Tuesday, February 7, 2012

SYRIA: religious minorities being buried under a mountain of propaganda

By Elizabeth Kendal

At the end of January 2012, the League of Arab States Observer Mission to Syria issued its report. It included the following observations:

Par 8) "In accordance with the protocol, the Syrian Government confirmed its readiness to facilitate the Mission in every way by allowing the free and safe movement of all of the observers throughout Syria, and by refraining from hindering the work of the Mission on security or administrative grounds. The Syrian Government side also affirmed its commitment to ensuring that the Mission could freely conduct the necessary meetings; to provide full protection for the observers, taking into consideration the responsibility of the Mission if it were to insist on visiting areas despite the warning of the security services; and to allow the entry to Syria of journalists and Arab and international media in accordance with the rules and regulations in force in the country."

Par 13) "Immediately on arriving in Homs, the Head of the Mission met with the Governor of the city, who explained that there had been an escalation in violence perpetrated by armed groups in the city. There had been instances of kidnapping and sabotage of Government and civilian facilities. Food was in short supply owing to the blockade imposed by armed groups, which were believed to include some 3000 individuals. The Governor further stated that all attempts by religious figures and city notables to calm the situation had failed."

Par 26) "In Homs and Dera'a, the Mission observed armed groups committing acts of violence against Government forces, resulting in death and injury among their ranks. In certain situations, Government forces responded to attacks against their personnel with force. The observers noted that some of the armed groups were using flares and armour-piercing projectiles."

Par 27) "In Homs, Idlib and Hama, the Observer Mission witnessed acts of violence being committed against Government forces and civilians that resulted in several deaths and injuries. Examples of those acts include the bombing of a civilian bus, killing eight persons and injuring others, including women and children, and the bombing of a train carrying diesel oil. In another incident in Homs, a police bus was blown up, killing two police officers. A fuel pipeline and some small bridges were also bombed."

Par 28) "The Mission noted that many parties falsely reported that explosions or violence had occurred in several locations. When the observers went to those locations, they found that those reports were unfounded."

Par 29) "The Mission also noted that, according to its teams in the field, the media exaggerated the nature of the incidents and the number of persons killed in incidents and protests in certain towns."

Par 71) "The Mission determined that there is an armed entity that is not mentioned in the protocol. . ."

Par 75) "Recently, there have been incidents that could widen the gap and increase bitterness between the parties. These incidents can have grave consequences and lead to the loss of life and property. Such incidents include the bombing of buildings, trains carrying fuel, vehicles carrying diesel oil and explosions targeting the police, members of the media and fuel pipelines. Some of those attacks have been carried out by the Free Syrian Army and some by other armed opposition groups."

Actually, the report by the League of Arab States Observer Mission to Syria makes very interesting reading as it turns the Western-Saudi-Gulf Arab narrative, of an evil regime vs a peacefully protesting nation, on its head. This is doubtless why the report was so decisively quashed -- until it was leaked:

League of Arab States Observer Mission to Syria
Report of the Head of the League of Arab States Observer Mission to Syria
for the period from 24 December 2011 to 18 January 2012

Author Pepe Escobar, an expert on the geo-politics of the Middle East, has written a stinging critique:

Exposed: The Arab agenda in Syria
By Pepe Escobar, Asia Times online, 4 Feb 2012

As Escobar notes: "The report is adamant. There was no organized, lethal repression by the Syrian government against peaceful protesters. Instead, the report points to shady armed gangs as responsible for hundreds of deaths among Syrian civilians, and over one thousand among the Syrian army, using lethal tactics such as bombing of civilian buses, bombing of trains carrying diesel oil, bombing of police buses and bombing of bridges and pipelines."

Escobar describes the Syrian National Council as "essentially a Muslim Brotherhood outfit affiliated with both the House of Saud and Qatar". He describes the Free Syrian Army as a conglomerate of Sunni defectors, well-meaning opponents of the Assad regime, and "foreign mercenaries weaponized by the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council], especially Salafist gangs".

As Escobar notes, "GCC leaders House of Saud and Qatar bluntly dismissed their own report and went straight to the meat of the matter; impose a NATOGCC regime change via the UN Security Council."

But Russia and China would not stand for it. They vetoed the resolution, decrying it as unbalanced and biased.

Text of proposed UN Security Council resolution on Syria vetoed by Russia, China
By Associated Press, Published: 5 February 2012

It was the existence of an "armed entity" that Russia sought to address when it proposed amendments to the UN Security Council resolution.

Russia wanted guarantees that the Syrian opposition would "dissociate themselves from armed groups". Russia also wanted assurances that the Syrian Army would only be required to withdraw as the armed groups also withdrew, thereby ensuring that the vacuum left by the withdrawal of Syrian forces would not be filled by foreign jihadist outfits. Russia also rejected the vague wording of the resolution, claiming it left the door open for possible international military intervention in Syria -- something that Russia believes would only aggravate any civil war.

See: Russia, China veto UN Security Council resolution on Syria
4 Feb 2012 , RT "TV-Novosti"

Syria Tribune editor Ali Mohamad told RT that he doesn't believe the Western backers of a UN Security Council resolution on Syria "are working for the best interests of the Syrian people."

"Mohamad says, 'there was a very good chance this week to find a draft that could satisfy all sides – but it was not supported by Western countries. The Arab league initiative, supported by the Security Council, wants to portray an image where the problem is between Assad and the Syrian people, but this is not the reality.'"

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As noted previously on this blog, the battle in Syrian includes a battle for Syria. It is a battle that will determine the balance of power in the Middle East. It is a battle between the Iranian-Shi'ite axis and the US-Saudi-Gulf Arab axis.

Iran needs Syria to link it geographically to Lebanon; while Syria's minority Alawites need Shi'ite legitimisation and protection for their security. Meanwhile, the Saudi and Gulf Sunni Arabs want to bring Syria back into the Sunni-Arab axis to counter the Iranian-Shi'ite ascendency.

The West supports the Sunni-Arab agenda as being in the West's economic interests. It will not, however, bring security to the region, for in the wake of the "Arab Spring" the Sunni-Arab axis is increasingly as belligerent as the Iranian-Shi'ite axis. Furthermore, if the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi groups are empowered in Syria like they have been in Egypt it will certainly spell a bloody end to the religious liberty that has been a feature of minority-ruled secular Syria for the past half century.

Of course the Saudi and Gulf Arabs are not bothered by the fact that countering Iran by means of regime change in Syria will come at the cost of Syria's religious minorities. But the West should be. The West should be rejecting the cost as absolutely unacceptable. Instead they seem to be intent on burying these inconvenient peoples under a mountain of propaganda.