Posts Tagged ‘sanctions’

Can Washington and Her Allies Stop Syria’s Reconciliation Efforts?


Damascus — For  more than a year,  analysts and lobbyists have predicted umpteen times that the “tipping point” signaling the Assad government’s collapse was a sure thing and would happen any time now. “It’s just a matter of days, not weeks” President Obama declared back in 2011.

Based on personal observations and interviews with informed people who actually live in Syria, as opposed to the Zionist think tanks and armchair “experts”, this observer concedes that prognosticators are finally right. Over the past few months, I have concluded the long elusive “tipping point” in Syria has indeed been reached and the momentum has shifted decisively in this embattled nation.

But not the tipping point that rebel promoters were hoping for, including the NATO countries.

Rather, momentum here has tipped in favor of the current regime due to its capacity to maintain a slowly rising level of popular support, and good relations with key foreign supporters during the current run up to next year’s Presidential election. Then, it will be up to the Syrian voters to decide who stays, goes, and/or joins in their next government.

I base my tentative conclusions, on among others, the following factors.

The Syrian population here is so tired, so exhausted and beaten down. The killing has gone on for so long. The Syrian people, like Iranians and others I have observed, appear to exhibit a distinctly noticeable, profound and almost moral and religious bond with their countrymen. They personally feel acutely their country’s suffering. People on the streets are very shocked and incredulous at what is going on. Many in fact feel less strongly about either side in the conflict and just want the slaughter to end and for life to return to ‘normal’ without deep revolutionary-across the board-changes for now.

Two days ago mortars hit the campus of Damascus University. By the grace of God there were no casualties-this time. But students report that on average about six mortars or explosive devices hit Damascus every week. While unreported in the media, the attack on Damascus University where the student body has pretty much stayed on the sidelines during the current crisis, is an example of the nerve shattering recognition here that rebels can more or less fire mortars or rockets at will into Damascus, from miles away.

These terrorist attacks are very difficult to stop and constitute an ever present danger for Damascenes. The relatively frequently used small US M252 81mm mortar that can be carried in a deep pocket or under a shirt when strapped, has a bit more than a one mile range (1609 meters). Larger ones can travel several miles when set at between 45 and 85 degrees to the ground according to military sources.

Also, according to students, about five days ago the Tishereen War Panorama Museum was hit with four or five rebel projectiles. The military museum was built to celebrate the October 1973 Yom Kippur War (“Tishreen” means “October” in Arabic). This main tourist attraction is only two miles northeast of the Old City in Damascus.

One also experiences here an attitude that the Assad government is showing signs of learning some serious lessons about the direction that Syria must move in. While number estimates are difficult, increasing numbers of Syrians appear to believe that the current regime is the best solution — at least for now. For now, meaning, until next year’s election.

One also notices in Syria these days that people appear (maybe influenced a bit by the recent spring weather) somewhat more optimistic that things are getting “better” — Warmer weather means less need for mazot (heating oil). People are car-pooling more to decrease dependence on limited benzene. Some flour, still often difficult to find due to rebel burning fields, theft from
supply warehouses and Turkish-condoned destruction of a majority of manufacturing enterprises in Aleppo, is appearing to a degree, brought in from bordering countries.

Many of the shortages — largely caused by the US-led sanctions — are, for now, somehow less severe due to the ingenuity of the Syrian people. The government, too, has been employing some shrewd

This observer along with others has been critical of the Lebanese government for not doing more for the Syrian and Palestinian refugees forced into their country by the current crisis. While still a serious problem, there has finally developed a life-line of sorts operating from Lebanon into Syria. More consumer goods now move officially from the Masnaa Syrian-Lebanese border crossing where vehicles are checked. Much more food stuffs and essential goods arrive into Syria via many other routes — smuggling routes
established between the two countries, when the French created Lebanon back in 1943.

From Chtoura to Majdal and Anjar, one comes across lines of massive fuel tankers ,as well as trucks loaded with Bekaa valley vegetables like onions, potatoes, carrots, squash, radishes, wheat, barley, lentil, beets, zucchini, cabbage, cauliflower and beans of different varieties. According to my favorite driver, Ahmad, government’s regulations require that these large vehicles line up until 4 p.m. so as not to jam the narrow, potholed and frankly dangerous cliff-hanging roads.

Even Ahmad has become involved in the import business. No longer does he transport up to five passengers. Only me who rides “shotgun.” This is because he fills the trunk of his taxi and the back seat with about a dozen tanks of pressurized cooking gas. Ahmad pays $16 per filled tank in Lebanon and sells them in Syria for $50 each. I am not sure why he needs me to ride with him, and why he gives me such a great price, but having an American on board seems to help in some way with some of the checkpoints. Maybe the
novelty distracts the soldiers somehow from his cargo, and they decide to cut him some slack.

For about a decade, starting at about age seven, this observer would almost never miss a Saturday matinee at the Victory theater in Milwaukie, Oregon. I have known since that time that riding shotgun, whether on a stage coach or covered wagon, was not the best seat because you might catch an arrow from “wild Injuns on the warpath” or a bullet from road bandits.

More seriously, regular views are expressed in Syria about the support  levels for the current regime vs. support for the rebels. Admittedly based on nothing very scientific, this observer tends to agree with what he has been hearing from a cross section of the local population. The regime has the fairly strong backing of around 30% of the population. Less than half of that support the rebels. Syrian minorities, including Christians, Shi’a and Alawites,
among others, cast their lot with the regime because they are afraid of the Wahabist/Salafist jihadi types and the breaking up of their country.

I asked a teenager why she supports the current regime. She explained that the Assad regime is doing their best. Despite the rising prices that her parents chronically complain about, she is grateful that “the government has not allowed the cost of telephone service to increase, so I can chat with my friends just like before!” The kid has a point because during this crisis and all the rumors ricocheting around people are staying in contact with loved ones more than ever it seems.

A bit more than 50% do not seem to express firm support for either side and just want the killing to stop and for some sort of normalcy to return. At the same time, they express an opinion something like, “how did our country get into this mess. Let the foreigners go home and we can deal with our problems ourselves.”

Tragically, this plea does not appear to be acted on anytime soon in Washington, Paris, London or Brussels, given the new pledges this week of more “non-lethal” aid to the rebel factions.

If ever there were meaning- and logic-destroying non-sequiturs as in the past few days it is hard to remember when. Faced with the tipping point moving away from the foreign forces and toward the Syrian government and majority population, “Friends of Syria” has stretched beyond recognition the meaning of ordinary phrases like “defensive APC’s,” “non-lethal devices to help pinpoint the locations of the Syrian Arab Army troops,” “weapons to protect the civilian population,” as well as “humanitarian sanctions” that
supposedly but don’t exempt food and medicines.

In fact all of the new Friends of Syria “breakthrough assistance” targets Syria’s civilian population and all are lethal given the uses to which they are put.

History instructs us that as a result of American wars, from Vietnam to the Middle East — it is the civilian population who will pay the price of President Obama’s  “humanitarian assistance” to
selected groups in Syria. This history is well known here by Syrians who understand well the strange paradox of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s  announcement this week of Washington’s desire to speed up the political process aimed at ending the crisis in Syria by backing the armed Wahabist/ Salafist jihadi groups in the country.

This week’s US and European decisions to back Syria’s rebels with direct aid will lead to more bloodshed and encourage “terrorism” in the war-torn country, according to two Sheiks from Syria’s largest tribe who held court recently during tea in the lobby of the Dama Rose Hotel here.

What Washington fears, according to the same interlocutor from the Russian embassy who spoke with this observer for nearly two hours, is the confirmation that the Syrian opposition is ready to immediately enter into negotiations with the Syrian government without preconditions and that President Assad’s departure or even his future status will not be part of the process.

The Russians’ belief that the rebels are finally coming around to
a more realistic approach is gaining support from the population here as well as military and political players. This is more than anathema to Washington and its allies.

For them it is not less than catastrophic and will not be allowed despite NATO’s rhetoric to the contrary. Thus the new fake proposals. The new “Non-lethal aid” has been designed to somehow reverse the “tipping point” that seems to be taking place. These aggressive actions rather than, for example, genuine humanitarian aid given to the 11 neutral international NGO’s operating across Syria, or serious pressure on all sides to show up at the dialogue table, is certain to prolong the conflict and condemn countless
more Syrians to death.

Franklin Lamb is doing research in Syria and is reachable c/o

Published: 17 May, 2012, 08:30

The port side damage to the guided missile destroyer USS Cole is pictured after a bomb attack during a refueling operation in the port of Aden on October 12, 2000 (Reuters / Aladin Abdel Naby / Files)
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The US is moving to place sanctions on anyone who opposes what Washington calls a democratic process in Yemen. Anti-war activist Susan Lindauer says this brings the US right into Al-Qaeda’s trap.

­Yemen is fighting an alleged Al-Qaeda insurgency with military support from the United States. On top of this, the Arab state continues to suffer from months of political unrest, with anti-government protesters demanding more reforms.

RT: Do members of the peaceful opposition in Yemen fall under these new US sanctions?

Susan Lindauer: Bad news for Barack Obama – the United States has played right into the hands of Al-Qaeda. It’s been a long-term ambition of Al-Qaeda to manipulate the United States into putting sanctions on Yemen, so that they can alienate the very impoverished Yemeni people from the central government. Yemen is a scrabble poor country, desperately poor. They are running out of water, they have no food, they have limited hospitals, limited educational opportunities.

Yemen sits right next toward Saudi Arabia. Ever since the bombing of the USS Cole, Al-Qaeda has made it clear that it wants to establish a base inside Yemen to attack the Saudi oil fields right next door. And anything that they can do to alienate the Yemeni people from the central authority and the West, the United States’ cause [would be] a great victory for them. It’s a very bad decision by the United States.

RT: The United States has significantly stepped up its involvement in Yemen’s fight against Al-Qaeda. Is it a part of Washington’s “war on terror” or, perhaps, there may be some ulterior geopolitical motives behind it?

SL: The US only sees the world in black and white. They see terrorism and the outcome of violence, but not the root causes of poverty and hopelessness, or jealousy of the gross economic inequities between Yemen and its extravagantly wealthy neighbors in the Gulf Region and Saudi Arabia. Those Gulf countries should immediately pump economic aid for education, hospitals, water facilities, and food. Washington would not have to spend a dollar. Arab countries should be capable of doing this on their own.

RT: Yemen is in a key position in the region, but the US does not have a military base there. Will it be having one?

SL: I would say they have secret military bases all over the place, don’t they? They have drone capacity, and they first tested the drones in Yemen. Over the past few years Yemen was the first target of the drones. The US has a very strong secret military capacity in this country.

RT: Drone attacks, inflated military presence – the US claims this would help make Yemen more stable and secure. And yet, could that be more about beginning another covert war in the region, rather than promoting a democracy?

SL: Drones never build democracy anywhere. Drone attacks feed chaos and destabilize the civilian population. Yemen has never been more insecure. Economic aid must start flowing into the country, or it will be lost for good.