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April 30, 2013

NPR’s On Point Syria, Chemical Weapons, And The Intervention Question

see article here on Syria Comment

Syria: Hezbullah’s Quagmire?

Nasrallah’s speech earlier today was, rhetoric not withstanding, a declaration of war on Syria. Syria, as some people would like us all to forget, is not the Assad regime, it is the Syrian people. And it is the Syrian people that are revolting against Assad, a fact that Nasrallah conveniently ignores in his discourse. His talk today was couched in the same kind of vague language that the Syrian regime uses to refer to the “crisis”, with veiled references to “outside actors” without mentioning names, and with promises that details may perhaps be revealed “in future”. That is all fluff, and observers will notice that the rhetoric Nasrallah uses to explain Hezbullah’s sometimes controversial (to his followers) behaviour is intended to filter down the cult of resistance pyramid – to politicians, journalists, and social media – and shape the discourse. In this way he creates the epistemic grounds for legitimizing what his party does. But that is another blog post for another day.

Most interesting to me was Nasrallah’s statement regarding Damascus. He promised that Damascus would never fall militarily and I believe he means what he says. It is one thing when all of us feel that a sustained push against the regime in Damascus is long overdue, but another thing when Nasrallah confirms this view because that means that somebody is in a position to try and take the city soon.

The statement that the city will “never fall” can mean two things, and neither bode well for the Damascenes and other Syrians who have fled there. The first is that Hezbullah (and Iran) may be heavily invested in the capital and will emerge in full force to support Assad when the campaign begins, and secondly that there will be such a rain of destruction on the city that Aleppo will look like a walk in the park in comparison. Assad’s artillery and bases on Mount Qasiyoon, overlooking Damascus, have been raining destruction on the city suburbs for almost a year, and can easily level the old city if it looks like the regime will lose it. But this is not yet the case, and here it looks like Nasrallah’s warning is intended to point to an alternative that he desires, negotiations. But these are not the negotiations that most people would understand.

I’ve said previously that when Assad’s allies speak of “negotiations”, they use a different meaning. Assad will use “negotiations” to refer to discussions with a loyal opposition, whilst his allies really mean negotiations between the United States and Russia on one level, and perhaps an uneasy understanding between the Gulf states and Iran on the other. The elephant in the room is the Syrian opposition in all its flavours, from the Muslim Brotherhood to the Muaz al Khatib current. This is because they are the only party that Assad and his allies cannot allow to operate freely within Syria. To allow any of these currents will mean genuine political plurality and a real challenge to the regime, therefore its downfall.

The recent, and controversial, statement addressed to him by Muaz al Khatib appears to have not even registered with Nasrallah. Instead he chose to focus, as an ally of Assad, purely on the narrative that there is an international conspiracy against the Syrian regime and that negotiations should really be with the “foreign backers” of these armed gangs. This is unfortunate and he may come to regret this olive branch later, especially when the fighting reaches Lebanon – and it will at some point.

Between Assad negotiating with his loyal opposition, and his foreign allies pushing for the world to abandon Syria’s revolution, the real Syrian opposition in all its spectrums, is to be starved to death, and the Syrian people will be returned back to their fifty year induced coma. In summary, Nasrallah has dug in his heels over Assad’s regime and declared war on Syria. His party will fight on under the pretence of protecting Lebanese in the country, and on the pretence of protecting the shrine of a woman who is revered by Sunnis as well as Shiites.

Hezbullah is now fully embroiled in the Syrian quagmire, and has committed itself to supporting the Assad regime. This is a grave error of judgement for while Hezbullah might be strong in Lebanon, it is not strong in Syria. One need only recall the dreadful blow it received through the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus a few years ago, right in the heart of Assad’s security district. Furthermore, Hezbullah’s soldiers are not familiar with the territory they are fighting in, and they are far from their supply lines and support base.

It is clear they have been having an extremely difficult time in the Qusayr, which may be part of the reason why he chose to address his followers about it and also to justify the involvement. Finally, whilst the situation in Lebanon is still not serious enough to concern him, politics in Lebanon can escalate very quickly. By underestimating his domestic opponents and involving himself with a costly fight in Syria, Nasrallah will compound his errors and find himself biting off more than he can chew.

Nasrallah told us tonight that it is not important how “you” understand the situation (regarding Shiite interests in Syria), but how other people (his people) see it. But with his fighters trickling back to Lebanon in boxes, Mr Nasrallah seems to be misreading the situation. The only people who’s understanding he needs to consider carefully is that of the Syrians, and they have already made their views of his involvement very clear. It was not long ago that Israel slipped away during the night after its failed and costly involvement in Lebanon. Today Hezbullah appear to be making the same mistake.

Posted by Maysaloon at 8:50 pm  


Chemical weapons used by Assad Gangs in Eastern Ghouta

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Dear Friends

I know I have not been writing for a while.  This is very important and it is from Yasin Haj Saleh, please spread it. It is important to note that Yassin Haj Saleh is an MD. After his lengthy incarceration by the Assad regime, he went on to finish his medical studies, interrupted by the Assad goons in the eighties. He graduated from the faculty of medicine  at the University of Aleppo.

Injuries by Chemical Weapons in Eastern Ghuta

Yassin Haj Saleh*
Tuesday, April 30, 2013.

From   الجمهورية لدراسات الثورة السورية (The Republic for Syrian Revolution Studies)

Obama's red-lines

Obama’s red-lines

The thirty-year-old man was brought to “spot 200″ in Duma as being injured by chemical weapons. He seemed debile and his voice was barely audible. The fighter on the front of Jawbar, East of Damascus, had spent 9 hours in “spot 1″, which is a hospital where casualties receive first aid.

Out of the nine hours, he was unconscious for six hours, between 8 in the morning and 2.

Besides fatigue, the man looked physically fine and conscious when I met him at 6 in the evening of Sunday, April 14. He could stand up on his feet, but not firmly.

“What happened?” I asked him. He said that something that looks like a large stone was thrown nearby, but he didn’t pay much attention. But his companion asked a few moments later, “man, what’s this smell?”. The man did not smell or see smoke, but he had difficulty breathing, and his eyes were frozen wide. He thought himself dying, so he started to pray to God loudly.

He also said that after waking up in the hospital, he was spitting blood- he was still spitting blood at six in the evening, but in much smaller quantities.

He had no skin (dermatological?) symptoms. And when he woke up in the hospital, he knew that his friend had died, and possibly others had fallen martyrs. He did not know whether more bombs of the same kind were shelled on Jawbar front.

In his report, the doctor mentioned that the symptoms that the man, who comes from Qanawat neighborhood in Damascus, were pinpoint pupils and mental confusion, which seems to indicate a injury in the central nervous system. The report also says that the man was given 9 injections of atropine, 5 of hydrocortisone, and other 5 of a drug called Dexone (Dexamethasone).

The doctor recommended a normal diet and serums. There were two spots in the man’s left leg and left arm where two viens were opened to insert the serums, of which one was connected to a serum bag above the bed.

The man remained four days in “spot 200″ for follow-up.

Dr. Sakhr from the medical center in Eastern Ghuta said that he examined 20 cases of injury that day, and he personally suffered from the gas that was stuck to the clothes and hair of patients.

According to Dr. Sakhr, symptoms of injury include shortness of breath, red eyes, runny nose and eyes, hemoptysis, fainting and pinpoint pupils.

Two days later, symptoms of emotional instability manifested in form of agitation and anger or in form exhilaration and mania. These symptoms disappeared after two or three days, according to Dr. Sakhr.

Dr. Sakhr thought that the poison gas used was Sarin. He based his evaluation in the report on clinical assessment (symptoms and pathological development of cases). He had no decisive proofs, but he said that he took samples from infected hair, urine, blood and clothes and sent them to agencies that would supposedly be able to determine the type of toxic substance, and the most appropriate antidote for it.

Some of the people I have seen here think that tactical chemical weapons are the ones used by the regime until now. They target fighters and residents in limited areas.

* Translated by Jalal Imran


We kill, drone and bomb Muslims and we wonder why some hate us?

April 30th, 2013 in General

Pow­er­ful col­umn in the UK In­de­pen­dent by Yas­min Al­ib­hai-Brown:

First, read this un­con­di­tional ac­cep­tance of facts that can­not be de­nied nor ex­cused. Is­lam­i­cist ter­ror­ism has in­flicted atroc­i­ties and dif­fused panic and amor­phous, long-term anx­i­ety from east to west, south to north. Cit­i­zens of Nairobi and Bagh­dad, Madrid and Lon­don, Ba­mako and Dar es Salaam, New York and Bali, Mum­bai and Dam­as­cus, Moscow and Karachi and now Boston, other places too, have had their lives and sense of safety blown apart. Those un­af­fected per­son­ally are haunted by the im­ages and sto­ries. Trep­i­da­tion has en­tered their bones, our bones. Al­most as chill­ing as real at­tacks are those thwarted by in­tel­li­gence and se­cu­rity ser­vices. How many plots are still being planned? What if? Why? What do they want?

Mil­lions of ir­re­proach­able Mus­lims are be­wil­dered and en­raged by this global vendetta which seems de­ter­mined to an­ni­hi­late mod­ernism, oc­ci­den­tal val­ues, and also to desta­bilise some of the poor­est and most hap­less of na­tion states for rea­sons not made clear at all. Why are they try­ing to de­stroy Mali’s old cul­ture for ex­am­ple? Some of us feel ashamed that Islam has be­come a by­word for sin­is­ter, guer­rilla war­fare and is now re­garded as a mon­strous, rogue faith, eas­ily turned into a killing call, most ef­fec­tively for young men for whom life lacks mean­ing and di­rec­tion. Women are now join­ing in too. The “spir­i­tual lead­ers” be­hind the may­hem are wicked and psy­cho­log­i­cally ma­nip­u­la­tive men in­ter­ested only in high body-counts and lurid pub­lic­ity.

OK, now let’s turn to the most dom­i­nant coun­tries in the world – and their fi­nessed, wide­spread, ex­treme tac­tics used against peo­ple, some ev­i­dently fa­natic and dan­ger­ous, oth­ers to­tally in­no­cent. This is state-spon­sored, state-ac­ti­vated, state-en­gi­neered ter­ror­ism which we are just meant to ac­cept as a pro­por­tion­ate re­sponse to the evil above. More peo­ple are vic­timised by the un­ac­count­able, se­cre­tive ac­tions of the west­ern na­tions – the US and UK most no­tably – than all those vic­timised by Is­lam­i­cists. Most brain­washed and gen­uinely fright­ened west­ern­ers just ac­cept what their gov­ern­ments do in fight­ing a neb­u­lous “war on ter­ror”. Hun­dreds of thou­sands are killed, phys­i­cally and psy­cho­log­i­cally maimed and shocked and awed by west­ern weaponry. It is fair enough and sen­si­ble to use in­tel­li­gence and pre­vent plots home and abroad, but what is hap­pen­ing and has been since 9/11 is not de­fen­si­ble, moral, right, just or sane.

Solidarity with Syria

April 29, 2013 § 1 Comment

Published at the Global Campaign of Solidarity with the Syrian Revolution, this petition in support of the Syrian people’s struggle against dictatorship and genocide has been signed by leftist luminaries such as Norman Finkelstein, Gilbert Achcar and Tariq Ali (how good it is to welcome the latter back), academics of the stature of Frederic Jameson, Syrian intellectuals such as Yassin al-Haj Saleh, novelists such as Khaled Khalifa, and on the ground activists such as Razan Ghazzawi.

Who we are

As intellectuals, academics, activists, artists, concerned citizens, and social movements we stand in solidarity with the Syrian revolution and people’s struggle against dictatorship. Join us on Facebook.
Solidarity With the Syrian Struggle for Dignity and FreedomWe, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with the millions of Syrians who have been struggling for dignity and freedom since March 2011. We call on people of the world to pressure the Syrian regime to end its oppression of and war on the Syrian people. We demand that Bashar al-Asad leave immediately without excuses so that Syria can begin a speedy recovery towards a democratic future.Since March 2011, Asad’s regime has steadily escalated its violence against the Syrian people, launching Scud missiles, using weapons banned by the Geneva Convention such as cluster bombs and incendiary munitions, and using aerial bombardment. The regime has detained and tortured tens of thousands of people and committed untold massacres.

It has refused political settlements that do not include Asad in power, and it has polarized the society through strategic acts of violence and by sowing seeds of division.  The regime has also, since the early days of the uprising, sought to internationalize the crisis in order to place it within geopolitical battles that would only strengthen the regime.
Staying true to the logics of an authoritarian regime, Asad could never accept the legitimate demands of the Syrian people for freedom and dignity. Thus, there is no hope for a free, unified, and independent Syria so long as his regime remains in power.This is a revolt that was sparked by the children of Deraa and the sit-ins and demonstrations of the youth in the cities, the peasants of the rural areas, and the dispossessed and marginalized of Syria. It is they who rallied non-violently through protests and songs and chants, before the regime’s brutal crackdown.
Since then, the regime has pushed for the militarization of the Syrian nonviolent movement. As a result, young men took up arms, first out of self-defense. Lately, this has resulted in attempts by some groups fighting the regime to force a climate of polarization, and negation of the Other politically, socially and culturally. These acts that are in themselves against the revolution for freedom and dignity.Yet, the revolution for freedom and dignity remains steadfast.  It is for this reason that we, the undersigned, appeal to those of you in the global civil society, not to ineffective and manipulative governments, to defend the gains of the Syrian revolutionaries, and to spread our vision: freedom from authoritarianism and support of Syrians’ revolution as an integral part of the struggles for freedom and dignity in the region and around the world.The fight in Syria is an extension of the fight for freedom regionally and worldwide.  It cannot be divorced from the struggles of the Bahrainis, Egyptians, Tunisians, Libyans, Yemenis, and other peoples who have revolted against oppression and authoritarianism as well as against those seeking to usurp or destroy the uprisings and divert them for their own agendas. It is connected to the Palestinians’ struggle for freedom, dignity and equality.

The revolution in Syria is a fundamental part of the North African revolutions, yet, it is also an extension of the Zapatista revolt in Mexico, the landless movement in Brazil, the European and North American revolts against neoliberal exploitation, and an echo of Iranian, Russian, and Chinese movements for freedom.The Syrian revolution has confronted a world upside down, one where states that were allegedly friends of the Arabs such as Russia, China, and Iran have stood in support of the slaughter of people, while states that never supported democracy or independence, especially the US and their Gulf allies, have intervened in support of the revolutionaries. They have done so with clear cynical self interest. In fact, their intervention tried to crush and subvert the uprising, while selling illusions and deceptive lies.Given that regional and world powers have left the Syrian people alone, we ask you to lend your support to those Syrians still fighting for justice, dignity, and freedom, and who have withstood the deafening sounds of the battle, as well as rejected the illusions sold by the enemies of freedom.

As intellectuals, academics, activists, artists, concerned citizens, and social movements we stand in solidarity with the Syrian people to emphasize the revolutionary dimension of their struggle and to prevent the geopolitical battles and proxy wars taking place in their country. We ask you to lend your support to all Syrians from all backgrounds asking for a peaceful transition of power, one where all Syrians can have a voice and decide their own fate.

We also reject all attempts of any group to monopolize power, and to impose its own agenda, or to impose unitary or homogenous identities on the Syrian people. We ask you to support those people and organizations on the ground that still uphold the ideals for a free and democratic Syria.

Sign our petition here

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