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Posts Tagged ‘Syria

World Pulls Jaw Muscle While Yawning At Beirut Bombing

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BeirutNew York (AP) – The world was treated for a pulled jaw muscle today after yawning at the car bombing in a Beirut suburb yesterday. Doctors at New York’s Bellevue Hospital reported that that patient was admitted to the ER, treated, and released.

A powerful explosion caused extensive damage and killed five passers by on Thursday in the Lebanese suburb of Haret Hreik, a stronghold of Hezbollah support. The bombing follows a series of similar attacks in Lebanon, in spillover from the three-year-old sectarian civil war in neighboring Syria. Opponents of the Assad regime, primarily Sunni Muslims, resent Shiite Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian conflict, exacerbating the fragile demographic tensions in Lebanon. The world, however, which would rather focus on either wresting concessions from Israel or on the new season of Downton Abbey, reacted with boredom to yet another episode of Muslim-on-Muslim violence.

Contributing to the yawn were the neverending armed conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa, Egypt, Iraq, and Afghanistan. “The world has basically resigned itself to certain populations killing each other all the time, while pretending to support democratic values,” said hospital spokesman Dr. Ray Ciszt, explaining the patient’s predisposition toward the pulled muscle. “Each time the media report further attacks in Syria, Lebanon, or even within the Gaza Strip, as long as Jews aren’t the ones pulling the trigger, the world finds it dull. Iterations of these occurrences have strained the patient’s jaw muscles from repeated yawns.” The yawning in reaction to the latest Lebanon bombing only exacerbated the muscle strain and finally resulted in injury.

Dr. Ciszt said the world risked a similar injury to its eye muscles this year when President Obama was offering excuses and apologies for sweeping violations of privacy by the National Security Administration, and the world reacted with eye-rolling. To forestall a recurrence that would seriously injure those muscles, doctors told the world not to pay attention when Obama later had to offer a defense of the missteps in rolling out his health care initiative. The admonishment also proved helpful when the US granted major concessions to Iran on its nuclear program after more than a year of official insistence that no such developments would be tolerated.

For now, the world is being instructed to maintain its studious ignorance of international developments and domestic politics, lest further parts of its anatomy sustain harm. At particular risk, says Dr. Ciszt, is the world’s digestive system, which apparently does not have the stomach for applying actual pressure on the Palestinians.


Written by Thag

January 3, 2014 at 10:29 am

Assad Unimpressed By Iraq Body Count

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Syria flagDamascus, Syria (AP) – Nearly three years into an uprising against his rule, Syrian President Basher Assad remains disdainful of the number of people killed in neighboring Iraq, having achieved a body count in less than three years that rivals what the Iraqi insurgents have needed ten year to accomplish.

UN estimates put the number of dead in Syria at about 110,000, while the number of casualties in the ongoing Iraq insurgency only reached that level sometime in 2012, according to conservative estimates. That means it took about nine years for the sectarian violence in Iraq to attain what Assad’s forces, Hezbollah, and the amalgam of rebel groups have done only since mid-2011.

“While the achievement here is not on the level of a Pol Pot, or with the sustained intensity of Hutu-Tutsi genocide in Rwanda, the Assad regime has shown it is no bloodshed slouch. Its commitment to indiscriminate killing can be seen as a statement to Syria’s neighbor to the southeast,” said John Rambo of the Brookings Institute. “Syria has only 20 million people and Iraq has more than 32 million, but in a fraction of the time, Syria has caused mayhem at similar levels in a third of the time.”

Proponents of Iraq’s various warring factions point to an asymmetry in the comparison, emphasizing that whereas in Syria, the violence is in many ways a classic civil war, albeit with guerrilla tactics and sporadic acts of bona fide terrorism, in Iraq almost all of the killings involve terrorism as opposed to sustained battles between organized forces. That disparity, they note, accounts for the slower rate of killings in Iraq.

“We are genuinely doing the best anyone can, given the circumstances,” said Moqta Al-Sadr, leader of a prominent Shiite faction. “When American and Western forces were still here, we could focus on engagements with actual troops, but even then, it was not a real confrontation between armies.” The post-Saddam-Hussein insurgency has been characterized from the beginning by car bombings, shootings and other trademarks of terrorism, rather than by battles of attrition that claim hundreds of lives over days and weeks.

Still others are unimpressed by Assad’s achievements. “In terms of percentage of the population, Assad has certainly made a mark,” noted Richard Cheney, a former US Secretary of Defense who has also studied the Iraq theater. “Aside from the casualty mark, which represents a full two-hundredth of Syria’s population, the conflict has also uprooted about a twentieth of Syria’s people. But in terms of sheer numbers, it’s kind of pathetic in comparison to, say, American campaigns in East Asia and Germany.”

Others, in turn, laugh at such American assertions of bloodshedding prowess. “The US has always enjoyed technological superiority,” noted military historian Adolf Hitler. “But it takes a serious commitment to decimate an entire continent while committing genocide,” he said, referring to German achievements between 1939 and 1945.

The German claims were in turn laughed at by historians Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin, who noted Chinese and Soviet achievements, respectively, in causing the deaths of tens of millions of their own citizens through disastrous domestic and agricultural policies. “The USSR and the People’s Republic accomplished through manifestly non-military means what Assad could never hope to do,” wrote Stalin in an e-mail. “Soviet policies in the 1920’s and 30’s, and Chinese practices in the decades following WWII, caused more deaths than the entire current populations of Syria and Iraq combined.”

Written by Thag

December 10, 2013 at 4:50 pm

On Syria, Obama Vows To Restore American Weakness

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Muslim Obama gestures toward Mecca (AP).

“By the time we’re finished, what will remain of American influence in the Middle East will resemble this invisible basketball.”

Washington, DC, September 2 (AP) – President Obama took the case for a limited strike against Syrian targets to Congress this week, arguing that a contentious, politically fraught process an and uncertain outcome were the only way to ensure that no matter what the result, the US would emerge with a diminished standing.

In an address to reporters and fellow Democrats, the President gave the rationale for delaying a strike, if any, until after Congress takes up the question instead of summarily deciding against military action. As Obama sees it, simply letting Syrian leader Basher Assad off the hook for using chemical weapons would not have the same deleterious effect on American global influence as a protracted display of cowardice, backpedaling, partisan divisiveness, and lack of political will.

“Iranian ascendancy remains only one possible outcome of many if the US launches strikes against Syria,” Obama told those in attendance. “But to simultaneously guarantee decades of profound Ayatollah influence in the Middle East and a retrenchment of American power not seen since the withdrawal from Vietnam, we have to approach the very idea of military action with a manifest absence of confidence; with an unwillingness to deploy the power in which we’ve invested trillions of dollars; and with an ironic obliviousness to the effect this compromising of principles has on both our allies and enemies.”

In fact, said Secretary of State John Kerry, the ultimate foreign policy goal is not merely withdrawing from leadership on the world stage and slowly fading into history. The Obama administration aims to set in motion an accelerated American decline so irreversible that no matter who succeeds Obama in the Oval Office, by 2030 the US will wield roughly the same level of international clout as it did in 1799.

“My address last week on the urgency of American-led military intervention in Syria was simply to raise the stakes in the event of the inevitable, agonizing reversal,” explained Kerry. “In fact, since the beginning, talk of an American strike never went beyond consideration of a limited, targeted operation with no boots on the ground, meaning that neither Assad nor the mullahs of Tehran would have to seriously contend with American military might.”

That might, he added, is the only thing that might deter Syrian loyalists, Hezbollah, or other, similarly allied interests, from fully prosecuting the war against the Syrian rebels, whom Washington openly supports, at least rhetorically. The very fact that the on-again, off-again military operation was never even conceived as a campaign with actual deterrent value, and would only be a slap on the wrist for getting caught using nerve gas, has allowed Assad, his supporters, and anti-American groups the world over to claim that it was their threats of retaliation against American interests that kept the US from getting more deeply involved.

Following the meeting with reporters and supporters, Obama was to meet with representatives of the Chinese government to negotiate how and at what pace Beijing will take over as the leading industrialized nation.

Written by Thag

September 2, 2013 at 8:09 pm

Russia Would Not Get In Way If World Decides Not To Strike Syria

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Russian flagMoscow, Russia August 28 (AP) – Russian Foreign Minster Sergei Lavrov told reporters at a press conference this evening that if the Western powers decide to abandon their intention to launch strikes against its ally Syria, Russia would not impede the move.

A longtime supporter of embattled Syrian leader Basher Assad, Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed his foreign policy team not to oppose the supporters of the Syrian rebels in the event that those allies decide to continue not aiding the rebels militarily against Assad’s forces. The death toll in the two-year-old conflict has surpassed 100,000.

The announcement marks a clear shift in Russian strategy, which until now has focused on countering Western efforts to bolster Assad’s opponents. The new approach, says Near East Institute analyst Mark Mywords, takes a more circumspect approach that recognizes other countries’ ability not to intervene. For some countries, their ability even exceeds that of Russia, though the US and Iran, historically, have been loath to use it.

“What we’re seeing is a new appreciation by the Kremlin that sometimes the most effective form of inaction is to let others perform the non-action,” he explained. “In the rush to abandon much of the Communist government legacy, Russia was quick to let go of generations-old incentives not to do anything. But a resurgence of nostalgia for the simpler old times, as rough as they were, has prompted the leadership to revisit many of the Soviet practices such as providing no reason to do things at all, since the end result will be the same anyway,” he continued.

Syria flagThe change presents Washington and other Western governments with a new opportunity not to act, coming as hundreds of thousands of Americans have made a point not to demand US action. The Obama administration continues to weigh its options on how best not to respond to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, despite a vow by Obama that any such development would not be tolerated by the international community.

Discreetly getting out of the way of someone else’s not doing anything has a venerable history, according to military historian Anne Nabler, author of See No Evil, See No Evil. “Perhaps the most famous example of not standing in the way of non-action is the world’s reaction to Hitler’s annexation of the the Czechoslovakian Sudetendland in 1938,” she wrote in an e-mail. “But history is rife with nations standing idly by while other nations stand idly by.”

Written by Thag

August 29, 2013 at 2:25 pm

US Boldly Almost Considering Maybe Weighing Possibility of Mulling Syria Involvement

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Secretary of State John Kerry, demonstrating the weightiness of the question of whether to consider forming a committee to explore alternatives regarding the possibility of discussing heretofore unexploited methods of avoiding an actual decision.

Secretary of State John Kerry, demonstrating the weightiness of the question of whether to consider forming a committee to explore alternatives regarding the possibility of discussing heretofore unexploited methods of avoiding an actual decision.

Washington, DC (AP) – Fresh from a trip to the Middle East and eager to showcase American decisiveness and will, US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters today that the Obama administration is seriously considering leaning in the direction of talking seriously about examining the ways in which the US might convey its possible intent to get involved in the Syrian conflict.

The conflict, a civil war now more than two years old, has claimed in excess of 70,000 lives, according to UN figures, in addition to millions of refugees driven to neighboring countries and millions more displaced within Syria. Conflicts among world powers and among the various rebel groups have stymied efforts to bring the fighting to a close, or even to get the warring sides to the negotiating table. In the meantime, sporadic military assistance continues to flow to both sides, with Russia and Iran primarily supporting the Assad regime and other Arab states and Turkey siding with the rebels.

To date, however, active military assistance to the rebels by outside nations has not materialized, as western countries are loath to get involved in yet another overseas intervention with an unclear outcome and no exit strategy. The Kerry announcement has injected a note of almost-on-the-way-toward-the-neighborhood-of-decisiveness into the mix. It implies that the US, which has provided what it calls non-lethal material support to the rebels in the form of medical supplies and other off-the-battlefield assistance, will now lean more toward an active role in pondering whether any further discussion of extending help might be in the offing.

The announcement may also serve as a rebuttal to President Obama’s Republican critics in Congress, who have long agitated for a more muscular foreign policy and a more robust defense of Israel’s regional interests. Instability in Syria, now spilling over into Lebanon, has left Israel with no clear course of action that would increase its sense of security.

Some Republicans welcomed the announcement, but cautioned that it was too early to draw conclusion on the President’s initiative. “We will form a fact-checking committee to gather information on whether to debate the President’s possible change of approach, if and when such a development seems to be happening,” said Speaker of the House John Boehner.

Other Republicans were less thrilled. “Some of us had hoped to see something more definitive,” said a disappointed Ralph Reed, a conservative lobbyist. “Mr. Kerry could at least have told us that the possibility of actually militarily asserting our interests has moved beyond the declarative stage and into the substantive phase of imagining what scenarios might be feasible if certain unlikely circumstances play out exactly as we would like it.”

At press time, a spokesman for the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an umbrella group representing some of the rebel factions, was deliberating whether to consult his colleagues about formulating a response that might acknowledge the announcement.

Written by Thag

May 26, 2013 at 8:57 pm

Syria Refugees Top 1 Million; UN: ‘Only 19 Million to Go!’

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refugeesGeneva, Switzerland (AP) – The United Nations Refugee Agency announced today that the number of refugees who have fled Syria to neighboring countries has now hit one million, an auspicious milestone in the international effort to rid the country of all twenty million or so inhabitants.

“With a million people in flight, millions more displaced internally, and thousands of people continuing to cross the border every day, Syria is spiraling towards full-scale disaster,” the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, said in a statement. “This is well ahead of our agency’s projections, and represents a welcome augmentation of the Syrian refugee trend.”

It has taken two years, since the start of the uprising against Basher al-Assad’s rule,for the refugee numbers to begin growing as quickly as they are now. Guterres estimates that 7,000 to 8,000 refugees leave the country each day, which is well beyond initial projections. “Even if we don’t adjust for the slower pace of refugees in the initial years of the conflict, it should take only another forty years to completely empty Syria of people,” he said.

The UN agency, and a separate UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, have set a long-term goal of transforming the entire Middle East population into refugees, but have enjoyed only mixed success. The lion’s share of refugee population maintenance and cultivation has been at the hands of UNRWA, which provides education and other services to millions of Palestinians descended from the original population displaced in 1948-9 and 1967. Those services provide incentive for the refugees to remain stateless, and the agency’s policies dovetail with Palestinian Authority laws barring the development of infrastructure in refugee camps that would help the population lead some semblance of normal lives – but which could therefore be construed as acceptance of the displacement. The global Palestinian refugee population is estimated at five million.

The onset of hostilities across the Arab world two years ago initially gave the UN Refugee Agency hope that these developments would usher in a marked increase in the number of refugees, but with the exception of Syria, the conflicts ended too quickly to generate significant numbers of displaced people. In Tunisia and Libya, the overthrow of the regimes took weeks or months. In Egypt, the violence was comparatively contained and created no refugees. In Bahrain, the government successfully suppressed the unrest.

The UN has therefore pinned its hopes on Syria in the meantime, and has welcomed the international intervention of countries such as Saudi Arabia, Russia and Iran, which have supplied the warring factions with armaments, funds and training to help perpetuate and intensify the fighting.

Guterres laments the violence that has been directed at Palestinian refugees in various camps, decrying the waste of precious resources that could be put to better use creating more new refugees instead of attacking existing ones. “It’s shameful that the Syrian rebels have turned against the Palestinians in their midst. They should be taking lessons from them, not hurting them. The Palestinian refugees are our major success story, and it pains me to see that go unappreciated.”

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Written by Thag

March 6, 2013 at 10:03 pm

Syria, Iran, Denounce Israeli Aggression against Unarmed Missiles

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Look at the poor, innocent missiles.

Look at the poor, innocent missiles.

Damascus, Syria (AP) – Following an Israeli air attack on a Syrian military convoy headed toward Lebanon, the Assad government and Iranian President Ahmadinejad condemned Israel’s “aggression” against the surface-to-air missiles the convoy was transporting.

“The Zionist regime has once again demonstrated its utter disregard for basic decency,” read a statement issued by Syrian President Basher Assad’s office, referring to Israel. “The innocent missiles were not armed with missiles. This is yet another gross Zionist violation of international law. The international community must take real steps to address this travesty.”

Iran, a staunch supporter of the beleaguered Assad government, also spoke out against Israel. In an address at a political function, President Ahmadinejad likened the preemptive strike to a snake uncoiling in pursuit of a victim, only to be crushed by a passing tank. “The cruelty of the Zionists against harmless missiles knows no bounds. Only a country with no moral compass would direct its forces against armaments that were not carrying even light ammunition, nor a single hand grenade. This vicious assault exposes the Zionists for what they are.”

US and Israeli experts believe the convoy was ferrying sophisticated Russian-made SA-17 missiles, which could pose significant risk for Israeli air operations over Lebanon. The likely recipient, they say, is Hezbollah, the militant Shiite movement that controls much of Lebanon and fought a war with Israel 2006. The movement also condemned the assault, calling it, “a betrayal of human values by the Zionist beast that would deprive Lebanon of its sovereign right to shoot down aircraft trying to prevent us from killing Zionists.” Hezbollah has been replenishing its arsenal of missiles, thousands of which were launched at Israeli towns and cities during the war.

This is not the first time Israeli aircraft have attacked unarmed targets inside Syria. In 2007 the Israel Air Force attacked and destroyed a nuclear reactor in Syria. At the time, the reactor had yet to receive its first shipment of uranium, which, at the time, experts said called into question whether Israel was playing fair. Israel has never commented on the attack and Syria never officially acknowledged it, even leveling the site before international inspectors could examine it, seeking to emphasize just how innocent and peaceful the site was.

In a similar case, Israel has never acknowledged an air attack that destroyed a suspected weapons factory in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, last year. The factory was undefended, prompting international outrage at Israel’s unprovoked aggression. Hamas, the Islamist militant faction that runs the Gaza Strip, is widely believed to be the intended user of the weapons supplied originally by Iran for use against Israel. At the time, a spokesman for the government of Sudan decried the Israeli action, calling it, “an unprovoked, evil attack on rockets and armaments that were just sitting there, not harming anyone.”

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Written by Thag

January 31, 2013 at 3:49 pm