Category Archives: UN
I hope that you receive this letter in good health. I also hope that you receive it while in a state of non-partisanship you promised during your election campaign and with the clarity of mind, determination to serve, and the zeal for the interest of our country and its values that we expect from you as a member of one of the two chambers of this August Body.
I am writing to you to concerning the upcoming vote on the authorization for President Obama to use military force in response to the abominable use of chemical weapons against women and children by the Assad regime of Syria. I will not tell you how to vote, because the moment you were elected by your constituents was a moment when a heavy historical burden was thrown on your shoulders. It is your job to weigh in the evidence, and it is your job to define what constitutes our national interests and to provide the executive branch with the means to assure that these interests are realized and not jeopardized by friends or foes. All I can do, Honorable, is to tell you a few things that I, as an American of Syrian roots what I believe and know.
I will not go at length on evidence concerning the regime’s unique capacity or its use of SARIN, I am sure that what you have probably far exceeds what is available to me from non-classified releases or to an activist on the ground in Ghouta or elsewhere in Syria. One piece of information, which disturbed me, was a report that came out yesterday concerning an intercepted radio communication between regional commanders of Assad’s army and an artillery captain who expressed initial reluctance to launch a chemical weapon attack, but yielded after having been threatened with execution. The outcome of that diabolical exchange was 27 chemical warheads launched within the span of 14 minutes leading to the death of more than 1400 civilians, with one third of those murdered being children. Syrians knew this was coming, so did the world months ago. But no one took action, and this is why we now face an emboldened habitual war-crime regime. The last two and a half years are full of stories in which Syrian soldiers and officers who tried to adhere to their oath to protect their nation and were executed on the spot by thugs loyal to Assad and willing to participate in his murderous plans to burn Syria for the survival of this thuggish and corrupt rule of the 23 million Syrians, of for that matter, those who may be left after he accomplishes his “Assad or we burn the country” genocidal plan against Syrians and their homeland. This captain has failed the moral and human test, and he should, like his superiors be held liable for committing war crimes. But the main murderers remain Assad (in Arabic) and his inner circle of thugs and no one else.
You will be debating war. A war in which our nation will be using missiles and bombs to punish the regime of a war criminal and to deter the war criminal from ever thinking of using chemical weapons again. I confess that the thought of one cruise or tomahawk missile missing its target and hitting a civilian area horrifies me. Likewise, I am also horrified by the thought of our soldiers placing themselves at grave risk, only to fire missiles at installations that were emptied of regime thugs and hardware and filled with innocent Syrians, moved from the numerous torture chambers in Assad’s dungeons of horror and murder, and placed in various chemical weapon production and storage facilities to become target of the free world’s strike. I am horrified by the word collateral damage, which I believe shouldn’t even exist in our dictionaries, other than as an archaic word. Like you, like any soldier, father, mother, sister, or child, war terrifies me.
I am also horrified and abhorred by all kinds of torture. My horror is real, for even though I have not been subjected to such torture, I have, however, met and talked to many wonderful Syrians who have been subjected to horrific torture at the hands of Assad thugs, and have barely avoided death by torture, unlike some of my other brilliant, wonderful, and civilized friends, who have lost their life at the hand of Assad torturers in one or another of the countless number of torture chambers perfected by the Assads over forty years of their murderous rule of my home of origin.
Our nation is now finding an ever increased interest in our Natural Heritage as well as our historical heritage. Yet, part of our history and heritage as humanity, lies in Syria, where some of the oldest continuously inhabited cities like Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, and others are being demolished by the vicious and unending bombardment of missiles, barrels of death, and now mas murder internationally banned chemical weapons. The regime of Bashar Al-Assad is the culpable, we know it, and you too. These crimes against Syrians and their land resulted not only in murdering more than 100,000 Syrians, but also in the shameful destruction of Syria’s precious heritage of humanity with unparalleled levels of hate and vengeance. Thousands of years of history have been destroyed by Assad and his thugs in these cities. In most of these cities, more than 70% of the historical districts were destroyed by Assad bombs and rockets with the rest remaining under constant threat. Unfortunately UNESCO stands horrified and unable to stop such destruction despite of repeated calls to stop the carnage. This is a regime that stands against all what humanity holds dear, including our shared heritage. Its head and enforcers find it necessary to destroy the cultural and historical heritage of the place that gave birth to our alphabet and that shaped our earliest attempts to domesticate wild grains. It has bombed people standing in breadlines, one should not be surprised if it bombed and looted museums and cultural icons in its custody. There is no redeeming qualities in them, and especially in the head of the regime, his thuggish clan, and his henchmen in the web of “security-agencies” horrific organizations that form the core of this genocidal regime.
What Peace Movement?!!!
From your window you can probably see a group of people who just decided to get their “anti-war” attire out of dusty closets, and summoned the long dormant depths of their “anti-imperialist” hearts to decry the potential death Syrian children, presumably to be killed by a Free World’s punishment of Assad and his gang of thugs. They will try to convince and lobby you; “their eternal imperialist enemy”, and “lobbyists slave”; to vote as they tell you. If I may be informal with you, I am going to ask you to please look closely and to tell me whether you can see them marching next to those carrying the photos of thug Bashar Al-Assad with his smug smile and shouting his name as the “leader for eternity” and the hero of “anti imperialism”. These are no fools, useful idiots, may be, traitors; definitely not, but lying hypocrites would be applicable but insufficient adjective to describe them. I am of course proud of friends who stood with the Syrian People from the first day of their ordeal, but now do not agree that a military action is useful or helpful not out of fear for or attempts to protect Assad, his control over the army and security agencies and his lasting rule, but out of genuine fear for the Syrian People. As for the others, especially those beholden to fascist ideologies of the Baath and its like-minded atrophied but destructive parties, I can only reiterate the question most free Syrians ask: Where were they when the barrels of death from Assad’s Russian made, Iranian supplied, and North Korean upgraded airplanes rained on the neighborhoods and villages of Syria? Where were they, when the best minds of Syria, and the hope of civil society emergence were tortured and murdered in Assad’s dungeons? And where were they when Assad thugs were forcing millions of Syrians into refuge, only to bombard them again in open air, or send thug-agents to poison the water supplies of their refugee camps erected like cities of misery in neighboring countries? I have not seen a single protest from these hypocrites for two and a half years of daily ongoing slaughter of Syrians and destruction of their country at the hand of Assad and his regime. As for Assad supporters, who are now protesting, i can only be disgusted at them because these pathetic characters continue to enjoy all the fruits of democracy and protection of law the free world offers. Yet, they continue to deny Syrians the least of these fruits, which is the right to say no to a thuggish, criminal and terrorist regime without being murdered, turned into refugees in their own country and beyond, and be traumatized by the continuous death, under most horrific torture of their best, most civilized, young men and women. Worst yet, these dictator’s loyalists have been constantly drumming the mantra of American conspiracy against the eternal leader and the dwindling list of like-minded tyrannical regimes. Whatever your decision is, their points of view is irrelevant, if not criminally culpable.
The killing of Syrians themselves as well as the vicious murder of their hopes of rejoining civilization after half a century of despotism is the punishment the Assad regime and its friends dealt and continue to deal to those who dared to say yes to civility and no to perpetual murderous despotism. For the pretentious hypocrites marching and writing in defense of tyranny, the act of defying a tyranny causes them grave concern, for as tyrannies disappear and the world’s opportunity to become a safer and better place increases, they lose fame, exposure, and chances for self-righteous sophistry.
Me or my Chaos
Some, even if well-meaning analysts will warn of impending chaos upon the fall of this tyrant and his regime. This, can also be disingenuous in the context of eliminating such a vicious hateful tyranny. Stability that comes at the expense of the human rights of citizenry was soundly rejected by our founding fathers who found it abhorring and unnatural. I do understand your grave concerns about the spread of terrorism, and In fact I share much of these concerns. I have a heightened sense of anxiety concerning terrorist gangs such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, Al-Nusra, and other Al-Qaida offshoots, which were brought in and nurtured by the Assad regime. I and most freedom yearning Syrians are very concerned should these terrorists be allowed to maintain a foothold in Syria, especially in economically viable areas in the north where they can continue to control both Syrian oil and the bread basket region of the country. This would not be in the interest of Syrians nor in the interest of the United States or the free world.
I share with some analysts and bloggers, including some of those who were against the US intervention in Iraq, the belief that ridding the world of the Assad regime should be one of our priorities because such is in our national interest. I will even go further to state that it was the Assad regime that funded and funneled terrorists, with their car bombs into Iraq killing our soldiers as well as innocent Iraqis. These terrorists are the same ones the regime has facilitated back in Syria to threaten the world with “me or chaos“. Let me assure you that even in their strongest of dens, these terrorists are facing daily challenges from normal Syrians in the liberated Areas. Syrians have rejected them, their weapons, their tactics as well as their ideological adventure into an era that never in reality existed in our history. The problem lies with the regime, which while claiming to fight terrorism, kept bombarding civilian areas with vengeance, but left its handmade terrorists unmolested. In many cases in the north of Syria, the regime even-handed the terrorists swaths of land to do the regime’s bidding. These regime-made terrorists are now focusing their terror campaigns of arrest, torture, murder, and intimidation against the same activists who were the primary targets of the regime. Members of these gangs are suspects of being regime informers and agents who simply grew a beard, changed to black attire, wore a mask, and imported terror-tourists from other countries for help. But they remain beholden to the regime as it is clear from their lack of interest in participating in real military activities against its forces that are shelling the cities and from their focus on replacing the regime hated security apparatus with their own draconian version of the “emirate of fears” serving by that the interests of the Assad regime and giving it, in the eyes of unknowing world an image of a regime fighting terrorism rather than the criminal terrorist regime it really is.
The Real War
Free Syrians, including both non-violent activists and members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are now fighting on two fronts. The first front is against the criminal Assad regime, and the other against the regime’s handmade branches of Al-Qaida. Both represent regressive societal and political traits. While it is nearly certain that the terrorists will be dealt a major blow with their benefactor regime gone, it is more than certain that things will not be easy when this regime collapses and its hand-made Al-Qaida branches are left without it. There will be car bombs (a trade mark of both the Assad regime and Al-Qaida terrorist operation), of assassination of their opponents, and plenty of counter-revolutionary anti-democratic violent groups. I believe that the Syrian people will find their way to kick these terrorists out and to reduce their threats to Syria, to the region and the World. They need help now, and they will need it in the future. But that help will not come from the liar regime, or its defenders who created these terrorist groups in the first place.
A terrorist regime can not be trusted with combating terrorism or with establishing stability. Thinking otherwise will be unwise, suicidal, and detrimental to our national interests. The battle in Syria is not between the regime and Islamist terrorists, it is between freedom seeking Syrians on the one hand, and the regime and its hand-made, customized Jihadi terrorist groups, on the other hand. Any other depiction, such as the one being perpetuated by some academics is misleading at best, and purposely so, at worst. These academics would go at great length in describing the origin of these terrorist groups, but they would not venture into exploring the similarities between the regime and these terrorists, the intersection of their tactics, and their mutual avoidance of confronting one another. All of these issues, ignored by such academics, are now rather obvious to all freedom seeking Syrians, who speak loudly and clearly about the obvious connection between these terrorists and the criminal regime. Today, I read the story of a Kurdish father whose defecting son was murdered by the masked thugs of the Islamic State or Iraq and the Levant on his way to safety. Syrian rebels, affiliated with any of the FSA multitude of groups would have welcomed the young man’s bravery and ensured that he reached safety. Likewise, only regime agents have an interest in the disappearance of the much revered and iconic figure of the revolution father Paolo dall’oglio.
The threat of these regime-made and/or facilitated terrorist organizations should not be considered independently of their founder. Its demise is the beginning of theirs. Fear from their actions should not inhibit our actions. If it does, Bashar Al-Asad, who expressed, in no uncertain terms in his interview in with the French LeFigaro magazine yesterday that the only way to deal with the opposition to his rule is to annihilate them, would have accomplished his goals. The fact that liar Assad claims that 80% to 90% of his enemies are Al-Qaida is sufficient for many Syrians to believe the opposite. Realities on the ground support the assertion that the terrorists are not his enemies, they are his agents, and their job is not merely to provide propaganda fodder and to tarnish the revolution, but to also exact his vengeful horrors on those who dared defy his sick rule.
Throughout its history of oppression, the Assad regime tried to appear as the mediator holding magic keys to many problems in the region. Whenever an American was kidnapped, the chief thugs of the regime tried to present themselves as “diplomats” resolving the issue. The reality has always been that they were behind these terrorist crimes. Many at time, our country had to pay dearly in precious blood and treasure to “cope” with the cheaply orchestrated terrorist acts of this regime and its appendages. It is a benefactor of terrorism, one of its principle planners and trainers. This regime is a threat to peace and stability and it will not reform, whether the next heir spends a year or a decade in the west. Annihilating all who protest their despotic rule is a family business as we have all witnessed in Hama, in 1982, in Lebanon, through 30 years of occupation, and over two and a half years of increasingly brutal crimes against humanity in Syria.
Needless to say, over decades of obstructionism, this regime has played its cards well. Hiding behind sovereignty that itself violated countless time, not the least of which during the theater of the absurd that led to the coronation of a spoiled, unethical child of privilege. That child of privilege is now known as Syria’s mass murderer and the head of the corrupt despotic clan. Attempts by the free world to “contain’ the “western educated doctor” failed miserably. The experience of the thirteen years of his reign shows that criminal thugs like Bashar Al-Assad can’t be rehabilitated and that they will turn out to be worse than their fathers.
Before I conclude this long letter, I must highlight that the Free Syrian Army is not a terrorist group and it does not belong to the same category of regime-made branches of Al-Qaida. Rather it has fought against those on many occasions. FSA is composed of Syrians from every walk of life. Some of whom believe in a plural democratic Syria, others hope to see a Syria with an emphasized Islamic identity that has nothing to do with the brutal image of an Islamic state nurtured by Al-Qaida and its affiliates. Syrians, much like most Americans do have faith. As Senator McCain stated earlier, like an American soldier does, an FSA fighter is likely to thank god, to pray, and to say “Allahu Akbar”, which means God is Great. Watch some of the You-Tube clips of real FSA fighters and you will find them doing that when they shoot, or when they succeed in capturing a regime point. In this case It is a sign of gratitude as well as an affirmation of the righteousness of their cause (which should be true in the case of those fighting tyranny) . Watch another clip of people gathering around the wreckage of a building just demolished by one of Assad’s scuds or barrels of death, and you will hear the same phrase, it is in this case an appeal to God to exact punishment on those who intentionally ordered and executed such a cowardly act against civilians.
Leaderless, and in much need of honest and appropriate representation, the grass-root Syrian revolution is nonetheless alive and well and is creating its own leaders at local levels. It is not led nor dominated by terrorists as some academics and “regime-made” opposition have been trying desperately to hype it. Nor it is all armed. Non-violent and civil groups continue to emerge despite of the constant threats, assassination, kidnapping, and murder by the Assad regime and by its clients in the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant and their offshoots. A much longed for cadre of honest and effective civil servants is emerging in some liberated areas despite of the bullies. The Free Syrian Army is making progress, despite of the regime’s use of chemical weapons, and the regime is losing ground every day, again despite of the continuous supplies of weapons from Russia and the non-stoppable supplies of men and arms from Iran, Hezbollah and Iran’s agents in Iraq. I don’t want to paint a rosy picture, but the regime and its chaos can and should go to hell for Syria to have any chance of reconciliation and for the blood-letting to end. The administration of president Obama is right in stating that there should be no place for the Assads in future Syria. The longer they last in its present, the darker Syria’s future will be.
Vote your conscious, not mine. I trust that you will try your best to do the right thing.
Introduction by OTW
A few weeks back, I posted a medical report from Yassin Al Haj Saleh, the Syrian intellectual and winner of Prince Claus Award for 2012, in which he described the chemical weapon attack by the forces of war criminal Bashar al-Assad in the Eastern Ghouta region of Damascus country side. For a few months, Yassin lived there among the people of the Eastern Ghouta, and he recently summed up his experiences there to cast light on what is happening, and at the same time to issue a last call, or better yet, a plea for decency and humanity to western intellectuals and public opinion makers admonishing them to actively take the only humane and progressive act, which is to support the overthrow of the Assad criminal clan and crime partners and to force the stoppage of importing killers from the regime’s allies in Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, and elsewhere. Yesterday, Yassin’s letter was published in the French newspaper Le Monde under the title “Intellectuels, aidez les Syriens !” after being translated from Arabic to French by the Lebanese intellectual and supporter of the Syrian Revolution, Professor Ziad Majed and his colleague Nadia Aissaoui. The letter, written on June, 28, 2013, appeared earlier today in its Arabic original in the Republic for Syrian Revolution Studies as well as in the Lebanese newspaper النهار . I tried to find English translation and failed, so I translated the letter from Arabic to English. I do apologize for the rough edges of the translation, and would be more than happy to replace the text with better translation if someone is kind enough to edit it.
Rabi Tawil (AKA Abu Kareem) has kindly offered to edit the translation. The version posted on (8 July, 2013) is the result of his kind and generous help. It definitely reads much better.
Update: on 10, July, 2013, an official Spanish version of the letter appeared under the title “Carta sobre Siria a los intelectuales y líderes de opinión en Occidente” in the Spanish newspaper ELMUNDO.
Intellectuals, Help Syrians!
By Yassin Al Haj Saleh
A letter from Syrian writer Yassin Al Haj Saleh to Western Intellectuals and Opinion Makers.
About three months ago, I headed to the “liberated” Eastern Ghouta region, leaving behind the capital city of Damascus where life has become suffocating. My clandestine departure necessitated weeks of prior-arrangements in a city , which had been dismembered by hundreds of security barricades, and which Bashar al-Assad is determined to keep as the center of the rule he inherited from his father thirteen years ago.
The Eastern Ghouta region is now inhabited by nearly half of out of the two million who lived there before the revolution. It has been transformed during the past three months from a bastion where the armed revolution was first launched in the capital into an area besieged from all sides. This reversal is largely due to the military and logistical support of the regime has received from Russia and Iran and from Lebanese and Iraqi Militia that are connected to the latter state. During that time, I myself witnessed the cruel lack of weapons, ammunition and even adequate food supply on the side of the rebel fighters. Many of the fighters on the fronts barely receive two meals a day. If they weren’t mostly local residents defending their towns and their families and living off what also sustains their families, the situation would have been immeasurably worse
The towns and villages which I visited and lived in during the past months are subjected to daily random shelling from airplanes, artillery and rocket launchers. Every day, victims, a majority of whom are civilians, succumb to the violence. I spent a month at a civil defense authority site, and there, I saw all of those who were killed. Some of them, including children, were blown into unrecognizable pieces. Among the victims was a fetus of six months whose mother suffered a miscarriage from the the terror she suffered during the shelling near her house. Not a day went during that month without civilians getting killed. Usually it is two or three, but on one day it was 9, 28 on another, and 11 on a third. The numbers killed continue to rise and they are rarely less than half a dozen a day, again including a small fully formed fetus. It was said that he was also six month old, also miscarried by yet another terrorized mother.
In addition to civilians, many young fighters die every day to the weapons of a brutal and more powerful military force that receives far superior support than they do.
The whole region has been without electricity for 8 months. This has caused a reliance on frequently malfunctioning generators with excessive consumption of fuel, which in itself is becoming increasingly scarce commodity due to the tight blockade. Consequently, cooling and storage of food, vitally necessary in the scorching summers of the region, must be dispensed with. Cellular and landline connections are cut-off;and in recent weeks, flour has become scarce. Two weeks have now passed during which we had barely ate any bread,getting by with crushed wheat or rice instead, or by purchasing our meals from the few restaurants that remain.
For my part, I was content with two meals a day, at least temporarily, as it helped reduce my weight by around 10 Kilos (nearly 21 pounds)
We manage communications via Satellite Internet equipment, smuggled in with great difficulty. We use the equipment to deliver news and information to other Syrians and to the world. Such communication equipment is, however, available to only a small percentage of the population. A shell landed nearby few days ago and disrupted the internet connection for some time. It could have been much worse had the shell landed on our roof and destroyed two month worth of efforts to secure the equipment. But the ultimate tragedy happens every day to an increasing number of inhabitants. Hastily buried, their funeral processions are joined by few hasty mourners, terrorized by the prospect of another shell falling upon their heads. Such has happened more than once; and in one case, which I witnessed, the martyr was buried within less than an hour of his death without his wife and children taking a final look at him. His body was mutilated and some of his limbs were missing, prompting the elders to decide that this should not be the last sight of him to remain in his wife’s and childrens’ memory.
We, I and a number of friends, both men and women, are still alive. In Damascus we were threatened with arrest and horrific torture which we may not survive. Here we are safe from that, but not from a shell falling on our heads at any time.
Here, we are partners with nearly a million people having lost complete control of our own destiny, and constantly at the edge of the abyss of the worst possibilities. Each time I reach the threshold of the house returning from the outside, I feel that I have barely survived death by a shell or a shrapnel. And yet death remains a probability entering randomly through the window or the door.
Today, Friday, June 28, three mortars fell between twelve noon and twelve thirty on a place not far from where we are staying. The timing is too close to the Friday prayer time observed by faithful Muslims, to be a coincidence. I was most struck in my early days here that calls for Friday prayers in one mosque started about nine thirty in the morning, three hours earlier than the usual time, and this were followed by calls from other mosques each within a half an hour of the next. When I inquired about it, I received a surprising explanation: “The purpose is to avoid gathering large numbers of worshipers in the city’s mosques at any specific time to deprive the regime of the opportunity to kill maximum number of people as it usually desires”. The regime has done this before, in the city where I stayed, there are five destroyed mosques.
More painful is that more than two-thirds of the children here do not attend school, their parents fearing for their safety or because of the the lack of schools nearby. The few functioning schools operate in underground cellars to avoid bombardment. But this also prevents the children from playing and running in the open air.
All of the hospitals are also underground.
People engage in this struggle with a sense of desperation because of they realize that a terrible massacre awaits them if the regime succeeds in regaining control. Those not murdered immediately will face arrest and torture that is extreme in its brutality. Their choices are limited to death while resisting the fascist aggression of the criminal regime or death, in the ugliest of manners, at the hands of this same regime if they stop resisting. The souls of people shiver, as my own soul shivers from its depth at the mere thought of being ruled by the same regime once again, should the people stop their resistance.
During this long stretch in the life of the Syrian revolution, which has gone through a peaceful phase lasting for more than six months, the outcome of the policies of the influential powers of the world were to let Syrians be murdered at an escalating rate, and to reassure the regime that it can do anything with complete impunity. This is reminiscent of the Western Democracies’ behavior regarding Hitler before the Second World War. The current situation is a direct consequence of the failure of those influential powers to support the Syrian rebels, whilst failing to stop the support for the regime from the powers that provide it with weapons, money and men, even as they continue to step up their support by intervening more openly and directly. Finally, after it became known to the whole world that the Assad clan regime used chemical weapons, which I myself documented two months ago, as did other friends on the basis of personal experience, and after the regime was assured that its use of air power and long-range missiles against cities and neighborhoods will result in nothing but faint and timid protest; after all of this, Western powers decided to support the Syrian rebels with weapons. However, the objective of this support is to restore balance, a balance that they helped tip in the regime’s favor in the first place. Restoring balance means prolonging the Syrian conflict so that both sides lose in ways that have known precedents in the history of Western Democracies, while what is needed is support that guarantees the overthrow of the regime, or at least force its allies to back-off from supporting its openly criminal war.
Restoring balance is not just a short-sighted policy leading not only to prolonging the conflict, but it is utterly inhumane as well. There are no two equal evils in Syria, as it is unfortunately portrayed in the Western media, and contrary to what United Nations and international organizations reports, notwithstanding that the Syrian conflict is not one between demons and angels. There is a tyrannical fascist regime, which has murdered approximately 100,000 of its subjects, and there is a varying spectrum of those rebelling against it. The prolonging and increasing cruelty of the conflict has radicalized some of the rebel groups, whilst weakening the resilience of the Syrian society to extremism. The longer the Syrians are left to their fate, the more likely extremists gain strength and the moderating logic and rationality among Syrians weakens. From both field and personal experience, this is what is actually happening. At the Civil Defense Authority, and whenever new martyrs fell, especially children, I am met with reproachful looks. These looks are from people who are skeptical about the value of the calm and “rational” words I usually utter and about their utility in such circumstances.
There is only one correct approach that is in the general interest of Syria and from a humanitarian point of view, and that is to help Syrians get rid of the rule of the Assad dynasty that is acting as if it owns the country and as if Syrians are merely its serfs. Everything will be difficult in post-Assad Syria, but ridding the country of the public criminal incites more moderate interactions within the Syrian society, and allows Syrians to stand in the face of the extremists among them. It is immeasurably worse to prolong the conflict and extend its human and material costs. Even worse is to watch Syrians being murdered with Russia’s weapons, at the hands of local thugs, as well as Lebanese and Iranian militias. Worse also is to impose a settlement that does not punish the criminals, and that doesn’t seriously address any of Syria’s problems.
I hear American and Western politicians sometimes say that there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria. But where is the political solution? And when did Bashar al-Assad , after about 28 months of the revolution, and after the murder of about 100,000 people, state that he was actually ready for serious negotiations with the opposition and to share power? When did he refrain, even for a single day, from committing murder in the past 850 days? The truth is that there is no political solution without forcing the slaughterer to step down, now and immediately, and along with the leaders of the slaughter in his regime. While this may give rebellious Syrians something important, which is what they have demanded from the outset by peaceful means, it strengthens the position of moderates in their ranks, making it possible to isolate the extremists, leading to a fair Syrian settlement, something that is badly needed in the region, the world, and by Syrians before anyone else.
We would not have called upon you if it wasn’t for the fact that the Syrian issue is one of the major and most dangerous issues of the world in recent decades. It has caused the uprooting and internal and external displacement of about a third of the population. There are hundreds of thousands of wounded and disabled, and up to quarter of a million prisoners are subjected to horrific torture, including the raping of women and children as documented in the reports of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and by the more reliable of Syrian organizations. The Assad forces have committed numerous massacres, some of which were documented in United Nations reports. All of this so that a ruler, who inherited power without right and without merit from a father who seized power by force and ruled the country with blood,can remain.
Today, we look to you as leaders of public opinion in your countries to pressure your governments to take a strong stand against the killer, a stand that supports the overthrowing the regime of the Assad dynasty. This is the only humanitarian and progressive thing to do. There is nothing more reactionary and fascist in today’s world than a regime that kills its own people, brings in killers from its allied countries and organizations, and incites a sectarian war, which while easy to incite, may be impossible to halt before it it leads to the death of hundreds of thousands of people.
We look forward to your support today. Tomorrow may be too late.
Yassin Al Haj Saleh
June 28, 2013
Eastern Ghouta, Damascus, Syria
translation by OTW and Rabi Tawil (Abu Kareem)
OBSERVER, one of my favorite commenters on SC posted a link to an article in the Atlantic blog titled Syria is Not Iraq by Shadi Hamid. Observer asked for feedback from fellow commenters. I have not commented on the site for a long time, but I still read SC (with more frequent disgusts than ever) and I have a few words to say about the article.
I do agree with much of what Shadi Hamid wrote. would add that from national security perspective Obama bungled it. Two critical observations made by Shadi that are worth considering. The first is the number of strategic mistakes that the US has committed since the debacle in Iraq, which as expressed by Shadi will come back to haunt us later.
Four years ago, I would have been,and likely I was, supportive of Obama’s calculating approach to foreign policy as a welcomed contrast to Bush’s dogmatic approach. But even before the Arab spring, the writings on the wall was becoming clear about Iran’s belligerence in Iraq and its usurpation of the country as a protectorate run with the same backward corrupt approach that afflicts Iran. This should have caused Obama and his administration to send a real strong message to Iran regarding Iraq instead of allowing Iran even a stronger hand in the country’s affairs. The haste to get out of Iraq and to get Bush debacle behind us and as soon as possible resulted in dismissing more strategic calculations regarding the region as a whole.
The other observation, which should be modified is his observation that Assad is a rational decision makers with incredibly high tolerance for brutality. The author ascribes the gradual increase in violence to Assad’s rational behavior as he kept testing the red-lines and finding that non really existed. This is only partially true. But it does not make Assad a rational decision maker. The rational decision (morality does not get in the picture here) would have made him maximize his benefit, which would have happened had the he embarked on real reform and not chosen the suicidal security option. As for the gradual increase in violence, it is really strange that an article analytically sound as this one neglected to recognize that the Assad his henchmen are not the only actors on the scene in the sense that FSA has made it very hard for him, if not impossible, to commit massacres at the scale of Hama (in short period of time) and that the increased level of violence is proportional to the weakness of the regime in key points. Of course, that may disappoint to some of the repulsive voices I have been reading on SC, but it should not have escaped the writer, nonetheless.
That said, what remain is a real challenge for the US and other democratic countries in the world. It is the moral challenge posed by their role in encouraging democratic values, but failing to act when the values they encourage are threatened by murderous thugs like Assad and his henchmen. I am afraid this moral dilemma may end up being resolved with a couple of candle-light vigils attended by celebrities, a few mea-culpa (we should have intervened) rehash of Rwanda interviews on Operah’s Third Chapter years hence. This is from the national psych point of view. But from the point of view of people living under dictatorships, Obama’s reluctance may have just made a few thuggish dictators very happy, and prolonged the life of the club of thugs, including the Iranian regime. Seeing what happened to Syria and Syrians at the hand of the Assad criminal gang, and the world’s tolerance of Assad’s crimes, Iranian will be far more reluctant now to resume their green uprising, which is probably the worst blow-back to Obama’s inaction.
Introduction from OTW
While the Syrian Revolution goes on, the regime blocks communications, loses ground, and the future outlook for Syria, from political point of view keep getting fuzzier by the day, Yesterday’s vote at the UN General Assembly should not go unnoticed. After the vote, I spoke to a friend who has served few years as a UN Diplomat, and below is the essence of our conversation. I decided to write this post after the conversation, and since I was neither taping, nor taking notes, it would be hard for me to separate where my friend stands, and where I do. Overall we shared most of what is being said. I must also state that my friend, while sympathetic to Palestinians, bares no obvious hostility to Israel. Also, and beforehand, I must apologize in advance for the fact that I will not be able to respond to comments as much as I want, but I will try my best to check on frequently enough to respond when I can.
Now you are a State, what’s next
First, it was the United Nations Scientific, Cultural and Education Organization (UNESCO) where Palestine’s statehood was recognized with full membership and now art the UN General Assembly, where Palestine’s statehood is recognized but with an observer status.
UNESCO continues to feel the financial burden due to the US refusing to pay its dues following the historic decision using a law passed from the days of Ronald Reagan as Arab States failed to fill in the budget gaps resulting from the US’s decision. It is unlikely that the US will do any such drastic act with respect to the UN despite of the identical outcome of the vote in the two organizations, which is the recognition of Palestinian statehood. But it has not stopped some senators from introducing an amendment to the defense act in an attempt to punish both Palestine and the UN. Republican Senators Barrasso (R-WY), Lee (R-UT), and Inhofe (R-OK) introduced an amendment that will cut 50% of the total U.S. funds to the Palestinian Authority and to any U.N. entity that grants the Palestinians a status change and reduces by 20% U.S. foreign assistance to any country voting for the status change. Judging by the results of the cut of funds for UNESCO, this will not help, but will make it harder for the US to implement most of its aid program, which has historically been far more effective in spreading American values than the US army. If this amendment passes, it will further erode the US’s own capacity for diplomacy. In the end, it will perhaps be a loss for Israel more than for the US because Israel needs the world’s goodwill towards the US and the US’s ability to rightfully use its aid program to influence political decisions at the world’s stage, which is being eroded by such bills. The world has long ago recognized the right of the Palestinians to have their own state. It is now recognizing that it is time that such happens and that the state is not threatened with the continuing expansion of settlements, which is frowned upon by most of the world including some in Israel. Time for Israel’s friends in the US to act like friends of Israel and not friends of a minority of Israelis.
What the two decisions say, especially the UNGA decision, which passed with overwhelming majority (138 to 9), as well as a sizable abstention (41), is that the world no longer accepts excuses to delay the full independence and sovereignty of Palestine and the final status negotiation. The Israeli Ambassador at the UN was far more diplomatic and cultured than his counterpart at UNESCO, who nearly two years ago was impolite, lecturing, and arrogant. In his Yesterday’s speech, he attempted a last line of defense appeal, using an argument many countries have already sympathized with (the right of the Jewish People to their own state), but failing to present a strong argument as to how that right would be threatened by recognition of Palestinian statehood. The other argument, which states that such recognition will derail the peace process sounded insincere coming from the representative of a government that bears the primary responsibility for the painful prolonging of a seemingly endless peace process, followed, and nearly equaled in responsibility, as we now know, by those calling themselves the resistance camp who now stand to lose a lot as the Palestinians no longer need said camp’s political support having discovered, once more that the majority of the world countries stands with their right, and that the world is far more supportive of their mature political approach to their cause. The speech by the US Ambassador was noteworthy in its attempts to show compassion with the Palestinians, and yet hinder their ability to stand as equal party in the negotiation regarding permanent status. The world disagreed with the US, and that is the end of it. However, there remains one correction to be mentioned, yesterday’s action was not a unilateral one as the US ambassador said, it was a near-global action telling the US, sorry, but we don’t see it that way. That said, the US Ambassador, once more reaffirmed the US Administration’s conviction of the right of Palestinians to have their own state, and to live secure in their state, and the intent of the US to work towards that goal, albeit from a perspective that is more beholden to Israel’s security than to the rights of the Palestinians. Anyone denying that would not be objective.
UNESCO’s charter emphasizes peace and cooperation, admitting Palestine to UNESCO means that the state adheres to these principles and that fellow member states have enough reasons to believe that the state’s application is sincere in doing so. The more significant UN charter emphasizes the rights of citizens of states to live secure within their border. Palestine’s application to observer status affirms acceptance of that Charter, which is an important global diplomatic gain. Granted, states have violated that charter numerous times. Every car bomb that went off in Iraq, sponsored by Damascus thugs was violation, every rocket lobbed at Israel was a violation, and every air-raid on Lebanon or Gaza, bus explosion in Israeli towns, and predator assassination of Palestinian leaders, are also violations of that. But there is a difference between state and non-state actors. Now that Palestine’s statehood is no longer a question, both sides will have to deal with this issue, and attempts to sponsor non state actor in Palestine can easily be viewed by the world community as violation of Palestinian sovereignty and not as affirmation of their rights to resistance. There is a silver lining in the decision for Israel if the Israeli government was not so obsessed with the expansionist greed of a minority of the country’s citizens and the remnants of the long standing policy of denying Palestine and Palestinians. Both Israel and Palestine are now obliged to deal with each other as states, at least theoretically.
OTW’s own conclusion
Yesterday’s vote pulled the rug from under the feet of the Israeli government and the expansionist settlers. Yet, what is far more significant to me is that it did pull the rug from under the feet of those in the defunct resistance camp. The Palestinians can now tell their story, on their own, and even as observers, they may not have the right to vote, but they do have the right to make interventions, submit resolution, with the support of full member states, many of whom proved that they can be friends to both Palestine and Israel and become closer than ever to ending tyrannical regime’s cynical attempts to use them as passive tools in suppressing their own people. In that regard, the vote was victory for both Palestine and for free Syrians. Congratulation Palestine, congratulations free Syria, you are no longer burdened with attempting to use Palestinians, and now you can really support them by finishing off yet another obstacle to peace, and one of their most vicious abusers, the tyrannical Assad regime.