Tuesday, June 19, 2012

U.S. Losing It's Grip On the Rest of the World As the Rest of the World Moves Toward Syria.

American's everywhere seem to think that we are impervious to attacks by other countries and that other countries do what we say, that we hold all of the mail power to rule the countries of the globe.  Little do they know, as they go about their daily lives with blinders, we are not impervious and we are not all powerful.  In fact, the United States is losing it's powerful grip on the rest of the world by the minute with the lack of leadership and dedication shown by Obama and the other leaders of our country.  

Here are a few examples of what is happening that prove my point.


Russia sends troops to Syria

Russia is sending armed troops to Syria amid escalating violence there, United States military officials told NBC News Friday, in a move certain to frustrate Western efforts to put pressure on the regime of President Bashir Assad.

Moscow has sent a ship carrying a small contingent of combat forces to guard Russia's deep-water port and military base at the Syrian city of Tartus, the US officials said.

The U.S. officials also said Russia has not sent additional attack helicopters to the Syrian government, but replacement parts for the Russian helicopters the Syrians are already flying.

It comes after the conflict was declared by France on Wednesday to be a full-blown civil war.

The head of the U.N. observers in Syria said Friday a recent spike in bloodshed is derailing the mission to monitor and defuse more than a year of violence and could prompt the unarmed force to pull out.

"Violence over the past 10 days has been intensifying willingly by the both parties, with losses on both sides and significant risks to our observers," Maj. Gen. Robert Mood told reporters in Damascus. "The escalating violence is now limiting our ability to observe, verify, report as well as assist in local dialogue and stability projects."

Tartus is one of Russia's most strategically-important assets, giving it military access to the Mediterranean Sea.

Russia and China, both permanent members of the U.N. Security Council with veto power, frustrated attempts by key Western figures, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to enforce a United Nations peace plan brokered by special envoy Kofi Annan.

Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday repeated Moscow's strong opposition to external interference in Syria, said it was not discussing plans for a Syrian political transformation following the exit of Assad.

At a news conference after talks with his Iraqi counterpart, Lavrov said he had seen reports saying U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland had suggested Washington and Moscow were discussing a post-Assad strategy in Syria.

"If that was really said then it's not true," Lavrov said. "Such discussions are not being held and cannot be held, because to decide for the Syrian people contradicts our position completely.

"We do not get involved in overthrowing regimes - neither through approval of unilateral actions by the U.N. Security Council nor by participation in any political plots."

Nuland was asked at a news conference on Thursday whether the United States and Russia were discussing a transition of power similar to that seen in Yemen last year, in which President Ali Abdullah Saleh was replaced by a deputy.

"We are continuing to talk about a post-Assad transition strategy in that context," she said.

Lavrov said any broad international talks on Syria must include Iran and must only address ways to create conditions for a political dialogue in Syria - not the content of that dialogue or preconditions such as Assad's exit.

Russia, which has come under increasing criticism from the West for arms deliveries to Syria, responded to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's allegations that attack helicopters were on the way from Russia to Syria.

In a statement on the Foreign Ministry website, Russia said it had made no new deliveries ofmilitary helicopters to Syria but under old contracts it had repaired helicopters sent to Syria "many years ago".

"There are no new deliveries of Russian military helicopters to Syria. All arms industry cooperation with Syria is limited to a transfer of defensive arms," the ministry said on its website.

"As regards helicopters, planned repairs of (helicopters) delivered to Syria many years ago were conducted earlier," it said. It did not say when they had been repaired or, if they were repaired in Russia, when they were returned to Syria.

Syria's ambassador to Russia said on Thursday Russia had not sent new attack helicopters to Syria.

Russia says it is fulfilling existing contracts for air defense systems against external attacks. President Vladimir Putin, due to meet U.S. President Barack Obama next week, said the weapons Russia sends could not be used in civil conflicts.

A source close to Russia's arms exporting monopoly Rosoboronexport said Clinton's comments may have referred to helicopters sent to Russia in 2009 for repairs and which may be on the way back to Syria.

The source said on Wednesday at least nine Mi-25 helicopters were sent to Russia's Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad to be repaired by Oboronservis, owned by the Defense Ministry.

Russia delivered three different missile systems including Bastion anti-ship missile units and another anti-aircraft system to Syria last year.

At least two ships carrying Russian weapons have reportedly travelled to Syria since the beginning of the year, though possibly not on behalf of state arms exporter Rosoboronexport.

Reuters contributed to this report. Jim Miklaszewski is the chief Pentagon correspondent for NBC News.

Syria denies war games with Russia, China, Iran: report

MOSCOW | Tue Jun 19, 2012 12:20pm EDT

(Reuters) - Russia and Syria on Tuesday denied an Iranian media report that Syria would host Russian, Chinese and Iranian military forces for joint exercises.

Iranian news agency Fars said 90,000 troops and hundreds of ships, tanks and warplanes from the four countries would take part in the war games on land and sea in Syria soon.

The Russian Defense Ministry called such reports "disinformation" and the Russian news agency Interfax quoted an adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as saying it was not true.

"There will be nothing like that. This is one of those (pieces of) false information that are distributed about (Syria)," Interfax quoted Bouthaina Shabaan, the adviser who was in Moscow on Tuesday, as saying.

Interfax said Shabaan was referring to a report on al-Arabiya television that was similar to the Fars article.

(Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Jon Boyle)

Report: Israel moves tanks to Egypt border

TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma’an) — Israel’s army moved military tanks towards the country’s border with Egypt on Monday, after an earlier cross-border attack killed a man working on Israel’s barrier on the frontier, Israeli media reported.
Israeli news site Ynet said the unusual move to deploy tanks on the border was in breach of the Camp David peace treaty between the countries, which requires the area to remain demilitarized.
The tanks were later withdrawn from the area, and the Israeli army said the move was in response to the attack earlier Monday, and it has no plans to leave tanks on the border, Israeli daily Haaretz said.
Israel and Egypt had agreed in recent months that Cairo could deploy 20 tanks near the border to ward off Bedouin attacks, despite the demilitarization clause of the peace treaty, Ynet reported.
The 1978 Camp David Accords led to Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel, the first by an Arab country.
Earlier Monday, militants fired on an Israeli crew building a border barrier on the Egyptian frontier on Monday, killing a Palestinian citizen of Israel, and Israeli soldiers shot dead two of the infiltrators, the military said.
The incident, hours after Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood claimed victory in the country’s presidential election — disputed by the rival candidate — raised Israeli concern about lawlessness in Egypt’s Sinai desert since the fall of Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
“We can see a disturbing deterioration in Egypt’s control of the Sinai’s security,” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, commenting on the attack.
“We are waiting for the election results. Whoever wins, we expect him to take responsibility over all of Egypt’s international commitments,” he told reporters in a reference to Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel.

Russia sending two warships to Syrian coast: Report
File photo of the Russian warship, Tsezar Kunikov
File photo of the Russian warship, Tsezar Kunikov
Russia is deploying two warships to the Syrian port of Tartus on the Mediterranean coast amid the ongoing turmoil in the Arab country, a report says.

According to a Russian Interfax news agency report on Monday, Moscow is preparing to send two amphibious assault ships to the port city. 

Interfax quoted an officer from the Russian naval headquarters as saying, “Two major amphibious ships -- The Nikolai Filchenkov and The Tsezar Kunikov -- are preparing to be dispatched to Tartus outside of their schedule.” The report did not mention the name of the officer.

The two warships will carry a “large” group of marines, the report said. 

However, the Russian Defense Ministry has not yet confirmed the report. 

The development comes two days after sources in Washington said the United States was planning military “intervention” in Syria and that the issue is not a question of “if” but “when.” 

In addition, a White House official, whose name was not mentioned in the reports, said on June 16, “At this critical juncture, we are consulting with our international partners regarding next steps toward a Syrian-led political transition.” 

However, Russia and China, two permanent members of the UN Security Council, have repeatedly opposed the use of force in Syria.

Chinese President Hu Jintao and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin said in a joint statement issued in Beijing on June 6, “We firmly believe that the Syrian crisis has to be resolved fairly and peacefully by having all parties in conflict stop violence and start comprehensive political dialogue without foreign interference.” 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also said in a press conference in Moscow on June 9 that the issue of foreign intervention in Syria was being posed in a “radical and quite emotional way.” 

He said Russia “will not sanction the use of force (against Syria) at the United Nations Security Council.” 

Meanwhile, the head of the UN observer mission in Syria, Major General Robert Mood, said on June 16 that the monitoring team was “suspending its activities” in the country due to an “intensification of armed violence.” 

Russia operates a strategic naval base in Tartus. 

On brink of Bosnia-style war: Britain could send in troops to Syria says William Hague

Foreign Secretary said that time for a diplomatic solution is rapidly running out

Fears: William Hague

Britain could be forced to send troops into Syria if the bloodshed escalates into all-out civil war, William Hague warned yesterday.
The Foreign Secretary said that time for a diplomatic solution is rapidly running out and the country is “on the edge” of a Bosnia-style sectarian conflict.
Britain will “greatly increase” support for the Syrian opposition if attempts to end President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal repression fail, Mr Hague said.
Admitting that our troops may be called into action, the Foreign Secretary said: “The reason I don’t rule things out is because we really don’t know how this situation is going to develop or how terrible it is going to become.”
His warnings come after reports that gung-ho David Cameron joked about which country he should target.
While giving fellow Tory MPs a tour of his Downing Street flat, the Prime Minister apparently stopped in front of a map of the world and said: “Where shall I invade next? I’ve done Libya.”
Mr Hague yesterday said the Syria crisis “is not so much like Libya last year, where of course we had a successful intervention to save lives”. He added: “Increasingly the analogy is not with Libya but with Bosnia in the 1990s.
“We are on the edge of that kind of sectarian murder on a large scale so who knows what may be required by the international community to try to deal with that if that gets going in that way.”
More than 100,000 people were massacred in the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia. At one point 12,000 UK troops were part of the international peacekeeping force. Our Army lost 55 soldiers in the operation.
Mr Hague yesterday called on Russia, which has protected the Assad regime, to persuade Syria to end the violence and accept UN envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan.The Foreign Secretary “welcomed in principle” the Russian proposal for an international conference on Syria, but he warned it must “lead to a change and not just buy time for the regime to kill more people”.
After Syrian troops began shelling homes in the capital Damascus at the weekend, Mr Hague said if diplomacy fails to stop Assad world leaders will return to the UN “for further measures” and ask the countries in the Friends of Syria “to step up the isolation of the regime”.

Russia denies war games report

Published: June 19, 2012 at 1:30 PM

TEHRAN, June 19 (UPI) -- The Russian Defense Ministry Tuesday denied Iranian reports of planned war games with Iran, China and Syria off the Syrian coast.

The semi-official Iranian Fars news agency, citing what it called "informed sources," said some 90,000 troops from the four countries were expected to participate in land, air and sea maneuvers off the Syrian coast, including air defense and missile units.

A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman call the report a "further attempt to excalate the situation in Syria," RIA Novosti reported. Syria also denied any upcoming military exercises were planned.

"This information is out of sync with reality," said Buseina Shaaban, political adviser to the Syrian president. "Nothing could be further from the truth."

The Fars report said some 400 warplanes and 1,000 tanks will take part in the exercise and Egypt had granted authorization for 12 Chinese warships to sail through the Suez Canal.

A senior Russian naval commander Monday told the Russian Interfax news agency two Russian amphibious landing vessels would head to the Russian base at the Syrian port of Tartus.

The commander said marines would be charged with protecting the security of Russian citizens and evacuating part of the base. The British newspaper The Daily Telegraph said this marks the first time Moscow has sent troops to Syria since the violent uprising against President Bashar Assad's regime began in March 2011.

Read more:

Iranian general seems to confirm troops are in Syria in interview blunder

  • IranTroops.jpg
    April 17, 2012: Iranian troops march during a military parade commemorating National Army Day in front of the mausoleum of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, outside Tehran, Iran. (AP)

In an apparent slip-up, an Iranian general has admitted that special forces have been deployed from Tehran to Syria to assist the Assad regime's crackdown against the anti-government uprising.

The Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) published an interview with General Ismail Qa'ani, deputy commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, on Sunday night, in which he praised his troops for crushing opposition forces in Syria -- saying the Quds' presence helped prevent civilian massacres.

"Before we were not in Syria, the slaughter of the people by the opposition was much higher. But with the presence of the Islamic Republic in a physical and non-physical manner, many great massacres in Syria were stopped." Gha'ani said in the interview, according to The (London) Times.

The quote was removed by the ISNA within hours and without explanation, but not before other media outlets discovered it. Gha'ani was said to have been speaking at a student event on Sunday evening.  

Tehran is allied to Damascus, and rumors that Iran is providing military support to President Bashar al Assad have circulated since the uprising began 15 months ago. Anti-government fighters have reportedly told of how they encountered Iranians in battle.

But this is considered to be the first time a senior Iranian officer has admitted the Quds force is operating in Syria.
Gha'ani's comments follow the deaths of 108 people on Friday, mostly women and children, in the Syrian town of Houla -- a bloody event that has drawn international condemnation, even as the killing continued in other parts of the nation.

Regime loyalists have blamed rebels for the Houla massacre, while opposition forces said it was the result of an army assault. While tanks and artillery were used in the horror, some of the dead were stabbed or shot at point-blank range.

Read more:

Syria says ready to evacuate families from besieged Homs city, accuses rebels of obstruction

BEIRUT - Syria's government says it is ready to evacuate civilians besieged in the rebellious central city of Homs without preconditions.
Foreign Ministry statement carried Tuesday by the state-run news agency SANA blames "armed terrorist groups" of obstructing evacuation efforts co-ordinated with the U.N. observers' mission and local authorities.
U.N. mission chief Maj. Gen. Robert Mood demanded Sunday that warring parties allow the evacuation of women, children and sick people endangered by fighting in Homs and other combat zones.
Activists say around 1,000 families have been trapped by ongoing government assaults against rebel-controlled areas of Homs.
The Syrian government regularly refers to the rebels as terrorists.

Escalating ViolenceFace to Face with Syria's Apocalypse

Photo Gallery: Disintegration in Syria
Vedat Xhymshiti/ DER SPIEGEL
The Syrian conflict is becoming increasingly brutal, with eyewitnesses describing horrific scenes of rape and massacres. Both sides have the sense that the end game is approaching, but no one knows how it will play out. The opposition is starting to discuss what kind of Syria they want for the future, but some are uneasy about the growing power of the Free Syrian Army.

military helicopter has been circling high above our heads for several minutes now, like an angry insect in the midday heat. The pilot seems to be looking for something here between the fields and farm buildings. From the cover of a stand of trees, we have a clear view when the helicopter, a couple of hundred meters away, suddenly drops lower and fires four missiles. It then circles once more, tilted slightly to one side to allow the machinegun operator to fire into the tall fields of wheat, before the helicopter disappears into the milky haze of the horizon.

Thin clouds of smoke rise into the air. One field is on fire. Eleven rather dazed fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) emerge from a house, onto the street in front of the building that now contains three smoking impact craters in a neat row. The fourth missile hit a solid stone wall that surrounds the property, but none struck the house itself, or the group's vehicle, which is quite visibly parked next to the house. The group's commander requests that the vehicle itself not be described in any further detail, since "it's the only one we have." These FSA fighters have been using the same vehicle for six months.

"The pilot must have seen it," says Chal, the leader, who is an interior decorator by trade. "Why else would he have aimed here? But then, why aim to the side?"

Later this evening, some in the group will speak of God's sheltering hand, but the military pilot likely had his own reasons for choosing not to kill the men, while at the same time sending a clear message: I know you're in there. Ultimately, no one can know what went through that pilot's mind on June 10, as he flew over the village of Harbal, near the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. What Chal's men do know is that if the pilot had decided differently, they would now be dead. Now they drive off, veering from side to side.

Nightmare of Disintegration
It's a strange moment in the nightmare of disintegration which Syria is currently experiencing. Fifteen grueling months into the revolution against the country's dictatorship, an uprising that has become a war, it's not possible to give a single, unified description of the situation here.

On the one hand, there's an apocalypse in the form of the regime's militias, murdering their way through the villages, flanked by government troops and "security" forces issuing orders. 

Reports published last week by the United Nations and Amnesty International depict torture, executions and the use of children as human shields.

Several doctors and nurses, interviewed separately by SPIEGEL at two military hospitals, reported cases of injured patients being murdered. They talked of corpses of torture victims in cold storage with their ears and noses cut off.

In the north of the country, villages within range of the weapons at Aleppo's artillery school have been shelled indiscriminately since the beginning of June, as well as attacked by helicopters and fighter jets. In the days around June 10 alone, two dozen civilians died in the area north of Aleppo, and several soldiers and fighters from both sides died in combat.

But at the same time, there's a pilot who aims off the mark. There are deserting soldiers that no one is trying to stop. Discreet warnings and agreements are made behind the scenes of these battles. Business owners in Aleppo pay both the regime and the rebels, and the FSA kidnaps officers and family members of the torture squads to exchange for prisoners. The regime's terror tactics are causing its hold on power to crumble.

Looking to a Post-Assad Future
Everyone here is sure things are heading toward an end, but no one knows how it will play out. Here, in the plains around Maraa, in the villages and wheat fields between Aleppo and the Turkish border, the Syrian government ceased to exist months ago.

Occasionally, it does still send in erratic communications, as it did in late May, informing residents that buildings without construction permits would be made legal retroactively. But the rest of the time, what the government sends are bombs.

Yet even as inhabitants of the southern and western parts of the plain are fleeing out of range of the regime's weapons, and as SPIEGEL experiences first hand in the town of Azaz how helicopters fire at random at people's homes and the army's snipers terrorize half the town from the minarets of the central mosque, at the same time just a few kilometers away in a village called Dabiq, representatives from nine towns are meeting to debate, for the first time in their lives, what the Syria of the future should look like.

Thirty-two men gather in an abandoned office that once belonged to the Baath Party that still nominally rules the country. There are several teachers, an engineer, two construction workers, a photographer, a former police officer, two deserted soldiers, an unemployed man and a couple of students. "What do we want?" is the question bandied about in different forms throughout the evening: An Islamic state? A republic? Or perhaps no government at all? After all, as one man points out: "At the moment, it's easier without one than it was under the dictatorship."

These men haven't seen very much of the world themselves, but they're familiar with the horror stories related by Iraqi refugees who fled their country's civil war.

Some of the men were also guest workers in Lebanon and describe how the different religious camps there stand in each other's way. All the people present agree that their country needs a civil constitution where people are not defined by religion or ethnic background, but by being citizens of Syria. They also agree that candidates for parliament should be selected on the basis of their abilities, not their religious background, and that no president should be allowed to serve longer than eight years.

"And people who hold office must disclose their own financial circumstances," says the former police officer. "We have to make sure they stay honest."

'Too Much Blood on Their Hands'
But this delicate new beginning stalls when one person raises the question of whether the family of one Alawi teacher, who left here months ago, ought to return.

"Of course!" insist some. "She hasn't done anything to anybody!" But the faces of some of the others harden. "They have too much blood on their hands," they say.

Not the teacher herself, they say, but "the others."

The men are unable to come to an agreement on this, or on another question that's been a contentious issue for months throughout the country, from Daraa in the south to here in the north. "We're very grateful to the FSA for protecting us," one man says, attempting to put it diplomatically, "but we don't want them to take over power!" One of the FSA members in the room, a defected soldier, is offended.

There's a feeling of unease over the fighters' growing power, explains Yassir al-Hajji, facilitator of this evening's experiment, on the way back to Maraa. "We need them, absolutely, but we're afraid of them." Until the end of August last year, he explains, state security would turn up in town whenever they pleased and arrest people. Now, he says, not even the army comes to Maraa -- the last time was April 10, when the regime's forces burned down houses and shot up Hajji's café with their machineguns before retreating half a day later, their tanks loaded down with carpets, mattresses and refrigerators. They left graffiti scrawled on the town's walls, such as: "You don't need freedom, instead your mothers need to be fucked again!" It was signed "S.M.F." -- Syrian Military Forces.

The Meaning of Free
Those are a few parting words, perhaps, from a government whose functions are slowly being taken over by Commander Chal, the interior decorator, and by other local FSA leaders. The "Committee for Social Services" which controls the price of diesel, the fire department, the municipal administration -- all these are part of the new army whose name Hajji mocks: "Free Army -- but what is that supposed to mean, 'free'? Free to do whatever they like?"

It's a fine line to walk, and hardly anywhere can this be seen more clearly than in the improvised prison operating out of a former administrative building in Maraa.

In particular, those who have tortured, killed or raped are brought here. They are people who have been -- depending on your point of view -- kidnapped or arrested after being identified by witnesses.

The man in charge here is a former sergeant who defected from the army, a giant of a man whose nickname is Janbu. After extensive negotiations, we are allowed to see two prisoners. One is a spy for the notorious shabiha militia, a philosophy student who reported on his fellow students for the regime's intelligence service. The other is a soldier accused of raping female prisoners and beating male prisoners with a club.