December 30, 2012

Red Lines and Syria’s Chemical Weapons

December 15, 2012 by

While the Obama administration has for many months stressed the need to give diplomacy another chance to work in Syria, the administration has now decided that if Assad were to employ his vast chemical weapons stockpile against the rebels, the U.S. would have no choice but to intervene in the nearly two-year old conflict. Fears about the potential fallout of the demise of the Assad regime are running high, as a post-Assad Syria could likely degenerate into a sectarian civil war that would make Iraq look like a picnic, given the complex religious and ethic fabric of Syrian society.

Funding the Unified Front: The Syrian Rebels

December 9, 2012 by

An old story – a vicious local conflict, fought within by those who are systematically unravelling a state; and the external backers who feel they have a stake in the outcome. The greatest pretence of civil wars and conflicts it that they are not “civil” in any sense of the term. They are particularly vicious, for one, marked by the familiarity that breeds contempt; in another sense, supporters can be also found from without. They are the pretenders who aspire to the role of puppeteers. The misplaced wisdom here is this: Manipulate the marionettes in revolt, and they will do your bidding.

Turkey’s Foreign Policy at a Crossroads

October 12, 2012 by

It seems that media consensus has been conclusively reached: Turkey has been forced into a Middle Eastern mess not of its own making; the ‘Zero Problems with Neighbors’ notion, once the foreign policy centerpiece of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), is all but a romantic notion of no use in realpolitik. Turkey’s “policy’s goal – to build strong economic, political, and social ties with the country’s immediate neighbors while decreasing its dependency on the United States – seemed to be within sight,” wrote Sinan Ulgen nearly a year ago.

Syria and the Dogs of War

September 28, 2012 by

While the regime of Bashar al-Assad ignited the explosion by its brutal response to political protests, much of the blame for the current situation lies with those countries, seeing an opportunity to eliminate an enemy, that fanned the flames with weapons and aid: the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, plus a host of minor cast members ranging from Jordan to Libya.

Post-Assad Syria: A Region in Turmoil

August 21, 2012 by

Syria is in dire straits. The once regal and prosperous cities of Damascus and Aleppo have now become the primary battlefields of the Syrian Army against opposition forces. Since the start of the Syrian uprising in March 2011, the calm and serenity of both Damascus and Aleppo were often touted by the Syrian regime to the world as indicators of Syrian stability. The swift change from peace to turmoil however, has happened almost overnight, with President Assad describing the current battle in Aleppo as decisive of Syria’s fate.

Barack Obama’s ‘Intelligence Finding’ and the Syrian Civil War

August 12, 2012 by

The revelation about President Barack Obama’s decision to provide secret American aid to Syria’s rebel forces is a game changer. The presidential order, known as an “intelligence finding” in the world of espionage, authorizes the CIA to support armed groups fighting to overthrow Bashar al-Assad’s government. But it threatens far more than the regime in Damascus. The disclosure took its first casualty immediately. Kofi Annan, the special envoy to Syria, promptly announced his resignation, bitterly protesting that the UN Security Council had become a forum for “finger-pointing and name-calling.”

Syria: Has the United States Abandoned the Rebels?

August 10, 2012 by

At the start of the Syrian uprising the Obama administration had lauded the uprising as a positive step and emphasized the need for Assad to step down. While still insisting that Assad must go, there is every indication that the United States is weary of throwing its full weight behind the rebel movement to unseat Assad and the administration is now being accused of throwing the Free Syrian Army and the rebels under a bus. Since the onset of the Arab Spring, with Syrians clamouring for democracy and democratic institutions in the region, and eventually taking up arms against the Assad regime, the nearly 17-month-old uprising against the Assad government has turned into an all-out conflict with no end in sight.

The West is Playing with Fire in Syria

July 23, 2012 by

While the UN remains paralyzed on whether to extend its observer mission, or impose sanctions, Syria is drifting quickly towards what the International Committee of the Red Cross calls “a state of civil war”, a declaration, with cataclysmic consequences, and which might radically change the rules of the game. Finian Cunningham, Global Research’s Middle East and East Africa Correspondent, notes to the extent to which the Syrian uprising has been exploited, “the irony is that leading NATO members, the United States, Britain and France, as well as their Turkish and Arab allies, are the very parties that have deliberately created the precipice for all-out war in the Middle East.”

T. E. Lawrence and Foreign Intervention in Syria

July 19, 2012 by

“They were discontented always with what government they had; such being their intellectual pride; but few of them honestly, thought out a working, alternative and fewer still agreed upon one.” Thus noted T.E. Lawrence, presumptuously, in his book Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which recounts his exploits as part of the Arab uprising against the Turks during the First World War. “They” are the Syrians, and Lawrence provides a vivid description of the land and its people, which he and a Hashemite led Arab Army where about to wrestle from Ottoman control.

Backing Horses: The Syrian Civil War

July 18, 2012 by

While the Russians are being painted as international law’s bogeymen, indifferent to choosing sides in a conflict when the only side to pick can only ever be that of peace, the Syrian opposition forces are nibbling, if not slaughtering their way, into view with their recent killings in Damascus. President Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle has received a series of lethal blows in the National Security Building – four of them, according to rumour mill of press reports. On Wednesday, Assad found himself one minister of defence and brother-in-law short. The latter was the infamous intelligence chief Assef Shawkat, though that itself has been disputed.

Obama’s Dwindling Options in Syria

June 14, 2012 by

As the Syrian conflict deepens, the Obama Administration is facing renewed calls to act before full-scale civil war erupts, with neo-conservatives in Washington pressing the administration to support anti-government rebels with military hardware. The President has been unwilling to do so, he has every reason to be wary of engaging in yet another Middle East conflict with no end in sight, and no exit strategy. Moreover, the President knows that such support would in the end likely prove futile, given China, Iran and Russia’s ongoing support for the Assad regime, the absence of unity among opposition groups, and the failure of the opposition to control any significant Syrian territory.

Syrian Regime Change and the Kurdish Problem

May 30, 2012 by

If Assad loses control of his armed forces and the regime loses its legitimacy as the expression of Syrian nationalism, the ingredients don’t seem there for a Lebanon-style civil war with local proxies armed by regional or global actors. That’s because I don’t think that Russia, China, or even Iran see any upside in arming some Ba’ath regime generals of primarily Alawite backgrounds trying to beat back an insurrection powered largely by Syria’s dominant Sunni majority.

In Response to Houla Massacre Australia Expels Syrian Diplomats

May 29, 2012 by

Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr has expelled the Syrian Charge d’Affairs Jawdat Ali Syrian in the wake of the Houla massacre that have reportedly seen 32 children massacred in Syria in recent days. He has said that Australians are “appalled at a regime that could connive in or organise the execution, the killing of men women and children.” Jawdat Ali has 72 hours to leave Australia. The decision follows Britain’s foreign secretary William Hague who has summoned the Syrian diplomat.

What Syria is Teaching the West

April 22, 2012 by

It should come as little surprise to anyone that the fragile cease-fire in Syria has failed and is evidence that - contrary to what many pundits contend - the tide continues to be on Mr. Assad’s side, given the time that has passed, the fractured nature of the opposition, and the bungled manner in which the West has addressed the subject. As Syria demonstrates, with each passing month the Arab Awakening evolves in new and unexpected ways. The question is whether the West is evolving along with the Awakening, or will remain stuck in a unidimensional view of MENA.

The Revolution on a Laptop: YouTube Journeys through the Arab Spring

April 12, 2012 by

An overcast road on the outskirts of a town somewhere in Syria. Strained, panting breath and blurred views of the crabgrass on the highway divider. To the right, maybe 500 yards away, I hear the guttural whuppwhuppwhuppwhupp of automatic gunfire, punctuated by the occasional snap of a sniper rifle. Over the median, a slick river pools into a ditch, oil maybe, no, blood. I see a boy, maybe 16-years-old, crumpled over the road median, one leg folded calmly over the other. I catch a quick look at his head and wonder if there is life in his half-closed eyes. Then I notice the bullet wound in his neck, jagged pink tissue under his chin. The panting voice begins to chant hurried phrases. The only word that I can understand is “Allah”.

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