The SYRIAN WAR Thread

Discussion in 'International Politics' started by AKarlin, May 6, 2013.

  1. AKarlin

    AKarlin Generalissimo Staff Member

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    Post updates on the Syrian Civil War here.

    Situation Map (April 2013) - h/t "pikachu"/kami

    [​IMG]

    Recent News

    So does this mean that Obama is now going to start arming Assad? har-har...

    Incidentally, I'm pretty sure that the SAA has very strict orders not to use chemical weapons, so as to avoid giving any pretexts for direct foreign strikes. It's probably something held as a very "in the last reserve" kind of thing as has been the case post-WW1 with chemical/bio weapons.
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  2. Robert

    Robert Collegiate Registrar (14th class)

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    It would make absolutely no sense for the regime to use them. UN top official Carla Del Ponte has confirmed that all indications are that it was the rebels who used the sarin presumably in order to blame it on the regime and serve as a pretext for intervention.
  3. AKarlin

    AKarlin Generalissimo Staff Member

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    The War Nerd argues (convincingly!) that the Syrian war is fundamentally a sectarian conflict. Read it now - the article will only be accessible for one day.


  4. Alexander Mercouris

    Alexander Mercouris Ship Secretary (11th class)

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    I completely agree with what has been said here. It makes absolutely no sense for the Syrian regime to use chemical weapons and I have no doubt that has not happened. If chemical weapons have been used, then this is one case where the facts (including Del Ponte's comments) point overwhelmingly to a false flag operation by the rebels.

    If so then that is not surprising. From the time that Obama said that the use of chemical weapons was a "red line" the temptation for the rebels to concoct evidence that the "red line" was crossed has been irresistible. Given that the latest reports point to the balance on the ground starting to shift in the regime's favour, it is not surprising that these stories have been circulating now.
  5. Vostok

    Vostok Gubernial Secretary (12th class)

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    What happened to the Russian position that Assad stepping down should never be part of the condition to any negotiations? That's his response to Kerry and the US saying that Assad must step down before any negotiations can begin and he has no future in Syria.

    Total shift in position, when things on the ground are changing in favour of Assad. It doesn't make sense why Russia would weaken their position now?



    [MODERATOR: Apologies for restoring this post, and appreciate it was CNN's fault for misquoting. But it was necessary so as not to break continuity and make it appear that Alex was rambling to himself.)))]
  6. Alexander Mercouris

    Alexander Mercouris Ship Secretary (11th class)

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    There has been no change of Russian position. If there has been any change of position it is by the US.

    Up to now the US and the rebels have insisted on making Assad's resignation a precondition of negotiations. The Russians have consistently refused to go along with this, saying quite logically that a possible outcome of negotiations can never be a precondition for them. There is nothing in the proposal for a conference agreed by Lavrov and Kerry that makes Assad's resignation a precondition for anything. However if the negotiations between the Syrian government and the rebels are to have real meaning then it equally makes no sense to rule any possible outcome (including Assad's resignation) out. That is the reason for Lavrov's comment.

    The point that constantly needs to be hammered home about the Syrian crisis is that the reason there is a civil war is because of the intransigent refusal of the western powers to countenance negotiations with Assad. Assad agreed to such negotiations under Russian pressure as long ago as the summer of 2011, before the fighting properly got underway. The reason those negotiations have not happened is because the western powers have consistently opposed them. Instead whenever the suggestion for negotiations is made they raise the absurd and impossible demand that Assad agree to go as a precondition for the negotiations taking place. Since the western powers have consistently obstructed any negotiations that do not involve Assad going (ie. regime change) the rebels have been under no pressure to agree to such negotiations and the war has instead gone from bad to worse.

    To anyone who has followed the Syrian crisis closely, the latest proposal that has come out of the Lavrov/Kerry talks carries a strong sense of deja vu. A year ago Kofi Annan chaired a conference in Geneva, which made what was essentially the same proposal as the one Lavrov/Kerry have just agreed on. That proposal fell apart because no sooner was the proposal agreed then the hardliners in the US and amongst the western powers sabotaged it by misrepresenting it as an agreement by the Russians to remove Assad. To that end they proposed yet another in their endless series of completely unbalanced Resolutions to the Security Council, which again effectively made Assad's departure a precondition for negotiations and which threatened action under Chapter 7 (ie. ultimately military action) if that did not happen. The Russians and Chinese, again equally predictably, vetoed this Resolution and Annan found himself forced to resign. The sequel was a further attempt by the hardliners to achieve a military solution with the western backed rebel military offensive of the summer.

    Since then and with the failure of that offensive, and especially since the departure of the hardliner and regime changer in chief, Hillary Clinton, there has been a gradual shift in the US position back towards the original position agreed in Geneva. The Lavrov/Kerry initiative is essentially confirmation of this. However the process continues to be vigorously resisted by the hardliners in Washington and elsewhere. Thus we have seen the forced resignation of the leader of the rebel council, who also countenanced talks with Assad, an escalation in demands for the US to arm the rebels (in reality - since the rebels are armed anyway - a demand for the rebels to be supplied with heavier and more sophisticated weapons), an Anglo French attempt to get the EU to lift its arms embargo to allow more arms supplies to the rebels (blocked by Germany, whose stance on the Syrian crisis is close to Russia's), the transparently bogus claims of the regime's use of chemical weapons and last but not least the recent Israeli military intervention in the crisis (obviously intended by hardliners in Israel to force the US's hand).

    Whether the pressure from the hardliners will be enough to block the Lavrov/Kerry initiative remains to be seen. The reason the hardliners want to block the initiative and any proposal for talks that goes with it is because their agenda obviously is not a negotiated settlement of the Syrian crisis but regime change.
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  7. Vostok

    Vostok Gubernial Secretary (12th class)

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    All good AK, Thanks for the post Alexander, I have used a few of your Russia Syria posts in the past when arguing about Syria. Always informative.
  8. Ombrageux

    Ombrageux Commissar

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    That War Nerd piece is great. Very depressing for those concerned - so tribal perma-war forever in Iraq, Libya, Lebanon and Syria, basically half the region! - but as good an argument as any for steering clear. Every society evolves according to deep-rooted internal logics which, if they can be influenced by the outside (usually negatively), ultimately must be resolved by the locals themselves. The West's amazingly bad "nation-building" results in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan also suggest this.

    (I except the possibility of total war/annihilation of the enemy, WW2-style, of course big changes are possible if you kill millions and subjugate the country completely.)
  9. Hero of Crappy Town

    Hero of Crappy Town Collegiate Registrar (14th class)

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    That also sounds like it isn't just a sectarian conflict, but also, at least for now, a low-intensity one. In a sectarian war of a higher grade you have sectarian cleansing which produces refugees forced from their towns and villages who then no longer have a local home to defend. Without these local attachments they may be easily organized into more conventional military formations which can be sent to act offensively wherever they are needed.

    In Bosnia for example the first source of such truly regular units for the Bosnian Muslim Army (ARBiH) were refugees from Eastern Bosnia. (The Bosnian Serbs on the other hand advantageously for them had a certain number of such units from the start since when Sarajevo declared independence regular Yugoslav Army (JNA) units became Bosnian Serb Army (VRS) units overnight.)

    So for now when the Syrian Army retakes a Sunni neighborhood, or town this does not result in a flood of refugees. These Sunnis do not flee into rebel-held territory to be organized into regular (non-locally based) fighting formations. It may be something to keep an eye for, if this begins to happen it will signal a new phase in the war. But if not I reckon Baath is safe.
  10. Vostok

    Vostok Gubernial Secretary (12th class)

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    Hmmm, Don't see any of this being logical, the "Gulf gas would not threaten Russia's position as a main gas supplier to Europe line made me giggle.
    Exclusive: Saudi offers Russia deal to scale back Assad support - sources
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/07/us-syria-crisis-saudi-russia-idUSBRE9760OQ20130807
  11. Reggie Kabaeva

    Reggie Kabaeva Office Registrar (13th class)

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    I agree. It sounds like BS to me.
  12. Patrick Armstrong

    Patrick Armstrong Commissar

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    A more accurate assessment of post-WW1 activity is that it hasn't been used in situations when the enemy can return the favour.
    Gas used in Ethiopia by Italy
    China by Japan
    Arabia by Egypt
    Iran by Iraq
    Iraq by Iraq
  13. Patrick Armstrong

    Patrick Armstrong Commissar

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    Syria? What Syria war?
    When did you last see anything in the MSM about Syria? (OK maybe on page 103 next to an ad for trusses).

    Why would we talk about Syria any more?
    1. Assad is winning
    2. We might have to talk about the famous "red line".

    Better to change the subject to something else.
  14. AKarlin

    AKarlin Generalissimo Staff Member

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    A very interesting article from a Lebanese paper. Supports so many of the conspiracy theories that one has to wonder how true it is:

    There is a condensed summary of it at The Telegraph.
  15. Mohsen Mawali

    Mohsen Mawali Dead Soul

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    Perhaps this would deserve a new thread as, really, we aren't talking of a Syrian "civil war" any longer...

    Threats of Western intervention are now everywhere, the US media is saturated with the topic- a clear sign of the incoming storm, as previous American-led wars have shown.
    Various reports, as well as the ships gathered around Syria seem to imply it will likely be precision, "surgical", strikes of various sites with cruise missiles, (similar to the 1993 bombing of Iraq? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruise_missile_strikes_on_Iraq_(June_1993) , or the Kosovo war)
    and perhaps the establishment of a no-fly zone along the Jordanian border, which would be a more complex operation.

    Now, an observation with regards to Russia. It seems clear that all the recent American wars in the Middle East and in the Balkans have been made possible in large part thanks to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. At the very least, such overt and massive interventions in Iraq, Yugoslavia would have taken a very different turn, if not been made impossible during the cold war. The Kosovo war was an acute case, where Russia's impotence was magnified.

    As someone who has been reading Anatoly's blogs and writings regularly, I'm well aware that today's Russia is nothing like 1999's. While obviously far from the USSR's might, Russia has considerably improved its economy, demography, its diplomatic standing as well as its armed forces since the deep crisis of the 90's.

    Yet will Russia watch another of its allies being trounced with little opposition? So far all that Russia has offered is vocal support, it seems. While its allies are being taken out one after one, it's Russia long term recovery as a world power that is being put in jeopardy. Perhaps there is and will be covert support that can help the Syrian government in some ways, perhaps something is being prepared with Iran, who knows? I wouldn't bet on it, though, and I'm frankly rather worried for the region now.
  16. Patrick Armstrong

    Patrick Armstrong Commissar

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    IMO there is too much talk of Syria being Russia's "ally", support for Assad and all that. I believe Moscow has 3 main interests here.
    PRINCIPLE. Moscow does not like the precedents being set in which Washington and a couple of others can re-arrange governments at their whim.
    PRACTICAL. Moscow believes -- with good reason I think -- that most of these interventions make things worse.
    PERSONAL. Moscow fears that success in overthrowing these places will feed the appetite to try the same thing in Russia and that the instability and bad results left behind can also directly affect it. As a member of the P5 it is a strong upholder of the UN (ie a forum in which it is a big player with a veto).

    So quite simple I think. The famous "naval base" is in reality occasional usage of a dock in a rather small port (look at it on Google Earth). I very much doubt Putin has any actual affection for Assad (but you don't have to like someone to think that the alternatives may be worse). The arms sales are small change and, in any case, a lot are being held back.

    I believe all this stuff about Russia's support alliance et al is just more disinformation -- intellectual battlespace preparation

    The brutal truth is that there isn't anything Russia can do to stop another military adventure that wouldn't cost it much more than it's worth. But Putin plays the long game and sees that these "humanitarian interventions" weaken the USA and the other participants in the long run. After all, other than a few loud bangs here and there, any serious operation would take a long time (how many months to overthrow Kadaffy's ramshackle construction?), and ground involvement would be even worse. Only 9% of Americans support involvement. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs...intervention-even-less-popular-than-congress/). So his best position is to take the morally superior stance and position himself to be able to say "I warned you". But it is difficult to be the only adult in the playpen.

    Another consideration is that joining NATO was attractive when it was another step towards success and gave you the opportunity to insult Russia. But now that it involves pressure to join the latest military adventure at the ends of the earth, is it so attractive? In fact, come to think of it, that wonderful shiny Western model of 1990 isn't looking so good now is it? Long game: the fat lady hasn't sung yet.

    The end state (unless as I said it's just a few loud bangs) would not leave the USA stronger or more united.
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  17. Patrick Armstrong

    Patrick Armstrong Commissar

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    Silly me. They were in the kitchen cooking.
  18. Alexander Mercouris

    Alexander Mercouris Ship Secretary (11th class)

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    Before we discuss the implications of the attack that is now surely coming, it seems to me that it is important to clarify what is happening.

    As I said in my comment on the specific thread about the alleged Syrian gas attack, it is simply untrue that the Syrian government refused the UN inspectors access to the site of the alleged gas attack. The area in question is controlled by the Syrian rebels and it is they and they alone who can grant or deny access to it. What has triggered the war talk of the last two days is (1) the discovery by the Syrian army of physical evidence that appears to link the gas attack to Saudi Arabia and the rebels and (2) the agreement on Saturday between the UN inspectors and the Syrian government for a full inspection and investigation of the relevant area to determine what actually happened.

    In other words the purpose of the coming attack is not to punish or deter the Syrian authorities from using chemical weapons. It is to prevent a proper investigation by the UN inspectors that might find out what did actually happen.

    That this is so is confirmed by the events of the last few days. When news of the attack first appeared Obama gave an interview to CNN in which he appeared to say that there would have to be an investigation of what happened. The US supported a decision by the UN Security Council that supported the Secretary General's decision to carry out an investigation of the incident to obtain "clarity" about what happened. Concurrently Lavrov and Kerry both released a joint statement saying that there needed to be an "impartial investigation" to determine what happened. Contrast that with Kerry's statement of yesterday in which, just as the investigation is about to start, he declares that it is "undisputable" that there was a chemical attack and that the Syrian authorities were behind it. What is the point of the UN and the US calling for an investigation if the US government has already declared in advance what the "truth" is? The UN inspectors might just as well pack their bags and go home.

    What has clearly happened is that the US initially called for an investigation because it assumed that the Syrian authorities were responsible for the gas attack. The US accordingly assumed that either the UN investigation would confirm this or that the Syrian authorities to conceal their guilt would prevent the investigation from taking place. When it became clear that the Syrian authorities on the contrary were willing to cooperate with the investigation and when evidence started to come to light that if there was a gas attack it was most likely the rebels who were responsible, the priority abruptly shifted to stopping the investigation at all costs. That is why Kerry has declared the Syrian authorities' guilt "undisputable", why the US has cancelled its meeting to discuss Syria with the Russians and why an attack will now take place.

    For the rest, let us also be clear that the attack that is now coming is a gross violation of international law. That this is so is clearly confirmed by the wording of the UN Charter. Article 2(4) of the UN Charter says

    "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations".

    Article 39 of the UN Charter further says

    "The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security."

    Article 51 of the UN Charter further says

    "Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the prese nt Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security."

    In other words the only body competent in international law to authorise military action is the UN Security Council except for the purpose of self defence. The so called "Responsibility to Protect" doctrine does not affect or limit the UN Security Council's exclusive right to authorise the use of force in any way. Rather it simply set out certain criteria and procedures that need to be followed before the UN Security Council may authorise military intervention in the internal affairs of a Member State.

    Not only will the pending attack be made without the authority of the UN Security Council, which renders it illegal under international law, but in this case the violation of international law and of the prerogatives of the UN Security Council is especially gross because the UN Security Council is already involved, having called just 5 days ago for "clarity" on this question by supporting the UN Secretary General's intention to undertake an investigation, which is now underway. The attack is therefore being prepared in order to subvert a purpose authorised by the UN Security Council, namely to obtain "clarity" about what actually happened through an impartial investigation of the incident by the UN Secretary General's inspectors.
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  19. Alexander Mercouris

    Alexander Mercouris Ship Secretary (11th class)

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    I would agree with all of this. I would also add that the extent to which even the USSR in its heyday was able to deter the US from launching attacks is overstated. The USSR was unable to prevent the US military intervention in Korea, the Anglo French Israeli attack on Egypt in 1956, the US intervention in Lebanon in 1958, the US sponsored attack on Cuba in 1961, the US invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965, the Israeli attack on the USSR's Arab allies in 1967, the repeated Israeli attacks on various Arab states that have gone on ever since, the US military intervention in Vietnam, the US attack on Libya in 1986 and the US invasions of Grenada in 1983 and Panama in 1988. The USSR was able to lend military support to some of its allies (eg. Korea and Vietnam in the 1950s and 1960s and Egypt and Syria in the 1970s and 1980s) but ultimately what decided things was the ability of its allies to defend themselves.
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  20. AKarlin

    AKarlin Generalissimo Staff Member

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    I just want to add that that was a most excellent comment, Alexander. I've reprinted it at my general blog.
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