Thursday, February 4, 2016

In Bad Faith

(Systematic Starvation by Anis Mansour): Despite all reports about the UN being allowed to the besieged town of Madaya, the siege continues, so does the starvation and the dying. By playing by Assad’s rules, the UN has become duplicitous in the siege, as activists point out. Opposition members attending the Geneva talks claim that UN Envoy Staffan di Mistura offered to pressure the regime into allowing women, children and the elderly to leave the town, a move, they note, that ends up advancing the regime’s policy of ethnic cleansing.
 DDGD February 4, 2016

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Today’s Post is brought to you by…  The In Bad Faith Group: The best negotiators your money can buy. Whether you are negotiating a divorce settlement or end to an armed conflict, the IBF Group will make sure that you get the best possible settlement, on its own terms.

The Delirica

The Geneva Talks and American Realism: Why did I call on the opposition not to boycott the talks in Geneva, even though I hardly believe that they are fair? Because the politics of boycott leave the stage empty for adventurous types, and deprives the opposition of much needed international exposure and media opportunities to air their grievances. Assad, Putin, the Mullahs and their sectarian Shia militias, the Islamic State, Al-Nusra Front and other Sunni extremist groups, all will keep on killing people and committing atrocities whether the opposition take parts in the talks or not.

But one has to keep on reminding here that, as has been the case since the beginning of the conflict, the bulk of the killing is being carried out by the regime and its supporters. In the run-up to the talks, the Russians and Hezbollah fighters managed to help the regime retake a key city in the south, while a new assault that has just unfolded in the north helped the regime cut off rebels supply routes, isolating the city of Aleppo.

So, it’s not the talks themselves that are legitimating Assad and the politics of ethnic mass murder: it’s the do-nothing attitude by American and Western realists, coupled with the do-everything attitude by their Iranian and Russian counterparts.

The suspension of talks after only two days comes as a natural manifestation of the impact of this realism. Indeed, it’s the realists who’ve been squandering opportunities when it comes to Syria. The reality, everything that the administration has ever done in relation to the Syrian conflict was done in bad faith. The interests of the Syrian people were never the issue, and merited little or no consideration. Syrian lives certainly did not matter, as priority was given to appeasing Mullahs, autocrats and mass murderers. In material terms, this was the cheaper alternative, at least on the short run. But, its real costs will be borne by generations to come, and not only in Syria.

Back to the earlier point, had the opposition not taken part in the talks, they would have been blamed for their failure. At least now, even the realist administration has had to blame the Russian and the regime for that:

The continued assault by Syrian regime forces -- enabled by Russian airstrikes -- against opposition-held areas, as well as regime and allied militias’ continued besiegement of hundreds of thousands of civilians, have clearly signaled the intention to seek a military solution rather than enable a political one.

But, after all is said and done, President Obama has achieved his goal: the United States is like any other global or regional power now. Its purported values have no place in the realm of policymaking, and while the President might delude himself into thinking that this only applies to foreign policy, once embraced, amorality recognizes no borders, and no nation. It’s no wonder that American domestic politics are becoming so polarized and rancorous. This U-Turn has undertones and implications far beyond the Middle East and foreign policy.

Relevant Articles

America Makes a U-Turn in the Middle EastObama’s long game is a complete restructuring of the balance of power in the region—but with what results?
To End Syria’s War, Help Assad’s Officers DefectDiscontent among Alawites — the minority sect that forms the regime’s core constituency — as well as Druse and other religious minorities is at its highest since 2012.

Refugenics – The Safer Alternative: EU officials find that most of the ‘refugees’ are not refugees. What a mess. Are economic migrants less worthy of being received? Is inability to find suitable employment and hope for a decent life in your country of origin any less legitimate as a push factor than conflict? Considering that most protest movements and calls for reform in the developing countries world usually meet with violent repression, even when these movements and calls are nonviolent, and considering how the world turned its back on Syria’s nonviolent protest movement, then, on its moderate rebels, is it really surprising that so many millions of young people seem to have drawn the “troubling” conclusion that migration to a better world is the better answer, and that for all the risks involved in the journey it remains the safer alternative than revolution?

Dealing with influx of refugees and economic migrants from Syria and around the world seems to be the logical price we have to pay for mishandling Syria. This is the price of nonintervention when the facts were clear and the good and bad guys easily distinguishable. This is the price of modern Western “realism” that turns its back on humanitarian intervention. This is the price for conflating humanitarian intervention with imperialism. This is the price of drawing wrong conclusions from the Iraq War, and lending credence to the propaganda machines of authoritarian, corrupt and murderous regimes. This is the price of dithering in the face of sociopathy and criminality.

The world has grown too small for us to keep ignoring each other’s suffering and basic needs, too small for selfishness, too small for narrow-minded politics, too small for tribalism and atavism, too small for hand-wringing and hand-washing, too small for Shirk & Shift routines (shirk the responsibility while shifting the blame) in which so many of our politicians are still too readily willing to engage. Developed powerful countries have a moral and political responsibility to manage to push factors that keep sending people our way. And that step does call for a measure of interventionism, no matter how hard and costly such a step is. The reality is, the costs of measured interventions in partnership with regional actors is on the long run, remain far lower than dealing with the populist backlash with its fascist and racist undertones. We have to find better ways for managing the current trickle than racism fascism, and fear-mongering.

This calls for an honest global and open conversation on far ranging issues including development, effective governance, peacemaking, human rights and environmental changes. Politicians need to face the truth and need to tell their people the truth about the world we are living in today and the future we are moving towards. The crisis of refugees and migrants is but a symptom of deeper structural problems and a deeper structural transformation that we are bound to go through. Mass dislocation and state collapse as a result of environment factors, such as drought and water scarcity, and conflicts is something that is going to be with us for decades, unless we do something about it. The Paris Agreement on Climate Change as set a date, 2050, for moving beyond fossil fuel dependence, and while this is great news for the planet, there are a variety of states and regions around the world whose economies might not be able to handle the transition and seem destined to collapse, unless we do something about it.

Where is the conversation on that?

What we are witnessing today in terms of refugees and migrants inflows is but a trickle, and the floodgates could snap open at any moment, and we cannot blame the people involved simply for wanting to search for a better life. This search is who we are. We cannot stop it, we cannot criminalize it. So, we’d better learn how to manage it more effectively, or suffer the upcoming chaos.

Relevant Articles

Syrian refugee Ameer Mehtr swims for 7 hours to start new life in EuropeThe ex-swimmer trained for nearly every day with a coach in the sea off the coast of Beirut to make the crossing.
Syria donors meet in London in bid to stem refugee crisisThe donor conference, the fourth of its kind, hopes to meet the United Nations' demand for $7.73 billion to help in Syria plus $1.23 billion assistance for countries in the region affected by the crisis. British Prime Minister David Cameron will host more than 70 international leaders at the summit.
Syria conflict: Jordanians 'at boiling point' over refugeesKing Abdullah of Jordan says his country is at ‘boiling point’ because of an influx of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. Ahead of a donor conference on Syria, the king told the BBC that there was enormous pressure on Jordan's social services, infrastructure and economy. ‘Sooner or later, I think, the dam is going to burst,’ he warned.
Syria conflict: Internally displaced struggle to surviveFrom the edge of Jaramana in eastern Damascus, you get a view of what was once a frontline in the battle for the Syrian capital.
Single mobile medical clinic serves 15,000 displaced by Russian strikes, regime advancesThe clinic, which treats an average of 100 people per day, is a joint project by both the US-based SRD, a humanitarian organization based in Gaziantep, Turkey that has offices in Turkey and Jordan, and Onsur, the Turkish relief agency.
What if this baby were mine?The baby is the first dead body I see when I get to the beach. He looks like he is nine or ten months old. He is dressed warmly and was wearing a hat. An orange pacifier is attached to his clothes. Near him floats a child of eight or nine years. Next to them a woman. Their mother perhaps.

The Daily Delirynth

The Expensive Fig Leaf: Donors pledge $10 billion-plus for Syria as Russian planes pound Aleppo. They came. They saw. They pledged. Now another long and futile wait for them to deliver starts. Meanwhile, it’s back to business as usual, that is, of doing business with those busy engineering the ongoing mass slaughter and dislocation: British Airways to resume flights to Iran.

Victory: After four months, Russia’s campaign in Syria is proving successful for Moscow. The image is taken from a video that shows the aftermath of a recent Russian airstrike on the town of Hreitan, north of Aleppo.


Narcos and Terrorists: Police smash huge Hizbollah cocaine ring 'raising funds for war in Syria'DEA says Iran-backed group forged links to ruthless Colombian cartel set up by Pablo Escobar.” The Assad regime and Hezbollah have a long history in drug dealing. In fact, the decision by the late Lebanese PM Rafic Hariri to combat the drug trade in his country, to penalize banks playing a role in the matter, and to encourage farmers to grow alternative crops was one of the many disputes that paved the way for his assassination on the hands of Syrian and Hezbollah operatives.  More importantly, this development goes to highlight an oft-recurring theme in this blog: the coming together of authoritarian regimes, terrorist networks and organized crime syndicates. This is how a variety of countries and regimes around the world which normally wouldn’t stand a chance in the face of Western military superiority can, nonetheless, undermine its security.

It’s not Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State that we should fear: it’s the countries that support them, and the organized crime syndicates willing to do work on their behalf. For although, entities like Al-Qaeda and IS are not mere tools in the hands of others and have their own agendas as well, their interests and anti-Western tendencies do coincide with those of many autocratic regimes around the world, including Iran and Russia and the Assad regime. This is why giving Assad a pass on what he has done and continues to do in Syria makes no sense whatever. The willingness of the Obama Administration and its realist advisers to shrink back from the real fight in Syria and Iraq, allowing for the empowerment of Iran and Russia, paves the road for fighting on the home turf, albeit on the longer run.

The (De)Base: Inside Syria: The farm airstrip that's part of the U.S. fight against ISIS. The Obama Administration may not have wanted that base, or envisioned it even. But soon, and just as is the case with Russia, its Syrian politics, will be all about that base.

China, India and Islam: Some speculate that China will be allying with Iran in order to combat Sunni extremism among its Uighur and Hui Muslim populations. That will be the stupidest policy decision ever. If anything, China needs to work with Sunni moderates in order to combat its Sunni extremists, reaching across the sectarian divide to Iran, a Shia power, will play into the hands of Sunni extremists radicalizing sentiments and facilitating recruitment. As such, Saudi needs to play up its outreach to Sunni powers across the world, especially Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan and Indonesia. It’s India that is caught in a bind on this matter, with Shia Muslims making up more than one third of its significant Muslim population of 175 million. Both countries seem to be aware of their problematic situation and are treading rather carefully.

Quote of the Day

“And when any part of our family starts to feel separate or second-class or targeted, it tears at the very fabric of our nation. It’s a challenge to our values -- and that means we have much work to do. We’ve got to tackle this head on. We have to be honest and clear about it.  And we have to speak out.” –President Barack Obama speaking of Muslims at the Islamic Society of Baltimore.

"We have a lot of problems in this country… there are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque.” –Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Obama’s visit to ISB.

“Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims. Of course there’s going to be discrimination in America of every kind. But the bigger issue is radical Islam. And by the way, radical Islam poses a threat to Muslims themselves. But again, it’s this constant pitting people against each other -- that I can’t stand that. It’s hurting our country badly.” –Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio on the same issue.

“While the free world awaits a Muslim reformation, the leader of the free world shows blatant disregard for gender equality by visiting a mosque that treats females like second-class citizens.” –Raheel Raza, Pakistani-Canadian activist, author and cofounder of the Muslim Reform Movement

Tweet(s) of the Day






Video(s) of the Day

A mother from the town of Hreitan, north of Aleppo, reacts to finding the shredded body of her son in the aftermath of a Russian airstrike:


A Syrian in Germany: 






Cartoons: The Cauldron



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