On Ukraine/Syria

Reprinted from Facebook (2018/02/14):

It struck me a while ago that what Russia is doing so far as the Ukrainian borders in the east are concerned is essentially the same as what Turkey and Jordan are doing in relation to Syria’s borders.

Both Turkey and Jordan keep the borders open, allowing jihadists from across the world and arms (which in today’s globalized world must at some level have the blessing of the US) to keep flowing into Syria to maintain the insurgency against Assad.

Russia likewise allows imports of arms as well as pro-Russian volunteers across the ex-USSR into Eastern Ukraine.

Yet the US and indeed the entire West turns a blind eye to (and indeed quietly supports) the former, while lambasting Russia for the latter, threatening it with sanctions, and some even going so far as to support labeling it as a state sponsor of terrorism. No matter that the Donbass resistance has not – unlike the West’s/Saudi’s pet Islamists, which have wiped several Alawite and Christian villages off the map – committed any widescale atrocities against the civilian populations.

Translation: Putin Victorious

Expert explains how the recent developments regarding Russia’s proposed resolution to the Syrian Civil War represent major victories for Vladimir Putin and his nation.

Putin’s Five Victories

The plan for the resolution of the Syrian crisis, proposed by Russia, is swiftly becoming more concrete. Already this past Friday, when Russian-American consultations in Geneva were still ongoing, Syria began a full participant of the Convention on the Ban of Chemical Weapons, having signed the corresponding document. A government letter addressed to the General Secretary of the UN Ban Ki Moon states: “The Syrian Arabian Republic confirms that it pledges to follow the regulations of the Convention until they officially come into force on its territory.”

Russia’s transition from a defensive position to a diplomatic offensive turned out to be unexpected and very effective. Arriving at the limits of its tactic of blockage of possible Western aggressive activities against Syria, and understanding that Barack Obama, contrary to his unwillingness, was deciding on a military operation, Moscow suggested a satisfying way-out for everyone (perhaps, except militants and their sponsors). During the course of a week a diplomatic victory was accomplished, which has no analogues in post-Soviet history.

In the first place, Russia conclusively demonstrated that its position regarding international questions is constructive. It also demonstrated that its traditional noncompliance in matters of the use of force in international affairs is not a desire to put a spoke in the wheel of the USA and its allies at any cost, but a fundamental desire to search for political solutions. The symbol of this constructiveness of Russian politics was an unprecedented letter from Pope Francis to President Vladimir Putin, written even before the initiative of Syrian renunciation of chemical weapons, in which the pontiff urged to focus on the search for a peaceful resolution of the Syrian conflict.

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Translation: The Corporation of Lies

In an impassioned editorial, Alexander Grishin unlocks the history of what he sees as repeated American lying as regards Syria and chemical weapons.

Corporation of Lies: Washington, Pennsylvania Avenue

Sometimes, from behind American politicians’ veil of lies the truth erupts – and it is even uglier.

Over the past few days, the feeling that Washington has become a world centre of lies, distortions and something even worse has only become strengthened. Moreover, in the U.S. capital representatives from almost all branches of government are lying: politicians, ministers, diplomats, etc.

Here, for example, is the lovely story about the launching towards the east of two missiles from the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Remember, the Pentagon, almost crossing its heart, tried to persuade everyone that it had no hand in the matter. And then it turned out that it was supposedly a joint missile defence system test, carried out by the U.S.A. and Israel. Let us leave aside the fact that in the busy shipping lanes of the Mediterranean all countries are notified in advance about such exercises and that only a stupid person (or an agent provocateur) would carry out such launchings near a potential war zone. Everyone knows that. But there was a four-hour silence and fuzzy negative responses that were eloquent in themselves. Well, they did not know that we were able to see them and track them. They say that all Russian equipment is rusty, cannot fly and cannot shoot. And then suddenly – bang! The early detection system detected the launch from start to finish. They did not count on that. Imagine how the phones were heating up (figuratively speaking) in Washington DC and its environs, as well as those of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the General Staff of the Israeli armed forces, as they sought a way to get out of the scandal that they themselves had created.

“The Russians? Spotted? That can’t be?”

“It turns out that it can, sir. What are we going to say, sir?”

As a result, they told half-truths: they acknowledged the launches and gave a muddled explanation about some missile tests.
Vladimir Putin, of course, did not call the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, a liar outright: that is not permissible at their level diplomacy. However, Putin described quite clearly the statements of the head of American diplomacy: “Well, he’s lying and knows he is, which is sad.”

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A Game of Homs

What striking about Syria is how so many people insist on speaking about it in profoundly moralistic, Manichaean terms. This is complete nonsense, given that its civil war isn’t a showdown between democracy and dictatorship, but an ethnic and religious conflict. Here’s a more realistic guide:

The Assad regime

The rhetoric: He kills his own people! He is the Evil Overlord (TM)!

The reality: That’s kind of what happens in a civil war. Abraham Lincoln also “killed his own people,” you know. It is obvious why the “regime” fights on: That is what regimes do – as a general rule of thumb, they’re fond of surviving. The rather more interesting and telling question is: Why do key elements of the population continue to back them?

As far as the Alawites and Christians are concerned, it’s pretty clear: The Sunnis have never been particularly well disposed to them, and the past few years haven’t made them any fonder. The last time the Sunnis revolted in Hama in 1982, one of the slogans of the Muslim Brotherhood was “Christians to Beirut, Alawites to the graveyard.”

In the game of Homs, you win or you die – and the “you” is in its plural form. No wonder Assad has a solid support base.

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Translation: Assad Starts Winning in Syria

As the Syrian Arab Army advances and discontent builds with jihadists, some anti-regime fighters begin thinking of taking advantage of an amnesty and going over to the other side, writes Alexander Romanov.

Assad started to win not only on the battlefield, but in the battle for the minds

Hundreds of Syrian rebels lay down their arms, disappointed in the “jihad.”

Any civil war comes to an end. One of the signs of war ending is soldiers of one of the warring sides returning to their homes, laying their arms down first. It is this process which started unexpectedly in Syria, where several hundred opposition fighters disarmed and took advantage of the amnesty declared by the authorities.

It is too early to speak about a steady trend since the opposition forces are between 50 to 100 thousand people, and the number of those who call it quits does not account for much, but if this trend broadens, there will be an important psychological and propaganda victory for the Syrian government forces, “Kommersant” newspaper says.

However what is clear now is the motives that prompted former rebels to return to civilian life: strengthening the position of Islamic radicals among the rebels (this fact scares many moderate Syrians, not wanting to go back to the Middle Ages) and a series of military victories of government forces in various parts of the country.

Amnesty for former rebels was declared by Ali Haidar, the head of the recently created Ministry of National Reconciliation. Haidari is one of the moderate members of the Assad team. He promised that the opposition fighters who are willing to lay down their arms, will not be prosecuted and will be able to return home to civilian life.

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Translation: One Day in the Life of the Syrian Opposition

Komsomolskaya Pravda’s Alexander Kots writes about the mounting savagery of the Syrian civil war, citing the now infamous video of the Free Syrian Army fighter eating the heart of a government soldier as a case in point.

Weekdays of the Syrian Opposition: Cut out the Heart, and Eat It

More and more videos from combat zones are appearing on the Web. From both sides.

“I swear we will rip out your hearts and livers, and eat them, you dogs of Bashar,” says a Free Syrian Army fighter in a shaky video clip. He then cold-bloodedly opens up the chest cavity of a dead government soldier, before diving in with his bare hands. He draws out a misshapen lump that happens to be the heart from the mutilated body, and demonstratively digs his teeth into it. “Look upon the heroes of Baba Amr, slaughtering the Alawites and devouring their hearts,” the cannibal exclaims.  A chorus of voices behind the camera support him: “Allahu Akbar!”

No doubt this episode will sooner or later appear in some Hollywood thriller about how the freedom-loving Syrian people overthrew the hated dictatorship, with the cannibal role played by some scumbag from the government troops. But for now, the truth of the matter is that the tapes released this week show none other than the head of the opposition Al Farooq al-Mustakilla Brigade, Khalid al-Hamad (though he prefers to name himself in the Arabic style: Abu Sakkar). His militia consists of up to 60 infantrymen from the Baba Amr district of Homs – that is, those same thugs who were terrorizing the Christian quarters of the city, razing churches and inscribing “Alawites into coffins, Christians to Beirut” on the walls.

The video’s authenticity has already been confirmed by the commander of the Free Syrian Army in Homs, Tariq al Sayed, though he insisted that it was an isolated case. But the latter claim is open to question, considering that the number of online videos displaying their animal savagery is increasing in a geometric progression, as was the case with Libya. The only difference, perhaps, is that if in the former Jamahiriya the inhuman carnage lacked a religious tinge, in Syria it carries a pronounced sectarian character.

The other day, for instance, 13 Christian women were brutally raped and tortured to death in Aleppo. YouTube is full of videos of mass executions of Alawites, both soldiers and civilians. Reveling in their own impunity, the blood-intoxicated fighters slice off ears, decapitate people… They even bring children to their medieval executions. In one of the videos, a senior comrade is shown presenting a machete to a young kid, before pointing to a bound body on the ground. The lad hacks with skill or finesse, botching the initiation and turning the victim’s last minutes into a hellish torture. But no matter. The Chechen mujahideen, in town for a skills exchange, are very good at cutting off heads. Nor do they forget to pose for the camera while doing so either.

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Alex Mercouris Untangles Syria

He has an excellent article over at his blog discussing the motivations behind the Western smearing of Russia for supporting – well, not opposing – Assad, against the Islamist insurgent freedom fighters. I highly recommend you read the article Russia, Syria, and the West in full; as Mark Chapman correctly notes in the comments, if you only did that then you would “come away better informed than 90% of those who have followed the situation from the outset.”

Basically, the West pretends that Russia is pursuing mercenary objectives in propping up Assad, while its own motives are altruistic and well-meaning. This of course ignores many inconvenient facts:

  • The situation in Syria is in fact a civil war with the insurgents, vast majority of whom are Islamists, not without their own share of atrocities. (And being supported by Western proxies for months now).
  • Western duplicity in supporting regimes like Saudi Arabia which executes people for witchcraft and militarily intervening in Bahrain to put down a Shi’ite revolt. This exposes their protests vs. Russia, China as hypocritical moralistic posturing; the real objective is to undermine Iran.
  • The BRICS as a whole are against the Western moves to intervene militarily in Syria (with Russia taking most of the flak), or create the pretexts for such. This is an eminently reasonable move given the Libyan experience. Libya, by and by, is hardly ever mentioned now in the Western MSM, as that whole democracy and liberal rights thing doesn’t appear to be panning out with daily reprisals, collapse of central authority, and fast-growing influence of radical Islamists.
  • Ignoring Russia’s (and China’s, etc) real arguments and motivations: Not supporting Assad per se (as Putin pointed out, Assad made more visits to Paris than Moscow in the past few years), but preventing the Western powers from usurping the right to make war, regime change, and general hostile interference in the affairs of non-Western aligned states. I.e., holding to the letter of international law.

For a statement of the Russian position on Syria, I recommend Russian FM Sergey Lavrov’s article in the Huffington Post (On the Right Side of History), as well as Mercouris’ earlier posts on the matter (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).