Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 11, 2012

Syria on Saturday

Filed under: Radicalization,Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on February 11, 2012

Robert Ford, the US Ambassador to Syria has posted to the embassy’s Facebook page satellite photos of Syrian armor and artillery.  The Ambassador claims, “the regime is using it to pound civilian apartment buildings and homes from a distance.”  (The US embassy in Syria has evacuated Damascus.)

According to The Guardian: ”The indiscriminate shelling is killing mostly civilians,” said Fawaz Tello, an Egyptian-based member of the opposition Syrian National Council. ”Assad cannot push his troops into street fighting … so he is content with shelling Homs to bits until civilian losses pressure the Free Syrian Army to withdraw and regime troops can enter these neighbourhoods without taking any serious losses,” Tello added.

Al Jazeera has launched a live blog featuring several videos claiming to show events unfolding inside Syria.

According to The Daily Star (Lebanon), “Shock waves from the Syrian uprising reached new levels in Lebanon Friday as armed clashes rocked the northern city of Tripoli and rattled the country. Gunfire and rocket propelled-grenades were exchanged between the pre-dominantly Alawite Tripoli neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen and mainly Sunni district Bab al-Tabbaneh.”

Monday the United Nations General Assembly will receive a report on the situation in Syria.  This weekend Saudi Arabia is pushing a resolution for General Assembly consideration.  According to the BBC, the draft “ ”fully supports” the Arab League peace plan published last month, which called on Mr Assad to hand over power to his vice-president, and make way for the rapid formation of a national unity government including the opposition. While calling for an end to the violence by all sides, it lays blame primarily on the Syrian authorities, which are strongly condemned for “continued widespread and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms”.

In a speech at George Washington University (Washington DC) on Thursday, the Turkish Foreign Minister insisted, “Will we wait and see after [last week’s] Russian and Chinese veto [on a U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria]? No, never. As Turkey, we will not simply watch a massacre taking place in our region even if everybody remains silent and indifferent.”

Nihat Ali Özcan explains in the Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey),  “The way to decrease civilian casualties and establish lasting peace is through accelerating regime change. But this does not seem possible without military support “from outside.” Even though there are some desertions from the military at the moment, instigating a disciplined and effective struggle and achieving success in a short time does not seem possible. In that case, who would provide help and how? The U.S. does not want to engage in this. The U.K. and France are not keen. The Arab League seems a little unsure and rocky. It is true that Turkey is in everybody’s mind. So here is the question: How and under what conditions could Turkey intervene in Syria?

“It seems the Turkish government’s position regarding intervention in Syria “has come to a specific maturity” thanks to the hard work of the U.S., U.K. and some Arab countries. Erdoan, Gül, Davutolu and Arnç keep signaling this. Thoughts like “Muslims [Sunni, of course] are being killed” or “the al-Assad regime is cooperating with the PKK” are useful arguments for preparing the Turkish public for an intervention. Despite all those efforts, the Turkish public still does not seem entirely ready for the intervention idea.”

The Syrian situation is principally a matter of US foreign policy.  But the perceived role of the United States vis-a-vis Syria could — almost certainly will — morph into a homeland security issue.

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5 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 11, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

Phil! You continue to post on foreign affairs on this blog. I believe you are correct in your assumption which I state as follows: “It is not that they hate the USA for its system but for its foreign policy”.

Therefore given you expertise and my lack of it it would be useful to me and perhaps others as to how you view the potential “blowback” of various options the US could utilize in MENA [middle east and north africa] in its foreign relations and the direct or indirect impact on US homeland security.

Here is my opinion expressed as concisely as I can: The century old line drawing by the French and British in MENA is now breaking down without much chance of effective reconstruction. So the question becomes will the new line drawing absent Western Europeans designing their MENA empires be done peacefully or by violence? And how should this be done if self-determination is still part of the residual Wilsonian basis of US foreign policy? What does freedom mean to the US today not yesterday or tomorrow for the MENA?
My belief is that any President or Presidential candidate should just simply state that nation-states that don’t recognize the rights in the 1st Amendment of the Constitution should be considered pariahs and the USA should have as little to do with them as possible in a globalized world. The basis of US foreign policy and foreign relations should not be the corporate socialism that predominates in the US economic system. Both David Hume and Adam Smith worried that the corruption of capitalism could well be its downfall, thus in a way foreshadowing Marx. Just as I don’t value any person based on their financial status alone or even primarily, I believe there is inherent worth in each human being that needs recognition by the USA in its foreign policy.

Again when and how the US decides to support those oppressed within any nation-state’s populace must to some degree recognize the limits of US capability and interests but also the limits of our understanding. I have yet to find an English language text describing the almost 60 sects of ISLAM and their beliefs. If such exist please point me to it?

The TOWER of BABEL seems to be well constructed even as we proceed into the second decade of the 21st Century.

Comment by michael brady

February 11, 2012 @ 4:07 pm

This insurrection is looking more like a revolution every day. A Turkish intervention may carry some historical baggage but they certainly have interest in the outcome so it’s nice to see them developing a conscience on the topic. A nominally secular democratic republic helping tip over an nominally secular despotic thug seems to skip some of the infra-Muslim concerns we encountered in Iraq. How would Israel interpret Turkish interference in the internal affairs of a mortal enemy? Any concerns about NATO member taking military action in the region? “Interesting” isn’t quite passionate enough a term for these developments.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

February 12, 2012 @ 8:31 am

Bill, Since you asked…

Syria saw sporadic protests in the first days of the Arab Spring.  Since March 2011 there have been regular weekly anti-government protests. After a brief flirtation with negotiation, the Syrian government has increasingly depended on military suppression.  At least 5000 have been killed.

Well into the summer there was an opportunity to accommodate “the street” while maintaining some semblance of the current balance of Syrian society. This is no longer the case.

As with most nations, Syria is a collection of factions. Internal divisions are being exacerbated and exploited by external parties for their own purpose. So… the Gulf monarchies are supporting their allies to oppose the allies of Iran. In the process the Sunni-Shia split is given another — especially violent — opportunity for expression.

This humptey-dumptey will be as difficult to put back together as Iraq or Afghanistan… Lebanon or Somalia.

Increasing attention to the still rag-tag Free Syrian Army is the predictable outcome of the failure of the UN Security Council resolution. Early last week a respected collection of Islamic (mostly Sunni) Scholars released a fatwa that included, “The Free Syrian Army and the revolutionaries should be supported both materially and spiritually and in all areas, including withdrawing embassies from Syria and delivering messages of protest to Russia and China for their support to the Syrian administration.” The declaration goes on to refer to the Syrian regime’s “abuse, oppression and bloodshed” and states that this situation is unforgettable and that it is a shame for both those who remain indifferent and those who have contributed… We are issuing a fetwa for people to abandon the military and to join the Free Syrian Army.”

Early Sunday morning February 12 there is news that Al-Qaeda leader al-Zawahiri is also encouraging the Syrian uprising and calling for “every Muslim and every free, honorable one in Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon, to rise to help his brothers in Syria with all that he can.”

There are a variety of reports suggesting young volunteers from across the Muslim world are converging in southern Turkey hoping to join the FSA. Think of the Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War or the Mujahideen in Afghanistan or even French, Germans, Poles and others arriving in revolutionary America.

There is an authentic desire for freedom and a courageous impulse to defend the innocent.

There is also hatred of the “other”. There are ancient antipathies between Persian and Arab, Sunni and Shia. There are modern ambitions to power. There is fear all around.

Syria is an accelerating vortex of violence.

From a narrow homeland security perspective, the United States will be perceived by many — including impressionable young Americans — as complicit in the murder of innocents. Whatever we do or don’t do, this is the fate of empire. Our perceived passivity or activity is the justification for anti-American feeling and action in a wide variety of cases: Palestine, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Sudan, and more (including Spain in the 1930s and Holocaust camps in the 1940s).

In the Syrian case, China and Russia will receive even more blame (as they should). But this will not exempt the United States from (more than) its share of anger. China and Russia are widely expected to be self-interested cynics. The good news is that the US is still expected to meet a higher standard.

Bill, you asked for my opinion on what we can do. No matter what we do it will be very tough. I do not think we can prevent a blowback on the United States. But I do perceive we can mitigate the scope and scale of the blowback.

There are several mitigation options. Others will be better than me scoping out what is most pragmatic. As you have probably seen, Senator McCain has advocated arming the Syrian resistance.

In November a CBS News poll found that, “As protests – and crackdowns on protests – continue throughout the Arab world, Americans are divided as to whether or not the U.S. should use military force to try to prevent violent attacks against civilians by foreign governments. 39% think the U.S. should get involved, while 39% think it should not. Republicans, Democrats, and independents are each divided over this.” It is interesting to me that while US public opinion is divided (as in so much), on this particular issue it is not a partisan divide.

I wonder what might happen if the United States — at least our legislative and executive branches of government — would publicly struggle with the complexities. Could we honestly acknowledge the situation as treacherous? Could we express meaningful sympathy with those who are oppressed and killed, without playing into the hands of those who are keen to exploit our sympathy for their selfish purposes? Could we communicate clearly to American citizens the problems involved and our effort to thread a very sharp, even poisoned, needle? Would more than a handful of Americans listen to — much less contribute to — the effort? The unlikely spectacle of such engagement would, I imagine, serve to mitigate the blowback.

I am not hopeful in this regard. But it would be an interesting (Michael, is this the right word?) experiment.

Comment by Turkey: Brutality Towards Fellow Syrians

February 12, 2012 @ 9:45 am

Brutality Towards Fellow Syrians:

As an American born Helene with many friends in the region, I am not at all surpised by the killings of fellow Syrians on the streets and wrote about it here on this blog long past…The unfolding scenario in the Middle East is very specific as to what will transpire and US and EU and even Turkish and other diplomats really have no idea the transgressions to take place as Lucifer is firmly entrenched and this Sunday morning as I leave shortly to attend my Greek Orthodox chuirch service praying ever so for the retention of at least some regional stability, yet Biblical verse suggesting other…I share the reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews 11:9-32-40:

BRETHREN, by faith Abraham sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city which has foundation, whose builder and maker is God.

And what more shall I say? For time fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and samuel and the prophets – who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of sword, won strength of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and improsonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were killed with the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated – of whom the world was not worthy – wandering over deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of teh earth.

And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

We all are permitted the Assayrians to once again rise with their sword accompanied by the Vatcican when less than 100 years ago, miliions and millions and millions and millions of innocent human beings, each God ceration and child were mutilated. Your memories are short, your aircraft rusting w/no monies for replacement and Naval vessels surpassing what can be expected in steel fatigue…A “Goldman Sachs” administration led by a mere Chicago community organizwer with narrowed vision and a gridlocked Congress here who should be held for treason allowing their self-serving ways to open the US Constitution to such besigement from within…How dare you! Our beloved Republic, those that have perished to allow us to forge ahead with a better America, a beacon of hope to the oppressed, those seeking to legally migrate tyo American and adhere to our laws and stand tall as citizens in salute to our high flying flag only to now look out my windown over my front proch and see ‘ol Glory flying upside down depicting the – distress – we here on “Main Street USA” must contend with as a result of such imcompetence…W/Winston Churchill departed, who will follow in his steps? Obama again to place us in more debt and jeopardy, to tear the Constitution to threads and bring a more divisive America or Mitt Romney, another elitist….who did what in Massachusetts as a politician other than drink the water at the State House and like Dukakis and so many others…dream about the WH, once such a center of humanity and the goodness found within individuals to continue to understand how fortunate We have been to have been conveyed the gifts of our forefathers and their wisdom and their sterm warnings in caution that our enemmies may be from within…no wonder the fierceness in attack to burden citizen with more imposing governbment and an attack on the second amendment, the first amendment and all such for these folks do not understand that as one nation, We here on “Main Street USA” intend to vote for an individual even if we have to write the name of the candidate in the ballot for We know Obama and his “smug-smiled Pelosi” et al must be replaced, but with whom? We are not in good position and ‘ol Glory is very much threatened from those outside who seek our demise and relish in seeing our debt climb and the western bankers reaping billions and trillions in fdeeral reserve notes while we are cast into poverty….

Today, Germany soon to shed its flock and reorganize to only ten (10) nations enslaved to Germany will again rise and with the last crusade bring not only immedaite solution to the brutality of the Syrian regime of thugs, but to the “Brutes of Tehran” as I have referred to these thugs as well many times. I have also mentioned the “KGB Putinites” and their role in all this as well as the Chinese.

No one will stop syria and no one will stop Iran. You have forgotten the stench, the reality, the photographs of women and children thrown into pits, men shipped by truck, lined up by the ditch and shot in the back and the world knew just as it knows today and guess what, I and many others who hold this Blessed Judeo-Christian nation close to our heart and understand that man’s dysfunctional manner and inability to repent will once again continue to pull the veil of death and angusih, all the worst possible happenings and more that we have seen just in the last two World wars, never mind throughout history..yes, We will again fail because of self-serving ways and those we have “entrusted” to serve only to see actions whioch many of us refer to as treason against the Republic!

Our local, state and fderal legislative bodies, the executive branch of government, all so tarnished and corrupted by self-agenda.

Watch Egypt fall and see Turkey do its utmost to retain some security in the regioon as a moderate and no willing to become another Islamic fundamentalist threat to the wonderful Arab peoiple globally who profess peace and kindness towards others while these “Brutes of Tehran” will eventually be dealt a swift blow by the German-led EU and its now fast-deployment asrmies who should never be in existence today given peace treaty premises just after WWII, however no one has the fortitude to stand tall against tyranny and evil and wrong-doing among the nations and people of the world…

God Bless us all!

Christopher Tingus
“Main Street USA”
PO Box 1612
Harwich (Cape Cod), MA 02645 USA
chris.tingus@gmail.com

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 12, 2012 @ 9:20 pm

Thanks Phil for the helpful comments!

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