Human Rights Watch: Assad Regime Responsible for Chemical Weapons Attacks


Syrian Coalition
Istanbul, Turkey
September 11, 2013

“Based on the available evidence, Human Rights Watch finds that Syrian government forces were almost certainly responsible for the August 21 attacks, and that a weapons-grade nerve agent was delivered during the attack,” a Human Rights Watch report concluded.

The report mentions a body of evidence implicating the Assad regime in the chemical weapons attacks on western and eastern Gouta on the early hours of August 21st, 2013.

Human Rights Watch said they have investigated claims that FSA fighters have used those weapons but found such claims “lacking in credibility and inconsistent with the evidence found at the scene.”

This report undeniably indicates that the Assad regime is responsible for the use of internationally prohibited chemical weapons in civilian areas.

The Syrian Coalition reaffirms its call for an international proportionate response to war crimes. It stresses that crimes against humanity cannot be absolved through political concessions.

A political solution is not viable in light of the absence of a firm international response that would restrain Assad’s killing machine and ensure the Syrian people’s aspirations for freedom, justice, and dignity are achieved

via Syrian National Coalition

The West Must Not Appease Bashar al-Assad

No reasonable person, neither American nor Syrian, wishes to see the United States and its allies become deeply involved in the Syrian civil war, but for the western powers to fail to act now is tantamount to appeasement of a butcher of children. No one knows what will happen if we strike Syrian military targets; no one knows what will happen if we do not. That is not an argument. If the past is prologue, then Assad will continue to slaughter the people of Syria without discrimination. That much appears certain.

The confiscation of Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal does not look like a realistic proposal on its face, because the safe transfer of massive quantities of chemical weapons in a war zone would be risky and problematic at best. How will compliance be verified when it was difficult just for UN inspectors to reach a suburb of Damascus?

The French are correct to insist upon stringent preconditions before any negotiated deal with Assad on chemical weapons. The world has tolerated this monster long enough. Every person who detests war should take a hard look at the situation in the Middle East today, and then explain to themselves how a victory for Assad, Iran and Hezbollah reduces the probability of a Middle East war, one into which the United States would be inextricably drawn by its many alliances in the region. To those who believe that opposing military action against Syria is the path of peace, I respectfully ask that they think again of the likely consequences of doing nothing.

There are indeed shades of past conflicts evoked by the images of carnage in Syria. But the deja vu being experienced is not that of Iraq–which was completely different–but of another, similar atrocity that occurred at Guernica, Spain, in 1937, of another moral failure to respond, and of the results of a flawed strategy of trying to appease a monster.

On April 26,1937, bombers and fighters of the German Luftwaffe and the Italian air force attacked the small Basque village of Guernica in northern Spain. It was an outrageous assault on an unarmed civilian population. It was the blatant mass murder of hundreds of civilians, by some accounts over a thousand were killed, men, women and children.

For America in those days, neutrality was the dominant U.S. foreign policy model, enshrined in a series of congressional acts that had been designed to further and further remove the United States from the possibility of involvement in “foreign wars.” The prevailing American sentiment then, as today in regard to atrocities being committed in Syria, was that what had happened in Guernica was not our problem. It simply didn’t involve us.

Four years later, the relevance of Guernica to the security interests of the United States became more than apparent. On December 8, 1941, in the wake of a devastating attack on American naval forces at Pearl Harbor, the United States formerly declared war on imperial Japan. Three days later, war was declared on the United States by those same German and Italian fascist regimes who had bombed Guernica only four years earlier.

Palestinian in Kafkaesque battle over family’s hotel

Borders change, Israeli officials deny responsibility and confiscate and re-confiscate the property that Ali Ayad hasn’t been allowed to set foot on since 2004.

For all of his 59 years, Ali Ayad’s life has revolved around the 1-acre plot overlooking Jerusalem that is home to what used to be the Cliff Hotel. (Edmund Sanders / Los Angeles Times / August 27, 2013)

ABU DIS, West Bank — The year Ali Ayad was born, his father broke ground on a majestic home perched on a bluff overlooking Jerusalem, with views of the Dead Sea in one direction and the golden Dome of the Rock in the other.

For all of his 59 years, Ayad’s life has revolved around the 1-acre plot. He played under the olive trees as a boy and became manager after the home was converted into the Cliff Hotel.

He met his Norwegian wife from behind the reception desk, married her in the dining room and raised two daughters amid the daily bustle of visiting tourists and diplomats.

But the idyllic life turned into what he describes as a Kafkaesque nightmare a decade ago after Israel seized control of the hotel. Using a combination of military orders and a controversial absentee-owner law, the government kicked him off the property, banned him from returning and then confiscated it as abandoned.

Israel informed Ayad, who has always been identified by Israel as a West Bank resident, that his former home was inside the Jerusalem city limits, even though for decades the municipality refused to provide public services because it said the property was in the West Bank town of Abu Dis.

Read more at the Los Angeles Times.

Syria 1940 | LIFE in the Middle East: Photos From Syria in 1940 | LIFE.com

View from above Aleppo, Syria, 1940.

The ongoing chaos and violence that have come to define the Syrian civil war — a war that has now raged for close to two years, with no signs of abating — not only forced the names of ancient cities (Aleppo, Homs) back into today’s headlines, but reminded anyone who might have forgotten that Syria has long been a key crossroads and a major player not merely in the Middle east, but on the global stage.

In 1940, seven months before the United States entered World War II and nine months after Germany invade Poland, LIFE sent photographer Margaret Bourke-White to the young (and, as it turned out, destined to be short-lived) republic in order to document Syria’s pivotal role — cultural, geographical, military — in the region. Eight decades later, in photographs that ran in LIFE and many more that did not, LIFE.com recalls the Damascus, Homs, Aleppo and other Syrian cities and towns as they appeared in the middle part of the last century.

This is how LIFE described the situation to its readers in the magazine’s May 20, 1940, issue, published mere weeks before Paris fell to the Germans, leaving Syria (briefly) under the rule of Vichy France:

Should Hitler strike east or Mussolini jump into the war or Soviet Russia pile on, the world spotlight would instantly narrow on far forgotten Syria. Here is now massed a formidable French army under the old warhorse Maxime Weygand, ready to rush either to the defense of Egypt or of Turkey and the Balkans. Here is a sample of the brains, the men and the material of France and its colonies. Here flies the flag of France …raised at sunrise to the bugle call Au Drapeau at Aleppo.

The French expeditionary forces in the Levant States, chief of which is Syria, has tanks and planes, motorized guns … The army’s numbers and the names of its generals are dark military secrets. Best guess is that it has now at least 150,000 men. It includes men from the far-flung domains of France: Moroccans, Algerians, Tunisians, Senegalese, Annamites, Madgascar Malgaches, Lebanese, Syrians, Bedouin camel fighters, Cherkess Cossacks of Syria and large units of the French Foreign Legion. One of the most polyglot companies ever assembled, these men of many tongues and colors now bathe on Beirut’s one fine beach, shop in the suks, peer into the Tomb of Saladin in Damascus and swelter in the heat of Homs and Aleppo.

The ancient fortresses of Syria could not long stand against air bombing. But the olive groves are just high enough for a small tank to get under … Action may come without warning. For Syria, long a crossroads of world trade, has been watered by men’s blood for far longer than Flanders. In this natural cockpit where Asia, Africa and Europe meet, have fought Abraham, David, Alexander, Ramses, Sargon, Menelaus, Pompey, Bohemond, Nureddin, Saladin, Tamerlane, Baibars the Panther, Suleiman, Mohammad Ali, Lawrence of Arabia and [British General Edmund] Allenby.

Read more at LIFE.com.

Shot Pakistani teen Malala Yousafzai vows to fight for womens education after accepting award – ABC News Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Shot Pakistani teen Malala Yousafzai vows to fight for womens education after accepting award - ABC News Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Pakistani teen Malala Yousafzai, shot in the head last year by the Taliban for campaigning for girls education, vowed overnight to intensify her struggle for “a world where everyone can go to school”.

Speaking at a ceremony in The Hague, where she was awarded the 2013 International Children’s Peace Prize, Malala said last October’s attack on her had made her more determined than ever to continue her campaign.

“I was just one target for their violence,” Malala said in her acceptance speech, referring to her near-fatal shooting when a Taliban gunman’s bullet grazed her brain.

“There are many others for whom we must continue… so that children all over the world can have a right to go to school.”

Malala, 16, received her prize from the 2011 Nobel Peace laureate, Yemeni journalist and activist Tawakkol Karman, who told a humbled Malala “you are my hero”.

Read more at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Read more about recent Taliban Crimes against women here and here.

A Faceless Teenage Refugee Who Helped Ignite Syria’s War – NYTimes.com

A boy now living in Jordan, who was part of a group whose arrest and torture helped start Syria’s uprising.

AMMAN, Jordan — In a listless border town, the teenager goes unnoticed, one of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled the Syrian civil war, dashing across villages and farms to land in Jordan, just five miles from home.

But this young man carries a burden — maybe an honor, too — that almost no one else shares.

He knows that he and his friends helped start it all. They ignited an uprising.

It began simply enough, inspired not so much by political activism as by teenage rebellion against authority, and boredom. He watched his cousin spray-paint the wall of a school in the city of Dara’a with a short, impish challenge to President Bashar al-Assad, a trained ophthalmologist, about the spreading national revolts.

“It’s your turn, doctor,” the cousin wrote.

The opening episodes of the Arab uprisings are growing more distant, the memory of them clouded by fears about what the revolutions have wrought. In Egypt’s chaos, activists talk of a second revolution, and in Tunisia a political assassination this week has imperiled one of the region’s more hopeful transitions. Then there is Syria, where tens of thousands of people have been killed, hundreds of thousands have fled the country and the idea of the nation itself is disappearing amid cycles of sectarian bloodshed.

Read more at The New York Times.

Red Lines Matter – NYTimes.com

 

BERLIN — Europe knows, and this city in particular, about the importance of American “red lines.” West Berlin, caught for more than four decades 100 miles within the Soviet occupation zone, survived on the credibility of the U.S. commitment to it, demonstrated by the Allied airlift in response to the Soviet blockade of 1948.

A shattered Europe became whole, free and prosperous under the shield of U.S. credibility. Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty spelled out that an armed attack against one member “shall be considered an attack against them all.” This was believable enough to deter a Soviet attack on Western Europe.

American credibility in Asia has played a substantial part in the rapid but peaceful rise of China, a power shift of a kind that has seldom, if ever, occurred in world history without major conflict. China believes in the U.S. defense commitment to Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand. America has been the offsetting power allaying the tensions of China’s emergence.

It is the credibility of the United States as a European and Asian and Middle Eastern power that underwrites global security.

Read more at The New York Times.

The Race-Baiting of America | The Nation

A memorial is seen at the scene where Australian college student Christopher Lane, 23, of Melbourne, was found dead of a gunshot wound on Friday in Duncan, Oklahoma, August 21, 2013. (REUTERS/Bill Waugh)

The tragic murder of Australian student Christopher Lane is being exploited by the right to stoke fears of a race war.

As the nation takes stock of the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington, I’m listening to a news program playing a recording of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking of peace and reconciliation and mountaintops to be crested. I’m also online, watching my screen blink with discussions about current events like the dismissal of a racial harassment suit against Paula Deen and the debate over New York’s stop-and-frisk policies. The decades-long span of unsolved issues and endless crises fills me with sadness and unease.

According to a recent Pew poll, “Blacks were nearly three times as likely as whites to be living in poverty. And the median net worth of white households was 14 times the median net worth of black households.” But this disparate reality is felt very differently: nearly twice as many blacks as whites feel that blacks are treated less fairly by police and the courts; blacks are three times more likely than whites to feel that blacks are treated less fairly in employment, education, hospitals and stores. These findings are consistent with a trend documented by a 2011 article in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science: whites now see anti-white bias as a bigger problem than bias against blacks—or as the study’s title puts it: “Whites See Racism as a Zero-Sum Game That They Are Now Losing.”

Read more at The Nation.

Exclusive: Intercepted Calls Prove Syrian Army Used Nerve Gas, U.S. Spies Say

 

Bodies of people activists say were killed by nerve gas in the Ghouta region are seen in the Duma neighbourhood of Damascus

 

Last Wednesday, in the hours after a horrific chemical attack east of Damascus, an official at the Syrian Ministry of Defense exchanged panicked phone calls with a leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answers for a nerve agent strike that killed more than 1,000 people. Those conversations were overheard by U.S. intelligence services, The Cable has learned. And that is the major reason why American officials now say they’re certain that the attacks were the work of the Bashar al-Assad regime — and why the U.S. military is likely to attack that regime in a matter of days.

But the intercept raises questions about culpability for the chemical massacre, even as it answers others: Was the attack on Aug. 21 the work of a Syrian officer overstepping his bounds? Or was the strike explicitly directed by senior members of the Assad regime? “It’s unclear where control lies,” one U.S. intelligence official told The Cable. “Is there just some sort of general blessing to use these things? Or are there explicit orders for each attack?”

American intelligence analysts are certain that chemical weapons were used on Aug. 21 — the captured phone calls, combined with local doctors’ accounts and video documentation of the tragedy — are considered proof positive. That is why the U.S. government, from the president on down, has been unequivocal in its declarations that the Syrian military gassed thousands of civilians in the East Ghouta region.

Read more at Foreign Policy

Air War in Kosovo Seen as Precedent in Possible Response to Syria Chemical Attack – NYTimes.com

WASHINGTON — As President Obama weighs options for responding to a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria, his national security aides are studying the NATO air war in Kosovo as a possible blueprint for acting without a mandate from the United Nations.

With Russia still likely to veto any military action in the Security Council, the president appears to be wrestling with whether to bypass the United Nations, although he warned that doing so would require a robust international coalition and legal justification.

“If the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a U.N. mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it, do we have the coalition to make it work?” Mr. Obama said on Friday to CNN, in his first public comments after the deadly attack on Wednesday.

Mr. Obama described the attack as “clearly a big event of grave concern” and acknowledged that the United States had limited time to respond. But he said United Nations investigators needed to determine whether chemical weapons had been used.

Kosovo is an obvious precedent for Mr. Obama because, as in Syria, civilians were killed and Russia had longstanding ties to the government authorities accused of the abuses. In 1999, President Bill Clinton used the endorsement of NATO and the rationale of protecting a vulnerable population to justify 78 days of airstrikes.

Read more at The New York Times.