Wednesday, February 29, 2012

An Arab World War?

After the central African "world war" more and more article are mentioning the risk of a similar development in the region around Syria. There have already been fights between Shiites and Sunnites in Lebanon and there is a serious risk that the Sunnite majority in Northern Lebanon joins their brethren in the adjacent Syrian Homs-Hama region to create a fundamentalist Sunni region. There are also more and more connections between the Shiites and Sunnites in Iraq and their colleagues in Syria. Jordan, with its Palestinian majority, might join the trouble too.

Some interesting articles in this respect are:
Syria’s Sectarian Fears Keep Region on Edge
Middle East risks becoming a 'giant failed state'

Monday, February 20, 2012

Foreign involvement in the Syrian rebellion

I decided to make a compilation of articles I find about foreign involvement in the Syrian rebellion. This post is a work in progress where I occasionally may add new links. Involvement of Israel is on a separate page.

3 October 2013: CIA ramping up covert training program for moderate Syrian rebels: The CIA is expanding a clandestine effort to train opposition fighters in Syria amid concern that moderate, U.S.-backed militias are rapidly losing ground in the country’s civil war, U.S. officials said. But the CIA program is so minuscule that it is expected to produce only a few hundred trained fighters each month even after it is enlarged [..] The training is led by small teams of operatives from the CIA’s Special Activities Division, a paramilitary branch that relies heavily on contractors and former members of U.S. Special Operations forces. Officials said the instruction is rudimentary and typically spans four to six weeks. “It’s basic infantry training,” the former U.S. intelligence official said. “How to have some discipline hitting a target, how to reload a magazine, how to clear a room. They’re not marching. They’re learning basic infantry procedures.” Officials said the main CIA training effort does not involve instruction on using high-powered weapons such as rockets and antitank munitions, which are being supplied by countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, although the agency is involved in tracking those arms flows and vetting recipients. [..]Recruiting efforts by militias working with the CIA have sagged, officials said. At the largest refu­gee camp in Jordan, where more than 100,000 Syrians take shelter, aid officials said dozens of military-age males leave every day by bus to return to Syria, presumably to fight. But the flows have diminished, and the mood among refugees has grown more pessimistic.

13 September 2013: Syrian Rebels Say Saudi Arabia Is Stepping Up Weapons Deliveries

8 September 2013: Ukrainian port eyed as analysts seek Syria’s arms source: this article tries to make a case - based on a report by C4ADS - that the port Oktyabrsk near Odessa is a major supplier of arms to the Syrian government.

3 September 2013: President Gains McCain’s Backing on Syria Attack: Mr. Obama indicated that a covert effort by the United States to arm and train Syrian rebels was beginning to yield results: the first 50-man cell of fighters, who have been trained by the C.I.A., was beginning to sneak into Syria. There appeared to be broad agreement with the president, Mr. McCain and Mr. Graham said, that any attack on Syria should be to “degrade” the Syrian government’s delivery systems. Such a strike could include aircraft, artillery and the kind of rockets that the Obama administration says the forces of President Bashar al-Assad used to carry out an Aug. 21 sarin attack in the Damascus suburbs that killed more than 1,400 people.

19 August 2013: The Southern Front, Part II: According to one source, King Abdullah’s General Intelligence Directorate has been using a carrot-and-stick approach for enhancing the FSA in the south. First it runs Saudi-bought weapons, then it stops. Then it runs more, depending on the latest national security requirements, such as creating more and more internal Syrian space to host unwanted refugees. Still another motive behind this manic-depressive support system is the desire to coordinate the international “military track” with the “political track” on the conflict, i.e. ensure battlefield gains are sufficient to strengthen the “Friends of Syria” nations’ diplomatic efforts with Russia, Iran and the regime. The CIA works cheek-by-jowl with the GID in this respect.

25 July 2013: Thousands of Syrian police who joined the rebels are on U.S. payroll: The US is paying police men in rebel held territory a wage of about US$150,- a month to stay on their posts according to Assistant Secretary of State Rick Barton in an address to the Aspen Security Forum. See also here.

21 July 2013: Free Syrian Army Seeks To Unite Rebel Factions: Saudi intelligence services were also actively arming jihadist factions in the north of Syria, such as the Ahrar ash-Sham (Islamic Movement of the Free Men of the Levant), and others. Furthermore, during the past week, more than 1,500 jihadist militants crossed the Turkish border on their way to Aleppo’s countryside to bolster the ranks of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria movement, with 300 of them continuing on to Iraq, according to Syrian opposition sources.
The French Le Canard Enchainé daily wrote that last week, the French Foreign Ministry received diplomatic and security reports from Beirut indicating that 400 Pakistani Taliban fighters had crossed via Turkey to the north of Syria. But it remains unclear whether the Turks would surrender to the the coalition or whether the Saudis would give up the army of Syrian refugee officers and soldiers that they control, having rejected in the past similar demands to mobilize those men and put them at the service of the coalition.

10 July 2013: Comrades in Arms: The former rebel commander, who also heads a Libyan NGO that helps Syrian refugees in Libya, says most of the weapons and aid are donated free of charge by fellow Libyans. But when the cost of transporting the weapons is high and Libyan funds run dry, he added, a Syrian member of the Muslim Brotherhood flies to Benghazi to provide an injection of cash and coordinate the flow of weapons into Syria. [] "A boat with 1,500 tons of weapons and humanitarian aid is currently docked in a Libyan port, ready to sail any moment to Turkey."

29 June 2013: Taking Outsize Role in Syria, Qatar Funnels Arms to Rebels: Qatar has used a shadowy arms network to move at least two shipments of shoulder-fired missiles, one of them a batch of Chinese-made FN-6s, to Syrian rebels who have used them against Mr. Assad’s air force. [] [Qatar's] ability to be an active player in a global gray market for arms was enhanced by the C-17 military transport planes it bought from Boeing in 2008, when it became the first nation in the Middle East to have the durable, long-range aircraft.
Saudi Arabia recently has tried to wrest control from Qatar and take a greater role in managing the weapons shipments to Syrian rebels, but officials and outside experts said the Qatari shipments continue. The greatest worry is over the shoulder-fired missiles — called man-portable air-defense systems — that Qatar has sent to Syria since the beginning of the year. Videos posted online show rebels in Syria with the weapons, including the Chinese FN-6 models provided by Qatar, and occasionally using them in battle.

The first videos surfaced in February and showed rebels wielding the Chinese missiles, which had not been seen in the conflict previously and were not known to be in Syrian government possession

26 June 2013: U.S. Begins Shipping Arms for Syrian Rebels: The Central Intelligence Agency has begun moving weapons to Jordan from a network of secret warehouses and plans to start arming small groups of vetted Syrian rebels within a month, expanding U.S. support of moderate forces battling President Bashar al-Assad, according to diplomats and U.S. officials briefed on the plans..

23 June 2013: Assad and Morsi feel the heat: Saudi news site Elaph, which recently reported that the imposition of a no-fly zone over Syria is imminent, repeats that report on Sunday. According to the site, a number of secret decisions were taken by the participating countries, including a no-fly zone over Syria, the establishment of a buffer zone in the country’s south, and an attempt to orchestrate a military coup against Assad.

22 June 2013: 700 US troops to stay in Jordan amid fears over Syria civil war: The United States has left about 700 combat-equipped troops in Jordan after a training exercise, President Barack Obama said Friday, amid concern about the civil war in neighboring Syria. Obama said the deployment was done at the request of the Jordanian government, which fears a spillover of the war into its territory and where an estimated half-million Syrian refugees have fled to escape the bloodshed.[] The United States has left about 700 combat-equipped troops in Jordan after a training exercise, President Barack Obama said Friday, amid concern about the civil war in neighboring Syria. Obama said the deployment was done at the request of the Jordanian government, which fears a spillover of the war into its territory and where an estimated half-million Syrian refugees have fled to escape the bloodshed.

21 June 2013: U.S. has secretly provided arms training to Syria rebels since 2012: CIA operatives and U.S. special operations troops have been secretly training Syrian rebels with anti-tank and antiaircraft weapons since late last year, months before President Obama approved plans to begin directly arming them, according to U.S. officials and rebel commanders.[] The number of rebels given U.S. instruction in Jordan and Turkey could not be determined, but in Jordan, the training involves 20 to 45 insurgents at a time, a rebel commander said.[] The training began in November at a new American base in the desert in southwestern Jordan, he said. So far, about 100 rebels from Dara have attended four courses, and rebels from Damascus, the Syrian capital, have attended three, he said.

21 June 2013: Syrian rebels report new shipments of heavy weapons, credit U.S. influence

16 June 2013: Saudi Arabia wants missiles for Syrian rebels: report: Saudi Arabia plans to supply the Syrian opposition with anti-aircraft missiles to counter President Bashar al-Assad's air force, German news weekly Der Spiegel reported Sunday. The article, citing a classified report received by the German foreign intelligence service and the German government last week, said Riyadh was looking at sending European-made Mistral-class MANPADS, or man-portable air-defence systems.

14 June 2013: U.S. Is Said to Plan to Send Weapons to Syrian Rebels: Saudi Arabia and Jordan recently cut the United States out of a new rebel training program, a decision that American officials said came from the belief in Riyadh and Amman that the United States has only a tepid commitment to supporting rebel groups.

13 June 2013: France gambles on Syrian rebels as arms decision nears: It's a warm day on the Turkish-Syrian border. France's recently recalled ambassador to Syria is incognito with his deputy and a security agent. After checking the surroundings are clear, the diplomat pulls out a stash of brown envelopes stuffed with thousands of dollars. The recipients are "viable" rebels operating in zones no longer under President Bashar al-Assad's control.
That was September 2012. France pressed for recognition of the SNC and as soon as that happened "France diverted its bilateral help to the coalition's Aid Coordination Unit run by vice-president Suheir Atassi.". What stayed was that France still insists on extensive reporting how the money has been spent.
Their primary interlocutor for the last six months has been the head of the Free Syrian Army, Salim Idriss, whom French officials hold in high regard. Non-lethal aid ranging from bullet proof vests, night vision goggles or communications equipment has gone through him. But his credibility is under question. Without money, munitions and weapons, he is struggling to assert his authority on the disparate groups of fighters, some of whom have said he is rather like a "schoolteacher".
You don't get authority from being a sugar uncle - not even with arms.

6 June 2013: Syria Is Now Saudi Arabia's Problem: Riyadh has now taken over Qatar's role as the rebels' primary patron: In one sense, the Saudis can also claim a victory in Qusayr, as they have successfully put various rebel forces under the command of their ally in the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Chief of Staff Gen. Salim Idriss.
But under increased pressure from the Untied States, Qatar has recently handed over the "Syrian dossier" to Saudi Arabia. Members of the Syrian opposition coalition made a two-day visit last month to Riyadh for the first time to coordinate with the Saudis. The opposition's delegates were asked by Riyadh to restructure the Syrian National Coalition, the umbrella group for the opposition, which they bitterly did three weeks later. In response, Saudi Arabia has stepped up its aid.

29 May 2013: UK forces EU to lift embargo on Syria rebel arms. Here we see a classical case of poodle politics. First the US pressures Britain and France to end the weapon embargo. Then the UK and France unite against all the other EU members to block a prolongation of the weapon embargo. True to form this was followed by a compliment from the US that also defended France and Britain against the other EU members.

17 May 2013: How Qatar seized control of the Syrian revolution: In the shell-blasted areas of rebel-held Syria, few appear to be aware of the vast sums that Qatar has contributed – estimated by rebel and diplomatic sources to be about $1bn, but put by people close to the Qatar government at as much as $3bn.
But the military stalemate of the Syrian uprising, in which more than 70,000 people have died, has also revealed the recklessness and political impotence that ultimately undermine Qatar’s objectives. “The Qataris are overextended – their system runs on a few people at the top, and there isn’t much in terms of a bureaucracy,” comments another diplomat.
One person who influenced the emir’s thinking at the time is Azmi Bishara, a prominent former Arab Israeli MP, exiled in Qatar (like many other Arab dissidents) after the Israeli government accused him of passing information to the Lebanese group Hizbollah during Israel’s onslaught on Lebanon in 2006 – a charge Bishara denies.
Many Syrians have probably never heard of Mustafa Sabbagh, though he is considered the most powerful man in the political opposition. The owner of a building material and contracting company, the 48-year-old secretary-general of the National Coalition lived in Saudi Arabia for much of the past decade. He doesn’t make many speeches, or issue statements, but he does oversee the coalition’s budget, to which the Qataris are the biggest donors, and is responsible, as one western official says, “for writing the cheques”.
A former US official who tracked the process of the creation of the coalition said dealing with the Qataris at the time was like a “war of attrition”.

29 April 2013: Report: 5,000 Saudi Fighters Disappear in Syria, 1,000 Bodies Transferred: According to al-Khabar Press news website, Riyadh officials have transferred the bodies of over 1,000 militants killed in Syria to Saudi Arabia via Turkey. News sources said that the Saudi government has paid nearly $30,000 to the families of each of the militants who have been killed or disappeared in Syria.

22 April 2013: How Saudi Arabia's 'Plan B' Became a Game Changer in Syria (also here): The truth was that the Saudis and Qataris had reached an agreement, whereby Saudi Arabia outsources the logistical and military support tasks to Qatar, and confines itself to just paying the bills, the source says.

The Saudis and the Assads go back a long way. However, the relation was much better when the late Hafez al-Assad was alive. "Hafez rarely said yes, but when he did say yes, he meant it. On the other hand, Bashar always says yes, but he never means it," the Saudi source said. "Bashar is politically immature and a pathological liar. He had full Saudi support when he first assumed office, but the support quickly began to vaporize until none was left at all following the assassination of (former) Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri in 2005."

Hariri was a moderate Sunni leader whom Saudi Arabia nurtured and supported. His rise to power came as a result of the Saudi-brokered Taif Accord of 1989, which effectively ended 15 years of Lebanese civil war. Syria was responsible for Lebanon's security as per the Taif Accord, which is why upon the assassination, fingers were quickly pointed at Damascus and its ally, the Iranian-backed Hezbollah. Albeit a purely Shiite group, Hezbollah enjoyed wide support across various Lebanese sects -- including Hariri's -- when it was regarded as a resistance movement fighting the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. Today, it is labeled a terrorist organization, and reportedly continues to receive weapons from Iran through Syria.
Note that this is an article of Al-Arabiya, the Saudi answer to Al Jazeera. As Saudi propaganda it contains some obvious errors. For example Saudi Arabia is generally believed to have supported the 1982 uprising so its relation with Hafez wasn't that good.

18 April 2013: No Syria military intervention: Jordan: Also Wednesday, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel revealed that some 150 US military specialists were deployed to Jordan last year and that he had ordered a US Army headquarters team to bolster the mission, bringing the total American presence to more than 200 troops. See also Top Obama Officials Differ on Syrian Rebels in Testimony to Congress: At the start of the hearing, Mr. Hagel said that the Pentagon was sending a new Army headquarters to replace an ad hoc organization established last year to help the Jordanian military cope with Syrian refugees, prepare for the possible use of poison gas and provide command and control for “stability operations,” presumably in a post-Assad Syria.

17 April 2013: US Military Aid Falls into Al Qaeda’s Hands in Syria by Design, Not Chance claims that the America provides flour to the bakeries in rebel held territory in Syria that are managed by Al-Nusra.

14 April 2013: Syria: Jordan to spearhead Saudi Arabian arms drive: Jordan has agreed to spearhead a Saudi-led push to arm rebel groups through its borders into southern Syria, in a move that coincides with the transfer from Riyadh to Amman of more than $1bn (£650m).

6 April 2013: Tunisia Now Exporting “Jihadis”: Observers find further proof of the government’s complicity in an agreement, signed in the Libyan capital Tripoli on Dec. 11, 2011 by Ennahda’s Ghannouchi; Burhan Ghalioun, former chief of the Syrian National Council (SNC); and Mustafa Abdel Jalil, former chairman of the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC), outlining plans to send weapons, along with Tunisian and Libyan jihadis, to Syria. The contents of the agreement were leaked to the public last year.

3 April 2013: Tunisians Raise Alarm on Possible Fatwa Encouraging 'Sexual Jihad': Tunisia witnessed controversy yesterday [March 26] regarding a fatwa that permits “sexual jihad” in Syria.[..]The minister’s statements came after the spread of an anonymous “sexual jihad” fatwa on the Internet calling on young women to support opposition fighters in Syria by providing sexual services. According to media reports and mujahideen who returned to Tunisia after participating in jihad in Syria, 13 Tunisian girls headed to the battlefield in response to the “sexual jihad” fatwa.

25 March 2013: Officials: US training Syrian forces in Jordan: The training has been conducted for several months now in an unspecified location, concentrating largely on Sunnis and tribal Bedouins who formerly served as members of the Syrian army, officials told The Associated Press. The forces aren't members of the leading rebel group, the Free Syrian Army, which Washington and others fear may be increasingly coming under the sway of extremist militia groups, including some linked to al-Qaida, they said.

24 March 2013: Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With C.I.A. Aid: With help from the C.I.A., Arab governments and Turkey have sharply increased their military aid to Syria’s opposition fighters in recent months, expanding a secret airlift of arms and equipment for the uprising against PresidentBashar al-Assad, according to air traffic data, interviews with officials in several countries and the accounts of rebel commanders.[..]“A conservative estimate of the payload of these flights would be 3,500 tons of military equipment,” said Hugh Griffiths, of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, who monitors illicit arms transfers.[..]The former American official said David H. Petraeus, the C.I.A. director until November, had been instrumental in helping to get this aviation network moving and had prodded various countries to work together on it. [..]The American government became involved, the former American official said, in part because there was a sense that other states would arm the rebels anyhow. See also Arms airlift to Syria rebels expands, With C.I.A. aid.

23 March 2013: International Recruiting of Syria Mercenaries in Africa and Asia by Al-Qaeda continues: 2000 Tunisians fighting in Syria. Al Qaeda doing active recruiting in North Africa.

22 March 2013: CIA Expands Role in Syria Fight: The Central Intelligence Agency is expanding its role in the campaign against the Syrian regime by feeding intelligence to select rebel fighters to use against government forces, current and former U.S. officials said. [..] The U.S. also relies on Israeli and Jordanian spy agencies, which have extensive spy networks inside Syria, U.S. and European officials said. [..]U.S. counterterrorism officials said they have seen a growth in communications among operatives from al Nusra Front, al Qaeda in Iraq and al Qaeda's central leadership in Pakistan. Officials also report growing numbers of al Qaeda fighters traveling from Pakistan to Syria to join the fight with al Nusra.

15 March 2013: Opposition source: Syrian rebels get U.S.-organized training in Jordan: A senior rebel spokesman [..] said that 300 fighters had already completed the course and crossed border into Syria on Thursday. The training was said to include the use of anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry, the latter aimed at the particularly vital part of the regime's military might, which has thus far kept rebels often in check.

14 March 2013: With Official Wink And Nod, Young Saudis Join Syria's Rebels: In one documented case, a Saudi judge encouraged young anti-government protesters to fight in Syria rather than face punishment at home. Mohammed al-Talq, 22, was arrested and found guilty of participating in a demonstration in the north-central Saudi city of Buraidah.

25 February 2013: Saudis Step Up Help for Rebels in Syria With Croatian Arms: Saudi Arabia has financed a large purchase of infantry weapons from Croatia and quietly funneled them to antigovernment fighters in Syria [..] The weapons began reaching rebels in December via shipments shuttled through Jordan, [..] The weapons’ distribution has been principally to armed groups viewed as nationalist and secular, and appears to have been intended to bypass the jihadist groups whose roles in the war have alarmed Western and regional powers. [..] Officials said multiple planeloads of weapons have left Croatia since December, when many Yugoslav weapons, previously unseen in the Syrian civil war, began to appear in videos posted by rebels on YouTube. [..] Jutarnji list, a Croatian daily newspaper, reported Saturday that in recent months there had been an unusually high number of sightings of Jordanian cargo planes at Pleso Airport in Zagreb, Croatia’s capital. Another article claimed that the weapons are entered through Daraa in the South because the North is too Al Qaeda infested.

21 February 2013: How to Start a Battalion (in Five Easy Lessons): Ali Dibo turned to another supplicant. ‘All I want from you is a short video that you can put on YouTube, stating your name and your unit and that you are part of the Aleppo military council. Then you can go do whatever you want. I just need to show the Americans that units are joining the council. I met two Americans yesterday, and they told me we won’t get any advanced weapons until we show we’re united under the leadership of the officers in the military councils. Just shoot the video and let me handle the rest.’
This camp, right on the Turkish border, was for foreign jihadis – the only people, as Abu Abdullah complained, who were getting money and equipment these days. Hakim al-Mutairi, a Kuwaiti Salafi preacher, was sending them millions of dollars. ‘I confronted him at a meeting a few weeks ago,’ Abu Abdullah said. ‘I told him you are hijacking our revolution. The jihadis are buying weapons and ammunition from the other units. They have no problem with money.’

A closer look on Syria offers a detailed description of how close Turkey is involved in the battle for Ras Al-Ayn.

20 January 2013: UN pushes for war crimes probe in Syria: Fighting also raged in the majority Kurdish northern city of Ras al-Ain, on the Turkish border, with jihadists battling Kurdish militiamen for control of the district, activists and residents said. They said fighters from the radical Al-Nusra Front - listed by the United States as a "terrorist" organisation - and Ghuraba al-Sham groups launched an assault on Thursday, crossing into the city from Turkey with three tanks.

27 December 2012: S. Arabia's Golden Gate for Arms Smuggling to Iraq, Syria Found: Informed sources who asked to remain anonymous told FNA that Saudi Arabia uses the al-Nakhib town in Ar'ar border which is the official border crossing between Saudi Arabia and Iraq to send the military equipments both to terrorists in Iraq and Syria. The smuggled Saudi weapons and equipment which were used by the terrorists in military and suicide attacks in Iraq are now being transferred to Syria after tensions in the Muslim country intensified, added the source.

23 December 2012: This one is in German, but widely quoted: Furcht vor Chemiewaffen: Westliche Elitetrupps stehen an Syriens Grenze bereit (translated)Paratroopers of the French Foreign Legion had in recent months repeatedly infiltrated by patrols from Jordan to Syria. Officially, and for camouflage they watched a field hospital for refugees in Jordan's Al Mafraq, said a second lieutenant[..]. The legion of soldiers from 135 nations could send a full company with Arabs in a covert operation. "Our guys wouldn't stand out anywhere," said the officer.
In desert combat-trained soldiers of the U.S. Special Forces and Delta Force Rangers wait according to FOCUS Information also to be employed against Assad. The Americans are close allies of the Jordanian military. Military sources in Jerusalem told FOCUS that Israeli special unit Sayeret Matkal has apparently been seeped into Syria for quite some time.

7 December 2012: US Trains Rebel Brigades to Secure Chemical Weapons: The US and its allies have hired contractors to train some Syrian rebel brigades in chemical weapons security, Syria Deeply has exclusively learned from four diplomats, including one US official. [..] The diplomatic sources say defense contractors hired by the US and its European allies have recently conducted training exercises with Syrian rebel forces in Turkey and Jordan. The programs were intended to prepare brigades to handle chemical weapons sites and materials they might encounter, as Assad troops lose control of over parts of the country. US contractors have also been on the ground in Syria to monitor the status of regime stockpiles, said an employee with a major US defense consultancy that has been engaged in that work. [..] According to one of the diplomats, an Arab official, there are 24-hour Skype links connecting the US with rebel brigades, to enhance monitoring of chemical weapons sites on the ground

29 November 2012: Three articles in Akhbar Magazine about the centers in Turkey where the Syrian uprising is coordinated: According to the source, there are several operations centers: one in Antakya, one in Adana, and one in Istanbul. He mentioned that Sakr had his own building in the Floriya neighborhood in Istanbul where meetings are held from time to time. He also said that around 20 young men from various Syrian regions are charged with running military operations from the rooms. They coordinate with commanders of armed opposition groups to provide needed funding and hardware, and then they direct fighters toward areas under attack or siege, all under the supervision of Turkish and Qatari intelligence officers.

9 October 2012: 'Saudi weapons' seen at Syria rebel base: A BBC reporter noticed a crate with weapons that had been exported from Ukraine to Saudi Arabia in Aleppo and photographed it. According to the NY Times these are just bullets.

26 September 2012: Syria civil war: 'We expend the one thing we have, men. Men are dying' describes the delivery of 450,000 rounds of ammunition and hundreds of rocket-propelled grenades: Different donors in Saudi Arabia were channelling money to a powerful Lebanese politician in Istanbul, he said. He in turn co-ordinated with the Turks – "everything happens in co-ordination with Turkish intelligence" – to arrange delivery through the military council of Aleppo, a group composed mostly of defected officers and secular and moderate civilians..

19 September 2012: Who is 'funding' those protests in Jordan?: About 5,000 demonstrations have taken place in two years in Jordan, which amounts to quite a few placards and banners produced every Friday, most of which are new each time to keep up with current developments, wrote Maher Abu Tair, a contributor to the Amman-based newspaper Addustour, in an opinion article yesterday. "Nobody here is against the right to free speech and peaceful protest, or the right to stage a sit-in or a strike; all we want to do is get a sense of how much it must have cost to keep up those ongoing demonstrations [in Jordan] for the past two years," he said. "Every placard costs about 20 to 30 dinars [Dh100 to Dh150], and there are thousands of those every time, most of them new, and some re-used," he noted. Add to these costs, telecommunications to coordinate protesters, transportation, potential car-hire fees and so on. "This indicates that these demonstrations must have cost the Islamic movement - and the various movements across the provinces - millions of dinars. But where do they get that kind of money from?" This question is not intended as an implicit accusatory statement, the columnist added. "All the same, we do not really believe that those millions of dinars pile up from tiny donations pitched in by activists prior to every protest."

18 September 2012: Syria’s Secular and Islamist Rebels: Who Are the Saudis and the Qataris Arming?: This article describes how the arming of the rebels by the Saudi and Qatari is organized. The Saudi don't want to work with the Muslim Brotherhood while the Qatari do. The Saudi work through a Lebanese politician named Okab Sakr who plays favorites among the rebel groups, while the Qatari focus on supporting the FSA regional military councils.

15 September 2012: Largest Shipload of Libyan Weapons Heading to Armed Groups in Syria: Unfortunately the Times article is behind a pay wall. The link is the closest one can get to its contents: A Libyan ship carrying the largest consignment of weapons for Syria…has docked in Turkey,” said The Times in an article published on Friday. The article´s writer, Sheera Frenkel, said most of the Libyan ship´s cargo is making its way to the armed terrorist groups inside Syria. Quoting a member of the so-called `Free Syrian Army´, who called himself Abu Mohammad, the article said that the over 400 ton cargo included ´SAM-7 surface-to air anti aircraft missiles and rocket-propelled grenades (RPG`s)´ [...] the Libyan ship, which is called ´The Intisaar´(victory), is berthed at the Turkish port of Iskenderun and had been given “papers stamped by the port authority by the ship´s captain, Omar Mousaeeb.” The article pointed out hat Mousaeeb is “a Libyan from Benghazi and the head of an organization called the Libyan Council for Relief and Support,” which is delivering supplies to the armed groups in Syria.

9 September 2012: Most insurgents in Syria foreigners: Member of Doctors Without Borders: Jacques Beres, the co-founder of Doctors Without Borders, who recently treated insurgents in the flashpoint city of Aleppo, revealed that 60 percent of armed men he treated during his two-week stay in the northwestern city were non-Syrian. “Some of them (insurgents) directly said they were not very much interested about the falling of (Syrian President) Bashar al-Assad. (They said) We are thinking after that to take the power to become an Islamic state with the Sharia…

27 August 2012: Britain and US plan a Syrian revolution from an innocuous office block in Istanbul: Dozens of dissidents have been ferried out of Syria to be vetted for foreign backing. Recipients of the aid are given satellite communications and computers so that they can act as a local "hub" linking local activists and the outside world. The training takes place in an Istanbul district where handsome apartment blocks line the steep slopes and rooftop terraces boast views over the Golden Horn waterway.

26 August 2012: According to the Turkish opposition (Turkish Opposition Says Government Ignoring Presence of al-Qaida): militants who are coming from Libya, Chechnya, Afghanistan, and from various countries in Africa are placed in Hatay and they say they are here to fight for Syria, to make a Jihad and bring Sharia, he says. He says they all openly say that they are al-Qaida and there have been incidents of small fights between these people and Hatay locals. [..] every day, what he calls al-Qaida militants are picked up from their homes and put on the buses in Antakya. He says every day and night, 40 or 50 mini buses leave for Syria and they fight there and come back and this happens every day and he says state authorities are providing the buses, even escorting them.

14 August 2012: Libyan fighters join Syrian revolt against Assad: This article tells a story from the point of view of Hussam Najjar who fight in the Umma Brigade. This brigade is led by Mahdi al-Harati, who was a powerful militia chief from Libya's western mountains. The brigade contains mostly Syrians but also some 20 Libyans. He is astonished by the lack of organization and poverty of the Syrians. He blames that on oppression but seems to forget that Syria is a much poorer country than Libya. Two quotes: In the months since he arrived, the rebel arsenal had become "five times more powerful", he said. Fighters had obtained large calibre anti-aircraft guns and sniper rifles. [..] "This is not just about the fall of Assad. This is about the Sunni Muslims of Syria taking back their country and pushing out the minority that have been oppressing them for generations now".

2 August 2012: According to Reuters (Obama signs order supporting Syria's rebels, reports say the US is supporting the opposition support command center in Turkey (see the 27-7 note). according to the article Obama's order, approved earlier this year and known as an intelligence finding broadly permits the CIA and other US agencies to provide support that could help the rebels oust President Bashar al-Assad. [...] European government sources said wealthy families in Saudi Arabia and Qatar were providing significant financing to the rebels. Senior officials of the Saudi and Qatari governments have publicly called for Assad's departure.

Indications are that US agencies have not been involved in providing weapons to Assad's opponents. In order to do so, Obama would have to approve a supplement, known as a memorandum of notification, to his initial broad intelligence finding. Further such memorandums would have to be signed by him to authorise other specific clandestine operations to support Syrian rebels. Reuters first reported last week that the White House had crafted a directive authorising greater US covert assistance to rebels. It was unclear at that time whether Obama had signed it.

31 July 2012: According to the WSJ (Group Gets U.S. License to Fund Syria Rebels) in the US it is now officially allowed to donate money to fighters of the FSA.

27 July 2012: : Secret Turkish nerve center leads aid to Syria rebels: Turkey has set up a secret base with allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar to direct vital military and communications aid to Syria’s rebels from a city near the border[...]
“It’s the Turks who are militarily controlling it. Turkey is the main co-ordinator/facilitator. Think of a triangle, with Turkey at the top and Saudi Arabia and Qatar at the bottom,” said a Doha-based source.
“The Americans are very hands-off on this. U.S. intel(ligence) are working through middlemen. Middlemen are controlling access to weapons and routes.”
The centre in Adana, a city in southern Turkey about 100 km (60 miles) from the Syrian border, was set up after Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Saud visited Turkey and requested it, a source in the Gulf said. The Turks liked the idea of having the base in Adana so that they could supervise its operations, he added.

16 July 2012: An LA Times article (Syria rebels seek weapons, money on Turkish border) reports that The Syrian National Council, an opposition coalition based in Istanbul, acknowledges that it has received about $15 million, mostly from the Saudi and Qatari governments, a pair of gulf kingdoms that have publicly backed arming Syrian rebels. The council recently paid salaries for Aleppo-area rebel brigades affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, an insurgent umbrella group also based in Turkey, said Mohammad Sarmini, a council spokesman..

12 July 2012: The Guardian in a comment-is-free article (The Syrian opposition: who's doing the talking?) has a list of the main spokesmen of the Syrian opposition and Western "specialists" and their links to Western diplomacy and think tanks. A revealing exposé of the US assets leading the Syrian opposition deals with the same theme.

26 June 2012: Another NY Times article (Turkish Border Is Crucial Link in Syrian Conflict) tells that coordination of the rebels is getting better thanks to money that allows to give them a kind of salary. However, there is friction between the military councils and traditional civilian leaders from prominent families who stepped in when the Syrian government evaporated, and who resent being overshadowed and it is unknown where the money - that gives the Brotherhood a key role - comes from.

21 June 2012: The NY Times reports (C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition) that A small number of C.I.A. officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government, according to American officials and Arab intelligence officers. The weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons, are being funneled mostly across the Turkish border by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood and paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the officials said.
About 10 military coordinating councils in provinces across the country are now sharing tactics and other information. The city of Homs is the notable exception. It lacks such a council because the three main military groups in the city do not get along, national council officials said. Jeffrey White, a defense analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who tracks videos and announcements from self-described rebel battalions, said there were now about 100 rebel formations, up from roughly 70 two months ago, ranging in size from a handful of fighters to a couple of hundred combatants.

17 June 2012: The Daily Star has an article (Satellites target Syrian leader) tells about US satellites eavesdropping on Syrian Army communication and feding information to the rebels: The British and US ­satellites pick up their plans then pass them on to dissident leaders through MI6 and CIA ­officers who have ­infiltrated Syria. The information has helped rebels to evacuate civilians from hospitals and other Assad targets ­before they were attacked. The Syrian hacking ­operation is a new part of the worldwide Echelon ­system [...] The satellites are so sophisticated that Allied eavesdroppers can identify the commanders and troops on the calls..

14 June 2012: This article (Hillary’s Little Startup: How the U.S. Is Using Technology to Aid Syria’s Rebels) reports about how the US trains the Syrian opposition in the US of Internet and mobile phone tricks to evade censoring and detection. Interestingly, many of the techniques originate with drug dealers and groups like Anonymous.

13 June 2012: Now confirmed by rebel sources: Speaking in Istanbul, council members also described efforts to supply the opposition with arms, specifically antitank weaponry delivered by Turkish Army vehicles to the Syrian border, where it was then transferred to smugglers who took it into Syria. They would have been financed by Arab sources.

2 June 2012: Plan Bravo: A narrative by Dave Takaki appears and seems to reflect the thinking of Anne-Marie Slaughter. Here is the main part and here the appendix. Section 2 - that starts on page 42 of the main document - provides - after a very long introduction - an extensive enumeration of US and other foreign involvement in the Syrian trouble. It mentions for example training of rebels in Turkey and supply of anti-tank missiles.

30 May 2012: This article (Syria Under Attack by Globalist Death Squad Experts) among others discusses Mood, the leader of UN observers. The Norwegian Mood is a prominent NATO general with a very international education. He was already active in the Middle East and in his previous position he oversaw the peacekeepers on the Syria-Lebanon-Israel border.

28 May 2012: Michel Chossudovsky of Global research has article ("THE SALVADOR OPTION FOR SYRIA": US-NATO Sponsored Death Squads Integrate "Opposition Forces") in which he discusses Robert Stephen Ford's role as US ambassador in Syria. He arrived in Damascus on 27 January 2011, less than 2 months before the uprising started. According to the article he had previously been involved in the organization of death squads in Iraq and he had collaborated there with Negroponte who had a long history in the dirty war in Central America.

17 May 2012: Syrian rebels get influx of arms with gulf neighbors’ money, U.S. coordination. This article tells that the rebels are increasingly well supplied and the US and te Gulf are helping to achieve that.

6 May 2012: This article ("Trying to Mold a Post-Assad Syria From Abroad") tells the story of the Syria National Movement, one of the smaller Islamic groups of exiles that try to build influence inside Syria. The article gives some hint how that works:
Abu Anas, a 45-year-old mosque imam in a small village between Hama and Homs, said senior Brotherhood figures called from abroad to ask him to resurrect a network that his father once led.

“They want me to rebuild the Muslim Brotherhood’s group through a charity network by helping poor families, jailed activists and by paying for medical aid,” he said, estimating that the organization spent millions of dollars in his region alone in the last year, adding: “If we could present good services and policies to all Syrians, we will be elected.”

2 April 2012: After the second "friends of Syria" meething the West and the Wahabi's now officially intend to send lots of money supporting the rebellion ("U.S. Joins Effort to Equip and Pay Rebels in Syria")

18 March 2012: SAS in Syria to guard MI6 spies on missions: SAS teams are helping guard British spies on top-secret missions in Syria. The elite Who Dares Wins troops are “riding shotgun” with MI6 agents and on 24-hour alert to evacuate any who find ­themselves in trouble. The agents are engaged on dangerous missions to deliver hi-tech equipment to the Free Syria Army, which is fighting to overthrow President Bashar Assad. [..] The units spend days holed up in hideouts waiting for the agents, who carry tamper-proof satellite communication kits, to call them in if needed.

A security source said: “This all sounds very James Bond

March 2012: Saving Syria: Assessing Options for Regime Change is a report by the Brookings Institute that recommends using the Annan plan as an opportunity to rearm the rebels. As this is a rather influential institute this may well be the official policy.

March 2012: The Viable Opposition blog has a post about one of the leaked Stratfor emails that describes a meeting at the Pentagon at the end of last year. According to it there are already US and other special forces in the region training the FSA. It seems that they are waiting for incidents large enough to evoke a public outcry in the West that can serve as an excuse for intervention.

1 January 2012: Syria will be bloodiest yet: As the unrest and killings escalate in the troubled Arab state, agents from MI6 and the CIA are already in Syria assessing the situation, a security official has revealed. Special forces are also talking to Syrian dissident soldiers. They want to know about weapons and communications kit rebel forces will need if the Government decides to help. “MI6 and the CIA are in Syria to infiltrate and get at the truth,” said the well-placed source. “We have SAS and SBS not far away who want to know what is happening and are finding out what kit dissident soldiers need.

This article ("WikiLeaks Cables Show US Strategy for Regime Change in Syria as Protesters are Massacred") and this discusses some of the US strategies that appear in the Wikileak Cables. Examples are highlighting the fate of 200,000 stateless Kurds to antagonize the Kurds against the regime and highlighting ties between Shiite Iran and Assad in order to mobilize Sunni's.

There are also articles like US, Israeli, Saudi involvement in Syrian uprising that see a strong involvement of Saudi Arabia (prince Bandar) in the start of the Syrian uprising (Update: the article is now here). It is difficult to verify such articles. But it may be no coincidence that two of the first places where trouble started (Daraa and Idlib) were near the border. That made it possible for the insurgents to use the mobile phone system of the neighboring country to which Assad's secret service had no access.

Here is an article with some links to Wikileaks about early US involvement in support for the Syrian opposition.

This article (One face of the Syrian revolt: a jihadi comes home) tells the story of a FSA member who is temporarily at the Jordanian side of the border near Daraa: He said there were Libyans and a Palestinian in Jordan also waiting to cross the border to join the fight. Later on the story tells that the fighters near Daraa openly describe themselves as jihadis and Salafis and have no contact with the fighters stationed in Turkey. "Our goal now is to end the regime, even if another million people are killed," he said. "We think it's going to be a long war. Not less than one year."

25 November 2011 - Libya’s new rulers offer weapons to Syrian rebels: At the meeting, which was held in Istanbul and included Turkish officials, the Syrians requested "assistance" from the Libyan representatives and were offered arms, and potentially volunteers. "There is something being planned to send weapons and even Libyan fighters to Syria," said a Libyan source, speaking on condition of anonymity. "There is a military intervention on the way. Within a few weeks you will see." The Telegraph has also learned that preliminary discussions about arms supplies took place when members of the Syrian National Council [SNC] – the country's main opposition movement – visited Libya earlier this month.

From the Christian Science Monitor:
As Al Qaeda moves fight to Syria, violence in Iraq drops sharply: Iraqi officials said they'd suspected for months that Al Qaeda-affiliated fighters, who flocked to Iraq after the US toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, were leaving for Syria.

From Foreign Policy - with many links to other articles: Saudi Arabia Is Arming the
Syrian Opposition

Media sources reveal details of a conspiracy by Bandar Bin Sultan and Feltman to "destroy" Syria is an article on a pro-Assad site that claims that the Saudi prince Bandar made in 2008 together with former US ambassador in Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman a plan to overthrow Assad (Here is a copy). The long article gives a detailed description of the plan. Feltman is now Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East.

April 2011: This article already mentions foreign involvement.

Then there is Voltairenet with the article "France pulls out her agents ensconced in Syria claiming that when the French ambassador left his position in Damascus and drove by car to Beirut he picked up some French military advisor near the border inside Syria.

The World Socialist Web Site had a rather complete overview ("NATO discusses military intervention in Syria"), unfortunately without sources.

Several websites refer to a tv interview with former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas in which he says that he heard from the British that the war on Syria was planned two years before “The Arab Spring”. Unfortunately the article (Dumas, “Top British Officials Confessed to Syria War Plans Two Years before Arab Spring”) contains only the audiotrack of the interview. See also Former French Foreign Minister: Anglo-French Operations Against Assad “Prepared, Preconceived And Planned” - See more at:

2011: Military intervention in Syria: This is one of the Stratfor Wikileaks files that is often quoted as proof that the US was early on aiming for an intervention. (original here)

20 April 2008: US embassy cables: Saudi king urges US strike on Iran. The cable is discussed in "Cut off head of snake" Saudis told U.S. on Iran. It illustrates how far the Saudi's are prepared to go against Iran.

2007: The redirection by Seymour Hirsh in the New Yorker in which he discussed that it had been decided to become the new US policy to depend on the Saudi's, to build the Muslim Brotherhood and to undermine Syria and Hezbollah. The goal is to hurt Iran. Prince Bandar is prominently present in the story.

2007: The Wall Street Journal wrote a piece about it too at that time: To Check Syria, U.S. Explores Bond With Muslim Brothers.

4 January 2006: INFLUENCING THE SARG IN THE END OF 2006: This is wikileaks cable by charge d'affaires in Damascus Stephen Seche offers a list of "vulnerabilities" of the Syrian government and "possible action" on those vulnerabilities. These and other cables are discussed in WikiLeaks: Bush, Obama passed on sanctioning Syrian insiders. The links to the other cables can be found at the bottom of the article. Another overview was the Washington Post article U.S. secretly backed Syrian opposition groups, cables released by WikiLeaks show.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Crime and prisons in the US

The Economist has an article ("What's America's real crime rate?"). Some insights from it:
- America has the highest imprisonment in the world and more people are in prison than in Stalin's Soviet Union.
- America's crime rates would be considerably higher if crimes inside prisons were added.
- Crime inside America's prisons is accepted and not punished. Abu Ghraib showed the world what is considered normal in US prisons.

One aspect that helps maintain the present situation is the privatization of many prisons.

One interesting element in this discussion is that New York saw its crimes rates fall at a time when its incarceration rate was falling too ("Steady Decline in Major Crime Baffles Experts").

Slate listed The best articles about the biggest problems with the U.S. prison system.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Syrian uprising almost over?

According to DEBKAfile the Syrian uprising is almost over. This may be exaggerated but it is clear that the government offensive is having results.

However, I think the article misses part of the story. For a long time Assad had reacted rather low key to the protests. There were reports of snipers or soldiers now and then killing a few people at some demonstrations but there were also places where demonstrations lasted for months without problems. And according to reports 80% of the army stayed in the barracks. On the other hand the armed resistance seemed to be on a rather small scale although on some days battles with government troops were reported where several hundreds died.

Assad may have hoped that the protests would simply peter out. But he may also have used them as a counterweight against the more conservative forces in the country in order to achieve more openness. Wahabi-American policies prevented this to work by sabotaging all negotiations. A third reason may have been to prevent worse. Even government sources admit that its initial reactions to the uprising in Daraa - for which the local governor is blamed - were counterproductive. Putting down an uprising is not that easy: too much violence and too many innocent victims will lead to indignation that fuels the uprising. Assad's forces may not be refined enough to accomplish this.

Then suddenly, a few days before the UN debate the armed resistance was all over the country and even reported to be very close to Damascus. One general even concluded from this that the regime was about to fall and deserted. This offensive was probably an effort to influence the UN debate. However, it also seems to have convinced Assad that a crackdown was necessary.

According to the Economist: "More recently, the state-owned press has spoken ominously of the need to shift away from what it terms “restraint”. A new security plan does indeed seem to have been launched on February 3rd, a day seared in Syrian memories as the anniversary of [...]1982[...] Hama"

But Syria's trouble isn't over yet. Saudi Arabia has directed some 1500 Al Qaeda fighters from Iraq to Syria while there are also reports that some Sunni tribes in Iraq discuss sensing fighters to Syria.

This article at the BBC ("Syria's slide towards civil war gives an impression of how cruel both sides can be.

In the mean time Western countries keep discussing intervention strategies. That this may have much wider consequences is shown both by Russia preparing its special forces and Assad threatening Israel.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Cargo culters

Cargo cults happen in primitive societies where people believe that performing some magic rites will bring in the white men with their rich resources. The term originates from Melanesia where an ancient belief that ancestors and gods could provide sudden richness combined with the modern experience of first missionaries and later - during World War II - soldiers bringing in huge resources. To seduce those ancestors and gods they performed rites, built mock airports, etc.

The term "cargo cult" has become a metaphor for symbolic not effective action. It has been used for the behavior of many Third World leaders after their independence. Someone has even described communism as a cargo cult because it copies only a few random elements - such as steel production - from economically successful countries. But as it doesn't really understand how capitalism works it is doomed to fail.

As I see it cargo culting is popular nowadays. The favorite rite at the moment is being pro-Western. I think it is no coincidence that the most pro-Western leader of Russia - Yeltsin - left the greatest mess. Similarly, the most pro-Western leader of Serbia - Djindjic - became infamous for the corruption of his regime. I see the LDP in Serbia as the most modern version of this cult. But it may not be a coincidence either that pro-Western Tadic has been criticized for having implemented very few reforms.

Of course there is nothing wrong with being on good terms with the Western World - the main power of our times. The problem is that these people think that that is the only thing they have to do. In fact developing a country is mainly humble hard work, like getting trains to run on time, providing good roads, having everyone pay his taxes, preventing special interest groups from becoming too powerful and having judges who really speak justice.

This does not mean that the cargo culters never deliver. Sometimes there is some big foreign investment or some EU subsidy is awarded. But if you have a cool look at the long term the effect is small, the result is instable (see Greece) and - given the financial problems of the EU - the money available is shrinking.

In educational psychology you have the theory of conditioning. Basically it says that now and then (unpredictable) a big reward is the most addictive form of conditioning. Lottery organizers know all about this. But is also works with our leaders.

The Chinese show how one should develop a country. Unlike Russia they don't antagonize the West. They simply go their own way developing their country. When they build a road or an airport it is ready on time and the quality is good.

In the mean time the EU and the US are sliding increasingly towards cargo cult behavior. The financial deregulation was a typical example of that. Nobody knew how it was supposed to improve the economy, but as it had been accepted as an article of faith that deregulation helped the economy grow it was supposed this would help too.

The big advantage that the Chinese have is that they are a country of engineers. They know how things work or are supposed too work and that attitude pervades into the way the country is governed. In many Western countries the power has shifted to lawyers, economists and social scientists. Many of them don't know how things work and - more problematically - they don't care very much. They prefer big theories above simply going to the shop floor and see what the workers are actually doing.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Criminal women

I found an interesting article.

Nowadays only 10% of the crimes are committed by women. But the author Monon van der Heijden found that in the 17th century half of the crimes were committed by women. One reason is that in those times without social security needy women were more likely to steal. Another is that our vision on crimes has changed. Typical female crimes like witchery and prostitution are seldom or no longer punished while nowadays the more male crimes of drug abuse and trade provides in many countries a large part of the prison inmates.

Will this be the new UN battle?

Business Week mentions what may be the next diplomatic step in the UN: trying to get the General Assembly overrule the Security Council:

The General Assembly can overrule the Security Council through a mechanism known as Resolution 377, or Uniting for Peace. It was passed in 1950 during the Korean War to circumvent the Soviet Union blocking action to protect South Korea.

It requires a two-thirds majority in the General Assembly to override the Security Council and its veto-wielding members and can be used when the 15-member decision-making body “fails to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.”

This could become a diplomatic battle similar to that about the recognition of Kosovo.

Turkey burned its bridges to Syria

From the Guardian about Syria:

Sinan Ülgen, a former Turkish diplomat now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Ankara's preferred option would be regional support for limited Nato operations, including a no-fly zone and humanitarian corridor. "Turkey is beyond the point of no return," he said. "It has burned its bridges. The longer Assad stays in Syria, the worse it is. Turkey has bet heavily on regime change."

That is how far we have sunk as Western world. Turkey has made unwise moves and now it wants others to follow it in its folly so that its foolishness becomes hidden. What happened to facing up to your mistakes? Turkey could fire its present foreign minister as a scapegoat and try again but it looks like it lacks the courage.

Another article describes how far Turkey has gone in burning its bridges:

Unmarked NATO warplanes are arriving at Turkish military bases close to Iskenderum on the Syrian border, delivering weapons from the late Muammar Gaddafi’s arsenals as well as volunteers from the Libyan Transitional National Council who are experienced in pitting local volunteers against trained soldiers, a skill they acquired confronting Gaddafi’s army. Iskenderum is also the seat of the Free Syrian Army, the armed wing of the Syrian National Council. French and British special forces trainers are on the ground, assisting the Syrian rebels while the CIA and U.S. Spec Ops are providing communications equipment and intelligence to assist the rebel cause, enabling the fighters to avoid concentrations of Syrian soldiers.

Yet it seems unlikely that Turkey will intervene in Syria as its Alevi community is fiercely opposed to that.

The only opinion poll availabe shows 55% of the Syrians want Assad to stay. It has rightly be criticized for its small sample size but there is no doubt that Assad has considerable support. And although according to Peter Harling of the International Crisis Group his support is decreasing there are also reports about former protesters who now support the government because they see no viable alternative at the moment. See also this link.

The report of the Arab League observation mission was mainly critical about the violence used by the opposition. Maybe that was the real reason they were withdrawn.

This article ("Rebels without a clue") describes the SNC: dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, disorganized, disconnected from the Syrians on the ground, and out of step with the broad spectrum of Syrian society. As a consequence their relation with the fighters and protesters in Syria is problematic. They are seen as trying to steal a part of the success of the protesters. It doesn't help either that many Syrian soldiers have been educated to see the Brotherhood as the main enemy.

This article describes how Assad behaves under the circumstances: "fully abreast of events on the ground - not the mere puppet of hardliners that some have portrayed - "relaxed and phlegmatic", and determined to see off the challenge, offering some reforms, strictly on his own terms."
Assad is described as holding back in his reaction to the uprising ("Eighty percent of the army is still in the barracks"), both because of the international reaction and because he doesn't want to give the army too much power.

A press overview on Syria can be found on Syria Comment. Other interesting sites: Brian Whitacre.

This article (Questioning the Syrian “Casualty List”) criticizes the death count as provided by SOHR, the UN and other organizations. It mentions examples of casualties on the list that shouldn't be there. As the SOHR website is in Arabic and refers to Facebook for English speakers one needs to understand Arabic to check it out.

Syria Witness is a very long page with many interviews with people who tend to be pro-opposition.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Dealing with insurrections

For a short time - when Gadaffi was about to take Banghazi - I was in favor of some sort of intervention. I hoped that foreign pressure to stop Gadaffi from taking Benghazi would open the road to negotiations that would lead to an interim government. Most likely Gadaffi would resign and someone else from Sirte would take his place while the regime would become more inclusive towards the other parts of the country. And the possibility of revenge and punishment for those who had taken part in the insurrection would be avoided. Gadaffi had shown enough preparedness to negotiate during the previous months that I assumed that he would agree to such a thing - provided we gave him some peaceful retirement and didn't send him to the ICC.

I may well have been right about Gadaffi, but I was definitely wrong about the Western countries. Instead of applying just enough pressure to get Gadaffi to negotiate they went for an all-out war against him. As a child could foretell this proved to be very dead and destructive. A war-by-proxy - as the West waged in Libya - is much more deadly than the tradition strategy of overwhelming force as Bush applied in Iraq. And both result in a lot of destruction and a near-anarchic state afterwards.

Now the West is repeating its mistakes in Syria. The senselessness of these policies - we don't have any interests in Syria and our policies are only dictated by Wahabi and Israeli interest groups - makes me believe that we may rather soon see the West loose its dominance in world affairs.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Peacekeepers passive in South Sudan cattle raid

After Kosovo's march 2004 and the international passivity in Bosnia or Rwanda there is a new monument of peacekeeper passivity. A cattle raid on the town of Pibor in South-Sudan that lasted from 31 December to 3 January.

The East of South Sudan and neighboring areas in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda are inhabited by cattle holding nomads. Raiding other tribes and stealing their cattle happens with a certain regularity. In this case some 8000 men from a section of the Nuer attacked Pibor, a town inhabited by Murle. Hundreds of people may have been killed and maybe 300,000 cattle were stolen. The Nuer claim that it was a revenge for Murle stealing their children. Stealing children happens quite often too in that region.

Intriguing facts are that one exiled Nuer in the US had collected money for the raid, UN helicopters had seen he fighters coming for days coming and had even flown in some 400 soldiers and that these soldiers didn't fire a shot. They said that they feared to be overrun.

They may be right for the situation but that doesn't take away that it is their responsibility to prevent such attacks. Not preventing such attacks decreases its cerdibility.

The UN has reacted by saying that their early warning allowed people to flee and limited the number of casualties.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Election fraud in Egypt

It is old news, but as it is ignored in the media it want to repeat it here: the later rounds of the Egyptian elections were fraudulent with most fraud by the Islamist parties.

The fact that this is ignored illustrates the point I have made before that the "Arab Spring" is mainly about the Gulf States imposing their fundamentalism on the other Arab states. It is no coincidence that the only two Wahabi ruled states (Qatar and Saudi Arabia) are the most active asking for intervention. Qatar (a mini-state with some 250,000 citizens) is very probably taking the lead because the Saudi's have a credibility problem since 9/11.

Friday, February 03, 2012

A man to watch on Syria

Keep an eye on Adnan Arour, a Sunni firebrand who preaches from Saudi Arabia on Saudi funded satellite channels. Some of his preaches can also be seen on Youtube. His most known statement is that Alawites who resist the revolution should be chopped and their flesh fed to the dogs.

Another tele-preacher calling for the fall of Assad is Youssef Al-Qardawi. He is president of the International Union of Scholars and also of the European Council for Fatwa and Research.

Yet another tele-voice is the Saudi cleric Saleh Al-Luhaidan who urged: “kill a third of Syrians so the other two-thirds may live”. Kill one-third of the Syrian population? That would imply slaying the Christians, Jews, Shiites, Druze and Alawite.

Other Salafist Sheikhs (preachers on tape) from Saudi Arabia: Ibn Baz and Ibn Ottaimin

Saudi funded hatred trying to destroy Syria.

Postscript 1: Arour is often painted as someone with little influence. However, according to this article (The Shadow War Behind Syria’s Rebellion: Foreign Backers Jockey for Influence in Turkey) in September 2012 a group of senior military defectors and the Saudi-based Salafi sheikh Adnan al-Arour set up the Joint Command of the Revolutionary Military Councils. That puts him in the center.