“Obama’s ‘Moderate’ Syrian Rebels Are Nowhere to Be Found”

Publicado em: 14/09/2014

“Author & Journalist Patrick Cockburn explains the different factions in Syria and why defeating ISIS should start with ending the war in Syria”

Fonte: http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=12373

TRNN: The Islamic State, Assad, and the Contradictions Faced by the US in Syria Investigative journalist Patrick Cockburn says the U.S. will need to work with Syria and Iran to defeat ISIS, thereby reversing its policy towards Assad

JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.President Barack Obama has authorized the military to conduct surveillance flights over Syria. With U.S. airstrikes already happening in Iraq against extremist group The Islamic State, these surveillance flights are being seen as a possible prelude to attacks on the Islamic State in Syria. But where the twist comes in is that the Islamic State in Syria is fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad. That has been the very same objective of the U.S. for the past two years. So now that ISIS seems to be the most imminent threat, will the U.S. coordinate with Assad to bring ISIS down? And what role has the U.S. played in creating the rise of this fanatic group to begin with?Now joining us to help answer some of these questions is our guest, Patrick Cockburn. Patrick is an investigative journalist who has been a Middle East correspondent since 1979 for the Financial Timesand presently works for The Independent. He also has a new book out called The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising. And he joins us now from Ireland.Thanks for being with us, Patrick.PATRICK COCKBURN, JOURNALIST, THE INDEPENDENT: Thank you.DESVARIEUX: So, Patrick, there are so many contradictions in this story. Let’s try to work out some of these contradictions. First explain the U.S.’s objectives in Syria. And how did it come to be that they are now fighting the very same forces that they once supported?COCKBURN: Yes. It’s something of a diplomatic disaster. The U.S. supported the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad to weaken and replace him over the last three years. But over the last year and a half, the main opposition has been jihadis, al-Qaeda type organizations, and over the last six months it’s been the Islamic State, ISIS, which the U.S. is fighting in or were helping the Iraqi government and the Kurdish government fight in Iraq. So in one country they’re supporting the government against ISIS, in Iraq, and in Syria they’re doing exactly the opposite, they’re opposing the government, which is fighting ISIS. And I don’t think this contradiction can go on very long. I think soon they’ll have to decide whose side they’re on.DESVARIEUX: Yeah, and that’s a good question, because there are consequences depending on which side they choose, because if they look to topple Assad, that benefits ISIS. If they look to attack ISIS, that helps Assad. So it seems like quite a mess. What would you suggest they do?COCKBURN: Well, there’s no doubt in my mind that the great threat to both these countries is ISIS, which is a very horrible, in many ways fascist organization, very sectarian, kills anybody who doesn’t believe in their particular rigorous brand of Islam. They killed last week a single tribe that opposed them. They killed 700 members. Another 1,500 have disappeared. So these are big-scale massacres. So I think they should oppose ISIS. But they need to do it effectively, which means that they have a parallel policy with the Syrian government, which they’ve been trying to overthrow. I don’t think they’re going to have a U-turn in that policy, because it would be to humiliating. But covertly I think that they’re shifting their ground. They need to prevent Assad’s government falling to ISIS.DESVARIEUX: Yeah. And the drumbeats of war are really getting louder here in the United States, Patrick. I’m going to pull up an example of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. He was recently asked at a press conference about whether ISIL posed a 9/11 threat. Here’s his response.~~~CHUCK HAGEL, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: ISIL is as sophisticated and well funded as any group that we have seen. They’re beyond just a terrorist group. They marry ideology, sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess. They are tremendously well funded. Oh, this is beyond anything that we’ve seen. So we must prepare for everything. And the only way you do that is you take a cold, steely hard look at it and get ready.~~~DESVARIEUX: “Get ready” you just heard Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel say. So what should we be potentially getting ready for, Patrick? What is the U.S.’s real interest in getting potentially back into Iraq and now Syria? You said something about covert operations. But is it possible that we could even see boots on the ground there?COCKBURN: You know, this means so many different things. You know, at one point it meant a few years ago in Iraq that there were 150,000 American soldiers in Iraq. That was awful lot of boots. I don’t think we’re going to see that again or anything like that. I don’t think we’ll see that in Syria. But will there be American airstrikes in Iraq [incompr.] on a more extensive basis? I think there will. Will the same things happen in Syria? It’s really quite likely, because it’s absurd to combat ISIS in Iraq but not on Syria, because ISIS can then get back over the border. It’s effectively abolished the frontier.And this is a pretty big place now that they rule. ISIS rules an area which is bigger than Britain, bigger than the state of Michigan. It has a population of 6 or 7 million people. So this isn’t something that can be easily contained, and it’s very difficult to eliminate.DESVARIEUX: And, Patrick, at the end of the day, what’s this all about? I mean, whose interest is it, really, to defeat ISIS?COCKBURN: Well, I think that this is a rather extraordinary organization. It combines extreme religious fanaticism with military efficiency. It’s won a lot of victories during the summer, and pretty extraordinary ones. There are 350,000 soldiers in the Iraqi army, or there used to be, and they were attacked by two or three thousand members of ISIS in Mosul, and they disintegrated. This caught everybody by surprise. I mean, everybody, including myself, knew the Iraqi army was pretty bad, very corrupt, but I don’t think we expected it just to disintegrate in a single day’s fighting.In Syria they’re also getting stronger and stronger. It doesn’t get reported much because it’s so dangerous, as we saw with poor James Foley, for any journalists to go there. But they’ve been advancing westwards. They’ve won three or four victories, overrun Syrian army bases in the last few weeks, without anybody paying much attention.So this is an expanding organization which could quite soon rule territory right from the Iranian border to the Mediterranean.DESVARIEUX: So is it fair to say, I mean, Iran has a vested interest too to defeat ISIS?COCKBURN: It certainly does. I mean, in Iraq, there’s a rather extraordinary combination of people who previously were confronting each other and certainly didn’t like each other, like the U.S. and Iran, various factions in Kurdistan, various politicians in Baghdad, Saudi Arabia, Turkey. All these people have been brought together by a single factor, which is fear, fear of ISIS. It’s a very frightening organization. And all these countries, I think, are now rather frightened by what they see.DESVARIEUX: So, Patrick, in your book you speak of what could be done to end all of this. You write, quote,

“Given that the insurgency is not dominated by ISIS, JN, and all other al-Qaeda type groups, it is unlikely that even Washington, London, or Riyadh now want to see Assad fall. But allowing Assad to win would be seen as a defeat for the West and their Arab and Turkish allies.”

So what are your predictions here? How do you see this all being resolved?COCKBURN: I think it’s difficult to predict, because it depends on some very important decisions in Washington and elsewhere about where they stand. They are responsible for quite a lot of what has happened. In Iraq we had al-Qaeda in Iraq, which had become a force after the U.S. invasion of 2003. This had been reduced in strength by the U.S. and the Iraqi government about seven or eight years ago. But as Iraq was becoming more peaceful, uprisings started in Syria in 2011, which were backed by the U.S. and its allies. And that led to war in Syria, to the civil war in Iraq starting again. And it was in this crucible that ISIS moved from being a quite small, marginal organization to being an extremely powerful one. It was really the result of miscalculations about the long-term outcome of the war in Syria that led to ISIS’s present victories and the creation of their caliphate.DESVARIEUX: The Independent quoted Prime Minister David Cameron as saying that cooperation with Iran will be necessary to deal with ISIS. Do you agree?COCKBURN: Yes. I mean, it’s a strange situation, because the Iranians are very frightened by what’s happening, because ISIS used to be an organization they were fighting is Syria and Damascus, a long way away. Now ISIS is taking towns that are 20 miles from the Iranian border. So they want to defeat it. So they have a parallel policy with the U.S.But it’s difficult, certainly, for the U.S. to then have a U-turn and say, the Iranians that we used to demonize, that we said were our great enemy in the Middle East, now suddenly they’re our pals, they’re our friends. Similarly with Damascus. So I think it’s difficult for them to make a U-turn, though it’s necessary for them to do so and do so pretty quickly, without being humiliated. And so a lot of what they do they may try to do covertly.

August 27, 14

Fonte: The Real News Network

ONU – “Iraqi civilians suffering ‘horrific’ persecution, ethnic cleansing – UN rights chief”

The United Nations human rights chief today condemned the appalling and horrific crimes against humanity being committed daily in Iraq by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and associated armed groups.

“[ISIL] is systematically targeting men, women and children based on their ethnic, religious or sectarian affiliation and is ruthlessly carrying out widespread ethnic and religious cleansing in the areas under its control,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, in a statement to the press.

The violations include targeted killings, forced conversions, abductions, trafficking, slavery, sexual abuse, destruction of places of religious and cultural significance, and the besieging of entire communities because of ethnic, religious or sectarian affiliation.

Ms. Pillay said among those directly targeted have been Christians, Yezidi, Shabaks, Turkomen, Kaka’e and Sabaeans.

In Nineveh Governorate, hundreds of mostly Yezidi individuals were reported killed and up to 2,500 kidnapped at the beginning of August. Of those who refused to convert, witnesses report that the men were executed while the women and their children were handed over to ISIL fighters as slaves.

Similarly, in Cotcho village in Southern Sinjar, ISIL killed and abducted hundreds of Yezidis on 15 August. Reports indicate, again, that the male villagers were killed while women and children were taken away to unknown locations.

“UN staff members in Iraq have been receiving harrowing phone calls from besieged civilians who are surviving in terrible conditions, with little or no access to humanitarian aid,” Ms. Pillay said. “One of the women abducted by ISIL managed to call our staff, and told them that her teenage son and daughter were among the many who had been raped and sexually assaulted by IS gunmen. Another said her son had been raped at a checkpoint.”

At least 13,000 members of the Shia Turkmen community in Amirli in Salah al-Din Governorate, among them 10,000 women and children, have been besieged by ISIL since 15 June. Residents are enduring harsh conditions with severe food and water shortages, and a complete absence of medical services – and there are fears of a possible imminent massacre, said Ms. Pillay.

“The Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan region of Iraq, and the international community must take all necessary measures and spare no effort to protect members of ethnic and religious communities, who are particularly vulnerable, and to secure their return to their places of origin in safety and dignity,” said the High Commissioner.

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The effect of the ongoing conflict on children is catastrophic, she said. According to interviews by UN human rights monitors with displaced families, ISIL is forcibly recruiting boys aged 15 and above. ISIL has also reportedly been deliberately positioning the boys at the front-line in battle situations, as human shields.

The Human Rights Office of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq has also verified reports of a massacre of prisoners and detainees in Mosul’s Badoush Prison on 10 June. According to interviews with 20 survivors and 16 witnesses of the massacre, ISIL gunmen loaded between 1,000 and 1,500 prisoners onto trucks and transported them to a nearby uninhabited area, Ms. Pillay said.

There, armed men asked the Sunnis to separate themselves from the others. Around 100 prisoners who joined the Sunni group were suspected by ISIL not to be Sunni and were subjected to individual checks based on how they prayed and their place of origin. Sunni inmates were ordered back on the trucks and left the scene. ISIL gunmen then yelled insults at the remaining prisoners, lined them up in four rows, ordered them to kneel and opened fire. Up to 670 prisoners were reportedly killed.

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“Such cold-blooded, systematic and intentional killings of civilians, after singling them out for their religious affiliation may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Ms. Pillay said.

“I urge the international community to ensure that the perpetrators of these vicious crimes do not enjoy impunity. Any individual committing, or assisting in the commission of international crimes, must be held accountable according to law.”

Fonte: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48551#.U_zRT_ldVBu

ONU – “Comunidade Internacional debate conflito em Gaza e Israel”

Publicado em 23/07/2014

“Não somos números. Somos seres humanos”, disse Riyad Mansour, observador permanente da Palestina junto às Nações Unidas, em uma reunião do Conselho de Segurança da ONU sobre as mortes em Gaza. O vice-representante de Israel na ONU, David Yitshak Roet, disse que o presidente palestino, Mahmoud Abbas, deveria “dissolver a unidade de governo” da Palestina.

“Estes são os rostos humanos de nossas vítimas”, acrescentou Mansour, mostrando fotos das crianças palestinas mortas e feridas no conflito — até esta quarta-feira (23), mais de 160 crianças palestinas haviam sido assassinadas, com pelo menos 1.100 feridas, segundo o UNICEF.

Por videoconferência, o secretário-geral da ONU, Ban Ki-moon — que está visitando diversos países na região –, afirmou: “Um cessar-fogo é essencial, mas se não enfrentarmos as questões mais profundas, nós nunca resolveremos o problema. Nós só iremos postergá-lo para um outro momento”.

Em Genebra, o Conselho de Direitos Humanos da ONU fez uma reunião emergencial sobre o tema. A chefe de direitos humanos da ONU, Navi Pillay, alertou para potenciais crimes de guerra e contra a humanidade que estão sendo cometidos.

Assista nesta matéria especial da ONU e saiba mais em http://www.onu.org.br/especial/gaza

ONU – “Israel agrees to ‘humanitarian pause’ in war-torn Gaza Strip, UN envoy confirms”

After days of escalating violence and follow-on civilian suffering in the Gaza Strip, the United Nations special envoy for the Middle East confirmed today that Israel has agreed to a five hour humanitarian pause – set to begin tomorrow morning – and repeated his call on Hamas to respect the lull “in the interest of the people of Gaza.”

In a statement issued by his spokesperson in Jerusalem, Robert Serry UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process confirmed that the Government of Israel agreed the five hour humanitarian pause, which will start at tomorrow at 10:00 a.m., local time and end at 3:00 p.m.

“Mr. Serry appreciates this Israeli decision and repeats his call on Hamas and other factions to respect the humanitarian pause from their side, in the interest of the people of Gaza,” said the statement.

It goes on to say that Mr. Serry reiterates the importance of arriving at a durable ceasefire understanding, also addressing underlying issues in Gaza, as soon as possible. “The United Nations, together with other international actors, will continue to support efforts in this regard,” the statement concluded.

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This news comes as media reports suggest that Israel previously had agreed to a pause for several hours Tuesday after Egypt put forward a cease-fire proposal that subsequently collapsed.

Israeli-Palestinian violence has flared ago in the wake of the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank in late June and the subsequent kidnapping and killing of a Palestinian teenager from East Jerusalem earlier this month.

And with militants in Gaza stepping up rocket attacks against Israel, and Israeli airstrikes on the enclave intensifying, Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and a host of other senior UN officials, as well as the members of the Security Council, have repeatedly urged all actors to exercise maximum restraint and avoid further civilian casualties and overall destabilization.

Meanwhile, earlier today, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator reminded both Israelis and Palestinians of their obligations under international law to protect civilians and to distinguish between military and civilian targets, as she warned that innocent men, women and children continue to bear the brunt of the deadly violence that has engulfed the region.

Extremely concerned by the escalation of hostilities and its impact on civilians, Valerie Amos, in a statement issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which she heads, said that according to preliminary estimates, as of 15 July, 194 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli attacks, including 149 civilians.

Ms. Amos said that hundreds of homes have been directly targeted by Israeli airstrikes, many of which were allegedly the residences of members of armed groups. More than 1,300 families have been forced to seek shelter with relatives and neighbours. Nearly 80 schools have been damaged because of their proximity to targeted sites. In one incident, an Israeli airstrike killed 18 people in one house, including six children and three women.

Public services have been suspended and the water supply is at risk after two maintenance engineers were killed by an Israeli missile, she added.

“Armed groups are firing rockets from residential areas in Gaza towards populated areas in Israel, reportedly killing one civilian so far and putting at risk the lives of thousands more, both Israeli and Palestinian,” Ms Amos said, and underscored: “Sustained bombardment is terrifying for everyone but particularly for children, who will need psycho-social support long after the violence subsides.”

She went on to remind the parties to conflict that they have responsibilities under international humanitarian law, emphasizing that “they must take precautions to protect civilians and must distinguish between civilian and military targets.”

“This is the third major military confrontation in Gaza in six years, and civilians have borne the brunt each time. They are paying the price for a collective failure to break the cycle of violence and reach a lasting political solution,” declared Ms. Amos.

Fonte: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48284#.U8fX4fldVBs

Iran and Assad have won in Syria, say top Tehran foreign policy figures

Iran and Assad have won in Syria, say top Tehran foreign policy figures

Insiders say western strategy in Syria encouraged radicals and backfired, leading to threat to European security from returning jihadis
Bashar al-Assad, Syrian president

Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president. Senior Iranian officials say: ‘The Americans wanted to replace Assad, but what was the alternative? All they have done is encourage radical groups and made the borders less safe.’ Photograph: Uncredited/AP

Iran and its close ally President Bashar al-Assad have won the war inSyria, and the US-orchestrated campaign in support of the opposition’s attempt to topple the Syrian regime has failed, senior Iranian officials have told the Guardian.

In a series of interviews in Tehran, top figures who shape Iranian foreign policy said the west’s strategy in Syria had merely encouraged radicals, caused chaos and ultimately backfired, with government forces now on the front foot.

“We have won in Syria,” said Alaeddin Borujerdi, chairman of the Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee and an influential government insider. “The regime will stay. The Americans have lost it.”

Terrorism perpetrated by al-Qaida-linked jihadist groups and individuals armed and funded by Sunni Muslim Arab countries was now the main threat facing the Syrian people, Borujerdi said. Many foreign fighters who had travelled to Syria from Britain and other European countries could soon return. “We are worried about the future security of Europe,” he said.

Amir Mohebbian, a conservative strategist and government adviser, said: “We won the game in Syria easily. The US does not understand Syria. The Americans wanted to replace Assad, but what was the alternative? All they have done is encourage radical groups and made the borders less safe.

“We accept the need for change in Syria – but gradually. Otherwise, there is chaos.”

Shia Muslim Iran is Assad’s main regional backer and has reportedly spent billions of dollars propping up the regime since the first revolt against the president broke out in March 2011. Along with Russia, the regime’s principal arms supplier, it has consistently bolstered Assad in the teeth of attempts to force him to step down.

Western analysts say Iran is engaged in a region-wide power struggle or proxy war, extending beyond Syria, with the Sunni Arab states of the Gulf, principally Saudi Arabia.

Tehran thus has an obvious interest in claiming victory for the Alawite Syrian regime, which is fighting mostly Sunni rebels, they say. Iranian officials and regional experts deny that is their motive.

Majid Takht-Ravanchi, deputy Iranian foreign minister, said the priority was to accept the rebellion had failed and to restore stability in Syria before next month’s presidential elections. “Extremism and turmoil in Syria must be tackled seriously by the international community. Those countries that are supplying extremist forces must stop helping them,” he said.”Iran has good relations with the Syrian government, though that does not mean they listen to us,” Ravanchi said. He denied Iran had supplied weapons and Revolutionary Guards combatants to help defeat the rebels, as western intelligence agencies have claimed. “Iran has a diplomatic presence there. There is no unusual presence. We have no need to arm the Syrian government,” he said.

Despite its influence with Damascus and Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia militia fighting alongside government forces, Iran has been largely excluded from international talks to forge a peace settlement owing to US and British objections that Tehran does not accept the need for Assad to quit .

But following last week’s rebel retreat from the strategic city of Homs, the so-called capital of the revolution, some western politicians and commentators have also reached the conclusion that Assad has won.

The US and its Gulf Arab allies have supplied funding, equipment and arms to the Syrian rebels. Last year, the US president, Barack Obama, appeared on the point of launching air and missile attacks over the Assad government’s use of chemical weapons, but Obama’s last-minute decision to pull back was interpreted in Tehran and Damascus as a sign the US was having second thoughts and was not wholly committed to winning the war.

“I think the Americans made a big mistake in Syria and I think they know it, though they would never say so,” said Mohammad Marandi, a Tehran university professor. “If they had accepted the Annan plan in 2012 [which would have left Assad in place pending a ceasefire and internationally monitored elections] we could have avoided all this.”

“Iran sincerely believed it had no other option but to support the Assad government. Anything else would have resulted in the collapse of Syria and it falling into the hands of extremists,” he said.

More than 150,000 people are believed to have died in the Syrian conflict and at least 9 million have been displaced.

Fonte: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/11/syria-crisis-iran-assad-won-war-tehran