Most Read
Image 01 Image 02 Image 03

Syria Tag

Over fifty members of the Obama administration have signed a memo urging the president to take a more aggressive approach to Syria. The signers, who are all diplomats, recommend an increase in airstrikes. The New York Times reports:
51 U.S. Diplomats Urge Strikes Against Assad in Syria More than 50 State Department diplomats have signed an internal memo sharply critical of the Obama administration’s policy in Syria, urging the United States to carry out military strikes against the government of President Bashar al-Assad to stop its persistent violations of a cease-fire in the country’s five-year-old civil war.

Revolting details have come to light about Islamic State’s secret chemical weapons program. British newspaper The Telegraph reported that ISIS has been testing lethal chemical on humans, as well as setting up labs and moving chemical weapons stockpiles to residential areas of the Iraqi city of Mosul. The report claims that ISIS has been experimenting on captives held at a prison camp in Nineveh, Mosul. The residents near the prison have been reporting breathing difficulties and children were developing severe rashes -- side effects associated with chlorine and mustard gas. The residents of a former Christian neighbourhood in Mosul reported that ISIS moved their chemical labs after US airstrikes on the terrorist group's chemical facility at a local university. ISIS fighters moved in the locality with huge unmarked trucks and had been dumping dead dogs and rabbits in the nearby waste heap. The Telegraph corroborated the local eyewitness accounts with an ISIS informer who verified that animals dumped in the area had previously been tested with chemicals.

In his testimony last week before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, concerning the grand Iran deal deception described in a recent New York Times article that was carried out by Obama and Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, Michael Doran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, laid out five areas where the White House deceived the American people. First, Doran in his testimony established that even before he became president, Obama had expressed an interest in rapprochement with Iran. He cited former CIA chief and Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, from The New York Times expose on the echo chamber saying that the administration knew that "They’d have gotten “the [expletive] kicked out of them,” if they had been upfront about their intention to engage Iran. Doran summed it up:

We reported on Friday that top Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine was killed in an explosion in Syria, but that the circumstances were unclear, Another top Hezbollah commander killed – but who dunnit?. Badreddine was considered a master bomb maker, credited with developing that combination of explosives and gas that took down the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut and numerous American and other diplomatic facilities. Badreddine of late was commander of Hezbollah forces propping up the Assad regime, and was hated not only by Israeli but also by many Arab states. So he had plenty of enemies, and plenty of people who wanted him dead. But he also lived in the shadows, with few photos of him prior to his death (Hezbollah has released more photos after his death) and a life lived under assumed names. While pro-Hezbollah Lebanese media immediately blamed Israel. That made perfect sense in light of Israel's presumed assassinations of numerous Hezbollah leaders, including  Imad Mughniyeh (mastermind of almost all attacks on Israel and the U.S.), his son Imad Mughniyeh (who was killed along with several high level operatives and an Iranian general),Hassan Laqqis (key Hezbollah link to Iranian weapons procurement) and Samir Kuntar (who killed an Israeli girl by smashing her head against the rocks on a beach).

There have been a series of assinations of top Hezbollah commanders in the recent past, including Imad Mughniyeh (mastermind of almost all attacks on Israel and the U.S.), his son Imad Mughniyeh (who was killed along with several high level operatives and an Iranian general), Hassan Laqqis (key Hezbollah link to Iranian weapons procurement) and Samir Kuntar (who killed an Israeli girl by smashing her head against the rocks on a beach). In some of the cases (Imad Mughniyeh) Israeli involvement was clear, in the others it's presumed. Hezbollah just lost another top commander, the brother-in-law of Imad Mughniyey, and its top commander in Syria, Mustafa Amine Badreddine. The BBC reports:

Apparently, the White House is bowing to pressure from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (yes, such a position actually exists) and is going to look for alternate ways to bring Syrian refugees into the country. Fox News reports:
The Obama administration appears to be bowing to international pressure and pursuing under-the-radar “alternative” ways to bring in more Syrian and other refugees -- as soon as this year. The latest indication that the administration is preparing to take in more than the 10,000 Syrians this year it already has committed to follows a March 30 “high-level meeting” on Syrian refugee admission in Geneva, Switzerland -- convened by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. At the meeting, attended by State Department officials, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi called for countries to pursue “alternative avenues” for refugees – such as student and work visas, and expanded family reunification programs.

On Tuesday, German police in the State of North Rhine-Westphalia arrested a Syrian man charged with serious war crimes after arriving from Syria. The former militia commander is suspected of pillaging, plundering and committing brutalities against civilian in the city of Aleppo, Syria. The initial reports have not confirmed if the suspect entered Germany using a false identity or posing as a refugee. In 2015, Germany took in more than a million migrants. The actual figures are believed to be much higher. Just this week, the German newspaper Berliner Zeitung reported that according to Interior Ministry's estimates some 500,000 unregistered migrants were roaming across Germany.

Emails released from Hillary Clinton's Secretary of State cache show Google executives interest in Syria. Jared Cohen, Head of Google Ideas at the time contacted the State Department in 2012 about a project that encouraged Syrian government defectors. Google planned to work with Al Jazeera to disseminate their defector map. The email reads:
Please keep close hold, but my team is planning to launch a tool on Sunday that will publicly track and map the defections in Syria and which parts of the government they are coming from. Our logic behind this is that while many people are tracking the atrocities, nobody is visually representing and mapping the defections, which we believe are important in encouraging more to defect and giving confidence to the opposition.

The subtext in Secretary of State Kerry's agonizing over whether to label ISIS's systematic, premeditated rape and slaughter of Christians, Yazidis and Shi'ites in Syria is what it means for the million-and-a-half skeletons in Turkey's closet.  There is little objective doubt that during World War I, Turkey murdered around 1.5 million Armenians, but Turkey cannot abide the least suggestion that it engaged in genocide, and the US has thus far deferred to Turkish sensibilities. The US's failure to recognize the Armenian Genocide and Turkey's culpability, and to induce Turkey to learn from that dark period in its history undermines the US's ability to identify and condemn genocide elsewhere.  This is the undercurrent in Secretary of State Kerry's bizarre inability to call a spade a spade in Northern Syria. In brief, the 2015 omnibus spending bill included a requirement that the State Department make a determination of whether ISIS was engaged in genocide.  Anticipating and perhaps hoping to guide the results of that State Department review, on Monday the House of Representatives passed an unanimous resolution declaring that ISIS's actions are genocide.  That resolution has no legal effect.

In a rather surprising move, Russia's president Vladimir Putin announced Monday that he would begin withdrawing troops from Syria the very next day.  Those of us watching the Middle East carefully were not only surprised by the move but also intensely curious about possible motivations and what the move will ultimately mean in the region, particularly with regard to Israel. Tuesday, retired U. S. Army lieutenant colonel Ralph Peters offered a compelling analysis of Putin's move and of what it means not only in the Middle East but, ultimately, for the United States. Positing that Putin has quickly seen—Russia's been in Syria only since September—that the power that will emerge in the region will be Iran's, not Russia's, Peters concludes that Putin's decision was based in cold, hard reality. In his article, "The Syrian War Just Taught Putin to Worry About Iran," for the The New York Post, Peters writes:

This is actually a big deal, if for real. The Russian air force and associated troops manning the airfield and anti-aircraft systems have been responsible for many of the recent gains by Syrian, Hezbollah, and Iranian-backed foreign militias fighting to keep Assad in power. Russia Today, generally perceived as pro-Putin, reports:
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu to start the withdrawal of forces from Syria starting Tuesday. “I consider the objectives that have been set for the Defense Ministry to be generally accomplished. That is why I order to start withdrawal of the main part of our military group from the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic starting from tomorrow,” Putin said on Monday during a meeting with Shoigu and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. To control the observation of ceasefire agreements in the region, Moscow will keep its Hmeymim airbase in Latakia province, Putin said.

With each passing day, it gets more and more difficult to ignore the monumental disaster that Obama’s foreign policy actually is. Nowhere is its utter failure more glaringly evident than in the Syrian Civil War. But first, let us not underestimate the pathologies of the Middle East that have led to the present disaster in Syria, but Obama administration’s policies have created perils that we would be dealing with, in decades to come. The geopolitical vacuum created by President Obama’s push to shrink America’s footprint in the Middle East has quickly been filled by Comrade Putin’s soviet-style jackboots. And President Obama-backed Nuclear Deal has single-handedly contributed billions of dollars to Islamic Republic of Iran’s war chest geared at funding global terrorism and regional adventures.

James Traub writes in Foreign Policy on the situation facing Sweden in its attempt to absorb the recent wave of Syrian/Iraqi/Afghan newcomers. At the outset of the article, the author may seem to be leaning towards blaming Europe for not being more magnanimous, and to be making a false analogy to WWII refugees---who may indeed have been from other countries, but who nevertheless were part of the same basic Judeo-Christian culture as the Swedes and held pretty much the same values. But that's actually not at all the direction in which the article ultimately goes, nor is it the way a lot of people in Sweden seem to be going at this point. And the trend may continue. But it's hard to talk about it in Sweden:
Diana Janse, a former diplomat and now the senior foreign policy advisor to the Moderate Party (which Swedes view as “conservative”), pointed out to me that some recent generations of Swedish refugees, including Somalis, had been notably unsuccessful joining the job market. How, she wondered, will the 10,000-20,000 young Afghan men who had entered Sweden as “unaccompanied minors” fare? How would they behave in the virtual absence of young Afghan women? But she could barely raise these questions in political debate. “We have this expression in Swedish, asiktskorridor,” she said. “It means ‘opinion corridor’ — the views you can’t move outside of.” Merely to ask whether Sweden could integrate Afghans today as it had Bosnians two decades before was to risk accusations of racism.

While President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have assured us that the nuclear deal with Iran has delayed war, Tony Badran in a devastating critique of the administration's foreign policy last week wrote, "Middle Easterners are not so lucky: They get to fight their wars with Iran right now." Back in 2014, Badran noted, President Obama said of the turmoil in the Middle East, "A lot of it has to do with changes that are taking place in the Middle East in which an old order that had been in place for 50 years, 60 years, 100 years was unsustainable, and was going to break up at some point. And now, what we are seeing is the old order not working, but the new order not being born yet -- and it is a rocky road through that process, and a dangerous time through that process." But a few months earlier, Obama, in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, made very clear that his intent was to make Iran an agent of changing the orders. When Goldberg asked him why the Sunni states seem to fear him so much Obama answered, "I think that there are shifts that are taking place in the region that have caught a lot of them off guard. I think change is always scary. I think there was a comfort with a United States that was comfortable with an existing order and the existing alignments, and was an implacable foe of Iran, even if most of that was rhetorical and didn't actually translate into stopping the nuclear program. But the rhetoric was good. What I've been saying to our partners in the region is, 'We've got to respond and adapt to change.'"

The Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC") added five more Russians to the Specially Designated Nationals List pursuant to the Magnitsky Act on February 1. In a press statement, a senior State Department official noted that one of the officials had nothing to do with the murder of the eponymous Sergei Magnitsky, but rather was involved in Russia's brutal war in Chechnya.

Sergei Magnitsky and the Magnitsky Act

The Magnitsky Act is named for Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian attorney arrested on trumped-up charges arising in retaliation for his exposing official Russian corruption in the course of representing of American investor Bill Browder.  Magnitsky died after being beaten by Russian police while in police custody and denied medical treatment despite his injuries and preexisting illness.

As negotiations to negotiate an end to the Syrian civil war plod along, the UN has admitted, internally, that it is powerless to enforce any Syria peace deal. According to Foreign Policy, the UN knows it cannot enforce or even monitor any peace deal it brokers:
In a confidential strategy paper exclusively obtained by Foreign Policy, the office of the United Nations’ top envoy to Syria warns that the U.N. would be unable to monitor or enforce any peace deal that might emerge from landmark political talks underway in Geneva. The paper raised concerns the world might harbor unrealistic expectations about the U.N.’s ability to oversee and verify a cease-fire in a civil war beset by a dizzying array of armed factions and terrorist groups. “The current international and national political context and the current operational environment strongly suggest that a U.N. peacekeeping response relying on international troops or military observers would be an unsuitable modality for ceasefire monitoring,” according to the “Draft Ceasefire Modalities Concept Paper” by U.N. envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura’s team. In plain English, that means Syria will be far too dangerous for some time for traditional U.N. peacekeepers to handle.

"Getting rid of Assad" often comes up as a throw away line in political discourse, particularly during Republican presidential debates. Overthrowing or replacing Bashar al Assad would be easy enough, the U.S. has deposed and replaced plenty of tyrants in its day, but seldom does anyone discuss what would happen in this fictions scenario after Assad gets the boot. Danielle Pletka, Senior Vice President, Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at AEI explains:

Part 1:

Explore the five groups that could have Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in their crosshairs.
Font Resize
Contrast Mode