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Syria: the post-Houla options

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Robin Lustig | 08:51 UK time, Friday, 1 June 2012

A week ago today, a group of armed men went methodically about their business, in and around the town of Houla, north of the Syrian city of Homs.

Their business was killing -- slaughtering, if you prefer, or massacring.

By the time they'd finished, more than 100 people were dead, several dozen of them women and children, most of them stabbed to death or shot at close range.

This is not the unsubstantiated claim of opposition activists whose credibility may be suspect. This is the account of United Nations observers, who were on the scene shortly after the attack, collecting eye-witness accounts and collating evidence.

So who were these armed men, the "shabiha" (ghosts) who are blamed so often for the most appalling crimes committed in Syria?

The government calls them "armed groups", and says they are armed and financed by foreign powers. (It means principally Saudi Arabia and Qatar.)

The opposition say they are pro-government militias, recruited by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad to do the dirty work that the regular military either can't, or won't, do themselves.

Alex Thomson of Channel 4 News has been in Houla since last weekend and has filed a remarkable series of reports throughout the week. Yesterday, based on extensive interviews with local people, he wrote this account of what he believes happened last Friday:

"There was an extensive Syrian Army shelling barrage, then around one hundred men were able to enter the shelling zone without a single mortar, bullet or shell landing anywhere near them from the Syrian Army side. Perhaps that is simply coincidence. Perhaps it indicates clear communication and co-ordination between the two groups.

"With no firm proof either way forthcoming as yet and possibly not ever, you have to believe in either staggering luck and coincidence, or prima facie evidence of co-ordination and planning."

So, in the words of Foreign Policy magazine this week: "What the hell should we do about Syria?"

On the Today programme this morning, the foreign secretary William Hague insisted that the priority remains to find some way to make the six-point peace plan drawn up by the international envoy Kofi Annan work. That seems to be closer to forlorn hope than realistic policy.

So here are five alternative policy options, as collected by Foreign Policy from various US-based Syria analysts, which I summarise here for your benefit:

Robin Yassin-Kassab, author of The Road from Damascus: "The damage is already done. It's already too late for a happy ending. The civil war is here, and the longer the stalemate lasts the deeper the trauma will be. This is why I support supplying weapons to the Free Syrian Army. Let's get it over with as soon as possible."

Rand Slim, of the New America Foundation and Middle East Institute: "Time and again, Iranian senior officials have stressed the need for a political resolution to the Syrian crisis. They have been reaching out to different groups in the Syrian opposition. As the Western community keeps searching for a political solution in Syria, Iran might have some ideas about how to bring it about."

Bilal Saab, of the Monterey Institute of International Studies: "Kofi Annan's U.N.-backed plan has served its goal of exposing the Syrian regime before the world. But that was all anyone could realistically hope ... It's time for real and serious negotiations with Russia over not just Syria but a range of Middle Eastern issues of concern to both countries. But the Yemenskii Variant [ie a plan similar to the one which levered President Saleh of Yemen from office] is not it."

Andrew J. Tabler, of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy: "As Syria's conflict tragically unfolds, Washington may need to carry out surgical airstrikes or similar measures to stop regime forces from attacking civilians. If those strikes are to succeed in toppling the regime, however, Washington and its allies will need to have cultivated an alternative leadership from the fragmented Syrian opposition. Conflict will be the constant in Syria for the foreseeable future. But conflict does not necessarily have to set off a generalized civil war -- the opposition on the ground has come together over one issue: Assad must go at all costs. The question is how to get there."

Andrew Exum, of the Center for a New American Security: "As the United States works to facilitate a transition, it must also recognize the limitations of its leverage over Syrian actors, prepare for the likelihood of a long conflict in Syria, and work to mitigate the effects of that war on U.S. interests. This means containing the conflict and discouraging human rights abuses while seeking a political solution."

Take your pick -- or if you prefer, come up with an option of your own.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    THE SYRIAN PLOY
    A) Syria has long been the target of Western aggression. Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Somalia and Sudan are specified targets of US aggression ( Gen. Wesley Clark, “Winning Modern Wars”, pg.130.

    Poor Sunnis in Syria consider themselves oppressed. Saudi Arabia, Quatar, and even Turkey want to foster sectarian war in Syria to install fundamentalist Islamic rule and to thus weaken an ally of Shia Iran.

    B) The USA has for several years been engaging in massive psychological operations and propaganda that they call “smart power”. Obviously biased minions, such as the State Department hireling now of Amnesty International, Ban Ki-Moon and Navi Pillay of the UN have been coopted to serve the US interests. Such satellite leaders as Cameron of the UK and Harper of Canada unreflectively follow the bidding of their Washington masters.

    C) The media do the bidding of their paymasters and form public opinion. The BBC received two million from the Foreign Office to expand their Arabic Service and to “promote democracy” (the same term used by the USA for their propaganda funding).

    Not all the BBC has been so corrupted. The notorious “THE HUB” continues unabated in its propaganda efforts, continuing with the assertions of a little boy. Among other items, the boy said that the aggressors “had beards and shaved heads”. Somehow, BBC World and THE HUB did not mention this. (Beards and shaved heads belong to Salfists from the Gulf states).

  • Comment number 2.

    The West tends to have a list of pre-conditions before it will take actions involving what are determined to be "in their interest." Abusive governments have not only been accepted in the past but often facilitated by trade and arms deals that keep them in power. Consumerism and Capitalism have no national interest, only profit. What the West calls reforms are simply some bringing to power those who will cooperate with existing and future business ventures and a willingness to

  • Comment number 3.

    The truth is so extremely important. Who knows the truth?
    Syrian Govt says men were terrorists. Just before sunset, the gunmen arrived at homes on the outskirts of Houla. Violence lasted until the early hours of the morning. UN observers report that many were shot at point-blank range or stabbed.
    Unverified videos uploaded by Syrian pro-democracy advocates show bodies lying in pools of blood on the floor or sprawled on beds next to blood-spattered walls. One video shows the blood-covered bodies of young children laid out in rows on mats.
    A Syrian Govt Spokesman, Jihad Makdissi, denies the involvement of army forces.
    It has been confirmed that hundreds of gunmen gathered at two o’clock on Friday afternoon, using pickup cars loaded with up-to-date, heavy weapons, like mortars, machine guns & anti-tank missiles.
    Law enforcement officers never left their positions and were in a state of self-defence during what became a nine-hour battle. Makdissi blamed armed terrorist gangs. Syrian Govt has continuously blamed unrest on foreign terrorists.
    Maj.-Gen. Robert Mood, chief of the UN observer mission in Syria, said an investigation to UNCOVER THE TRUTH is ongoing.
    However, UNSC, without awaiting any truth report has already condemned Syrian Govt for the mass killing, joined by countries around the world.
    On Monday, UN envoy Kofi Annan arrived in Damascus for two days of negotiations & said he expected to hold “serious and frank” talks with Assad. He asked all sides of the conflict to lay down their weapons, end the bloodshed.
    Annan: “This message of peace is not only for the government, but for everyone with a gun.”
    This must not become another Lybya or Iraq. The truth must be uncovered, and then action taken accordingly, but without the truth action would be premature.

  • Comment number 4.

    Syrian Govt investigation into the Houla massacre blamed armed rebel groups. What do they want? To trigger foreign military intervention, as occurred in Libya.
    US representative to the UN, Susan Rice, called this a "blatant lie", for which there was no factual evidence, but Susan Rice fails to see there is no evidence for her position either.
    As for ICC, Syria is not a state party to the ICC; court has no jurisdiction to indict its citizens without a Security Council referral. Russia has blocked Security Council action against Syria.
    Syria attacked resolution's sponsors - among them Turkey & Qatar - saying both bore responsibility for some deaths, because, they are supplying heavy, sophisticated arms to rebel groups.
    William Hague is scheduled to meet representatives of the Syrian OPPOSITION in Turkey, which in my opinion, seems to reinforce the involvement of Turkey in what is transpiring in Syria.

  • Comment number 5.

    'he wrote this account of what he believes happened last Friday'

    I am seeing that word 'belief' a lot these days in 'reporting'.

    Not, always, in a good way.

  • Comment number 6.

    So who were these armed men, the “shabiha” (ghosts) who are blamed so often for the most appalling crimes committed in Syria?

    An English translation of one theory on who the armed men in Houla were can be found here.

  • Comment number 7.

    The Houla massacres were a particularly sadistic and gruesome heinous attack of innocent peasants, women, and children that has galvanized opinion against the Assad government but it is precisely because of the sensational nature of the massacre and the attempts by the Western imperialistic powers and the anti-democratic monarchies of the Gulf states to make capital out of the shocking events in Syria that requires the international community to proceed with caution and wait for as many facts and revelations to emerge before acting out of the outrage we feel emotionally. You say that the Syrian artillery and mortars were kept from shelling on the ground troops that entered the villages but another interpretation is that the Syrian army would not have continued the shelling had they known that the shabiha were entering the region. Alistair Crooke, a seasoned analyst of the Middle East with British MI6, has given an interview with RT in which he said that the way the massacres were carried out suggests strongly that the muderers were from the terrorist groups in Iraq that have carried out many similar acts of gruesome massacres in Iraq. Also preliminary investigations by Syrian agencies indicates that the victims were supporters of the Assad govenment though they were from Sunni tribes in the area and that the muderers had demanded that the victims join the anti-Assad forces which they refused to do. So it is still too early to jump to conclusions and pursue intervention at this time though the temptation to do so and take advantage of international outrage is clearly advantageous to the outside powers.

  • Comment number 8.

    Syria is very different from Libya. President Obama would be extremely foolish to approve of a NATO or worse launch unilaterally a military intervention on the Assad government at this time with only six months left for his re-election campaign. Though the rebels were counting on a no-fly zone declaration from the UN Security Council there has been little stomach for intervention thus far partly because of the continued support for Bashar al Assad from the Syrian army, bureaucracy, and the people of Syria. Only a few high placed officials in the government has defected and the army offensive on the armed opposition has blunted their attempts at overthrowing Assad. There have been many predictions by Western imperialists (Hillary Clinton, Alain Juppe, Laurent Fabius) that Bashar al Assad is too weak to survive much longer and advising him to seek exile before he is deposed. But the Syrians are well aware of what happened to not just Saddam Hussein, the brutal Iraqi dictator, but more poignantly of what happened to Iraqi society after the Western imperialist invasion of 2003 with over a million Iraqi refugees fleeing to Syria since 2003. They have no illusions about Western imperialist promises of peace and order coming to Syria after Assad is overthrown. There has been too much blood and guts sacrificed in the ME and Central Asia (ie Afghanistan) since the Western crusade after September 11, 2001 to tempt the people of Syria to false promises of safety and peace in the Levant (including Palestine of course).

  • Comment number 9.

    "...Alistair Crooke, a seasoned analyst of the Middle East with British MI6, has given an interview with RT in which he said that the way the massacres were carried out suggests strongly that the muderers were from the terrorist groups in Iraq that have carried out many similar acts of gruesome massacres in Iraq. Also preliminary investigations by Syrian agencies indicates that the victims were supporters of the Assad govenment though they were from Sunni tribes in the area and that the muderers had demanded that the victims join the anti-Assad forces which they refused to do..."

    I am convinced that, despite such facts, the BBC and other Western media will spin and propagandize against the Syrian government. This will be done because the aggressor powers have geopolitical motives and will use any means that they can to weaken Syria, Lebanon and Iran, etc.

  • Comment number 10.

    "Take your pick -- or if you prefer, come up with an option of your own." ?

    -- Damned if you do --and damned if you don´t.

    -- a perfect choice !

  • Comment number 11.

    The USA (Hilary Clinton) ALWAYS first decries massacres and the ruins it all by always talking about regime change.

    Who care about regime change? It is irrelevant. Indeed to even mention it, less concentrate upon it, shows that the USA wants only regime change and cares nothing about the people of Syria who are the victims of the arms trade and the international trade in armaments.

    How do you stop a civil war in its tracks? An arms embargo enforced by sanctions and a blockade by land sea and air. All the combatants must be deprived of the means of mass slaughter and common sense has left them. Those countries supplying arms to the country must stop and if they do not stop immediately (Saudi Arabia and Qatar - Israel?, Iran? the USA? have been mentioned) then the UN should put pressure upon them.

    Above all the USA must immediately drop the language that pre supposes that the civil war will be prevented by regime change when there is absolutely no logic or reason to believe that this will have any effect and it is a barrier to saving the people of Syria.

    The are seems to have been infiltrated by the same disruptive terrorists that made Iraq such an awful mistake the UN needs to maximise the pressure of the states that harbour these terrorists to prevent their continued operation and in particular the supply of arms and money again Saudi Arabia seems to be mentioned.

    Another option would be surveillance drones (NOT 'attack' drones) to check on what is actually going on in more detail than the present satellite imaging. The UN also needs to put a large number on blue helmets on the ground to protect the people from one another.

    It will be an international disgrace if the planet allows Syria to drift into a full blown civil war. Somehow we have to get everyone talking and into a process of reconciliation with no preconditions - save that of stopping the use of all arms and even that may be impossible so no preconditions.

    The biggest risk is the Syrian exiles who from the safety of foreign soil urge the fellow citizens to kill each other - all of these people can be rounded up and held incommunicado to prevent further incitement to murder. They must be deprived of all publicity and silenced - until peace resumes. It is also imperative that all funding is cut off from all combatants - all funds must go into humanitarian aid.

    When we have peace then they can talk.

  • Comment number 12.

    From ´Spiegel´

    -- From Russia´s viewpoint.

    "Moscow 'Fighting for Its Last Anchorage ' in the Middle East"

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/commentary-on-failure-of-international-community-to-stop-the-killing-in-syria-a-836881.html

  • Comment number 13.

    George Mark Malloch-Brown has written an article in the Financial Times (War talk is cheap but diplomacy can resolve Syria's crisis, FT, Mon June 4) critical of the hasty impatience of the Western imperialist powers (WIP) to write an obituary for the (Kofi) Annan peace plan and to get on with the overthrow of the Bashar al Assad government. Lord Malloch-Brown had a distinguished career at the UN. He served as head of the UNDP for many years and was promoted to the post of Deputy Secretary-General under Kofi Annan in 2006. After leaving the UN, he served in the Commonwealth Office of the British Commonwealth for a year. Brown says that the WIP have largely ignored the Annan plan and have accused the Assad government of using it as "a figleaf allowing it to hide behind a diplomatic process as it wages a brutal crackdown." Brown says the WIP need to face some ugly facts (to the detriment of their hard driving aggressive aims) that call for caution in their belief that Assad must go and that they will then benefit from his departure. The first is that "the regime is not a beleagured clique like the Gaddafis, who with one determined outside push were gone." The second "is that Syria's neighbours are teetering on the edge of a wider sectarian conflict." And "events in the region, from the fall of Saddam Hussein to the Arab spring, have revived religious identity as a driving force." Dictators in the region from Mubarak, Saddam, Gaddafi, and Assad, "all tried to keep the lid on religious difference, stressing the secular nature of their regimes. Now the genie is out of the bottle. Western intervention or too much more arming of the rebels by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, seen in the region as champions of Sunni interests risk provoking that wider conflagration." Brown then accuses the Syrian opposition of seeking military intervention by the WIP. It seeks intervention because it is outgunned by the Syrian army when it should be seeking to form a united front to pursue negotiation with the Assad government. He says that "each new atrocity leads to calls for Mr Assad to go, thereby undermining the Annan's plan call for talks to precede any change in government. Introducing this precondition has been a constant western bad habit in the region from Saddam onwards. It is appropriate after defeat and surrender but as a requirement before negotiations, it stops the talks starting and makes the march to war near inevitable." He finishes by saying that though the rush to war is near undeniable and "diplomacy seems a thin reed when 12,000 lives have already been lost. In this case though, it is the right and brave thing to do."

  • Comment number 14.

    To add to the enormity of Western imperial fraud, it is evident that Assad enjoys majority support within Syria. The BBC, of course, never mentions this.

    In the criminal law, one funding, encoraging, aiding or arming a murderer is also guilty as an accessory to the crime. Thus, the UK in training revolutionaries, Quatar and the Saudis, Israel and the USA in their various actions to encourage the rebels are accessories to terrorism in Syria.

    That the BBC has become involved in the US-led propaganda lowers the reputation of the BBC, deceives the UK public and perverts the democratic process within the UK.

  • Comment number 15.

    '14. At 20:11 6th Jun 2012, madmaxtheprof9 - That the BBC has become involved in the US-led propaganda lowers the reputation of the BBC, deceives the UK public and perverts the democratic process within the UK.

    I have no way of knowing the full facts behind this, or the truth of those shared.

    Maybe what's needed is a Levenson-style inquiry, where 'the media' is placed under the spotlight, as opposed to just 'the press'? A spotlight turned from those who claim to hold the powerful to account, onto an often too unaccountable powerful?

    Now, I wonder how the coverage would be then?

    Just about right?

  • Comment number 16.

    I have been watching this BBC situation since the abysmal falsity of the "reporting" by their former Mid-East correspondent about Lattakia- last August.

    Not all BBC units are knowingly corrupt. Even the worst are better than Fox, CNN and possibly ABC.

    The governments of the USA and the UK are engaged in a war against Syria.
    Israel wants Syria "taken out", NE Syria sits on the Mosul oil pool, weakening Syria is a key to attacking Iran, and the Gulf States want to overthrow the secular government of Syria and impose fundamentalist Sunni rule.

    The level of ethics in the USA is now widely appreciated, and the world is being subjected to the corruption of their politics. The UK is, as usual, following suit. France has never been otherwise.

    Only objective and truthful media can allow the public to become informed. At the moment, this is lacking for us.

  • Comment number 17.

    In conjunction with the above, recall that an extra 1.5 million pounds was given to the BBC Arabic service this year, with the suggestion that they "promote democracy".

    The USA has been spending many millions since 2006 "promoting democracy" and training Arab bloggers, etc.

    With regard to Syria, some truth can be obtained from the Facebook group "The Syrian Revolution- the untold story".

  • Comment number 18.

    I agree mostly with MadMax's comments on Syria and the hypocrisy and dishonest reporting of the Western media. But one comment attracted my criticism, "the level of ehtics in the USA is now widely appreciated, and the world is being subjected to the corruption of their politics. The UK is, as usual, following suit. France has never been otherwise." Though my illusions about French politics have slowly had the blinders blocking removed over the years, I believe that prior to Sarkozy, the Chirac government with its foreign minister Dominique de Villepin, did the right thing in regard to Middle Eastern policy. I refer of course to the decision to oppose and block the US-UK attempt to persuade the UN Security Council over the invasion of Iraq in 2003. If you recall the UNSC deliberations broadcast internationally during this event, including the impressive but ultimately fradulent arguments of the highly respected Secretary of State Colin Powell; it took a great deal of courage for de Villepin to lead the opposing side to the intervention in Iraq. My understanding after many years is that prior to Sarkozy, the UMP (French conservative party) was firmly committed to Gaullist policies vis a vis the US-UK alliance. That is they were firmly committed to an independent stance vis a vis the Anglo-American dominance of Western policy. Sarkozy it turns out had a peculiar background that caused him to do a volte face on the Gaullist position of the UMP. His mother, who was originally from Greece, had married and divorced Sarkozy's father, who was a minor nobleman from Hungary. After the divorce his mother married Frank Wiesner Jr, the son of a prominent CIA agent Frank Wiesner Sr, who played a major role in the early development of the CIA. Sarkozy grew up under this influence in his early life and this may account for his decision to end Gaullism in French policy.

  • Comment number 19.

    Two corrections to my previous comment, #18. Nicolas Sarkozy's mother Andree Mallat was born in France. It was her father who was a Greek emigree to Paris with his parents before WW I. Sarkozy's father Pal Sarkozy Nagy-Bosca was from Hungary and after divorcing his mother remarried to Christine Ganay. It was Ganay who after divorcing Pal Sarkozy remarried to Frank Wiesner. Olivier Sarkozy, the son of Pal Sarkozy and Christine Ganay, and hence half-brother of Nicolas grew up as the stepson of Frank Wiesner Jr. Sarkozy has often commented that the abandonment of his mother by his father Pal, which he resented, played a formative role in his early childhood. His maternal grandfather became a prosperous physician and played a direct role in his upbringing after his father left. Though raised as a devout Catholic, he claims that his grandfather's Jewish heritage despite an early conversion to Catholicism influenced his devotion to anti-Semitic causes during his presidency.

  • Comment number 20.

    With Canada, Jean Chretien prevented participation in the Iraq adventure. The Harper government has reversed that attitude and is a caricature of right-wing subservience, e.g re Libya.

    The integrity and strategic competence of the Anglo powers is well illustrated by the pretexts claimed for military intervention in Iraq and Libya and the results of said intervention. The Anglo powers are seemingly seeking similar results in Syria by arming proxies. Fanaticism and sectarian warfare are thus encouraged.

    Do our newspeople who now call for “intervention” (e.g. BBC World) foresee the consequences of such intervention? Repeating a losing strategy is not a sign of intelligence.

  • Comment number 21.

    Just watched SKY's Tim Marshall on the ground with some pretty sobering stuff... if verified. Who, now, is to know, what is, what is staged and what is covered up?

    Intrigued at bit at two incidentals: a scarfed up 'freedom fighter' sound bite that 'Even the Jews did not do this to us'. Rather scary equivalences there already.

    Then the waving of the burned Korans. Now, last time that happened it seemed to get a lot more coverage and a lot more excitement all round.

    Maybe this time all parties are seeing sense in a calmer approach?

  • Comment number 22.

    @21 The "waving of burned Korans" would emphatically suggest staging.

  • Comment number 23.

    THE HOULA INCIDENT:
    Today’s FAZ has the Houla story ***http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/neue-erkenntnisse-zu-getoeteten-von-hula-abermals-massaker-in-syrien-11776496.html
    ***
    Salient points:
    The area is 90% Sunni.
    The incident began with a Sunni attack on a Syrian Army contingent that was there to protect the Alawite/Shiites.
    The victims were nearly all Alawite or Shiities. Most victims belonged to a family that had been Sunni, but had converted.
    Immediately after the massacre, the Sunni videoed those they had slaughtered and said that the victims were Sunni.

  • Comment number 24.

    It's just the Daily Mail of course, but they are of course the publication that have a version of the Murdoch/Brown conversation attributed to the BBC's Andrew Neil that seems to support the former's account. Which is why one presumes it is less favoured hereabouts.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2156929/PETER-HITCHENS-Pop-goes-Monarchy-The-Queen-listened-Paul-McCartney--I-heard-end-Royal-Family.html

    'The news being accepted as truth by BBC World News is so biased these days that I no longer believe what they say about anything any more, after more than 60 years of crediting them with the truth.'

    Who to believe. And who to have to pay anyway?

  • Comment number 25.

    Nezavisimaya Gazeta Newspaper has reported Russian army is being prepared for a mission in Syria. Allegedly, Vladimir Putin ordered the general staff to work out a plan for military operations outside Russia, including in Syria. The units being prepared for an intervention are the 76th Division of airborne forces (an especially experienced unit of the Russian army), the 15th Army Division, as well as special forces from a brigade of the Black Sea fleet, which has a base in the Syrian port of Tartus. The details of the operational plan are being prepared by the working parties of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, to which most of the post-Soviet states belong, as well as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, to which China and Russia belong.

  • Comment number 26.

    Monday last week, 3 Russian warships were sighted off the Syrian coast. It seems as though Moscow wants to show NATO that it will not allow any military operation against Damascus under the guise of a humanitarian mission. Earlier, the secretary-general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, Nikolai Bordjusha, had held out the possibility of using “peacekeepers” in Syria. “The task in Syria is likely to be to impose peace—primarily against the INSURGENTS, who use weapons to solve political problems.”

  • Comment number 27.

    Russia and China strongly oppose a military intervention by NATO in Syria, and have already blocked two UN resolutions on the issue. US & its allies, especially Turkey, Saudi Arabia & France, have stoked up a civil war in Syria and are systematically arming the so-called rebels, who consist mainly of Islamists, ex-members of govt, or Al Qaeda terrorists. Turkey is increasingly leadership of the US proxy war in Syria. In recent weeks calls for a military intervention in Syria have increased. The West is blaming Bashar al-Assad for Houla WITHOUT ANY CLEAR EVIDENCE. The German elite is also openly discussing a possible military intervention; Berlin has tried unsuccessfully to push Russia to make concessions on the issue.

  • Comment number 28.

    Since Soviet times, Moscow & Syria have maintained close ties, especially in military & economic matters. More importantly, however, a war against Syria means a ramping up of US aggression in the Middle East. The US has already significantly extended its influence in the region through the unjustified wars against Afghanistan & Iraq. They also have military bases in almost every country in the area: Pakistan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Turkmenistan, as well as some in other smaller states. Meanwhile, Syria & Iran, which are virtually surrounded by US military bases, have become the last bastions of Russia & China in the Middle East against the steady encroachment of the United States.

  • Comment number 29.

    While China obtains a significant portion of its raw material imports from Iran, Tehran is Russia’s most important ally in the Caucasus & Caspian Sea to counter the influence of the US & Israel. Both Moscow and Tehran oppose the construction of a trans-Caspian pipeline by the West. They also reject the massive military rearmament of Azerbaijan, which is promoted by the United States, Israel & Turkey. The Caspian region is of key geopolitical importance because it links resource-rich Central Asia with Europe, and because it also has extensive oil and gas reserves.

  • Comment number 30.

    According to new report in Germany’s leading daily, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), the Houla massacre was in fact committed by anti-Assad Sunni militants; bulk of the victims were member of the Alawi and Shia minorities, which have been largely supportive of Assad. For its account of the massacre, the report cites opponents of Assad, who, however, declined to have their names appear in print. According to the article’s sources, the massacre occurred after rebel forces attacked three army-controlled roadblocks outside of Houla. The roadblocks had been set up to protect nearby Alawi majority villages from attacks by Sunni militias. The rebel attacks provoked a call for reinforcements by the besieged army units. Syrian army and rebel forces are reported to have engaged in battle for some 90 minutes, during which time “dozens of soldiers and rebels” were killed

  • Comment number 31.

    Watch for: FALSE FLAG PLOT being fomented by Syrian rebels inside NATO member Turkey. The plot involve Syrian rebels deploying chemical weapons obtained in Libya against Syrian civilians, then blaming the Syrian government for the mass casualty event. This of course would provide the West the "casus belli" it has been searching for to circumvent the UN Security Council and implement its long-planned campaign of regime change. The Means Libya's arsenal had fallen into the hands of sectarian extremists with NATO assistance last year in the culmination of efforts to overthrow Libyan Govt. Since then, Libya's militants led by commanders of Al Qaeda's Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) have armed sectarian extremists across the Arab World, from as far West as Mali, to as far East as Syria.

  • Comment number 32.

    SANA state media’s documentary discussed the Damascus incident. It named Western-recruited Jabhet al-Nusra terrorists responsible. They also carried out earlier attacks. documentary aired on June 9, & June 7 report by Germany’s leading broadsheet provide more evidence. Both refutes Western misinformation.
    On May 10, suburban Damascus suicide bombings killed 55 and injured hundreds. The attack happened near Syria’s military intelligence complex. Children were killed. So were drivers and others heading for work. SANA state media said rescue workers collected “15 bags of limbs and torn-off body parts” from the scene. The blasts also destroyed 105 cars. Western reports RUSHED TO BLAME Assad. He had nothing to do with it, other insurgent massacres, daily attacks, targeted assassinations, & Western-sponsored terrorism.
    On June 10, SANA State Media’s documentary discussed the Damascus incident. It pointed fingers the RIGHT WAY: western-recruited, sponsored - Jabhet al-Nasra terrorists.
    http://www.sana.sy/eng/337/2012/06/10/424423.htm

  • Comment number 33.

    The WSWS website (13 June, Houla massacre carried out by Free Syrian Army according to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) has an article on the Houla massacre about the FAZ report (comment #30) in which reporter Rainer Hermann, refutes the widespread Western views that the Syrian government and its Shabiha militia allies was responsible for the brutal massacres of women and children who were shot at close range or had their throats slashed. Hermann based his article on investigations by oppositionists who visited the area and took eye-witness testimony. They largely confirm the account of the events in Houla given by the Assad government. The WSWS article, says "among the dead were almost exclusively families of the Alawhite and Shia minorities of Houla, the population of which is made up of 90 percent Sunnis." The widespread misreporting of the massacre by the Western main stream media should be a warning to the public about the collaboration with officials seeking to blame the Syrian government for killings or atrocities against "their own people" which is intended to be used as casus belli for future aggression against Syria and the Syrian people.

  • Comment number 34.

    Please pass this on to "The Editors":

    The FAZ 14 June pg 12 reviews the Houla situation:
    (1) Only Alawites and Shiia were killed.
    (2) They were killed by armed Sunnis.
    (3) 51 members of the al Sajjid family were killed.
    (4) No neighbors were killed.
    (5) The AP quoted an 11 year old boy who said the killers had “shaven heads and beards”.
    (6) Marat Muslin and Martin Janssen published findings vastly different from the BBC.

    The public is entitled to, and in the UK pays for, the truth. Does the BBC, anywhere in its organization, have a champion who will come forward and defend, in Facebook debate, their sorry record concerning Syria?

 

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