Monday September 9, 2013, no148
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
That's why America wants to attack Syria
By Ghaleb Kandil
Barak Obama 's decision to declare war on Syria did not come from nowhere. It is the result of a series of factors that, from the point of view of the U.S. President, is a last attempt to avoid the end of the unilateral hegemony of the American empire in the world. The impasse in the United States also reflects that of Israel, which sees grow with impotence the deterrence capabilities of regional resistance axis, with Syria at its heart. This is what largely explains the argument of "U.S. national security", advanced by Obama to sell his war against Syria.
The first factor is the failure of the indirect war launched two years ago to destroy the Syrian state. An even more resounding failure that enormous resources were mobilized by the United States and its agents to achieve this goal. But the Syrian government has resisted, under the leadership of its President Bashar al- Assad, and all attempts have met with the strength of the Syrian Arab Army, which has taken the initiative on the ground and absorbed and pushed successive waves launched by tens of thousands of foreign mercenaries from 80 countries. The last wave came from Jordan, where Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan , the real leader of Al-Qaeda, has gathered 20,000 extremists trained for months by U.S. French and British Special Forces.
The groups of Al-Qaeda in Syria are the main tool of the Americans. Their latest plan was to make a breakthrough in Damascus. But the waves of jihadist-Takfirist were broken on the rampart of the Syrian army, which has launched a preventive attack. around the capital.
Second factor: It is clear that the resistance of the Syrian state all that time was the main catalyst for the emergence of new international equilibrium. This resistance was used as leverage to oppose the unilateral hegemony of the United States by countries, such as Russia, China and more generally members of brics, who have been active. During various episodes of aggression against Syria, Washington has had to bow to the demands of a new international partnership by accepting, at least theoretically, arrangements with Russia, including the Geneva 1 and 2. But soon, the United States tried to empty these arrangements from their contents before trying to kill them.
The direct aggression against Syria remains, for the United States, the last and only way to test their abilities to reverse the table, protect and renew their unilateral hegemony over the world, and turn on the partnership that they did seem to accept. For the end of the hegemony means the end of privileges and interests that Americans have accumulated the past quarter century as a single power on the world scene, since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Accepting a multipolar world will lead , inevitably, to a revolution in international relations and to a change in the structure of the United Nations, manipulated all these years by Washington to serve his interests.
Third factor: the fate of Israel and the Arab-puppet is at the heart of the aggression against Syria. Indeed, the alliance formed by the West, Israel, the backward monarchies and Turkey knows that the victory of Syria and President Bashar al- Assad will trigger an Arab nationalist wave hostile to the Zionist movement and the colonial forces in the region. This victory will strengthen Syria, Iran and the resistance movements that have managed to break the Israeli deterrence during successive wars, including the July 2006 Lebanon. It is, moreover, the real purpose of aggression against Syria since March 2011.
Fourth factor: a possible victory of Syria constitute a strategic threat to the United States and its auxiliaries, especially in the era of decisive changes that are taking place in Egypt, after the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood. Such a victory would necessarily tighten the noose on Israel. America and its agents have one last card to play: the direct military intervention in Syria.
But Syria is not alone in the field. Unlike Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, it is at heart a regional axis that recorded successive victories over Israel since 1982 in four major wars, in addition to dozens of other military and politico-diplomatic confrontations. This axis is now supported by a great power, Russia, long humiliated by the United States, and is now determined to regain its central position on the international scene.
In this new standoff imposed by America, the axis of the resistance and its international allies are showing strength. This is especially the resistance of Syria, its president, its people and its army, which encourages them not to yield to the threats of America. And when these threats are realized in action, the United States and its auxiliaries will be surprised by the response capacity of the axis that runs from Tehran to Moscow, via Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Beijing.
Vladimir Putin, Russian president
«Will we be helping Syria? We will, same as we do now. We’re supplying arms and cooperating on economy. I hope there will be more humanitarian collaboration, including in humanitarian aid supplies to the people, the civilians who found themselves today in such dire straits. I discussed the Syrian crisis at the summit with president Obama. However, we failed to agree. We remained unconvinced by each other. But there is a dialogue, we hear each other and understand the arguments. I disagree with him, with his arguments, he disagrees with mine, but we hear each other and try to analyze arguments.»
Bashar al-Assad, President of the Arab Syrian Republic
«Whoever accuses must provide evidence. We challenged the United States and France to advance a single proof. MM. Obama and Holland were unable, including before their peoples. I am not saying that the Syrian army has such weapons or not. Suppose that our military wants to use weapons of mass destruction: is it possible to do it in an area where our troops are deployed and where soldiers were wounded by these weapons, as noted by UN inspectors who visited them in the hospital where they were treated? Where is the logic? The Middle East is a powder keg, and the fire is approaching today. Must not only talk about the Syrian response, but what might happen after the first strike. Nobody knows what will happen. Everyone will lose control of the situation when the powder keg explodes. Chaos and extremism will spread. The risk of a regional war is there. Anyone who contributes to strengthening terrorist on financial and military level is the enemy of the Syrian people. Anyone who works against the interests of Syria and its citizens is an enemy. The French people are not our enemy, but the policy of the state is hostile to the Syrian people. Insofar as the policy of the French government is hostile to the Syrian people, the state will be his enemy. This hostility will end when the French government change its policy. There will be repercussions, negative of course, on the interests of France.»
Hachem Minkara, head of the Islamic Unification Movement
«The attacks in Tripoli is an act that causes the most profound contempt . It is haram. Only those who despise humanity is capable of such an act. Whoever committed the bombing of Tripoli was the one who committed the attack in the southern suburbs of Beirut. Sheikh Ahmad al-Gharib denied in court all his confession during the preliminary interrogation. They were extracted under pressure. I fought Israel and the Syrian army when it was in Lebanon? Today, I support the state project in Syria. Do you want to replace this project by al-Nosra Front? Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah carries the torch of resistance in the Arab world against Israel. Nobody can say the contrary one day.»
Hussein Moussaoui, Hezbollah MP
«The US president is seeking congressional authorization, which means that he is going towards a war bigger than a punitive strike through a deceiving policy that enables his collaborators to control Syria and embroil it in the American-Zionist-Takfiri and diabolical triangle. I regret the financing of the war by certain Gulf countries, and that what remains of the Arab League is requesting an assault on a constituting member state. I urge the world’s free people to be ready and prepared to stop the US aggression. The voices of the brave and the wise in the Arab Islamic world and the international community must rise in order to resist the US and hold it accountable for its crimes.»
A Russian warship carrying "special cargo" will be dispatched toward Syria, a navy source said on Friday, as the Kremlin beefs up its presence in the region ahead of a possible US attack on Syria. The large landing ship Nikolai Filchenkov will on Friday leave the Ukrainian port city of Sevastopol for the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiisk, from where it will head to Syria's coast, the Interfax news agency quoted a source from the Saint Petersburg-based central naval command as saying. "The ship will make call in Novorossiisk, where it will take on board special cargo and set off for the designated area of its combat duty in the eastern Mediterranean," the source said. The source did not specify the nature of the cargo. In recent days Russia has made steps to beef up its naval grouping in the region. The Russian destroyer Smetlivy will soon join the group in the region as well as the destroyer Nastoichivy, Interfax has said. The anti-submarine ship Admiral Panteleyev has already entered its zone of operation as the flagship of the current rotation of the Mediterranean grouping, a military source has told the news agency. Already in place in the eastern Mediterranean are the frigate Neustrashimy, as well as the landing ships Alexander Shabalin, the Admiral Nevelsky and the Peresvet. They are expected to be joined by the large landing ships Novocherkassk and Minsk and the missile cruiser Moskva. The reconnaissance ship Priazovye is also on its way to join the group.
Ad Diyar Lebanese daily reports the analysis of some sources claiming skepticism about the relevance of the movement of President Michel Sleiman in France which coincides with a strike against Syria. "France is the European country most going into the war against Syria now, alongside the United States", said these sources.
Ad Diyar daily said that reacting to the last speech of Samir Geagea, the ambassador of a European country considered that the leader of the Lebanese Forces has not learned the lessons of the past and merely hold about superficial. The ambassador had contacted Geagea to invite him to visit his country, but he have renounced it after the speech.
Syrian authorities are offering rewards of 500,000 Syrian pounds (around $2,500/1,900 euros), to anyone who hands over captured foreign "terrorists," Syrian state television said on Friday. A reward of 200,000 pounds will be offered to those providing information on the presence of foreign fighters or helping in their capture. Those handing in foreign fighters will be offered protection and their identities protected, the message added, saying even fugitives who turned in foreign fighters could receive pardons. The armed opposition includes foreign fighters, some of whom belong to the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
As Safir (Lebanese daily, Arab nationalist)
Claire Chokor (September 6, 2013)
The leader of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) Walid Jumblatt think strikes against Syria will increase anarchy in this country. According to him, it was necessary, since the battle of Baba Amr, to unify and arm the opposition. Today, he says, "the Syrian streets are invaded by opposition from all sides, with a lot of suicide bombers and jihadists, and to the detriment of the interests of the Syrian people and the national opposition." He excludes, however, that Lebanon become a "partner in the Syrian military battle", namely with regard to the involvement of Hezbollah from southern Lebanon: "Hezbollah and Tehran are aware that the southerners can no longer support new exodus, and they care about the welfare of their citizens." The PSP leader therefore calls on all Lebanese actors not bet on Tomahawk missiles in Syria.
Moreover, internally, he believes it is possible to speak of an agreement on the form of government, which is a cabinet similar to the reality on the ground": "The government of technocrats is not the Lebanese configuration," he said. He believes that the formation of the cabinet has become urgent for several reasons: the deteriorating economic situation, the crisis of Syrian refugees called to be exacerbated in case of deterioration of the situation in Syria, and the file of oil must go forward.
As Safir (September 6, 2013)
Hezbollah is still silent about his reaction to any Western military operation in Syria, while he continues his preparation backstage. Indeed, the party has taken all necessary action to remedy the worst event and redoubled vigilance in order to "control the timing, nature and extent of his reaction if he deems imperative to intervene." However, some components of the March 14 are planning to build on the ruins of the alleged U.S. strike a political empire with Saad Hariri as Prime minister and Samir Geagea for president. They believe that the balance of power in Syria and Lebanon will certainly not remain the same, and that Tehran and Hezbollah will be weakened.
An Nahar (Lebanese daily close to March-14 coalition)
(September 6, 2013)
The Maronite Bishop Samir Mazloum said that patriarchy "refuses to use force to settle disputes between States" , referring to the threat of Western strikes against Syria. "We have not forgotten what happened in Iraq and comedy prepared by the West to attack this country, he said. The major powers took pretext on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq and lied to the world public opinion to justify the war, and it later appeared that the WMD did not exist. "And the Maronite bishop continued: "We are opposed to the policies of the great powers. We've all seen the number of deaths fell in Iraq." Mgr Mazloum fears that the Iraqi scenario repeat itself in Syria. " We do not believe the Western arguments to convince the world of the necessity of a strike against Syria. We do not defend the Syrian regime but the Syrian people and ourselves. Experience has taught us that if the problem starts in Syria, it will not remain limited to this country. It will affect us home. Maronite prelate said that "the whole Church is opposed to the strike against Syria", underlining that the Pope Francis called for peace in this country.
Al Akhbar (Lebanese Daily close to the Lebanese Resistance)
Sharmine Narwani (September 6, 2013)
Informed insiders have confirmed that Syria and Hezbollah plan to retaliate against Israel in the event of an American-led military attack on Syria. Says one: “if even one US missile hits Syria, we will take this battle to Israel.”
An official who spoke to me on the condition that neither his name or affiliation is published, says the decision to retaliate against Israel “has been taken at the highest levels within the Syrian state and Hezbollah.”
“Israel has been itching for a fight since their 2006 defeat by Hezbollah,” explains an observer close to the Lebanese resistance group. “They have led this campaign to draw the US into a confrontation with Syria because they are worried about being left alone in the region to face Iran. This has become an existential issue for them and they are now ‘leading’ from behind America’s skirts.”
The "Resistance Axis" which consists of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and a smattering of other groups, has long viewed attacks on one of their members as an effort to target them all.
And Israeli aggression against this axis reached a new high in 2013, with missile strikes and airstrikes unseen for many years in the Levant.
Israel has reportedly conducted at least three separate, high profile missile strikes against Syria this year, effectively ending a 40-year ceasefire between the neighboring states. The last overt violation of this uneasy truce was in 2007 when the Jewish state destroyed an alleged nuclear site inside Syria.
Then two weeks ago, Israel launched its first airstrike in Lebanon since the 2006 war, bombing a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command (PFLP-GC) target in an entirely unprovoked attack. Earlier, four rockets had been launched into Israel from Lebanese territory, but an unrelated Al Qaeda-linked group took credit for that incident.
When asked whether Syrian allies Russia and Iran would participate in retaliatory strikes against Israel or other targets, the official indicated that both countries would back these efforts, but provided no information on whether this support would include direct military engagement.
On Tuesday during an official visit to Lebanon, Iranian parliamentarian and Chairman of the (Majlis) Committee for National Security and Foreign Policy Alaeddin Boroujerdi told reporters: “The first party that will be most affected by an aggression on Syria is the Zionist entity.”
His comments follow a steady stream of warnings by senior Iranian officials, which have escalated in tenor as western threats to attack Syria have intensified.
“The US imagination about limited military intervention in Syria is merely an illusion, as reactions will be coming from beyond Syria’s borders,” said the Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Major General Mohammad Ali Jaafari last Saturday.
Even Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei has stepped into the fray, warning the US and its allies: "starting this fire will be like a spark in a large store of gunpowder, with unclear and unspecified outcomes and consequences".
If ever there was a real 'red line' in the region, this is it. Any "limited” or “broad” military intervention in Syria is simply unacceptable to Syria, Iran, Russia, Hezbollah, China and a whole host of other nations that want to turn the page on US hegemonic aspirations in the region and beyond.
Washington has miscalculated in thinking that an attack in any shape or form would be palatable to its quite incredulous adversaries. They are all intimately familiar with the slippery slope of American interventionism and its myriad unintended consequences.
Israel, in particular, appears to be victim to a false sense of security. Analysts and commentators there seem to think that the lack of a Syrian military response to recent Israeli missile strikes is a trend likely to continue. Or that Hezbollah and Iran would have no 'grounds' to climb aboard a counterattack if Syria were attacked.
But the fact is that, to date, no member of the Resistance Axis has faced a collective western-Israeli-GCC effort to strike a blow at their core. This promised US-plus-allies strike against Syria makes their calculation aneasy one: there is nowhere to go but headfirst into the fracas.
The US has never predicted outcomes successfully in the Middle East and is unlikely to do so this time given that its strategic and military objectives seem even more muddled than usual. What we do know is that Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has promised that the “next battle” will take place inside Israel’s borders and that he will fight proportionately this time – striking Israeli cities when Israel hits Lebanese ones.
On the Syrian front, Israel imagines a war-weary adversary. But the Syrian armed forces have the kinds of conventional weapons and ballistic missiles that can level a town in short shrift – that is not an outcome Israel has the capacity to endure.
In yet another corner is Iran, boasting a rare combination of military manpower, hardware, technology and tactical skills that Israel has never faced in any adversary on the battlefield. Russia looms large too – it may provide military intelligence to its allies or it may just use its clout in the UN Security Council to intervene at opportune moments in the fight. Either way, Moscow is a huge asset for the Resistance Axis – and will be joined by China to coach and calibrate responses to the fighting from the 'international community.'
Meanwhile, as if unable to stop a 'war trajectory' once it starts, the US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee has just voted to widen and deepen the scope of a US attack on Syria. The new goal? To “reverse the momentum on the battlefield” against the Syrian army and “hasten Assad’s departure.”
This is no different than Libya, Afghanistan or Iraq. Israelis and Americans need to understand that language and behavior threatening 'regime-change' gives their adversaries only one choice: to retaliate withall their capabilities and assets on all fronts. Washington just made this existential. No more games, no more rhetoric. Any strike on Syria will be 'war on.' In US military parlance: a 'full-spectrum operation' will be heading your way. And you can call it Operation "Tip of.
Al Akhbar (september 5, 2013)
Following the incidents of 7 May 2008, Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea became the “Gulf’s uncrowned king” in Lebanon. Now, Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan has removed Geagea from his throne, rendering him out of a job after Riyadh propped up the Salafis, at his expense.
Over the past few months, Riyadh, as its Lebanese allies knew it, was absent. A series of changes were introduced to Saudi’s power structure, while Saudi policy on Lebanon was entrusted to Saudi intelligence chief Bandar bin Sultan. Before this, there had been a range of options for Lebanese politicians to open channels with the Kingdom, by engaging high-level officials like Prince Muqrin bin Abdul-Aziz, all the way down to former Saudi ambassador to Lebanon Abdul-Aziz Khoja.
Until earlier this year, Khaled al-Tuwaijri, head of the king’s court, wielded immense power and influence over the king’s decisions, drawing the ire of many princes in the royal family. This prompted the Saudi king to try to restore some balance between Tuwaijri and Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul-Aziz.
It was through a loophole in this balance, for example, that MP Tammam Salam came to be designated to form the next Lebanese government. Of course, Bandar does not have the right to veto Salman’s decisions, but the latter tasked Bandar to support Salam because the Saudi agenda in Lebanon – as Syria is the priority – is not political in nature but security-oriented, centering on undercutting Hezbollah rather than appeasing it.
Sources close to decision-making circles in Saudi say that Geagea has fallen down the list of priorities for the Saudis in Lebanon. Nevertheless, the Saudi view of Geagea remains unchanged, with the Lebanese Forces leader seen as someone who is different from the rest of Riyadh’s allies for having an “ideological” enmity with Hezbollah, rather than a political one, as is the case with MP Walid Jumblatt, for instance.
As Lebanon enters “Bandar’s era,” Geagea now serves no significant purpose for Saudi Arabian policy in Lebanon.
To be sure, the Saudi intelligence chief has his own ideological and security strike force in Lebanon against Hezbollah, namely, the Salafis. Meanwhile, politicking over forming the new cabinet has been entrusted to MP Jumblatt, in his capacity as kingmaker under the current parliamentary and governmental balance of power.
Another factor not in favor of Geagea is a recent assessment by the CIA – to which Bandar is close – over his role. Geagea had obtained substantial support from Riyadh to help secure the support of Christians in the Middle East for the Syrian opposition. However, he was unable to produce any significant results in this regard.
Riyadh felt threatened by the visits of Change and Reform head MP Michel Aoun to Syria before the conflict there began. Similarly, Saudi saw the pastoral visit by Maronite Patriarch Bichara al-Rai to Damascus during the crisis as a declaration by Middle Eastern Christians of their support for the Syrian regime. Saudi circles have thus come to ask, “What has Geagea been doing about this?”
For several months now, Geagea has not been invited to visit Saudi Arabia or any Gulf country. Informed sources believe this means that – for the time being – Riyadh has decided to classify him as an “ordinary ally.”
This is while bearing in mind that, between 7 May 2008 and the start of the Syrian crisis in March 2011, Geagea was a “super” ally of Saudi, as evident from the successive invitations he received to visit Gulf countries, and the warm reception he received in Riyadh.
Back then, the ambassador of a certain Gulf state attributed the newfound Gulf interest in Geagea to three reasons: First, Geagea, compared to Jumblatt, was better and more “stable” because his antagonism to Hezbollah was ideological rather than related to political calculations, as is the case with most other politicians.
Second, Geagea told Gulf officials previously that he had conducted a “self-critical” assessment over his role in the Lebanese civil war, up to declaring remorse for actions that have angered the Gulf countries, such as the assassination of a Sunni prime minister (Rashid Karami), and that he would shun any alliance with Israel, instead committing to the Arab policy line against Iran and its allies, the Syrian regime and Hezbollah.
Third, Geagea succeeded in giving the impression that he was the right man to fight Hezbollah in Lebanon, even militarily if necessary.
During that time, Geagea was the Gulf’s uncrowned king in Lebanon. Even Saad Hariri was irked by him for some time, particularly when Hariri was told that the budget allocated for Geagea would be given directly to him, rather than through Hariri.
Now, Saudi circles are doubtful that Geagea’s privileges are still intact. They say, “True, Riyadh has not cut off aid to Geagea, unlike with everyone in Lebanon after the last general election. But under Bandar, Riyadh has diverted funding to the Salafi groups that have been pitted against Hezbollah, at the orders of Bandar personally.”
When the Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Asiri looked like he was initiating efforts for rapprochement with MP Aoun, Geagea’s Maronite archrival, the latter held his breath. To be sure, the Saudi move meant that as far as Saudi policy in Lebanon was concerned, Geagea was now unemployed.
Since that time, according to close associates of Geagea, he started grumbling about what he calls the “vacuity” of the agenda pursued by the Arab and Western countries allied with March 14 in Lebanon, and their lack of an action plan, focusing instead on intelligence gathering and observation.
In this regard, sources indicate that Geagea staged his appearance during the memorial service for the Lebanese Forces’ fallen fighters to remind outside actors, particularly in the Gulf, that he was still there, as if to tell them that they would be mistaken if they treated him like a forgotten ally.
Geagea was sure to include in his speech hints that it was in his ability to begin the “bazaar” that is the next presidential race, and that he was either the appropriate candidate for the post of president following Bashar al-Assad’s ouster in Syria.
But Geagea, after all, must no doubt be aware of Saudi’s desire to have a permanently weak president who must not compete with the prime minister in Lebanon.
Al Akhbar (September 4, 2013)
All the talk and analysis will not change the scene unfolding before us today – the United States is facing its first major test since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis.
What is at stake is much more than what happens in the Middle East. America’s key political, security, economic, and military institutions are wondering just how much influence their country still wields in the world today.
Congress may vote for or against a military strike on Syria, but there is no doubt that Washington is living through one of the most difficult moments in its recent history.
Congress’ decision has little to do with what the secretaries of state and defense John Kerry and Chuck Hagel have to offer on the matter – the House and Senate must also be prepared to accept the consequences of a military adventure that could spark a regional war. And if they refuse to support an attack, then they must lay out a new strategy for the US’ role in the world.
Both Obama and Congress know well that the time for threats and bluster has expired, and it’s time to make a decision and take action. Mediators did their best to convince Syria’s allies – Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah – not to respond to what they promised would be symbolic strikes that would avoid exacting any serious damage to the regime’s forces.
The response came back from Moscow, on behalf of the rest, saying that any strike, rocket, or even bullet fired at Syria will mean open war that could engulf the region as a whole, including America’s prized allies like Israel and the Gulf Arab countries.
In light of this, what can be done? The additional days – and possibly weeks – it is now taking to arrive at a decision in Washington has granted Syria and its allies precious time to coordinate and prepare their response.
For a week now, the engines of the resistance axis have been running at full throttle, mobilizing thousands of strategic units from Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah to complete all that is necessary to confront an attack and wage an open-ended war.
In resistance circles, there is not much enthusiasm for another confrontation, but there are only two possible paths before them: enter a political settlement with the current balance of forces, or engage in an open war, the outcome of which nobody can predict.
America, too, is before a fork in the road. It can behave, much as before, as if it has the last word on all matters, refusing to share power with anyone, and insisting on ruling the world with its madness. Or, it can be a little modest, accept the bitter lessons of the past two decades, and conclude that its global supremacy is no longer possible.
The new America must therefore choose between modesty and madness. As for us…our destiny is resistance.
The Daily Star (Lebanese daily close to March-14 coalition)
(September 6, 2013)
It’s a critical time, being in the heat of the moment. The fever-pitch chatter about an imminent Western strike on Syrian military facilities from last week has returned, and once again the region plunges into a murky world of rumors and speculation on the when, where and who.
There are already four U.S. destroyer ships in the Mediterranean, with a fifth reportedly on its way. Russia’s only naval base outside the former Soviet Union is at the Syrian port of Tartous, and the country’s Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said Thursday they had a “pretty strong group” in the Mediterranean.
It is as if we have returned to the Cuban Missile Crisis, the very peak of the Cold War, with the world’s superpowers engaging in a serious faceoff and potentially explosive game of brinkmanship. Russia’s real-time announcement this week that the U.S. and Israel had fired missiles in the Mediterranean– an apparent “test” – was a clear warning shot from President Vladimir Putin: America, we are watching you.
This sort of confrontation back in 1962 brought the world to a standstill as the then-USSR and United States hurtled toward all-out nuclear war over a sensitive issue centered on a third-party. The military escalation as ships took up position, the inflammatory rhetoric, the overriding concern with losing face and upholding one’s credibility, the global proxy war – sound familiar to anyone?
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Congress has been debating the very same issue. Iraq has come up in speeches on numerous occasions, but for all the wrong reasons. The Americans are war-weary, we hear. Just imagine how the Iraqis must feel. Many things have been said about the lessons that should be learned from the Iraq debacle, but few have centered on how appalling life is like for those living there now.
“The day after” is not a concept many of those arguing for intervention have considered. More than 100,000 civilians have died in Iraq since the invasion of 2003. It’s the same number being touted to advocate intervention in Syria, and yet it should be a red flag.
No matter how many times politicians say the words “limited strikes,” they do not become any truer. Even if it were limited in its scope or motives, no strike by a Western country, especially by the U.S., would be limited in its consequences. More than anything, it will give President Bashar Assad and his backers – Russia, Iran and Hezbollah– ample reason to up the ante in their fight against the rebels.
Those behind the decisions to be made over the next few days should think long and hard about the day after and how it looked in Iraq. The inevitable strike, however, should impact the march toward a political solution and yield the conviction by the regime that it’s the only path available to ending the bloodshed.
Fides (Information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies, September 6 , 2013)
The cross that towered on the dome of the monastery of Saints Sergius and Bacchus does not exist any more. Armed groups of the jihadist Galaxy removed it, who on Wednesday attacked and invaded Maaloula, the small Christian village in the north of Damascus, a sacred place for all Syrians, where Aramaic is still spoken, the original language of Jesus. Even the Church of St. Leontius and that of Saints Cosmas and Damian were damaged. As Fides learns, armed groups, that for three months have been stationed on a hill overlooking the village, attacked the military checkpoint at the entrance of the village, killing the soldiers who were there. Then they entered the village and fired on houses, injuring three civilians. Asked by Fides Agency, the Melkite Patriarch Gregory III Laham, embittered by what he calls "the great tragedy of this war", launches an urgent appeal "to the international community, to the conscience of the whole world, to save the small village of Maaloula", which is under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Damascus, "which is a very important Christian symbol in the history of Syria", he explains.
The Patriarch told Fides: "80% of the terrified population of the village have fled to Damascus. Yesterday refugees, came crying to the Greek Catholic and then went to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. We tried in every way to comfort them. Maaloula is a sacred place for all of us, but first of all its inhabitants are sacred: man is the holy temple of God. Armed groups are now holed up in the village, made up of houses built on the rocks. And any act of force to throw them out could mean the destruction of the place", notes with concern the Patriarch. Gregory III adds: "For two and a half years we have brought the cross, we are pilgrims in the Way of the Cross. The attack on Maaloula is a deep wound, it is a peak of our suffering, for its historical, cultural and spiritual value that the place has for all Syrians".
The New York Times (American Daily, September 5, 2013)
President Obama as directed the Pentagon to develop an expanded list of potential targets in Syria in response to intelligence suggesting that the government of President Bashar al-Assad has been moving troops and equipment used to employ chemical weapons while Congress debates whether to authorize military action.
Mr. Obama, officials said, is now determined to put more emphasis on the “degrade” part of what the administration has said is the goal of a military strike against Syria— to “deter and degrade” Mr. Assad’s ability to use chemical weapons. That means expanding beyond the 50 or so major sites that were part of the original target list developed with French forces before Mr. Obama delayed action to seek Congressional approval of his plan.
For the first time, the administration is talking about using American and French aircraft to conduct strikes on specific targets, in addition to ship-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles. There is a renewed push to get other NATO forces involved.
The strikes would be aimed not at the chemical stockpiles themselves — risking a potential catastrophe — but rather the military units that have stored and prepared the chemical weapons and carried the attacks against Syrian rebels, as well as the headquarters overseeing the effort, and the rockets and artillery that have launched the attacks, military officials said Thursday.
Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that other targets would include equipment that Syria uses to protect the chemicals — air defenses, long-range missiles and rockets, which can also deliver the weapons.
The Wall Street Journal (American Daily, September 5 , 2013)
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards ordered Shiite militias in Iraq to attack to attack US targets in Baghdad if Washington conducts a military strike on Syria. US intelligence intercepted a message from Qassem Soleimani, the chief of the Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force, ordering Iranian-backed militias in Iraq to “be prepared to respond with force after a US strike on Syria.” US officials said that the “US Embassy in Baghdad was one likely target.” US officials also fear Hezbollah could attack the US Embassy in Beirut.
On Friday, the US State Department ordered the evacuation of all non-essential personnel from the US Embassy in Lebanon and warned citizens against travelling to Syria’s Mediterranean neighbor.