Posts Tagged ‘Syrien’

America’s shame: By-passing Europe to meet with Lavrov before NATO foreign ministers meeting aimed at stiffening response to Russian aggression in Ukraine

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

It has taken a day of reflection to fully grasp America’s perfidious betrayal of Europe in hastily agreeing to bilateral talks on Sunday with Russia, on the eve of a EU summit.

Obama is no longer, if he ever was, a leader of the Free World who could be trusted to not go behind the backs of his alliance partners to cut a side deal with Russia.

He demonstrated this by selling out the Syrian resistance, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states when he cut a deal with Russia for the withdrawal of chemical weapons from Syria.

Now, as Europe gathers for a NATO Foreign ministers meeting at which responses to Russian aggression In the Ukraine are to be discussed, Obama has undercut the common position of the U.S. and Europe vis-a-vis Russia by agreeing to bilateral talks with Russia to defuse the Ukrainian crisis.

With tens of thousands of Russian troops gathered on the border of the Ukraine, and Putin threatening to send them into the eastern Ukraine and/or Moldova, Obama has agreed to hold bilateral talks with Russia, which at this moment has seized and annexed the Ukraine in violation of the most fundamental prohibitions of the Unied Nations Charter.

Merely talking to Russia sends a powerful signal to Putin: His aggression has paid off, and further aggression promises to pay off more. He can send troops into other countries, and the Americans will still jump at any opportunity to discuss his further demands–at the end of the barrel of a gun.

When the U.S. and Europe should be implementing permanent sanctions against Russia for what it has already done, a pacifist Obama pleads with Russia not to commit further acts of aggression.

The minimal sanctions which should be imposed now, and not lifted until the Russian seizure and annexation of the Crimea has been reversed, include a total ban on doing business with any company or finanial institution which conducts business in the Crimea.

This measure should stay in place for 50 years, if necessary, until Russia’s aggression against the Ukraine is reversed.

50 years Is about how long it took to reverse the Soviet aggression and annexation of Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia.

Russia will not agree to that, some say. Who could naively expect an aggressor, with armies on the march, to agree to anything except its further demands?

Such a measure, and others, however, are needed now to communicate forcefully to Putin and his band of war criminals (it is an international crime to launch a war of aggression) that the military takeover of the Crimea will not stand.

For a broader view of the current crisis with Russia, see

Joschka Fischer, “Europa, bleibe hart,”Suddeutscher Zeitung, 30. marz 2014.

Die EU muss anerkennen, dass sie nicht nur eine Wirtschaftsunion, sondern auch ein machtpolitischer Akteur ist. Wenn sie Putin jetzt nachgibt, dient sie nicht dem Frieden. Dann ermutigt sie Russlands Präsidenten, den nächsten Schritt zu tun.

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Observateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo

Fear of Provoking the Aggressor: Obama, Putin, and the West

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

Washington’s difidence in responding to the Ukraine’s request for military equipment, out of fear of provoking Russia to engage in further military aggression in the Ukraine (or elsewhere), reveals how deeply pacificist beliefs have permeated from the top into U.S. military and civilian leadership circles. Or, alternatively, it has demonstrated how effective a pacificist President in the U.S. has been in checking the normal upward flow of analysis, options, and proposals from military and civilian leaders.

The absence of Secretary of State John Kerry from the inner group of decision makers in Washington has been remarkable, suggesting he has been relegated to a preipheral role of flying all around the world and meeting with leaders, without having a seat at the dining room table where major decisions are made. One consequence of his absence is that the analyses and options developed by the State Department have no powerful defender at the White House. This kind of influence cannot be exercised by teleconference.

So, after the military seizure of the Crimea by Russia, what does it tell us that Obama is so concerned about provoking the Russian aggressor that he won’t even send military equipment to the Ukraine in response to its urgent request, which has been placed “under study”?

To the Observer, it suggests that Obama has been cowed by Putin in terms of taking actions beyond the mild targeted economic sanctions so far imposed by Europe and the U.S.–aimed at less than three dozen individuals and one bank.

Obama solves problems with beautifully crafted torrents of words. Putin seizes opportunities by stealth, lies and the decisive movement of troops and tanks.

It’s clear now that the sanctions imposed by the West have been “too little, too late”. If so-called “stage three” sanctions (real trade and financial sanctions directed against Russia itself) had been imposed immediately following the Russian military seizure of the Crimea, it is possible that Putin might have hesitated before proceeding to annex the peninsula.

For that matter, maybe Putin has already decided to intervene militarily in eastern Ukraine, and to use military force to prevent Ukriane’s movement toward integration into the European Union.

Thus, for the moment, like Nevellie Chamberlain and Èdouard Daladier at Munich in September 1938, the U.S. appears to feel there is no alternative other than to cower before the aggresor.

At that point, of course, the aggressor has already won half the battle, which turns decisively on the will and determination of his opponents to stand up against further acts of aggression, through effective means.

With Obama now willing to have his Secretary of State meet with the Russian foreign minister to seek agreements that will forestall further Russian aggression–while rolling back its military seizure of the Ukraine is off the table, we can see clearly how a pacificst president continues to lead his nation down the road of appeasement.

See Anne Gearan, “U.S. seeks detente with Russia over Ukraine with Kerry, Lavrov to meet in Paris,” The Washington Post, March 29, 2014.

The sad truth is that Obama and his foreign policy team are not capable of leading the West — alone — in the current crisis with Russia, following the latter’s seizure and annexation of the Crimea.

To meet bilaterally with Russia at this time, on these implicit terms, reflects Obama’s pacificism and constitutes a total act of further appeasement. Putin astutely has tried to peel off the U.S. from Europe, two days before NATO foreign ministers meet to decide upon a stronger response to Russia’s aggression. Obama, clueless, plays right into Putin’s attempt to divide the Western alliance.

The U.S. should meet with Russia, if at all, only if it is joined by representatives from EU and NATO governments, and then only if the restoration of the status quo ante prior to the Russian military takeover of Crimea is on the table for discussion.

We have seen how ready Obama is to sell out his allies, particularly in the case of the agreement in Geneva with Russia to remove chemical weapons from Syria. That agreement let Obama off the hook in terms of military strikes against Syria after the latter’s use of chemical weapons. But it also sold out the Syrian resistance and the strongest allies of the United States in the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia.

See “The Leopard and the Impala: Putin astutely plays Obama for a chump,” The Trenchant Observer, September 12, 2013.

Europeans and other NATO members, to safeguard their own interests and those of the West, should insist that they participate fully in any discussions involving Russia and the United States.

The pacifist mind-set which reigns in Washington is completely revealed by the agreement to hold bilateral talks between Kerry and Lavrov on Sunday. The move starkly undercuts the actions German Chancellor Angela Merkel and foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier are taking to develop a strong European consensus to opppose Russian aggression.

Obama seems far too ready to let stand the Russian military aggression and takeover of the Crimea, and get back to business as usual.

He is quite prepared to negotiate with the aggressor over whether Russia will commit further acts of aggression, under continued Russian military threats represented by tens of thousands of troops menacingly poised on the border with the Ukraine.

The moral bankruptcy of Barack Obama and the Obama administration has never been more fully on view.

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Observateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo

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: The Olympic Games, and the Battle for Aleppo, Begin (July 28, 2012); Geneva II and the urgency of a ceasefire NOW

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

Update

Approximately 700 people killed in 9 days of intense clashes and executions between the ISIS forces against islamist and rebel battalions

697 people have been killed between Friday 3/1/2014, when the clashes began, and midnight of Saturday 11/1/2014. The victims include 100 civilians, 21 were executed by the ISIS fighters in the children hospital in Qadi Askar neighbourhood of Aleppo and 1 executed by an anfamous rebel battalion in the Meyser neighbourhood, the rest were killed in the crossfire during the clashes.

351 combatants from the islamist and non-islamist rebel battalions, killed during the clashes, car bombs, and attacks on vehicles in the provinces of Aleppo, Raqqah, Hama, Homs and Idlib. 53 of them were executed by ISIS forces, 21 of them in the children’s hospital of Aleppo.

246 ISIS fighters were also amongst those killed. 56 of them, as well as members of Jund al-Aqsa, were summarily executed by rebels in the Jabal al-Zawiya area of Reef Idlib, as confirmed by medical and local sources, while the others were killed by clashes.

Worryingly the fate of hundreds of detainees taken months and weeks ago by the ISIS are still unknown. Also unknown is the fate of hundreds of ISIS captives.

We again call on the International Organisations and Community to not suffice with press statements, they must also work to end the conflict in Syria that is causing daily war crimes to be committed. A ceasefire is needed to stop the Syrian regime, which is indiscriminately using all forms of weaponry in heavily populated areas, and to stop those that are committing war crimes under the guise of assisting the Syrian people.

–Syrian Observatory on Human Rights, January 12, 2012.

As the Geneva II Peace Conference scheduled to open on January 22, 2014 approaches, there is only one subject which should be on the table for discussion: establishment, implementation and verification of compliance with a ceasefire throughout all of Syria.

To discuss final arrangement provisions while a bloody civil war rages uncontrolled, imagining more “castles in the sky” as Kofi Annan did throughout his mediation effort, would be futile, like spitting into the wind–again.

70,000 people have died in Syria since the article below was first published. An estimated 130,000 have now died in Syria since demonstrations began in 2011.

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First published July 28, 2012

The Olympic Games, and the Battle for Aleppo, Begin—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #70

The Opening of the XXX Olympic Games

It was a poignant moment, as world leaders gathered in London last night (July 27) for the opening of the XXX Olympic Games, with the performance of an extraordinary spectacle, in which at one point five Olympic rings appeared suspended in the heavens over the Olympic Stadium. Over a billion people were said to have watched the opening ceremonies on television.

Here, in the very heart of the democratic civilizations of Europe, the Olympic ideal shone brightly.

In ancient Greece, the Olympic Games were preceded by a “Sacred Truce” among the warring city-states, in which athletes were guaranteed safe passage to and from the games, and all fighting was to be halted for a period of one month. This period was eventually extended to allow the athletes and visitors to return home.

The games were held every four years from 776 BC to 393 AD, when they were abolished by the Christian Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I. The ancient Olympic Games lasted for 1170 years. The Modern Olympic Games were initiated in 1896, and have been held every four years or more often since then except for 1916, 1940 and 1944.

–”Brief History of the Olympic Games,” NOSTOS (Hellenic Information Society, UK).

Importantly, the Olympic Games today stand as a symbol for humanity’s goal of one day achieving universal peace. The alternative, it seems, is either the goal of endless war, or the resignation that goes with the sense of helplessness we feel when we reject the goal of peace.

The Battle for Aleppo, and the Response of the World

Meanwhile, in Aleppo in Syria, a country where the international community and the Security Council have been unable to reach agreement to act effectively to halt the atrocities of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the portents of death and destruction were all too palpable yesterday and today, as the regime’s troops, tanks, artillery, helicopters and war planes began a concerted assault on the lightly armed rebels of the Syrian Liberation Army, in what a pro-Assad Damascus newspaper termed “the Mother of all Battles”.

Today, on Saturday, July 28, the battle was joined in earnest.

For news of recent developments on the ground in Syria, see

Luke Harding (in Anadan, on the Aleppo front line), “Syrian rebels near Aleppo: ‘We are besieging Assad’s army’; Regime forces have been pulverising rebel-held districts using artillery and helicopter gunships. But the rebels are upbeat,” The Guardian, July 28, 2012 (11:35 EDT).

Damien McElroy (in Aleppo), “Badly armed rebels face tanks as Syria’s mother of all battles begins,” The Telegraph, July 28, 2012 (6:57PM BST).

Álvaro de Cózar (Special Correspondent in Marea), “El Ejército sirio avanza para tomar Alepo; Las tropas de El Asad atacan con bombas y tanques los barrios en manos rebeldes; Las líneas de teléfono y el suministro de energía han sido cortados, El País, 28 Julio 2012 (23:45 CET).

Kareem Fahim and Ellen Barry, “Syrian Military Intensifies Assault on Rebels in Aleppo,” New York Times, July 28, 2012

***
Unfortunately, Americans accessing the Internet do not find it easy to gain a sense of what is actually taking place on the ground, due to “The Filter Bubble” which prevents most U.S. observers on the Internet from seeing the search results for newspapers outside of their own country (including, e.g., British and other newspapers which have correspondents on the ground in Syria).  To get around The Filter Bubble, see the directions in the bottom right-hand column on the right on our Home Page, or go here.

Thus, as the world turns its attention to the joyful spectacle of athletes from countries throughout the world competing on the basis of individual merit, as humanity comes together for its quadrennial celebration of the richness and diversity of the human family, the people in Aleppo and in Syria are left to face the absolute terror and barbarism of the Bashar al-Assad regime, alone.

Russia and China, along with the Syrian regime, are clearly to blame for this state of affairs, and populations who follow international affairs throughout the world are aware of the role they have have played in thwarting effective U.N. Security Council action. Memories of how they have backed the murderous regime of al-Assad are likely to be long indeed in the Middle East, and also in the democracies of the world.

The United States and other Western countries warn of an impending massacre in Aleppo, as if anyone but they themselves could save the day.

It is a new role for Americans: Eyewitness News reporters without an inkling of any sense of moral responsibility that might lead them to act. In this role, they are following the lead of their president.

The Americans, the Europeans, top U.N. officials and others loudly deplore the lamentable state of affairs in Syria in general, and the unfolding of the “mother of all battles” in Aleppo, in particular.

Leaderless, they stand helpless and paralyzed before the terror and barbarism of al-Assad.

They provide countless declarations of moral outrage, and call for the nations of the world to increase their “pressure” on the al-Assad regime.

The “pressure” of which they speak is a “pressure” of words, of plaintive moral appeals directed to war criminals whose moral depravity is beyond dispute. Or perhaps the “pressure” may even consist of voluntary economic sanctions, imposed by different countries outside the framework of the U.N. Security Council, whose impact is uncertain and in any event will take much time.

Neither words nor economic sanctions, however, will stop al-Assad’s armies.

These leaders are at once appalled by the terror, the barbarism, the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity before their very eyes, and caught in their own moral cowardice, impotent, helpless, with verbal reproaches the only weapons they have the courage to wield. Paralyzed by their own cowardice, they will not act—not effectively, not in time to save the thousands of additional deaths that the grinding gears of war portend to claim, and of which they so earnestly warn.

Enough with Words!

These leaders can all do the world one big favor:  Stop denouncing al-Assad’s atrocities, at least until they are willing to do something really effective to bring them to a halt.

With their moral energies thus freed, they can pay close attention to the facts on the ground, to what is actually happening to thousands of human beings in the maw of war, and then they can seek quiet solace in their churches, their synagogues, their mosques, and the other spiritual refuges in which they must, as individual human beings, come to terms with what they have seen, and what they have not done.

Enough with words!

Enough with the self-absolving declarations these leaders offer to the world, and to themselves, so they can sleep at night, knowing they were present at Srebrenice, present at Auschwitz, present in Rwanda, over a very long period of time, and did nothing.

President Theodore Roosevelt, Recipient of the 1907 Nobel Peace Prize, on Words and Deeds

As for President Obama, who reportedly likes to think of himself as emulating the great American presidents, the words of President Theodore Roosevelt, recipient of the 1907 Nobel Peace Prize, come to mind. Roosevelt declared:

“International Peace”

We must ever bear in mind that the great end in view is righteousness, justice as between man and man, nation and nation, the chance to lead our lives on a somewhat higher level, with a broader spirit of brotherly goodwill one for another. Peace is generally good in itself, but it is never the highest good unless it comes as the handmaid of righteousness; and it becomes a very evil thing if it serves merely as a mask for cowardice and sloth, or as an instrument to further the ends of despotism or anarchy. We despise and abhor the bully, the brawler, the oppressor, whether in private or public life, but we despise no less the coward and the voluptuary. No man is worth calling a man who will not fight rather than submit to infamy or see those that are dear to him suffer wrong. No nation deserves to exist if it permits itself to lose the stern and virile virtues; and this without regard to whether the loss is due to the growth of a heartless and all-absorbing commercialism, to prolonged indulgence in luxury and soft, effortless ease, or to the deification of a warped and twisted sentimentality.

Moreover, and above all, let us remember that words count only when they give expression to deeds, or are to be translated into them (emphasis added). The leaders of the Red Terror2 prattled of peace while they steeped their hands in the blood of the innocent; and many a tyrant has called it peace when he has scourged honest protest into silence. Our words must be judged by our deeds; and in striving for a lofty ideal we must use practical methods; and if we cannot attain all at one leap, we must advance towards it step by step, reasonably content so long as we do actually make some progress in the right direction.

[Footnote] 2. The “Terror” is a term characterizing the conduct of power in revolutionary France by the second committee of Public Safety (September, 1793-July, 1794), sometimes identified as the “Red Terror” to distinguish it from the short-lived “White Terror”, which was an effort by the Royalists in 1795 to destroy the Revolution.

–Theodore Roosevelt, 1907 Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, delivered May 5, 1910.

President Obama and the other leaders of the world would do well to take these words to heart, today, and every day hereafter until they find the courage to take effective action to halt the barbarism and the terror in Syria.

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.

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.

See

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

Christmas reflections: What Obama has taught the American people about Syria

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

We owe it to the people of Syria to pause for a moment, on this Christmas Day, and bow our heads in shame for what we, the nations of the civilized world, have not done to protect them.

In this regard, the burden Barack Obama will bear in history not only for his inaction, but also for blocking the actions of others, is enormous.

Since 2011, he has taught the American people that the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity is no longer a matter of grave concern.

He has taught the American people not to act to stop the horrors of Syria, but instead to look the other way.

He has eased any discomfort they might have felt by using the military to make the political argument that using force to halt the atrocities in Syria would be hard.

He has spoken many words about Syria, and offered many explanations of this or that turn in U.S. policy.

In thinking about Obama and what historians will have to say about his policy of inaction toard Syria, however, readers might usefully bear in mind what Theodore Roosevelt had to say when he accepted the 1907 Nobel Peace Prize, about words and deeds:

“International Peace”

We must ever bear in mind that the great end in view is righteousness, justice as between man and man, nation and nation, the chance to lead our lives on a somewhat higher level, with a broader spirit of brotherly goodwill one for another. Peace is generally good in itself, but it is never the highest good unless it comes as the handmaid of righteousness; and it becomes a very evil thing if it serves merely as a mask for cowardice and sloth, or as an instrument to further the ends of despotism or anarchy. We despise and abhor the bully, the brawler, the oppressor, whether in private or public life, but we despise no less the coward and the voluptuary. No man is worth calling a man who will not fight rather than submit to infamy or see those that are dear to him suffer wrong. No nation deserves to exist if it permits itself to lose the stern and virile virtues; and this without regard to whether the loss is due to the growth of a heartless and all-absorbing commercialism, to prolonged indulgence in luxury and soft, effortless ease, or to the deification of a warped and twisted sentimentality.

Moreover, and above all, let us remember that words count only when they give expression to deeds, or are to be translated into them (emphasis added). The leaders of the Red Terror2 prattled of peace while they steeped their hands in the blood of the innocent; and many a tyrant has called it peace when he has scourged honest protest into silence. Our words must be judged by our deeds; and in striving for a lofty ideal we must use practical methods; and if we cannot attain all at one leap, we must advance towards it step by step, reasonably content so long as we do actually make some progress in the right direction.

[Footnote] 2. The “Terror” is a term characterizing the conduct of power in revolutionary France by the second committee of Public Safety (September, 1793-July, 1794), sometimes identified as the “Red Terror” to distinguish it from the short-lived “White Terror”, which was an effort by the Royalists in 1795 to destroy the Revolution.

–Theodore Roosevelt, 1907 Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, delivered May 5, 1910.

Whenever President Obama speaks of Syria, let us remember these words from Teddy Roosevelt.

Let us also, on this Christmas Day, at least not forget to think of the people of Syria, and to say a prayer that some leader or leaders in the world will find the courage not to talk of peace, but to act with force to halt the Syrian government’s ongoing commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity on a massive scale.

See also the following articles by The Trenchant Observer:

“Syria: As Christmas approaches, the assault on civilization continues,” December 22, 2013.

“60,000 killed in Syria—REPRISE II: The Olympic Games, and the Battle for Aleppo, Begin—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #91 (January 2, 2013),” January 2, 2013.

“The Leopard and the Impala: Putin astutely plays Obama for a chump,” September 12, 2013.

“Moral cowardice in Europe and elsewhere: Bad-faith arguments on Syria by Germany and other countries lacking the courage to act,” September 6, 2013.

“Hommage à Homs: Jacques Prévert, “Barbara” (with English translation); Paul Verlaine, “Ariette III”,” February 25, 2012.

“REPRISE: A prayer for the children of Syria,” December 25, 2013.

The Trenchant Observer

REPRISE: A prayer for the children of Syria (December 25, 2013)

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

First published on December 24, 2012

Prayer for an Alawite Child

I understand,

Just like me, you want to be happy,
Just like me, you want to be free of pain,
Just like me, you want to be loved,
Just like me, you want to be free from anxiety,
Just like me, you want to be free from fear,
Just like me, you want to know peace.

May you be happy,
May you be healthy,
May you be safe,
May you know peace.

Prayer for a Sunni Child

I understand,

Just like me, you want to be happy,
Just like me, you want to be free of pain,
Just like me, you want to be loved,
Just like me, you want to be free from anxiety,
Just like me, you want to be free from fear,
Just like me, you want to know peace.

May you be happy,
May you be healthy,
May you be safe,
May you know peace.

Prayer for a Christian Child

I understand,

Just like me, you want to be happy,
Just like me, you want to be free of pain,
Just like me, you want to be loved,
Just like me, you want to be free from anxiety,
Just like me, you want to be free from fear,
Just like me, you want to know peace.

May you be happy,
May you be healthy,
May you be safe,
May you know peace.

And let us say the same prayer for all of the children, of all of the other minorities, of Syria.

The Trenchant Observer

Syria: As Christmas approaches, the assault on civilization continues

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

(Developing story)

The bloody fighting in Syria continues, with a renewed assault on Aleppo by the al-Assad regime. President Obama is off to Hawaii for a 17-day vacation over the Christmas holidays. European leaders will soon be traveling to their homes to celebrate Christmas and the holiday season.

Yet in Syria, and Aleppo, the message of Christmas is distant, drowned out by the roar of war machines.

The world has turned its back on and its attention away from Syria. When the Free Syrian Army headquarters of General Salim Idriss was overrun by jihadist fighters last week, the U.S. announced that it was halting weapons deliveries to the Western-backed insurgents. Some of their weapons had fallen into jihadist hands. Response: “Fold ‘em up (as in a game of cards). We’re out of here.”

For Obama and other leaders, this was just the denouement needed to absolve oneself of moral or any other kind of responsibility for what is happening to civilians in Syria, and the insurgents to whom we pledged our support.

Last week, Washington and Britain announced the suspension of non-lethal aid into northern Syria after the Islamic Front, a new alliance of several rebel factions, seized a border crossing and weapons warehouses from the Western-backed Free Syrian Army.
–”Salim Idris has failed as leader of Syrian rebels, coalition says Syria’s opposition coalition seeks support from international backers for a new armed force after losing faith with Gen Salim Idris, the commander of the rebel Supreme Military Council,”

Damien McElroy “Salim Idris has failed to make an institution,” The Telegraph, December 16, 2013 (5:09 p.m. GMT)

See also

EFE/El Cairo, “Un bombardeo contra Alepo causa decenas de muertos; El régimen de Bachar el Asad intensifica su ofensiva contra la ciudad rebelde con ataques aéreos; El régimen sirio se ensaña con Alepo,” 22 diciembre 2013 (19:39 CET).

Markus Bickel (Cairo), Syrien-Konflikt; Der Diktator als Staatsmann; Rund einen Monat vor Beginn der Syrien-Konferenz nahe Genf geht Machthaber Baschar al Assad in die Offensive. Es sieht sogar so aus, als könnte er sich als Bollwerk im Kampf gegen Al Qaida inszenieren, Frankfurter Allgemeine, 21 Dezember 2013.

Obama’s callous indifference to the war crimes being committed in Syria every day, and the support or acquiescence of other Western and Arab leaders, has set into motion forces that will reap the whirlwind.

Europe and the United States will be fighting the terrorism spawned in Syria, as its “blowback” returns to their shores, for the next generation.

Everything is connected. And that is the most important point about foreign policy that Obama doesn’t get. Moreover, with some five years of experience, it appears fairly clear that he will never get it.

Leadership must come from somewhere else. On foreign policy, Obama is already practically a lame duck in the eyes of many foreign leaders. To be sure, they must still reckon with the power of the state he leads.

Returning to Aleppo, however unpleasant it may be for us personally, as individuals, we must keep Syria and what is going on there ever in our minds.

What is going on there, and what is not not going on here or in the West, will affect hundreds of millions of people in the world, if not billions. This is true precisely because things are connected.

The Trenchant Observer

“When societies cannot be bothered by mass murder occurring elsewhere, then a perilous threshold has been crossed.”

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Michael Young, the Opinion Editor at The Daily Star in Beirut, is a keen observer of events in the region, including in particular Syria. He brings to bear in his analysis and reporting the regional context, memory of events, and perspective of one who has followed events closely for many years. On November 14, he wrote a poignant column calling out the West for its callous indifference to the atrocities and human suffering in Syria.

See Michael Young, “Typhoon Assad and Western indifference, The Daily Star (Beirut), November 14, 2013 12:16 AM (Last updated: November 14, 2013 12:50 PM).

Young wrote of how the West is now using fear of the jihadists as the latest excuse for indifference to the suffering in Syria, and for inaction. His observations are sharp, and deserve widespread attention:

You can sympathize with Syrians looking longingly at the extended coverage in Western media of the humanitarian catastrophe in the Philippines caused by Typhoon Haiyan. When it comes to Syria, no such concern is evident. There is an assumption that saving the Syrian people from their regime only means reinforcing Al-Qaeda.

Not surprisingly, on the ground the regime has also given a wide berth to the most extreme jihadist groups, letting them gain ground and sowing dissension among rebels. Western publics, little concerned by the details and utterly credulous when it comes to the media’s jihadist focus, has swallowed the Assad version hook, line and sinker.

This has been compounded by the peerless incompetence of the Syrian opposition….

But not everything can be blamed on the opposition. The images from Syria have shown a far more complex picture. Not a day seems to go by without new images of civilians, many of them children, killed or injured in government bombardments or retaliation by the regime’s thugs. One can become inured to violence after a while, but something is profoundly wrong when this sense of hopelessness is transformed into indifference of the kind that greeted the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons last August. In opinion polls, majorities in the West opposed punitive military action by their governments, even if the regime had used chemical weapons.

When societies cannot be bothered by mass murder occurring elsewhere, then a perilous threshold has been crossed. Americans and Europeans are not obliged to empathize with Syrians, but somehow when room is left only to debate the economy, health insurance, and gay marriage, it doesn’t say much about a society’s commitment to its stated humanitarian values. One cannot in the same breath loudly lament the killing of some 3,000 civilians on Sept. 11, 2001, and yet say that nothing can be done at all about a regime responsible for the death of an estimated 36 times that number since 2011.

Young Americans and Europeans are brought up on the memory of the Holocaust, particularly the complicity of many societies in Europe with the slaughter of Jews during World War II. One theme that keeps coming back is how blameworthy were those who preferred to look the other way on the crimes that were being perpetuated.

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