In this article Harel B states directly he views Assad as “bad”, and “evil”, and advocates the peace movement do likewise, and calls the non-extremist Syrian opposition factions “brave” and “admirable,” but emphasizes that looking in the mirror at the role and the responsibility of the West and it’s allies in the disaster is critical if we are to avoid letting our government continue to burn the middle east in endless wars (See the “What’s the Point? An ‘Ugly Lesson’ “, and the “Saudi Blood Money?” sections, among others) Himself non-religious, he has no love David Koresh or his cult, yet like many of us, believes we should not whitewash the very large partial responsibility that the U.S. government had for the disastrous raid on Waco, as he notes in one footnote. During the Cold War he adds, criticizing U.S. policies risked being called “pro-Communist” yet silencing and Red-baiting such criticisms allowed a long series of disastrous policies including many American covert and overt military operations which ended up harming American interests. It would similarly harm our interests to allow ourselves to be baited as “soft on Dictators” to cause us, to brush under the rug the considerable partial responsibility of Western policy that helped bring about, almost seemingly delighting in seeing, such a bloody civil war in Syria as ‘useful’ to Washington’s geopolitical chess-moves in the middle east. Those who refuse to learn from history’s mistakes (and cynical moves by their leaders and allies) are destined to repeat it.
You are encouraged to republish the article just credit the author and link to the original.
Shooting ourselves in the foot with an Al Qaeda gun
There have been some very good articles recently about the Syrian civil war, many of which debunk misleading and often outright false statements made by politicians and echoed in the mainstream media. There have been good pieces about the history of the conflict, though not nearly enough. One comment left on PopularResistance simply asked what we know about what the Syrian people themselves think and want, suggesting there was a dearth of information about this.
What follows is an attempt to tie these three threads together: what we haven’t been told or has been underreported about the conflict; some things we’ve been told that are simply not accurate, and what one can gather from the preceding two elements, as well as others, about how ordinary Syrians view the conflict.
Before delving more deeply, here is in a nutshell what we do know, and perhaps more importantly, what we don’t know, or more accurately, what we’ll never know thanks to choices made in Washington and by our allies. What we do know — as is to be expected in a situation which even the most hawkish politicos and talking heads admit is a civil war — is views vary: many Syrians support Assad, some very strongly loyal to him and his party; others want reforms but not ‘regime change’; and still others want a complete change of government (to be replaced by nothing less than an Islamic caliphate, as desired by the centrally influential Jabhat al-Nusra rebel group, or replaced by something more moderate if other insurgent groups have their choice) One can find in the second and third groups those who were part of the Syrian civil society, many of whom are admirable in their goals. The corporate media point to those who might have switched from the second to the third position due to violence by the government, which no doubt took place for some people, but omitting that the emergence and indeed prominence of violently extreme including Al Qaeda forces, has already caused some Syrians to move from the third to the second or first position — better the security forces of the devil (and at least formerly a “reformer” devil) you do know, than the brutal, decapitating, child-killing, and even cannibalistic demons that you don’t know.
To more carefully unravel these issues, however, it’s critical to review some background about the Syrian civil war, about Assad himself, and perhaps most critically, about the role of the U.S. and its allies both historically and at the early stages, is crucial.
That there are many factions and allegiances, and many opinions by Syrians, was true in 2011 too, just as it is today But here’s what we don’t know and will never know: would Assad have allowed sufficient reforms had there not been a violent civil war including ultra extremist Islamist fundamentalist “takfiris” and even Al Qaeda linked insurgents pointing guns (and much more) at Syrian government forces since near the very beginning of the Arab Spring?
“Wait a minute,” you may be thinking, “the protests were all peaceful until Assad decided to tell, or at least allow, his forces to harshly attack nonviolent protesters”. In fact there were brave, peaceful Syrian protesters since the beginning, who deserve admiration, but that is not the whole story. The “Official” story we’re told in the west goes like this: there were, initially, peaceful protests which demanded reforms, not the ouster, of Assad. This much is true. But what happened next? We’ve been given the impression (generally without this being spelled out in detail) that there wasn’t armed attacks against Syria’s government until “much much later” – a myth whose elements will be examined in steps, below. In other words, we’ve been given story that Assad’s forces faced non-violent, and only nonviolent protesters, for a long, long time; and that his troops were brutal for a long, long time, before Syrians (practically “all” Syrians in the mythological tale told in Washington) finally had to give up on peaceful protests. As we will see, this is not what happened in Syria.
When they beat the drums of war is when we can least afford to skip thinking things through carefully, calmly and rationally
It’s worth remembering how our leaders terrified us that we had to act immediately and start bombing Afghanistan right after the terrorist attacks on 9-11? Looking back from today, seeing how Osama Bin Laden was apprehended almost 10 years later, and in Pakistan rather than Afghanistan — or recalling Bush’s own words (after he had already launched the war on Afghanistan) that “I don’t know where he is, nor do I…I don’t spend much time on him*” it’s almost impossible to remember the urgency of terrified fear with which the Bush administration filled the nation. Of course there were voices which advocated the same response to 9/11 as to any other horrific crime: hunt down and apprehend the perpetrators and bring them to justice, rather than launch a war on an entire country, which would cause death to thousands of the very civilians living under the harsh Taliban rulers (as suggested by such “radical groups” as the Vatican, along with most peace groups).
Not only was this option ignored, but so drunk with fear was the nation that even a brief pause in the bombing for a few days, which Oxfam among others called for to briefly do their work to avoid a real risk of starvation to tens of thousands or more Afghanis as winter approaches — before the bombing resumed — that mere pause for a few days was considered too much. We can’t wait that long! Bin Laden will get away! The exact number of Afghanis who died as a result of this alone, is not known, with Washington not exactly eager to encourage such investigations. Looking from today back the raid on Bin Laden’s compound some 10 years after the invasion of Afghanistan, can help us shed light on the importance of not letting leaders talk (and terrorize) us into a fear-mania that clouds our judgement. We should be all the more skeptical of claims that we must act “right away!” That’s one basic lesson.
Some equally simple and quite common-sense points: even the most evil of dictators is not suicidal. U.S. leaders tell us to believe that Assad, whose forces were gaining the upper hand, chose to use weapons which he knew would bring the world’s ire (stupid), weapons he didn’t militarily need (double stupid), and not only that, but that he chose to use these weapons right after the arrival, at his invitation, of UN inspectors, exactly during their brief visit to Syria (triple stupid, with perhaps some bonus points if there was a Scrabble game for it). Does that really sound like the most plausible scenario? Surely it’s not enough of a “slam dunk” to spend millions to billions and inevitably spill the blood of more Syrians, in U.S. military “action” (a funny term for violence) before being more sure.
Other pieces of information Obama/Kerry and their Republican pro-war allies aren’t eager to mention include the UN investigation in May of a previous attack, which found “strong, concrete” evidence linking rebels to those attacks but “no indication at all that the..Syrian government used” chemical weapons, or several other investigations linking rebels to the use of chemical weapons (CW), the official U.S. narrative comes out a bit..strained. A less extreme but somewhat parallel consideration applies to the early days of the Arab spring. The head of any regime after the first few cases of Arab Spring was on the alert, but there are two cases. Both the US-backed dictatorships and the “officially on the Bad Guy List” dictatorships were worried about their own people rising up. But only one of these two, had to worry about a misstep, about a crackdown that is harsh enough to bring serious risk of attack by the world’s number one interventionist and its only superpower.
In other words, if you’re a US-backed dictatorship you don’t need to be very cautious about cracking down since the US will back you until the last minute, and only if that last minute arrives and it’s clear the game is up, only then will Washington discover its “love for democracy” – what happened in Egypt. There was no talk of “regime change” amidst the killing of protesters, no walk of U.S. missiles, etc, just verbal criticism alongside support until it was clear the game was up. Similarly, US-backed Bahrain faced demonstrations its leaders knew they would not face regime change or talk of a ‘limited’ U.S. attack; on the contrary, the US stood by as Saudi tanks helped crush peaceful demonstrations in Bahrain. Tear gas and rubber bullets were fired directly at peaceful protesters on the first day; by the third day Bahrain deployed tanks, and at least 50 armored personnel carriers armed with machine guns. Treatment of nonviolent protesters got uglier from there.* A doctor told the BBC News that soldiers and police were using ambulances to actually attack civilians. By March 1,000 troops from the “Gulf Co-operation Council” (consisting of Bahrain and other US-backed dictatorships, I mean, monarchies, “sultinates”, “Emirate” etc: the Saudis; Qatar; Kuwait; Oman; UAE) rolled into Bahrain to protect the US-backed Bahraini dictatorship from its people and as BBC reported “Thousands of Bahrainis marched on the Saudi embassy in the capital, Manama, on Tuesday to protest against the intervention.”* I still remember my horror at hearing a separate report with a female Bahraini doctor telling how security forces directly threatened to rape her, if she helped the wounded. I thought: “if this is how the security forces of the regime feel free to talk and threaten in broad daylight, talking to an M.D., how much more brutal do they feel free to be, and to threaten, when it’s behind closed doors, and directed not at a physician but at the working class or the poor?” But this wasn’t Assad Syria, this was US- and Saudi-backed Bahrain.
A Tale of Two — nearly simultaneous — Arab Spring Protests
(the similarities and differences are not the ones the corporate media like to paint)
By March 14, barely 30 days after the Bahraini people “dared” to have peaceful demonstrations — and the same month the Syrian protests started — the above brutality and harsh Bahraini crackdown was followed by some 4,000 Saudi Arabian troops arriving in about 200 armored vehicles. And on it went from there. As with Egypt, lip service to “concern” was expressed by the U.S. — no threats, no outraged demands for an instant end to repression and violence against protesters let alone demanding that the government leaders step down. The hypocrisy, given that Syrians were taking to the streets around the same time, was remakable; it took self-discipline by mainstream media to not notice. It’s important to add here that two wrongs don’t make a right, no matter the hypocrisy of the U.S. Something else was also illustrated, however.
“The idea that an armed insurgency is just happens any time a government responds to peaceful protests with nearly-immediate, brutal and violent crackdown, is disproved by the Bahraini example, because such a brutal and near instant assault on peaceful demonstrators is exactly what happened in US-backed Bahrain. To explain the bloody insurgency in Syria, therefore, we need to look elsewhere”
What’s critical that we as concerned Americans not overlook here, is far more than the hypocrisy. An important point was illustrated: the idea that an armed insurgency and civil war with over 100,000 dead is simply something that happens any time a government responds to peaceful protests with nearly-immediate, brutal and violent crackdown, is disproved by the Bahraini example, because such a brutal and near instant assault on peaceful demonstrators is exactly what happened there, without the same results as in Syria.
Hence, even putting aside the fact that alongside admirable peaceful protest there were in fact violent elements from early on (to which we will return in closing), to understand Syria today, we need to look to additional explanatory factors which led to the bloody civil war in Syria, besides just “rebels took up arms in Syria only because Assad’s forces cracked down on initially peaceful demonstrators” to explain how an armed opposition started in Syria.
After all, that brutality has been documented in Bahrain within the first 3 days (with even more state-sponsored violence within the first 30 days). In fact in the first 24 hours of peaceful Bahraini protester, Ali Mushaima died from shotgun wounds to his back, fired at close range.
Syria: Digging Deeper into the Back Story
If a country’s leader is not one of the “good guy Dictatorships” (Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt etc) you know you can’t pull a Saudi-Bahrain on your protesters and expect the same “tap on the wrist” from the world’s rogue superpower, so things are different. If you’re on official “bad guy” you do have to be careful (see Libya) and so such dictator would be foolish and stupid enough to not realize that the West was just itching for any excuse, any excuse, to attack you harshly right away, with a slippery slope on a spectrum leading to “regime change” — militarily or just looking over the history of covert operations against dozens* of countries “not friendly enough” to “U.S. (corporate) interests” is known about in the rest of the world. Thus any temptations to crack down, while still very real, are balanced with this realization.
Yet we’re officially told that Assad just couldn’t help himself and chose to unleash full brutality against the most peaceful protesters from Day One…leading Syrians “reluctantly” to, slowly, eventually, decide that they have to take up arms. As we’ve seen, even if we assume the very worst about Assad and his security forces — and a nearly-instant such harsh and brutal crackdown — the Bahraini examples demonstrates that this does notautomatically lead to an armed insurgency against your regime. At least, not if the U.S. or the authoritarian oil-rich monarchies it supports, militarily back your regime. We could then ask: what if you crack down but are notbacked militarily by other dictatorships like Bahrain’s regime was? As it turned out, that’s not the question that applied to Syria and instead the question turned out to be: what if outside forces do supply money and military aid, soon after your Arab Spring starts, but to someone other than the regime? We’ll return this part of the story, with full details near the end of this piece, but let’s dig deeper first.
Another aspect of the official narrative is that we’re also told that the west would be “betraying” the Syrians if we don’t “intervene” (meaning militarily attack the Syrian government) — the earlier and the more violently the better, we’re to understand — to overthrow Syria’s government by force, or weaken it enough that “the rebels” can do so. This is the barely-concealed truth underneath the fairy tales about “we’re only going to degrade Assad’s CW capabilities” which in truth is the one thing the U.S. cannot significantly degrade by launching missiles — things can be moved, hidden, etc — a good thing too, since unguarded weapon supplies a government would fear to use, could in the aftermath of a missile attack make it into the hands of almost any terrorist group — and there are (alongside, I repeat, honorable groups) plenty of such terrorist groups in Syria, comprised of both Syrians and (as even McCain admitted) mercenary, ultra-extreme, and even Al Qaeda based foreigners.
In fact, the West has indeed betrayed the brave nonviolent reformers and peaceful demonstrators — but the betrayal in reality, was of a different sort: the West evidently was afraid that Assad might possibly go along with peaceful reforms, a terrifying prospect to Washington since then “we” would not have much control over who the new leaders are who eventually make it to power, and the middle east, more than anywhere else, is a place where the American corporate-military-industrial-complex is not willing to give up control.
Digging Deeper: A Son Inherits Power
Bashar Assad, who had graduated from medical school and later specialized in ophthalmology, found himself in power in 2000 upon the death of the previous ruler, his father Hafez Assad, whose brutality is well known. What were Bashar’s first instincts? To clamp down? Or to reform stepwise towards more human rights and freedom away from the regime he was handed?
As it turns out, by 2001 there were already significant reforms (See Cultural forums: pseudonym for Syria’s new political activities by Maher Chmaytelli, January 18, 2001, with a photograph of Syrians reading a newspaper at a news stand, captioned, “The opposition has a newspaper now” *)
The author is no “regime sympathizer” writing some fluff piece, as evidenced by the fact that Chmaytelli was shortlisted by the International Federation of Journalists 2002 Natali Prize in part for this article (along with another article, more critical, about the arrested of an MP).
The 2001 article reported that “Open forums where political issues can be freely debated are growing in number in Syria, representing the increasing openness sparked by the accession of Bashar al-Assad to the presidency.” Very limited reforms were started initially by Bashar’s father Hafez. Indeed Hafez was quite brutal, particularly in 1980s after an assassination attempt against him, leading to massacres of Muslim Brotherhood militants, then brutal crackdown against suspected sympathizers, and the Hama massacre. Hafez Assad did however in 1986 allow, with many limitations, such discussion forums, and they “evolved gradually” — initially only matters such as economics were to be discussed. However, when the current president Bashar Assad came to power in 2000, they were opened up so more was allowed, Chmaytelli explained: “The move to political debate occurred after the accession of Bashar al-Assad in July, a month after the death of his father.”
What happened then? A cultural forum participant is quoted: “Prior to that, any criticism on the political front (meaning of the authorities) was couched in reference to the economy. Now, we start with the political element.” More broadly, “The first meeting [after Bashar came to power] held on January 14, focussed on political reform with more than 200 people, including former political prisoners, taking part” Chmaytelli reported.
Jamal Atassi, who died in March 2000 was part of the group that came to power in the 1960s which led to the rise of Assad’s father Hafez, had by the late 1970s, declared his opposition to Hafez’s regime, which nonetheless tolerated him as he confined his activities to an intellectual context. In the 2001 article, this dissident daughter, Atassi’s daughter is quoted commenting that “The forums represent a healthy development. They allow for dialogue. You can listen to other people’s ideas.”
Were these just meetings to keep intellectual dissidents busy and out of the public eye? On the contrary, this prize nominated 2001 article reported that the official (government run) press gave coverage to forums: “The ideas raised in the political meetings are not totally ignored by the official press. The Ath-Thawra daily, which runs an opinion column called “questions” every Saturday, includes ideas raised by intellectuals taking part in the forums.”
We should not naively see these developments as pure benevolence, of course. The question is, was there room for the west to work with someone willing to contemplate reform, if the west was willing to give up the chess game of maximizing it’s hegemony, backing Israeli expansionism, and leaving most regime leaders with just two options: join dictatorships like the Saudis by joining “Team USA” in which case we’ll “tsk, tsk” at most at your crimes, or refuse to be part of our chess pieces, in which case no matter what reforms you may be interested in, you’ll be marginalized, and regime-changed if we get the chance.” Such a stance is not merely immoral and hypocritical, it also leaves foreign leaders who might find common ground with us, with little or no space to do so.
Digging Deeper: 2004, pre-Arab Spring, and still more reforms?
In any case, it’s not clear whether Assad himself or dissenters within his government moved to quiet the forums around 2002, but given this background from 2001 of Assad’s first instincts in 2000-2001, not to mention hundreds of political prisoners he released in the early stages of the Arab Spring (another 500 were released in January 2012 alone, when “Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby said Tuesday Syria had released about 3,500 detainees in recent weeks”*) it is certainly not beyond the realm of possibility to take Bashar at face value when in 2004, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported about his reform agenda: “Asked if he might be reforming himself out of a job, he said that is a possibility. ‘I never cared about my position,’ he said. ‘When the Syrian people no longer want me, I’ll quit.’”*.
Just a lie, or Assad’s actual views? The reason we can’t know whether Assad’s 2004 statement was true and still in place in 2011 when the Arab Spring started, open to peaceful reforms continuing forward, is that unfortunately, the West and its allies (you know, the ones who shot bullets into the backs of, threatened rape against, and sent tanks to crush peaceful protesters in Bahrain, yeah, those guys) quickly moved to make sure the courageous peaceful Syrian protesters were joined, early on, by violent ones and insurgents — right from the early (possibly very earliest) stages.
Before turning finally to that ugly chapter, let’s note that by 2004 Assad’s reforms already included:
- “The elimination of martial law courts. Now anyone charged with a crime has the right to hire a lawyer and fight the charges in court.
- Some political prisoners have been freed.
- Private banks have been allowed.
- A private newspaper has opened.
- A private radio station begins soon.”
In case you’re wondering, this is not a press release by some pro-Assad flak, it’s the above-quoted article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporting on the legal, newspaper, banking, etc, reforms that Bashar had instituted by 2004 (quoted also here)
Incidentally, concerning the above list of reforms, Assad was quoted not as bragging that he did “so much”, but the quite opposite, that all of the above is still too little and he would like to do much more: “We’re going to change…We haven’t made great progress. I think the road is still long ahead of us.” Does this sound like the 1-dimensional caricature we’re presented with in the West, of a Hitleresque madman super-dictator bent on nothing other than taking over the world, while inflicting as much brutality as he can on his people, just for kicks?
No, acknowledging (and learning from) this history does not make us “fans” of Assad – it simply makes our analysis informed by the facts — a good idea if we want to make wiser policy choices.
It’s unfortunately necessary to state the obvious at this point: I do not think for one second that Bashar Assad is a “nice guy” — or anything remotely of the sort. He inherited a decades-old dictatorial regime (which, we should recall, came about after a series of coups the first one of which was the 1949 CIA-coup of a democratically elected Syrian government) and the military and police forces of the regime he inherited carry out plenty of repression and brutality, a fact that is not lessened by similar tactics by US-backed authoritarian regimes. 
Not only do we not “like” Assad when we acknowledge try to learn from history, but my personal Assad assessment? Yes, a bad guy and our assumption in practice as peace activists should be that Assad — like the US-backed middle eastern autocrats — is evil, period.
Does this contradict the above observation that historical reality does not fit with the 1-dimensional caricature of Assad? Not if by “evil” we mean that we will not “trust” such a leader without strong verification, be it a ceasefire, a peace agreement, human rights reforms, or anything else; we will not assume the regime puts human beings above its own survival, and so forth.
Rejecting the caricature does mean that we don’t play the game of assuming Assad to be an “evil genius” one minute (when convenient), and then assume he is unbelievably stupid to the point of being suicidal — launching a CW attack right after arrival of inspectors he invited for instance — the next minute, just create a malleable distortion of reality custom-made to justify a bombing, an invasion, or whatever leaders think they must do to “look tough,” score points, out-maneuver the other party, and yes, continue the madness of never-ending wars and invasions forever and and ever (or until we destroy the planet, whichever comes first). This is a prudent position to take, free of any assumptions of “benevolence” about Assad, but similarly not taken by the high-sounding rhetoric claiming “benevolence” by a regime (Washington) that by its own admission has killed many hundreds of thousands of civilians in just the last last two decades.
They will still call you “soft on dictators” — be willing to take it — and hit back hard with facts, or the “game” is rigged so “bomb, invade, occupy” (while supporting other “Good Guy Dictators” regimes’ brutality against their own people) is always “the answer”
It’s a very old and cynical game, but an affective one for war-mongers and those who want to excuse or brush under the rug the brutality of their own (or allied) governments: you had better demonstrate your loyalty by pointing elsewhere saying “bad, bad!” and if you dare point out any facts about your own countries crimes, or correct any false statements about the official Bad Guy Dictator Du Jour then you must love that bad dictator, or be soft on terrorism and dictators, shame on you! Oh the humanity, what’s wrong with you?!
I will share a personal experience: in the 1980s I read a (rare) mainstream article about Saddam Hussein’s abuses, and spoke out (locally) against support the U.S. gave to Saddam at the time. Response, or close paraphrase, was “what are you, a friend of the Ayatollah?” If you question the wisdom (or heaven forbid, the morality) of the invasion of Iraq, and you’re accused of being “soft” on Saddam, but if you questioned supporting him, you must secretly love the Iranian brutal 1979 revolutionaries, shame on you!
The Reagan administration actually continued to support Saddam after after he has used chemical weapons — the famous Saddam-Rumsfeld handshake photo online. But more was learned in 2013. During the Iran-Iraq war, the US even gave intelligence including locations of Iranian troops to Saddam, knowing fully it would be used in a chemical attack. The uncovered CIA documents and recent interviews with U.S. former operatives show the Reagan administration’s actions were “tantamount to an official American admission of complicity in some of the most gruesome CW attacks ever launched.” Foreign Policy magazine observed. * and ** and ***. Fast forward to 2003 and like so many other Americans, I was surrounded by a monolithic pro-war media drum-beat that further included many voices telling me that my opposition to the attack on Iraq meant I was “soft on Saddam.”
Got that? I, someone who explicitly voiced opposition back in the 80s, saying we shouldn’t be backing of Saddam back then, was called “soft on Saddam” in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion for also opposing an invasion that would kill at least one hundred thousand civilians (Iraq Body Count project) to perhaps many hundreds of thousands (Lancet study). And accused of being ‘soft on Saddam’ by whom? By those very leaders (or by Fox-watching Joe and Janet Republican duped by) who themselves — cover operatives, militarists, the Republican White House, and others — directly supported Saddam, and even helped him carry out chemical attacks. Stunning, isn’t it?
And I wasn’t alone: If you were (or are) a concerned citizen voicing opposition to direct or covert aid to “friendly” dictators or to violent and dangerous insurgent groups, you’ll be patted on the head, ridiculed as naive, or worse; then when they want to bomb, those who were principled in the first place and point out civilians are the first hurt by the proposed attack, are the ones they will try to shame. They will try to shame you. Don’t fall for it. And shame them back — or better, shame the leaders who are duping a well meaning pro-war people you know, and show you stand for principle. We are strongly against the crimes by U.S. allies, against U.S. support for brutal draconian dictatorships like Saudi Arabia, but other than a loony fringe that doesn’t deserve to be called part of the peace movement, none of us call for the U.s. to bomb, invade, and regime change Saudi Arabia, or Israel, nor do we advocate anyone bomb the U.S. for the civilians it killed abroad…it’s called having consistent principles. So don’t let anyone shame you for being against bombing Syria. We didn’t “attack Saddam” in March 2003, our forces attacked and slaughtered Iraqi conscripts and mostly, Iraqi civilians — the very people whose suffering our leaders pretended to care so much about.
The kind we’re allowed to talk about versus
the kind that’s a Thought-crime to utter
Get it? Anyone who points out inconvenient facts is soft on Assad. If you point out that “butchery” will be worse, will increase, particularly towards minority groups, if “the rebels” are aided towards military victory as McCain intends, then you’re guilty of saying “anything” other than “Assad is a butcher” and you’re not allowed to say anything other than “Assad is a butcher”, that’s off-script. Pointing out that slaughter will be worse if we bomb? You’re off script. Pointing out the slaughter will be worse by aiding extremist foreign fighters and even Al Qaeda based rebels which are militarily dominant among the rebels? You’re off script. If a U.S. invasion butchers 100,000+ Iraqis, that’s something they can just later call “regrettable” — and if now covert aid to extremist Syrian rebels while encouraging rebels to refuseto negotiate, as Washington has done, well if that leads to 100,000+ Syrians being butchered, you can’t talk about that. And make no mistake, a large portion of the death-toll are ordinary Syrians slaughtered by various “rebel groups.”
Mother Agnes Mariam el-Salib, mother superior of St. James Monastery in Qara, Syria, spoke in a recent interview with RT expressed her bewilderment at the lack of western coverage of such atrocities, including a massacre of civilians carried out in Latakia by the dominant “Jabhat al-Nusra” rebel group:
What’s the Point? An “Ugly Lesson”
We’re clearly not “soft” on anyone by taking note of Assad’s string of reforms from early on after taking power in 2000, but what’s the point? The salient question here is what the road forward in Syria might have looked like if Assad’s reforms were supported? Some years after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Noam Chomsky pointed out that Bush had “taught the world a very ugly lesson.” The ugly lesson was that, if you do as you’re told, and disarm from Weapons of Mass Destruction as Saddam had done, then you’ll be an easy target for regime when by the very same American empire which didn’t merely “turn a blind eye to” but directly looked at and approved of your earlier crimes. But if on the other hand you arm yourself to the teeth, as did North Korea with it’s very large conventional forces on top of the nuclear weapons testing, then the U.S. will treat much more carefully. This is the very unfortunate lesson Bush taught the world. In fact all U.S. administrations, while less extremist than Bush’s, carry on along similar lines. We can point the finger at the North Koreans for spending so much on their military while their people live in poverty, but it’s cheap and easy to point fingers at others as a way to avoid examining one’s own choices; for example, if a police chief is informed that a hostage taker has booby-trapped the front door so explosives would kill all the hostages if the door was broken through, and was repeatedly made very clearly aware of it, and yet ordered the assault, we could not be impressed at all if the police chief said: “Don’t blame me! It’s that bad, evil, nasty hostage-taker who put the explosives there!” Our governments are morally responsible for predictable outcomes of their policies.
The point of knowing about Assad’s early reforms isn’t that “he’s not that bad” which is rather different from observing that Assad is not a 1-dimensional cartoon-dictator which advocates of bomb-invade-occupy and “war forever” find so convenient. The point is whether the U.S. squandered a chance to encourage Assad’s early reforms by its usual focus on gaining geopolitical power.
It’s worth knowing about Assad’s first steps coming into office, such as the elimination of martial law courts and allowing the accused the right to a day in court with a defense attorney, releasing some political prisoners, allowing a private non-government newspapers radio station, to raise questions about a stupid, self-defeating, and counter-productive set of policies that create perverse incentives, as we saw with the “ugly lesson” of Bush’s actions towards Iraq versus North Korea. These perverse incentives go far beyond those two cases: it means a string of reforms like the above may a elicit a “meh, so what?” (except the privatized banks Assad allowed, perhaps). Washington’s all of nothing stance makes for a”cost benefit analysis” for leaders of other countries that isn’t pretty. They know that they can continue being authoritarian and even brutal if they join or remain part of “Team USA” which means Americans tax-dollars support such regimes — or else the country can stay independent, and be undermined, giving all leaders (not merely Assad) a perverse incentive not to liberalize, lest covet U.S. operatives move in to take advantage of the opening to instigate a coup — and not just because the current government is not democratic. The CIA has historically proved itself to be more than willing to regime change a vast array of democratically elected governments including an elected government in Syria (1949) as we’ve seen, Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Chile (1973) and many others. It’s much easier (which is exactly the intention) to choose not to reform, stay harsh or grow more brutal, so long as you stay a “good” dictator for the U.S., than to open things up politically but attempt to remain independent rather be a client state of the U.S. Even to those blind to the abuses of human beings abroad whose lives matter no less than ours, even in the most narrow sense of the word, this cost-benefit regime which is the reality imposed on the leaders of the world who live in the ecosystem so strongly influenced by the most powerful nation in history, is harmful to “American interests” and even more so, to the American people, in smaller, obvious ways, and more broadly because the supreme superpower is in fact killing the political ecosystem and the literal one, in which it resides.
Instead, the U.S. kept supporting and encouraging brutal regimes it called “moderate” only for being a pawn on our side of the chessboard — including the Saudi regime where women can’t even drive or vote and with plenty of official beheadings with swords and other medieval punishments like lashings — when we hear about “The Arab League” calling for “democracy” and “human rights” in other countries, we should remember this League is headed by major US-backed brutal dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and smaller US-backed dictatorships like Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, military-junta run Egypt, and protester crushing Bahrain, inter alia) and instead the US sent Syrian born Canadian Maher Arar to the security forces of Syria, asking, demanding, that they torture him – he later got a formal apology from Canada fully cleared of the “terrorist” suspicions.
Fast forward to the Arab spring. When Bashar Assad was quoted about Al Qaeda linked militants, and the western media laughed it off with coverage heavily dripping in sarcasm, it did ring a bell in my memory since the western press did exactly the same thing in Libya..only to later admit, very quietly at first, and more openly later that, yeah, ultra-extremist and Al-Qaeda linked insurgents were indeed a major part of the forces Gadaffi was facing. Indeed it proved to be true and a string of civilian-targeting car bombs by rebel insurgents, a boy shot dead by Al Qaeda styled rebels in front of his parents for “insulting Islam”, the youtube self-filmed cannibal rebel (who was given a chance by BBC to “explain” his own “side” – can you imagine BBC giving a Syrian general, had he done such an act, the same?) and more and more over the months and years as the truth about the nature of the rebels backed by the West, and by Qatar, Turkey and the Saudis, emerges.
But when did Assad start facing armed attacks? It wasn’t until 2013, right? Or was it 2012? It couldn’t have been in 2011, the first year of the protests in Syria, could it?
Well, yes, as a matter of fact, bullets, in fact much more than bullets, were being aimed at the Syrian government “way back then” in 2001, as a matter of fact, I eventually learned. How early? We’ll probably never know exactly when the underground, secret planning for violence or armed attack started – be it by the CIA or its counterparts in the US-backed dictatorships (Saudi Arabia and Qatar, along with Turkey)e now all but openly arming rebels trying to violently overthrow the Syrian government. But by November of 2011, Australia’s national broadcaster ABC.net.au was already reporting not merely guns and machine guns and grenades, but RPGs (rocket propelled grenades) and outright rockets, yes, rockets fired at the Syrian government Yes, this was in 2011.*
You don’t need a Ph.D. in military history to know that if RPGs and outright rockets were used in November, “mere” grenades, guns, and machine guns did not get taken out of the box for the first time ever just “the day before” or anything of the sort, to say the least. It would have been, very conservatively, a good number of months before the November RPGs and rockets that “merely” guns/machine guns were being fired at the Syrian army and civilian employees (police etc).
Earlier, in June 2011, more than a half dozen police officers were killed in an attack by protesters who accused some forces of shooting at a funeral (even if these accusations turn out to be true, we expect, in our own country, protests to demand the officers responsible be put on trial, not a mob execution of police officers). Back even earlier veteran middle east journalist Robert Fisk reported in April 27, 2011 suggested armed and violent attacks against the government may have started by then. Whether “revenge killings” by families against individual police or security officers who committed abuses (“It is an odd phenomenon of >all the Middle East revolutions that security police gun down protesters — and then gun down mourners at the funerals,” wrote Fisk elsewhere) or a more organized and wider armed insurgency was already afoot , was not clear (Indeed, even more recent “defecting army officers” stories raise the question in light of the CIA’s 1953 coup and bribes admissions, whether our government hands played any “encouraging” roles). But there is still more.
Saudi Blood Money?
Back to Fisk, he did cite one former Lebanese minister who “produced copies of cheques for $300,000 supposedly carrying the signature of Prince Turki bin Abdul Aziz, the former Saudi intelligence head — and in that capacity once on good terms with a certain Osama bin Laden — and brother of King Abdullah, and given to Lebanese political figures to instil unrest in Syria.”
“One of those accused is the former Lebanese minister Mohamed Beydoun. He has said that his accusers are guilty of “incitement to murder” and Prince Turki has indignantly called the cheques “false”. But the Syrian-supported Hezbollah has now endorsed the claim and at least one [other] Lebanese MP, Ahmed Fatfat, has uttered the fateful words.” (That is, spoke of such Saudi money. See Fisk’s “Shadow of Syrian Conflict Stretching into Lebanon”)
As noted, this does not take any credit way from the peaceful opposition pressing Assad for much faster reforms; on the contrary, these violent forces and those supporting them were the very ones who betrayed what could have been a peaceful opposition the international community could have supported, prodding or if necessary strongly pressing (diplomatically or even economically) Assad with his known first instincts to move in the right direction. This was betrayed. This option was blocked. When a country encounters peaceful protests, even if some police act brutally (as they did in Egypt) initially, you don’t have to have civil war. Several things can happen:
- Money and arms – Tanks from Saudi Arabia crush the peaceful demonstrators within the first month. The US gives “tap on the wrist” lip service to being concerned, but lets the crushing continue. This is what happened in Bahrain, as we know (I’ll never forget a female doctor telling BBC (or DemocracyNow?) how she was threatened with rape-by-police, by security forces in Bahrain, if she helps the wounded. I thought: “if this is how they feel free to talk/threaten in broad daylight, talking to an M.D., how much more brutal do they feel free to be, and to threaten, when it’s behind closed doors, to the working class, the poor?”) Thishappened in Bahrain.
- Money (and in its heels, arms) from Gulf states pours in at or near the beginning to encourage armed resistance and mix those armed attacks with the peaceful demonstrators — this is what happened in happened Syria.
- What about a third option: neither funding and arming insurgent groups or attackers against the government, nor funding/tanks against the protesters — but hands off. We don’t know what would have happened, since this was not allowed to happen in Syria. Even more interestingly:
- Fourth option: neither a) nor b), but unlike c) with diplomatic pressure – maybe both sticks and (gasp!) carrots, to negotiate in good faith with the peaceful protesters. Including pressure on the rebels to participate — instead of the policy of actively encouraging rebels to refuse to negotiate (unless Assad resigns first, and even then, “maybe..” as made in statements by rebels, and as also discussed by Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister)
Options c) and d) were blocked. Lacking a time machine to go back, we can’t know what would have happened had such paths been allowed to unfold. The U.S. has a curious history of “not taking yes” for an answer:
- When the Taliban said “please give us the evidence against Bin Laden” and they would consider trying to apprehend him and hand him over, was it a bluff or did they mean it? Maybe if was a bluff, but we will never know for sure, because Bush refused to find out whether the offer was real or not, and dismissed it out of hand. (Incidentally, the Taliban were not suicidally stupid and did not want to risk a U.S. invasion; a little-known fact is that a Taliban official tried to warn the West that they the Taliban had heard “chatter” of sorts about a major attack — and feared if it happened, that the U.S. would attack them. Their attempts to warn the west, BBC reported, were ignored (see here) So it’s entirely possible the Taliban’s offer was real, if only out of their self interest. Washington didn’t want to find out if the offer was real; an invasion was going to happen, “getting Bin Laden” was a convenient excuse which even Bush later discarded as not very important to him, as noted.
- Then there was the Taliban offer to have Bin Laden put on trial in a neutral third country — again, bluff or genuine offer? Here again, we don’t know because Bush refused to find out — dismissed the offer out of hand.
- Bush himself, made an interesting admission. Some two days before the Iraq invasion Bush gave a final ultimatum: Saddam and sons must leave Iraq in 48 hours, else we invade. A funny things happened with still plenty of time left out of those 48 hours, the next day, Bush suddenly corrected himself and said, well, we will invade even if Saddam and his son leaves before the deadline. An amazing, naked admission that the earlier reasons: “because Saddam is bad/has WMDs” was never the real reason, an amazing candid admission right from Bush’s mouth, which the media ignored, reminding us the next day in headlines that, well, Saddam ignored the last deadline/ultimatum, forgetting their own reporting the previous day of Bush’s “cancellation” of the “out” he had opened to Saddam. Here too was a case of being afraid that an answer of yes (as unlikely as it was for Saddam to agree) might, possibly, be forthcoming — or at the very least, not being willing to find out whether the answer might turn out to be “yes.”
In all cases the possibility of a “yes” was (without analyzing the inner psychology of U.S. leaders) certainly in practice, treated as a danger — a threat to the existing plans to militarily attack another country, so Washington’s actions speak loudly that they “didn’t want to take any chances” In this context, this history is not about “let’s trust Bashar” or assuming he would have done right if given option c) or d), but by analyzing this curious pattern of behavior by the U.S., we learn something about the “regime at home” whose behavior we wish to change to avoid wars without end: we don’t know what Assad would have done if we allowed c) or d) precisely because we and the Saudis refused to find out, afraid despite (or because of) Bashar’s prior steps, his earlier moves towards human rights reforms and political opening, afraid that maybe, just maybe, he might possibly come to an agreement with key opposition figures in the nonviolent Syrian civil society — this was a huge threat: a country allied with Iran (instead of allied with the equally if not more brutal US-backed Saudis whose money really does fund terrorism and whose nationals were most of the 9/11 hijackers) this Assad would stay in power, become more democratic, and hand over in a peaceful transition, to someone else — but not part of Washington’s circle of control. Anyone who claims Washington would have been “perfectly ok” with Assad, had he continued democratic and human rights reforms, has a lot to brush under the rug, including the recently admitted CIA coup of democratic Iran in 1953, the CIA coup of democratic Syria in 1949, and as mentioned earlier, many other democratically elected government that were “regime changed” for note saying “how high?” when Washington said, “jump!”
In sum, the blood of more than 100,000 Syrians is to a very large extent on the hands of those who made the decision back then, in 2011 and at or near the beginning of (or even before) the peaceful protests, that they would interject armed attacks to try to provoke a violent response from the police or the army — to deliberately aim for a “Libya scenario” so the west could get its regime change.
The way to at least begin the long walk towards sanity is to reverse this and pressure all sides to sit at the negotiation table instead of the current policy of the West, which has been its policy for a long time, which has been (mind-bogglingly) to pressure or at least strongly encourage all rebel groups to refuse to sit down to any negotiations, as none other than Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov has been taking pains to point out, first more diplomatically, then more directly and openly, and as admitted in interviews with rebel leaders.
Ultimately, only the American people can rein in the American empire, which is slowly but surely killing America, along with much of the rest of the world. We must demand U.S. law and international law (no wars of aggression, please..) be respected, the U.N. and other neutral observers allowed to finish their investigations, and a strong international coalition to pressure all parties towards a ceasefire and the negotiation table. But U.S. aggression against Syria and its people and an unfolding cascade of potential disasters can only be prevented if We The People unite together to save the world, and ourselves, from this seemingly endless nightmare imperial march towards global omnicide.
The Peace Movement: Going on the offensive with our demands
Peace activists need to go on the offensive with our demands – not just “please don’t make things worst by attacking and escalating bloodshed” or just pointing out (importantly) that military action always has unintended consequences including often starting a vicious circle from which those who started it cannot escape and often cannot control — and I’m not referring to the somewhat tired calls to “impeach” this or that head of government, but to demand:
2001, Cultural forums: pseudonym for Syria’s new political activities” by Maher Chmaytelli, http://www.mafhoum.com/press/forsyr.htm
April 27, 2011, just one month into Syria’s Arab Spring, veteran middle east reporter Robert Fisk on violence against Syrian security forces and separately, two high-ranking Lebanese officials on a $300,000 check by Saudi Prince and former intelligence chief, Turki bin Abdul Aziz (who denied writing the check a copy of which the former minister produced) to have the Lebanese officials help to “instill unrest” in Syria. SeeInformationClearinghouse and original at UK’s Independent newspaper.
- Australia’s ABC national broadcaster: By November 2011, just 8 months after protests, already not merely bullets but Rocket Propelled Grenades and even outright Rockets are used against the Syrian government. If RPGs and rockets were used against the Syrian government by November, it’s not credible to thin that “mere” guns and machine guns started being directed at Syrians by rebels just two minutes earlier. Clearly armed attacks started at the very least some months before, towards the beginning of the protests. (Similarly, by October 2011, 7 months after protests began, the U.S.-designated terrorist and Al Qaeda linked Al-Nusra Front in Syria already were in talks with the Islamic State of Iraq insurgent group in Iraq (which wants to create a “caliphate” in Iraq), so surely the first bullet fired by the extremist Syrian Al-Nusra rebels must have pre-dated this later, internationally-expanded phase of operations joining with Iraqi radicals).Needless to say, none of this excuses any abuses against peaceful demonstrations by Syrian forces — it did however harm nonviolent groups, made it easier for Syrian forces or hard-liners withing Assad’s inner circle to argue for a harsher response, thereby doing real damage to the possibility of a transition, and by means of “proxy” wars with the Saudis, Qatar, and Turkey along with Al Qaeda groups, arming rebels in Syria, thus leading the way to the 100,000 and climbing death-toll.We need to remember that harsh and even bloody crackdowns do not have to leave to massive and far more bloody civil wars with 100,000+ dead: behold Egypt, where there were despite bloody assaults on peaceful demonstrations, there was a transition of sorts with the ouster of Mubarak, all without the U.S. or it’s allies acting to “Libyafy” the situation by introducing a massive influx of money and arms while introducing/encouraging the introduction of the most extremist and even Al-Qaeda linked rebels in Egypt — none of that happened, and none was necessary, in Egypt, to get a change in regime (not that it would have been a “good” outcome, to have a military junta/dictatorship — but it does illustrate that there are more than one or two options possible even on the heels of a violent crackdown on dissent) It also didn’t happen in Bahrain, there as noted unfortunately the reason being that regime change, and even regime reform without beating protesters bloody, were paths blocked by Washington’s extremely close ally, Saudi Arabia, itself a very harsh dictatorship (see also Saudi prince defects: ‘Brutality, oppression as government scared of Arab revolts’ (EXCLUSIVE) or google for Saudi Arabia and beheadings and lashing.Turkey finds sarin gas in homes of suspected Syrian Islamists ”Turkish security forces found a 2kg cylinder with sarin gas after searching the homes of Syrian militants from the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Nusra Front who were previously detained, Turkish media reports” (It might have “only” been meant for a chemical attack in Adana in Turkey, but that is a mere 4 hours away by car from Aleppo, Syria, and it is the same Al-Nusra front that is part of the coalition of “the” rebels/insurgents the West supports in Syria.
- Russia Releases Key Findings on Chemical Attack Near Aleppo Indicating Similarity With Rebel-made Weapons (and backup here)
- UN’s Del Ponte says evidence Syria rebels ‘used sarin’ (BBC) on the findings of UN inspectors in May about an earlier chemical attack which found “strong, concrete” evidence linking rebels to those attacks, while “we have no indication at all that the government, the Syrian government, used” chemical weapons. (Carla Del Ponte, a former war crimes prosecutor and a leading member of a UN commission of inquiry on chemical weapons use in Syria).
- See also Which Syrian Chemical Attack Account Is More Credible? on PopularResistance.org (See also MintPress News original)
 The fact that like Syria, US-backed undemocratic regimes carry out massive abuses of human rights is of no comfort to Syrians. It does remind us though that if U.S. leaders want to reduce repression, there is a very simple thing they can do: then can reduce brutal police states’ abuses, it without shooting one missile, very easily, by merely stopping the virtual “blank check” accommodation of the dictatorships it supports — if Washington could just put human rights over geopolitical power maneuvers for once. This will happen only if, and only to the extent that, we the American people force our leaders to make this a priority. When one criticizes the 1993 Time Magazine cover in the aftermath of what became a homicidal federal raid on the compound in Waco, TX, a cover which featured a photo of an ecstatically smiling David Koresh which Time ran next to the scriptural quote “His name was Death, and Hell followed with him” — we are not “soft on” Koresh’s extremism, rather, we are pointing out the utter moral cowardice of a cover that completely side-steps the notion that the Clinton Administration’s actions may have been at least partly responsible for the carnage. Similarly, we are not “soft on Assad” when we expose the hypocrisy of headlines like “How Assad took Syria to the Brink — and beyond” but exposing the equally cowardly refusal in the mainstream to look too closely at atrocities or bloody civil wars that were at the very least in part, a consequence of a Machiavellian — and yes, “ugly” — calculus here in the West. And to repeat one more time: we are not asserting that all opposition groups were violent, not at all. Brave civil society but strongly anti-Baath groups certainly existed, the point is outside forces poisoning the pool with some groups which too to bullets quickly and within a half year or less, to much more potent military assaults against the Syrian government. Almost as if they were hoping that peaceful demonstrators will be confused with the ones hiding but shooting at authorities. Or else, hoping to just “regime change” by force: “heads I win, tails you lose” implemented by someone with deep pockets and who is willing to support extremist Islamist groups.
Appendix: Dangers of more Al Qaeda Blowback.
- Syria Sends Reinforcements to Christian Village Opposition fighters led by an al-Qaida-linked rebel faction attacked the mountainside sanctuary of Maaloula on Wed Sep 4, . The assault has spotlighted fears among Syria’s religious minorities about the prominent role of Islamic extremists in the rebel ranks ”the (rebel) The assault is being spearheaded by Jabhat al-Nusra, one of the most effective rebel factions and a group the United States has deemed a terrorist organization. The group includes Syrians as well as foreign fighters from across the Muslim world.”
- Footage of chemical attack in Syria is fraud There is proof the footage of the alleged chemical attack in Syria was fabricated, Mother Agnes Mariam el-Salib, mother superior of St. James Monastery in Qara, Syria, told RT. She says she is about to submit her findings to the UN. Mother Agnes, a catholic nun, who has been living in Syria for 20 years and has been reporting actively on what has been going on in the war-ravaged country…The nun is indignant with the world media for apparently turning a blind eye to the Latakia massacre by rebel extremists, which left 500 civilians including women and children dead.
What I want to ask first of all is how the international community can ignore the brutal killing spree in Latakia on Laylat al-Qadr early in the morning of August 5, an attack that affected more than 500 people, including children, women and the elderly. They were all slaughtered. The atrocities committed exceed any scale. But there was close to nothing about it in the international mass media. There was only one small article in “The Independent”, I believe.I don’t understand why the Western media apply double standards in this case â€“ they talk about mass murder that the use of chemical weapons resulted in non-stop, but they keep quiet about the Latakia massacre.
: In the village of Estreba they massacred all the residents and burnt down their houses. In the village of al-Khratta almost all the 37 locals were killed. Only ten people were able to escape.
A total of twelve Alawite villages were subjected to this horrendous attack. That was a true slaughterhouse. People were mutilated and beheaded. There is even a video that shows a girl being dismembered alive â€“ alive! â€“ by a frame saw. The final death toll exceeded 400, with 150 to 200 people taken hostage. Later some of the hostages were killed, their deaths filmed.
RT: We often hear reports of Christians being persecuted by the militants. Just the day before yesterday there was an attack in the village of Maaloula, where the majority of population is Christian. Are Christians in Syria facing grave danger? MA: Everyone in Syria is facing grave danger. There was a case of Muslim religious leaders being kidnapped and beheaded. They were humiliated and tortured. Ismailis, the druze, Christians â€“ people from all parts of Syrian society â€“ are being mass murdered. I would like to say that if these butchers didn’t have international support, no one would have dared to cross the line. But today, unfortunately, the violation of human rights and genocide in Syria is covered up on the international level. I demand the international community stops assessing the situation in Syria in accordance with the interests of a certain group of great powers. The Syrian people are being killed
- Syrian rebels execute teenage boy for â€˜heresy’ – report (GRAPHIC PHOTO) 15-year-old Mohammad Qataa [who had at an earlier date attended pro-democracy protests] was taken hostage by the extremist group and was then summarily executed in the northern city of Aleppo.. Pro-opposition group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) released a photo of the boy with bullet wounds in both his face and neck. [He] caught the attention of members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria who kidnapped Qatta. They then brought him back to the stall late on Sunday night with whiplash marks on his body.
According to the report published by the SOHR, one of the members of the group addressed the crowd and said: “Generous citizens of Aleppo, disbelieving in God is polytheism and cursing the prophet is polytheism. Whoever curses even once will be punished like this.”"He then fired two bullets from an automatic rifle in view of the crowd and in front of the boy’s mother and father, and got into a car and left,” the report said. It added that the SOHR demands the killers be brought to justice. Qatta’s mother allegedly pleaded with the killers, whose accented Arabic suggested they were not from Syria.
- Al-Arabia cites uconfirmed reports that Al-Qaeda-linked rebels in Syria killed an Italian Jesuit priest who opposed Assad but supported only some (not all) Islamist rebel groups; he had disappeard in the rebel-held city of Raqqa after going to negotiate a truce between jihadist rebels and Kurdish brigades
- Syria’s jihadi migration emerges as top terror threat in Europe, beyond Facing a camera hours before the end, the bearded, 33-year-old cabdriver wore a black headdress and a black flak vest and held an AK-47 rifle He wished the glory of martyrdom for his fellow fighters in the al-Nusrah Front, al-Qaida’s Syrian [rebel group] branch. ”The al-Nusrah propaganda video shows Wahbi disguised in the helmet and uniform of a Syrian soldier as he hugs a comrade and climbs into a truck packed with explosives”
- Christians, Other Minorities in Syria Fear ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ ”Syrian rebels, who are mostly Sunni Muslims, have repeatedly shelled Christian neighborhoods in the city, including Kasaa, with its wide avenues, apartment blocks and leafy parks. The opposition Free Syrian Army claims it strikes only government targets, but constant shelling of the civilian quarter suggests otherwise.”…”The terrorists are trying to push the Christians out of this area,” said Isan Bahri, the 44-year-old owner of a mechanical shop in the Kasaa district of eastern Damascus that the rebels have been trying to capture. “They are not shooting at the army, they are intentionally aiming for civilians.”“ ‘They have threatened to cut our throats,’ said Bahri, a Roman Catholic. ‘I love my country, but if it means having the terrorists slaughter me, my wife and our two boys, I’d rather escape to Lebanon.’ These ancient Christian communities, some of the oldest in the world, have generally been protected by successive Syrian governments, including Assad’s…On Aug. 17, rebel gunmen shot dead 11 Christians and wounded three more in central Syria, eyewitnesses and human rights activists said. In April, two bishops were abducted in rebel-held areas”
- “Almost all of the 50,000 Christians in the conflict-torn city of Homs fled violence and persecution by “fanatics” with links to al-Qaida, the Catholic News Agency reported. And the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need said al-Qaida-linked militant groups’ were conducting “ongoing ethnic cleansing” of Christians in Syria’s central region.”
- Almost all of the 50,000 Christians in the conflict-torn city of Homs fled violence and persecution by “fanatics” with links to al-Qaida, the Catholic News Agency reported. And the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need said al-Qaida-linked militant groups’ were conducting “ongoing ethnic cleansing” of Christians in Syria’s central region.
- Al-Qaida-Linked Rebels Attack Village In Syria ”In the attack on the village of Maaloula, rebels commandeered a mountaintop hotel and nearby caves and shelled the community below, said a nun, speaking by phone from a convent in the village. She spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.” (NPR) [Related: Al-Qaeda Vows to Slaughter Christians After U.S. 'Liberates' Syria]