the Kremlin, which has itself done worse in recent times in Chechnya, not to speak of its atrocities in the 20th century. China is sending troops to participate in the U.N. force in Mali, which is a welcome sign, but will not budge on its support of Russia on Syria.

If that were not enough, the head of the African Union on the 50th anniversary of its founding has accused the International Criminal Court of hunting Africans out of racist motives, notwithstanding the fact that the new head prosecutor of the court is from The Gambia. Together the dictators and autocrats of Africa have taken a stand against the ICC’s prosecution of the newly elected President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, who has been indicted for crimes against humanity.

So, we can forget all that talk about “the responsibility to protect”, as darker days lie before us in a world where Bashar al-Assad stands triumphant, Vladimir Putin (“the executioner of the Caucasus”) stands triumphant, and the clouds of looming war blacken the skies in which our future hopes might otherwise reside.

The leaders of the West of today, and Barack Obama first among them, will long be remembered as having faced the moment of truth in the struggle between the forces of freedom and those of darkness–who are supporting and committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, firing artillery and tanks and bombs on innocent civilian populations—and having shrugged their shoulders and walked away from the battle.

This has been going on now for over two years.

We are witnessing a whole generation of Neville Chamberlains and Éduouard Daladiers in action, with not a single Winston Churchill to be found.

Who does President Obama remind you of more, Winston Churchill or Neville Chamberlain?

Syria does not concern them. Just as Germany and Japan did not concern the democratic nations of the world in 1936 or 1938, and just as the raging civil war in Spain in the 1930’s did not concern them, in which Fascist Germany and Fascist Italy supported Franco’s forces against the Republican armies, while the democracies of Europe hid behind their purported obligations of neutrality.

Iran and Russia appear to have taken the measure of Barack Obama and the resolve of the West, and decided as a result to back al-Assad to the hilt. Iran must now be highly confident that neither the United States nor Israel will engage in any military action that could inflict damage sufficient to halt their onward march toward the acquisition of nuclear weapons.

For the moment, Iran and Hezbollah and al-Assad and the Russians are winning in Syria, and beyond.

The Trenchant Observer