Monday September 2, 2013, no147
Weekly information and analysis bulletin specialized in Arab Middle Eastern affairs prepared by neworientnews.com
Editor in chief Wassim Raad
New Orient Center for Strategic policies
Bashar al-Assad has broken the will of Obama
By Ghaleb Kandil
The resistance of Syria against the colonial war, the last two and a half yers, opened the way for new international balances that could rid the world of the American-Zionist hegemony. Building on this strength, partners and friends of Syria began to lay the foundations of new relations on the regional and international scenes, a quarter century after the transformation of the United Nations to an American colony.
The project of aggression against Syria, under the pretext of the use of chemical weapons by the regime against its people, brings the world to the crossroads. Either the United States manage to renew their total hegemony and subjugate all the emerging powers, or a new world order is about to emerge, thanks to the epic resistance of the Syrian state, its army and its people, led by President Bashar al-Assad, who has become the symbol of the refusal of foreign diktat and a leader attached to the independence of his country, even at the cost of his life.
The pretext of chemical weapons has failed to convince Western public opinion about the relevance of an attack against Syria. Russia and Iran have dismantled the arguments of the United States on the use of toxic gas by the Syrian army. President Vladimir Putin said on this subject: "The Syrian forces are on the offensive and surrounded the opposition in several regions. Under these conditions, provide such an excuse for those who call for an armed intervention would be utter nonsense."
Obviously, the West is trying to stifle the sensational revelations of U.S. news agency Associated Press (AP) correspondent in Jordan, Dale Galvak, who published an investigation substantiated by evidence of Syrian rebels, who recognized that an error in toxic gas supplied by Saudi Arabia, is as the origin of the chemical disaster of August 21, in the eastern Ghouta.
The strength of Syria, the support of its allies, and the fear of a powerful retaliation to any attack, scared Americans. This is why Barack Obama, described as "weak" by the Israeli media, "hesitant and confused", as called by the Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Moqdad, announced Saturday night, the postponement of aggression against Syria. Abandoned by his closest allies, unable to form an international coalition, Obama threw the ball in the court of Congress, deciding to ask permission before any strike against Syria. The Congress, under heavy pressure from public opinion (80 to 90% of Americans are opposed to any intervention of their country against Syria) announced that it will consider the request of the President starting on September 9. That is to say that the Congress have left for Obama plenty of time to find a way to escape the trap into which he locked himself. He will try to find a solution with Putin at the G20 in Saint Petersburg on 4 September.
But whatever the decision of the Congress is, Syria is ready to defend itself. It's President Bashar al-Assad who reaffirmed it on Sunday. "Syria is able to deal with external aggression , he said in a statement released by Sana agency. Through the strength of its people and its army Syria continues to accumulate victories to return security and stability in the country."
For his part, Faisal al-Mokdad said that "Congress must show wisdom." "The allegations of the use of chemical weapons Syria have no basis ," he reiterated, considering that Obama was "clearly hesitant, confused and disappointed when he spoke (Saturday) "because nobody may justify an unjustifiable aggression."
Mr. Moqdad also attacked the French government, only supporter of aggression against Syria after the defection of Britain, Canada and other allies of Washington. "The French politicians have deceived the French people and behaved irresponsibly. They falsified the facts and support organizations like Al- Qaeda", he stressed.
The head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards has, meanwhile, warned against U.S. military intervention in Syria. "The fact that Americans believe that military intervention would be limited to within the borders of Syria is an illusion, it will cause reactions beyond this country," said Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari , quoted by agency Isna.
Syria is the fortress of Arabism and Bashar al- Assad is the defender of his flag. No threats can break his will. He will always be the symbol of free men which convey the obscurantist thought.
Vladimir Putin, Russian president
«The allegations about the Syrian government using chemical weapons against civilians are a provocation. I am sure this was no more than a provocation by those looking to drag other countries into the conflict and obtain support of powerful international player, particularly the United States. If they say that the Syrian governmental forces used weapons of mass destruction…and that they have proof of it, let them present it to the UN inspectors and the UN Security Council. Claims that the proof exists, but is classified and cannot be presented to anybody are below criticism. This is plain disrespect for their partners. I reject communications intercepts as evidence. They cannot be used to take fundamental decisions like using military force on Syria. Common sense speaks for itself. Syrian government troops are on the offensive and have surrounded the opposition in several regions. In these conditions, to give a trump card to those who are calling for a military intervention is utter nonsense. Regarding the position of our American colleagues, friends, who affirm that government troops used weapons of mass destruction, in this case chemical weapons, and say that they have proof, well, let them show it to the United Nations inspectors and the Security Council. It's outward disrespect toward partners and world actors. If there is evidence, it must be presented. If they don't show it, that means there is none. Talk that these are once again some kind of intercepts of some kind of communications that don't prove anything cannot be used as a basis for such fundamental decisions like using force against a sovereign state.»
Nabih Berry, Lebanese Speaker
«There is no way out of the Lebanese crisis except through Dialogue... we call on all parties to engage in an open Dialogue. We propose to President Michel Sleiman a roadmap that can help resolve the accumulated problems in the country. One of the items on the agenda should be aimed at supporting the military in saving Tripoli and the Bekaa and the northern border from the chaos of arms and gunmen. The talks should enable the Army to recruit 5000 additional soldiers (...) The current situation in Syria is equivalent to the Palestinian Nakba and we are facing the same Nakba but at a different place and time. We oppose any foreign intervention in Syria. Lebanon will be the most affected by the risks threatening Syria. We strongly call for the withdrawal of Lebanese and Arab fighters from Syrian and for ending the regional and international intervention in Syrian affairs. Lebanon was the last country to get involved in the Syria crisis. Israel would be the first beneficiary of a possible strike against Syria. The solution to the Syrian crisis can only be achieved through negotiations. The use of force will lead nowhere and Israel is the only beneficiary in this case. The sons of Syria, both loyalists to the Syrian regime and the opposition, should accept to go to dialogue under Geneva II to restore the historic role of Syria. A breakthrough in Syria does not only require an inter-Syrian consensus but will need to be backed by a Russian-American agreement and a Saudi-Iranian regional understanding.»
Yuhanna Yazigi, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of the East
«The international community is responsible for the situation we have reached. The abduction of the bishops in Syria is a case of many, and we cannot sit without doing anything. We have made efforts for their release, but we are now at an impasse. We need help to know the fate of those kidnapped in Syria.»
Hussein Moussaoui, Hezbollah MP
«The brave and the free initiatives of Syrian leaders and the end of the bloody struggle, which only leads to more destruction, is the only salvation for Syria. America is the destroyer of nations with chemical and nuclear weapons and cluster munitions, from Japan, Vietnam, Africa, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan to the Arab countries. The United States has left behind it chaos. The only concern for America is to monopolize the resources of others and to ensure the hegemony of the Zionist entity. We call on the people of the nation to close ranks, to take responsibility and to be armed with some confidence towards the other, to preserve their values and their future.»
Samir Geagea, Lebanese Forces leader
«It is impossible at this time to form a national unity government because Hezbollah makes strategic decisions without consulting the state. We hope the formation of a neutral government that manages the citizens' affairs. We want a Lebanese government and therefore the government cannot include Hezbollah that has foreign commitments. Hezbollah has already made its decision regarding the national dialogue through the speech of MP Mohammad Raad, who pointed out that the declaration of Baabda was born dead.»
Damascus said Friday that a US intelligence report concluding that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons in an onslaught that killed close to 1,500 people was "entirely fabricated." "What the US administration describes as irrefutable evidence... is nothing but tired legends that the terrorists have been circulating for more than a week, with their share of lies and entirely fabricated stories," a foreign ministry statement read out on state television said. US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the report gathered evidence from thousands of sources and that the intelligence community has "high confidence" that the regime was responsible for the attack. But in its statement, the Syrian foreign ministry dismissed the report as a poorly crafted document informed mostly by social media. It expressed surprise that "a superpower could mislead its opinion so clumsily, relying on evidence that does not exist, and that the United States could base policies on matters of war and peace on social media and websites."
A well-informed source close to Hezbollah revealed that in recent days the party foiled two car bombings in Lebanon’s Beqaa, one in Baalbek and the other in the town of Talya near Baalbek. “The car that was discovered in Baalbak was driven by a Syrian national who admitted that the car targeted a pro-Syrian regime figure who lives in the city,” the source told NOWLebanon. The source also noted that the explosive-laden cars were handed over to the competent Lebanese authorities to follow up on the issue.
The Lebanese Customs arrested at Beirut airport, five individuals (French, Norwegian and Canadian) that carried unauthorized communication devices and military equipment. The security forces began to interrogate detainees to determine their destination and the purpose for which they destined their equipment, which included sophisticated cameras that can output directly via satellite. Security source, suggested that those arrested planned to go to Syria.
The Lebanese daily Al Akhbar reported that a high-level meeting took place between Hamas and Hezbollah, in the presence of Osama Hamdan, a member of the Political Bureau of the Palestinian movement, and the Deputy Secretary General of Hezbollah, Sheikh Naim Qassem.
As Safir (Lebanese daily, Arab nationalist)
Daoud Rammal (August 30, 2013)
Confusion prevails in the European Union, which plays a contradictory and ambivalent role. On the one hand, its Member States are participating in the campaign against Syria, which is the strategic depth of Hezbollah, on the other they constantly send messages through various channels, to reassure him. A Western ambassador said bluntly that the danger posed by Islamists and Takfirist, whose number is growing, becoming more and more important, hence the desire to dialogue with Hezbollah. The diplomat considered that the European should not, therefore, shut its doors to Hezbollah with whom he would rather be called rather to engage in dialogue. A Lebanese official notes with surprise that the only expression back in all European ambassadors whom he met as follows: "We have common interests with Hezbollah."
An Nahar (Lebanese daily close to March-14 coalition)
Sarkis Naoum (August 30, 2013)
An American researcher ensures that the regime of Bashar al-Assad will win the ongoing war in Syria. Therefore, the various protagonists, namely the regime, Iran, Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda cohabit on Syrian soil. Syria would become a source of instability for the region and a country where the most horrific crimes against humanity are perpetrated for many years. Hence the interest in the West, according to the same researcher to prevent the survival of Bashar al-Assad, conducting military strikes against the bases of the regime and putting pressure on Moscow and Tehran to bring to end their support for the regime in favor of a moderate opposition.
Al Akhbar (Lebanese Daily close to the Lebanese Resistance)
Ibrahim al-Amine (August 30, 2013)
The Information Branch of the Internal Security Forces’ investigation into the two terrorist car bombings in Tripoli requires a bit of a pause, even if they are able to establish a connection to the Syrian regime and some of its Lebanese allies.
Just as Syrian officials were involved in the Michel Samaha affair, other elements of the government like them could very well have taken part in the Tripoli bombings. But it can also be said that just as the Information Branch – along with elements of the judiciary – managed to frame the Syrian regime and four Lebanese generals in the assassination of Rafik Hariri, there is no reason to believe that they won’t pull the same stunt again.
The Branch’s case relies on the testimony of an informer named Mustafa Houri who implicated two Tripoli sheikhs, Ahmad al-Gharib and Hashem Minkara, who are on the outs with March 14.
When he was picked up and interrogated immediately after the twin bombings, Gharib denied having any connection to the attacks, only to later admit that he had heard of such plans but insisted that he was not involved in carrying them out and did not have any information on who did.
But some in the Internal Security Forces are looking on with concern about the way the investigation is being conducted by the Information Branch, putting forward the following observations:
First, the Branch launched its investigation with a presumption that the Syrian regime, and no one else, carried out the attack, with some even arguing that Damascus was also behind the Dahiyeh bombings too.
Second, the Branch carried out a professional and technically sound investigation based on a political accusation, much as they did with the Rafik Hariri assassination. At the time, we experienced a long film of fabrications and concoctions that led to the wrongful detention of four Lebanese generals for four years without them even being charged.
Third, the media leaks to Future sources early on in the investigation, which led to calls for the expulsion of the two sheikhs and their followers from Tripoli, suggest that the Branch is up to its old tricks and therefore the investigation should be handed over to more independent parties in the judiciary and the security forces.
Fourth, the questionable background of the Branch’s informer takes us back to the days of similar “witnesses” in the Hariri assassination investigation, most of whom turned out to be frauds.
In short, we are before an extremely dangerous game. The Information Branch, which refuses any kind of accountability for its mistakes, could very well repeat them, particularly if the side providing it with political cover expects to reap the benefits of a military strike against Syria. It is the same party that has today paralyzed the country at the orders of that kingdom of darkness in the Gulf.
Al Akhbar (August 30, 2013)
Al-Akhbar has learned that Hezbollah has declared a state of general alert in its ranks. The Resistance decided to elevate its personnel’s readiness levels and take all necessary steps to ensure the preparedness of its combat units across all its deployment locations, including Syria. The Resistance initiated its measures quietly, amid extensive efforts by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to keep tabs on its actions.
UNIFIL’s command notified its foreign staff on Wednesday evening, August 28, of its intention to evacuate their families residing in Lebanon. Sources in the UN peacekeeping mission in South Lebanon had insisted up until yesterday evening that UNIFIL commander Gen. Paulo Sierra had not signed the evacuation order. However, a senior official in the political affairs department told a number of Lebanese security officials that UNIFIL would begin evacuating their families via Beirut International Airport by next Sunday.
In an internal memo circulated to its staff on the matter, UNIFIL’s command stopped short of explaining the direct reason for the evacuation. However, this can hardly be seen in isolation from regional developments linked to the Syrian conflict and Western threats to conduct a military strike against Syria.
Indeed, sources in the UN force said the decision was part of preemptive measures implemented by UN missions around the world to protect their personnel in the event of major security incidents. This means that the UN mission may have received secret information concerning Western intentions in Syria.
Informed sources said that Gen. Sierra alone was authorized to approve a decision of this kind, in his capacity as head of the peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon. Such a decision, the sources continued, can be taken only after Sierra consults with his military and civilian aides, but also with the representative of the UN secretary general in Lebanon and the embassies of the countries that have troops serving with UNIFIL, such as Italy, France, and Spain.
A number of theories are on the minds of those concerned in the south: Is this the model for how UNIFIL intends to deal with fateful events in the region? Will UNIFIL stop with the evacuation of the families of foreign personnel, or will it go on to reduce the number of its troops? Furthermore, has UNIFIL or the embassies of its member states in Lebanon received certain indications about the coming period in Syria, and does UNIFIL fear the repercussions of a possible strike against Syria that might not be limited in scope, as the West is suggesting? Or is the decision to evacuate merely a reflection of the UN’s confusion over Hezbollah’s silence regarding Western threats of war in Syria – with the Israelis also doing their part by putting their forces on alert along their northern border?
No matter the motives, the UN decision once again reveals just how badly UNIFIL understands the nature and spirit of its mission in South Lebanon. Once again, UNIFIL is acting as though it is a political party to regional or local crises, rather than a peacekeeping mission.
Despite successive security incidents in the region, UNIFIL’s area of operation has almost always remained calm. So, what is the UNIFIL afraid of exactly?
In the past few hours, the UN’s foreign staff in the south, especially in Sour and its suburbs, have rushed to withdraw money to ensure they have enough cash for any eventuality, while many of them were seen stocking up on food and supplies.
In the middle of all this, it is interesting to note that UNIFIL’s security measures remain unchanged. UNIFIL command is yet to raise the level of preparedness and alert for its units and patrols.
Interestingly, the commander of the south Litani region in the Lebanese army called a meeting on Thursday to discuss ways to confront any emergency. In the past, UNIFIL, civil defense, or municipalities would have their own meetings to deal with certain disasters in the region. But this was the first time that the army called for such a meeting in which mayors, security leaders, officers from UNIFIL, and civil defense participated, to coordinate a response to some kind of emergency.
Meanwhile, the UN Security Council has extended UNIFIL’s mandate in Lebanon until August 2014, and urged Israel to withdraw its troops from the village of northern Ghaja without further delay.
Al Akhbar (August 29, 2013)
Damascus today is a hive of activity. The hotlines to the capitals of its allies are operating around the clock. As efforts to muster a spirit of national defiance continue, it is becoming clearer to the Syrians, now more than ever, that their crisis has many foreign roots.
Addressing senior military leaders in a recent meeting, President Bashar al-Assad said, “Since the beginning of the crisis, we have been waiting for the moment that our real enemy rears his head and intervenes. I know your morale is high and that you are fully ready to contain any aggression and safeguard the homeland. But I call on you to communicate this morale to your subordinates and Syrian citizens. Indeed, this is a historic confrontation in which we shall emerge victorious.”
A well-placed Syrian source said that Damascus believes a military strike against Syria will in all probability take place. However, according to the source, this development has not come as a surprise to the Syrian leadership. Ever since Washington brought up the issue of chemical weapons, the regime realized that the United States was preparing to use it as a pretext to justify its military aggression.
The same source maintained, “Fabricating the lie that the regime had used chemical weapons is not convincing; it is reminiscent of the nuclear fabrications in Iraq.”
The source drew attention to the paradox that emerged on the day the West was making allegations about chemical weapons. An hour before Arab and international news channels were providing wall-to-wall coverage of the alleged attack, Syrian TV was carrying live images of mass graves discovered by the army in the town of Beit al-Shukuhi, in the northern countryside of Latakia.
The mass graves contained the bodies of 120 women and 50 children who were taken hostage after a raid on their village by the Libyan, Chechen, and Saudi brigades, in addition to the Grandsons of the Prophet Brigade and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
As the Arab and Western media focused all their attention on the alleged chemical massacre in eastern Ghouta, the horrific discovery at Beit al-Shukuhi was largely ignored by international public opinion.
In the view of the same source, the chemical weapons allegations were not based on credible evidence. He argued that there was no crime scene to be examined, with the opposition claiming that at least 10 sites in eastern Ghouta, an area containing at least 120 villages, came under chemical attack.
The source said that the opposition rushed to show images of people killed ostensibly by chemical toxins, after wrapping them in burial robes and transporting them from the supposed crime scene.
All the UN inspectors did during their first visit was to meet some victims to examine their injuries, and verify they were the result of chemical toxins, before beginning to draft their report.
Today, the Syrian leadership is recalling the details of how the US fabricated allegations regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, but stress that Syria is not Iraq. In the latter, the source argued, Washington knew that if Baghdad fell, all of Iraq would fall. But to control Syria, he added, the US would need to enter every village and town.
The source said that anyone who speaks to President Assad about the expected battle might find it hard to explain the reason behind his belief in certain victory – whether it is based on the president’s personal feelings or facts on the ground.
“Syria has developed a three-level plan for confrontation: first, containing the aggression; second, responding by hitting back in a painful place; and third, [acting on the basis that] the Americans or NATO would not dare send boots on the ground,” said the source.
“The overall experience of Israeli and Western aggression in the past three decades has left them with a clear understanding that the new generation of major conflicts cannot be won from the air or through long-range missiles, but by sending in ground forces and holding territory.”
“We expect to see the pre-planned scenarios being implemented by known Arab satellite channels, to supplement aerial and land bombardment from the outset with media bombardment, in order to undermine the people’s morale and try to win the battle through the media before it ends on the ground.”
The Syrian source, who has been familiar with the regime’s thinking from the beginning of the crisis, said that the regime believes a US war in Syria would fail because it would mark a repeat of the experience of George W. Bush.
In the regime’s view as well, the United States still lacks a clear strategy in Syria. While US President Barack Obama has known stances on President Assad, this did not translate into a well-defined policy vis-à-vis the complex geopolitical crisis in Syria.
In Damascus, they expect for NATO to wage a war that follows the Yemeni model, rather than the Libyan model. In practice, this would see the United States conducting a strategic first strike against Syrian army posts that act as a buffer separating armed opposition pockets.
Indeed, one goal could be to allow besieged opposition forces to restore their ability to join forces and spread out, in a way that would return them to their positions prior to the battle of Qusayr and the Syrian army offensives in the Damascus countryside, Homs, and Aleppo.
The second major goal of a strike would be to act as a precursor for a sustained, long-term military intervention in Syria, following the Yemeni model.
The United States might want the world to become accustomed to the idea of US drones carrying out strikes against selected targets in Syria from time to time. One target could be Assad himself, as assassinating him would remove a major obstacle facing Geneva II in the eyes of the West and some Arab countries.
Al Akhbar (August 28, 2013)
All indicators suggest that an alliance of Western countries are preparing for a military strike against Syria. Starting with the meeting in Jordan which brought together military chiefs from the US, Britain, France, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, to the frenetic diplomatic activity and the high-caliber statements confirming an imminent attack.
Western diplomats informed the Syrian opposition as much during their meeting in Istanbul, prompting them to spread the good news to the public. Syrian National Coalition (SNC) member Ahmad Ramadan reassured us through AFP that “it’s a matter of days, not weeks,” before boasting that the coalition had discussed possible targets with its allies.
They were all certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was Bashar al-Assad who was behind the chemical attack even before the UN inspectors announced any results from their ongoing investigation (as if they were of any help in Iraq).
No logic is applicable here – the final word goes to the strongest. The pictures of dead children in Damascus were enough to determine the killer, and to prepare public opinion to condone yet another round of imperialist attacks to come.
The Syrian opposition is giddy with excitement, only to be matched by that of French President François Hollande and his foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, who will be receiving SNC head Ahmad al-Jarba on Thursday. Feeling comfortable about settling their country’s pressing social and economic woes, the Socialist Party in France is now free to spread its humanitarian message to the world.
“We know that the Americans use all kinds of justifications to wage their colonial wars,” said Left Front leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, adding that “a Western strike against Syria is a grave mistake.”
In a conversation with Le Nouvel Observateur, he asks: “Has our situation gotten any better since we destroyed everything in Libya? … We French are nothing more than subordinates, but in order to convince ourselves and the world otherwise, we shout louder than the rest of the herd.”
Head of National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change (NCC) Haytham al-Manna, for his part, renewed his opposition to foreign military intervention. In a statement to UPI, he questioned whether the chemical weapons used in Damascus came from the regime, refusing “to turn attention away from the killing taking place on a daily basis.”
Manna’s view is supported by Philippe Migault, head of research at the French Institute for International Relations and Strategies (IRIS), who explained, “The Western military intervention will be catastrophic on all fronts … those who are encouraging it should think twice before they bite their fingers in regret.”
As for the knights of the Syrian opposition, they relish the smell of napalm – they want freedom even at the cost of the complete destruction of their country.
Do they believe that the US and its allies have nothing to do but to offer our people humanitarian services as they did in Iraq and Libya? That they are intervening in order to reinforce the “democratic alternative” to the Assad regime? Does anyone really believe that the future of Syria will be any better in a year or even a decade due to Western military intervention?
NowLebanon.com (Lebanese Internet site close to March-14 coalition)
Qassem Qassir (August 30, 2013)
Hezbollah has declared a state of alert among its cadres and started deploying troops to southern Lebanon amid mounting expectations of an imminent US-led strike on Syria, party sources told NOW.
The Shiite party’s leadership is holding local, regional and international talks to follow up on the nature and results of such a strike, the sources said, adding the party is also taking into consideration all options regarding the manner of dealing with the potential attack.
The US and its top Western allies in recent days vowed to take action against the Bashar al-Assad regime after accusing it of being behind the chemical attack outside Damascus last Wednesday that reportedly left hundreds dead.
Despite the growing reports of an imminent military operation, sources told NOW that Hezbollah has not yet taken a conclusive decision on the nature and scope of the party’s retaliation.
The party's leadership is keeping all options open in following-up and coordinating with its allies in Iran, Syria and Russia, the sources added.
However, they claimed a Western strike on Syria would not harm Hezbollah’s status in Lebanon because the Shiite party is strong in Lebanon and has extensive popular and political capacities.
Anyone betting in Lebanon on weakening the party due to the strike on Syria would be mistaken and delusional, they added.
On Wednesday, Hezbollah’s caretaker Agriculture Minister Hussein Hajj Hassan said that his party was monitoring the situation in Syria and would respond with “the necessary action at the appropriate time.”
“Hezbollah is following up with the issue and observing and will take the necessary action at the appropriate time,” Hajj Hassan told Al-Mayadeen television.
Hezbollah’s top ally, Iran, has issued in the past week a series of implicit threats and warnings over a potential strike against Syria, with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warning any “US intervention will be a disaster for the region.”
“The region is like a gunpowder depot. [Its] future cannot be predicted,” he added in an address Wednesday.
The Guardian (British Daily, August 28, 2013)
Mona Mahmood and Robert Booth
The Syrian air force is considering using kamikaze pilots against attacks by western forces, a Syrian army officer operating air defences near Damascus has claimed in an interview with the Guardian.
The officer said 13 pilots had signed a pledge this week saying they would form "a crew of suicide martyrs to foil the US warplanes".
The Assad loyalist, in his 30s and serving with the Syrian army's air defence section 10 miles from the capital, said: "If the US and British armies launch a single rocket we will launch three or four, and if their warplanes raid our skies they will face hell fire.
"If we are unable to shoot down their warplanes with artillery, we have military pilots who are ready to attack these foreign warplanes by their own warplanes and blow them up in the air." The Guardian has been unable to verify the information.
The officer has been in contact with the paper on several occasions over the last 12 months during which time he provided reliable information about battles between the troops of Bashar al-Assad and rebel groups. He has declined to provide accounts of events where he has not served. He claimed: "We have more than 8,000 suicide martyrs within the Syrian army, ready to carry out martyrdom operations at any moment to stop the Americans and the British. I myself am ready to blow myself up against US aircraft carriers to stop them attacking Syria and its people."
Speaking about the chemical attack last week on the outskirts of Damascus, he denied the involvement of government forces and said news of the gassing had come as a shock.
"Why would we use chemical weapons in Al Ghouta, when we have government forces where the attack happened? Over the last few days we have launched a military operation called Capital Shield to protect Damascus and its countryside. We managed to get 75% of the way through the process, but then we were shocked to learn about the chemical weapons in Al Ghouta."
He said the morale of the Syrian army was high. "They have to know that Iran and Hezbollah fighters will be fighting with us, hand-in-hand. We have an alliance of protection. We are the resistance axe in the Arab world.
"We are ready for anything. Only God can take our souls, not America or Britain. The US and UK have been threatening us for more than two years now, they think we would care, but they are stupid to think so. We have been fighting the most criminal terrorists in the world and we have not given up or become tired.
"The Syrian army is at the highest state of alert now. We have taken all measures to avoid the air onslaught and all our rockets are ready now to be launched. We are expecting the US and British forces to attack specific targets, so the Syrian army has changed most of its positions and many barracks and brigades have been moved to different sites."
Reuters news agency said Assad's forces appeared to have evacuated most personnel from army and security command headquarters in central Damascus in preparation for a western military strike.
"It is unbelievable what is happening now in Syria," the officer said. "Lots of Syrian men are flocking to checkpoints asking to join the army to fight for Syria, though some of them were previously with the opposition."
He added: "They say that when Syria is under foreign attack we will fight with the Syrian army and forget about everything. In Damascus, we have registered over 4,000 civilian volunteers in the last 48 hours. We have sent them to training camps to learn how to use different weapons and to form people committees [pro-regime home guards] to protect the streets and districts of the capital, as the Syrian army will be busy dealing with the US warplanes.
"The whole army will be in a state of alert and we will need these people to protect our back, keep security and stop things slipping to chaos.
"Damascus residents are living a normal life and are not scared of any attack. Rockets and mortars are falling on the capital districts every day even in the poshest areas, so they can't be shaken any more if US rockets strike.
"People get used to the war and they do not need to make any more preparations. Today I could see long bread queues in many areas in Damascus, and that may be because of the US threats. People are worried if the US and British forces launch their attack against Syria they can't go out during the air raids."
The Independent (British Daily, August 27, 2013)
If Barack Obama decides to attack the Syrian regime, he has ensured – for the very first time in history – that the United States will be on the same side as al-Qa’ida.
Quite an alliance! Was it not the Three Musketeers who shouted “All for one and one for all” each time they sought combat? This really should be the new battle cry if – or when – the statesmen of the Western world go to war against Bashar al-Assad.
The men who destroyed so many thousands on 9/11 will then be fighting alongside the very nation whose innocents they so cruelly murdered almost exactly 12 years ago. Quite an achievement for Obama, Cameron, Hollande and the rest of the miniature warlords.
This, of course, will not be trumpeted by the Pentagon or the White House – nor, I suppose, by al-Qa’ida – though they are both trying to destroy Bashar. So are the Nusra front, one of al-Qa’ida’s affiliates. But it does raise some interesting possibilities.
Maybe the Americans should ask al-Qa’ida for intelligence help – after all, this is the group with “boots on the ground”, something the Americans have no interest in doing. And maybe al-Qa’ida could offer some target information facilities to the country which usually claims that the supporters of al-Qa’ida, rather than the Syrians, are the most wanted men in the world.
There will be some ironies, of course. While the Americans drone al-Qa’ida to death in Yemen and Pakistan – along, of course, with the usual flock of civilians – they will be giving them, with the help of Messrs Cameron, Hollande and the other Little General-politicians, material assistance in Syria by hitting al-Qa’ida’s enemies. Indeed, you can bet your bottom dollar that the one target the Americans will not strike in Syria will be al-Qa’ida or the Nusra front.
And our own Prime Minister will applaud whatever the Americans do, thus allying himself with al-Qa’ida, whose London bombings may have slipped his mind. Perhaps – since there is no institutional memory left among modern governments – Cameron has forgotten how similar are the sentiments being uttered by Obama and himself to those uttered by Bush and Blair a decade ago, the same bland assurances, uttered with such self-confidence but without quite enough evidence to make it stick.
In Iraq, we went to war on the basis of lies originally uttered by fakers and conmen. Now it’s war by YouTube. This doesn’t mean that the terrible images of the gassed and dying Syrian civilians are false. It does mean that any evidence to the contrary is going to have to be suppressed. For example, no-one is going to be interested in persistent reports in Beirut that three Hezbollah members – fighting alongside government troops in Damascus – were apparently struck down by the same gas on the same day, supposedly in tunnels. They are now said to be undergoing treatment in a Beirut hospital. So if Syrian government forces used gas, how come Hezbollah men might have been stricken too? Blowback?
And while we’re talking about institutional memory, hands up which of our jolly statesmen know what happened last time the Americans took on the Syrian government army? I bet they can’t remember. Well it happened in Lebanon when the US Air Force decided to bomb Syrian missiles in the Bekaa Valley on 4 December 1983. I recall this very well because I was here in Lebanon. An American A-6 fighter bomber was hit by a Syrian Strela missile – Russian made, naturally – and crash-landed in the Bekaa; its pilot, Mark Lange, was killed, its co-pilot, Robert Goodman, taken prisoner and freighted off to jail in Damascus. Jesse Jackson had to travel to Syria to get him back after almost a month amid many clichés about “ending the cycle of violence”. Another American plane – this time an A-7 – was also hit by Syrian fire but the pilot managed to eject over the Mediterranean where he was plucked from the water by a Lebanese fishing boat. His plane was also destroyed.
Sure, we are told that it will be a short strike on Syria, in and out, a couple of days. That’s what Obama likes to think. But think Iran. Think Hezbollah. I rather suspect – if Obama does go ahead – that this one will run and run.
The Wall Street Journal (American Daily, August 27, 2013)
Adam Entous, Nour Malas, Margaret Coker
Officials inside the Central Intelligence Agency knew that Saudi Arabia was serious about toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad when the Saudi king named Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud to lead the effort.
They believed that Prince Bandar, a veteran of the diplomatic intrigues of Washington and the Arab world, could deliver what the CIA couldn't: planeloads of money and arms, and, as one U.S. diplomat put it, wasta, Arabic for under-the-table clout.
Prince Bandar—for two decades one of the most influential deal makers in Washington as Saudi ambassador but who had largely disappeared from public view—is now reprising his role as a geopolitical operator. This time it is to advance the Saudi kingdom's top foreign-policy goal, defeating Syrian President Assad and his Iranian and Hezbollah allies.
Prince Bandar has been jetting from covert command centers near the Syrian front lines to the Élysée Palace in Paris and the Kremlin in Moscow, seeking to undermine the Assad regime, according to Arab, American and European officials.
Meanwhile, an influential protégé, current Saudi Ambassador to Washington Adel al-Jubeir, is leading a parallel campaign to coax Congress and a reluctant Obama administration to expand the U.S. role in Syria.
The conflict there has become a proxy war for Middle East factions, and Saudi Arabia's efforts in Syria are just one sign of its broader effort to expand its regional influence. The Saudis also have been outspoken supporters of the Egyptian military in its drive to squelch the Muslim Brotherhood, backing that up with big chunks of cash.
The Saudi lobbying is part of the calculus as the U.S. weighs its options in the wake of a suspected chemical attack last week. Damascus suburbs allegedly targeted are at the heart of what the Saudis now call their "southern strategy" for strengthening rebels in towns east and south of the capital.
As part of that, intelligence agents from Saudi Arabia, the U.S., Jordan and other allied states are working at a secret joint operations center in Jordan to train and arm handpicked Syrian rebels, according to current and former U.S. and Middle Eastern officials.
The CIA has put unspecified limits on its arming efforts. But the agency has been helping train rebels to better fight. Earlier this year it also began making salary payments to members of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army, U.S. and Arab officials said. There are now more CIA personnel at the Jordan base than Saudi personnel, according to Arab diplomats.
Jordan denied any training or arming of Syrian rebels was taking place in the country, something Minister of State for Media Affairs Mohammad Momani said would be contrary to Jordan's national interest and policy "to remain neutral" on Syria.
Assyrian International News Agency (August 28, 2013)
Pope Francis, as well as other Christian leaders in the Middle East and around Europe are sounding the alarm of a possible global conflict should the US and other western powers launch an attack on Syria.
In an interview with Vatican Radio yesterday, the Syrian Chaldean Catholic bishop of Aleppo, Antoine Audo, said that armed intervention in Syria could unleash a "world war." "If there is an armed intervention, that would mean, I believe, a world war. That risk has returned," he said.
The comments follow an urgent appeal by Pope Francis this weekend for the world's powers not to intervene in the escalating Syrian conflict. On Sunday, Pope Francis called on the international community to do everything they could to avoid military action, calling for them "to be more sensitive to this tragic situation and make every effort to help the beloved Syrian nation find a solution to a war that sows destruction and death." "The increase in violence in a war between brothers, with the proliferation of massacres and atrocities, that we all have been able to see in the terrible images of these days, leads me once again raise my voice that the clatter of arms may cease," he said during the Angelus. "It is not confrontation that offers hope to resolve problems, but rather the ability to meet and dialogue."
L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's quasi-official paper, also criticised the threats by Western powers, accusing US President Obama of pursuing a policy of "political expediency" rather "than of substance."
The Syrian-born Patriarch Gregoire III Laham has echoed Bishop Audo's warning of a "world war". He told Catholic News Service by telephone today from the Patriarchate's summer residence in Lebanon, "Enough with the intervention!" "It is fueling hatred, fueling criminality, fueling inhumanity, fueling fundamentalism, terrorism -- all these things are the fruit of intervention. Enough!" He added, "Surely, it will spread like a world war." "Instead of trying to change the (Syrian) government, help the government to change. We are all for change. We are all for reforms. But not in this way, with blood."
"If western countries want to create true democracy then they must build it on reconciliation, through dialogue between Christians and Muslims, not with weapons. This attacked being planned by the United States is a criminal act, which will only reap more victims, in addition to the tens of thousands of these two years of war. This will destroy the Arab world's trust in the West."
The planned attack, he said, will affect the whole Syrian population, saying this outcome was no less serious than the use of chemical weapons. It will sink the area into total war, which, he said, the Islamists will win, reducing the country to small, constantly warring enclaves, and pushing the remaining Christians out. "The disappearance of the Christians," he said, "is a danger not only for Syria, but for all of Europe." The presence of Christians in the Middle East, he called "the essential condition for a moderate Islam, which exists thanks to the Christians." "Every day…Islamic extremists from all over the world are pouring into Syria with the sole intent to kill and not one country has done anything to stop them, even the U.S. has decided to send in more weapons."
The calls for restraint from Catholic leaders was joined today by the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate. Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Department for External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, accused the US, "as was the case in Iraq," of "acting as an international executioner." Hilarion told AsiaNews that the US is acting without the endorsement of the UN, adding, "They want to decide the fate of a whole country of millions of inhabitants."
"Once again, thousands of lives will be sacrificed on the altar of an imaginary democracy." Among these victims, he added, are "Christians, about whose fate no one cares." These are at "risk of becoming hostages to the situation and the main victims of radical extremist forces, who, with the help of the United States, will come to power."