Posts Tagged ‘syrian observatory for human rights’

183 dead in Syria on January 14—Western intelligence meetings with Syria, the moral universe, and Geneva II

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the following earlier today:

Final death toll for Tuesday [14/01/2014]: Approximately 183 people killed in Syria.

The dead: (40 civilians including(7 children, 7 women, 2 teenagers) , 36 rebels, 39 YPG, 10 ISIS, 10 non-Syrian ISIS and Islamic fighters, 11 NDF, 31 regular forces, 6 unknown fighters)

by province: Aleppo(12 civilians), Dera’a(9 civilians, 3 rebels), Reef Dimashq(7 civilians, 3 rebels), Homs(4 civilians, 1 rebel), Idlib(2 civilians), Der-Ezzor(1 civilian).

We all need to pay close attention to what is ocurring on the ground in Syria, each and every day.

See also “REPRISE: The Olympic Games, and the Battle for Aleppo, Begin (July 28, 2012); Geneva II and the urgency of a ceasefire NOW,” The Trenchant Observer,
January 12, 2014. Update reports 697 people killed in nine days in Syria.

The Geneva II Peace conference scheduled to begin January 22, 2014 is unlikely to halt, or even slow, the fury of the ongoing civil war in Syria, and the wanton and systematic commission of war cimes and crimes against humanity by the Bashar al-Assad regime, and also by some if not many of the insurgents.

Meanwhile, Western intelligence agencies have met with Syrian officials regarding jihadist threats.

See Maria Abi-Habib, “European Spies Reach Out to Syria,” Wall Street Journal, January 14, 2014 (updated 10:41 p.m. ET).

AFP and Reuters, “Western intelligence ‘talking to Syria regime’,” Gulf News (GulfNews.com), January 15, 2014 (13:34 h). This report cites Western intelligence officials confirmation of contacts, and quotes Secretary of State John Kerry as saying he knew nothing about them.

BBC, “Syria says West talks to Damascus about Islamist rebels; Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister: “Many foreign intelligence agencies have visited Damascus”, BBC News, January 15, 2014 (10:18 ET). The BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet said informed sources had confirmed meetings between Western and Syrian intelligence officials.

Incredible! All the more incredible as Secretary of State John Kerry is quoted as saying he knew nothing of these meetings. More sheer incompetence from the Obama administration!

Who makes foreign policy in Washington and the capitals of the Western countries–the intelligence agencies or the elected governments which represent the people?

The civilized nations of the world cannot simply resume intelligence cooperation with al-Assad, without surrendering the last shred of any claim to moral authority which their countries may still have.

If we act as if we do not live in a moral universe where human actions have meaning and moral significance, as Barack Obama and other leaders who have followed or acquiesced in his vision of the world have done in Syria, we will create a self-fulfilling prophecy hurtling us all into a moral abyss. The consequences will be felt in every country, throughout the world. They are already being felt today.

Obama’s place in history is set, barring unforeseen miracles of redemption. Even if the Group of Five plus One and the Security Council conclude a nuclear deal with Iran to limit its nuclear program, the deaths of 130,000 Syrians (and counting) will weigh heavily on Barack Obama’s place in history, not to speak of his reputation for the rest of his life.

While America lies dormant in a deep isolationist sleep, that will not always be the case. When America awakes, as awake it must to deal with the horrific forces unleashed by Obama’s morally obtuse and utterly incompetent foreign policy, no amount of remorse or rueful apologies (as in the cases of Rwanda, or Srebrenice) will salvage Barack Obama’s legacy from the ashes.

In Syria, these ongoing atrocities must be stopped, now.  The Geneva II Peace Conference can be useful, if at all, only if it establishes as its primary and highest goal the establishment of a ceasefire throughout all of Syria.

The Trenchant Observer

REPRISE: Syrian military continues campaign to crush opposition in Saraqeb, Homs, al-Qusair and elsewhere—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #16 (March 24, updated March 25, 2012)

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

REPRISE
Originally published March 25, 2012

Latest news reports

Oliver Holmes and Steve Gutterman (Beirut/Moscow), “Syrian forces on the offensive; Annan in Moscow,” Reuters, March 25, 2012 (10:14pm IST).

Syria: Local Residents Used as Human Shields; Reports of Residents Forced to March in Front of Soldiers in Idlib, Human Rights Watch, March 25, 2012.

Rami G. Khouri, “A new world order is born in Syria,” The Daily Star (Beirut), March 24, 2012 (01:25 a.m.).

Khouri’s optimism regarding the U.N. initiative led by Kofi Annan is noteworthy, particularly in view of the earlier pessimism expressed by the Editorial Board of The Daily Star. On March 9, 2012, they wrote:

The scene around Syria overflows with talk. The world’s big players proffer big words, which amount to zero in their impact on the Syrian regime – if anything they are utilized in their propaganda campaign.

The international community is attempting to save face, and by doing so is exhibiting its hypocrisy in every step and every word. This is hypocrisy of the worst kind, not only uncovering the ulterior motives of the world powers, but also serving as an eye-opener as to the intentions of the small, medium and super powers. God help any downtrodden party who takes the words of those powers at their face value. In this, the international community’s reaction to the crisis in Syria should be a lesson for many nations that look to it for support.

In the meantime, help for Syria is still at square one and none of the steps currently being taken are going to eradicate the shame of the international community.

–Editorial, “We procrastinate,” The Daily Star, March 9, 2012.

While the Observer has the highest respect for Khouri and his judgment, the available evidence in the public domain suggests that the March 9 Editorial of The Daily Star is much closer to the mark than his March 24 column on “the birth of a new world order.”

Correction: Earlier versions of this article mistakenly atribributed this text to Rami G. Khouri, to whom we apologize for the error.

It is indeed a historical moment in which the international community is called upon to craft a new response to regimes in crisis that cling to power against the democratic demands of their populations by the use of terror and the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The response that is required, however, and which may yet emerge–if not in this crisis perhaps in the next–does not countenance long, drawn-out negotiations with a Dictator who continues to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity against his population. It does not accept a scenario in which negotiations continue in diplomatic time, as thousands are killed in real time.

It does not accept a diplomatic dance that places the trump cards in the hands of authoritarian regimes complicit in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and in the hands of the Dictator committing those crimes.

It does not accept the “devil’s bargain” of negotiating with a war criminal the cessation of war crimes and crimes against humanity in exchange for his retaining power and the capability of using the instruments of state power to continue widespread and grave violations of fundamental human rights, including the right of assembly, the rights to free speech, freedom of the press, and to receive and impart information and ideas, the right to life and physical integrity of the human person, and the right to due process and a fair trial by an independent judiciary.

Instead, the response that is required, for both moral and political reasons, is an insistence on the cessation of crimes angainst humanity and war crimes as a condition precedent to negotiations betwen the dictatorial regime, its democratic opposition, and the international community. Limited military actions to halt the ongoing commission of such crimes may form a part of this international response, with the approval of the Security Council whenever possible, but without it if Security Counil action is blocked by a veto and the atrocities and butchery continue.

***

Original Article (March 24, 2012)

Der Spiegel reports in some detail on Iran’s assistance to the al-Assad government in its war against the opposition.

See “Aufstand in Syrien: Teheran liefert Assad angeblich Waffen,” Der Spiegel, den 24 März 2012.

See also, “Hopeless Diplomacy: Syrian Regime Resembles Mafia Cartel; Hopes that diplomacy will force Syrian President Bashar Assad to back down seem misguided, given that his regime resembles a mafia cartel bent on defending its turf by any means. There is no turning back for Assad’s clan or the rebels — both sides know that would spell their doom,” Der Spiegel (English), March 19, 2012.

In Syria, al-Assad’s troops, assisted by non-uniformed men, continued their attacks on rebel strongholds and conducted roundups of civilians.

Associated Press, “Syrian forces shell towns and clash with rebels; dozens killed,” The Washington Post, March 24, 2012.

The website of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights provides updates in English here, and in Arabic here.

We should not forget what is going on in Syria on the ground, not for a single day.

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

***

Syrian army reportedly uses deadly gas on Khaldiyeh-Bayada frontline

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

The Syrian Observatory on Human Rights reported that

…Syrian troops have deployed bombs containing a deadly gas while fighting rebels in the central city of Homs.

”Activists in Homs say that six rebels died on Sunday night on the Khaldiyeh-Bayada frontline because they inhaled odourless gas and white smoke,” the observatory said. ”Gas spread in the area after regime troops threw bombs that gave off white smoke as soon as they hit the walls.”

The bombs were allegedly deployed during street clashes with the rebels. ”Those who inhaled the gas felt nauseous and suffered severe headaches. Some suffered fits.

”These are not chemical weapons, but we do not know whether they are internationally prohibited,” said the observatory’s director, Rami Abdel Rahman. ”Activists say it is the first time they have recorded these effects. They’re not conventional weapons.”

The observatory called on the Red Cross to urgently send a specialised medical team to Homs, several districts of which have been besieged by army forces for more than six months. The Local Co-ordination Committees also reported the use of ”bombs containing gases” in Homs.

”These gases lead to muscle relaxation, severe difficulty in breathing and the narrowing of the iris,” the committees, a grassroots network of activists, said.

Amateur video distributed online by the committees showed a man on a stretcher struggling to breathe as a doctor held an oxygen mask over his face.
”It’s definitely a poisonous gas, but we don’t know what type it is,” ha field doctor said. ”It is definitely not sarin.”

–Agence France-Presse, “Rebels kill Intelligence officer in ambusg as Army uses deadly gas on stronghold,” Sydney Morning Herald, December 26, 2012.

The Trenchant Observer

Border tensions with Turkey rise; 190 killed on Thursday, al-Assad defiant, P5 + 4 to meet in Geneva on Saturday—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #57

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

On Thursday, the number of killed in Syria reached an all-time high for the year, at 190 dead, according to the New York Times:

Tallies by Syrian opposition groups that track casualties reported on Friday that the previous day’s death toll had reached 190 from violence in towns and cities throughout the country. The counts were detailed but could not be confirmed independently.

The largest number was concentrated in the Damascus suburb of Douma, an insurgent enclave about eight miles northwest of the capital, according to reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group based in Britain, and the Local Coordination Committees, a Syrian-based group.

A spokesman for the Syrian Observatory said the death toll on Thursday was the worst of any single day this year, with 125 confirmed civilian fatalities as well as the deaths of 65 fighters reported but under investigation. The observatory considers a death confirmed when videotape or other documentary evidence identifying the victim is received.

The coordination committees, which uses similar methodology but acts independently, reported 139 civilian deaths on Thursday.

–Rod Norland and Rick Gladstone, “Syrian Groups Say Violent Day Left High Civilian Toll,” The New York Times, June 29. 2012.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in St. Petersburg to discuss Syria, on the eve of a conference to be attended by the five permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States) plus Turkey, Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar. The conference is to discuss plans for a transition in Syria put together by Kofi Annan, the joint special envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League.

See “Syria conflict: Russia-US still split ahead of talks; Areas of “difficulty and difference” remain between Russia and the US ahead of key talks on the crisis in Syria, a US official says,” BBC News, June 29, 2012.

Amid intensifying fighting on the ground in Syria, both Turkey and Syria were reportedly moving forces toward their border. The Turks were reported to be placing air defenses near the border, while easing the rules of engagement for the use of force by their military in response to provocations from Syria. Opposition sources reported the movement of Syrian forces to within 20 miles of the border, but were unclear as to their intentions.

See Khaled Yacoub Oweis (Antakya, Turkey/Reuters), “Turkey reinforces border: Assad’s helicopters hammer northern Syria (+video); Turkey reinforced its border with missile batteries Thursday. Syrian tanks massed 20 miles from the border with Turkey. Helicopters attacked Saraqeb, Syria,” The Christian Science Monitor, June 29, 2012.

Russia, after initially accepting a formulation by Kofi Annan that would in effect exclude al-Assad from a transitional government, reversed course. Differences were to be worked out in Clinton’s meeting with Lavrov in St. Petersburg Friday, but a meeting of the minds reportedly did not occur.

Khaled Yacoub Oweis of Reuters reported,

Ahead of Saturday’s meeting, Russia proposed changes to Annan’s plan for a national unity government in Syria, despite initially supporting it, but the United States, Britain and France rejected the amendments, Western diplomats said.

Russia and the other permanent U.N. Security Council members told Annan this week they supported a transitional cabinet that could include government and opposition members but would “exclude … those whose continued presence and participation would undermine the credibility of the transition and jeopardise stability and reconciliation,” according to Annan’s proposal.

Diplomats told Reuters that Annan’s idea of excluding certain people was clearly referring to Assad.

Although Russia signaled to Annan this week that his plan was acceptable, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reversed course on Thursday, diplomats said. Diplomats said the Russians demanded that Annan remove from his proposal the language about excluding people from a Syrian national unity government.

In Damascus, Bashar al-Assad defiantly asserted that no solution would be imposed by outside powers, friendly or not, and that he would “annihilate” the “terrorist” groups that were causing the civil strife in Syria.

See “Assad Rejects External Solution for Crisis,” BBC News, June 29, 2012.

Moscow probably does not have the leverage over al-Assad to force him to stand down immediately, though if they quit supplying him with weapons, intelligence and money, and joined the civilized countries of the world in imposing strict economic sanctions on Syria under a Security Council resolution under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, they could certainly speed his departure.

What may be required, however, as we suggested in April, is that al-Assad will have to be taken down like a mad dog.  That will require military intervention, with or without Security Council authorization.

As for Kofi Annan and his conference, reports of the reversal of the Russian position regarding a fundamental point, which was a precondition for attendance at the conference, confirm that Russia cannot be trusted, and/or that Annan cannot shoot straight when trying to pull off one of his mediation initiatives. His mission should be ended at the earliest opportunity.

Instead of passing messages through Annan, who obviously has a large ego investment in the success of his mediation and has also shown himself to be pliant to Russian demands, the United States and Russia would do better to set up a small working group of their own within the framework of the Security Council, where representatives of the two countries can deal directly with each other.

Annan is quoted in the media as saying that he is “optimistic” that the talks on Saturday at the conference will produce a “satisfactory outcome”. For Kofi Annan, it seems that almost any outcome would be “satisfactory” as long as it kept him and his mediation operation in business.

What Syria needs, however, is an outcome that is “satisfactory” because it stops the atrocities.

The Trenchant Observer

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

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

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

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 military continues campaign to crush opposition in Saraqeb, Homs, al-Qusair and elsewhere—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #16 (March 24, updated March 25)

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

Updated March 25, 2012

Please check back for news updates.

Latest news reports

Oliver Holmes and Steve Gutterman (Beirut/Moscow), “Syrian forces on the offensive; Annan in Moscow,” Reuters, March 25, 2012 (10:14pm IST).

Syria: Local Residents Used as Human Shields; Reports of Residents Forced to March in Front of Soldiers in Idlib, Human Rights Watch, March 25, 2012.

Rami G. Khouri, “A new world order is born in Syria,” The Daily Star (Beirut), March 24, 2012 (01:25 a.m.).

Khouri’s optimism regarding the U.N. initiative led by Kofi Annan is noteworthy, particularly in view of the earlier pessimism expressed by the Editorial Board of The Daily Star. On March 9, 2012, they wrote:

The scene around Syria overflows with talk. The world’s big players proffer big words, which amount to zero in their impact on the Syrian regime – if anything they are utilized in their propaganda campaign.

The international community is attempting to save face, and by doing so is exhibiting its hypocrisy in every step and every word. This is hypocrisy of the worst kind, not only uncovering the ulterior motives of the world powers, but also serving as an eye-opener as to the intentions of the small, medium and super powers. God help any downtrodden party who takes the words of those powers at their face value. In this, the international community’s reaction to the crisis in Syria should be a lesson for many nations that look to it for support.

In the meantime, help for Syria is still at square one and none of the steps currently being taken are going to eradicate the shame of the international community.

–Editorial, “We procrastinate,” The Daily Star, March 9, 2012.

While the Observer has the highest respect for Khouri and his judgment, the available evidence in the public domain suggests that the March 9 Editorial of The Daily Star is much closer to the mark than his March 24 column on “the birth of a new world order.”

Correction: Earlier versions of this article mistakenly atribributed this text to Rami G. Khouri, to whom we apologize for the error.

It is indeed a historical moment in which the international community is called upon to craft a new response to regimes in crisis that cling to power against the democratic demands of their populations by the use of terror and the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The response that is required, however, and which may yet emerge–if not in this crisis perhaps in the next–does not countenance long, drawn-out negotiations with a Dictator who continues to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity against his population.  It does not accept a scenario in which negotiations continue in diplomatic time, as thousands are killed in real time.

It does not accept a diplomatic dance that places the trump cards in the hands of authoritarian regimes complicit in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and in the  hands of the Dictator committing those crimes.

It does not accept the “devil’s bargain” of negotiating with a war criminal the cessation of war crimes and crimes against humanity in exchange for his retaining power and the capability of using the instruments of state power to continue widespread and grave violations of fundamental human rights, including the right of assembly, the rights to free speech, freedom of the press, and to receive and impart information and ideas, the right to life and physical integrity of the human person, and the right to due process and a fair trial by an independent judiciary.

Instead, the response that is required, for both moral and political reasons, is an insistence on the cessation of crimes angainst humanity and war crimes as a condition precedent to negotiations betwen the dictatorial regime, its democratic opposition, and the international community.  Limited military actions to halt the ongoing commission of  such crimes  may form a part of this international response, with the approval of the Security Council whenever possible, but without it if Security Counil action is blocked by a veto and the atrocities and butchery continue.

***

Original Article (March 24, 2012)

Der Spiegel reports in some detail on Iran’s assistance to the al-Assad government in its war against the opposition.

See “Aufstand in Syrien: Teheran liefert Assad angeblich Waffen,” Der Spiegel, den 24 März 2012.

See also, “Hopeless Diplomacy: Syrian Regime Resembles Mafia Cartel; Hopes that diplomacy will force Syrian President Bashar Assad to back down seem misguided, given that his regime resembles a mafia cartel bent on defending its turf by any means. There is no turning back for Assad’s clan or the rebels — both sides know that would spell their doom,” Der Spiegel (English), March 19, 2012.

In Syria, al-Assad’s troops, assisted by non-uniformed men, continued their attacks on rebel strongholds and conducted roundups of civilians.

Associated Press, “Syrian forces shell towns and clash with rebels; dozens killed,” The Washington Post, March 24, 2012.

The website of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights provides updates in English here, and in Arabic here.

We should not forget what is going on in Syria on the ground, not for a single day.

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

***