Thursday, February 20, 2014

Geneva All About Regime Change

“the main objective” [of] the Geneva Communiqué” is a transitional governing body."

"The goal of the conference in the American view is to establish arrangements for a transitional administration that would govern Syria if President Bashar Assad could be persuaded to yield power. Secretary of State John Kerry was flying to Rome on Tuesday for meetings at the Vatican before heading to Kuwait for a meeting Wednesday of donors who are providing humanitarian assistance to Syria."

Yup, even Iran agrees there should be a new political order in Syria, or so says the Jew York Times. Kind of makes one question the whole point of peace talks. Glad to see the rebels are taking the Globe's advice.

"The Syrian government has suggested that the conference’s goal should be fighting “terrorism.” The West is increasingly concerned about extremist militants in the insurgency and their potential to become a threat outside Syria, but the government uses terrorism to describe the entire rebel movement that seeks to oust President Bashar Assad, so such statements suggest unwillingness to engage with legitimate grievances against his rule."


"Secretary of State John Kerry’s comments reflect increased concern within the US government and nongovernmental organizations over the escalating humanitarian crisis in Syria. They also reflect frustration that Assad appears to have little interest in negotiating the establishment of a transitional government in which he would not play a role. 

And the U.S. is surprised at that?

The United States has repeatedly asserted that the negotiation of such a transitional body is the main purpose of the talks. Assad’s negotiators have sought to focus on ways to combat what they call terrorism, a blanket description for armed opposition to him. Kerry did not say what options might be under consideration within the Obama administration or whether they included stepping up the covert CIA program to train and arm the moderate Syrian opposition or even the threat of military force to compel the delivery of aid."

“Syria has become a matter of homeland security

We see where this is going!

As talks approach, Assad’s grip strengthens

"Homs city was one of the first areas to rise up against Assad in 2011 and has been particularly hard hit by the war. Over the past year, the government has regained control over much of the city."

Assad, whose troops have a tenuous upper hand in Syria,

Syrian troops gaining ground

Syrian forces seize a strategic road

Syria rebels seize Al Qaeda base in Aleppo

Two major narratives have flowed from the international news coverage

I've only gotten one and it comes with mixed messages. 

"Syrian opposition urged to join talks; Rebel coalition’s credibility tested amid infighting" by Lara Jakes |  Associated Press, January 13, 2014

PARIS — The bloodshed, pitting Al Qaeda-linked militants against several Islamist and more moderate rebel brigades, has begun to overshadow the broader war against the government.

Sunday’s meetings in Paris came just over a week before the scheduled talks in Switzerland, as the Syrian National Coalition nears collapse, its influence eroded by the chronic infighting, international pressure and disagreement over whether to negotiate with Syria’s president, Bashar Assad.

Secretary of State John Kerry joined 10 other foreign ministers who urged coalition President Ahmed al-Jarba to deliver his group to the Switzerland talks and finally meet face-to-face with the government it hopes to overthrow.

Kerry said he was confident the coalition would be at the talks, and hinted at a diplomatic backlash from its allies if it skips the meetings….

Jarba, who will meet again with Kerry on Monday, tried to put the best face on his coalition’s precarious position….

Sunday’s gathering clearly aimed to boost the coalition, in part with a 14-point declaration of goals to allow the Syrian people ‘‘to control its own future’’ and ‘‘put an end to the current despotic regime through a genuine political transition.’’

Within Syria, the moderate rebels say the coalition-in-exile is little help as they find themselves battling on two fronts — against Al Qaeda-linked militants on one side and Assad’s forces on another. One brigade after another has broken with the group, calling it out of touch with the harsh reality of a war that activists say has killed more than 130,000 people.

Assad himself has said there will be no discussion of giving up power, throwing the entire premise of the peace talks into doubt. On the other side, the rebel groups with the most men, arms and territory have already rejected any idea of an armistice….

The indecision and weakness of the Syrian coalition also has tested the patience of its backers, including the United States.

Washington had to suspend shipments of nonlethal aid to moderate rebel fighters last month after insurgent groups broke into a warehouse where it was stored, raising the specter that the US supplies and equipment would fall into extremists’ hands. 

Look at this shit, like the U.S. and its Saudi and Qatari allies haven't been moving them weapons through Turkey and Jordan.


Time to cast your vote:

"Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, was at another Swiss venue, the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he called for a new election in Syria and said his nation would respect the results."

Syrian official says vote may be postponed

"Secretary of State John Kerry said Iran would have to end its military aid to the Assad regime at a news conference in Jerusalem before he headed to Jordan to continue his consultations with King Abdullah on the Mideast peace talks. Kerry went to Saudi Arabia later Sunday to meet with the Saudi monarch." 

As he and the guy he works for sell arms all across the planet, with the byproduct being profits for defen$e contractors, yay!

And the worst of all from him?

"Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday the beginning of direct talks was an important step, but that both sides need to put the interests of Syria above their own.  Kerry said the United States will not support anyone who uses force to seize power." 

Unless we backed 'em. Then it's fine.

In Syria, the war continued as if there were no effort to stop it....

Because there isn't!  The conference is all a arm-flailing show.

"Rebels claim control over Syria’s oil, gas resources; Assad regime may be buying fuel from one" by Ben Hubbard, Clifford Krauss and Eric Schmitt |  New York Times, January 29, 2014

BEIRUT — Islamist rebels and extremist groups have seized control of most of Syria’s oil and gas resources, a rare generator of cash in the country’s war-battered economy, and are now using the proceeds to underwrite their fights against one another as well as President Bashar Assad, US officials say.

While the oil and gas fields are in serious decline, control of them has bolstered the fortunes of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, and the Nusra Front, both of which are offshoots of Al Qaeda. ISIL is even selling fuel to the Assad government, lending weight to allegations by opposition leaders that it is secretly working with Damascus to weaken the other rebel groups and discourage foreign support for their cause. 

The propaganda just jumped the shark.

Also see: 

"Battle lines are constantly shifting, with the Al Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Syria withdrawing from its bases in oil-rich Deir Ezzor, Al Qaeda’s local affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, is among the rebel groups that ousted ISIS from Deir Ezzor, an indication of ISIS’s growing isolation, which even Al Qaeda has disowned."

ISIS, ISIL, they are all under the same umbrella.

Although there is no clear evidence of direct tactical coordination between ISIL and Assad, US officials say that his government has facilitated the group’s rise not only by purchasing its oil but by exempting some of its headquarters from the airstrikes that have tormented other rebel groups.

The Nusra Front and other groups are providing fuel to the government, too, in exchange for electricity and relief from airstrikes, according to opposition activists in Syria’s oil regions....


Not much relief from those:

"13 killed in raids on rebel-held city

RAQQA — Syrian government aircraft on Saturday pounded Raqqa, a rebel-held city in the country’s northeast, killing at least 13 people including five children, activists said. In northern Syria, meanwhile, a newly formed Islamist coalition of rebel brigades took control of a major crossing point with Turkey from the Western-backed Free Syrian Army, activists said (AP)."

To facilitate weapons smuggling.

"Also Tuesday, an international aid group warned that hospitals in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo were overwhelmed with casualties, as government warplanes blasted opposition areas of the city as part of a withering three-day air assault that has killed more than 100 people. The intensified air campaign suggests Assad’s government is trying to crush opposition in the contested city, Syria’s largest, ahead of an international peace conference scheduled for late January in Switzerland."

"Syrian aircraft pummeled opposition areas in the northern city of Aleppo on Sunday, killing at least 32 people and extending the government’s furious aerial bombardment of the rebel-held half of the divided city to an eighth consecutive day. Since it began on Dec. 15, the government’s unusually heavy air campaign in Aleppo has killed more than 200 people, smashed residential buildings, and overwhelmed the city’s hospitals with casualties. The timing of the assault — a month ahead of planned peace talks in Switzerland — suggests that President Bashar Assad could be trying to strengthen his position and expose the opposition’s weaknesses before sitting down at the negotiating table."

"Syrian government forces continued their bombing campaign in the northern city of Aleppo on Saturday, with a single strike in a crowded vegetable market killing at least 21 people, activists and residents said….  Two weeks of airstrikes and barrages of improvised “barrel bombs” packed with explosives that are dropped from low altitudes by helicopters…. Videos posted by activists in the Tareek al-Bab and Al Myassar neighborhoods of Aleppo showed buildings and market stalls reduced to rubble and residents expressing bitter shock and despair…. Nisreen Manafikhi, an activist from Aleppo, said in a Skype interview that 22 people had been killed in the market attack, which also collapsed a residential building, and that 10 others had died in nearby airstrikes. Videos showed men, apparently in shock, squatting atop piles of stone. Streets were strewn with rubble, and entire blocks of buildings damaged…. “We just found pieces of the kids…. All the dead are poor civilians trying to make a living in the vegetable market.”

"The Syrian Observatory and another group, the Aleppo Media Center, said a government airstrike killed at least 10 people, including children, in the northern town of Bzaa. Another strike in the Haydariyeh quarter of Aleppo killed at least six civilians. They said the strikes occurred Monday."

"In Syria on Monday, the government extended its intense aerial campaign against rebel-held areas of the northern city of Aleppo, conducting a series of airstrikes that killed at least 18 people, including five children, the Associated Press reported, quoting activists. Assad’s air force has pounded opposition areas of the divided city since mid-December, reducing apartment blocks to rubble and overwhelming already strapped hospitals and medical clinics with the wounded.... Syria’s opposition has pointed to bombardment of airstrikes that has killed more than 500 people as evidence that Assad has little interest in peace efforts, despite sending a delegation to Switzerland last week for UN-sponsored negotiations aimed at ending the war."


10 dead after missile hits bus in Aleppo

Syrian air raids exact high toll on Aleppo in a withering four-day air assault

 Syrian airstrikes kill at least 15 in Aleppo

A furious aerial assault I'm told.

Rebel areas bombed in Syria; 37 die

Syrian aircraft kill 50 in rebel town

Syrian forces renew strikes in Aleppo

Assad forces kill 36 in Aleppo assault

A wave of airstrikes in a ferocious attack

The government’s bombing of Aleppo alone had killed 421 people in the last 12 days

Car bomb at mosque in Syria kills dozens

Ready to change regimes now, war weary 'murkn?

Back to the talks:

"Last week’s face-to-face talks took between the Assad’s government and an opposition coalition group ended in acrimony, although Lakhdar Brahimi, the special UN envoy for Syria, said further talks could take place later this month. In what appeared to be a concession by Brahimi to the Syrian government aimed at ensuring its participation in another round of talks, the United Nations announced Monday that Brahimi’s deputy, Nasser al-Kidwa, was resigning, effective this week. Syrian officials had objected to Kidwa, a former foreign minister of the Palestinian Authority, which is negotiating with Israel over a future Palestinian state."


Peace talks on Syria end with no headway

Brutality of Syrian war dims prospects for peace talks

Syrian government says it will stay in peace talks

Shaky start to latest round of Syrian peace talks

US, Russian envoys offer to help revive Syrian talks

Meanwhile, fighting intensified in Syria....

"While the stark differences between the US and Russia positions were outlined in civil tones, that diplomatic restraint was abandoned when Moallem took the floor and launched into a diatribe in which he accused Arab nations of financing terrorism and conspiring to destroy his country. “They have used their petrodollars to buy weapons,” he said, “and to flood the international media with lies.”" 

He's right. The description as a diatribe gave it away.

"British foreign secretary, William Hague, tweeted that the UN Security Council “must now act to address the humanitarian crisis urgently.” But Russia, the Syrian government’s most powerful backer, sees Western attempts to require access for aid workers as a pretext for military action, and it has blocked previous Security Council measures on Syria." 

Yeah, 'cuz they were burned once before in Libya.

"Secretary of State John Kerry, meanwhile, accused Assad of stonewalling in peace talks and Russia of undermining the prospects of a negotiated solution by “contributing so many more weapons” to the leader. 

Just shut up, John (as Obummer ups CIA aid to the insurgents)

Kerry, speaking in Jakarta, Indonesia, said it was clear the Syrian leader was “trying to win this on the battlefield instead of coming to the negotiating table in good faith.” 

That's a U.S. modus operandi.

Russia, he said, was promoting this approach. “They are, in fact, enabling Assad to double down, which is creating an enormous problem,” Kerry said in criticism that underscored the erosion of the Russian-American partnership in Syria and raised questions about the viability of US diplomatic strategy to help resolve the escalating crisis." 

So much for civility.

Today there is just silence....

UPDATE: Opposition fighters prepared to launch push toward Damascus