Tuesday 9th of August 2022

EU tightens 'stranglehold' on Assad regime...


The EU is to freeze the financial assets of up to 10 senior figures in President Bashar al-Assad's regime as part of a rapid escalation to tighten the "diplomatic and economic stranglehold" aimed at bringing an end to the bloodshed in Syria. Foreign ministers will tomorrow agree a fresh array of sanctions, including travel bans on high-profile members of Mr Assad's team, restraints on Syria's Central Bank, as well as restrictions on cargo flights and sales of gold and diamonds.

Ahead of the latest round of diplomacy, Syrian forces continued to attack their opponents. Up to 22 people were reported killed yesterday during clashes across the country. The killings came as officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) abandoned attempts to rescue people trapped by shelling in the Baba Amr district of Homs. Those awaiting evacuation include the British photographer Paul Conroy and French journalist Edith Bouvier who were wounded last week. The bodies of the journalists Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik, killed at the same time, also remain there.


a miniature Warsaw...

From Robert Fisk


So why were we so surprised when the "Free Syrian Army" fled the city? Did we really expect the Assad regime to close up shop and run because a few hundred men with Kalashnikovs wanted to stage a miniature Warsaw uprising in Homs? Did we really believe that the deaths of women and children – and journalists – would prevent those who still claim the mantle of Arab nationalism from crushing the city? When the West happily adopted the illusions of Nicolas Sarkozy, David Cameron and Hillary Clinton – and the Arab Gulf states whose demands for Syrian "democracy" are matched by their refusal to give this same democracy to their own people – the Syrians understood the hypocrisy.

Were the Saudis, now so keen to arm Syria's Sunni insurgents – along with Sunni Qatar – planning to surrender their feudal, princely Sunni power to their own citizens and to their Shia minority? Was the Emir of Qatar contemplating resignation? Among the lobbyists of Washington, among the illusionists at the Brookings Institution and the Rand Corporation and the Council on Foreign Relations and all the other US outfits that peddle New York Times editorials, Homs had become the new Benghazi, the start-line for the advance on Damascus.

It was the same old American dream: if a police state was ruthless, cynical and corrupt – and let us have no illusions about the Baathist apparatus and its panjandrum – then its opponents, however poorly armed, would win; because they were the good guys. 


regime shall be "spring-cleaned"...

World powers including Britain and America yesterday pledged to boost funding and support for Syria's armed opposition, toughening their stance on a regime that has so far appeared immune to a barrage of sanctions, censure and diplomatic isolation.

While Western and Arab nations remained divided on the extent of support for the anti-regime fighters, a communiqué from a meeting in Istanbul of the so-called Friends of Syria grouping of 83 nations included an open call on soldiers to defy their orders. Gulf countries pledged a "pot of gold" to pay rebels' salaries, while Western countries appeared to shift their emphasis to action over flagging diplomacy.



US fighting "al qaeda's war" against Assad...

Syrian rebels get influx of arms with gulf neighbors’ money, U.S. coordinationBy  and Wednesday, May 16, 11:53 AM

Syrian rebels battling the regime of President Bashar al-Assad have begun receiving significantly more and better weapons in recent weeks, an effort paid for by Persian Gulf nations and coordinated in part by the United States, according to opposition activists and U.S. and foreign officials.

Obama administration officials emphasized that the United States is neither supplying nor funding the lethal material, which includes antitank weaponry. Instead, they said, the administration has expanded contacts with opposition military forces to provide the gulf nations with assessments of rebel credibility and command-and-control infrastructure.

“We are increasing our nonlethal assistance to the Syrian opposition, and we continue to coordinate our efforts with friends and allies in the region and beyond in order to have the biggest impact on what we are collectively doing,” said a senior State Department official, one of several U.S. and foreign government officials who discussed the evolving effort on the condition of anonymity.


iran helps syria while west help rebels...

Syria remains the top destination for Iranian arms shipments, in violation of a UN Security Council ban on weapons exports by the Islamic Republic, according to a confidential report.

The report, submitted by a panel of sanctions-monitoring experts to the Security Council's Iran sanctions committee, said the panel investigated three large illegal shipments of Iranian weapons over the past year.

Iran, like Russia, is one of Syria's few allies as it presses ahead with a 14-month-old assault on opposition forces determined to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.


death all around...

The Syrian government has denied responsibility for an attack that killed at least 85 people, including 34 children, saying that it was carried out by "terrorists".

Jihad Makdissi, the spokesman for the Syrian foreign ministry, also severely criticised foreign leaders for accusing the government of having committed atrocities "without any evidence".

He told a press conference on Sunday that "no Syrian artillery or heavy weapons were used in the area of Houla", where the attack took place on Friday.

He said that "armed groups" had carried out the attack using anti-tank rockets and that they had burned houses in the area, which is a collection of villages.

Makdissi said Syrian forces were trying to defend themselves and that clashes with fighters had ended at 11pm on Friday.

"Syria will continue defending its citizens," he said.



Meanwhile in Afghanistan:

Seven members of an Afghan family, including a woman and six young children, were killed in a NATO airstrike in eastern Afghanistan, local authorities said.

The strike took place in the Gerda Serai district of Paktia late on Saturday, the provincial governor's spokesman, Rohullah Samon, said as foreign and Afghan security forces try to quell Taliban and Haqqani network insurgents active in the area.

"The bombardment by ISAF killed the six children and wife of a man named Shafee," Mr Samon said.

A spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said it was aware of reports of the incident in volatile Paktia province and was gathering information.


against outside intervention

Opening an exhibition devoted to Syrian Christianity in a cathedral near the Kremlin, they commiserated with Russian priests and theologians about their shared anxiety: What would happen if Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, was forced from power?

It is clear by now that Russia’s government has dug in against outside intervention in Syria, its longtime partner and last firm foothold in the Middle East. Less well known is the position taken by the Russian Orthodox Church, which fears that Christian minorities, many of them Orthodox, will be swept away by a wave of Islamic fundamentalism unleashed by the Arab Spring.


Meanwhile, the west sells weapons to the rebels?...   

a miserable goodbye...

The UN's commander in Damascus bid a miserable goodbye to his mission yesterday, unconvincingly claiming that the UN would not abandon Syria, but in fact turning the country into a free-fire zone the moment his last 100 soldiers begin their retreat tomorrow. Whenever the UN withdraws its personnel from the Middle East, calamity always follows in its wake – the departure of UN weapons inspectors from Iraq in 2003 presaged the Anglo-American invasion – and, privately, the UN fears the way is now open for the West and Gulf Arabs to pour heavy weapons into Syria to assist the rebellion against the Assad regime.

As General Babacar Gaye was standing in the lobby of the luxury Damas Rose Hotel, absurdly wishing Muslims a happy Eid holiday following the fasting month of Ramadan, and insisting that "the UN will not leave Syria", his own officers were packing their bags and queuing to pay their last hotel bills on the other side of the atrium. "They couldn't even wait until Lakhdar Brahimi got here to take over as UN envoy," one of Gaye's officials grumbled. The general declined to tell journalists whether more Syrian lives might have been saved if the UN stayed on.