NYT article raises questions about possible US allies in Syria as rebels ransack Christian village

US Politics
Screenshot from the New York Times video "Syrian Rebels Execute 7 Soldiers."

Screenshot from the New York Times video “Syrian Rebels Execute 7 Soldiers.”

The New York Times has a high profile article today by C.J. Chivers centered around a chilling video of Syrian rebels executing captured Syrian soldiers (you can watch it here). The article titled “Brutality of Syrian Rebels Posing Dilemma in West“, offers the rebels violence as a challenge to the Obama administration who has sought to place the U.S. on the “right side” of the conflict. From the article:

As the United States debates whether to support the Obama administration’s proposal that Syrian forces should be attacked for using chemical weapons against civilians, this video, shot in April, joins a growing body of evidence of an increasingly criminal environment populated by gangs of highwaymen, kidnappers and killers.

The video also offers a reminder of the foreign policy puzzle the United States faces in finding rebel allies as some members of Congress, including Senator John McCain, press for more robust military support for the opposition.

In the more than two years this civil war has carried on, a large part of the Syrian opposition has formed a loose command structure that has found support from several Arab nations, and, to a more limited degree, the West. Other elements of the opposition have assumed an extremist cast, and openly allied with Al Qaeda.

Across much of Syria, where rebels with Western support live and fight, areas outside of government influence have evolved into a complex guerrilla and criminal landscape.

That has raised the prospect that American military action could inadvertently strengthen Islamic extremists and criminals.

The story comes out as John Kerry trying to build the case for the U.S. to arm the rebels and attack on Syria. Yesterday Kerry claimed that 15% and 25% of the rebels groups are “al-Qaeda and the bad guys“, but others have balked at this claim. The Times article will most likely complicate Kerry’s barnstorming tour a bit:


Just as Kerry attempts to put a rosy face on the U.S. rebel allies in Syria, the AP reports that “al-Qaida-linked rebels” from the Jabhat al-Nusra group attacked the Christian village of Ma’loula yesterday. Ma’loula is on a UNESCO list of tentative world heritage sites. From the AP article, “Syrian Rebels And Army Battle Over Regime-Held Christian Village Of Maaloula”:

Syrian government troops battled al-Qaida-linked rebels over a regime-held Christian village in western Syria for the second day Thursday, as world leaders gathered in Russia for an economic summit expected to be overshadowed by the prospect of U.S.-led strikes against the Damascus regime.

Residents of Maaloula said the militants entered the village late Wednesday. Rami Abdul-Rahman, the director of the Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights, said the fighters included members of the of al-Qaida affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra group…..Heavy clashes between President Bashar Assad’s troops and Nusra Front fighters persisted in surrounding mountains Thursday, according to the Observatory, which collects information from a network of anti-regime activists.

Speaking by phone from a convent in the village, a nun told The Associated Press that the rebels left a mountaintop hotel Thursday after capturing it a day earlier. The nun said the frightened residents expect the Islamic militants to return to the Safir hotel and resume shelling of the community below.

“It’s their home now,” the nun said. She said some 100 people from the village took refuge in the convent. The 27 orphans who live there had been taken to nearby caves overnight “so they were not scared.”

Lebanon’s Al Manar reported “hundreds of militants attacked the Christian-majority town”:

Local and international media outlets reported that that al-Nusra Front militiamen destroyed the Aramaic church and institute in the town and stole their contents.

Militants began their attack on Wednesday detonating a booby-trapped car at an army checkpoint near the town in the northern countryside of Damascus.

The so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq and Levant’ claimed responsibility for the bombing , which aided the gunmen to enter Ma’loula and seize control over its main square where snipers deployed over a number of buildings.

Journalists and reporters said that access to the town is not possible due to the fierce clashes between the two sides, indicating that militants have slaughtered some Syrian soldiers.

From her part, Mother Bagela said that two shells landed on the monastery of Mar Takla leaving material damage.

Media correspondents also stated the army’s military operations are cautious because of the presence of civilians, in addition to that al-Nusra’s gunmen deployed over Ma’loula building are delaying the qualitative military conduct to restore the town.

Mondoweiss commenter Walid informs takfiris shelled the St Elie church, setting it on fire:

For those still wondering, early this morning the takfiri rebels attacked the remote Christian village of Ma’loula 65 km northeast of Damascus, a pilgrimage site for Christians and Muslims. The women and children had been evacuated but the men stayed behind to defend the village and its churches that date back 1500 years. Ma’loula is one of 3 villages in Syria and in the world where the residents speak Aramaic among themselves. In the assault, the takfiris shelled the St Elie church, looted it and set it on fire.

These are the takfiri rebels the US wants to help by bombing Syria.

Meanwhile, divisive debates over Syria are dominating discussions at the end of the first day of the G20 summit hosted by Russia.  While President Obama is trying to pick up support for military strikes, Russia and China are not on board and have warned the US not to take any action without UN backing. The Chicago Tribune reports Obama and Putin make ‘odd couple’ at the summit, rather an understatement.

(Hat tip MW commenter Walid)

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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63 Responses

  1. Les
    September 5, 2013, 6:20 pm

    “Our” rebels.

  2. DICKERSON3870
    September 5, 2013, 6:30 pm

    RE: “For those still wondering, early this morning the takfiri rebels attacked the remote Christian village of Ma’loula . . . In the assault, the takfiris shelled the St Elie church, looted it and set it on fire. These are the takfiri rebels the US wants to help by bombing Syria.” ~ Mondoweiss commenter Walid

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    • American
      September 6, 2013, 12:39 pm

      @ Dickerson

      Signed and passed on.
      And for Grayson:

      link to usnews.com

      Rep. Alan Grayson: Syria Intelligence Manipulated
      The White House released its four-page public report Aug. 30, arguing that Assad’s government killed 1,429 people on Aug. 21 with a planned chemical weapon attack. Evidence cited in that report included “intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used.”
      Grayson, however, says “the claim has been made that that information was completely mischaracterized.”
      He points to an article published by The Daily Caller that alleges the communications actually showed Syrian officers were surprised by the alleged chemical weapon attack. The communications, according to unnamed sources paraphrased in article, were intercepted by Israeli intelligence and “doctored so that it leads a reader to just the opposite conclusion.”
      “What they say in The Daily Caller is that [intercepted communications] would lead one to the opposite conclusion,” Grayson said. “I don’t know if it’s right or wrong, [but] there’s a very simple way to find out, that’s for the administration to show me and other members of Congress” translated transcripts of the intercepts, he said.
      Members of Congress are “not being given any of the underlying elements of the intelligence reports,” according to Grayson. He’s not sure if the information will come before the votes on a proposed strike next week.”

  3. Stephen Shenfield
    September 5, 2013, 6:55 pm

    U.S. policy makers have a long history of allying with “bad guys.” Remember how the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan treated prisoners? The moral standards of their allies can create no dilemma for them. What may be causing them headaches is how to manipulate the situation in Syria in such a way as to bring to power there people who will serve U.S./Israeli interests. Perhaps they will bomb both government and Islamist forces?

    • K Renner
      September 5, 2013, 8:32 pm

      This is one thing I’d have to disagree on.

      The Northern Alliance had to fight Taliban and AQ filth for years without any real foreign support– in the 1990s the Americans were indirectly supporting the talibs over actual decent people like Shah Massoud and those who wanted to preserve what was left of civilized Afghan society. A hell of a lot of hard fighting.

      So yes, they didn’t treat Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners very well, killed some even.
      The thing is, the people they killed were Taliban and Al Qaeda, whose very rationale for existing is to promote sectarianism, wahhabism, takfirism, and to force everyone under their control to live the way they think is “the only way”, with torture and death for non-compliance to their ridiculous takfiri worldview, or for being Shia.

      I usually hesitate to categorize people as “evil”, but the Afghan diaspora would readily do so in regards to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and seeing what they turned Afghanistan into, I have no sympathy for their mistreatment at the hands of proper Afghans.

      • Bandolero
        September 5, 2013, 9:59 pm

        @K Renner
        I think the Wikipedia article on the Dasht-i-Leili massacre might be interesting for you:

        link to en.wikipedia.org

        “So yes, they didn’t treat Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners very well, killed some even.”

      • K Renner
        September 6, 2013, 4:02 am

        Yes, it is pretty brutal, and I would condemn it in full if it was done on a completely arbitrary basis- if the people who died had no connection to the Taliban and were just under the watch of ISAF or the Northern Alliance.

        As it’s clear that these were Taliban and Al Qaeda, I really have more sympathy for the Northern Alliance– the proper Afghans who fought the Soviets when they were slaughtering Afghans by the thousands– not these takfiri idiots who decided that they would impose their version of society on the ruins of Afghanistan back in the 1990s.

        I know people in Toronto who are Shia’a Afghans– mostly Ismailis.
        The Taliban would slaughter them in a heartbeat– children and old people as well– because takfiris hate Shia’a.

        My sympathy is really with the victims of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

      • Denis
        September 6, 2013, 1:33 pm

        Bingo, Bando

        7500 Taliban fighters who had surrendered to Northern Alliance placed in sealed containers. Between 250 and 3000 prisoners shot or suffocated en route to Sheberghan prison.

        That is definitely not being treated very well, even in Renner’s view.

        NYT article:
        link to nytimes.com

        In a Jul13.2009 CNN interview Obama said he was ordering an investigation of US role in that massacre. Haven’t heard a word since.

      • just
        September 5, 2013, 10:32 pm

        I agree K Renner.

        The Afghan people have suffered horribly for decades.

    • kalithea
      September 6, 2013, 2:37 am

      “What may be causing them headaches is how to manipulate the situation in Syria in such a way as to bring to power there people who will serve U.S./Israeli interests. Perhaps they will bomb both government and Islamist forces?”

      Yes because what this world needs now is to spawn even more HATE & VENGEANCE.

      Yes, lets create even more hate and vengeance!

  4. Austin Branion
    September 5, 2013, 7:19 pm

    I’m a little taken aback by the way that Syria is being talked about on this site. To be specific, as regards this post:

    1.) I find it irresponsible to quote a source like Al-Manar without noting that it is the media outlet of one of the parties to the conflict in Syria, Hizballah. You guys certainly wouldn’t devote such a large amount of uninterrupted space for a quote from, say, Israel HaYom without noting that it’s owned by arch-Zionist Sheldon Adelson, or noting its political bias more generally.

    I mean, the language of the Al-Manar article itself (which is obviously translated from Arabic) is indicative of its pro-regime bias, particularly the last sentence: “qualitative military conduct,” (“conduct” here is almost certainly a mistranslation for what should instead say “operation”). This tone (particularly in the Arabic original) is almost only used when describing the actions of a party to which one feels some affinity.

    2. Why in the world are we quoting Walid as a news source? Is he there on the ground? Has he been able to interview those that purportedly carried out the attack in order to discern that they are, in fact, “takfiris?” I have no idea what Walid’s qualifications are to be quoted as an authoritative voice on a specific attack as though he’s reporting it himself, but whatever the reason for appealing to his authority is I would like to see it in the text of this post.

    • Bandolero
      September 5, 2013, 9:05 pm

      You may check some rebel video to get more of a clue of what’s going on over there in Maaloula:

      link to youtube.com

      And this one, from the moderate FSA Baba Amro Revolutionaries:

      link to youtube.com

      I think the guy looks a bit like the very prominent FSA commander Khalid al-Hamad aka Abu Sakkar, or maybe it’s him?

      • Austin Branion
        September 5, 2013, 10:21 pm

        Bandolera, your comment does absolutely nothing to address the two specific points I raised in mine.

    • Walid
      September 6, 2013, 12:47 am

      Austin, I’m not claiming to be an authority on what’s happening in Ma’loula but simply passing on information that I’ve been reading that wasn’t appearing in the Western press. Think back to 12 years ago and what the Taliban did to the Buddhas at Baniyan and it will give you an idea what the Takfiris have in store for the town’s dozen or so churches some of which date back to 1500 years, just like the Buddhas at Baniyan.

      Some ME TV stations sympathetic to the American drive to bomb Syria are actually airing interviews with residents of Ma’loula saying the whole Takfiri attack on the town is bogus and that nothing is really happening or that has happened there. It may give you comfort to know that I’m not a fan of the Syrian regime. But I’m also not a fan of seeing Syria bombed whether by the US or the Syrian rebels or by the Syrian regime.

      As to the article in Manar that distressed you, here’s a sanitized version from the Telegraph:

      Syria crisis: al-Qaeda seizes village that still speaks the ancient language of Christ

      A branch of al-Qaeda fighting in the Syrian civil war has seized one of the few remaining villages where a dialect the language Christ spoke is still spoken, residents say.

      REUTERS
      By Ruth Sherlock, Beirut and Magdy Samaan
      7:46PM BST 05 Sep 2013

      Fighting raged through the picturesque mountain village of Maaloula, near Damascus, on Thursday, as the regime launched a counter-attack against the rebels.

      “They entered the main square and smashed a statue of the Virgin Mary,” said one resident of the area, speaking by phone and too frightened to give his name. “They shelled us from the nearby mountain. Two shells hit the St Thecla convent.”

      Maaloula, tucked into the honey-coloured cliffs of a mountain range north of Damascus and on a “tentative” list of applicants for Unesco world heritage status, is associated with the earliest days of Christianity.

      St Thecla, who is supposedly buried in the convent, was a follower of St Paul who fled to the village in Syria to avoid marriage, having taken an oath of chastity. It is said that the cleft of rock in which the convent is placed opened up to allow her to escape her pursuers.

      The inhabitants are mostly Melkite Greek Catholic and Orthodox Christians, but have historically lived peacefully alongside a Sunni Muslim minority. It is one of only three places in the world where Western Aramaic, a dialect of the language spoken by Christ, is still used.

      Until recently, the town had managed to remain mostly unaffected by the civil war that has already claimed more than 100,000 lives. A visit by The Daily Telegraph last year found it ringed by government checkpoints but suffering from the lack of pilgrims and tourists who are normally vital to its economy.

      In the early hours of Wednesday morning, rebel groups, a mix of the extremist Jabhat al-Nusra and the more moderate Free Syrian Army (FSA), attacked with full force.

      “First they took a brick factory owned by a Christian guy, who is now missing,” said the resident. “Then at around 5.30am, a car bomb detonated at the checkpoint at the entrance to the village.

      “Some of the rebels entered a home near the checkpoint belonging to Yousef Haddad, a Christian. They tried to force him to convert to Islam.”

      A nun living in a convent in the village told the Associated press that 27 orphans living in the convent were taken to nearby caves for shelter.

      Video footage posted on YouTube showed rebel fighters on a pick up truck with an anti-aircraft gun mounted on the back firing erratically from inside the mountain town.

      Christians, who make up approximately 10 per cent of Syria’s population, have increasingly become targets in the conflict as sectarian-minded foreign jihadists gain influence in the opposition ranks. Almost a third of the Syriac Christian population has fled the rebel-held northern town of Hassakeh after Christians became targets for kidnappings and assassinations.

      Mousab Abu Qatada, a spokesman for the FSA in Damascus and the Damascus suburbs, denied that the attack on Maaloula had been sectarian.

      “We are trying to protect the minorities and the holy sites of Syria. We promise to protect it against the criminal regime,” he said.

      Residents said the rebels had been pushed back to Safir hotel in the mountains, where they had been based since March this year.

      The resident said: “They have been annoying the Christian people of the village since then. A Christian farmer cannot go up there to his land unless he is accompanied by a Muslim resident of the village.”

      link to telegraph.co.uk

    • Taxi
      September 6, 2013, 12:49 am

      Austin,

      You don’t like the messenger, right?

      So you’ll just poopoo the message, right?

      If your confidence in Walid is so low, why didn’t you research and present us with your own version instead of whine-whine-whine that Al Manar and Walid are not qualified.

      To your dismay, THEY ARE BOTH QUALIFIED. Certainly more qualified than YOU!

    • Annie Robbins
      September 6, 2013, 3:02 am

      hi austin, i was not aware that Al Manar was hezbollah affiliated. however, the report doesn’t conflict w/what the AP is reporting citing the man who calls himself ‘Syrian Observatory’: ” al-Qaida affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra group”

      checked google earlier and even rtwg SITE is reporting:

      Al-Nusra Front Claims Suicide Bombing, Multiple Rocket Strikes

      SITE Intelligence Group (subscription)-Sep 4, 2013
      … September 4 and claim credit for a suicide bombing in al-Qalamoun district in Damascus and a raid afterwards, targeting the Ma’loula barrier.

      walid is from the region and a valued commenter here, i urge you to click on his name to access his archives.. i think he’s lived in lebanon tho i am not sure if he does presently. and as far as i know the term takfiris is a common reference in the ME to militias we call AQ. the reason i mentioned it in the report is because i think his thoughts represent how many people in lebanon feel about what’s going on in syria, portions of which reminded me of how some american soldiers feel link to mondoweiss.net

      npr link to npr.org is also reporting the story as initiating with an al-Nusra suicide bombing citing AP’s source, also ‘biased’ , opposed to assad:

      At the start of the attack, an al-Nusra fighter blew himself up at a regime checkpoint at the entrance to the village, said the Observatory, which collects information from a network of anti-regime activists.

      The explosion was followed by fighting between the rebels and regime forces. Eventually, the rebels seized the checkpoint and disabled two tanks and an armored personnel carrier, the Observatory said. At least eight regime soldiers were killed in the fighting, the group said.

      The nun said the rebels had taken over the Safir hotel atop a mountain overlooking the village and where shelling from there. “It’s a war. It has been going from 6 a.m. in the morning,” she said from her convent.

      The said the convent houses 13 nuns and 27 orphans. She said around 80 people from the village had come to the convent for safety.

      i’m not sure you can report about syria quoting anyone from the region who is un biased. but a distaste for Al-Nusra/AQ/takfiri is shared by many syrian revolutionaries:
      link to jadaliyya.com
      ” The proliferation of exclusionary and obscurantist groups within the Syrian opposition is a growing reality that has irreversibly asserted itself and is slowly becoming as much of a problem to the Syrian uprising as it has been to the Syrian regime.”

      and i urge you to open that link! : The Growing Challenge to The Syrian Regime and the Syrian Uprising by Bassam Haddad, Director of the Middle East Studies Program and Associate Professor in the Department of Public and International Affairs at George Mason University.

      so, when walid posted the video this morning,around 7am calif time, there was no western press reports on google. i grabbed his link without checking what al manar was plus the video, all based on walid’s credibility( which is a lot around here as far as i am concerned). as the morning wore on the AP article appeared. and nothing, nothing , nothing refuted al manar’s report. and wrt to your objection to the end of it wrt “qualitative military conduct,” if the town is on unesco’s sites, it means it’s been around for a long long time and survived somewhat intact throughout the ages. so it isn’t altogether unusual to imagine the dictatorial regime would protect it now as others regimes have protected it in the past.

      and finally i alerted the higher ups here about your complaint immediately, who decided since it was already published to leave it up(probably because they found nothing objectionable in the report itself). but thanks for your concern and although i am not great w/names i will try to remember in the future to check all arabic sources more closely. that said, hezbollah is not considered a terrorist org by lots of countries, part of lebanon’s gov, and as i mentioned earlier there really are no unbiased people in that part of the world.

      last but not least, our report fully disclosed walid was a commenter here. it’s not unusual for us to pulll comments into the text of our posts and phil often pulls comments/opinions/commentary from readers who email into the site, frequently anonymously. iow, sometimes we print opinions.

      • Walid
        September 6, 2013, 6:36 am

        Annie, I never take for granted everything I read in Manar although I find its stories in general reliable, but I know it’s biased in favour of the Syrian and Iranian regimes in the same manner that the NYT and WaPo are biased in favour of Israel, but I read them just the same. I read the pro-US Daily Star much more frequently than I read Manar. One has to check different sources of different colours to arrive at a reasonably acceptable conclusion. In my reply to Austin, I mentioned that some ME sources are showing people from ma’loula saying that the attack never happened.

      • Annie Robbins
        September 6, 2013, 11:47 am

        walid, yes i read daily star and generally check it anytime for news on lebanon. i got in the habit after we invaded iraq when rami khouri was executive editor. however i didn’t check their report on this story and should have.

      • Austin Branion
        September 6, 2013, 9:53 pm

        Annie: first of all, thank you for taking my concerns seriously.

        Second, I hope it was clear that I in no way meant to impugn Walid. I am fully aware that he is a longtime, valued commenter on this site, and have myself appreciated his commentary in the past. That being said, the problem that I had here was the fact that his comment was being cited in a manner that seemed to imply it was primary REPORTAGE, as though he is in a position to do so; a claim that he himself never made, but that is obscured by the fact that you posted his comment without attributing it to the source that he himself was attributing it to. So, to be clear, it was not the substance of Walid’s comment in and of itself that I was concerned with (although, actually, it bothered me slightly), it was the framing of it and lack of [secondary] attribution within your post.

        Also, for what it’s worth–Taxi, you should pay attention here–I happen to know quite a bit about Syria. I really don’t like to play the “who has more street cred” game (a.k.a. the “appeal to authority” fallacy), but since Taxi saw fit to attack me in a way that had absolutely nothing to do with the substance of my rational, tempered complaint in my previous comment, I will note again that, one, I in no way sought to impugn Walid’s qualifications–indeed, my point is that they are unknown, and that is NOT to say I automatically assume that he has none. Two, unlike what I imagine to be the vast majority of people commenting on Syria-related stories on this site, I have actually lived in Syria–I did my graduate studies in Arabic language at the University of Damascus from June 2008 – June 2009 (oh, and there’s another thing; I’m fluent in Arabic).

        Three, in addition to my personal connection to the country and its people, it is actually my JOB to monitor the media activities of jihadist militants in Syria and elsewhere, and I do this using primary Arabic sources, not secondary ones; it is my professional responsibility to be fully acquainted with their messaging, world view, and the public spin that they put on their activities. I think that gives me some degree of qualification, Taxi.

      • Annie Robbins
        September 6, 2013, 10:18 pm

        Austin, that’s very very interesting. and i’m curious whether in your job monitoring you may have intercept any additional or conflicting information about the events in Maaloula the other day?

        the next time i pick up something from one of our commenters from the comments i will try to make it clearer it’s otherwise unsourced. and thanks for making the effort.

      • American
        September 6, 2013, 10:47 pm

        ”Three, in addition to my personal connection to the country and its people, it is actually my JOB to monitor the media activities of jihadist militants in Syria and elsewhere, and I do this using primary Arabic sources, not secondary ones; it is my professional responsibility to be fully acquainted with their messaging, world view, and the public spin that they put on their activities. I think that gives me some degree of qualification, Taxi”…Austin

        So who pays you to monitor the media activities of jihadist militants in Syria and elsewhere?

      • Taxi
        September 7, 2013, 12:18 am

        Austin,

        Soon as you said “you should pay attention here”, I lost interest, professor.

        But I’ll repeat that though Al Manar is the Lebanese resistance’s TV station, their sources and news bulletins are usually credible. By far more credible that AlJazeera English and Al Arabiya.

        Al Mayadeen TV, in my opinion, is currently the best. (Too bad it’s only in Arabic).

  5. James Canning
    September 5, 2013, 7:22 pm

    Meanwhile, of course, in effort to sell the war on Syria, Kerry falsely claims the insurgents are “moderates”.

    • K Renner
      September 5, 2013, 8:37 pm

      A good portion of the “regular” FSA are non-Islamist or failing that, moderate or “centrist” Islamist.

      The issue really is that Syria has become the new stomping ground for Wahhabi/takfiri militants, and as we know they’re usually the loudest and most prominent in whatever they do that involves violence.

      Cumulatively, there are probably as many as 45-50,000 conservative Islamists with a core of 5-15,000 “professional” takfiri jihadists, but the “regular” FSA still has anywhere from 50-80,000 under arms who are at the very least anti-takfiri and anti Taliban-style sharia law.

      • Bandolero
        September 5, 2013, 11:48 pm

        K Renner
        “Cumulatively, there are probably as many as 45-50,000 conservative Islamists with a core of 5-15,000 “professional” takfiri jihadists, but the “regular” FSA still has anywhere from 50-80,000 under arms who are at the very least anti-takfiri and anti Taliban-style sharia law.”

        Interesting figures. How do you know? Aren’t there hundreds or maybe even thousands of diffrent groups operating in Syria?

        When I looked at the “rebels”, I understood that many rebels are posing one day with an FSA flag, and the other day they pose with an Al Qaeda flag. I couldn’t tell if they are takfiris posing as FSA to attact secular money or if they are FSA posing as takfiris. Take the gang of Alloush for example. As you probably know Alloush from Douma is the most senior FSA boss in the Damascus region. But is he a takfiri, too? His gang behaves so and they often run around with Al Qaeda flags. And listen the wahhabi slogans when he speaks, see him demonstrating in Istanbul etc. And that’s going on for many, take the Yarmouk martyrs, the Baba Amr revolutionaries and so on.

        Each region, town, quarter and village is diffrent in Syria, but I didn’t find one “liberated” rebel town where moderate FSA rebels are in charge. Everywhere there are takfiri Al Qaeda types in charge, mostly ISIS, Nusra and Ahrar Al Sham, but some towns are run by simple thugs or takfiri types like Alloush operating under FSA banners.

        Just read the NYT article quoted above to see how blurred the line is. And read yesterdays Reuters answer to Kerry to get a more detailed picture:

        link to reuters.com

        As far as I have seen all the moderates are long back into the state forces. Just try to name one city in Syria run by more or less “moderate rebels.” I looked a lot and found none – not even one.

      • piotr
        September 5, 2013, 11:54 pm

        There is also a question how moderate the moderates are.

        Moderates are on the record condemning al-Nusra for attacking them, like killing one of their commanders after inviting him to a meeting. However, the biggest difference is that unlike al-Nusra they are terribly disorganized, basically a bunch of smallish highway gangs with little cooperation and coordination.

        Then there is a question who is responsible for how many of “100 000 victims”.

      • Donald
        September 6, 2013, 6:15 pm

        “Then there is a question who is responsible for how many of “100 000 victims”.”

        That is the central question. The western human rights groups claim the Assad regime is committing the bulk of the atrocities, while acknowledging that the rebels commit some, but I wonder how solid their analysis is? I assume they find it easiest to speak to refugees outside Syria, but that could give a misleading slant if the refugees outside were predominantly victimized by the regime, while people inside the country are staying there hoping to be protected by the regime against the rebels.

        And then when you look at Mr Syrian Observatory’s figures, they are peculiar. I cited them in another post (taken from late June in a NYT article) but here is a direct quote from the NYT–
        ——————————————-
        “In its breakdown, the group said the dead included 36,661 civilians, including 8,000 women and children; 13,539 rebel fighters; and 2,015 defectors from government forces.

        Among pro-government forces, the group said 25,407 regular soldiers had been killed along with 17,311 members of militias and pro-government units including some listed as informers for the government.

        The war has drawn in an unknown number of foreign militants and outside fighters, including Lebanese Hezbollah forces. The figures released Wednesday said the dead included more than 2,500 unidentified and non-Syrian combatants on the rebel side and 169 fighters from Hezbollah.

        This year, Mr. Abdul Rahman, who fled Syria 13 years ago, said his network relied on four men inside Syria who help to report and collate information from more than 230 activists on the ground. ”
        ———————————————————————–

        So those heavily outgunned rebels are allegedly killing far more Syrian soldiers and militia than they are losing. It makes one question the reliability of the numbers. And only 36 percent are identified as civilian (though that “informer” category raises questions) and 8 percent are women and children. So it’s mostly males, and predominantly fighters who are being killed, by those figures.

        Here’s the link to the NYT article–

        link

      • Annie Robbins
        September 6, 2013, 11:49 am

        kenner, who is your source for those percentages? could you link please?

      • piotr
        September 6, 2013, 7:09 pm

        Kenner posted a link, and I have seen the same article. Inflating figures of killed opposing soldiers and fighters is routine. Including “false positives” link to en.wikipedia.org

        Actually, compared with other conflicts of similar kind, the proportion of killed civilians to killed fighters is unusual here, and actually it suggests that the regime tries to do reasonable job of targeting the rebels rather than wantonly terrorizing the population that supports the rebels. Doing so is costly, you loose much less soldiers if you concentrate on bombing, strifing with missiles and long distance artillery barrages rather then sending foot soldiers who actually see the people they kill — and can spare the civilians. Tactics of US and Israeli military reduce the risk for soldiers and increase the risks for civilians. From less humanitarian perspective, Syrian government must conserve ammunition.

      • K Renner
        September 7, 2013, 12:59 pm

        The numbers themselves are from the Wikipedia page for the Syrian Civil War, which would be embarrassing in a sense to cite by itself, but the articles linking to them are from the independent, the guardian, etc– so not really perfect, but not trash papers either.

        My assertion on the character of the “regular” FSA is taken from the fact that there are still a significant number of defectors from the SAA (although I don’t know how they feel about being aligned de facto with Al Nusra, ISIS, at this point), as well as people who have gone on record as being in favour of secular government/are anti-conservative Islamism.

      • Annie Robbins
        September 7, 2013, 5:50 pm

        ok, well wiki is not the best source but i have gone to their source links for FSA “50-80,000 under arms”

        this is the one for the 50,000 figure: link to americanprogress.org

        Composition

        The FSA is made up of small, localized battalions from all across Syria, organized loosely through provincial military councils. These battalions tend to fight in small geographic areas in defense of their hometowns and are less ideologically driven than others. It is estimated that there are as many as 50,000 fighters who align themselves with the FSA.
        Command

        Commanders of FSA-affiliated brigades and battalions do not receive strategic or tactical orders from FSA and SMC leaders such as Gen. Idriss but instead operate unilaterally in the control of their forces. The FSA leadership’s primary responsibility is to facilitate coordination between battalions. Gen. Idriss is officially the commander of the FSA but serves as more of a political leader than as a field commander.

        iow, Idriss is not really a commander. they have no central commander.

        and guess who the source is for the 80,000 figure? according to wiki’s source, Idriss himself. not really too compelling if you ask me: link to independent.co.uk

        The Free Syrian Army:

        Leader Brig Gen Salim Idriss

        Affiliated fighters Many different claims. Most recently, in June 2013, Idriss claimed he is the leader of 80,000 fighters

        The FSA name has been used by several overlapping rebel networks since mid-2011. This version, which is also often referred to as the Supreme Military Council, was created in December 2012 after pressure from Western and Gulf Arab nations, which seek to make it the military wing of Syria’s civilian exile group, the National Coalition. Foreign funding has drawn numerous rebel commanders to the FSA, including all the SILF heavyweights. But these commanders retain operational control over their own forces, and Idriss therefore serves more as a spokesperson than a military leader. Idriss steers a secular-nationalist line, while many of the factions that make up his army have opted for some form of Islamic rule.

        and the definition of ‘leader’ in this case, since he’s not their commander, is specious at best. this is called pumping your case, which Idriss is doing.

        same article says

        Leader Abu Abdullah al-Hamawi (Ahrar al-Sham)

        Affiliated fighters Group’s own figures claimed about 25,000 in Dec 2012

        A hardline Salafist alliance created in December 2012, which receives funding from conservative clerics in the Gulf.

        ……..

        The Syrian Islamic Liberation Front (SILF)

        Leader Ahmed Eissa al-Sheikh (Suqour al-Sham)

        Secretary General Zahran Alloush (Islam Brigade)

        Affiliated fighters Spokesperson says 35,000-40,000 June 2013

        The SILF is a very loose Islamist alliance created in September 2012, around a bare-bones ideological plank demanding more Islam and less Assad. It now includes about 20 armed movements, among them powerful factions like Farouq and Tawhid. The SILF members joined the new version of the FSA at its inception in December 2012, and now make up the bulk of its fighting force.

        so….if the SILF joined the new version of the FSA and they have 35-40,000 forces which “now make up the bulk of its fighting force” that would explain where Idriss’s numbers swelled from 50 to 80,000. the only problem w/that as i see it is that guy who ate someone’s heart out is from Farouq brigade. that’s not moderate.

        and while i am here there’s some decent coverage of Ma’loula at link to joshualandis.com
        i rec(w/photos and history included)

        After the Islamist-led rebel alliance took the town, the Syrian regime responded by sending in aircraft to attack the rebel positions. This is the ever-disastrous pattern to the Syria conflict: rebels take a town doing its best to mind its own business, and the regime comes to the defense of the town and destroys it in the process. I spoke yesterday with a Syrian Christian who traveled near Ma’loula during the time of the attack. Like many Christians in the country, he has no love for the oppression of the regime, but remains somewhat “pro-regime” in relation to the conflict, since the threat of Islamists showing up and taking over his town outweighs his dislike of the regime. I asked him, “Regardless of the fact that these rebels invaded uninvited, would it not be better for the regime to just leave them alone, rather than conducting an airstrike on one of the most historical places in the country?” He responded sadly: “They don’t care. They will destroy anyplace the rebels are to be found.” He reminded me of other historical treasures that have been damaged through the regime’s response to rebel incursions, such as occurred in Palmyra, and recently at the Qal’at al-Hosn (Crac des Chevaliers), a magnificent Crusader castle and important tourist attraction that the regime bombed after rebels set up base inside. For someone who has defended the regime’s side during the conflict, his attitude of exasperation toward the scale of their responses was telling. Still, residents of Ma’loula have expressed gratitude for the military reinforcements sent in to expel the unwanted rebels. Many in Syria still prefer the devil they know to the one they don’t—though they’re getting to know the latter all the same.

  6. Bandolero
    September 5, 2013, 8:57 pm

    I want to share some info I just found in Pat Lang’s blog:

    I am told by current intelligence officials that President Obama intends to bomb Syria in the coming days–with or without Congressional approval. With the whip count in the House of Representatives looking worse and worse for the war party, the White House is pressing Harry Reid to rush the Senate vote, perhaps as early as Monday evening, Sept. 9, the day that the Congress returns to Washington and the debate is scheduled to begin. If Obama can get a Senate majority, sources close to the White House say that he will order strikes before the House can get started. Perhaps this is why Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is saying that a House vote is unlikely before the week of Sept. 16, given that passions are running so high on the issue. The reality is that opposition in the House is growing and the chance of a “yes” vote from the GOP-led lower chamber is well below 50 percent. …

    One commentator predicts the future: What about a second False Flag chemical attack timed to fit between a Senate affirmative vote and the house vote? That would give Obama an excuse for immediate action.

    The conclusion as another commentator put it: If Obama hopes to start the war soon enough after a Senate “yes” vote to render the House’s “no” vote irrelevant because the war has already started, then perhaps the first and hardest effort should be aimed at the Senators?

    • Woody Tanaka
      September 5, 2013, 9:58 pm

      “I am told by current intelligence officials that President Obama intends to bomb Syria in the coming days–with or without Congressional approval.”

      I think that if Obama were to proceed without Congressional approval he should be impeached and removed from office. There is nothing here even remotely constituting self-defense to protect the US, and the Congress, and not the President, gets to decide whether the US goes to war. The powers of the President as Commander in Chief exist, but they simply do not extend to that which the Constitution specifically places in the hands of the people’s representatives.

      • HarryLaw
        September 6, 2013, 6:01 am

        Rep Justin Amash [R-Mich] who has held many town hall meetings tells lawmakers who support Syria Intervention they “might as well start clearing out” their office. link to reason.com

      • Woody Tanaka
        September 6, 2013, 8:37 am

        HarryLaw,

        Indeed. But while that is a political solution, I believe that upholding the Constitution requires Obama’s impeachment if the Congress rejects this authorization and he proceeds anyway. We have a President, not a King.

  7. crone
    September 5, 2013, 9:18 pm

    ABC News: House Majority Opposes Syria War Leadership Backs War, But Doesn’t Have the Votes… Snip”… An historic defeat for the administration’s war plan, it sets the stage for Secretary of State John Kerry’s repeated claims that President Obama could attack after losing the vote to be put to the test. Officials have so far refused to discuss that prospect too deeply, insisting they are “confident” in winning the vote, but now that it seems clear they’ll lose, that confidence seems as ill-placed as their confidence in the rest of the case for war.”SNAP!

    • just
      September 5, 2013, 10:46 pm

      Interview on NPR with Barbara Lee and Elijah Cummings:

      “LEE: Well, Michel, first, I’m not a pacifist, and believe you me, when the United States – when there’s an imminent threat, the president has all the authority. He doesn’t have to come to Congress. He has the constitutional and the international requirements to use force. I believe – and as I believed in 2001 after the horrific attacks of 9/11 – I mean, this resolution came before Congress three days later. It was a blank check. It read in a way, and was written in a way, where, until we repeal that resolution, it can be used to use force forever in perpetuity. That resolution has been used over 30 times.

      It’s now being used to justify the use of drones. It has been used for many, many surveillance activities. It’s been used for the insertion of our troops in many conflicts around the world. So having said that, Michel, I think it’s very important that before we commit our resources, our military hardware and, of course, our personnel to any military action, we have to know exactly what we’re doing. We have to debate it in Congress and we have to know that it is in the national security interest of the United States to do that.

      I did not believe that in 2001, I did not believe that when I voted against Iraq – the Iraq War. Actually, I offered an alternative resolution during the Iraq debate that said, minimally, let’s let the U.N. inspectors complete their inspections process. I received only 72 votes for that. But had we allowed that to occur, I don’t believe we would’ve had the horrible experience that we’ve had in terms of loss of life and the loss of resources in Iraq.”

      (snip)

      “LEE: The evidence is very compelling that chemical weapons were used. And in fact, you know, we must hold – I mean, these are horrific crimes. They’re crimes against humanity and we must hold – and I believe the Assad regime perpetrated these crimes – we must hold whomever – we must hold them accountable. But I have to say that we have to understand when Secretary Kerry said – and he was right – there is no military solution, and in fact, the only way we’re going to stop this is through a political settlement.

      Our credibility, I think, is on the line when in fact we continue to work for political and negotiated settlement, yet we continue to decide to use force. That will lead us much further from a negotiated settlement. Also, Michel, we have to look at the harm that could be done. We don’t know what the collateral damage is going to be. We do not know what retaliation will take place. We do not know what the possibilities are for the conflict to spread and for regional war to begin.

      We don’t know any of those, and you know, there is this – do no more harm. You know, I think that, you know, our credibility, first of all, is what it should be in the world, if in fact we bring the international community to support whatever is taking place, and of course that has not happened.

      MARTIN: Congresswoman Lee, can I assume that that means you’re voting no? Is that a no?

      LEE: No, I’m not voting for this because I believe we have alternatives and we have nonmilitary alternatives, Michel. I am offering an alternative, as I did with Iraq, an alternative bill that would lay out – and we’ve worked with defense experts and other experts on this – to lay out what an option would look like that’s nonmilitary, that would get us to, one, a negotiated settlement, two, hold those who perpetrated these horrific crimes – hold them accountable and bring them to justice. We’re going to have that hopefully on the floor if we get a rule.”

      link to npr.org

  8. Marco
    September 5, 2013, 11:12 pm

    I think it’s worth weighing very seriously *why* it is that the U.S. is so blithely indifferent to the fate of minorities in Syria.

    I imagine for people in China, India, Russia, etc. it must seems strange that still mostly Christian America seems to be unconcerned about Christians in Syria, and instead is much more interested in the fate of Sunni rebels and Israelis.

    It must also seem peculiar how readily the U.S. establishment has dismissed the human rights of Alawites in Syria. It seems to be taken for granted that Alawites are simply a privileged supremacist group in Syria, to be totally identified with the Assad regime, and hence deserving of the ethnic cleansing they are currently facing.

    Finally, people with an historical memory extended more than a couple decades must be puzzled how American politicians so quickly forgot the Kurds (which constitute an entirely separate element in the Syrian civil war), after supposedly championing their rights against the former Iraqi dictator, especially when the chemical attacks they suffered are the precedent for the alleged incident in Syria.

  9. Qualtrough
    September 6, 2013, 12:07 am

    I am sick and tired of seeing these people advocating for war on the flimsiest of evidence and in violation of international and even US law. Julius Streicher found out that you don’t actually have to pull a trigger or drop a bomb to be convicted of a crime against humanity, and some day these thugs should face a similar reckoning. A good start would be with those who lied us into Iraq, many of whom are active participants in cheerleading an attack on Syria.

  10. riyadh
    September 6, 2013, 1:17 am

    The Alawites and the Christians are supporting a dictator. F*ck them.

    • kalithea
      September 6, 2013, 3:01 am

      …Says a corrupt Saudi monarch who believes lineage guarantees eternal power. Pot calls kettle black.

      The Alawites and the Christians are no doubt thinking: people who can’t govern themselves accordingly with regard for minorities end up having to be governed.

    • Taxi
      September 6, 2013, 7:04 am

      riyadhhhhhhhhh,

      The Syrian alawites and christians don’t see Bashar as a “dictator”, but as a protector. So put that in your pipe and inhale deep.

      And the real reason why Saudi Arabia hates Syria is because Syria has a magnificent history and a sophisticated ancient culture, as can be seen in its well-preserved architecture, and its indelible literary mark on the Arab world – whereas the pathologically jealous Saudi Arabia has no such thing as high-cultured creativity and beauty – NOTHING! NOTHING NOTHING NOTHING! But bags of dollars and fat bellies.

      Saudi is also rapidly losing respect across the islamic world. I mean, how can Saudi claim to be the GUARDIANS of the seat of islam, the pious practitioners of the religion of peace, when it’s loudly calling for the destruction of yet another brother nation? Noting here too that the christian Vatican is calling for peace.

      What a shameful mother effing evil warmonger, the saudi regime is.

      I personally would not shed a tear if the ruling members of the House of Saud were hunted down and taken to the Hague, or if they all got assassinated.

      Now put that in your pipe and choke mister cannibal-lover.

    • aiman
      September 6, 2013, 9:07 am

      They are supporting their human rights which are not ordained by riyadh or saudi arabia or bandar bush or the terrorists you adore and support. Imagine yourself a Christian in that Christian village and being attacked by the takfiris you here support. Try to be human for a change.

    • aiman
      September 6, 2013, 9:19 am

      P.S. I know of no other country but saudi arabia that was carved out of the original land (Arabia) to serve the sole interests of cruel princes, upturned Islamic theology by publishing and distributing third-rate texts to burnish their own hegemony, funded sectarianism against minority Shias and Christian and Jews and Muslims, and talked about interfaith dialogue in Europe while prohibiting pluralism in their own country lest it complicate their own royalty, kept their people in darkness and ignorance so no one would revolt, spoke of Islamic values and abused Indonesian women working as maids who mistakenly thought they would be treated well by these devoted Muslims who turned out to be arrogant, self-satisfied hypocrites funding war and ignorance in many lands.

      • Walid
        September 6, 2013, 11:15 am

        That’s a lot of stone throwing going on here, some it undoubtedly deserved but it has to be put into perspective how Saudi Arabia is helping keep America’s economy afloat with its over a trillion invested in it and how it is the biggest financial contributor to other Arab countries in need like Palestine, Jordan or Egypt lately. It’s not to say that all these justify its human rights failures or its meddling in Syria but the good it has done has to be also acknowledged.

      • Taxi
        September 6, 2013, 11:33 am

        Except saudi bad way-way-way outweighs the good, Walid.

      • American
        September 6, 2013, 12:10 pm

        ” how Saudi Arabia is helping keep America’s economy afloat with its over a trillion invested in it and how it is the biggest financial contributor to other Arab countries in need like Palestine, Jordan or Egypt lately”…Walid

        Saudi does all that *for their own royal interest*.
        If they were all that concerned about the needs of Arabs in the region they would have used their financial leverage long ago to end I/P.
        But they traded off any ‘US interference or criticism of the Saud Non Democracy’ for Saudi hands off any real force on Israel’s I/P.
        Their ‘throne’ and ME standing comes first and thats how their money and influence is directed.

      • American
        September 6, 2013, 12:26 pm

        @ Walid

        BTW….a Saudi oil embargo over I/P like ’73 would have 100x’s more impact on the world today than it had in ’73.
        It would send e.ve.r.y country in the global economy into REAL demands that I/P be ended.
        But they wont do that will they?
        It would not take very long to bring Israel to heel this way.

      • aiman
        September 6, 2013, 10:39 pm

        “It’s not to say that all these justify its human rights failures or its meddling in Syria but the good it has done has to be also acknowledged.”

        I think you mean “positive side-effects”, not “good”. As American put it, these are done to keep the monarchs as royal as can be. I’m sure the money-changers in Jesus’s time were also funding a few orphanages here and there to keep their lurid business going.

    • Denis
      September 6, 2013, 1:45 pm

      Ya’ don’t get it, riy.

      In the US the ULTIMATE RED LINE is Muslims wiping out Christians. That NYT article just cancelled Obama’s megalomaniac dreams to bust Assad’s butt.

      As far as the Alawites being butchered, most Americans would probably agree with you. Who gave a damn when the Syrian insurgents wiped out hundreds of Alawite women and children in Latakia on Aug05.13.

      Well, hold on, that Catholic nun in Syria, Mother Agnes, gives a damn — she is about the only person talking about it. Of course, the Catholics don’t control the MSM, so nobody hears what she’s saying, except the Russians.

      link to rt.com

    • aiman
      September 7, 2013, 10:24 am

      riyadh,

      Some noteworthy comments by Chris Hedges on the role of saudi arabia regarding Syria and the impending war against Iran: link to truth-out.org

      JAY: I was at a conference a couple of months ago. I was invited as the press. And it was a lobbying agency that lobbies Middle Eastern governments more or less on behalf of arms manufacturers. I found myself a rather strange table fellow there. But the talk there was all about how much Saudi Arabia wanted the United States to not just deal with Assad, but wants an attack on Iran, and that the Saudis were going to find some way to make this happen.

      HEDGES: And, you know, the Saudis have created more havoc and damage within the Middle East, arguably, in the last two decades than any other country or any other group, including, of course, al-Qaeda.

      JAY: Yeah. I mean, Israel is a story all of its own, of course, but I take your point.

  11. kalithea
    September 6, 2013, 2:48 am

    Here’s what Putin and Assad get that no one else does: Rebels come with a shitload of liabilities.

    Here’s what Americans don’t get: Don’t break it if ya don’t have a clue on how to fix it.

    Billions of dollars later and after hundreds of thousands of dead, people are STILL dying by the dozens every week in Iraq at the hands of “rebels” and Iraq is not not being “helpful” in the Syrian conflict context and getting closer to Iran’s perspective.

    You think the U.S. gives a shet that people are dropping like flies every week in Iraq. NOPE. All that matters is the Zionist objective: IRAN

  12. kalithea
    September 6, 2013, 3:35 am

    Here’s the best possible outcome for Obama’s bombing campaign:

    1. He kills a whole lot of people ON BOTH SIDES – collateral damage
    2. He destroys a lot of infrastructure
    3. He creates millions more refugees
    4. He gets his regime change: a pandora’s box that gets him mired for the rest of his Presidency “herding a bunch of rabid, bloodthirsty cats” that wanna kill each other at every turn.
    5. A whole lot of Christians are murdered
    6. Syria becomes a failed state and a haven for Al Nusra and their friends Al Qaeda
    7. Obama’s successor ends up bombing Syria (repeat 1.2. and 3.)
    8. Another trillion down the rabbit hole and Israel’s STILL not satisfied!

    Here’s the worst outcome:

    a) Assad strikes back
    b) 1.2. and 3. above x 2
    c) Russia supplies him with more sophisticated weaponry
    d) Hezbollah get involved
    e) Israel gets involved and bombs Lebanon and Iran
    f) Iran gets involved; Iraq gets involved
    g) Saudi Arabia gets involved
    h) Nato gets involved
    i) Russia and China get involved
    j) WWIII. (millions dead)
    k) Oil prices; bankruptcies skyrocket
    l) Great Depression II

    • Annie Robbins
      September 6, 2013, 3:45 am

      kalithea, how could you forget? syria gets chopped up into bite sized portions and some of her neighbors encroach/expand at syria’s expense. and just like when we invaded iraq, during the fog of war, israel consumed more of palestine.

    • piotr
      September 6, 2013, 8:15 am

      WWIII? I guess kalithea does not know what does it mean. I feel like such a graybeard.

      When I was a wee lad (a college student, more precisely) I had to take one year of classes of “civil defense” and the most lengthy topic was “defense of socialist place of work under the conditions of the use of weapons of mass destruction”. One exercise was assuming that the center of our hometown is hit with a two megaton bomb and calculating zones of destruction. Zone 1, all stuff above the surface evaporates (metal), crumbles (concrete) or is burned crisp. Zone 2, firestorms, shockwave flattens most of it and firestorms do the rest. For the sake of exercise, we are in Zone 3 close to Zone 2 and cheerfully, as trained, cope with widespread fires, radioactive fallout and so on using improvised shelters and supplies prepared during the time of Highest Alert.

      Later I will sketch a corrected apocalyptic scenario.

  13. NickJOCW
    September 6, 2013, 4:45 am

    …offers a dark insight into how many rebels have adopted some of the same brutal and ruthless tactics as the regime they are trying to overthrow.

    This from the NYT link above is wicked journalism. It recounts the the story of the atrocity, which can scarcely be ignored, while more or less accusing the regime of inspiring it. So much for objectivity.

    …offers a dark insight into how many rebels have adopted some of the same brutal and ruthless tactics as the US in Gitmo.

  14. Walid
    September 6, 2013, 8:26 am

    US State Department just ordered its non-essential American embassy employees out of Lebanon.

  15. W.Jones
    September 6, 2013, 10:10 am

    If you look at the naked backs of the soldiers, they are deep, bright red, showing they were flogged before being killed.

    Otherwise, why is it that their backs are naked?

  16. Justpassingby
    September 6, 2013, 12:44 pm

    Horrific picture, these murders are the ones kerry want to help taking over Syria.

  17. Denis
    September 6, 2013, 2:15 pm

    As it looks more and more like Obama is not going to get Congressional support, it behooves us to review his comments in 2007 as a fast-talking Senator spinning his way into the WH. He said to Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe:

    “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation”

    More at: link to logophere.com

    Now, wouldn’t it be cool if he really believed that then and still does? And if he knew the whole “I’m-takin’-this-to-Congress” schtick had no chance, but that it was a way to get the Israelis off his back and buy some time as more info came available.

    If Congress votes the attack down and Obama accedes to their choice, he will go down in my book as one of the brightest presidents ever, and certainly as the brightest black president ever. But if Congress votes against an attack and Obama blows them off and goes ahead, I will rank him as one of the most mendacious.

    • piotr
      September 6, 2013, 7:26 pm

      It does not look hopeless. The leadership of both parties lost a lot of credibility and while you cannot make it in politics with overly tender conscience, neither you can make it without skills in analyzing opinion polls.

      It gets to the point that Alan Grayson may calculate that raising ire of AIPAC can actually help him getting re-elected, and perhaps even advance within the Republican ranks when the current leadership is replaced. Right-Left uprising is the new trend.

  18. James Canning
    September 6, 2013, 7:10 pm

    Good points!

  19. Walid
    September 8, 2013, 4:44 am

    It’s being reported by the ME press and by CNN (not me), that Ma’loula has fallen to the al-Nusra rebels.

    The al-Nusra look on the historic Christian artifacts of Ma’loula in the same way the Taliban considered the Bamiyan Buddhas, so it gives an idea of what’s probably in store for the town.

    Jim Clancy
    CNN— International Correspondent
    Bio: CNN Correspondent & Anchor ~ International Affairs

    Location: Atlanta, GA U.S.A.

    Beat: World
    #AlNusra retakes #Maaloula as see-saw battle continues – t.co/nriASFHXhC
    about 8 hours agoReplyRetweetFavorite

    Victoria Eastwood
    CNN— Field Producer, CNNi
    Bio: Field producer for CNN, covering potentially everywhere. Previously Africa producer in Johannesburg. All views are my own and not CNN’s

    Location: London
    Beat: World

    As Al Qaeda linked rebels enter #Maaloula, Nic Robertson examines the impact of war on Christians #syria t.co/Gj0CKIiHP9

    about 8 hours agoReplyRetweetFavorite

    Andy Carvin
    NPR— Senior Strategist
    Bio: Senior strategist at NPR. Real-time informational DJ & occasional journalist, but *not* a social media guru. Author of the new book Distant Witness. Proud dad.

    Location: Washington DC

    Beats: U.S., Media

    RT @sarahussein: Situation in #Syria’s #Maaloula changed fast. Yesterday rebels on outskirts, now have taken control, residents and @syriah…

    about 8 hours agoReplyRetweetFavorite

    Sara Hussein
    AFP— Middle East Correspondent, Jerusalem
    Bio: Reporter with Agence France-Presse @AFP in the Middle East. RT/follow does not imply endorsement.

    Beat: World

    Situation in #Syria’s #Maaloula changed fast. Yesterday rebels on outskirts, now have taken control, residents and @syriahr tell @AFP.

    about 8 hours agoReplyRetweetFavorite

    #Maaloula residents and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights tell @AFP that rebels have taken control of Maaloula, north of Damascus

    about 9 hours agoReplyRetweet

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