Once a liar is always a liar, the old saying goes. The American lies and allegations about chemical weapons attacks during the Syrian conflict are not any new. These lies emphasise that whenever the victorious SAA advances, the United States and its NATO allies promote rigged and unverified reports of chemical weapons attacks in Syria while singling out Russia for protecting President Bashar al-Assad.
Meanwhile, the bogus claim of a purported gas attack in Syria obviously aims at undermining the exit of the Takfiri terrorists from Douma to show that the Syrian government forces have launched the attack. On Sunday, the US State Department issued a strongly worded statement, blaming the Syrian government for purportedly conducting the attack and accusing Russia of being responsible.
The use of chlorine as a weapon is prohibited under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria adhered to in 2013, under a deal brokered by Russia and the US. Damascus surrendered its stockpiles of chemical weapons in 2014 to a joint mission led by the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which oversaw the destruction of the weaponry. However, Western governments have never stopped pointing the finger at Damascus whenever an apparent chemical attack has taken place.
A report, compiled by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the UN’s Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), claimed last week that Syria had used chlorine in separate attacks, between 2014 and 2015. The investigation was launched based on the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2235, which called for determining which party used chemical arms in Syria.
Syria has repeatedly denied all allegations circulated about the use of chemical poisonous materials like chlorine gas. On October 26, the Syrian Foreign Ministry issued a statement, saying Damascus fully honours its commitments under the convention. The statement rejected the allegations, expressing that the investigations “lack any physical evidence, whether by samples or attested medical reports that chlorine was used and was totally based on witnesses presented by terrorist armed groups.”
Apparently, the Western governments have seldom accused Russia of the victims targeted with alleged chemical weapons attacks. They have launched the so-called ‘International Partnership against Impunity for Use of Chemical Weapons’ and endorsed a political commitment “to share information on combating the use of chemical weapons worldwide.”
The Zionist arrogant American President Donald Trump has accused the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of launching the alleged chemical attack, saying on Twitter there will be a “big price to pay.” He also tweeted, “Many dead, including women and children, in a mindless chemical attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is on lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world.”
In 2012, months after Syria plunged into crisis, Eastern Ghouta, a home to nearly 400,000 people, fell to multiple foreign-sponsored terrorist groups and has since served as a launch pad for mortar attacks against residents and infrastructure in the Syrian capital.Over the past few months, the area has witnessed deadly violence and eventually Eastern Ghouta has been fully liberated with the exception of Douma. The Syrian government agreed to let the militants and their families flee in convoys to Syria’s northern parts in order to save the lives of civilians caught in the crossfire.
In a statement released late on Saturday, the Syrian government have intensely denounced the allegation, emphasising, “the so-called Jaish al-Islam Takfiri terrorist group, which has dominant presence in the town, was repeating the allegations of using chemical munitions in order to accuse the Syrian Arab army, in a blatant attempt to hinder the Army’s advance.”
The so-called ‘White Helmets,’ a generated myth by the hypocrite international mainstream media, overseen and driven by James Le Mesurier, have claimed that the government forces, on Saturday, had “dropped a barrel bomb containing poisonous chemicals in Douma, killing and wounding dozens of civilians.” The White Helmets is a suspicious organisation backed by the British Government and the ‘Syrian National Council.’
Russia, which backs the Syrian government against the terrorist conspiracy, has casted strong doubt on the alleged attack. Noticeably, it has engaged in an anti-terror campaign in Syria since September 2015, upon an official request from Damascus, in contrast to the US-led military coalition, which is operating without permission from the Syrian government.
In response, the Russian Foreign Ministry,on Sunday, has lambasted these suspicions of a chemical gas attack allegedly conducted by the Syrian government in Eastern Ghouta, expressing, “The spread of bogus stories about the use of chlorine and other poisonous substances by (Syrian) government forces continues. Yet another such fabricated piece of information about an alleged chemical attack in Douma appeared yesterday.”
The Ministry added that “the notorious White Helmets, which have a large role in fabricating the gas attack allegation, have been repeatedly caught acting with terrorists, as well as other so-called humanitarian organizations based in the United Kingdom and the United States.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that Moscow had “warned several times recently against such dangerous provocations.” It further emphasised, “The aim of such deceitful speculation, lacking any kind of grounding, is to shield terrorists … and to attempt to justify possible external uses of force.”
The ministry has warned that any military intervention based on such “invented and fabricated excuses could lead to severe consequences.” In November, Russia vetoed the renewal of an independent and technical group created by the U.N. Security Council, the so-called Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), to look into the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks in Syria.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said that these chemical attack claims are conspiratorial and illogical. He maintained,“Such claims and accusations by the Americans and some Western countries signal a new conspiracy against the Syrian government and nation and a pretext for military action against them.”
The Spokesman added that using such allegations as a pretext for a military intervention in Syria would certainly aggravate the situation in this country and in the region. Qassemi also expressed that the terrorists would be emboldened by any act of aggression, which would not be in favour of peace, stability and security in the region and across the world. He pointed out, “When the Syrian army has the upper hand on the battlefield against armed terrorists, and it would not be rational for it to use chemical weapons.”
In an interview with Lebanon-based al-Mayadeen TV, the current Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations Bashar al-Jaafari dismissed as flawed the findings of a UN-mandated investigation blaming Syrian forces for the use of chemical weapons, saying the report is based on “false testimonies.” He added,“The allegations had been fabricated to put pressure on the government in Damascus.”
Chief negotiator Bashar al-Jaafari added that the UN Security Council and the Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had yet to publish their final findings on the use of banned arms in Syria, adding that Damascus would present its own observations and notes to the world body before the joint report is out.
Deliberately, Washington has led aerial bombardment campaigns with the help of its allies, allegedly targeting ISIS positions, but actually targeting civilians and soldiers. They have previously launched several chemical attacks, which are banned under arm treaties intended to stop the use of chemical weapons. In addition, they have carried out various horrific acts, such as public decapitations and crucifixions.
The US and its allies have been bombarding in Syria, since September 2014, without any authorization from the government. They, reportedly, have more than 2,000 troops stationed in eastern Syria, in addition to several thousand others in the north.A senior US military general said Thursday that Trump has not given the Pentagon a timeline for getting American troops out of Syria, despite Trump’s public statements that US troops should withdraw soon.
The hostile American warships, in the eastern Mediterranean, launched a barrage of 59 Tomahawk missiles against Shayrat Airfield in Syria’s Homs province, in April last year. The barrage drew the praise from anti-Damascus staunch supporters, i.e. the Saudis and the Zionists.
The U.S. alleged that the strike was the origin of a suspected chemical attack on the town of Khan Shaykhun in Syria’s Idlib province a few days earlier. So far, Washington has failed to provide any concrete evidence to prove the accusations, prompting criticisms for choosing to take unilateral military action hastily and without proof.
Damascus has repeatedly stressed that the U.S., European governments, Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia back and support the terrorist militants, who have been ravaging Syria since 2011. Last December, Ahmed al-Gaddafi al-Qahsi, a cousin of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, said the chemical weapons used in Ghouta were stolen from Libya and later smuggled into Syria via Turkey.
The White House Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser Thomas Bossert said in an interview on ABC, on Sunday, that the U.S. would not rule out launching a missile attack in response to the alleged chemical attack.
No peace for Kurds: Rojava still under attack
The Amazon is still on fire. The “lungs of the Earth” are hardly breathing while the flames are threatening people and nature reserves. As long as we do not see with our own eyes the burnt trees, the endangered species and the indigenous tribes fighting to save their dying forest, we seem incapable to understand the actual consequences.
Thousands of miles away from this environmental catastrophe, a different kind of tragedy is waiting to happen. Rojava-Northern Syria Federation — the self-declared autonomous region that Kurdish people managed to carve out in northeastern Syria during the Civil war — is burning again.
On September 24, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made a controversial speech to the United Nations General Assembly and proposed to create a “safe zone” in the north of Syria, in order to resettle up to 2 million Syrian refugees. He is hoping to establish a peace corridor with a depth of 32 kilometers and a length of 480 kilometers, which would easily turn the area into the world’s largest refugee camp. Despite the seemingly humanitarian purposes, this might represent the umpteenth attempt to destroy the Kurdish dream of an independent democratic enclave.
It is undeniably clear, in fact, how Turkey could take advantage of the situation: Erdoğan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin has already claimed that Ankara’s aim is also to clear the borders from “terrorist elements.”
The People’s Protection Units and the Women’s Protection Units (YPG/YPJ), which — along with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) — played a key role in the fought against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), are the official army of Rojava but currently designated as terrorist organizations. These armed groups, in fact, are considered as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the far-left militant and political organization founded in 1978 by Abdullah Öcalan and often involved in armed clashes with Turkish security forces.
Kurdish people are about to be left alone once again and the recent decisions of the White House trigger alarm in the whole Middle East.
On October 7, president Donald Trump announced that the United States — so far the main financer, trainer and supporter of Kurds — would start pulling troops out of those territories, although it would not constitute a full withdrawal.
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said that “The Department of Defense made clear to Turkey — as did the president — that we do not endorse a Turkish operation in Northern Syria,” and that “The US Armed Forces will not support, or be involved in any such operation.”
Mazlum Kobanê, the commander in chief of the SDF, announced that they will protect Syrian’s borders and fight back against Ankara’s army. Since the majority of Kurdish cities are located in this area, it is not difficult to understand how potentially devasting this ongoing operation could be.
Turkish assault is going to begin from the city of Gire Spi/Tell Abyad, once controlled by the so-called Caliphate and captured in 2015 by the YPG during the Tell Abyad offensive. The cities of Qamishli, Derek/Al Malikiya, Tell Tamer and Kobanê/Ayn al Arab are next to become target of air strikes and artillery fire as well.
It is no coincidence that shortly after the siege of Kobanê, Kurdish forces directed their efforts towards Tell Abyad, being such a strategic site for ISIL militias. The city, in fact, was better known in the West as the “Jihadi Highway”, a de-facto corridor for foreign fighters. In the chaos caused by the fighting, jihadists would surely try to regain strength and Turkish move is serving the cause.
At the Al-Hol camp — a huge detention female camp near Al-Hasakah — numerous riots have occurred in the past few weeks, and the managers of the structure believe that the women held in the prison — former jihadi brides — might be the vehicle for renewed forms of radicalization.
In view of the fact that US officials confirmed that they will not intervene nor will they seize control of those prisons, Kurdish forces called Washington’s move “a stab in the back”. Meanwhile in Raqqa, ISIL militants are still carrying out suicide bombing attacks against SDF positions.
Shervan Derwish, official spokesman of the Mambij Military Council, has expressed his concern with a very touching message on Twitter.
The YPG and YPJhave fought in many historical battles and their solitary resistance during the last Turkish Afrin offensive in January 2018 became a symbol of their resilience.
On the other hand, Turkey’s army will be backed by their well-known rebel allies: “The Turkish military, together with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), will cross the Turkish-Syrian border shortly, “wrote Fahrettin Altun — Turkey’s communications director — in a Washington Post column. Numerous military groups are active in the region and, although their nature is still debated, there are evidence of many connections with jihadi-inspired organizations.
Working in cooperation with the SDF, Rojava’s cantons are ready to resist and defend their independence, but Trump’s decision sounds like a betrayal.
If forests are burning, so will be democracy in Syria. The Rojava project is in imminent danger, and this time there will be no mountains for the Kurds to seek refuge in. Here in the West we are blessed not to directly witness the destruction of both tragedies, but it is still up to us whether to look those flames in the eye or remember them as the unique environments they actually were.
In loving memory of Mehmet Aksoy, who dedicated his life to the Kurdish cause.
Revisiting Saudi-Iranian Rivalry: From A Cold War Perspective
Middle East considered the “bridge between the East and West” has long grabbed attention of great power policy makers due to its geostrategic and geopolitical significance. After the discovery of oil in the early part of 20th Century, Iran and Saudi Arabia had gained a prominent position at the global international arena. The defining moment in their relation was the year 1968, when the British government announced its withdrawal from the “Persian Gulf,” threatening thereby the balance brought to an equilibrium by more than 150 years of English security guarantees to the sheikdoms. The international community largely sees the conflict in terms of sectarian and on religious grounds which is an inadequate approach and one that rules out other detrimental factor. There have been little analysis and studies undertaken on the conflict from a “Cold war” perspective, which can significantly help other states in maintaining a viable balance between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The conflict dubbed as the “New Middle East Cold War” or “Saudi-Iranian Cold War” is not the first event termed as “Cold war” in the Middle Eastern history. Malcolm Kerr writing in his acclaimed book Arab Cold War 1958-67 termed the growing rivalry and quest for leadership in the Middle East at the aftermath of British and French withdrawal between Republican Egypt and conservative Arab monarchies as a regional equivalent of Cold war. The present relations of Saudi Arabia and Iran are short of war, a condition where although the contenders do not engage in open battlefields face to face, it is a ‘battle’ nevertheless fought on different fronts including the media. Daniel Serwer of John Hopkins writes that Saudi-Iran conflict is regional equivalent of20th century US-Soviet Cold war.
Characteristics of Cold War
The term ‘cold war’ had been in use before 1945 to describe period of extreme tensions between states that were just short of war. In the year 1893, German socialist Eduard Bernstein described the arms race between Germany and its neighbors as a kind of ‘cold war’ where “there is no shooting but bleeding.” The term rapidly came back into use when United States and Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) faced each other eyeball to eyeball. British writer George Orwell remarked on the significance of the moment foreseeing “a peace that is no peace” where the two mighty powers were to be “unconquerable and in a permanent state of cold war.”Anders Stephanson has defined the essence of a Cold War as consisting of characteristics whereby both sides deny each other the legitimacy as a regime, attempting to attack each other by all means short of war. This is in the view of the author, followed by an intense military buildup with a prolonged arms race.
Cold War since then has exclusively referred to as the ‘sustained state of political and military tensions’ between the 20th century superpowers. Although the rivalry had ceased with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the term and subject-matter has remained ever relevant to an extent that the study of grand strategy and security is considered incomplete without the former’s inclusion. Saudi Arabia and Iran, in order to contain conflict and to ensure; that it ends up being short and as shallow as possible, need to revitalize the lessons of the ‘original Cold War.’ United States and Soviet Union despite their sustained rivalry developed a variety of mechanism for escalation and risk management. This was undertaken without foregoing their core national interests and ideologies. The leadership understood that there was ‘wisdom in engaging’ rather than isolating the other. The approach is more relevant today in the era of globalization than it was in those years. “Geo-economics must replace geopolitics” as the focal Saudi-Iranian approach in order to reach a ‘non-zero sum situation.’
Religious and political ideology plays an important role in the foreign policy between Riyadh and Tehran. The two offer competing ideologies and political model with a strong desire for strategic and geopolitical supremacy. The standoff, experts believe is also the result of the desire and aspirations of the two, for political leadership in the Islamic world. The conflict is not the result of alleged schism between Shia and Sunni school of Islam, but is rather a byproduct of centuries’ political and religious contestation that existed between empires and is now manifested into politics of these modern states.
Diplomacy is integral to the Middle East cold war. Since establishing relations in 1929, the two have had their ups and downs. In the years of the Shah, relations began to take the turn for worse when Shah’s ‘hegemonic desires’ and Saudi Arabia’s desire not to accept Iran predominant role in the Gulf and beyond. Nevertheless, relations remained intact at least diplomatically despite severity of incidents such as Gunboat coercion and the oil wars.
Wars have recognizable beginnings and they comprise of direct fighting between the adversaries with armistices and peace treaties as their conclusive ends. However, a Cold war has none of these characteristics, in words of Walter Lippman, “it brings neither peace nor honour to those who wage it.” The conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia has “spillover effects” and repercussions beyond the region. States such as those in the West, and Pakistan in particular close in proximity to the two have had a tough time “balancing” their relations. A careful, delicate and pragmatic approach needs to be adopted on part of statesmen, taking into account the opportunities and challenges arising from a “Cold War” need to be taken into account. Media on both sides has an important role to play in patching up the hostilities by upholding ethical standards and avoiding propagandist contest to avoid further aggravation of the conflict.
Learning lessons: Protesters stay one step ahead of rulers
There’s a déjà vu feeling to this year’s wave of protests across the Arab world.
It’s not that this year saw the toppling of the leaders of Algeria and Sudan as a result of popular revolts, a harking back to the 2011 protests that overthrew the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.
Had illiberal and autocratic leaders learnt the lessons, they would not have been taken again by surprise by mass protests, often sparked by a black swan.
Lessons learnt would have meant putting their ear to the ground, hearing the groundswell of anger and frustration boiling at the surface over lack of economic opportunity and basic services, widespread corruption that benefits the few and complicates life for the many, and a clamouring for the ability to vent those grievances.
Lessons learnt would have meant addressing those concerns before its too late and spill into the streets in massive votes of no-confidence in the political and economic system and its leaders.
It’s a lesson that is valid beyond the Arab world with similar protests, like in 2011, erupting across the globe in countries such as Hong Kong, Russia, Peru, Haiti, Ecuador, Indonesia, and world-wide climate change-related demonstrations.
For their part, demonstrators in Algeria and Sudan concluded from the 2011 protests that toppling a leader was the beginning not the end of the process.
In Algeria, protesters remain in the streets six months after President Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down, battling the army for a political process that will guarantee structural change rather than enable an electoral process that ensures that the military and its aligned business interests remain the power behind the throne.
Sudanese demonstrators surrendered the street only after agreement had been reached with the military on a three-year-long transition towards civilian rule.
The Sudanese and Algerian experiences, like the lessons to be learnt from the 2011 revolts, suggest that the playing field in the wake of the fall of an autocrat is striking a balance between protesters’ demands for fundamental change and the determination of elites and the military to preserve their economic interests, some degree of control of security and safeguards against being held accountable for past abuse.
What demonstrators have going for them, beyond the power of the street, is the fact that popular discontent is not the only thing that mitigates against maintenance of the pre-protest status quo.
Countries across the Middle East and North Africa, characterized by youth bulges, can no longer evade economic reform that addresses widespread youth unemployment, the need to create large numbers of jobs, and inevitable diversification and streamlining of bloated government bureaucracies.
Algeria is a case in point. Foreign exchange reserves have dropped from US$193.6 billion in 2014 to US$72 billion in 2019. Reserves cover 13 months of imports at best in a country that imports 70 percent of what it consumes,
“If the state can no longer deliver goods and services, socio-economic discontent will rise further…. In order to avoid such a situation… the state and its citizens will have to renegotiate their relationship. In the past the state provided, and Algerians abided. This is no longer economically feasible today, nor is it what Algerians appear to want as they seek more transparency, less corruption, and better governance of Algeria’s resources,” said Algeria scholar Dalia Ghanem.
Attention in the past years since the 2011 popular Arab revolts has focussed on the consequences of the Saudi-UAE led counterrevolution that brutally rolled back protesters achievements in Egypt and contributed to the Iranian-backed military campaign of Houthi rebels in Yemen and the devastating subsequent military intervention in that country as well as civil wars in Syria and Libya.
Iraq, Algeria and Sudan rather than Egypt contain lessons for the future.
Egypt’s field marshal-turned-president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi may have squashed recent protests with mass arrests and security force violence, but his conspiratorial depictions of a plot engineered by the repressed and weakened Muslim Brotherhood are unlikely to dampen widespread discontent with his failed economic policies that have benefited the elite and impoverished many.
Mr. Al-Sisi may have ended the protests for now, but continued refusal to address grievances makes Egypt an accident waiting to happen.
The demography of protesters in Iraq proves the point. The protests could have been avoided had the Iraqi government focused on tackling corruption, ensuring the delivery of basic services, and creating jobs for university graduates and opportunities for those who returned from defeating the Islamic State to find that they were deprived of opportunities.
One lesson of the protests in Iraq and Hong Kong is the fact that repressive government responses, the killing of more than 100 demonstrators in Iraq or the banning of face masks in Hong Kong, fuel rather than calm public anger.
Said Hong Kong pro-democracy law maker Fernando Cheung: “This is adding fuel to the fire. This will mark the beginning of riots in Hong Kong.”
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