Sources close to Arab and Gulf decision-makers suggest that serious – maybe even critical – developments in Syria, are likely in June.
While there are no specific details as yet, several indicators give credibility to the chatter.
First of all, British army scientists have found evidence of chemical weapons used during the two-year Syrian conflict. The Ministry of Defence says that soil samples taken near Damascus have proven the use of chemical weapons, although nobody has directly implicated either the regime or the opposition.
Then, CNN has revealed that the US administration will revive plans to intervene militarily in Syria, in response to pressure from both Democrats and Republicans in Congress.
Further, Military training and exercises for Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces in Jordan and Turkey by US and British special forces, under the supervision of the CIA, will end in mid-May.
Next, the moratorium on the European Union’s decision to impose an arms embargo on the Syrian opposition will end early on in June, paving the way for free and independent action from both Britain and France. They could well provide the opposition with modern arms and equipment, including heavy armour and anti-aircraft missiles.
And finally, the aggravated dispute between Syrian authorities and the UN about international investigations into chemical weapons continues.
British Defence Ministry leaks about soil samples taken from Damascus must come as part of some bigger plan.
It is reminiscent of another incident when British intelligence officials sent British-Iranian journalist Farzat Bazoft to Baghdad to take soil samples near chemical plants. A British laboratory supposedly found traces of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) close by.
This helped justify the US-British invasion of Iraq.
Six months ago, US President Barack Obama issued a stern warning to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, claiming that any use of chemical weapons would precipitate an international response.
It’s no coincidence that the G8 summit in London last week repeated the same statement.
What we are about to witness is a repeat of events used to justify economic sanctions on Iraq – and then invasion – after a chemical weapons attacked killed 5,000 civilians in the Kurdish town of Halabja. The West blamed Iraq for the tragedy.
The question remains: Is future military action, which could mean no-fly zones or arming the opposition, designed to lure Iran into the conflict; or will it come in the form of a joint US, Israeli and Arab war on Iran and Syria at the same time?
Israeli reports warn that Iran could become a nuclear state before the end of the year. This means that US and Israel have just a few months to halt a dangerous and strategic shift in the region.
What changes things in this case – and could turn everything upside down – is that when Saddam Hussein’s regime faced blockade and war, he was alone and without allies.Under Gorbachev, Russia was bankrupt and China was preoccupied with its own economic development.
Today, the Assad regime has the support of Russia, Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the BRICS countries (Brazil, China, India and South Africa).
June is one of our hottest months. It’s ironic that it begins 40 days before the holy month of Ramadan this year.
I wouldn’t be surprised, and can’t rule it out, if this June becomes one of the most incendiary months in the history of the Arabs.
Devastating piece in the New York Times that needs no explanation:
GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba
One man here weighs just 77 pounds. Another, 98. Last thing I knew, I weighed 132, but that was a month ago.
I’ve been on a hunger strike since Feb. 10 and have lost well over 30 pounds. I will not eat until they restore my dignity.
I’ve been detained at Guantánamo for 11 years and three months. I have never been charged with any crime. I have never received a trial.
I could have been home years ago — no one seriously thinks I am a threat — but still I am here. Years ago the military said I was a “guard” for Osama bin Laden, but this was nonsense, like something out of the American movies I used to watch. They don’t even seem to believe it anymore. But they don’t seem to care how long I sit here, either.
When I was at home in Yemen, in 2000, a childhood friend told me that in Afghanistan I could do better than the $50 a month I earned in a factory, and support my family. I’d never really traveled, and knew nothing about Afghanistan, but I gave it a try.
I was wrong to trust him. There was no work. I wanted to leave, but had no money to fly home. After the American invasion in 2001, I fled to Pakistan like everyone else. The Pakistanis arrested me when I asked to see someone from the Yemeni Embassy. I was then sent to Kandahar, and put on the first plane to Gitmo.
Last month, on March 15, I was sick in the prison hospital and refused to be fed. A team from the E.R.F. (Extreme Reaction Force), a squad of eight military police officers in riot gear, burst in. They tied my hands and feet to the bed. They forcibly inserted an IV into my hand. I spent 26 hours in this state, tied to the bed. During this time I was not permitted to go to the toilet. They inserted a catheter, which was painful, degrading and unnecessary. I was not even permitted to pray.
I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone.
I am still being force-fed. Two times a day they tie me to a chair in my cell. My arms, legs and head are strapped down. I never know when they will come. Sometimes they come during the night, as late as 11 p.m., when I’m sleeping.
There are so many of us on hunger strike now that there aren’t enough qualified medical staff members to carry out the force-feedings; nothing is happening at regular intervals. They are feeding people around the clock just to keep up.
During one force-feeding the nurse pushed the tube about 18 inches into my stomach, hurting me more than usual, because she was doing things so hastily. I called the interpreter to ask the doctor if the procedure was being done correctly or not.
It was so painful that I begged them to stop feeding me. The nurse refused to stop feeding me. As they were finishing, some of the “food” spilled on my clothes. I asked them to change my clothes, but the guard refused to allow me to hold on to this last shred of my dignity.
When they come to force me into the chair, if I refuse to be tied up, they call the E.R.F. team. So I have a choice. Either I can exercise my right to protest my detention, and be beaten up, or I can submit to painful force-feeding.
The only reason I am still here is that President Obama refuses to send any detainees back to Yemen. This makes no sense. I am a human being, not a passport, and I deserve to be treated like one.
I do not want to die here, but until President Obama and Yemen’s president do something, that is what I risk every day.
Where is my government? I will submit to any “security measures” they want in order to go home, even though they are totally unnecessary.
I will agree to whatever it takes in order to be free. I am now 35. All I want is to see my family again and to start a family of my own.
The situation is desperate now. All of the detainees here are suffering deeply. At least 40 people here are on a hunger strike. People are fainting with exhaustion every day. I have vomited blood.
And there is no end in sight to our imprisonment. Denying ourselves food and risking death every day is the choice we have made.
I just hope that because of the pain we are suffering, the eyes of the world will once again look to Guantánamo before it is too late.