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Ukraine: hopeful signs versus the neocons

10:30 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

While President Obama announces meaningless sanctions (they had been telegraphed for weeks so those targeted had plenty of time to protect assets), b at moonofalabama reports U.S./Russian progress toward crisis resolution through a new constitution that creates a devolved, federated Ukraine guaranteeing minority and language rights. B found a source that presents what looks like a rough draft agreement generated for a proposed Ukraine Support Group (the EU, U.S., and Russia). (The proposal is also discussed by Pepe Escobar in Asia Times.) In the imperfect English of the bilingual draft, the following is the second on its to-do list:

2. Convene without delay, by a decision of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, the Constitutional Assembly with equal representation of all Ukrainian regions in order to draft a new federal constitution that would provide for the following:
- Enshrine the principles of rule of law, protection of human rights and all national minorities, freedom of speech and activities of political parties and mass media, as well as other principles underlying Ukraine’s political system as a democratic federation state possessing sovereignty and neutral military and political status;
- Russian along with Ukrainian will be given a state language status while other languages will be given a status in accordance with the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages;
- Regions will independently elect their legislative and executive bodies through a direct vote and have wide authority, reflecting the cultural and historic specificity of each to them, with regard to economy and finance, social sphere, language, education, [and] external interregional relations, while ensuring protection of national minorities living in each of the federation constituent entities; …

Item 4 on the list reads:

4. The right of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to determine its future, following the free expression of the will of its population during the referendum of 16 March 2014, shall be recognized and respected.

As b notes, Secretary of State John Kerry is now attempting to make the above parameters look like new U.S. suggestions. According to the State Department, Kerry

urged Russia “to support efforts by Ukrainians across the spectrum to address power sharing and decentralization through a constitutional reform process that is broadly inclusive and protects the rights of minorities,” including ethnic Russians, Russian speakers and others in the former Soviet republic …

However, in fact (as I’ve noted before) the devolution/federation idea was first suggested publicly by Putin adviser for Ukrainian affairs Sergei Glazyev in early February:

he suggested that a form of federalism be introduced to give regions substantial powers – including over their budgets and even international relations.

Citing the example of Greenland, which enjoys substantial autonomy from Denmark and unlike the Danish state is not part of the European Union, he said western and eastern Ukraine could have different economic relations with the EU and Russia.

‘Today, economic, cultural and human ties between the regions of eastern and western Ukraine are less than the links between southeastern Ukraine and Russia and between the western regions and the EU,’ Glazyev said …

The same general approach was also suggested by well-known Russian academic Sergei Karaganov on March 6. And, contradicting the hype that Eastern Ukraine wants to unite with Russia, the people of its largest city a few days ago marched for federalization of Ukraine. In any case, who cares who gets credit for this sensible approach, let’s just hope it goes through.

But, I’m not optimistic. Standing in the way are neocons like Victoria Nuland within the U.S. government and the allies and underlings they helped bring to power in Kiev. There’s a good chance those forces will be able to scuttle the (almost too reasonable, almost too good to come true) move toward federation and a new constitution. They may succeed in part because the proposed solution is a complex process that likely has exploitable weak links, but also because the process (as you can see in provision ’2′) requires the cooperation of Ukraine’s parliament. That’s an institution very recently under the effective command of baseball bat wielding neo-Nazi thugs, not the most receptive place for a resolution that would dash big Ukrainian nationalist dreams.

And, overriding everything is the Syria factor: Kerry in his fumbling way may try for an economically peaceful settlement to the crisis, but after being frustrated last year in Syria the neocons inside and outside of the U.S. government are in a crude, hysterical, war-like mood. Well, at least that’s the impression I get from the war propaganda and anti-Russia paranoia spewing from every orifice of the corporate mass media these days.

US/NATO: Calm down, back off, compromise

11:35 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

The NATO Flag

A Guardian editorial offers a rare note of caution against NATO intervention.

Jonathan Steele offers some very rare, very sound advice on Ukraine in his latest Guardian column: The Ukraine crisis: John Kerry and Nato must calm down and back off. In essence, Steele finds the roots of the crisis in US and NATO imperialism:

Nato should refrain from interfering in Ukraine by word or deed. The fact that it insists on getting engaged reveals the elephant in the room: underlying the crisis in Crimea and Russia’s fierce resistance to potential changes is Nato’s undisguised ambition to continue two decades of expansion into what used to be called “post-Soviet space”, led by Bill Clinton and taken up by successive administrations in Washington. At the back of Pentagon minds, no doubt, is the dream that a US navy will one day replace the Russian Black Sea fleet in the Crimean ports of Sevastopol and Balaclava.

Since independence, every poll in Ukraine has shown a majority against Nato membership, yet one after another the elites who ran the country until 2010 and who are now back in charge ignored the popular will.

I was surprised, however, by one sentence in Steele’s piece:

Eastern Ukrainians fear similar tactics of storming public buildings could be used against their elected officials.

Perhaps Steele is unaware because he only reads the Guardian, but neo-Nazis storming public buildings and attempting to ‘overthrow’ elected mayors and city council, is already happening in Eastern Ukraine. In the region’s biggest city, Kharkiv, here is some of the story:

… the Self-Defense Maidan security brigade occupied the regional administration on February 22 and blockaded the office of Kharkiv Oblast Governor Mykhaylo Dobkin with a black sofa.

They have pledged that the building will not be looted or vandalized on their vigil, but refuse to leave until Dobkin and Kharkiv Mayor Hennadiy Kernes, both allies of Yanukovych, leave their posts.

While Dobkin can be dismissed by authorities in Kyiv under the 2004 constitution, Kernes is an elected mayor — and is in power until 2015.

Steele rightly mentions the revoking of Russian language rights as one of the keys to understanding how legitimate the fears of eastern and southern Ukraine are. The other key is the storming of regional and city government buildings and replacement of elected leaders, but it is real and widespread, and not just a potential problem.

The real tragedy is that the preceding motivations, the two main reasons Russian-speaking Ukrainians have asked for Russian intervention, have barely been reported in the Western media. This represents hysteria and war mongering by the Western media, which is attempting to demonize Russians and their elected leader Vladimir Putin. It doesn’t want readers to know Russia’s reasonable motivations: the revoking of language rights and the mini-coups the unelected central government is attempting to impose on elected regional and city governments.

(For intervening in Crimea, no doubt Russia has at least one additional motivation: see the first blockquote above, about US lust to replace the Russian fleet in Crimea’s ports.)

Here’s anna1971, who appears to be on the ground in Ukraine and is one of the contributors to the comments section at the Guardian (I fixed some of the grammar):

… It is not reported anywhere but the new regime … has asked every civil and public service official in all major cities to resign if they belong to the party of the run-away president. If they refuse to resign, they are forced to do so under threat of harm to them personally and/or their families. The same happens to every police and military official. … There was no court or proper legal action taken against anybody, it is simply dismissal by force.

What’s the compromise that will resolve the crisis in Ukraine? Two words: economic autonomy. As I said in the following Guardian comment:

Before the neo-Nazi coup, Yanukovych and the Russians were already floating the regional autonomy idea, with eastern/southern Ukraine forging stronger economic links with Russia, and western Ukraine forging a (certain to be catastrophic) stronger economic relationship with the IMF.

But Right Sector, Svoboda and their paramilitaries didn’t want that, and they controlled and still control the guns and molotov cocktails. Reading their ‘constittution’, they have big plans for ‘Ukrainisation’ of the entire country, including Crimea. Russian and other minority language speakers have good reason to resist them.

As they have been since the beginning, the key stumbling blocks to reasonable compromise are the Right Sector and Svoboda armed militias. And I’m sure John Kerry and Victoria Nuland know that. The neo-conservative war game is a hard one to play, especially when we all know the US has nothing more than words, its media, and money to offer the illegitimate rulers of Ukraine. See how that worked out for Georgia. No troops for you!

Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons.

Is Sergey Lavrov the obvious Nobel Peace Prize choice?

12:28 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

Expanding a comment at David Swanson’s Save the Nobel Peace Prize from Itself

Obviously the Nobel Peace Prize should be given to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. In the quickest thinking diplomatic moment of all time, he literally prevented an imminent war by taking advantage of a U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry bonehead error, where Kerry sneered/joked that aggressive U.S. war on Syria would be called off only if “every single bit” of Syria’s chemical weapons were eliminated in a week. More details are in Syria calls John Kerry’s bluff, agrees to turn over its chemical weapons to UN!, where I quote the Guardian on the purely rhetorical nature of Kerry’s pseudo-demand:

The US state department stressed that Kerry was making a rhetorical argument about the one-week deadline and unlikelihood of Assad turning over Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile. In a statement, the department added: “His point was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts cannot be trusted to turn over chemical weapons, otherwise he would have done so long ago. That’s why the world faces this moment.” …

Kerry said Assad might avoid an attack if he handed every bit of his chemical weapons stock, but added that the Syrian president was not going to do that.

Despite it all, despite hilarious headlines like Kerry tells Russia his Syria comments were not meant as a proposal, Lavrov pushed on, in the end providing the world with a little peace.

If the Peace Prize is not given to Lavrov, possibly in combination with Russian President Vladimir Putin — who was surely in close consultation with his foreign minister during the critical minutes and hours after Kerry’s gaffe — that once more confirms that the Peace Prize committee is just another ‘new cold war’ institution. In other words, it’s a war institution. War being peace these days, in case you haven’t noticed …

And not that we won’t get Obama and Kerry’s war on Syria in 2014 (the U.S. is requiring Syria to prove a WMD negative, the same thing we demanded of Iraq in 2002-3), but let’s focus for now on 2013 and its prize.

A final and second thought, if the committee has a sense of humor I’d love to see them give the peace prize to Lavrov AND Kerry. Who knows, could happen, the committee showing a nice comic sense by awarding Barack the Obomber the prize a few years ago.

P.S. — In a rational world I wouldn’t have to say the following, but here goes anyway: None of the above should be taken as a defense of Russia’s government or any of its policies, including its treatment of gays and Pussy Riot. Read the rest of this entry →

Syria calls John Kerry’s bluff, agrees to turn over its chemical weapons to UN!

1:59 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

John Kerry smirking and in his best George Bush Jr. voice: John Kerry gives Syria week to hand over chemical weapons or face attack. And then Syria says yes! This is getting interesting, and maybe just a bit hopeful: Syria positive about giving up chemical weapons. Wow, fantastic, what an “elegant solution,” in the words of Los Angeles Times columnist Doyle McManus. Here’s more detail, and then afterwards I have to discuss the potential peace party poopers (I’ve edited the terrible grammar in the following, and removed the italics):

Syria welcomes Russia’s offer to put its chemical weapons under international control

Damascus welcomes Russia’s call to hand over control of its chemical weapons to the international community, the Syrian Foreign Minister has said, responding to Sergey Lavrov’s statement after the two met in the Russian capital.

“The Syrian Arab Republic welcomes Russia’s initiative, because the Syrian government cares about the lives of our people and the security of our country,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said …

“We are calling on the Syrian authorities not only to agree on putting chemical weapons stores under international control, but also for their further destruction, and then joining the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had said earlier.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has called for measures to provide for the safe storage and destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal.

“I am sure that the international community will take quick measures to make sure that these chemical weapons reserves are stored in a safe place and are destroyed,” Ban said.

The rebels seem none to happy about this possible outbreak of peace  (same source as above):

In response to the news, Syria’s top rebel commander has accused President Bashar Assad’s regime and Moscow of deceit. “We call for strikes and we warn the international community that this [Assad] regime tells lies, and the liar [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is its teacher. Putin is the biggest liar,” Free Syrian Army chief Selim Idriss told Al Jazeera.

And note, with concern, that Kerry’s offer was apparently “rhetorical,” since he can mind read Syrian President Assad:

The US state department stressed that Kerry was making a rhetorical argument about the one-week deadline and unlikelihood of Assad turning over Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile. In a statement, the department added: “His point was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts cannot be trusted to turn over chemical weapons, otherwise he would have done so long ago. That’s why the world faces this moment.” …

Kerry said Assad might avoid an attack if he handed every bit of his chemical weapons stock, but added that the Syrian president was not going to do that.

Oh, okay, so it wasn’t a real offer, just a bluff, bull doo doo? Note also, by the way, the “every bit of” phrase, which takes me back to good old 2003. It’s the traditional ‘prove a negative’ challenge the U.S. always presents its next victim: in Iraq it was called “prove you’re not hiding even one little bit of WMD.”

Still, the ground has shifted, and the War Party may not get its war … and credit is due to Kerry’s spectacular gaffe, if that’s what it was. (He may be the best/worst Secretary of State in many a decade, depending on your perspective.)

Nonetheless, President Obama has to soldier on, trying to push skepticism and staying the cruise missiles course, but I also sense he doesn’t have his heart into pushing through all this surprisingly rough weather for warmongering:

The White House said it would take a “hard look” at the proposal from the Russian government to get Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to turn over his chemical-weapons stockpiles, but said it didn’t have confidence that Mr. Assad would do so.

“We would welcome a decision and action for Syria to give up its weapons,” said Tony Blinken, President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser. But Mr. Blinken said he had little hope that Mr. Assad would give his chemical weapons to the international community as he refused for years to even acknowledge he held such stockpiles.

Notwithstanding reports that Russia has asked Syria to surrender an arsenal of chemical warheads to avoid a likely military strike from the United States, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday that lawmakers in Washington should continue to consider President Barack Obama’s request to launch an attack against the regime of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.

Speaking during a White House press conference Monday afternoon, Carney told reporters that he hopes the members of the House of Representatives and Senate agree to authorize a strike against Assad in retaliation of the August 21 gassing of civilians outside of Damascus. …

Carney’s remarks came only hours after officials in both Russia and Syria said they were working towards relinquishing that stockpile of weapons. Despite a potential negotiation, however, Carney urged lawmakers to move quickly towards approving an attack.

Elias Groll vs. Ghouta, Syria’s ‘most plausible hypothesis’

12:46 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

Though discussing evidence (‘Why don’t you show us the evidence, Mr. Kerry?’) and assertions and plausibility does not matter to the Congressional dolts who will vote for their owners in a few days, it does matter to those attempting to keep resistance strong. In that light, I’ve noticed that the most plausible account of what happened in Ghouta, based on evidence and not assertions, is that there was an accidental release of chemical weapons agents by the rebels. Good to know the learned and insightful Diana Johnstone is thinking along the same lines (which are grounded in an in-Ghouta mintnews.com report and perhaps an International Business Times report):

… the most plausible hypothesis so far is that the incident was an accident. Indeed, rebel sources themselves have been quoted as saying that the incident occurred as a result of their own mishandling of chemical weapons obtained from Saudi Arabia. In that case, the victims were the “collateral damage” so frequent in war.

But more important than its plausibility is that the accident hypothesis is now reaching dangerously large numbers of Americans. For confirmation of that good news, we see that the mainstream media now can’t ignore the hypothesis and must go on the attack. And that’s where Foreign Policy Magazine’s Elias Groll comes in. Here’s his entire case for why the ‘accident hypothesis’ is “crazy” (and yes, note the extreme, trollish rhetoric):

… The chemically-laden rockets were launched from government-controlled territory into rebel-held lands. Western intelligence agencies intercepted phone calls from within the Assad regime panicking over the chemical attack’s massive spread. Then the regime launched a series of conventional rocket barrages in an apparent attempt to cover up the crime. To believe the rebels pulled this off, you’d have to convince yourself that the opposition did all of this to themselves. Oh, did we mention that the Syrian military has hundreds of metric tons of precursors for chemical weapons?

A sentence-by sentence response:

The chemically-laden rockets were launched from government-controlled territory into rebel-held lands.

We all know the government is firing missiles at rebel-held territory, but how does Groll know the missiles fired from government-controlled territory were chemically laden? He doesn’t, of course, it’s a bald assertion backed by no evidence provided to the public. Instead of pretending assertions are evidence, why doesn’t Mr. Groll join his more enlightened colleagues and demand evidence for what the U.S. says happened?

Western intelligence agencies intercepted phone calls from within the Assad regime panicking over the chemical attack’s massive spread.

“Western” as in Israeli, why not just say it? Anyway, none of these calls have been released to the public, so again your argument is rooted in interested assertions about whether the calls are authentic, and if they’re real about their content and context and who was making and receiving them. Secondly, reports by those who have listened to the calls agree that Syrian government (i.e., ‘Assad regime’) officials were rightfully panicked and apparently confused by the release of the poison gas. None of this seems to be evidence for who perpetrated the attack or whether or not it was an accident. Again, though, maybe if the public could hear the calls the preceding would be cleared up. Why don’t you ask for the evidence to be released, Mr. Groll, so you can then make a reasoned rather than groundless judgement?

Then the regime launched a series of conventional rocket barrages in an apparent attempt to cover up the crime.

Again this is a bald assertion not supported by any evidence released to the public. This conception of what happened also conflicts with the fact that the Syrian government allowed access by UN inspectors within 24 hours of the UN’s initial request, so that looks like an “apparent attempt” NOT to cover up anything. But I’ll of course grant that it’s reasonable to assume the military had been bombing the rebel areas with conventional weapons before, during, and after the chemical accident or attack. There’s a civil war going on, after all. What government adn military motives were is ‘apparent’ only to mind readers until we see actual evidence. Where is that, why isn’t the public shown it? Just saying, but not releasing evidence indicates to this skeptical person that the U.S. government might be hiding a lack of evidence for its assertions.

To believe the rebels pulled this off, you’d have to convince yourself that the opposition did all of this to themselves.

How does the accident hypothesis equate with “the opposition did all of this to themselves” or “pulled this off”? It doesn’t. An accident is not ‘pulling something off’ or doing something to yourself, it’s an accident.

Oh, did we mention that the Syrian military has hundreds of metric tons of precursors for chemical weapons?

And … how is that well-known fact evidence of anything? Or is this argument by absence, where you mention one well-known fact but not the other not so well-known fact, that the rebels have been caught with sarin gas supplies?

I would love to hear from Mr. Groll about how I’ve shown him the error of his ways, which in a nutshell was accepting one side’s assertions as fact even though it refuses to provide the evidence for its claims. Instead, if he wants someday to be a good journalist, Mr. Groll should become very skeptical when sources refuse to provide evidence for their claims. On the other hand, if he wants to become a mainstream Washington insider and make a big-time salary, Groll is well on his way and should change nothing about the way he argues/trolls life-and-death foreign policy issues. Have fun virtually riding the missiles into Damascus dude! ;-/

P.S. 1: BIG hip tat to Gareth Porter — in How Intelligence Was Twisted to Support an Attack on Syria — for some of the insights and links provided above.

P.S. 2: Contrasting the mintnews.com account and the Kerry/Obama’s assertions, Jim Naureckas of FAIR has a wise commentary, Which Syrian Chemical Attack Account Is More Credible?:

… As with the government white paper, there are gaps in the Mint account; while Abdel-Moneim cites his late son’s account of carrying chemical weapons, the rebels quoted do not indicate how they came to know what they say they know about the origin of the weapons. But unlike the government, Mint is honest about the limits of its knowledge: “Some information in this article could not be independently verified,” the story admits. “Mint Press News will continue to provide further information and updates.”

This humility about the difficulty of reporting on a covert, invisible attack in the midst of a chaotic civil war actually adds to the credibility of the Mint account. It’s those who are most certain about matters of which they clearly lack firsthand knowledge who should make us most skeptical.

Read the rest of this entry →

Israel, Oil, & Military-Industrial Complex Drive Syria Regime Change

11:31 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

Anyone with any sense of who and what drives U.S. foreign policy has been blackly pessimistic as the Congressional ‘bomb Syria’ vote approaches. But the charade of a debate goes forward in our campaign-contributions-driven Congress, Secretary of State Kerry giving them assertions not evidence (If the evidence underlying the assertions were real don’t you think Kerry would’ve shown it to us immediately?), but ‘our’ representatives magically in a buying mood for that b.s. I could pause and point out that even the assertions indicate a catastrophic accident occurred, where Syrian conventional bombardment hit rebel sarin gas stores, and that this matches what on-the-ground Ghouta residents say happened (in the year’s most important ignored news story — thanks mintnews.com).

But hell, discussing evidence and assertions … what does it matter when three of America’s main determiners of foreign policy all are bent on destroying Syria? By my count the U.S. has four main foreign policy power constellations: (in no particular order) the Israel lobby, the oil and gas lobby, the military-industrial complex, and the finance industry. Finance is sitting this one out but the other three are gung ho for regime change or Syria destroyed (transformed into squabbling, unstable mini-states).

ISRAEL LOBBY: While I agree with Ohio Barbarian (in The Pro-Israel Argument Against American Military Intervention in Syria) that chaos or regime change in Syria doesn’t help the people of Israel, it is nonetheless what Israeli neocons have long wanted. And they are employing the full force of their Israel Lobby in order to get what they want

This goes back at least to 1996 and “A Clean Break,” the neoconservative game plan that they’ve with great success gotten the U.S. to implement. Syria is mentioned with great deja vu:

“Syria challenges Israel on Lebanese soil. An effective approach, and one with which Americans can sympathize, would be if Israel seized the strategic initiative along its northern borders by engaging Hizballah, Syria, and Iran, as the principal agents of aggression in Lebanon, including … by establishing the precedent that Syrian territory is not immune to attacks emanating from Lebanon by Israeli proxy forces…”

Back to the present, we of course have plenty to choose from, beginning with this news yesterday on the pinnacle of the Israel Lobby, AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee):

AIPAC comes out for strike on Syria– and mentions Iran more often than Syria:

As NJ Senator Robert Menendez said at the Kerry hearing today in the Senate, Syria is about Iran. And it is for AIPAC too. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee broke its silence today, urging a vote for the Syrian strike.

… why does Obama need AIPAC? Could it be because AIPAC can get 70 Senators’ signatures on a napkin in 24 hours?

But, as I said, there’s much to choose from. Read the following from July, 2006, when Israel was slaughtering Lebanese villagers and razing ‘Shia’ apartment blocks:

Seeing a major opportunity to regain influence lost as a result of setbacks in Iraq, prominent neoconservatives are calling for unconditional U.S. support for Israel’s military offensives in Gaza and Lebanon and “regime change” in Syria and Iran, as well as possible U.S. attacks on Tehran’s nuclear facilities in retaliation for its support of Hezbollah.

And just cuz I like the word ‘stoopid’ in a headline: Syria is About Iran & Israel, Stoopid

OIL & GAS LOBBY: The stakes are high and this lobby surely will do its best to get the U.S. to bomb and kill Syrians for its interests.

Iran, Iraq, Syria sign major gas pipeline deal

July 25, 2011: “Iran, Iraq, and Syria have signed a deal for the construction of the Middle East’s largest gas pipeline, which would transit Iranian gas from Iran’s South Pars gas field to Europe via Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea.”

War against Iran, Iraq AND Syria?

On July 23, 2011, Pepe Escobar writes: “Against the interests of Washington, for whom integrating Iran is anathema, the pipeline bypasses two crucial foreign actors in Syria – prime “rebel” weaponizer Qatar (as a gas producer) and logistical “rebel” supporter Turkey (as the self-described privileged energy crossroads between East and West).” …

“Europeans – who endlessly carp about being hostages of Gazprom – should be rejoicing. But instead,” …

“It’s not far-fetched to imagine the EU totally forgetting about a pipeline that will ultimately benefit its citizens and issuing – under US pressure – a directive branding Iran-Iraq-Syria as a terrorist axis; lobbying for a no-fly zone applying to all; and recruiting jihadis all over for a Holy War against the axis, supported by a fatwa issued by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi.”

Syria intervention plan fueled by oil interests, not chemical weapon concern

This is a recent article in the Guardian by Nafeez Ahmed, subtitled “Massacres of civilians are being exploited for narrow geopolitical competition to control Mideast oil, gas pipelines.” It also provides the story going back more than a decade of neocon plans to undermine Syria in order to get at Israel nemesis Hezbollah. Ahmed is executive director of the UK’s Institute for Policy Research & Development.

MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX: Hell, I don’t have much that is immediate on these folks other than Rep Alan Grayson: “Nobody Wants This Except the Military-Industrial Complex”. And note that the Israel Lobby’s neoconservative “search for enemies” serves the Pentagon’s most pressing need, and neoconservatives have close ties to the Pentagon.

In an essentially all-capitalist world, one that is (unfortunately) increasingly united on the policies of generating profits for millionaires and squeezing the poor, the best policy for every economic sector except for oil and gas and arms is peace. So the real ‘need’ for massively bloated military power is minimal, and the last couple decades’ conflict of the ages — the Islam fanatics thing — has been mostly hype and false flag b.s. brought to us by the U.S., Saudi Arabia (Al Qaeda’s homies), and Israel (which has its own military-industrial complex that needs to NOT solve the Israel-Palestine conflict).

A little more Grayson: “I did notice, for what it’s worth, that the manufacturer of the missiles that would be used has had an incredible run in their stock value in the last 60 days. Raytheon stock is up 20 percent in the past 60 days as the likelihood of the use of their missiles against Syria becomes more likely. So I understand that there is a certain element of our society that does benefit from this, but they’re not the people who vote for me, or by the way the people who contribute to my campaign. Nobody wants this except the military-industrial complex.”

Thanks Mr. Grayson for at least mentioning one of the three elephants in the room.

Syrian rebels to reject U.S./Russia-sponsored peace talks?

6:39 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

Bashar al-Assad

The U.S. has made a major concession in order to get a Syria peace conference off the ground. Specifically, Secretary of State John Kerry divorced himself from the rebels’ ‘first Assad must go’ peace talks precondition:

… Kerry told reporters that only the Syrian regime and the opposition can determine the make-up of a transitional government to shepherd the war-torn nation towards democratic elections.

“It’s impossible for me as an individual to understand how Syria could possibly be governed in the future by the man who has committed the things that we know have taken place,” Kerry said as he wrapped up his first visit in office to Russia.

“But I’m not going to decide that tonight, and I’m not going to decide that in the end.”

Except for the middle paragraph, that is largely what Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has been saying for quite awhile (see paragraph four in blockquote below).

So how does the peace talks proposal play with the rebels? So far not well. From Reuters:

… Most opposition figures have ruled out talks unless Assad and his inner circle are excluded from any future transitional government.

“No official position has been decided but I believe the opposition would find it impossible to hold talks over a government that still had Assad at its head,” said Samir Nashar, a member of the opposition’s umbrella National Coalition body.

“Before making any decisions we need to know what Assad’s role would be. That point has been left vague, we believe intentionally so, in order to try to drag the opposition into talks before a decision on that is made.”

In the past, the United States has backed opposition demands that Assad be excluded from any future government, while Russia has said that must be for Syrians to decide, a formula the opposition believes could be used to keep Assad in power. …

Inside the country, where rebel groups are numerous and have disparate views, a military commander in the north, Abdeljabbar al-Oqaidi, told Reuters he would want to know details of the U.S.-Russian plan before taking a view. “But,” he added, “if the regime were present, I do not believe we would want to attend.”

And here’s the Guardian:

Syrian opposition leaders have reacted sceptically to a joint call by the US and Russia for an international conference to discuss the creation of a transitional government in Damascus to end the country’s escalating 25-month crisis.

Moaz al-Khatib, who resigned last month as head of the National Opposition Coalition (NOC), the main western- and Arab-backed grouping, warned: “Syrians: be careful of squandering your revolution in international conference halls.”

Walid Saffour, the NOC’s London representative, said he was sceptical, though a formal decision had yet to be taken.

The rebels’ sad faces tell me that Syria’s long and bloody nightmare may soon be over, and it’s a day to be cheerful and optimistic. Someone else is happy too:

The US-Russia agreement was warmly welcomed on Wednesday by the joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, whose diplomacy has been stalled for months by divisions in the UN security council. “This is the first hopeful news concerning that unhappy country in a very long time,” said his office. “The statements made in Moscow constitute a very significant first step forward. It is nevertheless only a first step.”

Sorry rebels, (maybe) no more beheadings, and (maybe) no more  kidnapping Filipino peacekeepers on the Golan Heights.

Read the rest of this entry →

Violent Islamic Extremism: No in Boston, Yes in Syria

4:32 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov commenting on the current government in Syria:

They are committed to a pluralistic Syria, to a Syria in which every minority has minority rights protected, that includes all of minorities in which everybody will have an ability to be able to make choices for the future.

It is a vision that rejects terrorism and rejects extremism. It is a vision that is pledged to never use chemical weapons. It is a vision that is committed to a political solution.

Whoops, no, that was actually U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, commenting on the Al-Nusra Front-dominated Syrian rebels. Un.be.lievable. (Instead of hallucinating, Lavrov is doing dumb stuff like encouraging ceasefire and dialogue with Syria rather than civil war and regime change.)

It gets stranger, of course.

Yes, I admit I appreciate the timing of the Chechen mercenaries in Syria. “Just for kicks, let’s kidnap some Christian archbishops at the same time as Chechen-immigrant-generated hell in Boston. How can the Western media ignore us?” Well, they can and they did guys cuz of course obedience to the moneyed narrative is the Western media careerist’s prime directive. Thanks for only killing their driver and not the bishops though.

In separate weirdness, National Journal polled its ‘National Security Insiders’, who seem like a very bright group just kidding. 60% of them now support U.S. military action to support the largely fundamentalist rebellion. (This contrasts with the most recent poll (why it was a such a suspiciously long time ago I don’t know) of the rest of us, non-insiders, in which 65% of us “oppose the U.S. and its allies sending arms and military supplies to anti-government groups in Syria.”)

Anyway, here’s one of those Insider geniuses: “The most important issue is to prevent al-Qaida from creating a safe haven in Syria. We cannot do that unless we are in the arena.” Hey, Mr. Insider, just saying but there is another SLIGHTLY easier way to prevent al-Qaida from creating a safe haven in Syria: Stop massively supporting the opposition. The rebellion would be over in days and Syria would go back to being a non-Al-Qaida country. Thanks you can bill me later.

P.S. – For the horrific and not at all funny facts on Syria, read Obama’s Syrian Horror, by Saul Landau. Excerpt:

The New York Times revealed Obama’s lies about the U.S. role in this war … The CIA has funneled and distributed large weapons shipments to the rebels – more than 3,500 tons worth to date – from Jordan and Turkey, while Obama claimed it as “non-lethal” military aid. (C. J.Chivers and Eic Schmitt, NY Times March 24, 2013)

“The C.I.A. role in facilitating the [weapons] shipments… gave the United States a degree of influence over the process [of weapon distribution]…American officials have confirmed that senior White House officials were regularly briefed on the [weapons] shipments.”

Obama supervised arms supplies to the Al Nusra Front, the Syrian rebels’ most effective fighting force, with links to Islamic terrorist groups.

Witnesses in northwest Syria testify that some rebels have used those weapons to slaughter Alawite and Christian villages.

Obama’s opposition to peace talks with the Assad government, from which he demands surrender, raises a question. Why demand as a “precondition” for negotiations the ouster of Syria’s government?

Decent rhetorical question, but the answer is easy: the U.S. goal is the ouster of Syria’s government (probably for two reasons: 1., Israel (maybe irrationally) wants/demands it; 2., it’s what the West’s corporate globalist imperialism does.)