Tag: Middle East

Resolution to Attack Syria Passed by Senate Committee

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, by a vote of 10-7, approved resolution authorizing a U.S. military response to chemical weapons use in Syria. The resolution goes the the full senate for debate and vote next week.

Republicans Bob Corker (TN), Jeff Flake (AZ) and John McCain (AZ) joined seven Democrats in approving the resolution.

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) joined Republicans including Marco Rubio (FL) and Rand Paul (KY) in voting against the resolution. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) voted present.

Sen. McCain had threatened not to vote for the resolution unless it contained stronger language about ousting Syrian President Bashir al-Assad.

“Without the provision for reversing the momentum on the battlefield the conditions are not created for the departure of Bashar al-Assad,” McCain told reporters as he emerged from a classified Senate briefing session. “There is no policy without that and no strategy.”

McCain insists he was promised that such regime change would be made part of US policy by President Obama when he met on Monday at the White House with fellow Republican Lindsey Graham.

“Senator Graham and myself were assured that three things would happen as a result as a result of the US reaction to Assad’s use of chemical weapons,” said McCain. “First, to degrade his capabilities to deliver those weapons. Second, to increase our support to the Free Syrian Army and resistance forces. And third, to change the battlefield momentum which presently is in favour of Bashar Assad and reverse it, which would then create conditions for a negotiated settlement and the departure of Bashar Assad.”

The resolution that was passed with two amendments proposed by Sen. McCain and sponsored by Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE)that contain controversial language making the goal of U.S. military intervention is to “change the moment on the battlefield in Syria.” Both amendments were passed with a voice vote.

The amendments point to degrading the Assad regime’s chemical weapons capability and the arming of Syrian opposition as means of reversing the situation on the ground in Syria, where the Assad regime is generally considered to be winning.

The language appears to address McCain’s concerns about the resolution that he voiced Wednesday morning when he said he would not support the resolution as it was then written. McCain has consistently said he supports further U.S. intervention in Syria to topple Assad.

The White House has repeatedly said that the military action was not aimed at regime change. The game now changes. While the resolution may pass in the Senate, it faces stiffer opposition in the House.

Jane Hamsher at FDL Action has the whip count for the vote which should take place early next week.

Current Vote Count:

Firm Yea: 25

Lean Yea: 30

Lean Nay: 97

Firm Nay: 48

Syria: Push For War With Little Evidence

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

There still no hard evidence that Syrian President Bashir al-Assad used an unknown chemical weapons, possibly an organophosphate, on his own people in the suburbs of Damascus on August 21. Yet, the Obama administration and some hawkish members of congress are pushing for air strikes to take out strategic targets, swearing that it wi.l be limited, not target the civilian population or require American troops on the ground. The purpose as stated by Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is to send a message to Assad to not use chemical weapons again without any evidence that he did. There are no guarantees that this will even work or that Assad will not strike back as is his right according to the UN Charter.

Chief of correspondents for McClatchy Newspapers and co-author of a recent article, Mark Seibel joined Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman and Nereem Shaikh to discuss the holes in the evidence.



TRanscript can be read here

“When it came to questions of the efficacy of a U.N. investigation, or the number of people killed in the conflict, or even the U.S. rendition of what happened in what order, there are contradictions,” Seibel says. The United States has claimed it had “collected streams of human, signals and geospatial intelligence” that showed the Assad government preparing for an attack three days before the event. “That claim raises two questions,” Seibel writes. “Why didn’t the U.S. warn rebels about the impending attack and save hundreds of lives? And why did the administration keep mum about the suspicious activity when on at least one previous occasion U.S. officials have raised an international fuss when they observed similar actions?”

Syria: Kerry Says Obama Can Act Without Congress

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

On  Friday President Barack Obama, citing “proof” that the Assad government used chemical weapons on his own people, said that he will go to congress for approval for authorization to use military force in Syria. The purpose, according to the president, is to send a message to Syrian President Bashir Assad not to do that again.  

He appeared to acknowledge some potential pitfalls when he called on members of Congress to “consider that some things are more important than partisan differences or the politics of the moment”.

The president did not say whether he would launch a military attack without congressional approval.

The question of whether a US president can launch military action without congressional backing is subject to dispute. While it is argued a commander-in-chief cannot constitutionally declare war without Congress, in recent decades presidents have used executive powers to sanction military action. When running for president in 2007, Obama said the president “does not have power under the constitution to unilaterally authorise a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation”. He added that “in instances of self-defence, the president would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent”.

Obama came under serious criticism for attacking Libya in 2011 that led to the overthrow and assassination of Moammar Gaddafi.

On this morning talk shows, Secretary of State John Kerry told the talking heads that the US has evidence that sarin gas was used but could not cite precise evidence that it was the Assad government that used it or that Assad had ordered its use. Kerry also said that the president has the right to act regardless of the congressional vote:

Less than a day after the president vowed to put an attack to a congressional vote, secretary of state John Kerry said the administration was determined to act against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and did not need the backing of Congress to do so.

Kerry, one of the leading advocates of a military assault on dictator Bashar al-Assad, claimed the US had identified the type of nerve agent used in the 21 August attacks on 12 neighborhoods outside Damascus. [..]

The secretary of state stressed that President Obama had the right to take action “no matter what Congress does”. He said he could “hear the complaints” about presidential abuse had Obama not gone to Congress, but that its backing would give any military action greater credibility: “We are stronger as a nation when we act together.” But he added: “America intends to act.”

Incredibly, there are some congress critters who believe the president should attack Syria. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) clearly stated that Obama was “undermining the authority of future presidents”;

“President Obama is abdicating his responsibility as commander-in-chief and undermining the authority of future presidents. The President does not need Congress to authorize a strike on Syria. If Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians deserves a military response, and I believe it does, and if the President is seeking congressional approval, then he should call Congress back into a special session at the earliest date,” King said in a statement. “The President doesn’t need 535 Members of Congress to enforce his own redline.”

While his rhetoric may be the most charged, King is not alone in calling for Congress to come back immediately. House Foreign Affairs ranking Democrat Eliot L. Engel of New York said something similar in his own statement.

“The President has laid out a strong and convincing case to the American people for action in Syria. However, I understand his desire to seek explicit authorization to do so from Congress,” Engel said. “I call on the Speaker to immediately recall the House back from its August recess and debate this critical issue as soon as possible.”

So just who it that’s abdicating his Constitutional responsibilities?

One of the biggest problems with the justification for the action is the assertion that it is the Assad government that used the weapons. After the lies told by the Bush administration and the faked intelligence of yellow cake, there is little confidence in the integrity of the intelligence community not to tell the truth and do the bidding of an administration determined to start another war.

The ghost of “Curveball” is haunting the Obama administration and undermining its efforts to marshal strong foreign and domestic support for military strikes on Syria.

Curveball was the code name given Iraqi defector Rafid Ahmed Alwan, who claimed in 1999 that Saddam Hussein had deployed mobile biological weapons labs to evade international detection of his manufacture of weapons of mass destruction. His testimony, even though viewed as dubious, was used by the George W. Bush administration to justify the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

As Americans and their allies debate the wisdom of making military strikes against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, the phony pretext for the Iraq invasion is being dredged up by those fearful of being lured into another protracted Middle East war.

Asia Times roving Correspondent, Pepe Escobar has covered the Syrian conflict since it began almost two and a half years ago. He appeared on RT news to discuss Obama’s determination to attack Syria

Obama Set For Holy Tomahawk War

By Pepe Escobar

The ”responsibility to protect” (R2P) doctrine invoked to legitimize the 2011 war on Libya has just transmogrified into ”responsibility to attack” (R2A) Syria. Just because the Obama administration says so.

On Sunday, the White House said it had ”very little doubt” that the Bashar al-Assad government used chemical weapons against its own citizens. On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry ramped it up to ”undeniable” – and accused Assad of ”moral obscenity”.

So when the US bombed Fallujah with white phosphorus in late 2004 it was just taking the moral high ground. And when the US helped Saddam Hussein to gas Iranians in 1988 it was also taking the moral high ground.

The Obama administration has ruled that Assad allowed UN chemical weapons inspectors into Syria, and to celebrate their arrival unleashed a chemical weapons attack mostly against women and children only 15 kilometers away from the inspectors’ hotel. If you don’t believe it, you subscribe to a conspiracy theory.

Evidence? Who cares about evidence? Assad’s offer of access for the inspectors came ”too late”. Anyway, the UN team is only mandated to determine whether chemical weapons were deployed – but not by who, according to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman.

As far as the Obama administration and UK Prime Minister David ”of Arabia” Cameron are concerned – supported by a barrage of corporate media missiles – that’s irrelevant; Obama’s ”red line” has been crossed by Assad, period. Washington and London are in no-holds-barred mode to dismiss any facts contradicting the decision. Newspeak – of the R2A kind – rules. If this all looks like Iraq 2.0 that’s because it is. Time to fix the facts around the policy – all over again. Time for weapons of mass deception – all over again.

h/t Edger at Docudharma

Syria: Intevention Less Popular Than Congress

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The United States is seemingly on the fast track to attack Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Assad government. The US had the backing of the Great Britain and some of the European countries but here in the US, intervention has less support than Congress:

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll has finally found something that Americans like even less than Congress: the possibility of U.S. military intervention in Syria. Only 9 percent of respondents said that the Obama administration should intervene militarily in Syria; a RealClearPolitics poll average finds Congress has a 15 percent approval rating, making the country’s most hated political body almost twice as popular.

The poll was taken the same week that reports of the Assad government’s alleged use of chemical weapons against his own people in the rebel held suburbs of Damascus. A clear 60% of the respondent to the poll are firmly opposed to any intervention, while the remainder were unsure.

Obviously President Barack Obama is not listening to the people. Nor is he listening to Congress who prefer that the president consult with them even though under the War Powers Resolution of 1973. According to the WPR, the president is “required to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days, with a further 30 day withdrawal period, with a further 30 day withdrawal period, without an authorization of the use of military force or a declaration of war.

Perhaps it is time that the WPR be  once again revised to keep the US out of these disatrous adventures.

According to Jon Walker at FDL, it appears unlikely that congress would give its blessing to this action:

Once again we are on the path to significant military action against a country in the Middle East and once again it looks like the intent of the Constitution will be ignored. President Obama will begin military action against a Syria without Congressional approval even though there will be plenty of time to get it. There is no hurry, hard deadline or ticking clock. This is not an emergency.

Obama has not called Congress back into session for an official declaration of war in accordance with the War Powers Clause of the Constitution nor is there any indication that Congress leaders even want to fulfill their Constitutional responsibility by ending their summer recess early.

This has all the earmarks of being a great fiasco that will cause even more harm to US image in the region and even more harm to the Syrian people.  

Syria: Moving Closer to Military Intervention

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Warning: Pictures and videos contained in the links are graphic and disturbing. They may not be suitable for viewing by the squeamish, young children or in the workplace.

The United States and Great Britain moved closer to military intervention in the Syrian uprising after it was revealed that chemical agents were used in the suburbs of Damascus the killed at least 355 and injured thousands. The action is unlikely to gain the imprimatur of the UN or full NATO support, since, with the Syrian government and rebel groups blaming each other, there is no “smoking gun” on which side used the weapons.

Syria crisis: UK and US move closer to intervention

by Nicholas Watt, The Guardian

Foreign secretary says Britain and allies could intervene in Syria without the authority of United Nations

Britain and the US are inching towards a military attack against the regime of Bashar al-Assad after William Hague said all other options have failed over the past year.

As the Syrian president said the US would face failure if it intervened in his country, the UK foreign secretary said Britain and its allies could intervene without the authority of the UN. [..]

General Sir Nick Houghton, the chief of the defence staff, is to discuss military options with his US counterpart, General Martin Dempsey, and other allied military chiefs at a summit in the Jordanian capital of Amman.

Russia and China are likely to veto any UN security council resolution authorising military action, but Hague said such a move could be legal under international law even without UN approval.

Obama likely to resist Syria military intervention regardless of UN findings

by Paul Lewis, The Guardian

White House official says administration will struggle to prove Assad regime ordered chemical attack to a ‘legal standard’

A senior US administration official said over the weekend that there is “very little doubt” that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime against civilians in an incident that killed at least a hundred people last week.

However Gary Samore, the White House’s co-ordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction until earlier this year, said that the administration will struggle to prove the Syrian government ordered the attack to a “legal standard”.

Both the US and the UK are determined to place the onus of the attack on the Assad government, however, there remains a lot of questions. In a post at Washintons Blog, numerous experts expressed their doubts

From an AFP article

   “At the moment, I am not totally convinced because the people that are helping them are without any protective clothing and without any respirators,” said Paula Vanninen, director of Verifin, the Finnish Institute for Verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

   “In a real case, they would also be contaminated and would also be having symptoms.”

   John Hart, head of the Chemical and Biological Security Project at Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said he had not seen the telltale evidence in the eyes of the victims that would be compelling evidence of chemical weapons use.

   “Of the videos that I’ve seen for the last few hours, none of them show pinpoint pupils… this would indicate exposure to organophosphorus nerve agents,” he said.

   Gwyn Winfield, editor of CBRNe World magazine, which specialises in chemical weapons issues, said the evidence did not suggest that the chemicals used were of the weapons-grade that the Syrian army possesses in its stockpiles.

   “We’re not seeing reports that doctors and nurses… are becoming fatalities, so that would suggest that the toxicity of it isn’t what we would consider military sarin. It may well be that it is a lower-grade,” Winfield told AFP.

At the blog What Really Happened, Michael Rivero had some serious questions:

1. Why would Syria’s Assad invite United Nations chemical weapons inspectors to Syria, then launch a chemical weapons attack against women and children on the very day they arrive, just miles from where they are staying?

2. If Assad were going to use chemical weapons, wouldn’t he use them against the hired mercenary army trying to oust him? What does he gain attacking women and children? Nothing! The gain is all on the side of the US Government desperate to get the war agenda going again.

As I type these words, US trained and equipped forces are already across the border into Syria, and US naval forces are sailing into position to launch a massive cruise missile attack into Syria that will surely kill more Syrians than were claimed to have died in the chemical attack.

Another question that was posed by Ryan Dawson, ” Why would Assad need to use chemical weapons when he has all but defeated the hired mercenaries using conventional forces?”

Good question.

After having come under sniper fire, UN inspectors gained access to one of the hospitals in the area where the attack occurred.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that he had instructed his top disarmament official, Angela Kane, who was visiting Damascus, to register a “strong complaint to the Syrian government and authorities of opposition forces” to ensure the safety of the inspectors after the assault. There was no indication that any member of the inspection team had been hurt.

Mr. Ban’s spokesman, Farhan Haq, told reporters at a regular daily briefing at United Nations headquarters in New York that the assailants, who had not been identified, fired on the first vehicle in the convoy, which was “hit in its tires and its front window, ultimately it was not able to travel further.”

Mr. Haq said the inspectors, who numbered about a dozen, resumed their trip to a suspected attack site in a Damascus suburb after the vehicle was replaced, visiting two hospitals and interviewing witnesses, survivors and doctors. “They took a number of relevant samples, they feel very satisfied with the results of their work,” Mr. Haq said. A second visit was planned for Tuesday.

The rush to intervene has been tempered with some push back from Congress. While Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have urged President Barack Obama to “become more engaged” in the region. However, both sides of the aisle are looking to force the president to seek congressional insight and approval before military action is taken. They do urge that non-military aid be continued. As reported in a Reuters/Ipsos poll, 60% of Americans are against intervention.

Intervention in the Middle East by western nations has not moved the region toward stability. If anything, it has made has destabilized the region and fueled terrorist attacks in those countries and around the world. If anything there is an urgent need for caution until it can be determined who used these weapons.

Arming Syria Is Not a Good Idea

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

CNN host of GPS and editor of Newsweek International, Fareed Zacharia made this video before Pres. Barack Obama decided to send arms directly to the Al Qaeda backed rebels in Syria.

Oh Thank God–Finally, War With Syria

by Russ Baker,

Now, the Obama administration is preparing for war, in an astonishing echo of the George W. Bush administration’s misleading justifications for invading Iraq. [..]

No one is likely to demand good hard evidence for the use of chemical weapons. After all, the Bush administration and its lies for war was so…very long ago. [..]

None of these military adventures were ever about anything remotely honorable. So, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, you just have to get over it. You may feel better believing the system of which you are part has noble intentions, or that the party you prefer is somehow more principled.

The truth is actually pretty simple: no matter which party is running things,  globally dominant governments do not make decisions based on humane do-goodism.  In the halls of power, decisions are based on a consensus of hard-headed “realists,” whose concerns do not extend to human rights, the safety of women and children and other civilians, or the “self-determination” of non-Americans. “Spreading democracy around world”? Um, no.

This entry into a new Middle East conflict isn’t going over very well with the American public. Only 20 percent support this action, while 70 percent oppose it. Opposing to arming the rebel is strong across party lines, as Jon Walker at FDL Action shows with this graph from Pew:

Americans Opposed to US Syrian Intervention photo 3_zpse6482096.png

Click on image to enlarge

At FDL News Desk, DSWRight makes some very salient points that this is not Rwanda and not how you get people to the table:

This is not Darfur or as Bill Clinton may infer Rwanda. This is a sectarian civil war where the Sunni majority is taking on a Shiite aligned government as part of a larger factional struggle in the region. [..]

In what world is that a way to launch peace talks? America is not neutral (and to be fair never has been) but starting off negotiations by claiming one of the parties at the talks must leave power is not going to advance the ball very far.

Getting in the middle of a regional conflict like Syria may even be dumber than Iraq, which is really saying something. And what if the rebels win? Then Al-Qaeda and friends come to power. After they are done massacring the losers and sectarian minorities they can help launch attacks against America. The Syrian intervention is all kinds of stupid.

This is not going to go well. Should anyone be surprised that Pres Obama’s approval rating is dropping?

Who Used Chemical Weapons in Syria?

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

There are a lot of unanswered questions about the use of chemical weapons in the two year old conflict between the Syrian government and the Syrian rebels. This week, the Obama administration has concluded that Syrian regime of president Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons against rebel fighters:

Congressional sources told CNN that investigators concluded that Syria has used chemical weapons multiple times.

In a statement released on Thursday, the White House says U.S. intelligence concluded that the Assad regime used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent Sarin, against rebel fighters in the last year. [..]

National Security Council deputy advisor Ben Rhodes said on Thursday that the President Obama reached a decision on what the new support for the Syrian opposition would look like. According to Buzzfeed, Rhodes said: “The president has made a decision “about what kind of additional support will be provided to the rebels. It will be “direct support to the SMC [Supreme Military Command] that includes military support.” Rhodes added that no decision has been made on the institution of a no-fly zone.

That’s correct the US is now going to arm Al Qaeda against the Hezbolah backed Assad government and no one, not even the press, is asking the hard questions. That is all but one member of the press. Al Jazeera White House correspondent goes there and asks, Where is the proof?

No one, not one person asked if the Obama administration would make public any of its “proof” that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons.

Think about that for a moment. An American administration is being allowed to say “trust us” on the issue of chemical weapons use and its consequences.

I’m not an expert, I don’t know what they have or if it would prove what they say. What I’m wondering is if they should have to share something.

I think it takes on an added importance when you hear the scepticism from other countries and what seem to be flaws in the US explanation. [..]

The allegations of chemical weapons being used and any kind of military response require a serious discussion, and questioning. I didn’t get a chance to ask – but if you look in the way back of the room – you’ll see my hand held high – I couldn’t get the White House’s attention that way, maybe this will work instead – couldn’t do that in grade school – we didn’t have the internet.

Patrick Coburn,  veteran foreign correspondent of The Independent, joined Amy Goodman and Juan Gonz├ílez on Democarcy Now! to discuss this latest development in Syria’s civil war.

“There must be some doubts about this,” Cockburn says, adding that it “reminds me of what they were saying in 2002 and 2003 about Saddam [Hussein]’s weapons of mass destruction.” Cockburn warns U.S. involvement could escalate regional conflicts that could “go on for years,” and critiques the media’s lack of skepticism about White House claims.



Transcript can be read here

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. We all know where that got us the last time.

Where in the World Was John McCain?

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This weekend the perennial war hawk of the Senate, John McCain (R-AZ), was conspicuously absent from his usual place on the Sunday talk shows. We now know why, he was in Syria meeting with the rebel opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The Daily Beast’s Josh Rogan had the exclusive story:

McCain, one of the fiercest critics of the Obama administration’s Syria policy, made the unannounced visit across the Turkey-Syria border with Gen. Salem Idris, the leader of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army. He stayed in the country for several hours before returning to Turkey. Both in Syria and Turkey, McCain and Idris met with assembled leaders of Free Syrian Army units that traveled from around the country to see the U.S. senator. Inside those meetings, rebel leaders called on the United States to step up its support to the Syrian armed opposition and provide them with heavy weapons, a no-fly zone, and airstrikes on the Syrian regime and the forces of Hezbollah, which is increasingly active in Syria.

The visit comes in the midst of Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to get the warring parties to negotiations at an international conference in Geneva this June. The Senate has been pushing the White House to better arm the rebels, the administration has been more cautious. The White House said that they were aware of Sen. McCain’s trip and looking “forward to speaking with Senator McCain upon his return to learn more about the trip.”

While Sen McCain visited with Gen. Idris, the leader of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, the meeting was arranged by an American nonprofit organization that works in support of the Syrian opposition, the Syrian Emergency Task Force whose founder has supported Al Qaeda. The organization was founded by a former Senate staffer, Moustafa Mouaz. According to Justin Raimondo ar Anti-War.com, the organization “doesn’t have to register as an agent of a foreign power – since the Foreign Agents Registration Act is only selectively enforced.”:

Mouaz is a former aide to Senator Blanche Lincoln and Rep. Vic Synder, both liberal to centrist Democrats. Here he is cheering on al-Nusra – the official al-Qaeda franchise in Syria – on Twitter. (See also here and here.) The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), the “educational” branch of AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, lists him on their web site as one of their trusted “experts”: he recently addressed a WINEP conference. [..]

(..) the same Moustafa Mouaz who is now serving as the executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force formerly held the same position for – you guessed it! – the Libyan Emergency Task Force. And we know how well that worked out for us. [..]

Where does the money come from? Who is providing the media connections, the organizational heft, and the cold hard cash it takes to make a major push for US intervention in Syria?

Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to US involvement in Syria but there is little opposition in congress. Tea Party, sometimes Libertarian Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was one of the few voices that criticized the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for supporting Al Qaeda:

This is an important moment. You will be funding, today, the allies of al Qaeda. It’s an irony you cannot overcome.

Al Jazeera reported in April that the Al-Nusra Front vowed to “obey al-Qaeda.”

“The sons of Al-Nusra Front pledge allegiance to Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri,” the man who identified himself as Abu Mohammed al Julani said in an audio clip posted on YouTube that went public on Wednesday.

Zawahiri is known to be the chief commander of al-Qaeda.

Julani, who is recognised as the head of the group Jabat al Nusra, or Al-Nusra Front, said in the video that his fighters had declared from the start of the uprising that Islamic law needs to be enforced across Syria, but did not want to announce the group’s affiliation to al-Qaeda prematurely.

Fellow war hawk, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), upon learning of his cohort’s clandestine adventure, ironically tweeted:

Jason Raimando noted that these rebels are dangerous and not a joke:

Leave it to Sen. Graham, who has been agitating along with McCain for the US to send weapons to the rebels, to joke about the untrustworthiness of the very people he wants to arm. But the rebels’ savagery is no joke: we are, after all, talking about people who eat the lungs of their enemies.

The European Union has ended its arms embargo to the Syrian Rebels and the United Nations Human Rights Council has called for the end of fighting around the strategic town of Qusayr and condemned “the intervention of foreign combatants on the government’s side in the Syrian civil war.”. Russia denounced the resolution calling it “odious and one-sided,” and “untimely, counterproductive and likely to complicate the launch of the peace process in Syria.”

All indications are that the Syrian rebels are Islamic militants. This is a civil war as was Libya and we see how well that has turned out. What ever happened to the “war on terrorism” and destroying Al Qaeda? Apparently it goes to the back burner when it interferes with America’s regime changing foreign policy.

Time to Reevaluate Middle East Policy

Cross posted

The attacks on US and Western embassies expanded today to nearly 20 countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and some Muslim countries in South East Asia. Angered over a irreverent You Tube video that insulted the founder of Islam, the Prophet Mohammed, angry protesters stormed American, Germany and British embassies and consulates.

At least two protesters are dead and several dozen injured when protesters stormed the US embassy in Tunis, Tunisia:

Several dozen protesters briefly stormed the U.S. Embassy compound in Tunisia’s capital, tearing down the American flag and raising a flag with the Muslim profession of faith on it as part of the protests. Protesters also set fire to an American school adjacent to the embassy compound and prevented firefighters from approaching it. The school appeared to be empty and no injuries were reported.

Earlier, several thousand demonstrators had gathered outside the U.S. Embassy, including stone-throwing protesters who clashed with police, according to an Associated Press reporter on the scene. Police responded with gunshots and tear gas. Police and protesters held running battles in the streets of Tunis. Amid the unrest, youths set fire to cars in the embassy parking lot and pillaged businesses nearby.

The state news agency TAP, citing the health ministry, said both of those killed were demonstrators, while the injured included protesters and police.

In Sudan, the German and British embassies were targeted along with the American embassy in Khartoum:

Police in the Sudanese capital fired tear gas to try to disperse 5,000 protesters who had ringed the German embassy and nearby British mission. A Reuters witness said police stood by as a crowd forced its way into Germany’s mission.

Demonstrators hoisted a black Islamic flag saying in white letters “there is no God but God and Mohammed is his prophet”. They smashed windows, cameras and furniture in the building and then started a fire.

Staff at Germany’s embassy were safe “for the moment”, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in Berlin. He also told Khartoum’s envoy to Berlin that Sudan must protect diplomatic missions on its soil.

Witnesses said police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters to stop them approaching the U.S. embassy outside Khartoum.

In the Yemen capital of Sanaa, four protesters have been killed in demonstrations and a US Marine contingent, similar to ones being sent to Egypt and Libya, has been dispatched:

Twenty-four security force members were reported injured, as were 11 protesters, according to Yemen’s Defense Ministry, security officials and eyewitnesses.

Protesters and witnesses said one protester was critically injured when police fired on them as they tried to disperse the angry crowd.

The protests in Sanaa are the latest to roil the Middle East over the online release of the film produced in the United States.

As evening came, the number of protesters dwindled and tensions began to ease, after a day in which demonstrators breached a security wall and stormed the embassy amid escalating anti-American sentiment.

No embassy personnel were harmed, U.S. officials said.

Reports that the attack in Benghazi, Libya may not have been related to the protests over the anti-Islamic video:

BENGHAZI, Libya – A Libyan security guard who said he was at the U.S. consulate here when it was attacked Tuesday night has provided new evidence that the assault on the compound that left four Americans dead, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, was a planned attack by armed Islamists and not the outgrowth of a protest over an online video that mocks Islam and its founder, the Prophet Muhammad.

The guard, interviewed Thursday in the hospital where he is being treated for five shrapnel wounds in one leg and two bullet wounds in the other, said that the consulate area was quiet – “there wasn’t a single ant outside,” he said – until about 9:35 p.m., when as many as 125 armed men descended on the compound from all directions.

The men lobbed grenades into the compound, wounding the guard and knocking him to the ground, then stormed through the facility’s main gate, shouting “God is great” and moving to one of the many villas that make up the consulate compound. He said there had been no warning that an attack was imminent.

“Wouldn’t you expect if there were protesters outside that the Americans would leave?” the guard said.

h/t to David Dayen at FDL News Desk

Meanwhile, oil prices which climbed after the Federal Reserve announced it’s stimulus plan, rose even more due to the instability in the region.

There is obviously something radically wrong with American and Western foreign policy towards the Middle East. President Obama’s policies in the region are no different that past presidents over the last 100 years. The US has lost much of its stature in the region with it heavy handed reliance on military force to resolve problems in the Middle and Near East since September 11 and expansion of it drone attacks on alleged terrorist targets. The US needs to completely reassess these policies and take into consideration the culture and economic needs of the region.

Clear and Plain and Coming Through Fine

Israeli decision to strike Iran is almost final . . .

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have “almost finally” decided on an Israeli strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities this fall, and a final decision will be taken “soon.”

Militarily, an Israeli strike would prompt missile attacks on Israel, attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah from the south and the north, and upheaval on the Arab street, in the leadership’s assessment.  Diplomatically, an Israeli strike would prompt a confrontation with the US, global protests, international isolation for Israel, delegitimization, and a situation in which Israel was seen as the aggressor. But Israel’s two key leaders believe that if Iran got the bomb, Israel would be defeated and humiliated diplomatically, and would become a liability to the US.

Netanyahu is convinced that thwarting Iran amounts to thwarting a plan to destroy the Jewish people.  He considers Iran’s spiritual leader to be acting rationally in order to achieve “fanatical” goals.

So Netanyahu has formulated a foolproof plan to foil Khamenei.  He’s going to act fanatically in order to achieve rational goals.  That’ll show those stupid Persians who’s rational and who isn’t.    

It looks like this is going to go down.  Bebe’s precious bodily fluids are bubbling and foaming with excitement . . .    

Dr. Strangelove, smirk,

That idiot is going to attack Iran, and the shit’s going to hit the fan everywhere.

The Crisis In Syria

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The Syrian uprising has been going on for a year, centered around the city of Homs, which has been brutally shelled by the Syrian army for weeks. The city has been isolated with nothing and no one allowed in or out. A brief cease fire Friday was arranged by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent allowed for the evacuation of only 27 of the hundreds of wounded in Homs, and did not include the two injured journalists. Negotiations are continuing to get humanitarian aid into Homs and other cities that have some under attack by the army. There was also a failed effort to remove the bodies of Marie Colvin, 56, a U.S. citizen who wrote for the Times of London, and Remi Ochlik, 28, a French photographer, who were killed in the shelling last week.

Amidst the fighting, the Syrian government held a referendum to approve a new constitution which had been offered up as a solution for reform. According to the Syrian press it was approved by nearly 90% of those who voted. The new charter was dismissed by Western diplomats as “too little, too late” as demands continued for the resignation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“The referendum vote has fooled nobody,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in Brussels on Monday as European foreign ministers tightened economic sanctions, including limits on transactions by Syria’s central bank, a ban on Syrian cargo flights into Europe and travel restrictions on several senior officials.

“To open polling stations but continue to open fire on the civilians of the country has no credibility in the eyes of the world,” he said.

The crisis in Syria and the Middle East was discussed by a panel of experts moderated by MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on his show Up with Chris. The discussion was held by guests Puffin Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute Jeremy Scahill; founder of Women for Women International Zainab Salbi; former speechwriter for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Elise Jordan; and former director of policy planning for the U.S. Department of State Ann-Marie Slaughter. Mr. Scahill and Ms. Slaughter got into an intense debate over whether the United States should intervene militarily and the US relationship with Yemen’s brutal government.

Crooks & Liars” blogger Nicole Belle had a good analysis of the nuanced of the split that Scahill and Slaughter honed in on:

Former White House Director of Policy Planning Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote an op-ed last week for the NY Times which called for the “humanitarian” need to protect Syrians from slaughter by creating “no-kill” zones and arming members of the resistance [..]

But Jeremy Scahill, who has written some of the best and conventional wisdom-challenging journalism about the Middle East, thinks this is just more of the same short term thinking that gets the US in trouble again and again. And there’s good arguments for both (though I fall short of Slaughter’s op-ed. There’s no evidence that Syria poses a threat to the US at all and the vague allusions to Al Qaeda is eerily reminiscent of Bush administration-era scare-mongering) and certainly, the desire to intervene against such horrifying examples of brutality is understandable. [..]

Bottom line: while there is nothing more horrifying than the violence we hear happening under Assad and I think Scahill is probably closer to the truth than Slaughter in terms of there being manifestly a civil war under way. But it cannot be the US interfering to decide the outcome for the Syrians. We cannot afford another open-ended, nebulous deployment that only causes resentment among the citizenry.

Agreed, Nicole

No Money For You, Suck it Up!

Are you out of work?

Out of unemployment?

Maybe you live off SS thats about to be cut?

Are you sick but cant afford insurance or doctor visits?

Is your Medicaid going to be slashed?

Well too F’n bad. There is no money for your “entitlements” even though you paid into them for your entire working life.

But … we got plenty of money for hospitals and other facilites, just not in the USA. Think we wont have a presence in these countries for years to come?

We have always been at war with EastAsia – Winston Smith

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