An international war crimes prosecutor has resigned from her position on the U. N.’s Investigative Panel into human rights abuses in Syria over her frustration regarding the perceived impotence of the commission and the lack of ability to prosecute war criminals. Essentially, Carla Del Ponte is resigning because she and her panel have not been able to overcome Russian objections to framing Bashar al-Assad for crimes committed by America’s terrorists. While admitting that Western-backed terrorists are made up ‘mostly’ of extremists and that they have been guilty of war crimes, Del Ponte also peddled the disproven narrative that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons and that it is engaged in ‘terrible crimes against humanity.’ In her remarks announcing her resignation, Del Ponte, who is 70 years old, also admitted her own bias against the Syrian government since the beginning of the crisis.
By ending the ‘secret’ CIA program to arm and train Syrian rebels attempting to topple Bashar al-Assad in Syria, the Trump administration has accepted defeat in Syria, according to the Century Foundation, a prominent New York-based think tank. The Century Foundation believes this signals an end to America’s commitment to achieving regime change in Syria and claims Washington’s attempt to topple Assad was half-hearted to begin with. That being said, the Century Foundation also concedes that the program was doomed from the outset, stating: ‘The problem with the program, which was reportedly running the CIA nearly a billion dollars a year, was not that it was under resourced or ‘insufficient in scale.’ The problem was that its logic was wrong and out of sync with the basic dynamics of the insurgency.’ [emphasis added] Whatever the program had going for it, its ludicrous nature came to light after the conflict took full swing and opposition groups gathered momentum, as the think tank explained:
After a quiet few hours contemplating the National Scout Jamboree, President Trump just unleashed ‘hell’ once again at Jeff Bezos, The Washington Post, and Amazon.com. *** President Trump took his first shot at what appears to be referencing an article about his decision to end a CIA program that backed Syrian rebels. The Post reported last week that Trump shuttered a CIA program to support Syrian rebels in the fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a major victory for Russia. Russian officials had reportedly seen the program as an attack on the country’s interests…
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jul 24, 2017.
In what may be one of the most significant foreign policy decisions of his first year in office, Trump is shutting down the CIA’s covert program to arm rebels fighting the Syrian government. This would constitute a monumental shift in terms of US priorities in Syria which throughout most of the 6-year long war have focused on removing Bashar al-Assad. The Washington Post reports: Officials said Trump made the decision to scrap the CIA program nearly a month ago, after an Oval Office meeting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and national security adviser H. R. McMaster ahead of a July 7 meeting in Germany with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The move is consistent with signals coming out of the White House over the past months, as well as in keeping with Trump’s early campaign promises that he would seek to wind down the war in Syria by making ISIS the only objective, and not the removal of Assad. There have been additional hints at willingness to work closer with Russia in a strategic anti-terror partnership in Syria. Secretary of State Tillerson’s said in an April interview with ABC News, as well several weeks ago, that Assad’s fate would be up for the Syrian people to decide, adding that: In that regard, we are hopeful that we can work with Russia and use their influence to achieve areas of stabilization throughout Syria and create the conditions for a political process through Geneva in which we can engage all of the parties on the way forward, and it is through that political process that we believe the Syrian people will lawfully be able to decide the fate of Bashar al-Assad.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jul 19, 2017.
Chances for progress in drawing down the Syrian war have improved after the latest round of U. N.-led negotiations, with a main opposition delegation dropping the demand for immediate regime change, Russia’s ambassador in Geneva, Alexei Borodavkin, told the press on Saturday. The seventh round of talks, concluded in Geneva on Friday, saw a significant change in approach from the primary delegation for the Syrian opposition, the High Negotiations Committee, a Saudi-backed outfit based in Riyadh. ‘The essence of this correction is that during this round the opposition never once demanded the immediate resignation of President Bashar al-Assad and the legitimate Syrian government,’ Borodavkin said. There are currently three delegations that represent the opposition in talks, complicating the task of UN mediator Steffan de Mistura in coordinating the negotiations, and preventing direct discussion between the Syrian regime and the fragmented opposition. In addition to the HNC, two other groups known as the Cairo and Moscow platforms represent different parts of the opposition.
Crucial to the Western narrative of the Syrian conflict is the assertion that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a brutal dictator who has taken to killing his own people over the course of Syria’s six-year-long conflict. This allegation has been the crux of the ‘humanitarian’ justification for foreign military intervention in Syria that would seek to depose Assad’s government, a justification frequently used by the U. S. and its allies prior to an invasion or the toppling of an extant regime. While this narrative has been pervasive in media coverage of the Syrian conflict, it is now being debunked by the very Syrian refugees that the media purported were fleeing Assad in the first place. According to a recent statement from Andrej Mahecic, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, an estimated 440,000 displaced Syrians who remained in the country have returned to their homes since the year began. In addition, 31,000 refugees in neighboring countries also returned to Syria in the first half of the year, with 260,000 having returned to Syria from other nations since 2015. UN Refugee Agency: Almost 500,000 Syrian refugees have returned home. Find out why: #UNHCR #standwithrefugees — UNA-USA San Diego (@UNASanDiego) July 1, 2017
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jul 5, 2017.
And so, three months after the US State Department famously flip-flopped, when first at the end of March Rex Tillerson said at a news conference that ‘the longer term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people” adding that “our priority is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out” only to follow one week later with Tillerson’s warning to Russia that “coalition steps are underway to remove Assad” which in turn segued into the first US attack on Syrian soil with the launch of no less than 59 cruise missiles, the US has done it again and according to Foreign Policy, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has once again told the U. N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres that the fate of Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad now lies in the hands of Russia, and that the Trump administration’s priority is limited to defeating the Islamic State. The striking reversal was announced during a private State Department meeting last week, according to three diplomatic sources cited by FP. And, as FP adds, “the remarks offer the latest stop on a bumpy U. S. policy ride that has left international observers with a case of diplomatic whiplash as they try to figure out whether the Trump administration will insist that Assad step down from power. Nearly three months ago, Tillerson had insisted that Assad would have to leave office because of his alleged use of chemical weapons.”
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jul 3, 2017.
As if on cue, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons – putative watchdog of world government use of the noxious agents in its very name – announced Thursday sarin gas, or a sarin-like substance, had indeed caused the deaths of nearly 100 people in a supposed chemical ‘attack’ in Khan Sheikhoun in Syria in early April, which the U. S. and Western allies insist had been carried out against innocent civilians at the behest of the Assad regime. Except, gaping holes and unavoidable discrepancies paint the report. In fact, the entire incident constitutes a monstrous propaganda campaign to enjoin support for ousting President Bashar al-Assad – an objective dear to the United States – no matter the repercussions. According to the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission – which refused to assign responsibility for the attack until further collaboration with the United Nations – sarin or a sarin-like substance killed and injured scores of civilians in an ‘alleged’ attack on April 4 in the Idlib Province town. Superficially, this confirms an account by the Trump administration, which used the ‘attack’ to justify launching 59 retaliatory Tomahawk missiles into the sovereign nation – incidentally, also killing and injuring scores of innocents – in the first act of direct military aggression by the U. S. since a coalition of Western-backed forces entered the fray.
The Syrian and Russian governments have responded to allegations by White House officials made earlier this week that the Syrian regime was planning to carry out a chemical weapons attack, with the Russians threatening retaliation to any ‘preemptive’ American strike. ‘We will react with dignity, in proportion to the real situation that may take place,’ Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference on Wednesday. ‘I expect that our partners in the region – American, European – will also have an open and comprehensible approach, aimed at de-escalation through normalization of the humanitarian situation,’ Lavrov added, perhaps charitably. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters he was ‘not aware of any information’ about a chemical attack, adding that ‘such threats to Syria’s legitimate leaders are unacceptable.’ The claims initially emanated from the White House on Monday, when officials said they had intelligence that indicated the Syrians were preparing for a chemical weapons attack and warned that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would ‘pay a heavy price’ if his military did so.
Authored by Aaron David Miler and Richard Sokolsky via The Strategic Culture Foundation, Pursuing an ambitious mission against all three adversaries in Syria is dangerous, imprudent and unnecessary The idea du jour circulating inside the Trump administration and among terrorism experts and Syria watchers alike is that ISIS cannot be destroyed in Syria unless Bashar al-Assad is removed from power and Iran’s presence and influence are drastically curtailed. And in a perfect world, this indeed would be the best possible outcome to prevent ISIS and other jihadi groups, including Al Qaeda, from ensconcing themselves there. But needless to say, the Middle East isn’t a perfect world. U. S. retaliation against another chemical-weapons attacks, as the White House threatened late Monday, would be both necessary and justified. (Assad and his military would ‘pay a heavy price,’ the statementread.) But pursuing an ambitious mission against Iran, Assad and the Russians in Syria is dangerous, imprudent and unnecessary to protect vital American security interests. Here are five compelling reasons why.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jun 30, 2017.
Well, we can all rest easy – the chemical weapons attack mainstream media predicted Assad would carry out against his own people has been successfully thwarted by mainstream media, which credited mainstream media’s original pre-crisis reporting for successfully averting the crisis. Per Reuters: ‘U. S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Wednesday that the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad appeared so far to have heeded a warning this week from Washington not to carry out a chemical weapons attack.’ Phew. That was close. Of course, it was the feckless and secretive Trump administration nurtured the story, having given birth to the latest dish of propaganda for mainstream media to spoon feed the somnambulant masses, and – despite the ongoing Fake News Battle Royale between the two petulant entities – the synergistic non-story played out like a flaccid tabloid cherry bomb to the wicked delight of anyone weary for the days when news was actually news. Antics like these – baseless prognostication Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would gas his own people with deadly, noxious chemicals – have grown stale.
Washington announced Monday Syria plans to carry out ‘another’ chemical weapons attack against its own civilians – and, without hesitation, the Internet destroyed the gauzy excuse for the U. S. to either undertake its own attack, or lay blame for any suspicious chemical onslaughts on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tweeted – because tweeting official statements is a thing now – the press release: ‘The United States has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children. The activities are similar to preparations the regime made before its April 4, 2017 chemical weapons attack. ‘As we have previously stated, the United States is in Syria to eliminate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. If, however, Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.’
21st Century Wire says… ‘This obeisance to the United States and its collaborators as a benign force ‘bringing good’ runs deep in western establishment journalism. It ensures that the present-day catastrophe in Syria is blamed exclusively on Bashar al-Assad, whom the West and Israel have long conspired to overthrow, not for any humanitarian concerns, but to consolidate Israel’s aggressive power in the region. The jihadist forces unleashed and armed by the US, Britain, France, Turkey and their ‘coalition’ proxies serve this end. It is they who dispense the propaganda and videos that becomes news in the US and Europe, and provide access to journalists and guarantee a one-sided ‘coverage’ of Syria.’ ~ John Pilger
The ongoing Qatar crisis has had an unexpectedly adverse outcome among the Syrian “rebels”, in many cases formerly known as al-Qaeda, who expect the crisis between two of their biggest state backers – Saudi Arabia and Qatar – to deepen divisions in the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad. Together with Turkey and the United States, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been major sponsors of the insurgency, arming an array of groups that have been fighting to topple Syria’s Iran-backed president. However, in recent weeks the Gulf support has been far from harmonious, fuelling splits that have set back the revolt. Quoted by Reuters, Mustafa Sejari of the Liwa al Mutasem rebel group in northern Syria said “god forbid if this crisis is not contained I predict … the situation in Syria will become tragic because the factions that are supported by (different) countries will be forced to take hostile positions towards each other.” “We urge our brothers in Saudi Arabia and Qatar not to burden the Syrian people more than they can bear” he said magnanimously, when what he really meant is that he needs Saudis and Qatar on the same page so that the supply of weapons and cash can resume. To be sure, for the terrorists rebels the Qatar crisis comes at the worst possible time: the opposition to Assad has been losing ground to Damascus ever since the Russian military deployed to Syria in support of Assad’s war effort in 2015. As Reuters adds Assad now appears “militarily unassailable”, although rebels still have footholds near Damascus, in the northwest, and the southwest. These are unlikely to hold without a continued infusion of support from the feuding Gulf states.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jun 19, 2017.
According to a U. N. Commission of Inquiry tasked with investigating violations of international war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria, the intensification of airstrikes by the U. S.-led coalition has led to a ‘staggering loss of civilian life,’ the Guardian reports. The U. N. war crimes investigators found that since the acceleration of airstrikes in the Syrian city of Raqqa commenced last week, 300 civilians have already died. This statistic arguably makes Bashar al-Assad pale in comparison; Assad’s regime reportedly kills approximately 20-50 people in any given week. ‘We note in particular that the intensification of air strikes, which have paved the ground for an SDF advance in Raqqa, has resulted not only in staggering loss of civilian life, but has also led to 160,000 civilians fleeing their homes and becoming internally displaced,’ Paulo Pinheiro, the chairman of the U. N. Commission of Inquiry told the human rights council in Geneva. According to Karen Abuzayd, an American commissioner on the independent panel, the figure of 300 is based only on deaths caused by airstrikes. Therefore, the figure of civilian deaths caused by troops on the ground may ultimately higher.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jun 15, 2017.
Civilians still living in Raqqa have endured appalling barbarism under renegade control by the Islamic State caliphate for years, only to be duly punished by the U. S.-led coalition’s bombing campaign against the militants – the latter apparently so indiscriminate, U. N. war crimes investigators now say it has caused ‘staggering loss of life.’ Coalition bombing of the Islamic State (Daesh) has support of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – an alliance of Kurdish, Arab, and other fighters aligning with the secondary U. S. mission of ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – which has seized territorial control around the embattled city from every direction but the south. But intensive fighting and rapid succession of bombs have precipitated treacherous conditions for civilians in Raqqa – forcing no less than 160,000 to hastily evacuate homes in self-preservation. According to the BBC, ‘Up to 4,000 militants are believed to be holed up inside Raqqa, including foreign fighters and various senior figures. ‘It is unclear how many civilians are trapped there with them, but UN officials estimated that there are between 50,000 and 100,000.’
One day after American warplanes bombed an Iranian-backed militia that allegedly entered a supposed no-go zone near a U. S garrison in southern Syria on Tuesday – its second such strike in three weeks – a military alliance fighting in support of President Bashar al-Assad said it could hit U. S. positions in Syria, warning that its “self-restraint” over U. S. air strikes on government forces would end if Washington crossed “red lines”, according to Reuters. The statement from the pro-Assad alliance was issued in the name of the “commander of the operations room of the forces allied to Syria”, and was circulated by a military news unit run by Hezbollah, one of Assad’s military allies in Lebanon. “America knows well that the blood of the sons of Syria, the Syrian Arab Army, and its allies is not cheap, and the capacity to strike their positions in Syria, and their surroundings, is available when circumstances will it,” the statement said, adding that such attacks could be carried out with “different missile and military systems, in the light of the deployment of American forces in the region”.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jun 7, 2017.
Update: the bill has passed, Bloomberg reports: TURKEY APPROVES BILL ALLOWING TRAINING TO QATAR SECURITY FORCES * * * In the ongoing diplomatic crisis between Qatar and its Gulf/Arab peers, which is either the result of Saudi nat gas envy or – for those who watch CNN – Russian hacking, Turkey has emerged as a vocal supporter of the small but wealthy state. On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Erdogan defended Qatar, saying he personally would have intervened if accusations that the tiny Gulf emirate supports “terrorism” were true and said he intends to “develop” ties with the embattled Gulf state hit by sanctions from Saudi Arabia and its allies. “Let me say at the outset that we do not think the sanctions against Qatar are good,” Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara.”Turkey will continue and will develop our ties with Qatar, as with all our friends who have supported us in the most difficult moments,” he added in reference to last year’s failed coup. The support puts Turkey in a complicated position because while the NATO member has close ties with Qatar it also has good relations with the other Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia. Turkey’s support for Qatar also has ideological reasons as in the past both both have provided support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and backed rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jun 7, 2017.
In the ongoing diplomatic crisis between Qatar and its Gulf/Arab peers, which is either the result of Saudi nat gas envy or – for those who watch CNN – Russian hacking, Turkey has emerged as a vocal supporter of the small but wealthy state. On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Erdogan defended Qatar, saying he personally would have intervened if accusations that the tiny Gulf emirate supports “terrorism” were true and said he intends to “develop” ties with the embattled Gulf state hit by sanctions from Saudi Arabia and its allies. “Let me say at the outset that we do not think the sanctions against Qatar are good,” Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara.”Turkey will continue and will develop our ties with Qatar, as with all our friends who have supported us in the most difficult moments,” he added in reference to last year’s failed coup. The support puts Turkey in a complicated position because while the NATO member has close ties with Qatar it also has good relations with the other Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia. Turkey’s support for Qatar also has ideological reasons as in the past both both have provided support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and backed rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Erdogan was careful not to criticise Riyadh, calling on the member nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council to “resolve their differences through dialogue”. “Efforts to isolate Qatar … will not solve any problem,” said Erdogan, praising Doha’s “cool-headedness” and “constructive approach”.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jun 7, 2017.
U.S. and Russian officials have quietly stepped up contacts in recent weeks to try to advance a deal on the creation of a safe zone in southern Syria, Al-Monitor has learned. The talks included a meeting in Jordan in late May, a former diplomat from the region said on condition of anonymity. Russia, Iran and Turkey negotiated the creation of four zones aimed at de-escalating tensions between Bashar al-Assad’s forces and the armed Syrian opposition in early May, and the Donald Trump administration is now trying to see what role the United States can play. ‘Last week, the Americans and Russia met in Jordan with the Jordanians to discuss these zones in the south,’ the former diplomat said. ‘The meeting in Jordan was one part where the U.S. and Russia, Israel and Jordan can work together to have de-escalation zone in the south of Syria.’ The United States is particularly concerned that any deal over the future of Syria preserves the stability of its close allies Israel and Jordan. Israel for its part has said it would not tolerate an Iranian presence on its border with Syria. The source said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is “in charge of dealing with Russia” amid allegations that the Trump presidential campaign conspired with Moscow. The former diplomat said Brett McGurk, the U.S. special presidential envoy to the global coalition against the Islamic State, and U.S. Syria envoy Michael Ratney participated in the Jordan talks. Neither official responded to queries.