Saturday, October 3, 2015

Mumbo Syriano

Russian Military Installations in Syria 
DDGD – October 3, 2015

Editorial Comment 

Some people dance for joy and others can only dance at funerals. Our current leaders on the global stage seem to hail from this latter category.

Articles & Commentary 

Obama Sees Russia Failing in Syria Effort. But of course he does, and he might indeed be right. Meanwhile Syrians continue to suffer, and that’s OK, I guess. That’s realism. We care about levels of carbon dioxide emission in China, but a mass slaughter in Syria is something we can realistically live with.

Another realist, this one happens to be Fareed Zakaria, proposes a division of Syria by way of allowing Assad to be part of something, perhaps something that includes Damascus, because she will be better off under Assad rule than under Jihadist rule, for these are the only two alternatives that realists see for Syria. In fact, these are the only two alternatives that they have ever envisioned for Syria, which is why they failed to bolster the nonviolence secular prodemocracy activists which took to the streets back in 2011. They didn’t see them as a viable alternative, you see, after all they believed in democracy and nonviolence, while realist viability requires action by killers. It’s killing that makes one viable to the “realists.”  

Still, a soft partition of Syria is exactly what we have, and the idea of creating a compromise that allows Assad to be part of the transition without being president of the country was proposed months ago by none other than yours truly. I did so during an opposition conference in Astana, Kazakhstan, which was hosted by the Kazakhstan government. A second conference is taken place as this very moment in what is now known as the Astana Track, perhaps with participation with representative of the Assad regime, in additions to Russian, Kazakh and French officials. I was unfortunately unable to attend this time, but I did develop a more concise and updated version of the proposal to reflect recent developments, and the input I received from others.

The new proposal calls for considering Shia militias, made up of Lebanese, Iraqi and Afghani mercenaries as terrorist groups as well. Russia and Iran might object to this, but there is nothing to stop France and the United States from targeting their positions. After all, it’s these Iran-funded and trained and Russia-equipped militias, acting in conjunction with Assad’s troops and militias, that are responsible for generating that flood of Syrian refugees, the overwhelming majority of whom Sunni, that some think might destabilize Europe. The U.S. already classifies Al-Jaish Al-Sha’bi and the Shabbiha, two pro-Assad militias as terrorist organizations, but so far, it hasn’t targeted them during its air strikes in Syria. There is more than enough evidence to allow for classifying other Iran-backed Shia militias acting in Syria and Iraq as terrorist as well, especially Kataib Al-Imam Ali and Al-Mahdi Army (and for a more comprehensive overview of Shia Jihadi groups operating in Syria and Iraq read this report by Phillip Smyth). Hezbollah is already on the list of terrorist organizations.  

Russian Soldiers in Damascus 

Imagine this scenario: While Russia, Iran and Assad are busy striking targets belonging to Western-backed rebels, the U.S. France and perhaps Great Britain strike targets belonging to pro-Assad militias. Striking IS targets is something both sides can do on the side, since none of them is serious about it anyway. This should nullify any advantage Russia currently has, or seem to have, without directly challenging it in the air. It shouldn’t take more than a few days before Russia realized that it has been stalemated, again, and without the U.S. having to directly confront it, and diplomacy might have a chance, again.

And for this diplomacy to work tough compromises need to be made: allowing for Assad to be part of the transitional process is one. Assad could indeed stay not as president but as representatives of certain political parties (the Baath Party, and other parties in the national Progressive Front), and perhaps certain regions. He should leave Damascus, but could nominate his own representatives to a national unity government based in Damascus, which should come under international supervision. The office of president could be vacant for a while. Meanwhile, new regulations could be agreed for the scheduled parliamentary elections in 2016 allowing for the creation of a national assembly in charge of drafting a new constitution for the country. A mechanism that allows refugees and exiles to take part in the elections should be agreed. Once the assembly finishes his work the constitution should be ratified through a popular referendum. New parliamentary and presidential elections could then take place. All elections and referenda should monitored by international observers. As for the fight against terrorist groups, that is, those who choose to remain in the country: it could begin as soon as Assad agrees to step down and relocate to the coast, leaving Damascus under the protection of an international taskforce.

Thanks to President Obama’s realism, this is the only choice we now have to stop the massive bloodletting and destruction in Syria. But even this compromise calls for Obama to be less… Obamaish. This is unlikely of course. So, the slaughter will continue, because there is real realism, then there is what we have been dealing with for the last 5 years at least, if not since 2008: Obamaism.

The No-Fly Zone: comments that just make no sense (i.e. they don’t fly)

Russia Risks Being Prosecuted for Syria's War Crimes. With all due respect for ambassador Stephen Rapp, but an administration that cannot even prosecute Assad will not move against Russia. Such threats will not work against Putin. This won’t fly.

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Most candidates in the U.S. presidential elections have so far called for a No-Fly Zone in Syria, but with Russia now conducting air strikes against rebels, such calls ring hollow, and perhaps Mr. Obama is right in describing their proposals as half-basked and “mumbo jumbo.” Without a clear policy on how to deal with Russian presence in Syria, not to mention Iran's, these calls mean nothing and are as irrelevant as the Obama Administration’s repeated calls for Assad’s departure. Slogans and soundbites do not a policy make. They don’t fly.

Video(s) of the Day

For some reason, the dynamics between this Kayaker and a bear seem to echo those between Mrrs. Obama and Putin.


Artistic Delirium

Tammam Azzam, Demonstration, 2013, Archival Print on Cotton Paper, 112 X 112 cm, Edition of 5 | Courtesy Ayyam Gallery

Cartoons

This is how things appear to most Arabs.



Flash from the Recent Past

An observation I made on January 25, 2014 in connection to the Russian invasion of Eastern Ukraine:
“And with this, we officially enter the era of Cold War II. This is what tolerating genocide in Syria has led us into. This is our brave new world, revisited, reinvented, rededicated. Now, we bravely plod on into another black hole of an era, armed with the usual assortment of frivolous justifications and platitudes, united only in our willingness to be foolish to the very end.”
In other words, mistaking inaction for caution and paranoia for vigilance is a recipe for desolation. Unfortunately, many if not most of our politicians and public intellectuals seem hooked on it.

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