The Syria Thread 2011 - Present

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The Syria Thread 2011 - Present

Postby seemslikeadream » Fri Dec 16, 2011 10:10 am

Time for Syria to get it's very own thread?

US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?


A former official from within the ranks of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is reporting that US and NATO forces have landed outside of Syria and are training militants to overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, formerly a translator with the FBI, wrote over the weekend that American soldiers are among the NATO troops that have mysteriously and suddenly landed on the Jordanian and Syrian border. According to her, several sources internationally have confirmed the news, although the US media has been instructed to temporarily censor itself from reporting the news.

Additionally, Edmonds says that American and NATO forces are training Turkish troops as well, to possibly launch a strike from the north of Syria.

Edmonds writes that an Iraqi journalist based out of London has confirmed that US forces that vacated the Ain al-Assad Air Base in Iraq last week did in fact leave the country as part of President Obama’s drawdown of troops, but rather than return home, the soldiers were transferred into Jordan during the late hours of Thursday evening. Another source, writes Edmonds, informs her that “soldiers who speak languages other than Arabic” have been moving through Jordan mere miles from the country’s border with Syria. Troops believed to be NATO/American-affiliated have been spotted between the King Hussein Air Base in al-Mafraq and the Jordanian village of Albaej and its vicinity.

Nizar Nayouf, a correspondent for Edmond’s Boiling Frog Post whistleblower site, says an employee of the London-based offices of Royal Jordanian Airlines has further confirmed that at least one US aircraft transporting military personnel has brought American troops into Jordan in recent days. Nayouf, the former editor-in-chief of Sawt al-Democratiyya (Democracy's Vote), had previously been sentenced to a decade behind bars for critiquing the Syrian government. He later won several human rights awards and the 2000 UNISCO prize for press freedom.

Since the uprising of rebel forces opposing al-Assad’s regime over Syria nearly a year ago, American officials have been critical of the country’s government but insist that they have otherwise distanced themselves from becoming involved in the protests. Following the deaths of dozens of protesters in the spring of 2011, the United States imposed strict sanctions against the official government of Syria.

Navi Pillay, the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights, revealed this week that the uprising in Syria has caused over 5,000 deaths since it began in early 2011. In the case of the crackdown against former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, NATO involvement began only one month into the uprising. Nine months later, the total death toll of the Libyan Civil War is estimated to be close to 30,000.

In her report, Edmonds says that NATO troops have been training soldiers just outside of Syria since as early as May, and that US media is prohibited from reporting on it until today. The Turkish paper Milliyet also reports that defected Syrian colonel Riad al-Assad is preparing troops to take over the Syrian government as well.


Syria Coverage Update: BBC Reporter was detained & Prevented from Covering US-NATO- Syrian Operations in Turkey!

Thursday, 15. December 2011
US Media Remains Mute on ‘Already-Confirmed’ Operations

SimpsonIt’s now been exactly 24 days since I reportedon the ongoing joint US-NATO secret training camp in the USAir Force base in Incirlik, Turkey, which began operations in April- May 2011 to organize and expand the dissident base in Syria. I broke that story on November 21, here at Boiling Frogs Post, based on information provided to me by multiple sources including highly credible insiders in Turkey and government insiders here in the US. 18 days later Iranian Press TV ran the story with further confirmation based on intensive coverage and confirmation by the Turkish media. Impressively, despite far more serious pressure from the government, reporters in Turkey provided detailed coverage of the story I broke here in the US.

One extensively reported story had to do with BBC reporter John Simpson, who went to Turkey to follow up on the story we broke at Boiling Frogs Post, but was placed under surveillance, prevented from following up on the story of the US-NATO-Turkish-Syrian Rebel operation Center in Southern Turkey, stopped from interviewing Riad al Assad, and how BBC quickly excused the scandalous incident. Every major newspaper in Turkey covered this event. Sabah and Radikal were among dozens of TV and newspaper outlets in Turkey covering it.

Here is the spin placed on the story by BBC to make the incident look like ‘protecting Colonel Riad al Assad’ [All Emphasis Mine]:

The colonel’s name sounds close to but not quite the same as that of the President he wants to overthrow, Bashar al-Assad.He is based in a refugee camp at Apaydin, 9 miles (14km) from the town of Antakya and very close to the Syrian border. But he is not allowed to leave the camp, and cannot receive visitors.

To a considerable extent, this is for his own protection. The Turks seem to regard Colonel Asad as a potentially important figure for the future, and are determined that nothing untoward should happen to him.

As a result, getting to see Colonel Asad is remarkably difficult. No Turkish official wanted to help us, or indeed even speak about him on the record.

As we were filming his camp from a distance a group of Turkish soldiers briefly detained us. Yet the colonel is predictably keen to talk, and in the end we interviewed him via the internet.



To recap, 24 days ago Boiling Frogs Post broke the story on the US-NATO-Syrian Rebel Operation-Command Center in the US Air Base in Southern Turkey operating since May 2011. This story was first provided to all major US media, think NY Times, Washington Post, but no one was allowed to report due to ‘US government pressure.’ After we broke the story here at BFP, the Turkish media dared their government-military, and provided further confirmation and details. The story has since received coverage and confirmation by foreign publications such as Press TV and Russia TV. Still, not a peep in the US media, and that includes the corporate-foundation backed phony, aka Alternative Media.

Russia TV had good coverage on the latest here. And here is a Russia TV interview with James Corbett from Today:




BFP Exclusive- Developing Story: Hundreds of US-NATO Soldiers Arrive & Begin Operations on the Jordan-Syria Border

Sunday, 11. December 2011
Report: Foreign Troops Begin to Spread Near the Villages of Al-Mafraq

Update 1: Today at 12:00 P.M. we contacted DOD Press Office via two voicemail messages and one e-mail asking for comment(s) on this story. As of 6:00 P.M. EST we have not heard back.

Update 2: Another journalist with a major mainstream media publication was told by his editors that there would be no coverage or follow up on these developments.

Update 3: DEBKA File Breaking News: US Units Exiting Iraq Deployed in Jordan to Forestall Syrian Attack

Update 4: Syrian Arab News Agency: Jordan denies troop presence and affirms rejecting foreign military intervention in Syria

SyriaJordanAccording to first-hand accounts and reports provided to Boiling Frogs Post by several sources in Jordan, during the last few hours foreign military groups, estimated at hundreds of individuals, began to spread near the villages of the north-Jordan city of “Al-Mafraq”, which is adjacent to the Jordanian and Syrian border.

According to one Jordanian military officer who asked to remain anonymous, hundreds of soldiers who speak languages ​other than Arabic were seen during the past two days in those areas moving back and forth in military vehicles between the King Hussein Air Base of al-Mafraq (10 km from the Syrian border), and the vicinity of Jordanian villages adjacent to the Syrian border, such as village Albaej (5 km from the border), the area around the dam of Sarhan, the villages of Zubaydiah and al-Nahdah adjacent to the Syrian border.

Another report received from our source in Amman identified an additional US-NATO Command Center in “al-Houshah,’ a village near Mafraq.

Our Iraqi journalist source in London provided us with the following related information:

“Some of the US forces that left the Ain al-Assad Air base in Iraq last Thursday, did not come back to the USA or its base in Germany, but were transferred to Jordan during the evening hours.”

The above information was further corroborated by our correspondent and advisor Nizar Nayouf who interviewed an employee in the London-based office of Royal Jordanian Airlines:

“At least one US aircraft carrying military personnel landed in the Prince Hassan Air base located about 100 km to the east of the city of Al-Mafraq.”

Earlier last week, Jordanian news websites disclosed that “Western officials have requested the King to allow establishing an electronic spy station in the north of Jordan (near the Syrian border) in order to access the Syrian army and contact Syrian high-rank officers for convincing them to make a military coup or (at least) rebel against the regime”.

Nizar Nayouf, BFP advisor and correspondent on Syria in London, had the following statement on Al-Mafraq:

“The al-Mafraq air base, which now includes Air Force Academy, was a starting point for “conspiratorial activities” by Jordan, The UK and Israel against Syria in the past, particularly in the 1960s. In September 1968, a Syrian commando Major, Salim Hatoom, who fled to Jordan with a number of officers after a failed coup attempt, established a camp from which he started a rebel military against the then left-wing government of Syria under president Nureddin al-Atassi and Salah Jadid. By the end of 1970s and early 1980s, the Syrian Islamic Brotherhood and their military wing “At-Taleeah al-Islamiyyah al-Muqatilah” (the Islamic Militant Vanguard) used the same base for its military struggle against president Hafez a-Assad regime, in which they were being trained by the Jordanian and Israeli intelligence agents, and cars were being bombed before they were sent to the streets of Syrian cities for the killing of innocents and undermining state facilities.”

Mr. Nayouf went on to emphasize the irony of the situation:

“I guess history repeats itself but as farce…Last spring, that tens of Syrian soldiers, who fled to Jordan, were transferred to a camp west of the Jordanian city of “Salt”, in which officers from Israeli military intelligence (AMAN) began the investigation with them under the supervision of the Jordanian military intelligence. This was to extract information from them on issues related to the development of the Syrian army, weapons and training, especially after 2006.”

We contacted our expert sources on US media and intelligence-military and were told that the US media has been told not to report on this latest development until Tuesday, December 13. Boiling Frogs Post is the first news website to report on these latest developments.

This story is developing and we await further details and confirmation from our sources in Turkey and Jordan. For additional Boiling Frogs Post Syria coverage see here and here.
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Re: US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby seemslikeadream » Fri Dec 16, 2011 10:26 am

Image

Syrian Army defector: We were given killing quotas by Assad regime

Two new human rights reports detail abuses by the Assad regime, but also show a growing use of violence by the opposition.

By Arthur Bright, Correspondent / December 16, 2011

In this image from TV made available by a group called Ugarit News Thursday, amateur footage showing what appears to be a Syrian tank on fire, in Homs, Syria, as gunfire rings out and the tank then apparently explodes, Wednesday.

The violence in Syria appears to be worsening, as Syrian troops renewed their attacks on protesters in the key opposition city of Homs and military defectors launched one of the largest attacks yet on government forces. And a new report provides evidence from defectors that Syrian forces are being ordered to use deadly force against unarmed civilian protesters.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based watchdog with a network of contacts in Syria, says that Syrian forces opened fire on protesters, killing one, after traditional Friday prayers today in the city of Homs, writes the Associated Press. The group says that 200,000 people took to the streets in Homs to protest the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. AP notes that it could not confirm the report, due to Syria's ban on foreign journalists.

But the opposition has also stepped up violence, as the number of military defectors increases. The New York Times reports that, according to the Observatory, defectors killed 27 Syrian troops around the city of Daraa, in an apparently coordinated assault on sites inside and outside the city. If true, the Thursday morning attack would be one of the largest and most sophisticated yet by the opposition against Syrian forces.

The Observatory did not give any information about the defectors' casualties in the attack. The Times adds that residents living in the city have confirmed fighting between armed groups in the area, with the Syrian forces suffering casualties. The Observatory has reported four attacks against government forces this week, including an attack on Wednesday that left eight Syrian troops dead.

The attacks come the same week that the UN revised its estimates of the death toll in the Syrian conflict upwards to 5,000. UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said that she recommends that the UN Security Council refer Syria to the International Criminal Court to investigate the regime for war crimes.

In addition, Human Right Watch released a new report Thursday, "By All Means Necessary." Based on interviews with Syrian military defectors, it detailed orders they were given to use deadly force and torture against Syrian unarmed protesters. HRW found that "military commanders and officials in the intelligence agencies gave both direct and standing orders to use lethal force against the protesters," citing 20 specific instances in the report, and said senior Syrian officials, including President Assad, bear responsibility for the abuses committed by their subordinates.

HRW writes that all the defectors reported being under standing orders to “stop the protests at any cost” and “by all means necessary,” and often were explicitly ordered to use lethal force against protesters. A soldier recounted one such incident in which troops were told to shoot at protesters:

On August 27 we were near a police hospital in Harasta. About 1,500 protesters came there. They requested the release of an injured protester who was inside the hospital. They held olive branches. They had no arms. There were 35 army soldiers and about 50 mukhabarat [intelligence] personnel at the checkpoint. We also had a jeep with a mounted machine-gun. When the protesters were less than 100 meters away, we opened fire. We had previously received the orders to do so from [Brigadier General Talal Makhlouf]. Five protesters were hit, and I believe two of them died.

A sniper deployed in May near the key opposition city of Homs said that soldiers were given quotas of casualties they should inflict. "During the protests, the commanders gave us a specific number, or a percentage, of protesters who should be liquidated. For 5,000 protesters, for example, the target would be 15-20 people," he said.

Another defector, a soldier sent to suppress protests in Douma in April, said "At one point we killed eight people in 15 minutes. The protesters were unarmed. They didn’t even have rocks! That’s when I decided to defect."

The report is based on interviews HRW conducted with 63 defectors from Syrian military and intelligence agencies between May and November 2011. Interviewees included troops deployed all over the country, including the flashpoints of Damascus, Daraa, and Homs, and their positions ranged from conscripted soldier to lieutenant colonel.

Al-Assad must answer for 'crimes against humanity'
By Anna Neistat, Special to CNN
updated 6:26 AM EST, Fri December 16, 2011

Moscow (CNN) -- Just before Syrian security forces launched a large-scale military operation in the southern town of Daraa in the early hours of April 25, the commander of the 35th Special Forces Regiment, Brig. Gen. Ramadan Mahmoud Ramadan, allegedly gathered his troops and explained their mission. "Use heavy shooting. Nobody will ask you to explain," the brigadier said, according to "Amjad," one of the many defectors I have interviewed in the last months.

Amjad explained to me that normally the troops were supposed to save bullets, but this time it was different. "The commander said to use as many bullets as we wanted."

Over the next four days, security forces in Daraa killed around 200 people (Human Rights Watch documented the abuses at the time by interviewing victims and witnesses) and arrested thousands, subjecting many to beatings and torture. Since then, Amjad and more than 60 other defectors from Syria's military and intelligence agencies have given us crucial information about who was responsible for abuses across the country. They provided consistent accounts of officers giving similar orders to military units all over Syria, at different times. The orders were to stop the protests "by all means necessary." In many cases, they said, officers gave orders to fire directly at protesters.

The defectors told us that some soldiers reacted by throwing away their weapons and making a run for it. Others aimed above the protesters' heads or to the ground. But that was dangerous. Eight defectors told us that they saw officers and intelligence agents killing soldiers who disobeyed orders. Others were detained and tortured. We are not publishing the defectors' names and locations to protect them and their families.

All these statements demolish President Bashar al-Assad's claim that the bloodshed is the result of a few rogue commanders getting overly enthusiastic on crowd control. The defectors' testimonies paint a horrific picture of a widespread and systematic crackdown against demonstrators: torture, arbitrary arrests and a "shoot to kill" policy that clearly amount to crimes against humanity.

Al-Assad and his allies have sought to portray the protesters as "armed gangs sponsored from abroad." In more than nine months of investigations in Syria, we have documented episodes of fighting, and attacks on security forces by armed defectors have increased. But the vast majority of protests that we documented were nonviolent, and the government's use of force was clearly excessive compared with any threat facing troops.

The Syrian leadership has so far gotten away with murder, in part because the Russian government, one of Assad's staunchest allies, has blocked action on Syria at the U.N. Security Council and continues to supply Syria with arms. The Syrians whom I interviewed were well aware of Russia's obstructionist position. As Ghassan, a former officer, was serving tea during our interview, he suddenly stopped and looked at me with suspicion. "I heard you are Russian -- if you say that you support their position on Syria, you won't get any tea!" He was joking, of course, but his anger at Russia was real.

Since Russia blocked Security Council action in October, Syrian security forces have killed more than 2,000 people, according to the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay. Russia's continued obstruction sends a signal to the Syrian government that it can continue its violent crackdown with impunity.

It is difficult to conduct human rights investigations on Syria, since the government has barred most journalists, human rights monitors and even a U.N. commission of inquiry. But it is not impossible. I managed to enter Syria and speak safely with victims there, and we continue to interview witnesses in neighboring countries. We've spoken to hundreds of Syrians with firsthand knowledge of abuses. And in a report Human Rights Watch released Thursday, we're naming 74 commanders, from generals to colonels to captains, who allegedly ordered, authorized or condoned the abuses.

But responsibility for these crimes does not stop with the commanders on the ground. Under international criminal law, al-Assad, as commander in chief of all forces in Syria, bears responsibility for the most serious crimes committed by his forces -- even if he did not order them -- to the extent that he knew or should have known about the abuses and failed to prevent them. Given the widespread public and international criticism of the abuses, it would be incredible for al-Assad to argue that he did not know.

Pillay told the Security Council this week that the death toll in Syria tops 5,000, including 300 children killed. Amjad's commander may have told his troops that "nobody will ask you to explain," but he was wrong.

It's time for the Security Council to act: to impose an arms embargo on Syria, to apply targeted sanctions to al-Assad and his circle of cronies, and, most important, to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. That is where Ramadan, his fellow commanders and his bosses will have to explain themselves and where their many victims will receive justice.

UPDATE 1-Turkey says Syria to lose $100 mln in transport revenue
By Ibon Villelabeitia

ANKARA, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Turkey said on Friday that Syria would lose more than $100 million a year in transport revenues as Ankara finds alternative routes to export goods to the Middle East and Gulf.

Turkey is still trading with its neighbour but has sought new trade routes to the Middle East since relations with Damascus worsened.

They broke down following Ankara's increased criticism of President Bashar al-Assad over his crackdown on a popular uprising that began in March.

"It will be Syria who loses in this process of introducing alternative trade routes," the Turkish Economy Ministry said in a statement.

It said it had finalised talks to start exporting goods to Egypt via sea in January and from there overland to the Gulf.

Turkish trucks will go by ship to Egypt and use its Nuweiba port to trade with Jordan and Safaga port to trade with Saudi Arabia. Turkey said it was also studying other routes.

"After alternative trade routes start operating, Syria's loss in transportation revenues will be over $100 million per year."

It calculated this based on the 46,000 Turkish trucks that passed through Syria in 2010, with Syrian charges per truck of $2,135.

Turkish truck drivers who return from Syria have described chaos on the road to Homs, a centre of opposition to government forces, saying they were sometimes caught in the cross-fire and saw bodies lying by the road and burned-out military vehicles.

They have complained of being singled out by Syrian state forces because of Ankara's tough stance towards Damascus.

Muslim Turkey, a rising economic and political power in the Middle East, was one of Syria's closest regional allies and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan built a strong rapport with Assad.

But as the violence worsened and Assad ignored Erdogan's advice to halt the crackdown and make urgent reforms, relations turned frosty and Erdogan has bluntly told Assad he should quit.

Earlier this month, non-Arab Turkey followed a move by the Arab League to impose sanctions on Syria which it said would target the government, including freezing state assets, banning entry by senior officials and suspending financial transactions.

Syria responded by suspending a bilateral free-trade agreement and imposing a 30 percent tariff on all Turkish imports and prohibitive duties on fuel and freight.

Turkey was a major trading partner for Syria with bilateral trade last year totalling about $2.5 billion.

Syria received more than 10 percent of its imports from Turkey in 2010. Imports from Syria made up 0.3 percent of Turkey's imports.

Ayatollah advises Turkey against stoking flames of Syria crisis

On Line: 14 December 2011 14:53
In Print: Thursday 15 December 2011
Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi advised Turkish officials on Wednesday not to fan embers of the Syria crisis.

Makarem Shirazi said that the unrest engulfing Syria “is a conspiracy devised by the United States, Israel, and one of the Arab countries, and Turkey is feeding the flames of the crisis.”

“Turkish officials stood in anti-Zionist line for a while to gain popularity, but this popularity will turn into disrepute, why do they not understand?”


Ottawa urges citizens to leave before it's too late

By Lee Berthiaume, Postmedia News December 16, 2011 4:15 AM

The estimated 5,000 Canadians still in Syria are being urged to get out now as violence in the country continues to escalate and Arab League sanctions limit the number of commercial flights available.

Visas for the spouses and dependent children of Canadians will be expedited, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Thursday, and Canadian officials in Damascus and Ottawa are on standby to help secure tickets on flights leaving the country until Jan. 14.

"These actions are meant to assist Canadians now so they aren't put in a situation where our capacity could be very reduced without warning," Baird said. "I must warn that should Canadians stay in Syria, we will not be able to guarantee the current ser-vice at our embassy or that commercial options to leave the country will remain available."

Baird said Syrian authorities have already restricted the movement of Canadian diplomats.

The government's precautions are a significant departure from previous events in Lebanon and Libya, where the government was forced to scramble, spending millions and deploying military aircraft and ships to evacuate thou-sands of Canadians trapped by war.

Government officials are not pre-paring to organize a land-based convoy out of Syria nor arrange charter flights, and those who want to leave will have to pay for their own tickets.

The majority of Canadians still in Syria are dual-nationals who live in the country and have families there, the officials said.

While the government estimates there are 5,000, only 1,500 have registered with the Foreign Affairs Department. Of those registered, only 986 are in the capital of Damascus while the remainder are in Aleppo, Homs and other parts of the country.

Baird praised the Arab League and Turkey for taking a hard line and denouncing the regime's actions. He also praised recent efforts by the SNC to consolidate opposition forces within the country.

Baird ruled out Canadian involvement in any military intervention there.
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Re: US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby Allegro » Sat Dec 17, 2011 2:04 am

.
Snips and highlights are mine.
seemslikeadream wrote:Image
Syrian Army defector: We were given killing quotas by Assad regime

< snip >

A sniper deployed in May near the key opposition city of Homs said that soldiers were given quotas of casualties they should inflict. "During the protests, the commanders gave us a specific number, or a percentage, of protesters who should be liquidated. For 5,000 protesters, for example, the target would be 15-20 people," he said.

< snip >
Goals, percentages, quotas: as in, liquidated human beings?

Oh, yeah, there must be a profit center, somewhere, that measures economic results for having had liquidated moms and dads and children in any region, on any continent, at any given time. We are such a magnificent species.
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Re: US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby Allegro » Sat Dec 17, 2011 2:18 am

.
Syria blasts call for ICC investigation by UN human rights commissioner
— guardian.co.uk, | Ian Black, Middle East editor; Tuesday 13 December 2011 14.51 EST
— State TV blames 'conspiracy' against Bashar al-Assad's regime after Navi Pillay says situation in Syria is intolerable

    Syria has reacted with fury to a call by the UN human rights commissioner for it to face investigation by the international criminal court (ICC) over the killing of more than 5,000 people since the uprising began nine months ago.

    State TV on Tuesday condemned a "conspiracy" against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad after the UN security council was given a new assessment of the scale of the bloodshed. Syria's UN ambassador called the 5,000 figure "incredible", while Russia, opposed to a referral to the ICC, condemned the west's position as "immoral".

    Earlier, Navi Pillay, the UN commissioner, told the council the situation inside the country had become "intolerable".

    Britain's UN ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, said: "It was the most horrifying briefing that we've had in the security council over the last two years."

    Opposition sources said up to 33 people were killed on Tuesday on the third day of a general strike. It was also claimed that around 1,000 soldiers in Idlib in the north had defected and joined the rebel Free Syrian Army. The government reported a clash with "terrorists" on the border with Turkey, in which two of them were killed. None of these claims could be confirmed.

    Reports from Homs described a concentration of Syrian government forces preparing for a large-scale assault.

    Human Rights Watch said that it was poised to name more than 70 commanders and officials from Syrian military and intelligence agencies who had given "shoot to kill" orders and authorised or condoned torture and unlawful arrests. "It's time for the UN security council to refer Syria to the ICC so that those who ordered the killing of protesters – and their military and political bosses – can be brought to justice," urged the HRW spokesman David Mepham.

    But Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, attacked as "immoral" the position of "those who refuse to exert pressure on the armed, extremist, part of the [Syrian] opposition and … accuse us of blocking the work of the security council".

    Russia is supported at the UN by China, Brazil and India, collectively known as the Bric nations. The US, Britain and other western countries do not think a ICC referral is any closer but hope Pillay's statement will help focus attention on those opposing punitive action against Assad.

    Diplomats also spoke of mounting concern that the Arab League, which suspended Syria and announced economic and political sanctions, is losing momentum in its bid to influence the crisis. Nabil al-Arabi, its secretary general, has refused to take the Syrian file to the UN, saying that he is seeking an "Arab solution".

    Assad can be confident that there will be no ICC referral because it can only act at the request of the security council. With Russia and China prepared to wield their vetoes, he is safe – for now.

    [MORE.]
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Re: US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby Allegro » Wed Dec 21, 2011 9:44 pm

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Gunmen kidnap 5 Iranian engineers in Syria
Dec 21, 2011, 12:25 PM EST | AP wrote:TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's official news agency says gunmen in Syria have kidnapped five Iranian engineers building a power plant in a central region of the country roiled by political unrest.

Wednesday's report quotes a statement from Iran's Embassy in Damascus as saying that the engineers were seized Tuesday morning on their way to work in the city of Homs.

The statement says Iranian authorities have asked the Syrian government to identify the assailants and get the engineers released.

Syria has been Iran's closest ally in the Arab world for three decades.

The 9-month-old uprising in Syria has left President Bashar Assad with few international allies – with the vital exception of Iran, which the U.S. and other nations say is helping drive the deadly crackdown on dissent.
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Re: US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby Nordic » Wed Dec 21, 2011 9:55 pm

After what's happened the last 10 years, how can we believe ANYTHING we're being told about any of the countries on the U.S.'s invasion wish list?

We just can't.

They're gonna try what they did in Libya with Syria. They'll change it up a little bit, so it doesn't look like an exact copy, but .... stories of massacres, atrocities, anything of that ilk, we just have to take it all with big grains of salt.

Which is too bad, in case they're actually true.
"He who wounds the ecosphere literally wounds God" -- Philip K. Dick
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Re: US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby Ben D » Wed Dec 21, 2011 11:30 pm

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sharmine-narwani/stratfor-challenges-narra_b_1158710.html
Stratfor Challenges Narratives on Syria

Posted: 12/19/11 03:47 PM ET

Since the first public protests broke out in Syria last March, the narratives about the Syrian crisis have stayed fairly true to the theme of all the Arab Revolts. An authoritarian ruler out to crush peaceful opposition to his regime opens fire on civilians and the number of protestors skyrockets as the body count mounts...

But we are now entering the tenth month of this particular violent revolt - even Libya with its full-fledged civil war didn't take so long. So what gives?

According to the Texas-based geopolitical risk analysis group Stratfor which released an eyebrow-raising piece on Syrian opposition propaganda efforts last week, "most of the opposition's more serious claims have turned out to be grossly exaggerated or simply untrue, thereby revealing more about the opposition's weaknesses than the level of instability inside the Syrian regime."

This is important for two reasons. Firstly, it may be the first time a mainstream US-based intelligence-gathering firm openly questions the existing narrative on Syria. Secondly, Stratfor's findings begs the question: what are we basing our policy initiatives on if our underlying assumptions are inaccurate?
There is That which was not born, nor created, nor evolved. If it were not so, there would never be any refuge from being born, or created, or evolving. That is the end of suffering. That is God**.

** or Nirvana, Allah, Brahman, Tao, etc...
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US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby Allegro » Sun Dec 25, 2011 2:45 am

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Turkey’s businessmen rue government stance on Syria
— By Jonathan Head | BBC News, Gaziantep
— 23 Dec 2011, Last updated at 03:22 ET

    There is a joke going around business circles in the south-eastern Turkish city of Gaziantep these days. "We no longer have zero problems with our neighbours," it goes, "we now have zero neighbours without problems."

    It is an ironic reference to the new foreign policy championed by the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), which was given the title "Zero Problems With Neighbours" by its architect, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

    This aimed to eliminate the historic tensions which had kept Turkey in a state of hostility with all its neighbours, and rebuild relations based on trade.

    It was a roaring success. Trade with the Middle Eastern region expanded quickly, especially with Iraq and Syria, the two Arab countries on Turkey's south-eastern border.

    Closer political ties followed. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan established a close personal rapport with President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, the two countries abolished visas, and a flood of tourists came both ways across the border.

    'Nobody comes'

    The events this year have turned that policy on its head.

    After initially trying to persuade President Assad to embrace reform, the Turkish government is now leading those countries calling for him to go. The free trade agreement has been torn up. Tourism has all but stopped.

    Gaziantep was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the new foreign policy, and it is now one of the biggest losers from the Arab uprisings.

    It is now the sixth largest city in Turkey, with important textile, construction material and food processing industries that have thrived on access to Middle East markets. New housing is being built all over the city.

    Its hotel and retail businesses did just as well out of Syrian visitors.

    The two-year-old Sanko Park Mall, the most luxurious in the region, was built largely to cater for Syrian shoppers. It is strikingly quiet on Fridays, the day the Syrians used to come.

    "Before the Arab Spring the city was full of Syrian people here for the weekend, staying in the hotels a couple of days, shopping, spending money," says Mehmet Ali Mutafoglu, whose family runs Akteks, one of the city's big textile firms.

    "But now, since the critical situation between the two governments, nobody is coming over to Turkey."

    Akteks owns two factories in Aleppo, in northern Syria, and has seen its business contract by 30-40%.

    Exports stalled

    It is not just the collapse of trade with Syria which has hit Gaziantep's manufacturers.

    Many of the city's exports to other Middle Eastern countries go through Syria, which has a border with Turkey stretching more than 800km (500 miles).

    That route has become more dangerous and expensive. New fees are being imposed on Turkish trucks, and they have occasionally been shot at by Syrian troops.

    "Almost 80% of our business with Syria has stopped," says Adnan Altunkaya, whose family owns a big food and drinks producer.

    "It's because of the border. There's no security, and you often don't get paid at all."

    "Sometimes they close the customs gates, and your trucks are stuck there - then you have to pay, and that increases the cost of transport."

    At the Besler group, one of Turkey's biggest food processors, they have started exploring alternative routes for their products.

    Kemal Cakmak, one of the five brothers who founded the company, now runs their giant pasta factory, using the high-quality durum wheat that grows in this part of Turkey.

    He says some trucks are now going to the Middle East via Iraq, although this is a much longer and more expensive route.

    Mr Cakmak is also going to try sending a consignment of pasta to Lebanon on ships that the government has promised to help exporters.

    'No dialogue'

    These entrepreneurs are all natural supporters of the AKP. It is the most business-friendly party in modern Turkish history, and its economic record is the key to its electoral success.

    So its decision to turn its back on President Assad has left some Gaziantep businessmen bewildered.

    "If you have a problem with your neighbour, you try to fix it," says Mr Mutsfoglu.

    "You don't cut all the connections with your neighbour. But now there's no dialogue between Turkey and Syria. It's not good for the countries, it's not good for business, it's not good for the people living in the cities."

    Turkey's Economy Minister, Zafer Caglayan, who came to open a new office for the regional exporters' association, brushed these concerns away.

    Most trade with Syria was continuing, Mr Caglayan said, and the government was looking for alternative routes for exports. He trusted the people of Gaziantep to be patient, he added.

    But the alternatives - going by ship or through Iraq - were dismissed by most of the manufacturers I met as too slow and too expensive. They would make their products uncompetitive, they said.

    In the main food market, traders were feeling the loss of Syrian business, but here there was more sympathy for the government's position.

    Many of them agreed that Turkey must take a stand in support of the protesters in Syria.

    With a decisive third election victory under its belt last June, the AKP can probably afford to take risks with its entrepreneurial supporters.

    Turkish officials have explained that they had no choice but to back the Syrian opposition.

    They believe President Assad's days are numbered, and that the events of 2011 have taught Turkey that it must put itself on the right side of history.

    But this does mean the "Zero Problems" foreign policy, which has shaped Turkey's relations with its neighbours for a decade, has been shelved for now, and it is not clear yet what will take its place.
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Re: US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby Stephen Morgan » Sun Dec 25, 2011 5:39 am

Ben D wrote:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sharmine-narwani/stratfor-challenges-narra_b_1158710.html
Stratfor Challenges Narratives on Syria

Posted: 12/19/11 03:47 PM ET

Since the first public protests broke out in Syria last March, the narratives about the Syrian crisis have stayed fairly true to the theme of all the Arab Revolts. An authoritarian ruler out to crush peaceful opposition to his regime opens fire on civilians and the number of protestors skyrockets as the body count mounts...

But we are now entering the tenth month of this particular violent revolt - even Libya with its full-fledged civil war didn't take so long. So what gives?

According to the Texas-based geopolitical risk analysis group Stratfor which released an eyebrow-raising piece on Syrian opposition propaganda efforts last week, "most of the opposition's more serious claims have turned out to be grossly exaggerated or simply untrue, thereby revealing more about the opposition's weaknesses than the level of instability inside the Syrian regime."

This is important for two reasons. Firstly, it may be the first time a mainstream US-based intelligence-gathering firm openly questions the existing narrative on Syria. Secondly, Stratfor's findings begs the question: what are we basing our policy initiatives on if our underlying assumptions are inaccurate?


http://ghostofvanzetti.net/blog/?p=695
Antisec / Anonymous Demolishes Million Dollar Whitehat Security firm @ www.stratfor.com
Posted on December 24, 2011

Just when you think they couldn’t surprise and delight, Anonymous & Antisec deliver… On the eve of Christmas LulzXmas News broke today of a massive hack by Antisec forces of whitehat security firm stratfor. As of this post, the stratfor.com site is unavailable but those interested can view a mirror of the deface. Anonymous hackers posted this youtube video at the top of the defaced page:


Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible. -- Lawrence of Arabia
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Re: US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby Sepka » Sun Dec 25, 2011 12:15 pm

Ben D wrote:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sharmine-narwani/stratfor-challenges-narra_b_1158710.htmlSecondly, Stratfor's findings begs the question: what are we basing our policy initiatives on if our underlying assumptions are inaccurate?


Syria's a strategic partner of Iran, and the regime in Syria is less stable than that of Iran. That's the basis for policy initiatives aimed at destabilizing the Syrian regime.
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Re: US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby Ben D » Sun Dec 25, 2011 8:14 pm

Stephen Morgan wrote:
Ben D wrote:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sharmine-narwani/stratfor-challenges-narra_b_1158710.html
Stratfor Challenges Narratives on Syria

Posted: 12/19/11 03:47 PM ET

Since the first public protests broke out in Syria last March, the narratives about the Syrian crisis have stayed fairly true to the theme of all the Arab Revolts. An authoritarian ruler out to crush peaceful opposition to his regime opens fire on civilians and the number of protestors skyrockets as the body count mounts...

But we are now entering the tenth month of this particular violent revolt - even Libya with its full-fledged civil war didn't take so long. So what gives?

According to the Texas-based geopolitical risk analysis group Stratfor which released an eyebrow-raising piece on Syrian opposition propaganda efforts last week, "most of the opposition's more serious claims have turned out to be grossly exaggerated or simply untrue, thereby revealing more about the opposition's weaknesses than the level of instability inside the Syrian regime."

This is important for two reasons. Firstly, it may be the first time a mainstream US-based intelligence-gathering firm openly questions the existing narrative on Syria. Secondly, Stratfor's findings begs the question: what are we basing our policy initiatives on if our underlying assumptions are inaccurate?


http://ghostofvanzetti.net/blog/?p=695
Antisec / Anonymous Demolishes Million Dollar Whitehat Security firm @ http://www.stratfor.com
Posted on December 24, 2011

Just when you think they couldn’t surprise and delight, Anonymous & Antisec deliver… On the eve of Christmas LulzXmas News broke today of a massive hack by Antisec forces of whitehat security firm stratfor. As of this post, the stratfor.com site is unavailable but those interested can view a mirror of the deface. Anonymous hackers posted this youtube video at the top of the defaced page:


Could this be payback for 'challenging the narrative on Syria'? I'm not suggesting that Anonymous is a CIA spook org., but it could be used by them such as they have in the past been known to use the mafia to carry out paybacks.
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Re: US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby Nordic » Mon Dec 26, 2011 1:45 am

I saw somewhere today that Anonymous is denying being involved in that take-down.

Can't find the source now, but I'll try later.
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Re: US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby seemslikeadream » Mon Dec 26, 2011 8:29 pm

Gwynne Dyer: Bombings in Syria and Iraq raise spectre of Sunni-Shia war
\
By Gwynne Dyer, December 26, 2011

Last Thursday, there were 16 bomb blasts in Baghdad (72 people killed, 217 injured). On Friday, two big car bombs in Damascus killed 40 people and injured 150.

Even for Iraq, where there are suicide bombs every week, that is impressive. For Syria, these were the first terrorist attacks after eight months of nonviolent protests. In both cases, however, perfectly sane people suspect that the government itself was behind the attacks.

Iraq’s vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, accused Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of planning the attacks. “This style of terrorist attack, it's well beyond even al-Qaeda to do it,” he said. “Those who were behind all these explosions and incidents [were] part of the [government] security forces. I’m sure about that.”

Vice President Hashemi was speaking from the semi-independent Iraqi region of Kurdistan, where he fled last week after Prime Minister Maliki accused him of plotting terrorist attacks. The Kurds will protect him because they have rejected Maliki’s authority over them, but also because they are mostly Sunni Muslims, like the Sunni Arabs whom Hashemi represents—while Maliki, like most Arabic-speakers in Iraq, is Shia.

Meanwhile, just across the border in Syria, the nonviolent revolt against the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad has turned nasty. Or at least that’s what Assad’s regime wants people to believe.

“We said it from the beginning, didn’t we?” said Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad, standing by one of the blast craters. “This is terrorism. They are killing the army and ordinary people.”

The regime claims that it was al-Qaeda that did the Damascus attacks, with Israeli and American backing—and that all opposition to the Syrian regime is actually terrorism. “This is a qualitative escalation of the terrorist operations that Syria has been exposed to for the last nine months," said an interior ministry spokesman. “These two suicide terrorist operations show, once again, the real face of the plot seeking to shake Syria's stability.”

However, the leaders of the Syrian democratic movement think that the Assad regime probably organized the attacks itself, to support its claim that there is no nonviolent insurgency in Syria, just attacks by "armed terrorist groups".

The response of the United Nations Security Council to these events was telling. It strongly condemned the Damascus bombs and sent its condolences to the victims, their families and the Syrian people. But it did not send condolences to the Syrian government, which would be its usual practice in such a case. Nobody believes Assad’s story.

What worries Arabs even more is the sectarian subtext to this story. Assad in Syria, like Maliki in Iraq, is a Shia, while the opposition in both countries is mostly Sunni. The difference is that Assad leads a largely Shia regime that is drawn from the Alawite minority, barely 10 percent of the population, in a country where most people are Sunni Muslims. Maliki, by contrast, leads a Shia regime in a country that is 60 percent Shia.

This tells us how likely it is that the regime in question ordered the bombings itself. Iraqi Shias have been under attack by Sunni fanatics for years, but Maliki is in no danger of losing power. He doesn’t need to persuade Iraqi Shias that some of their Sunni fellow citizens hate them; they already know that. So why would he attack his own government?

By contrast, Assad faces the imminent risk of being driven from power. He is in the last ditch, and his only hope is to convince the disbelieving world that the brave Syrians who face his tanks unarmed are actually al-Qaeda terrorists. He (or somebody in his employ) probably did order the bombings.

Behind all this looms a larger question: in the midst of liberating itself from tyrannies, is the Arab world about to stumble into a Sunni-Shia religious war? The rhetoric is getting paranoid on both sides, even though the original reasons for these sectarian rivalries in Iraq and Syria have nothing to do with religion.

Iraq’s army, and therefore its politics, were dominated by the local Sunni minority because the country was ruled for 300 years by the Ottoman (Turkish) empire, whose state religion was Sunni Islam. Sunni rule was only finally overthrown by the American invasion of 2003, and the wounds on both sides of the religious divide are still raw.

Syria is ruled by a Shia minority only because the French colonial army recruited its local troops from the Alawites, precisely because they were a poor and despised minority. That way, the French reckoned, they would be loyal to France, not to Syria. But domination of the military ultimately let Alawites seize political control in independent Syria.

There is no Shia plot against the Sunni Arab world, just old history that won’t go away. The danger is that Arab rulers start thinking that citizens cannot be loyal to the state unless they have exactly the same religious beliefs as their rulers.

The European wars of religion—a century of slaughter—were not really about doctrinal quarrels. They happened mainly because rulers became convinced that they could not be safe if some of their citizens belonged to a different sect. Most countries in the world today are living proof that that is nonsense, but Arab rulers, both Sunni and Shia, are fast falling into the delusion that it is true. That would be a disaster.
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Re: US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby Ben D » Mon Dec 26, 2011 9:14 pm

US Aircrafts Drop Spy Devices in Syrian Town

Syrian citizens have found spy devices in the hills that surround the town of Afrin, in Syria, dropped last week by US aircrafts which entered Syrian airspace through the Turkish border.

Opposition Syrian Website Al-Hakika (The Truth) quoted Turkish sources as confirming the news cited from Syrian Kurds. The sources explained that the aircrafts that dropped the devices were American, not Turkish. They added that the aircrafts took off from Incirlik air base, southeast of Adana, which is 130 km away from the city of Afrin, mainly to belong to the Kurdish nationalists.

The Turkish source said that the dropping of these devices “came after the Syrian authorities' decision to deploy the seventh contingent along the eastern border and south-eastern province of Hatay (Iskenderun Brigade).”

“This action aims at eavesdropping on communications between the Syrian troops, locating their spots accurately and collecting any information about them in order to provide it to U.S. and Turkish authorities, and perhaps to the Syrian Free Army as well as monitoring any military movement by the PKK in the region,” the sources added.
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Re: US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby Allegro » Tue Dec 27, 2011 12:09 am

.
Syria’s story does not have to follow the Libyan script
The Arab League’s dialogue with Bashar al-Assad has been dismissed by Syria’s opposition – but it offers some hope
— Jonathan Steele | guardian.co.uk
— Monday 26 Dec 2011, 10.00 EST | more links in original

    The news from Syria becomes ever more alarming. The two suicide car bombings that rocked Damascus on Friday brought a tactic of carnage not yet seen in the uprising against the government. Almost certainly the work of al-Qaida sympathisers, they may have been linked to blasts in Baghdad the previous day, targeting two Shia regimes that Sunni extremists want to shake or topple.

    December had already seen the highest monthly death toll in the Syrian struggle for power, most of it at the hands of the government's security forces. Evidence of torture and executions of captives has been shown on Britain's Channel 4, apparently taken from mobile-phone footage which uniformed government troops took sickening pride in filming. In the north-western district of Idlib, close to the Turkish border, armed clashes are becoming more frequent; and the city of Homs, the stronghold of radical Sunni protesters, sees daily killing. Beyond the physical violence, there is the worsening economic crisis as international sanctions bite and hundreds of thousands of Syrians face a winter with dwindling supplies of oil for heating and cooking.

    But amid the horror, a first glimmer of good news has appeared. The Syrian government has allowed Arab League observers into the country. They are deploying as part of a deal which offers the best, and perhaps last, chance of a political solution rather than a slide into all-out civil war.

    The deal requires the government to release detainees and pull security forces out of cities where protests have been held. It also requires a serious dialogue with the opposition. Exile groups have attacked the deal as a ploy by the regime of Bashar al-Assad to gain time. They are also worried, with some justification, that the dispatch of monitors could mark a shift in the Arab League's previously hawkish position. By putting off further sanctions and resisting western pressure to take the issue to the UN security council, the Arab League may at last be taking up the role of a mediator.

    Instead of welcoming the Arab League mission, the White House issued its toughest statement to date. It claimed that "every metric shows the situation is moving against Assad" and it is "only a matter of time before this regime comes to an end". The Syrian National Council, the umbrella for various exile groups that held its first congress in Tunisia a week ago, is keen to be recognised as the only representative of the Syrian people. Following the Libyan script, it is pressing for foreign intervention and the declaration of "safe havens" or "humanitarian corridors" that could be protected by a no-fly zone as a precursor to full-scale Nato support for their struggle.

    The council does not like the Arab League's call for dialogue since it denies the opposition a simple victory. Getting the Syrian government to agree to it was not easy. Credit goes mainly to Russia's tireless foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov. While his bosses Putin and Medvedev are preoccupied with local turmoil at home over the recent Duma vote, unexpected street protests and the uncertainty of the upcoming presidential election, Lavrov has been working hard to forestall civil war in Syria. In a carefully calibrated signal, he let Russia abstain from, rather than oppose, a UN general assembly statement criticising the Syrian government's "disproportionate use of force". This was aimed at showing Assad that Russia will get tougher unless he offers honest dialogue with the opposition instead of the half-hearted measures he has proposed up to now.

    In one sense Assad is fortunate. The opposition is multifaceted and divided. It includes eminent figures with secular and moderate views who want to protect Syria's complex multicultural society from a takeover by extremist Sunni or Salafi forces. Men like Michel Kilo stand out. He spent three years in prison recently for calling for reform, but since the uprising started continues to warn publicly against sectarianism and armed revolt.

    The best step for Assad would be to talk with Kilo and others from the internal opposition and the "local co-ordinating committees" who reject violence. As a dramatic sign of change for the vast number of Syrians who support neither the regime nor the uprising, the opposition should be given access to state television for public debates on how to find a peaceful transition to a system of pluralistic democracy. Assad should promptly repeal article 8 of the constitution, which gives his Ba'ath party the "leading role in society and state", publish the draft new constitution that independent consultants have been preparing, and allow political parties to operate freely.

    Whether Assad can summon the determination to push for real reform in place of the dither and denial that have characterised his response to the protests so far is unclear. He is right when he says the state is entitled to use force against armed rebels, but wrong to portray all opposition to his regime as "terrorist".

    It is also uncertain whether the US, Turkey and other states who have called on Assad to resign can change course now. The Arab League's plan imposes obligations on the opposition too. Rather than taking sides with the exiles, the west should support the call for dialogue before it becomes too late.
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