Syria In Ruins

A man walks past a burnt car and damaged buildings along a street at the al-khalidiya neighbourhood of Homs

UPDATE1: April 5, 2013 Battle of Armageddon

UPDATE2: June 20, 2013 Syria’s Endgame: Prospects Dim, Options Narrow

UPDATE3: July 4, 2014 Obama vetoed British plan to create a 100,000 strong Free Syrian force in 2012

Had Obama intervened with a no fly zone or provided arms to the secular forces last year he could have cut off oxygen to the jihadists and the revolution would be over by now. Syria could have a transitional government favourable to the West and the hope of a friendly regime in the future. Instead, we have mass death, destruction, and the increasing influence of Islamists. A great historical opportunity has been missed to the detriment of the United States and the cost of tens of thousands of Syrian lives.

“The White House rejected the Clinton-Petraeus proposal over concerns it could draw the United States into the Syrian conflict and the arms could fall into the wrong hands, the Times said, citing unnamed Obama administration officials.”

White House rebuffed Clinton-Petraeus plan to arm Syrian rebels: report

“Pentagon leaders told Congress on Thursday that they had supported a recommendation to arm Syrian rebels promoted by the State Department and CIA but which President Barack Obama ultimately decided against.

Obama’s government has limited its support to non-lethal aid for the rebels who, despite receiving weapons from countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, are poorly armed compared to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army and loyalist militias.

Syria’s 22-month-long conflict has killed an estimated 60,000 people.

Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, has championed greater U.S. involvement and chided the Obama administration at a hearing, asking Pentagon leaders: “How many more have to die before you recommend military action?” ”

Pentagon backed plan for U.S. to arm Syrian rebels

“Second, the lack of hope for an intervention by the West removed any impetus for maintaining a secular narrative. Many fighters who had pinned their hopes on NATO were greatly disappointed and angered that their suffering was ignored. It is not unusual for Syrian fighters to say something akin to, “What has the West done for us? We now have only God.”

When these ideological factors were combined with the infusion of money and arms that has been channeled to jihadist groups in Syria over the past year, the growth of Syrian jihadist groups accelerated dramatically. Not only are they a factor on the battlefield today, but they also will be a force to be reckoned with in the future.”

The Consequences of Intervening in Syria

Read more of this post

A Dictatorship’s “Election”

UPDATEUkraine election ‘reversed democracy’, OSCE says

“At the moment, there are some worrying trends, as confirmed by the latest interim report by the election observation mission of the O.S.C.E.’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

We are concerned about reports of the use of administrative resources to favor ruling party candidates and the difficulties several media outlets face. Similarly, we are concerned about the continuation of the practice of the Central Election Commission holding closed pre-session meetings and the lack of representation of some political parties on district and precinct election commissions. Distribution of material or financial benefits to voters is another issue that should be investigated and halted.”

It’s also easy to win when the opposition leader is in jail!

Ukraine’s Troubling Trends

Ukraine election: President Yanukovych party claims win

Yulia Tymoshenko: Imprisoned By The Dark Side

Ukraine — Who Cares About Democracy?—-who-cares-about-democracy/

Ukrainian Federalism: Code For Rule From Moscow

Moscow Rules Ukraine

Ukraine’s Subverted Democracy

Turkish Army Neutered

UPDATE: October 30, 2012 Turkish police fire tear gas at banned secularist march. (The people have woken up to the threat.)

The military has been framed in order to neuter it. They can no longer be the guardians of the secular state envisaged by Ataturk.

This opens the way for a more Islamic agenda by the AKP.

“A Turkish court on Friday convicted 326 military officers, including the former air force and navy chiefs, of plotting to overthrow the nation’s Islamic-based government in 2003, in a case that has helped curtail the military’s hold on politics.

A panel of three judges at the court on Istanbul’s outskirts initially sentenced former air force chief Ibrahim Firtina, former navy chief Ozden Ornek and former army commander Cetin Dogan to life imprisonment but later reduced the sentence to a 20-year jail term because the plot had been unsuccessful, state-run TRT television reported. The three were accused of masterminding the plot.

The court also convicted 323 other active or retired officers, including a former general elected to Parliament a year ago— of involvement in the conspiracy, sentencing some to as much as 18 years in prison. Thirty-six were acquitted, while the case against three other defendants was postponed.

The officers were all expected to appeal the verdicts.

The trial of the high-ranking officers — inconceivable in Turkey a decade ago — has helped significantly to tip the balance of power in the country in favor of civilian authorities.

Turkey’s generals have staged three coups since the 1960s and forced an Islamist government to quit in 1997.

But the current government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has grown ever more confident with each of its three electoral successes since 2002, and has been limiting the powers of the armed forces which have long seen themselves as the guardians of Turkey’s secular traditions.

Erdogan’s government has hailed the trial, which began in December 2010, and other similar ones as a break with a tradition of impunity and a move toward greater democracy.

However, the officers’ case — dubbed “Sledgehammer” after the alleged conspiracy — has been marred by the suspects’ long confinement without a verdict and some judicial flaws, including allegations of fabricated evidence. The government’s secular critics have denounced the coup plot trials as a ploy to intimidate opponents.

Some defense lawyers have refused to appear in court for the past five months, saying the authenticity of some of the evidence was not investigated.”

326 convicted in Turkey military coup plot

Turkish Tragedy

IHH’s True Face

Freedom For Syria

UPDATE: July 24, 2012 Assad Delenda Est: The Case for Aiding Syria’s Rebels

Syria is the most unpredictable of the Arab Spring compared, say, to Yemen, Egypt, Libya or Tunisia. It’s a potential sectarian nightmare once Assad is overthrown, not unlike Lebanon in the 80s or more recently Iraq.

However, the future is equally grim if Assad is not overthrown. The war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed by his forces in Homs and elsewhere must stop. It looks like it’s going to have to be the lesser of the two evils. Do what it takes to protect innocent civilians, whether that’s arming the Free Syrian Army or a full intervention with all the unforeseen consequences.

“Here’s to John McCain, leading from the front. Last week, the Arizona senator cut through all the White House doubletalk on the Syrian uprising and demanded a more active U.S. policy, including provision of arms to the Free Syrian Army as well as airpower to slow the assaults of Bashar al-Assad’s murderous regime.

McCain grilled senior administration officials and military officers, and set the record straight regarding the disposition of the Syrian rebels. Over the past several weeks, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both claimed, without evidence, that al Qaeda had infiltrated the opposition. Last week McCain countered: The Syrian rebels are “not fighting and dying because they are Muslim extremists.” The administration then started to walk back its charges. What the White House really meant, said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, is that al Qaeda is looking to “exploit” the situation.

As well they might. The Syrian uprising is now a year old. There is no official toll, but the dead may number 10,000 or more. It’s gone on long enough, says McCain. With his Senate colleagues Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham, McCain released a statement calling for “relief from Assad’s tank and artillery sieges. .  .  . Providing military assistance to the Free Syrian Army and other opposition groups is necessary, but as Assad continues to intensify his assault, that alone will not be sufficient to stop the slaughter and save innocent lives. The only realistic way to do so is with foreign airpower.” The three senators realize that this “will first require the United States and our partners to suppress the Syrian regime’s air defenses in at least part of the country.”

As usual, the administration had excuses for inaction. “That air defense system,” Panetta told the Senate, “is pretty sophisticated.” According to the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, it is “approximately five times more sophisticated .  .  . than existed in Libya.”

McCain bristled. “We spend almost $1 trillion a year on the military,” he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “And we can’t take out air defenses of Syria? That is an horrific waste of the taxpayers’ dollars.”

McCain’s right. We’re not talking about NORAD here. In 2007 the Israelis had no trouble disabling Syrian air defenses before their air raid on the Al Kibar nuclear reactor in the Syrian desert. And that was hardly the first time the Israeli Air Force ran roughshod over the Syrians. Damascus’s Russian-supplied air capabilities, defensive and offensive, are a running joke in the region.

Read more of this post

Dictator For Life

©Vince McIndoe

UPDATE1: August 10, 2012 Putin Confirms the Invasion of Georgia Was Preplanned

UPDATE2: September 16, 2012 Georgian Democracy and Russian Meddling

UPDATE3: November 9, 2012 New Georgia government detains general, ex-minister. (Ivanishvili’s witch-hunt begins.)

If the Russians don’t overthrow Putin now, are they going to try again in ten years? He has actually said that he wants to “run” again in 2018, as if democratic elections have any meaning when opponents are disqualified and the state media does the regime’s bidding!

Putin has chosen to be a dictator for life – that’s the historical significance of this moment. It clearly bodes ill for Russia’s immediate neighbours and the world.

I strongly suspect there’s been a secret deal to hand over Belarus to Russia when its dictator Lukashenko dies. They have already given Russia a certain amount of control.

Ukraine’s Orange Revolution has failed in large part due to political pressure from Moscow, which includes the threatening message sent to Russia’s “near abroad” by its invasion of Georgia in 2008.

Concerning Georgia, Putin could, under the cover of the U.S. elections, the Olympic Games in London, possible Middle Eastern conflicts (Israel vs. Iran or the Syrian civil war), and before a weak president is gone, finish his invasion of Georgia. Russia already occupies South Ossetia and Abkhazia. This puts them less than 24 hours from besieging the capital, Tbilisi.

In 2008, it was the distraction of the Olympics in China and the “lame duck” phase of Bush’s presidency that Putin exploited, as well as the usual weak noises coming from Europe. Could Europe be much weaker economically and politically than it is now?

The end of the Putin regime would benefit the world too. If China were alone on the Syrian issue, I believe they would back off, and Georgia would naturally be safe because a democratic Russia would have no interest in trying to take them over.

Putin says no crackdown on protesters after vote

Russia election: Police arrest 550 at city protests

From South Ossetia to War With Georgia 

Libya’s Transition To Democracy

UPDATE1: July 9, 2012 Libyan election hints at blow to Islamists

UPDATE2: July 13, 2012 Libya’s Jibril in election landslide over Islamists

UPDATE3: September 28, 2012 Give Egypt’s Aid Money to Libya

As a Muslim country, it’s not the end of the world if Libya uses sharia as a basis or basic source for their laws. They’re not going to be stoning, beheading or cutting off hands anytime soon. It also has a far better shot at emerging with a reasonably secular government and constitution than Egypt, Yemen or Syria. We can still be the most optimistic about Tunisia.

“On the eve of February 17th, the anniversary of last year’s Libyan revolution, Tripoli was a dangerous place. “Three men were shot outside my house last night,” a businessman told me. “And outside the Rixos, there was so much celebratory gunfire that I could not leave the hotel for hours”—the Rixos being the five-star hotel where many members of the transitional government live.

While Libyans are organizing political parties to compete in the June 23rd parliamentary elections, many describe the current situation as a power vacuum where there is no real law or order. Especially in western Libya, highly armed militiamen duke it out, often over disputes that have nothing to do with politics. Even in Zwara, the tightly knit Amazigh town of 50,000 that constitutes a separate cultural enclave, the police have not returned to work. Tripoli? Forget about it.

Such peace as prevails in Libya is the result of the social cohesion of a traditional society—and one where, in my experience, there is considerable fellow-feeling and a relative indifference to material goods. Libyans are inclined to give other Libyans the benefit of the doubt—and thus the omnipresent militia have not torn the country apart. The real question is what Libya will look like after the elections, as it puts itself back together.

One of the key issues here is how Libyans conceptualize freedom, and on my last trip this fall, I noticed that nearly everyone viewed freedom as compatible with sharia law. I was also increasingly sure that the best way to analyze Libya was not as a collection of tribes—though these exist—but as a collection of city-states or cultural regions. Renaissance Italy struck me as a possible analogy. But when I picked up David Hackett Fischer’s 1989 book Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America, still an excellent study of American origins, I began to see similarities here too.

While sharia strikes me, like most Americans, as problematic, it’s worth considering that our own country began as a loosely knit confederation of theocracies—Puritan, Quaker, and Anglican—where freedom of religion ranged from partial to nonexistent. As Fischer explains,

“liberty often described something which belonged not to an individual but to an entire community. Samuel Adams, for example, wrote more often about the “liberty of America” than about the liberty of individual Americans. This idea of collective liberty … was thought to be consistent with close restraints upon individuals.”

Read more of this post

The Rise Of China

The current Chinese regime desires respect from the world fitting with representation of an “ancient civilization”. How can one respect a country that believes in nothing but its own cynical national self-interest and over-inflated sense of its own importance, both now and in history?

Wherever there is evil in the world – war, genocide, and crackpot dictatorships – you can bet that the Chinese regime plays an active role in supporting the status quo. China will proceed to gobble up the world’s resources without giving a damn about the consequences – all the while demanding “respect”.

Tyrannical regimes are quick to accuse the US of only looking out for itself, but can you imagine the degradation of a world dominated by an undemocratic China? At the back of their minds they want a return to the days where foreign “barbarians” bow down to their “superiority”.

In 200 years, if the USA were no longer a world power, do you honestly think that a China run by a political dictatorship, with a couple of billion people and a huge army and navy, would refrain from invading Australia if we had resources that it needed?

At the very least they would dominate us economically, on their terms.

Does anyone stop to consider that all the good trading relationships in the world would not stop a nuclear war if China decided to take out Taiwan, or any other country, by force?

Giving them the Olympics was such a joke. Talk about rewarding bad behaviour.

Veteran diplomat and former US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns:

” ‘The rise of China is the single most important issue facing the US for the next 50 years,’ Burns said. There was wide agreement, he argued, across the US political system on its approach to China – to engage with China but also to hedge by building a new strategic relationship with India and rely upon the US alliance system in Asia constituting Japan, South Korea and Australia.

‘I hope that Australia will stick with the US,’ Burns said. ‘I’m betting on the American model, not the Chinese model.’ Who could disagree with that? But Burns shattered this Australian-American concord by putting the harsh reality on the table, hitting it around and striking, in turn, a formidable figure from the past, former Labor foreign minister, Gareth Evans.

‘The surest way to peace with China is through strength,’ Burns said. This meant ongoing US ‘military dominance’ in the Asian region with the alliance system of Japan, South Korea and Australia directed to this purpose.”

US bull wants help in the China shop

China sentences rights activist to 9 years’ jail

Charter ’08 – Dreaming of Freedom

Chinese Nationalism

Obama Sells Out Taiwan

See update below: Has the Obama administration effectively taken control of Taiwan’s defence budget? Why not just trust them to know what they need.

Hopefully Obama will be kicked out next year and America can return to its true values — standing up for its friends and against its enemies.

“So while the U.S. is willing to sell technologically advanced fighter jets to Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Australia, and other Asia-Pacific nations that feel threatened by China, Taiwan remains an unexplainable exception.

“We can see the U.S. abandoning its commitment to Taiwan,” said one senior U.S. defense industry executive told me. “It’s really criminal.” Another told me his peers all project that this is the last major blow before “Taiwan goes down the tubes.”

A NATO diplomat in Beijing told me last month that Washington does not understand the significance of what happens with Taiwan. “That little island is the line in the sand,” he said. Sadly, it is Taiwan with its carrier-killer missile that is daring China to cross that line—and not the U.S.”

Taiwan’s Aircraft Carrier Killer

The Obama administration has established a new (even lower) standard for kowtowing to Beijing. In the first instance, the White House has decided against selling Taiwan 66 new F-16s the government in Taipei has been asking for over the last few years. With an aging inventory of Taiwan air force fighters and the continued buildup of Chinese advanced air defenses, fighters, and fighter-bombers, the sale was absolutely essential if the deteriorating air balance over the Taiwan Strait was to be addressed.

Ignoring his legal obligations under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military equipment it needs to maintain its self-defense capabilities, the president has allowed Chinese threats of a rough patch in relations to dictate American – security policy.

Read more of this post

Yulia Tymoshenko: Imprisoned By The Dark Side

UPDATE1: October 12, 2011 Fury at seven year sentence for Ukraine’s ousted PM

UPDATE2: December 23, 2011 Ukraine court rejects Tymoshenko sentence appeal

“Egyptians and Tunisians are right to be proud of their desire to peacefully overthrow despotic governments. But, as someone who led a peaceful revolution, I hope that pride is tempered by pragmatism, because a change of regime is only the first step in establishing a democracy backed by the rule of law. Indeed, as my country, Ukraine, is now demonstrating, after revolutionary euphoria fades and normality returns, democratic revolutions can be betrayed and reversed.

The first of Ukraine’s lessons for Egyptian and Tunisian democrats is that elections do not a democracy make. After all, what if the enemies of freedom use elections to entrench their anti-democratic agendas? What if elements of the old regime, or the cadres of militant minorities, only pretend to embrace democratic norms in order to hijack the new democracy?” ∼ former Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko

The revolution betrayed

“Ukraine’s ex-PM Tymoshenko arrested

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Acting on a judge’s orders, police arrested former Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko during her abuse-of-office trial on Friday for violations of court procedures.

Her supporters in court, including national lawmakers, squabbled with riot police, trying to prevent them from driving her away in a prison car and shouting: “Shame! Shame!”

Dozens of Tymoshenko’s supporters then gathered outside the court building in central Kiev and tried to block the road, but riot police pushed them aside.

The United States and the European Union have condemned court cases against Tymoshenko and several of her top allies as selective prosecution of political opponents. Germany on Friday expressed “great concern” about Tymoshenko’s arrest.

Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s Kremlin-friendly president, has been accused by opposition activists and rights groups of trying to sideline his political opponents and muzzle critical media in a rollback on freedoms championed by his pro-Western predecessor.

Read more of this post

New Manifesto From The Iranian Green Movement

Editor’s Note: The following text was given to by a group of intellectuals who are leaders in the Green Movement in Tehran. They are also the authors of this manifesto.

We, dozens of groups of Green activists in Iran, have decided to offer several recommendations for the reform and strengthening of the Green Movement. These recommendations have emerged as a result of our experiences in Iran over the past two years as well as the experiences of those in other countries in the Middle East that recently have had popular revolutions aimed at overthrowing their dictatorships. These recommendations are the result of repeated discussions and debates among leaders of Green cells inside Iran, many of whom have suffered imprisonment, beatings, or other violence during demonstrations since the emergence of this popular movement.

The continued house arrest of the leaders of the Green Movement inside Iran and the conditions in which demonstrations have been attempted after their imprisonment requires that the Green leadership outside the country review and reform its tactics and strategy so that the great social capital obtained by the Green Movement after the coup d’etat of the summer of 2009 is not lost. Moreover, Greens inside and outside the country alike need to develop new tactics and strategies in order to utilize and channel effectively the ever-rising economic, political, and social discontent within our country and to ensure that the movement does not split or falter.

This short blueprint/manifesto is divided into three sections, constituting what we believe needs to be done to expand the breadth of the Green Movement’s actions and operations if it is to become victorious at this critical juncture in history. The sections address three necessary rubrics: Inspiration, Organization, and Action. Based on Mir Hossein Moussavi’s systematic statements after the coup d’etat and those of Mehdi Karroubi, the Green Movement leadership must present a concise but comprehensive critique and condemnation of the economics and politics of the present despotic system and present our alternative to it. It must offer an explanation for the grievances of the various socioeconomic and ethnic groups within our society and then offer inspiration and organization to the people in order to motivate and provide them the path to take action to remedy this deteriorating situation.

Read more of this post