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.

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.”

Arab’s “Spring” or Turkey’s “Rise”?

August 10, 2012 by

Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s announcement that Turkey is changing the rules of engagement regarding Syria is more than a simple escalation of rhetoric: it reveals the extent to which the Turkish foreign policy has radically changed. From Turkey’s famous “zero problems” policy and “transformative diplomacy”, Turkey under the Justice and Development Party is resorting to active engagement. With the sharp deterioration of Turkish-Syrian relations, Ankara is trying to seize the opportunity of the strategic vacuum and the weakness of its Arab rival, Syria, not only to take part in shaping the future of a “new” Middle East, but also to enhance Ankara’s influence in its historical Ottoman territory and impose itself as a regional power with global ambitions.

In the Event of an All-Out Conflict in Syria who stands to Gain?

August 8, 2012 by

Is the Syrian civil war going to spiral into an all-out conflict? If the West decides to become involved beyond offering tertiary support as it is doing now, and if war envelopes Syria with the government on one side and Western backed rebels on the other, who will fill the vacuum? If the Assad government falls, will radical Islamists take centre-stage thereby worsening Syria’s predicament and forestalling democracy? Will the United States use the insuing vacuum to pressure the Iranians even further into making concessions on the nuclear program?

America’s Broken Political Process: Russian Bills Fail in Congress

August 6, 2012 by

In spite of the fact that the U.S. economy continues to suffer and Europe is imploding, the U.S. Congress has left Washington for its traditional five-week summer recess. Among the plethora of legislation that Congress failed to address prior to its departure were two bills concerning Russia — the establishment of permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) and the ‘Magnitsky Act.’ This failure means that the review of these bills will not take place until next month at the earliest — when Congress has only eight working days — or perhaps even during its ‘lame duck’ session following the November elections.

After Libya, the Focus turns to Syria

July 29, 2012 by

In 1995, I had a rare opportunity to spend some time in Syria, where the Damascus Trade Fair was taking place. A normally secretive Arab country had opened its doors to a select group of Western journalists, businessmen and officials. The event was aimed at showing glimpses of a rich mix of civilizations going as far back as between 9000 and 11000 B.C., described as a Hidden Pearl of the Orient. Syria today has Muslims, Shia and Sunni; Assyrian-Syriac Christians, ethnic Kurds and Turkmen in the north; Druze in the south. People of all ethnic and religious groups live in Aleppo, the country’s most populated city. For centuries, Aleppo was the largest urban center in Greater Syria and the third largest in the Ottoman empire, after Constantinople and Cairo.

Palestinian Refugees in Syria face a Bleak Future

July 25, 2012 by

“The flames are quickly approaching Yarmouk (as) someone is trying to drag the Palestinians into the fire,” reported Palestinian commentator Rashad Abu Shawar. Yarmouk is the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Syria. Its inhabitants make up nearly a quarter of Syria’s entire refugee population of nearly 500,000. Despite the persistence of memory and the insistence on their right of return to Palestine, the Palestinian community in Syria is, on the whole, like any other ordinary community. Of course, ‘ordinariness’ is not always a term that suits misfortunate Palestinian refugees in Arab countries.

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.”

Syria One - Turkey Zero: For Now

June 26, 2012 by

What was that Turkish F-4 Phantom II up to when the Syrians shot it down? Ankara said the plane strayed into Syrian airspace, but quickly left and was over international waters when it was attacked, a simple case of carelessness on the part of the Turkish pilot that Syrian paranoia turned deadly. But the Phantom—eyewitnesses told Turkish television that there were two aircraft, but there is no official confirmation of that observation—was hardly on a Sunday outing. According to the Financial Times, Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, told the newspaper “the jet was on a test and training mission focused on Turkey’s radar defense, rather than Syria.”

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.

U.S. Expectations Must Change in the Middle East

April 11, 2012 by

News that the proposed Syrian ceasefire has fallen apart, that the Muslim Brotherhood has put forth a candidate for the presidency in Egypt, that challenges to the new government in Tunisia have already arisen, that there remains a risk of civil war in Libya, and that there is a good chance Israel may unilaterally bomb Iran later this year should not be much of a surprise to those Middle East foreign policy pundits who mix a good dose of realism in with any grand illusions about what the future holds for the region.

The Syrian Crisis Needs a Political Solution

March 31, 2012 by

More than a year after the onset of anti-regime protests, the Syrian uprising increasingly resembles a bloody marathon with no finish line on the horizon. With more than 7,000 people killed and ongoing deadly clashes between security forces and the armed opposition, the international community —splintered along geo-strategic lines — is still struggling to craft and establish a clear “road map” for Syria. The mission creep associated with the Libyan intervention, in addition to Syria’s superior defensive capabilities, has dampened the international community’s resolve for any decisive military intervention.

Revealing the Obvious

February 12, 2012 by

The conflict in Syria continues to take lives on both sides in what increasingly looks like a civil war. The bloodshed in Homs has captured most attention in recent days, but we should not forget violence in the capital Damascus and other Syrian towns, under government control, where lives have been lost and a climate of fear prevails. Twenty-four hour news coverage means unlimited hunger for detail, factual, exaggerated or invented. Newspapers and broadcasters have acquired a taste for ‘privileged’ information from interest groups, and report it uncritically as if it were true, especially since the events of September 11, 2001.

Turkey’s High Stakes Foreign Policy Gamble

September 13, 2011 by

A diplomatic dance is unfolding on the Middle Eastern stage between Iran and Turkey, who are jockeying for position while attempting to influence the outcome of the ongoing political drama in Syria. Both countries now appear to be united in their public appeals to President Assad to end his crackdown on domestic opponents of his regime. This has been a consistently-held position for Turkey, but a rather ironic and improbable position for Iran. Ahmadinejad has not exactly practiced what he is now preaching vis-à-vis his own domestic opposition, and Iran of course has a long history of crushing internal political dissent.

Competing Narratives in Syria: Between Tired Slogans and a Looming Dawn

August 4, 2011 by

There is no linear narrative capable of explaining the multifarious happenings that have gripped Syrian society in recent months. On March 23, as many as 20 peaceful protesters were killed at the hands of the Syrian regime’s security forces, and many more were wounded. Since then, the violence has escalated to such a level of brutality and savagery that can only be comparable to the regime’s infamous massacres in the city of Hama in 1982.

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