Posts tagged Syria
BEIRUT – In the midst of a conflict rife with sectarianism, a giant bronze statue of Jesus has gone up on a Syrian mountain, apparently under cover of a truce among three factions in the country’s civil war.
Jesus stands, arms outstretched, on the Cherubim mountain, overlooking a route pilgrims took from Constantinople to Jerusalem in ancient times. The statue is 40 feet tall and stands on a base that brings its height to 105 feet, organizers of the project estimate.
That the statue made it to Syria and went up without incident on Oct. 14 is remarkable….CLICK HERE to read more!
Somewhere in the Middle East, right now, Putin and Assad are sharing cigars and cognac around a roaring fire, with the melodious sound of laughter rising into the night sky as they high-five each other over an 8×10 glossy of Obama. ‘Red line’ indeed.
WASHINGTON — The ambitious U.S.-Russian deal to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons, hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough just days ago, hit its first delay Wednesday with indications that the Syrian government will not submit an inventory of its toxic stockpiles and facilities to international inspectors by this weekend’s deadline.
The State Department signaled that it would not insist that Syrian President Bashar Assad produce the list Saturday, the end of a seven-day period spelled out in the framework deal that Washington and Moscow announced last weekend in Geneva.
Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, said Wednesday that “our goal is to see forward momentum” by Saturday, not the full list. “We’ve never said it was a hard and fast deadline.”
It wasn’t clear whether Syrian officials needed more time to complete a formal declaration of their chemical arms, or whether the disarmament deal itself was in trouble.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry had described the date as the first of several “specific timelines” that would indicate whether Syria is committed to the deal that he and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had worked out.
“We agreed that Syria must submit within a week — not in 30 days, but in one week — a comprehensive listing,” Kerry said Saturday. He said the U.S. would allow “no games, no room for avoidance, or anything less than full compliance.”
Senior Obama administration officials had praised Russia for persuading Assad’s government to relinquish its lethal chemical arsenal, one of the world’s largest, by mid-2014 in a deal to avoid U.S. missile strikes in retaliation for the Aug. 21 poison gas attack that the U.S. says killed more than 1,000 people.
But Moscow’s ability or willingness to push its ally in Damascus to meet the first deadline in the deal now is being questioned.
Kerry and Lavrov sought last weekend to portray the two powers as united. The gap between them, however, has become more apparent and is threatening to snarl efforts to craft a United Nations Security Council resolution that lays out how Syria is to meet its obligations.
The resolution needs to be complete before the first steps can be taken to impound and either remove or destroy Syria’s arsenal. Diplomats said Western countries split with Russia in a meeting Tuesday over Western demands for tough enforcement of the agreement.
Diplomats hope to complete the resolution by Friday, but if they fall short the work may be delayed further next week because of the meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, an international body based in The Hague, is expected to take several days to complete its analysis of the Syrian “initial declaration,” and then will submit its report to the United Nations. source – LA Times
Lebanese daily says 20 trucks crossed into Iraq last week, bearing equipment and material used for manufacturing chemical weapons
Syria has moved 20 trucks worth of equipment and material used for the manufacturing of chemical weapons into neighboring Iraq, the Lebanese daily Al-Mustaqbal reported on Sunday. The government in Baghdad has denied allegations that it is helping the Syrian government conceal chemical stockpiles.
The report came just a day after the United States and Russia struck a deal stipulating that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime would destroy its chemical arsenal to avert an American military assault.
The newspaper reported that the trucks crossed the boundary separating Syria with Iraq over the course of Thursday and Friday. Border guards did not inspect the contents of the trucks, which raises suspicions that they contained illicit cargo, according to Al-Mustaqbal.
Al-Mustaqbal, a publication that has long been affiliated with anti-Syrian political elements in Lebanon, quoted a spokesperson for Iraq’s interior ministry, Saad Maan, as saying that security forces were deployed along the border and were checking all vehicles coming into the country.
“Iraq today is not Saddam Hussein’s Iraq,” he said. “It is not an Iraq which resorts to the use of chemical weapons against its own people or against its neighbors.”
“These accusations are all rumors and are useless and no one believes them,” he said. Last week, the head of the Free Syrian Army told CNN that opposition intelligence indicated Assad was moving chemical arms out of the country.
“Today, we have information that the regime began to move chemical materials and chemical weapons to Lebanon and to Iraq,” General Salim Idriss told CNN.
“We have told our friends that the regime has begun moving a part of its chemical weapons arsenal to Lebanon and Iraq. We told them do not be fooled,” Idris told reporters in Istanbul.
“All of this initiative does not interest us. Russia is a partner with the regime in killing the Syrian people. A crime against humanity has been committed and there is not any mention of accountability.” source – JPost
Is Obama the most inept president in recent memory, or is he carrying out a hidden agenda?
From Wash Post: President Obama declared that the United States is still prepared to act militarily to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons despite the decision to pursue a diplomatic deal and not strike Syria over its alleged use of chemical weapons.
Obama spoke in an interview broadcast Sunday on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” taped Friday before the United States and Russia agreed on a plan to bring Syrian chemical weapons under international control in order to avoid military strikes.
But Obama said Iran should not interpret the diplomatic response — coming after he threatened to use strikes — as suggesting that the United States wouldn’t attack Iran to stop the development of nuclear weapons.
“I think what the Iranians understand is that the nuclear issue is a far larger issue for us than the chemical weapons issue, that the threat . . . against Israel that a nuclear Iran poses is much closer to our core interests,” Obama said. “My suspicion is that the Iranians recognize they shouldn’t draw a lesson that we haven’t struck [Syria] to think we won’t strike Iran.”
Obama said, however, that what the Iranians should draw from this episode is that it is possible to resolve this type of disagreement diplomatically.
“My view is that if you have both a credible threat of force, combined with a rigorous diplomatic effort, that, in fact you can . . . strike a deal,” he said, confirming that he had communicated with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani by letter.
Obama also defended his approach to the Syrian crisis, acknowledging that it has been turbulent, but insisting that it has achieved the right results.
The comments come after a number of lawmakers and foreign policy experts on both sides of the aisle have criticized Obama for first making the case to go to war in Syria, then deciding to ask Congress for approval, and then making the case for strikes to a prime-time audience while also announcing that he would first give a Russian diplomatic proposal a chance to work.
In response to those criticisms, Obama said he is less interested in style than results.
“I think that folks here in Washington like to grade on style. And so had we rolled out something that was very smooth and disciplined and linear, they would have graded it well, even if it was a disastrous policy. We know that, because that’s exactly how they graded the Iraq war,” Obama said.
He added, “I’m much more concerned about getting the policy right. . . . As a consequence of the steps that we’ve taken over the last two weeks to three weeks, we now have a situation in which Syria has acknowledged it has chemical weapons, has said it’s willing to join the convention on chemical weapons, and Russia, its primary sponsor, has said that it will pressure Syria to reach that agreement. That’s my goal. And if that goal is achieved, then it sounds to me like we did something right.”
Obama also played down differences with Russian President Vladimir Putin as Russia and the United States work together to resolve the Syria standoff.
“Mr. Putin and I have strong disagreements on a whole range of issues,” Obama said. “But I can talk to him. We have worked together on important issues. . . . This is not the Cold War. This is not a contest between the United States and Russia.”
Obama plans to pivot back to a focus on the economy this week ahead of major fiscal battles in Congress, and he said he could change the direction of the economy — including the upward path of inequality — if Congress would let him.
Asked if a president just couldn’t stop inequality, he responded, “I think the president can stop it. The problem is that there continues to be a major debate here in Washington.”
While he acknowledged that government can’t overcome every trend in the market, policy that invests in the economy “pushes against these trends. And the problem that we’ve got right now is you’ve got a portion of Congress whose policies don’t just want to you know, leave things alone; they actually want to accelerate these trends.” source – Wash Post
The rise of Gog and Magog
While Christians around the world wait for and eagerly anticipate the Rapture, the unsaved world is preparing to go through the time of Jacob’s trouble otherwise known as the Great Tribulation. So what is Russia doing? Exactly what the bible said they would be doing. Getting ready.
Front Page: When even the New York Times admits that Barack Obama has been outfoxed, outsmarted and outplayed, you know he has really been outfoxed, outsmarted and outplayed.
But there it was, in Wednesday’s edition: “suddenly Mr. Putin has eclipsed Mr. Obama as the world leader driving the agenda in the Syria crisis.” Putin, wrote Steven Lee Myers for the Times, “appears to have achieved several objectives, largely at Washington’s expense.” Chief among these was that “Russia has at least for now made itself indispensable in containing the conflict in Syria, which Mr. Putin has argued could ignite Islamic unrest around the region, even as far as Russia’s own restive Muslim regions, if it is mismanaged.”
Barack Obama, meanwhile, has been revealed as being spectacularly dispensable. The Syrian jihadis who were counting on his aid are bitterly disappointed that he has (at least for now) backed off on committing the U.S. to intervening militarily; true to form as ever, they are blaming it all on Israel. He and his administration’s top officials, most of whom spent years excoriating George W. Bush for lacking sufficient evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, are definitively unmasked as hypocritical, self-serving and partisan in repeatedly glossing over the fact that Obama still has not proven his central contention, that it was Assad who used the chemical weapons unleashed in Syria on August 21.
Putin talked a lot of sense, while simultaneously issuing Obama a veiled threat, in his op-ed. He warned, quite accurately, that a U.S. strike in Syria could risk “spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders” and added: “Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it,” without quite getting around to mentioning that if the U.S. intervened, Putin himself would be one of the prime movers behind the escalation of the conflict.
Putin also scolded Obama for his reference Tuesday evening to “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” Putin pontificated: “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”
The irony was thick. Putin may have been aware that Obama notoriously denigrated American exceptionalism at a town hall meeting in Europe during his first Presidential trip there in 2009. Obama denigrated American exceptionalism by equating it with nationalistic chauvinism: “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” In other words, every country is exceptional, and so none is.
And now Putin was rubbing his face in this, admonishing him that America itself was not exceptional, and driving the point home by saving the world from a wider war in Syria when Obama was itching to get in it, despite failing to provide any proof of his claims that Assad used chemical weapons.
That proof proved to be more elusive by the day. Jason Howerton reported Wednesday in The Blaze that “two Europeans who were allegedly abducted and held hostage for several months in Syria claim they overheard a conversation between their captors suggesting the Syrian rebels were behind the deadly chemical attack in Damascus.…Belgian teacher Pierre Piccinin and Italian journalist Domenico Quirico both say they were able to eavesdrop on an English-language Skype session between their abductors in which they allegedly revealed that it was the Syrian rebels who perpetrated the attack so that the West would intervene.”
Likewise, Matthew Schofield reported for McClatchy on Tuesday that Assad “has repeatedly rejected requests from his field commanders for approval to use chemical weapons, according to a report this weekend in a German newspaper.”
These were just the latest additions to a growing mountain of evidence that, as Putin put it in his op-ed, “there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists.” In support of that claim, Russia submitted a detailed 100-page report to the United Nations; the Obama Administration, by contrast, has offered only circumstantial evidence that hasn’t convinced even our closest allies to join us in a military strike on Syria.
On May 29, 1453, Ottoman jihad warriors finally conquered Constantinople after a prolonged siege (and seven hundred years of trying) when a careless city worker left a gate open to the city after taking out the garbage, thereby offering an entrée to the Muslim forces, who rushed into the city and laid waste.
What happened this week could prove to be just as accidentally momentous. Russia has suddenly reemerged as a major player, if not the major player, in the Middle East and on the world stage in general. And it has happened not because Putin’s plan for a resolution to the Syrian conflict is particularly imaginative, or even workable (how will anyone be able to be sure that Syria has turned over all its chemical weapons?). No, Russia’s reemergence is due not to Russia’s power or Putin’s statecraft, but because Barack Obama left the gate open for them. The consequences of their rushing into the city have yet to be determined, but they’re unlikely to be good in the long run for free people. source – Front Page
Balance of power in the Mideast has taken a crazy shift
Like some bad reality show spinning out of control, the Obama presidency is being humiliated and disrespected every which way from Sunday. Starting with Putin’s viscous smack-down of Obama over military intervention in Syria, it has only grown worse and worse. Now comes the cherry on the sundae – Assad, propped up by big bully Russia, has taken to dismissively ordering Obama and America around through news interviews. Ouch.
And of course, when all the smoke clears, it’s always about Israel (see red bold text below)
From Examiner: President Obama must promise not to arm rebel forces or Syrian dictator Bashar Assad will not hand over his chemical weapons, the embattled leader told a Russian state media outlet today while demanding that Israel also surrender its nuclear arsenal.
“When we see that the U.S. genuinely stands for stability in our region, stops threatening us with military intervention and stops supplying terrorists with weapons, then we will consider it possible to finalize all necessary procedures and they will become legitimate and acceptable for Syria,” Assad told RIA News.
Obama asked Congress to postpone a vote authorizing use of military force in Syria after Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to broker a deal whereby the U.S. would not attack the Assad regime if he surrendered his chemical weapons.
Assad said that the Middle East won’t have peace until Israel also surrenders its weapons of mass destruction.
“If we really want stability in the Middle East, all the countries [in the region] must honor the agreements. And the first country to do so is Israel because it possesses nuclear, chemical and biological weapons – all types of weapons of mass destruction,” source – Washington Examiner
This is what I think we’re seeing:
The president has backed away from a military strike in Syria. But he can’t acknowledge this or act as if it is true. He is acting and talking as if he’s coolly, analytically, even warily contemplating the Russian proposal and the Syrian response. The proposal, he must know, is absurd. Bashar Assad isn’t going to give up all his hidden weapons in wartime, in the middle of a conflict so bitter and severe that his forces this morning reportedly bombed parts of Damascus, the city in which he lives.
In such conditions his weapons could not be fully accounted for, packed up, transported or relinquished, even if he wanted to. But it will take time—weeks, months—for the absurdity to become obvious. And it is time the president wants. Because with time, with a series of statements, negotiations, ultimatums, promises and proposals, the Syria crisis can pass. It can dissipate into the air, like gas.
The president will keep the possibility of force on the table, but really he’s lunging for a lifeline he was lucky to be thrown.
Why is he backing off? Because he knows he doesn’t have the American people and isn’t going to get them. The polls, embarrassingly, show the more people hear the less they support it. The president’s problem with his own base was probably startling to him, and sobering. He knows he was going to lose Congress, not only the House but very possibly—likely, I’d say—the Senate. The momentum was all against him. And he never solved—it was not solvable—his own Goldilocks problem: A strike too small is an embarrassment, a strike too big could topple the Assad regime and leave Obama responsible for a complete and cutthroat civil war involving terrorists, foreign operatives, nihilists, jihadists, underemployed young men, and some really nice, smart people. Obama didn’t want to own that, or the fires that could engulf the region once Syria went up.
His plan was never good. The choices were never good. In any case he was going to lose either in terms of domestic prestige, the foreign result or both. Likely both.
He got himself into it and now Vladimir Putin, who opposes U.S. policy in Syria and repeatedly opposed a strike, is getting him out. This would be coldly satisfying for Putin and no doubt personally galling for Obama—another reason he can’t look as if he’s lunging.
A serious foreign-policy intellectual said recently that Putin’s problem is that he’s a Russian leader in search of a Nixon, a U.S. president he can really negotiate with, a stone player who can talk grand strategy and the needs of his nation, someone with whom he can thrash it through and work it out. Instead he has Obama, a self-besotted charismatic who can’t tell the difference between showbiz and strategy, and who enjoys unburdening himself of moral insights to his peers.
But Putin has no reason to want a Syrian conflagration. He is perhaps amused to have a stray comment by John Kerry be the basis for a resolution of the crisis. The hidden rebuke: It means that when Putin met with Obama at the G-20 last week Obama, due to his lack of competence, got nothing. But a stray comment by the Secretary of State? Sure, why not rub Obama’s face in it.
All this, if it is roughly correct, is going to make the president’s speech tonight quite remarkable. It will be a White House address in which a president argues for an endeavor he is abandoning. It will be a president appealing for public support for an action he intends not to take.
We’ve never had a presidential speech like that!
So what will he say? Some guesses.
He will not really be trying to “convince the public.” He will be trying to move the needle a little, which will comfort those who want to say he retains a matchless ability to move the masses. It will make him feel better. And it will send the world the message:Hey, this isn’t a complete disaster. The U.S. president still has some juice, and that juice can still allow him to surprise you, so watch it.
He will attempt to be morally compelling and rhetorically memorable. He will probably, like Susan Rice yesterday, attempt to paint a graphic portrait of what chemical weapons do—the children in their shrouds, the suffering parents, what such deaths look like and are. This is not meaningless: the world must be reminded what weapons of mass destruction are, and what the indifference of the world foretells.
He will claim the moral high ground. He will temporarily reserve the use of force and welcome recent diplomatic efforts. He will suggest it was his threat of force that forced a possible diplomatic solution. His people will be all over the airwaves saying it was his deft leadership and steely-eyed threat to use force that allowed for a diplomatic break.
The real purpose of the speech will be to lay the predicate for a retrospective judgment of journalists and, later, historians. He was the president who warned the world and almost went—but didn’t go—to war to make a point that needed making.
Before or after the speech there will be some quiet leaking to the press that yes, frankly, the president, with so many difficult domestic issues facing him and Congress in the fall, wanted, sympathetically, to let lawmakers off the hook. They never wanted to vote on this.
Once that was true, they didn’t. But now, having seen the polls and heard from their constituents, a lot of them are raring to go, especially Republicans. It is Democrats who were caught in the crosshairs between an antiwar base and a suddenly hawkish president. But again, a Democratic White House can’t admit it put its people in a fix like that.
In any case it’s good for America that we’ve dodged either bad outcome: Congress votes no and the president moves anyway, or Congress votes no and he doesn’t. Both possibilities contained dangers for future presidents.
The president will assert that as a lover of peace he welcomes the Russian move and reports of the positive Syrian reaction, that he will closely monitor the situation, set deadlines. He will speak of how he understands the American people, after the past 12 years, after previous and painful mistakes by their leaders, would feel so reluctant for any military engagement. He not only understands this reluctance, he shares it. He knows he was elected, in part, because he would not think of war as the first, or even second or third, option. But he has a higher responsibility now, and it is to attempt to warn the world of the moral disaster of the use of weapons of mass destruction. If we don’t move in the firmest opposition our children will face a darker future.
The speech will end. Polls will be taken. Maybe a mild uptick, maybe a flatline. Probably more or less the latter—people have made up their mind. They sense the crisis has passed or is passing. They’re not keen for more presidential rhetoric.
Then get ready for the spin job of all spin jobs. It’s already begun: the White House is beginning to repeat that a diplomatic solution only came because the president threatened force. That is going to be followed by something that will grate on Republicans, conservatives, and foreign-policy journalists and professionals. But many Democrats will find it sweet, and some in the political press will go for it, if for no other reason than it’s a new story line.
It is that Syria was not a self-made mess, an example of historic incompetence. It was Obama’s Cuban Missile Crisis—high-stakes, eyeball-to-eyeball, with weapons of mass destruction and an implacable foe. The steady waiting it out, the inner anguish, the idea that crosses the Telex that seems to soften the situation. A cool, calibrated, chancy decision to go with the idea, to make a measured diplomatic concession. In the end it got us through the crisis.
Really, they’re going to say this. And only in part because this White House is full of people who know nothing—really nothing—about history. They’ve only seen movies.
The only question is who plays Bobby. Get ready for a leak war between Kerry’s staff and Hillary Clinton’s
An important thing. The president will be tempted, in his embarrassment, to show a certain dry and contemplative distance from Putin. The Obama White House should go lightly here: Putin could always, in his pique, decide to make things worse, not better. It would be good for Obama to show graciousness and appreciation. Yes, this will leave Putin looking and feeling good. But that’s not the worst thing that ever happened. And Putin has played this pretty well. source – Peggy Noonan/WSJ