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President George Bush charges that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's trip last week to Syria was undermining US foreign policy. He's absolutely correct. If ever there was an administration whose foreign policy needed undermining, it's the Bush/Cheney diumverate. The House and Senate do not traditionally take a lead in foreign affairs, except, of course,... Read More
China Abstains and Gets out of the Way
The Security Council, by a vote of 10-0-5 (five abstentions by China, Russia, Indonesia, Qatar, and South Africa), authorized the imposition of a tribunal to investigate, try, and sentence the murderers of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and maybe some other Lebanese citizens possibly murdered by Syrian agents. Middle Eastern affairs are way out of... Read More
Update, September 16, 2007 I was hoping the North Korean nukes in Syria story was an opportunistic bit of Boltonian nonsense that would be put to rest with a bit of State Department pushback. I found the subsequent statement from the State Department’s Andrew Semmel—who is apparently a non-doctrinaire arms control professional— to be reassuring... Read More
Certainly devotees of the “nothing to see here” school of purported North Korea—Syrian nuclear cooperation, of which I am a member, are being tested by the stream of reports and leaks coming out of Israel and Washington concerning the notorious September 6 bombing raid on Syria. On September 22, The Sunday Times weighed in with... Read More
Further Parsing the North Korean Nuclear Weapons in Syria Allegations
Judging from a couple of items by Syria Comment, China Matters is entitled to a little preening. Concerning the target of the September 6 Israeli raid on Syria, I wrote yesterday: Per Syria Comment, Raw Story reports: Israel did not strike a nuclear weapons facility in Syria on Sept. 6, instead striking a cache of... Read More
Via the Marmot’s Hole via Tom Coyner’s blog via Stratfor via God’s lips to our ears, interesting speculation that North Korea demonstrated its sincerity in denuclearization by revealing its list of buyers, presumably including Syria, to the United States, that Washington tipped off Tel Aviv, and Israel thereupon bombed the bejeezus out of some Nork-equipped... Read More
The Israeli censors have finally approved reporting on the fact of the raid, but nothing about target, results, or consequences. A couple possible data points. AP via Talking Points Memo: BBC via Syria Comment: To continue musing about Stratfor’s speculation about a North Korean sellout of Syria, maybe North Korea revealed details of its SCUD-related... Read More
This looks about right. Via Laura Rozen, Intelligence Online reports on the probable target of the Israeli raid on Syria in early September: This confirms the version that Raw Story reported a week ago. As an aside, North Korea is prohibited from exporting spare parts for missile systems under the UNSCR 1718 sanctions. If there's... Read More
With apologies to Steve Clemons, maybe it’s the reality based SCUDs in Syria community—and not the nukes in Syria crowd—that’s getting “Judith Miller’d”. Looking at an actual immediate security threat by North Korea and Syria that could justify a pre-emptive strike by Israel, my money’s always been on SCUDs not nukes. But, based on the... Read More
Eveything Israel wants you to know about its secret airstrike
On Sept. 6, Israeli F-15s and F-16s attacked a site near Dayr az-Zawr in northern Syria, though the strike wasn’t confirmed for nearly two weeks. The Washington Post reported on Sept. 13 that according to a former Israeli official, “it was an attack against a facility capable of making unconventional weapons.” Two days later, Syria... Read More
Israel plays war games with Syria
An Oct. 13 New York Times front-page story claiming American and foreign intelligence confirmation that the Israeli strike on Syria last month was on a nuclear reactor being constructed with North Korean aid was based on misleading information leaked by Eliott Abrams and Stephen Hadley at the National Security Council. Other than Hadley and Abrams,... Read More
In the wake of the release of the Iran National Intelligence Estimate debunking the claims of a ongoing nuclear weapons program--claims that served as the justification for our campaign to isolate, sanction, and weaken Iran--China Matters reminds an astounded world that we predicted the collapse of the Bush administration’s strategy of confronting Iran back in... Read More
Flight Path to Damascus
Israel’s Sept. 6 bombing of a building in Syria continues to be shrouded in secrecy, but both American analysts and United Nations investigators now believe that the entire incident was the result of poor intelligence compiled by the Israelis and accepted by a gullible White House. The follow-up investigation has been hampered by the Bush... Read More
The few people in US intelligence circles who were actually allowed to review the evidence provided by the Israelis regarding the alleged Syrian nuclear facility have called it "bullshit." Perhaps the mainstream media should note the implausibility of the tale being spun given the inability of Syria to support any nuclear program. They should challenge... Read More
The Saga of Syria's Nuclear Plant
There is a goodly amount of spin surrounding American allegations that North Korea assisted Syria in the construction of a nuclear reactor. If the report is true and the pictures are not some Hail Mary neocon forgeries, Syria's motives and judgment are certainly open to question. But in the context of Syria's stated nuclear ambitions,... Read More
PARIS — Last week, US intelligence released a dramatic video that purportedly showed a Syrian nuclear reactor under construction and North Korean personnel helping in the project. The video and still pictures were evidently taken by Israeli agents. The unfinished "reactor" was destroyed last September by Israeli warplanes in an operation that was closely coordinated... Read More
At the invitation of Japan Focus, I wrote an article about the alleged nuclear facility in Syria. Since the Syrians steadfastly deny that there was a reactor at al Kibar and the physical evidence has been bombed, buried, and dismantled into oblivion, I ended up writing more about the creaky Non-Proliferation Treaty regime that the... Read More
The Israeli media is reporting the Russia has negotiated the use of port facilities in the Syrian city of Tarsus, intending to establish a base for Mediterranean operations for its Black Sea fleet. It also sent two Tupelov long range bombers to Caracas last Wednesday on a friendly visit and will carry out both naval... Read More
My mood is somewhat euphoric as my beloved NY Giants, after three lethargic quarters, came from behind to beat the dog-ass Pittsburgh Steelers! But I hope the TAC readership is also noting reports that helicopter borne US special forces have attacked a village inside Syria, killing eight and wounding fourteen more before departing. As Syria... Read More
The US intelligence community is trying to sort out information suggesting that Syria might be enriching uranium on behalf of Iran. The information is coming in mostly from the Israelis and from various Iranian dissident groups, some of which act as surrogates for Israel, but an effort appears to be underway to implicate Damascus in... Read More
The Great Awakening Gets Closer to China I have an article up at Asia Times that’s a bit more torn from the headlines than usual: Syrian sauce for the Chinese gander. My ongoing interest in writing about Syria as the authoritarian Middle Eastern analog to China dovetailed with the explosion of protests in the southern... Read More
The Real Disaster in Libya will Come After the Fall
The president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, is expected to announce reforms today including the end of the 50-year-old state of emergency, to try to defuse protests as thousands of people continue to confront troops. President Assad needs to convince Syrians that he is sincere in promising to dismantle the arbitrary powers of the ruling Ba'ath... Read More
Libya, in spite of its oil treasures, is strictly a sideshow in the great game of nations. We should be keeping our eyes on highly strategic Syria, a potentially combustible nation of 22.5 million that lies at the very heart of what we call the Mideast. Sizeable demonstrations have erupted in the Syrian port city... Read More
Big Pro-Government Turnout
President Bashar al-Assad yesterday accepted the resignation of the Syrian cabinet in an attempt to defuse protests against his rule as hundreds of thousands of people attended pro-government rallies in most of the country's cities. Syrians were awaiting a speech by President Assad, who has remained silent during the 11-day crisis, laying out reforms including... Read More
Is Saudi Arabia Showing George W. Bush How to Run the Regime-Change Table in the Middle East? Saudi Arabia has engaged in some extremely public and forceful pushback against Middle East unrest in general and Iran in particular. In some quarters, it’s being called the Saudi counter-revolution. Is the pro-Iran/pro-Hezbollah Assad government in Syria the... Read More
As Police States Fight for Their Lives
The Syrian army is moving to crush in blood the protesters calling for democracy and the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad and his regime. Unburied bodies lie in the streets of Deraa, the city in the south which has been at the centre of the popular revolt. Will the government succeed? The chances for the... Read More
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced on Thursday that he would soon stand before the United Nations and report on alleged Libyan war crimes. We can only hope that his brief will include the latest war crime, the murder of Qaddafi’s family, his son and three grandchildren, and the assassination attempt on... Read More
The Syrian government has banned foreign and, I would imagine, anything but state-media reportage on the ongoing unrest. So I guess that foreign journos have little to chew on except reports relayed by dissidents and their own, understandable resentment at Bashar al-Assad’s attempt to dominate the news cycle. Even so, I think The Independent’s Alastair... Read More
I have a piece up at Asia Times today about the Palestinian application for full state recognition at the UN, Palestine: Mission Accomplished for China. The affair is a big black eye for President Obama, who gets to look like Israel’s rent boy. The Chinese government is rather happy, since the Palestinian bid has shifted... Read More
It is looking more and more like game over for Bashar al Assad in Syria. Ironically, this is in spite of the fact that Bashar has apparently demonstrated that an authoritarian regime, left to its own devices, can often do a good job of crushing determined domestic dissent. Especially if the insurgents lack a safe... Read More
The October 13 BBC headline read: Clashes in Syria leave 19 dead – rights activists. That gives the impression that the brutal Syrian army killed 19 Syrian demonstrators. Not quite. The story continues: That’s nine Syrian government soldiers. According to Syrian government reports, 1100 Syrian government forces have been killed since the uprising began. Anti-government... Read More
Dwindling Options in Damascus
The Syrian government looks ever more isolated. The latest blow came yesterday when King Abdullah of Jordan became the first Arab ruler to call for Bashar al-Assad to give up power. King Abdullah's outspokenness is a further sign Syria's neighbors believe his regime cannot survive. Syria's suspension by the Arab League had already underlined that... Read More
By comparison, the overthrow of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was a marginal event
President Bashar al-Assad's enemies are closing in for the kill. The Arab League is suspending Syria, and Turkey, once a close ally, is leading the pack in seeking to displace the government that has ruled for 40 years. Arab leaders are talking to West European states about deploying the same mix of political, military and... Read More
ISTANBUL – It’s dark and foggy here today along the mighty Bosphorus that separates Europe and Asia. Just as murky and dangerous as exploding next-door Syria. Turkey’s formerly very successful “no problems” foreign policy crafted by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutogolu buried old arguments with Syria, Iran, and Lebanon and opened billions of new trade for... Read More
The Syrian revolution—a broad-based, non-sectarian, democratic anti-despot national movement—has failed. Mass demonstrations never materialized in Damascus and Aleppo. The military and security forces didn’t crack. The Alawite on Sunni crackdown (Alawites form the backbone of the army/security forces/irregular goon squads) fomented sectarian divisions, with most non-Sunnis minorities cleaving desperately to the Assad regime. Prosperous Sunnis... Read More
Americans should be concerned about what is happening in Syria, if only because it threatens to become another undeclared war like Libya but much, much worse. Calls for regime change have come from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who several weeks ago predicted a civil war. That is indeed likely if the largely secular and... Read More
There is an emerging picture of an embarrassing dilemma for Turkey on Syria. Eager for regional leader cred and anxious to establish itself as an equal partner with the Western powers in the ongoing Middle East make over, Turkey got out in front in supporting the Syrian rebellion. Maybe too far in front. Western military... Read More
What went down at the UN: As a riposte to the Arab League initiated, US/EU backed “Assad must step down” resolution, Russia proposed a resolution calling on both sides to pull back forces and negotiate. Pretty reasonable proposal.  But reasonableness is not part of the program on Syria. Instead, a Security Council vote was called... Read More
“As bloody as anything seen in Iraq between 2006 and 2007”
As Syrian army tanks mass around Homs and its artillery pounds Sunni districts of the city, Syria is slipping into the first stages of a sectarian civil war. This conflict could be as bloody as anything seen in Iraq between 2006 and 2007 or as long as the civil war in Lebanon (1975-90). The two... Read More
CounterPunch Diary
Few spectacles have been more surreal than senior US officials – starting with the President, the Secretary of State and the US ambassador to the UN - solemnly lecturing Assad and his beleaguered Syrian government on the need to accommodate rebel forces whose GCC sponsors are intent on slaughtering the ruling Alawite minority or driving... Read More
The conventional picture of US policy in the Middle East is of a hellbound train rushing toward war with Iran, pulling burning coaches filled with European passengers howling praise of Western values out the windows at horrified bystanders. Actually, I think it’s more like a monster truck exhibition. Lots of sound, fury, testosterone, and bravado,... Read More
Laura Rozen reported on a piece of Syria-related chinstroking by Marc Lynch at the Center for a New American Security titled Pressure Not War: A Pragmatic and Principled Policy Towards Syria. The CNAS page promoting the study tells us: (plus a variety of other sanction/diplomacy squeeze tactics). In the report, the ICC option is presented... Read More
The stupid Attack Iran meme seems to have infected virtually all discourse on the Middle East. Marc Lynch said something stupid…then Amnesty International said something stupid…and how about those stupid Islamic terrorist plots? I have already written about Marc Lynch’s rather terminal and embarrassing misunderstanding of the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in the... Read More
Over the last couple days the Syrian army has moved into the Baba Amr district of Homs. The action is Syria’s Tiananmen. The Western shorthand for Tiananmen is “authoritarian regime reveals its true monstrous face to the world and its own citizens by trampling on helpless pro-democracy demonstrators.” Maybe so, but in the Chinese official... Read More
The Triple Alliance’s War on a Sovereign State
Introduction: There is clear and overwhelming evidence that the uprising to overthrow President Assad of Syria is a violent, power grab led by foreign-supported fighters who have killed and wounded thousands of Syrian soldiers, police and civilians, partisans of the government and its peaceful opposition. The outrage expressed by politicians in the West and Gulf... Read More
Syria’s murky, multi-level conflict continues to grow worse. So does public confusion here in the west as the US, British and some European media keep depicting Syria’s civil war as a simple passion play pitting the evil Asad regime in Damascus against mostly unarmed democratic protestors. We saw this same one-dimensional, deceptive reporting recently in... Read More
Syria Was Not Libya After All
The year-long effort to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad and his government has failed. Two or three months ago, it seemed to come close to succeeding, as insurgents took over enclaves in cities such as Homs and Deir el-Zour. There was talk of no-fly zones and foreign military intervention. Severe economic sanctions were slapped on Syria's... Read More
Always Making Fresh Enemies
In Northern Ireland it used to be called "the politics of the last atrocity", when the latest act of violence and the retaliation it provoked dictated the direction of day-to-day politics. Syria has travelled far in this direction, its towns convulsed by mini-civil wars too bitter and bloodstained to end by mediation. It is this... Read More
Long War Looms
Damascus Parts of Syria are convulsed by civil war, while in other areas life continues almost as normal. At the same moment as more than 30 children had their throats cut and dozens of civilians were killed by shelling in Houla in central Syria on Friday, people in Damascus were picnicking on the slopes of... Read More
Will Houla be the Turning Point?
The expulsion of diplomats always looks like a weedy response to an atrocity, particularly one as outrageous as the murder of children at Houla. Unsurprisingly, news reports about kicking out the diplomats yesterday often concluded mournfully that the move wouldn't do much good. This is true, but the presence or absence of diplomats is always... Read More
Category Classics
The “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam.
Which superpower is more threatened by its “extractive elites”?
While other top brass played press agents for the administration’s war, William Odom told the truth about...