Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Today's Links

1--MSF: U.S. bombing of hospital was no mistake

"The extensive, quite precise destruction of this hospital ... doesn't indicate a mistake. The hospital was repeatedly hit," Stokes said. The bombing went on for more than an hour, despite calls to Afghan, U.S. and NATO to call if off, MSF has said. Stokes, who has called for an independent inquiry into the incident, told The Associated Press in an interview in the remains of the hospital on Friday that MSF wanted a "clear explanation because all indications point to a grave breach of international humanitarian law, and therefore a war crime."

Both the United States and the Syrian people would be better off if we simply skipped the next step in Syria and instead looked for a way to break out of the destructive cycle.
The necessary compromise to ending the cycle is not that far from the one stated in the Geneva Communiqué that the United States and Russia signed in 2012. It would involve real concessions, particularly from the United States and its partners, on Mr. Assad, in which they would support a political transition that contained no guarantee that Mr. Assad would leave power, while the regime and its supporters agreed to share power in Damascus.

3--US intel in Chechnya?
Putin’s allegations are based on the fact that Russian Intelligence Services detected once a direct contact between the extremists of the North Caucasus and US special services. According to this, the cooperation has been taking place in Azerbaijan.

4--CFRs Richard Haass on partition Syria

the United States and others should pursue a two-track policy. One track would channel steps to improve the balance of power on the ground in Syria. This means doing more to help the Kurds and select Sunni tribes, as well as continuing to attack the Islamic State from the air.

Relatively safe enclaves should emerge from this effort. A Syria of enclaves or cantons may be the best possible outcome for now and the foreseeable future. Neither the US nor anyone else has a vital national interest in restoring a Syrian government that controls all of the country’s territory; what is essential is to roll back the Islamic State and similar groups.

The second track is a political process in which the US and other governments remain open to Russian (and even Iranian) participation. The goal would be to ease Assad out of power and establish a successor government that, at a minimum, enjoyed the support of his Alawite base and, ideally, some Sunnis

5--Lavrov: Let the people decide....Here’s how Lavrov summed it up two days ago:
“I have already said, Russia and Saudi Arabia support all principles of the June 30, 2012 Geneva communique, in particular, the need to preserve government institutions, including the Syrian army. I believe its participation in the effective struggle against terrorists is truly essential. 
I have already said that though we hold identical positions on the settlement of the crisis, we also have our differences, and one of them concerns the destiny of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. We believe that all issues of settlement, including the parameters of the transitional period and political reforms, should be resolved by Syrians themselves. The Geneva communique reads that these issues should be resolved by consensus between the Government and the entire spectrum of opposition forces.”

Then she said that safe zones should be provided for internally displaced Syrians. But as many military analysts have pointed out, these “safe zones” would attract rebels who would use them as bases from which to attack the regime, inviting regime attacks. They would only remain safe zones if some military force guarded their perimeters. But which military force would undertake that task? She admitted that no one is talking about putting US troops in Syria.
So there can’t actually be any safe zones.

A no-fly zone would breach Syrian sovereignty and “isn’t based on the UN Charter and international law,” Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who is Russia’s special presidential envoy to the Middle East, said in an interview published Tuesday by the Interfax news service. “Of course, we are against this. You need to respect the sovereignty of countries.”

According to a recent poll by the independent pollster Levada-Tsentr, the Kremlin-promoted anti-American propaganda campaign is effective: The United States is hated or otherwise seen negatively by a vast majority (71 percent) of Russians, and this number is growing as the Syrian crisis develops. Only 4 percent see the U.S. positively. Some 75 percent of Russians believe the United States, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom are Russia’s enemies “that strive to fix their problems to Russia’s detriment and harm Russian interests anytime they can.” Only 17 percent believe Russia and Western powers have common interests in fighting terrorism, addressing ecological disasters and developing science (Rbc.ru, October 14).

8---Archbishop of Aleppo says the UK is backing jihadis & mercenaries

"A Syrian archbishop has pleaded for the British Government to stop backing Islamist rebel groups who he said were in fact “fundamentalist jihadis who want to kill everyone who is not similar to them”." "He also said Britain is “investing in jihadis and mercenaries who are killing anyone who is saying anything about freedom, citizenship, religious liberty and democracy”."

“There is an opportunity here … to impose significant costs on an adversary that wants to undercut the United States everywhere. It is an opportunity to weaken an anti-American ruler who will always view us as an enemy. … We cannot shy away from confronting Russia in Syria, as Putin expects the administration will do. His intervention has raised the costs and risks of greater U.S. involvement in Syria, but it has not negated the steps we need to take. Indeed, it has made them more imperative.

“We must act now to defend civilian populations and our opposition partners in Syria. As Gen. David Petraeus and others have advocated, we must establish enclaves in Syria where civilians and the moderate opposition to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and ISIS can find greater security. These enclaves must be protected with greater American and coalition airpower and likely foreign troops on the ground. We should not rule out that U.S. forces could play a limited role in this ground contingent. If al-Assad continues to barrel bomb civilians in Syria, we should destroy his air force’s ability to operate.

“We must back up our policy in ways that check Putin’s ambitions and shape his behavior. If Russia attacks our opposition partners, we must impose greater costs on Russia’s interests — for example, by striking significant Syrian leadership or military targets. But we should not confine our response to Syria. We must increase pressure on Russia elsewhere. We should provide defensive weapons and related assistance to Ukrainian forces so they can take a greater toll on Russian forces. … And if Putin continues to strike Syrian civilians and our opposition partners, we should ramp up targeted sanctions on Russia. Low energy prices are battering Russia’s economy and currency. We should increase that pain 

Moscow, SANA- Russian Foreign Ministry warned on Friday that supplying terrorists in Syria with man-portable air-defense systems will be deemed a direct support for terrorists and means that those who do it must face the consequences.
According to Russian News Agency TASS, Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov said that no air defense systems have reached terrorists as of yet but information point to attempts by terrorists to acquire Western-made man-portable air-defense systems from countries neighboring Syria.
The Russian diplomat affirmed that in case such systems end up in terrorists’ hands, the country involved will have to be held to account for siding with international terrorism with all the attendant consequences this act implies. “This should be taken as a serious warning,” he added.

 it is generally understood that the primary threat to drive the Assad regime from power comes from (US-backed al Qaida in Syria)  al-Nusra Front and the forces allied with it, and not from the Islamic State - and certainly not the mythical 'moderate rebels'

al-Nusra Front’s 3,000 troops represented the majority of the forces involved in the fight. And according to a well-informed source, al-Nusra and its close jihadist ally Ahrar al-Sham accounted for 90 percent of the troops.

We now know, moreover, that the Idlib campaign was the direct result of a policy decision by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with US approval, to support the creation of the 'Army of Conquest' and provide it with new military hardware that was a crucial factor in that campaign: the TOW anti-tank missile. Liz Sly of the Washington Post
revealed in a story on 11 October that TOW missiles had been delivered to Syrian armed groups under a programme coordinated between the CIA and the Saudis. Sly further notes that the CIA-supplied TOW missiles were so important to rebels who made 'gains in northwest Syria' that they have called the missile the 'Assad Tamer'.

'It is no accident,' Sly reported, 'that the first targets of Russian airstrikes in Syria were the locations where rebels armed with TOW missles have made the most substantial gain and where they most directly threaten Assad’s hold on power'. That is an obvious reference to the forces that took over Idlib province in March. But Sly never refers to the 'Army of Conquest' victory in Idlib or acknowledges that al-Nusra Front was the main benefactor of the CIA programme...

Turkey has agreed to a plan under which Syria's embattled President Bashar al-Assad will remain in power for the next six months during a transition period, according to a report in the Turkish media.
Support for such a move would mean Turkey backtracking on its policy to ensure Assad is removed from power ever since an uprising in Syria that started in the spring of 2011 and turned into a full-fledged civil war.

Turkey joins a group of 9 countries that have agreed Assad will remain as a “symbolic president” for six months and Turkey will participate in efforts to persuade Russia to support the plan, according to a report in the Cumhuriyet daily on Tuesday.
The report -- based on information given by a “top official” -- claims that Turkey has accepted a “five- or six-point” plan and aims for Assad to relinquish his power over the intelligence and defense capabilities of Syria.

According to the source, the issue of Assad staying on as a symbolic president came about when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sept. 22 for the inauguration of a mosque in Moscow.
The plan, which has been agreed upon by the US and several European and Gulf states, envisages a “temporary administrative organ” to run Syria's government in a bid to protect the Arab country's state institutions.

Work on a plan for Assad's departure is under way … [Assad] can stay for six months and we accept that because there will be a guarantee of his departure," another official told Reuters on Tuesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
A day after his meeting with Putin, Erdoğan said that a solution including Assad was possible for the duration of the transition process, indicating a policy U-turn in Turkey's stance regarding the situation in Syria.
“It is possible that this transition process will be without Assad or it may continue with Assad. However, nobody sees a future with Assad in Syria. It is impossible for [Syrians] to accept a dictator who caused the deaths of up to 350,000 people,” Erdoğan said on Sept. 24 in İstanbul

Turkey has agreed to a plan under which Syria's embattled President Bashar al-Assad will remain in power for the next six months during a transition period, according to a report in the Turkish media.
The plan, which has been agreed upon by the US and several European and Gulf states, envisages a “temporary administrative organ” to run Syria's government in a bid to protect the Arab country's state institutions....Turkey that it has abandoned its determination [to get rid of Assad] and has agreed on an interim period with Assad in place,” former Foreign Minister Yaşar Yakış told Today's Zaman on Tuesday....
If the Syrian people decide to continue with Assad, then there is not much Turkey can object to.”...

Security analyst and academic Professor Sedat Laçiner told Today's Zaman on Tuesday that Russia's involvement in Syria has changed the situation completely and that “Turkey's Syria policy has been utterly destroyed.”
“The equation in Syria has become too big for Turkey to make a difference,” he said. “The Assad regime is stronger, now that Russia is in the picture. The rebels Turkey supports are retreating.”


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