Archive | June, 2012
25 Jun


In the year since the Syrian uprising began, Ankara and Damascus — once allies that enjoyed an open border and robust trade — have lurched from one barely contained diplomatic crisis to the next. Their simmering hostility threatened to spiral out of control Friday after Syrian artillery shot down a Turkish fighter jet, claiming border violation. Turkey conceded that its jet — allegedly unarmed and on a routine radar-testing mission — had strayed into Syrian skies but said it was in international airspace when it was downed. It has called for immediate NATO consultations. On Monday, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister told reporters that Syria had also fired on a Turkish search plane but stopped after a warning from the Turkish military.

As violence in Syria rages, the porous 900-km border shared by the two countries has become an increasingly volatile arena for conflict. The plane shooting came just days after…

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The Annan Plan Has Failed- What’s Next?

16 Jun

Today, the United Nations suspended its observer mission in Syria. This is an unsurprising development, given the dangers that the observers faced as well as the continual violence. Moreover, the mission itself was hindered by limitations. For example, the number of observers was inadequate. There were only 300 observers for a nation of 23 million people. Observers were also unarmed, and were thus unable to defend civilians nor themselves. Their mandate was also limited since they were observing instead of peacekeeping. Most of all, their efforts only gave more time for the regime to continue its genocidal campaign. As mentioned earlier, violence continues and several massacres occurred during the mission itself. Since the observer mission and the ceasefire were crucial parts of the Annan plan, and because both of these provisions have failed, the Annan plan has been, and is now officially, dead.

I believe the following events will now occur after this failure:

1. Indirect intervention will continue- On June 13, 2012, three days before the observer mission was suspended, The Independent reported that Qatar and Saudi Arabia were providing arms for the Free Syrian Army. Since the Annan plan has now officially collapsed and the Assad regime continues to remain undeterred by diplomatic pressure, I suspect that Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and other nations will continue to arm the FSA. Although the Obama administration has been hesitant on supporting such an intervention, I believe that it will reluctantly do so, especially given recent developments. In fact, administration officials have recently held meetings with FSA representatives. Moreover, recent news reports suggest that the administration has been leaning towards supporting its Arab allies in providing weapons to the FSA. It is also politically safe for the President to arm the FSA as his opponent, former governor Mitt Romney, has stated his support for this. Thus, due to both the political feasibility as well as the failure of the Annan plan, it is more likely than not for the Obama administration to increase its support for, as well as participate in, efforts to improve the military capabilities of the FSA. It is, however, unlikely that the president will support more direct intervention, such as NATO airstrikes and/or deploying troops to the region. Given the public aversion to military action, and upcoming elections in November, such tactics will likely not be considered for many months.

2. The United Nations will remain in a deadlock: Since the Obama administration and NATO have both expressed aversion to direct military intervention, it is likely for the United States and its Western allies to also continue to rely on futile diplomatic pressure to stop the atrocities. Since the Annan plan has failed, I suspect that they may push for Russia and China to apply economic sanctions on Syria and use their clout to pressure Bashar al-Assad to step down. However, such efforts will be fruitless. Both China and Russia have rejected the usage of economic sanctions on Syria. In addition, as some analysts have stated, Russian president Vladmir Putin continues to strongly support Assad and weapons shipments to the regime have continued. Thus, it is highly unlikely that any progress will be made in the United Nations. China and Russia will continue to block any efforts by the U.S., U.K., and France to pressure and/or remove Assad from power.

3. A bloody and brutal stalemate will continue in the short-term: Although the FSA controls large swathes of Syria, including many villages in the northern portion of the country and despite the fact that the regime’s control of Damascus has been threatened, the FSA is outgunned by the regime. Arms shipments by Qatar and Saudi Arabia will be helpful in evening the fight, but for now, the regime has a significant advantage in terms of armaments. In addition, the regime has forced the FSA to withdraw from some towns, such as Haffa. Nonetheless, as mentioned earlier, the FSA still controls a significant portion of the country and recent arms shipments from regional governments have strengthened FSA capabilities in destroying  tanks. As a result, although the FSA has made important progress, the situation remains a bloody stalemate, especially given the regime’s advantage in weaponry and continual/daily clashes between the regime and the FSA. Just as worse, the regime is depending more upon its militia, otherwise known as the shabiha, for conducting massacres and asserting control. The shaibha are notorious for brutal crimes, such as rape as well as mass murder in Qubair and Houla. Thus, while a bloody stalemate ensues in Syria, the shabiha will also likely to continue to commit atrocities against people in Syria.

Altogether, although I am confident that the international community will do more to support the Free Syrian Army, I do not believe much progress will be made overall. Arming the FSA is crucial, especially since it is outgunned by the regime. However, due to the regime’s advantages, it will take time for such armaments to turn the tide. In addition, I expect the international community to remain paralyzed by disputes about how to address the situation as well as a reluctance to support direct intervention. Sadly, such paralysis will be harmful, especially as the shabiha will continue to commit atrocities against innocent civilians in Syria.  Therefore, it is time for Western powers and their regional allies to consider the usage of more aggressive measures, such as airstrikes or utilizing special forces to organize and train the FSA as well as assist it with operational planning and logistics. Otherwise, the paralysis and deadlock will continue and so will the atrocities. Russia and China will oppose such measures, but Western powers and the Arab League could press for action outside of the U.N. 

15 Jun

CNN Security Clearance

By Barbara Starr, with reporting from Jill Dougherty

The United States says it is tracking a Russian military cargo ship as it makes its way to Syria carrying weapons, ammunition and a small number of Russian troops.

U.S. intelligence believes the Russians are sending the ship to help fortify its naval base in Syria as the situation in country continues to spiral out of control, Pentagon officials told CNN Friday.

The presence of the ship was first reporting by NBC News.

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14 Jun

CNN Security Clearance

By Barbara Starr

The U.S. military has completed its own planning for how American troops would conduct a variety of operations against Syria, or to assist neighboring countries in the event action was ordered, officials tell CNN.

In recent weeks, the Pentagon has finalized its assessment of what types of units would be needed, how many troops, and even the cost of certain potential operations, officials tell CNN.

Multiple military officials say initial planning is complete with a full understanding of what types of troops and units would be needed. This has been done so that if President Obama were to ask for options the military would be ready to present them. But officials say additional detailed work would have to be done before forces could be deployed.

The planning comes as the U.S. has become increasingly concerned that the violence in Syria is verging on civil war. Gen. Martin…

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14 Jun

Columbia should rescind her admission

Emerging Truth

By Hannah Roberts

Last updated at 6:34 PM on 12th February 2012

A US-based spin doctor advised Syria’s beleaguered despot on how to manipulate the sympathies of the American public, it has emerged.

New York based PR Sheherazad Jaafari coached President Bashar Al-Assad for a US TV interview that aired in December, telling him, the ‘American psyche can be easily manipulated’, according to emails leaked by hackers.

Ja’afari, a press attaché at the Syrian UN Mission, sent the emails to Assad’s media advisor Bouthaina Shaaban, about ten days before the TV interview with ABC News; Barbara Walters, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

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Spin machine: New York-based PR Sheherazade Jafari coached President Bashar Al-Assad for a TV interview with ABC News' Barbara WaltersSpin machine: New York-based PR Sheherazad Jaafari coached President Bashar Al-Assad, left, for a TV interview with ABC News’ Barbara Walters, right

The deeply cynical email advises him to admit mistakes were made in Syria, and point out the heavy-handed treatment of Occupy demonstrators on American…

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Syria is President Obama’s Bosnia or Rwanda

10 Jun

Today, New York Times Columnist Nick Kristof wrote a scathing critique of President Obama’s policies on Syria and Sudan. He likes President Obama, but has strong disagreement with the president in regards to the aforementioned nations. His article has inspired my post today, especially since, like Kristof, I am a supporter of President Obama, but have been disappointed about his Syria policies:

Since the 2008 Presidential elections, I have been a strong supporter of President Obama. I respect the President and praise his administration’s productivity and accomplishments, especially given the opposition it faced. For example, during his administration, legislation expanding health care coverage  was passed, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has been repealed, a successful war was conducted against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces in Libya, Osama Bin Laden has been killed, and American troops have been withdrawn from Iraq. However, despite my approval of President Obama, I am critical of his policy towards Syria and believe that he can and should do much more to stop the genocide there.

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has committed horrific war crimes against his own citizens during the last 15 months. According to the United Nations, human rights organizations, and opposition groups, thousands of people have been murdered and numerous children have been tortured. In addition, there are fears that Syria’s uprising could have regional consequences, especially since violent clashes have occurred between pro-Assad and anti-Assad groups in Lebanon.

Nevertheless, President Obama has ineffectively responded to the situation in Syria. Although he has called on Assad to step down, his policies have not deterred the latter’s genocidal campaign.  In addition, he has worked with the European Union and the Arab League to place economic sanctions on the Assad regime, but Assad’s forces continue to commit horrific war crimes, including murdering tens of women and children in Houla on May 25 and in Qubair, Syria in June. Despite these atrocities and the aforementioned fact that diplomatic and economic pressure have not halted the regime’s crimes, the President continues to push for economic sanctions. He also supports negotiations with the regime over a power transition to the opposition even though previous attempts at negotiations and diplomacy by Turkey, the Arab League, and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan have failed. President Obama has also tried to seek Russia’s assistance in supporting such a transition. However, some analysts doubt that Russia would ever agree to it. Moreover, despite the fact that opposition forces have been outgunned, he has, until recently, reportedly prevented efforts by regional allies to arm the opposition. He also opposes utilizing airstrikes against the regime, even though such attacks could weaken Assad’s forces. Thus, I believe his response to the atrocities has been ineffective and needs to be tougher.

There are many reasons for his opposition to stronger action against Assad. He is running for re-election and it is unlikely that the public would support military action, especially after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, Syria’s military is stronger than Gaddafi’s forces and would thus pose a more difficult challenge. Moreover, the national debt has already surpassed $15 trillion and intervention could increase debt levels.

However, inaction would be much worse. If President Obama does not act, Syria will become his Rwanda. During the Rwandan genocide, 800,000 people were murdered and the international community failed to take action. In Syria, thousands of people have already been killed and, like Rwanda, the international community has failed to act. Unfortunately, massive slaughter is not the only consequence of inaction. As mentioned before, if it is not contained, violence could spread to other nations, such as Lebanon, thereby resulting in a destabilizing regional war. Just as important, allowing the atrocities to continue provides the Assad more time to utilize its sectarian strategy to foment tensions and encourage violence between different sects in Syria. Thus, it is imperative for President Obama to support military intervention to stop the genocide before it worsens.

If President Obama acts, Syria could instead be his Bosnia. Some may argue that he should not act because of the political consequences, but sometimes, unpopular decisions must be made for the greater good. President Clinton, for example, made the difficult decision to intervene in Bosnia. Like Syria, thousands of Bosnians were killed by a genocidal dictator from 1992-1995, but President Clinton hesitated on taking action. In addition, by the time President Clinton chose to act, the 1996 Presidential elections were a year away and, like President Obama today, he was concerned about the potential political backlash that could ensue from intervening. Nevertheless, President Clinton eventually supported NATO intervention, which stopped the genocide. It is time for President Obama to do the same. Due to the severe consequences of inaction and the failure of diplomatic pressure, President Obama must choose to support intervention in Syria and make it his Bosnia instead of his Rwanda.

What kind of intervention should President Obama support? At the least, he can have American, British, Jordanian, and Turkish special forces provide arms and intelligence support to opposition forces, which are also known as the Free Syrian Army. Anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons would be especially useful. In addition, America’s regional allies- Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey- could also train and organize the Free Syrian Army and assist it with military operations. However, given the size of the Syrian army (300,000 soldiers), this may not be enough.

That is why the Obama administration must consider airstrikes. As mentioned earlier, airstrikes could further weaken the regime’s forces. In addition, Syria’s anti-aircraft capabilities are surmountable, especially since, in 2007, Israeli forces were able to launch successful airstrikes on Syrian soil. The regime’s defensive capabilities are also not at full strength. According to one report, around 75% of Syrian troops have been relegated to their barracks due to fear of disloyalty. The costs of airstrikes do not need to be paid by America alone. NATO members and the Arab League should jointly participate in any airstrikes, thereby resulting in cost-sharing. Altogether, intervention is feasible and there are various military strategies that the Obama administration can use to stop the slaughter.

Intervention will not occur though unless President Obama decides to support it. It is time for him to take the lead and form a multilateral coalition of NATO and Arab League members to intervene in Syria. Intervention is risky, but inaction has worse consequences, including a result similar to that of the Rwandan genocide. On the other hand, intervening could stop the genocide, as it did in Bosnia. As a supporter of President Obama, I strongly urge him to support military intervention. Take action, Mr. President.

For a more detailed analysis of why intervention would be feasible, click here.

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4 Jun

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