The Islamic State alternately destroys and loots historic sites. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Historic sites fill a variety of the Islamic State’s needs, none of them good

Historic sites serve every purpose to the Islamic State except actual preservation of cultural heritage.

The Islamic State alternately destroys and loots historic sites. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Islamic State alternately destroys and loots historic sites. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The beheading by the Islamic State of “Mr. Palmyra,” Khalid al-Asaad, the retired chief of antiquities for historic Syrian site, Palmyra was the latest insult to both the citizens and the cultural heritage of the territory it conquers. It should be noted that it’s thought that Asaad was first tortured, but apparently refused to reveal the whereabouts of certain antiquities that the Islamic State sought.

Asaad’s execution follows on the heels of two historic tombs in Palmyra that the Islamic State blew up in June. To the Islamic State, historic sites serve three functions. Continue reading

ISIS 2

Burning alive of Jordanian fighter pilot more evidence Islamic State refuses to grow up

By burning alive Jordanian fighter pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh, the Islamic State reinforced an apparent commitment to behave like a terrorist organization, not a state.

Government building in Raqqa, Syria, the Islamic State’s de facto capital. (Photo: Beshr O / Flickr)

Government building in Raqqa, Syria, the Islamic State’s de facto capital. (Photo: Beshr O / Flickr)

It’s well known that revolutionary movements and/or terrorist organizations generally moderate the extreme violence that may have brought them to power. The Islamic State, however, which fancies itself even more than a state — a caliphate spanning existing states — seems intent on overturning the conventional wisdom.

In fact, is the Islamic State’s leadership channeling Satan? By burning Jordanian fighter pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh to death in the most torturous manner possible, its members are apparently making another payment in the deal they seem to have signed with the devil (known as Shaytan in Islam). Continue reading

ISIS

Sounding the alarm about the Islamic State does not have to be a call to arms

Nor does glossing over the Islamic State’s ultraviolence help make the case for non-intervention.

The putative Islamic Caliphate

The putative Islamic Caliphate

On Dec. 18, the Guardian published a report by a team of reporters, including Focal Points contributor Ali Younes, titled The race to save Peter Kassig, the American aid worker who the Islamic State captured and ultimately beheaded. The article is full of juicy details such as this about Islamist ideologue Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi:

On 18 October, Cohen and Abdel-Rahman flew from Kuwait to Jordan, and checked into the Four Seasons hotel in Amman. Two days later, they finally met Maqdisi, who arrived at the Four Seasons in his beat up ‘97 Hyundai. They set off for Maqdisi’s home, in a relatively poor neighbourhood 10 miles north of Amman. On the way, Maqdisi’s car broke down. Cursing and stuck in the middle of a traffic jam, Cohen said Maqdisi opened up the hood and started beating the engine with a wrench. Five minutes later they were off again. Continue reading

Assad poster

Is Syrian President Assad following the Pakistan model?

Like the Pakistan military and ISI, Assad may be aiding jihadists who operate on his own soil.

Assad posterIn an article at Foreign Policy titled The Disappeared, James Traub reports on journalists who have been kidnapped in Syria, either by Islamist extremist rebels or by forces for the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. At one point he was introduced to (emphasis added):

… Hamza Ghadban, a Syrian journalist. … He was convinced, as many rebel sympathizers are, that the regime has subterranean connections with the foreign jihadists. Continue reading

Assad

Syria’s Assad a serial torturer, but not a poisoner

AssadOne shudders at the phrases “systematic” and “industrial-scale” killing used by the three lawyers who prepared a report on torture and killing of detainees by the Assad regime. (Yet another huge story broken by the Guardian.) A military policeman secretly working with a Syrian opposition group smuggled out 55,000 images of 11,000 bodies tortured and/or starved to death. It gets worse.

Many other photographers are attached to security units elsewhere in the country and are likely to have been asked to provide visual evidence of deaths.

Even just trying to imagine the suffering is unimaginable. One can only hope it will put Syria on the defensive at the upcoming Geneva II peace talks. Continue reading

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Sadly, Assad may be Syria’s best option

“Least horrible” may be a better way of putting it.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Remember how innocently the Syrian rebellion began? In March 2011, as part of the Arab Spring which started in Tunisia, Syrians engaged in mostly peaceful demonstrations, though they did demand the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad. Ironically, his heavy-handed response – shooting demonstrators – began a process that posed more of a threat to his regime than did the demonstrators. Especially when jihadists arrived from outside Syria to ostensibly help the armed Syrian resistance that rose up. In fact, they sought to capitalize on the crisis in Syria with their version of the shock doctrine – that is, exploiting a crisis for their own purposes.

Concerns about jihadist control – however unlikely an opposition victory seems lately  –  is one reason Syria is better off (or less poorly off) with the Assad regime remaining in place. For example, writes C.J. Chivers in the New York Times,

While the jihadis claim to be superior fighters, and have collaborated with secular Syrian rebels, some analysts and diplomats also note that they can appear less focused on toppling President Bashar al-Assad. Instead, they said, they focus more on establishing a zone of influence spanning Iraq’s Anbar Province and the desert eastern areas of Syria, and eventually establishing an Islamic territory under their administration.

Another reason that Assad’s continuing rule is preferable is because it keeps chemical weapons out of the hands of jihadists, either through theft during the civil war or if they inherit ownership if the opposition won. At Warscapes, John McCreary, the veteran intelligence analyst who composes NightWatch, explains.

American strategists must recognize that [the chemical-weapons accord] deal is only good so long as the Ba’athist government survives in Damascus. Thus, the US promise to not attack Assad would amount to a protection agreement because the Islamists and the moderate Islamists will not make a similar guarantee. … even so-called moderate rebel groups announced that they recognized Israel as their enemy and would attack it if they came to power.

The US protective umbrella would also apply to Israel for the same reason it applies to the US. If the Islamists win, Israel would be under a chemical warfare threat. That threat goes away only if the Ba’athist government remains in power.

On the unlikely grounds that if the jihadists won, they’d establish the fabled caliphate, to the more likely grounds that they might not have compunctions about using chemical weapons as an instrument of war – instead of for internal repression, as it seems more and more probably that the Syrian military did, according to a UN report issued Monday  – the least worst case scenario is that President Assad, the lesser of two evils, remain in power.

Cross-posted from the Foreign Policy in Focus blog Focal Points.

CATEGORY: PoliticsLawGovernment3

Progressives don’t vote Hillary

Hi-Lie-ry Clinton

Disclosure: I have never been a fan of Hillary Clinton, so I’m just going to wear my bias on my sleeve right here and now. My opinions are my own and are not to be construed as representative of Scholar & Rogues or any other group of civilized people.  Am I trolling?  You decide.

Policy differences aside, this, almost more than any other reason, is why I simply cannot abide the thought of a President Hillary:

Hillary Clinton calls Bosnia sniper story a mistake

Mistake is a funny thing to call a lie, I think.

If that’s not enough, here’s Chelsea Clinton weaseling her way through a ham-fisted support of that lie.

Chelsea Clinton lies about Bosnia

How is it possible for the two of them to have misremembered the same fictional event?

As a dear friend once pointed out to me, if opportunism alone were sufficient reason to dislike a candidate, I could never vote for anyone. There’s a difference here, in my opinion. “Falling back” on her Southern drawl to pander to a black audience is one thing. But to lie about being under sniper fire should be grotesquely offensive to any member of our armed forces that has actually been under enemy fire, should be repugnant to honorable members of our police forces that risk their lives day in and day out, and should be repudiated in full by any electorate that is sick and tired of being lied to by our “representative” government.

That said, let’s segue to a recent poll by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

Liberals Aren’t Buying Obama And Kerry’s Arguments For Action In Syria

By 73% to 18%, respondents oppose U.S. military action in Syria.

Further, in an email I (and a great many others) received from MoveOn.org:

Because this is such a big decision, we asked every MoveOn member to weigh in on whether MoveOn should support or oppose the congressional authorization to use military force in Syria.

The results are in, and they are unequivocal:

73% said MoveOn should oppose the congressional Authorization to Use Military Force in Syria.

Summary: progressives do not support President Obama in his quest to attack Syria.

Who does?

Why, Hillary Clinton, of course.

Hillary Clinton backs President Obama on Syria

Ergo, Hillary Clinton is no progressive.

Ergo, progressives do not vote Hillary in 2016. Progressives need a horse in that race, and she just isn’t it. We desperately need to remember this if she shows her face in the primaries.

What do you think?  Speak out, or the crickets win.

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Image credit: Donkey Hotey.  Licensed under Creative Commons.

This “just” in: Jabhat al-Nusra rebels claim chemical weapons attack in Ghouta with an oops

StopJabhat al-Nusra Rebels Admit Responsibility for Chemical Weapons Attack
Paul Joseph Watson, Global Research/Centre for Research on Globalization
September 1, 2013

Militants tell AP reporter they mishandled Saudi-supplied chemical weapons, causing accident

 Syrian rebels in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta have admitted to Associated Press correspondent Dale Gavlak that they were responsible for last week’s chemical weapons incident which western powers have blamed on Bashar Al-Assad’s forces, revealing that the casualties were the result of an accident caused by rebels mishandling chemical weapons provided to them by Saudi Arabia.

This article also posted the following important update:

UPDATE: Associated Press contacted us to confirm that Dave Gavlak is an AP correspondent, but that her story was not published under the banner of the Associated Press. We didn’t claim this was the case, we merely pointed to Gavlak’s credentials to stress that she is a credible source, being not only an AP correspondent, but also having written for PBS, BBC and Salon.com.

By all means, take a few minutes to read the full article and peruse the ones linked below.

From a Google news search just now, Monday, September 2, 2013 2:42 AM MST, here is what amounts to full coverage of this claim at a first pass.

Saudi Prince Bandar behind chemical attack in Syria: report
Tehran Times, August 31, 2013

Syria: Rebel Groups, Not Assad, Behind Chemical Attacks Says Pat Buchanan
IBTimes, September 1, 2013

Saudi Bandar Provided Gouta Chemical Weapons, Militants Mishandled
Al-Manar TV Lebanon, August 31, 2013

Further, a search on Bandar chemical weapons turns up the these results.  One might say there is a dearth of Western coverage.

Syria’s deputy foreign minister on accusations over chemical weapons
Euronews.com, September 1, 2013

What passes for American coverage?  The New York Times does not disappoint.  By that, I mean if you expect selective silence and beating the drum for war, you’ll not be disappointed.

President Seeks to Rally Support for Syria Strike
2 hours ago

To be certain, Saudi Prince Bandar is mentioned…in exactly one sentence.  That sentence, however, had absolutely nothing to do with the context presented above.  One might think, given the gravity of the allegations and, for that matter, the sheer mind-boggling nature of a terrorist organization issuing a mea culpa rather than a boast, as well as the implication of an AP reporter’s credibility in the matter, that maybe some mention would be made of these journalistic developments from the Middle East.

Naturally, a cosmic prank of this magnitude must come with a punchline.  Here it is, from three days ago.

EXCLUSIVE: Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack
MintPress News, August 29, 2013

Of note at the end of the MintPress article:

Some information in this article could not be independently verified. Mint Press News will continue to provide further information and updates . 

The same can be said, in spades, for US claims. See the FAIR analysis for examples.

With all the doubt flying around, let’s take just a moment to vet MintPress as a source, shall we?  Here’s their About page.  Here’s a write-up from MinnPost from nearly two years ago. Here is an excellent compare and contrast analysis from Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting.

Zero Hedge, a blog of mixed distinctions, was also on top of the MintPress story. Examiner.com covered the story from MintPress.

Here’s my burning question for you, dear reader.  Where else have you heard this coverage?

Whatever the truth is, before we go lobbing so much as one shot across the bow the American public would be well advised, whatever the short-term humanitarian cost, however horrible it is, to demand a full independent investigation to ascertain as well as possible just what the hell actually happened.  We have had far too many conflicting claims, far too many inconsistencies, and far, far too many weasel words, strong assurances, and empty platitudes compounded with nothing but circumstantial evidence and strident demands for trust from this administration to just sit back and let hawks from both the left and right railroad us into what may turn out to be a cataclysmic conflict.

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Image credit: MSVG @ flikr.com.  Licensed under Creative Commons.

CATEGORY: Barack Obama

Bush III: Obama’s deteriorating legacy

Way back in March of 2008, as the campaign was running in high gear, I made clear that while I wasn’t in love with the Democratic frontrunners, the emerging alternative was worse: John McCain represented the third Bush presidency.

I was undoubtedly right. But… You knew there was a “but” coming, didn’t you?

 

 

 

 

Poppy. Dubya. And now Barack. I was right – the 2008 election gave us the third installment in the Bush Dynasty.

Perhaps we’ll get to see Colin Powell back in front of the UN again soon…

CATEGORY: Syria

Syria and chemical weapons attacks: “Just trust us,” says everybody.

Sarin

Today, as covered by nearly everyone, Secretary of State John Kerry said:

“The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard, it is inexcusable. And despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable.”

Mr. Kerry alleges that the Assad regime destroyed evidence:

“Instead, for five days, the Syrian regime refused to allow the U.N. investigators access to the site of the attack that would allegedly exonerate them,” Mr. Kerry said. “Instead, it attacked the area further, shelling it and systematically destroying evidence.”

Evidence, of course, is forthcoming. Until then, just trust us.

 In the coming days, officials said, the nation’s intelligence agencies will disclose information to bolster their case that chemical weapons were used by Mr. Assad’s forces. The information could include so-called signals intelligence — intercepted radio or telephone calls between Syrian military commanders.

Meanwhile, Walid Shoebat, who claims to be a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, presents some kind of evidence that it was the rebels that used the chemical weapons, not Assad. Was Shoebat a member of the Muslim Brotherhood? Confirmation is needed, but how rigorous would the confirmation need to be for it to be accepted as fact? Would it matter if he were? As for the evidence he presents, how good is it? Is it merely circumstantial? Taken out of context? Entirely fabricated? Who should judge?

Meanwhile, Russia, likely to veto any UN Security Council measures against Assad, claims that there is no evidence that Assad did use chemical weapons.

Meanwhile, Assad denies using chemical weapons.

The drums are beating for war, and all too many, some perhaps with dubious motives, are eager to get the jump on Assad. How about we wait until the UN inspectors actually have a chance to report on the evidence, if any is found?

Meanwhile, speaking of obscenities committed with chemical weapons:

“They are tantamount to an official American admission of complicity in some of the most gruesome chemical weapons attacks ever launched.”

And:

“The declassified CIA documents show that Casey and other top officials were repeatedly informed about Iraq’s chemical attacks and its plans for launching more. “If the Iraqis produce or acquire large new supplies of mustard agent, they almost certainly would use it against Iranian troops and towns near the border,” the CIA said in a top secret document.But it was the express policy of Reagan to ensure an Iraqi victory in the war, whatever the cost.”

Surprising no one, Mr. Kerry didn’t mention this bit of our history.

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Image credit: US Army Materiel Command http://www.flickr.com/photos/armymaterielcommand/877765649/sizes/m/in/photostream/. Licenced under Creative Commons http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en.

CATEGORY: WarSecurity

Syria: Assad’s empty gestures, empty threats

Though it’s not certain Syrian President Assad was responsible for what looks like chemical-weapons attacks, his behavior seldom fails to disturb.

Assad

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Syrian President Assad insists that the apparent chemical-weapon attacks that have left upwards of 1,000 people dead in his country were committed by “terrorists,” as he calls the opposition. That’s his story and Russia and Syria are sticking to it.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that they were carried out “likely with high-level approval from the government of President Bashar al-Assad, according to American and European security sources.”

But, as Assad himself points out in an interview with Izvestia reported on by the New York Times:

… government troops would have risked killing their own forces if they had used chemical weapons. “This contradicts elementary logic,” news reports quoted him as saying. It is “not us but our enemies who are using chemical weapons,” he said, referring to antigovernment rebels as “the terrorists.”

Bearing in mind that just because he invokes logic doesn’t necessarily mean Assad actually isn’t capable of acting irrationally. But remember the area subjected to clouds of poison gas was the suburbs of the capital, Damascus, also his home. Though I’m unfamiliar with drift patterns of poison gas, putting Damascus, himself, and his famly in possible harm’s way would make him obstinate to the nth degree, not to mention self-destructive, on top of irrational. We’re talking about Hitler territory.

While it’s doubtful the opposition launched the attacks, one can’t help but wonder if, directly or by discrete suggestion, he delegated such authority to generals in order for him to maintain plausible deniability. If cornered, Assad can claim rogue elements of the military were responsible and, without immediately naming names, promise to investigate.

Assad finally agreed to admit U.N. inspectors, but that may be an empty gesture. The Wall Street Journal reported that

… the U.S. rebuffed Syria’s decision, saying the offer came too late to be credible. … “At this juncture, the belated decision by the regime to grant access to the U.N. team is too late to be credible, including because the evidence available has been significantly corrupted as a result of the regime’s persistent shelling and other intentional actions over the last five days,” [an] official added.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is increasingly drawn to an armed attack. As for actually ridding Syria of its chemical weapons, as with Iran’s nuclear complex, it’s, well, complex. In November of last year, David Sanger and Eric Schmitt reported for the Times:

The Pentagon has told the Obama administration that any military effort to seize Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons would require upward of 75,000 troops.

Complicating it further was the discovery that Hezbollah fighters have been training near some of Syria’s chemical-weapons depots. Said one senior American official: “… the fear these weapons could fall into the wrong hands is our greatest concern.”

Though it’s difficult to imagine what could be wronger hands than Assad, the Syrian military, or the opposition.

Finally, from today’s Times report:

In the interview with Izvestia, Mr. Assad said, “America has taken part in many wars but could not once achieve its political goals for which the wars were started. Yes, it is true, the great powers can wage wars but can they win them?”

That might seem like a threat, necessarily empty because of the differential in military power between Syria and the United States. But, as we all well know, he’s not wrong. None of our large-scale interventions, from Vietnam to Iraq to Afghanistan, can, in any sense of the term, be characterized as victories.

Cross-posted from the Foreign Policy in Focus blog Focal Points.

Syrian rebels

Has military intervention by the US become, by definition, a mistake?

Is reflexive resistance to intervention in Syria the right reaction by progressives?

Syrian rebelsAs you’ve no doubt heard by now, using as a justification its conclusion that the Assad regime had killed 150 or more people with sarin gas – technically a weapon of mass destruction – the Obama administration has made decision to supply Syrian rebels with small arms and ammunition.

Besides, the New York Times reports

Formally designating the Assad government as a user of chemical weapons, [an] official said, will make it easier for Mr. Obama to rally support from Britain, France and other allies for further measures.

What’s more, the administration is considering instituting a no-fly zone over Syria,. Towards that end, reports Reuters:

Washington has moved Patriot surface-to-air missiles, war planes and more than 4,000 troops into Jordan in the past week, officially as part of an annual exercise but making clear that the forces deployed could stay on when the war games are over.

Guess the administration finally took pity on the Syrian rebels after reading Wednesday’s (June 12) report by New York Times weapon expert C.J. Chivers about their efforts to manufacture their own weapons.

The workers arrive by darkness, taking their stations at the vise and the lathe. Soon metal filings and sparks fly, and the stack of their creations grows at their feet: makeshift mortar shells to be fired through barrels salvaged from disabled Syrian Army tanks.

Across northern Syria, rebel workshops like these are part of a clandestine network of primitive arms-making plants, a signature element of a militarily lopsided war. … “Everybody knows we do not have the weapons we need to defend ourselves,” said Abu Trad, a commander of the Saraqib Rebels Front.

In fact,

The value of workshop-grade weapons, while once crucial to the rebels’ success in claiming territory in northern Syria, may have substantially declined.

Last spring, when Mr. Assad was struggling to confront the armed opposition that his crackdown had fueled, shops like these forced Syria’s military to change tactics. … But the government has spent a year refitting its troops, Hezbollah has sent in reinforcements, and Iran and Russia have kept Mr. Assad’s forces resupplied. … And most of the shops’ other weapons systems lack … accuracy, range or explosive punch.

Chivers quotes Khaled Muhammed Addibis, a rebel commander, who said, “All we need is effective weapons. … Nothing else.”

I’m as wary as the next guy of a proxy war — with the United States, et al, on one side, and Iran and Russia on the other – of such obviousness that it stands a higher chance than usual of pitting the principals against each other face to face. But, my personal portal into the world of foreign affairs was via the study of genocide. In fact, guilt over failing to halt the Rwandan atrocities may be the reason that former President Clinton has come down, however cautiously, on the side of Syria intervention.

Most progressives reflexively resist intervention because it’s usually – okay, always – an excuse to further U.S. political and energy interests. But, speaking personally, however much I may personally suffer from delusions of heroism about rescuing those being bullied, I’ve always had to force myself to resist calling for intervention in international affairs.

In a perfect world, we could separate the rebel forces worthy of aid from those on a fast track to war-crimes trials, as well as defer our not-so-hidden agenda in the Middle East while we provide emergency military aid to the Syrian people. But neither is likely to happen, and, because we live in an age marked by the absence of a long-overdue, muscular international body, I can’t help but wonder (speaking for myself and not FPIF, of course), if there’s merit to incremental intervention. (Ducks head to avoid incoming barrage from other progressives.)

Cross-posted from the Foreign Policy in Focus blog Focal Points.

CATEGORY: ForeignPolicy

Next step for Assad – exile to a rump state?

Syria has become the weak leg of its tripod with Iran and Hezbollah.

“A Syrian official called an attack Sunday on the nation’s military research facility a ‘declaration of war’ by Israel,'” reports CNN.

In an interview with CNN, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al Mekdad said the attack represented an alliance between Islamic terrorists and Israel.

He added that Syria would retaliate against Israel in its own time and way. [Emphasis added.]

Yeah, like it did when Israel bombed its alleged nuclear reactor. Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but after a certain point it’s just frostbitten. Needless to say, Syria is in no position to wage war on another front besides the domestic against rebels.

This latest attack came on the heels of, an airstrike, reports the New York Times:

… that Israeli warplanes carried out in Syria overnight on Thursday … directed at a shipment of advanced surface-to-surface missiles from Iran that Israel believed was intended for Hezbollah, American officials said Saturday

Meanwhile, reports the Times:

Iran and Hezbollah have both backed President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war [but] they also have a powerful interest in expediting the delivery of advanced weapons to Hezbollah in case Mr. Assad loses his grip on power.

On the other hand

… some analysts said they believed that a strong Hezbollah could also emerge as a powerful ally for Mr. Assad if he is forced to abandon Damascus, the Syrian capital, and take refuge in a rump Iranian-backed state on the Syrian coast, a region that abuts the Hezbollah-controlled northern Bekaa Valley.

“The relationship between Hezbollah and the Assad regime is stronger now,” said Talal Atrissi, a professor at Lebanese University in Beirut who has good relations with Hezbollah. If Mr. Assad falls, Hezbollah knows the axis of Syria, Hezbollah and Iran will be greatly weakened, he said.

But what use is Assad to Iran, not to mention Hezbollah, if he’s exiled to a “rump state”?

Cross-posted from the Foreign Policy in Focus blog Focal Points.

A state's WMD just as likely to threaten as protect it

In March at Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Charles Blair wrote:

Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile is thought to be massive. One of only eight nations that is not a member of the Chemical Weapons Convention … Syria has a chemical arsenal that includes several hundred tons of blistering agents along with likely large stockpiles of deadly nerve agents, including VX, the most toxic of all chemical weapons.

On July 13 the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. officials were alarmed by reports that Syria has begun moving some of its chemical weapons out of storage facilities. Then, the BBC reports, Nawaf al-Fares, Syria’s defecting ambassador to Iraq, said that, if cornered President Bashar al-Assad “will not hesitate to use chemical weapons.” Worse, “There is information, unconfirmed information of course, that chemical weapons have been used partially in the city of Homs.” Continue reading

Syria's Stalin and his gulag

By now Focal Points readers are no doubt aware of the report that Human Rights Watch issued titled Torture Archipelago: Arbitrary Arrests, Torture, and Enforced Disappearances in Syria’s Underground Prisons since March 2011. From the summary:

Since the beginning of anti-government protests in March 2011, Syrian authorities have subjected tens of thousands of people to arbitrary arrests, unlawful detentions, enforced disappearances, ill-treatment, and torture using an extensive network of detention facilities, an archipelago of torture centers, scattered throughout Syria.

Based on more than 200 interviews with former detainees, including women and children, and defectors from the Syrian military and intelligence agencies, this report focuses on 27 of these detention facilities. Continue reading

My non-intervention problem

When it comes to foreign policy, most progressives agree that intervention in another state’s internal affairs is ill-advised. With regards to Syria, Foreign Policy in Focus columnist Stephen Zunes summed this argument up well back in March.

Empirical studies have repeatedly demonstrated that international military interventions in cases of severe repression actually exacerbate violence in the short term and can only reduce violence in the longer term if the intervention is impartial or neutral. Other studies demonstrate that foreign military interventions actually increase the duration of civil wars, making the conflicts longer and bloodier, and the regional consequences more serious, than if there were no intervention. In addition, military intervention would likely trigger a “gloves off” mentality that would dramatically escalate the violence on both sides. Continue reading

The other case for intervention in Syria

Confession: supporting non-intervention in Syria requires considerable restraint on the part of this author. In Problem From Hell, Samantha Power had me at Rafael Lemkin.* To someone with a savior complex (okay, me), it seems like the most virtuous use of military resources: rescuing innocents, deposing tyrants.

Problem is, as we well know, in practice, it seldom works. Also in theory, military intervention is more likely to be successful when mandated by an international body. Unfortunately, it’s as difficult to get anything constructive done in the U.N. Security Council as it is in the U.S. Congress. Continue reading