syria

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This is an extraordinary article from Nadezhda Kevorkova, and the first that I have read that champions Syria as upholder of Palestinian rights!

According to the Palestinians interviewed in Damascus, Assad is being punished for upholding the Palestinian right of return! This is hardly likely to be the full picture but if it does contain even a grain of truth it does raise the question as to why Khaled Mashaal is throwing his weight behind the Syrian rebels from his base in Qatar!

Something here doesn’t add up!

Father Dave

source: rt.com…

Syria is a battle for Palestine

One of the headquarters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command is located in a basement in central Damascus.

All secrecy measures are there: one cannot drive through the area; hidden guerillas everywhere, and several dozen CCTV cameras. This is the Palestinian group whose headquarters and weapons were seized in December last year by the Syrian militants in Yarmouk, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Syria near Damascus.

Several people are sitting in a small room.  These are: member of the PFLP GC Political Bureau Anwar Raja, editor in chief of the Palestinian Forward magazine, Tahsin Al Hаlabi, and about five other companions who come and go while we speak.

Anwar Raja was born in Jaffa. He was ten when the Palestinians were thrown out of the Holy Land. He experienced all the tribulations of the Palestinian struggle firsthand. And Tahsin Al Hаlabi was only 10 months old when his family had to leave their home.

‘I was arrested and sentenced to 12 years in an Israeli prison for the right to see my home. During my time in Nablus prison I learned English, French, German, and Italian. And I speak Hebrew better than settlers in Israel’, he laughs.

‘In order to free him from captivity, we seized three Israeli soldiers’, recalls Anwar Raja.

The PFLP is the pioneer of all forms of the Palestinian struggle. The organization was founded in the 1960s, and it’s always relied for its support on refugee camps. They split with Yasser Arafat because they dismissed any negotiations, agreements or concessions with Israel. Starting from the 1960s, the PFPL managed to establish an expansive international front of struggle for Palestine, reaching out to groups like RAF and the Japanese Red Army. They were the ones who, long before HAMAS, would send out kamikazes on no-return missions. They invented what’s now widely known as suicide bombers. They were also the first ones to hijack Israeli passenger airplanes and Israeli servicemen to swap them for prisoners.

In Syria, most Palestinian training camps and bases belong to the Popular Front. They have always been the key arms suppliers to Palestine and Lebanon as they had networks and long-term experience of underground operations. They’re fundamentally against elections and party lists as they believe these are just irrelevant games while they remember that 7 million Palestinians remain refugees.

Until December 2012, the main PFPL GC headquarters was located in the Yarmouk camp, Damascus, and so was their main arms dump, which was seized by Syrian rebels. Yarmouk was the first Palestinian camp from which the Syrian militants threw out 150,000 Palestinian refugees.

The over 700,000 Palestinians living in Syria are the key target of political and military struggle. According to the PFPL, what’s happening today in Syria is meant to draw them into the conflict, to purge Syria of them, and to downplay the Palestinian issue.

‘Assad punished for refusing to turn away from Palestinians’

‘A very difficult time began for us. All these events will have major implications for Palestine’, says Anwar Raja.

He is really hopeful that Syria can withstand it, and that this is the only way for Palestinians to consolidate their positions. In his opinion, the conflict didn’t start two years ago. It had been predetermined by Syria’s fundamental position on the Palestinian issue. All countries of the region turned away from Palestinians and bargained with the US and Israel, whether explicitly or implicitly. Syria was the only one that didn’t give in, he believes.

‘By 2002 the Israeli flags were raised over all the Arabic capital cities except for Syria’, Anwar Raja comments.

‘The key demand of the Palestinians is the return of the Palestinian refugees. Israel will never agree to it as this would bring its end closer. In 2002, the so-called Arab Peace Initiative in Beirut declared the ‘land for peace’ principle. At that time, only Libya and Assad required introducing the return of the refugees clause’, reminds Anwar Raja.

He believes that following the invasion of Iraq, Qaddafi rejected any Palestinian support, but that wasn’t enough to save him. Bashar al-Assad didn’t turn away from the Palestinians, and that was the reason that the West directed the wave of militants against Syria and spread out the Islamic propaganda that Assad was the root of all their troubles.

‘And now Israel wants to abolish the Palestinian refugee term through the UN’, says the member of the PFLP Political Bureau.

‘Syria didn’t just allow us to stay here. All of our training camps were in Syria, including the Islamic Jihad. Even HAMAS was exercising here in our camps’, explains Anwar Raja. He reminds that at the PFLP reference, HAMAS was able to settle in Syria. ‘We told Hafez al-Assad that HAMAS were fighters, and he allowed them to come over’.

‘The West and the Arabs insist that the war broke out in Syria because the regime had failed to execute reforms. This is just absurd. Syria held the Palestinian issue on the table. Syria personifies the very idea of the refugees’ right to return. In any other country, the Palestinians are just forbidden to talk about politics’, he believes.

‘Palestinian camps in Syria were attacked. The attackers opened fire, provoked and abducted Palestinians. We told the armed opposition that we would not get involved in the armed struggle in Syria, as we were guests there. The Palestinians formed committees for the sake of the camps security. But George Sabra (the opposition leader) stated on TV that they considered Palestinian camps part of Syria. The militants broke into camps. Yarmouk was ransacked. We asked Khaled Mashaal and Mahmoud Abbas to talk to the opposition, but they never played the intermediary role,’ says Tahsin Al Hаlabi.

read the rest of this article here: rt.com…

 

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A fascinating and disturbing analysis here by Melkulangara Bhadrakumar. Bhadrakumar sees the real goal of the visit as being the formal apology to Turkey that the US President squeezed out of Netanyahu!

It is a complex analysis:

  • The purpose of the trip to Israel was the apology to Turkey
  • The purpose of the apology to Turkey was to pave the way for direct intervention in Syria.
  • The purpose of direct intervention in Syria is ultimately to weaken the leadership in Tehran.

Of course it’s not that ‘simple’ either, but politics never is! However we put the pieces together, what emerges clearly is that Obama’s visit didn’t have anything to do with any humanitarian concern for the people of Israel or Palestine, let alone for the Syrians and Iranians!

Father Dave

source: www.info…

Obama Unleashes Dogs of War in Syria

By Melkulangara BHADRAKUMAR

The smoke screen given to the United States President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel has lifted. But then, no one really bought the thesis that it was a mere kiss-and-make-up visit aimed at improving Obama’s personal chemistry with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that prompted the US president to jet down to the Middle East in a rare overseas trip. 

The expose came dramatically at the fag end of the visit just as Obama was about to get into the presidential jet at Tel Aviv airport on Friday. Right on the tarmac, from a makeshift trailer, he dialed up Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and after a brief exchange of pleasantries, he handed the phone to Netanyahu who thereupon went on to do what he had adamantly refused to do for the past two years – render a formal apology to Turkey over the killing of nine of its nationals in 2010 who were travelling in a flotilla on a humanitarian mission to help the beleaguered Palestinians in the Gaza enclave. 

The Gaza incident had ripped apart Turkish-Israeli relations and things deteriorated sharply when Tel Aviv point blank refused to render an apology and pay compensation, as Ankara demanded. This is probably the first time in its entire diplomatic history that Israel, which pays much attention to its «macho» image, went down on its knees to render a national apology to a foreign country for sins committed. But then, the breakdown in ties with Israel left Israel stranded and helpless in the region, reduced to the role of a mere spectator at a historic juncture when the region is going through an upheaval. 

The alliance with Turkey is vital to Israel to safeguard its core interests. In his statement welcoming the Turkish-Israeli reconciliation, US secretary of state pointedly said that the development “will help Israel meet the many challenges it faces in the region” and a full normalization between the two counties will enable them to “work together to advance their common interests”. 

The telephone conversation at Tel Aviv airport didn’t happen all of a sudden. In a background story, senior Turkish editor Murat Yetkin who is a well-informed commentator in Ankara disclosed that according to “high-ranking sources”, Washington had approached Ankara a few weeks ago with the demarche that Obama wished to work on a rapprochement between Erdogan and Netanyahu and hoped to utilize his Israeli visit as a mediatory mission. Yetkin wrote: 

As Ankara said they could accept the good offices of the U.S. to have an agreement with Israel, based on an apology, the diplomacy started. Before the start of Obama’s visit on March 20, diplomatic drafts about the terms of a possible agreement started to go back and forth between Ankara and Jerusalem under the auspices of U.S. diplomacy.

Tell tale signs

The big question is why has Turkish-Israeli normalization become so terribly important for Obama who has his hands full with so many problem areas – and, equally, for Erdogan and Netanyahu as well? The answer is to be found in the testimony given by the head of US European Command and NATO’s top military commander Adm. James Stavridis before the US Senate Armed Services Committee last Monday on the eve of Obama’s departure from Washington for Israel. 

Stavridis advised the US lawmakers that a more aggressive posture by the US and its allies could help break the stalemate in Syria. As he put it, “My personal opinion is that would be helpful in breaking the deadlock and bringing down the [Syrian] regime.” The influential US senator John McCain pointedly queried Stavridis about the possible role of NATO in an intervention in Syria. Stavridis replied that the NATO is preparing for a range of contingencies. “We [NATO] are looking at a wide range of operations and we are prepared if called upon to be engaged we were in Libya,” he said. 

Stavridis went on to explain that the NATO Patriot missiles now deployed in Turkey ostensibly for the sake of defending Turkish airspace has the capability also to attack Syrian air force in that country’s air space and that any such a NATO operation would be a “powerful disincentive” for the Syrian regime. 

Equally significant is that the NATO warships of the Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 [SNMGI], which arrived in the Eastern Mediterranean in late February, visited the Turkish naval base of Aksaz (where Turkey’s Southern Task Group maintains special units such as «underwater attack») recently, en route to joining last week the US Strike Group consisting of the Aircraft Carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and escorts. The SNMGI forms part of the NATO Response Force, which is permanently activated and is held at high readiness in order to respond to security challenges. 

Thus, the picture that emerges – alongside other tell tale signs lately – is that a western military intervention in Syria could be in the making. A major consideration could be the timing. Iran is preparing for a crucial presidential election in June and will be heavily preoccupied with its domestic politics for the coming several months thereafter. 

Obama is moving carefully factoring in that any commitment of US troops on the ground in Syria is out of the question. The US public opinion will militate against another war. But the US and NATO (and Israel) can give valuable air cover and can launch devastating missile attacks on the Syrian government’s command centres. 

The western powers would focus on eliminating President Bashar al-Assad rather than display shock and awe and physically occupy the country, as George W. Bush unwisely did in the Iraq war. However, after degrading the regime comprehensively, if ground forces need to be deployed inside Syria, Turkey can always undertake such a mission. In fact, Turkey is uniquely placed undertake that mission, being a Muslim country belonging to NATO. 

However, the crucial operational aspect will be that in order for the US-NATO-Turkish operation to be optimal, Israel also needs to be brought in. A close cooperation between Turkey and Israel at the operational level can be expected to swiftly pulverize the Syrian regime from the north and south simultaneously. Hence the diligence with which Obama moved to heal the Turkish-Israeli rift. 

Turkey of course has strong motivations – historical, political, military and economic – to invade Syria with which it has ancient scores to settle. The Baa’thist regime in Damascus never accepted Turkish hegemony in the Levant and a strong and assertive Syria has been a thorn in the Turkish flesh. Besides, there are simmering territorial claims. 

For Israel too, the comprehensive destruction of Syria as a major military power in the Middle East means that all three major Arab powers which could offer defiance to Israel in the past and have been the repositories of “Arabism” at one time or another – Iraq, Egypt and Syria – have been dispatched to the Stone Age. 

But the revival of Turkish-Israeli strategic axis has other major implications as well for regional security. From Erdogan’s point of view, he has thoroughly milked the last ounce, politically speaking, by his grandstanding against Israel and Zionism to bolster his image in the «Arab Street» as a true Muslim leader who never lacked courage to stand up for the Arab cause. 

He probably senses that Netanyahu’s «apology» will boost his standing even further as a Muslim leader who made Israel blink in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation. But, having said that, as an astute politician, Erdogan also would size up that henceforth the law of diminishing returns is at work and he might as well now think of seeking some help from Israel. 

The point is, Erdogan is currently pushing for a negotiated deal with the Kurdish militants belonging to the PKK. Last week, it appeared that his efforts may have met with some success. The PKK leader who is incarcerated in Turkey, Abdullah Ocalan, has called for the vacation of the Kurdish militia from Turkish soil, which brings an end to the heavy bloodletting in Turkey’s eastern provinces for the past year and more. 

No more pretensions

A curious detail that cannot be lost sight of is that Ocalan always kept contacts with the US operatives, while Israeli intelligence always kept a strong presence in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. Quite obviously, there could be a back-to-back arrangement on the PKK problem between Washington, Ankara and Tel Aviv, which would work well for all three protagonists. 

It could buy peace for Turkish armed forces from the Kurdish fighters and in turn enable them to concentrate on the forthcoming Syrian operation. Turkey has traditionally depended on Israel to provide it with actionable intelligence on the Kurdish militant groups. 

At a broader level, Turkish-Israeli reconciliation will help NATO’s future role in the Middle East. The US hopes to introduce NATO on a long-term basis as the peacekeeper in the Levant – massive energy reserves have been discovered in the Levant Basin in recent years – and a prerequisite for this would be close coordination with Israel. 

The NATO’s efforts in the past four to five years to bring Israel into full play in Eastern Mediterranean as a virtual member country of the alliance were proceeding well until they hit the bump of the Turkish-Israeli rift in 2010. During the past two years, Turkey has doggedly blocked NATO’s plans to integrate Israel into its partnership program. Ankara even prevented the NATO from extending invitation to Israel to attend the alliance’s sixtieth anniversary summit in Chicago in 2010. 

Suffice to say, in terms of the overall strategic balance in the Middle East, NATO’s projection as a global organization capable of acting as a net provider of security for the region – with or without UN mandate – will be optimal only with Israel’s participation. 

Equally, Turkish-Israeli collaboration at the security and military level has profound implications for the Iran question. Turkey sees Iran as a rival in the Middle East while Israel regards Iran as an existential threat. Both Turkey and Israel estimate that Iran’s surge as regional power poses challenge to their own long-term regional ambitions. Thus, there is a Turkish-Israeli congruence of interests at work with regard to containing Iran in the region. 

The Turkish-Israeli axis can be expected to play a crucial role in the coming months if the US ever decides to attack Iran. 

In sum, Obama’s mediatory mission to Israel and his stunning success in healing the Turkish-Israeli rift resets the compass of Middle Eastern politics. In a way, American regional policies are returning to their pristine moorings of perpetuating the western hegemony in the Middle East in the 21st century, no matter how. 

In the process, the Palestinian problem has been relegated to the backburner; Obama didn’t even bother to hide that he feels no particular sense of urgency about the Middle East peace process. The resuscitation of the Turkish-Israeli strategic axis gives the unmistakable signal that the Obama administration is shifting gear for an outright intervention in Syria to force «regime change». Thereupon, the strong likelihood is that Iran will come in the US-Israeli-Turkish crosshairs… 

Turbulent times indeed lie ahead for the Middle East and Obama’s Israel visit will be looked upon in retrospect as a defining moment in his presidency when he cast aside conclusively and openly even his residual pretensions of being a pacifist. Indeed, he can be sure of a rare consensus in the Congress applauding his mission to Israel, which could have interesting fallouts for his domestic agenda as well. Netanyahu can help ensure that.

Melkulangara BHADRAKUMAR, Former career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. Devoted much of his 3-decade long career to the Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran desks in the Ministry of External Affairs and in assignments on the territory of the former Soviet Union.  After leaving the diplomatic service, took to writing and contribute to The Asia Times, The Hindu and Deccan Herald. Lives in New Delhi.

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Russia has proven to be the new power-player  in the Middle East of late, much to the annoyance of the US and the European Union. It was Russia that prevented the US and NATO from openly arming the rebels in Syria. Now Russia is affirming support for the State of Palestine!

Of course Russia’s role in Syria has been entirely dictated by self-interest as the last Russian military facility outside the former Soviet Union is located in the port of Tartus in Syria, and exists there due to the goodwill of the current Syrian government. Mahmoud Abbas has no similar point of leverage.

Father Dave 

Dmitry Medvedev

Prime Minister of Russia – Dmitry Medvedev

source: http://english.ruvr.ru/2013_03_14/Medvedev-for-cooperation-with-Palestine/

Medvedev for cooperation with Palestine

At a meeting between Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and President of the Palestine Autonomy Mahmoud Abbas in Moscow, Mr. Medvedev said that Russia will always support the efforts of Palestinian leaders to make Palestine a strong and modern state.

He added that Russia is ready to cooperate with Palestine to settle its conflict with Israel, as well as to cooperate with it in the economic and humanitarian spheres.

In his turn, Mr. Abbas said that Palestine’s cooperation with Russia would be much broader if Palestine becomes a sovereign state.

Earlier, Mahmoud Abbas met with President Putin.

During his meeting with the President of the Palestinian autonomy Mahmoud Abbas in Moscow, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said that he hopes for a successful settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Mr. Putin said that Russia will do everything that may depend on it to stabilize the situation in the Middle East.

In his turn, Mahmoud Abbas praised the current level of Russian-Palestinian relations and said that there is every reason to believe in further progress in these relations.

The Russian President noted that Russia and Palestine have long-standing traditions of good relations.

Palestine expects to start peace talks with Israel this year to reach a political settlement through the establishment of two states, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said.

“We hope that substantive peace talks with Israel will begin this year. While these hopes are perhaps not very great, nevertheless, we expect sooner or later to achieve a political settlement based on the principle of the establishment of two states,” Abbas said at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin outside Moscow on Thursday.

read the rest of this article here: http://english.ruvr.ru/2013_03_14/Medvedev-for-cooperation-with-Palestine/

 

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According to this report from the Tehran Times, we’ve had yet another statement from the Iranian President in support of Palestine! It seems that the man is trying to position himself as a bridge-builder  between Shiite and Sunni Muslims through his open support of Hamas.

It would be interesting to know exactly what transpired between Ahmadinejad and Marzook on the subject of Syria. Syria is Iran’s main ally in the region and does not want to see the current regime overthrown. Hamas, on the other hand, have been channeling military personnel into Syria to help topple the Assad government!

Even so, however we understand Syria’s place in the equation, the basic picture for Israel is clear. Muslim countries are uniting more openly around Palestine and Israel is experiencing ever-greater international isolation. And already their last remaining ally – the USA – is starting to waver!

Father Dave

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

source: tehrantimes.com…

Liberation of Palestine, the goal of Muslims, freedom-loving nations: Ahmadinejad

TEHRAN – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that the liberation of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) has become a common goal of all Muslims and freedom-loving nations.

He made the remark during a meeting with Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, a senior member of Hamas, in Tehran on Monday.

A glance at Zionists’ decades-long presence in the region proves that they are in a state of collapse, Ahmadinejad noted.

He added that the Palestinian question is a crucial issue for the whole world, and its liberation is tied with the destiny of the entire region.

The president also reiterated Tehran’s support for the oppressed people of Palestine until they achieve victory.

Commenting on the Syrian crisis, Ahmadinejad noted that it is a high time that all sides in Syria make efforts to settle the conflict through dialogue.

For his part, Marzook said Palestinians can achieve victory over the Zionists only through resistance, emphasizing the need to promote unity between the Islamic Ummah.

The Palestinian official also called for making efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis through mutual understanding.

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Father Roy writes:   The fact is that the Golan Heights belongs to Syria.  What will President Obama say?  What will the International Community say?  What will the US Congress say?  The highlights in this article are mine.   Peace, Roy

Father Roy

Father Roy

source: news.antiwar.com…

Israel Okays Cheney-Murdoch Firm to Drill in Occupied Golan

Ends Multi-Decade Ban on Oil Drilling in Golan Heights

by Jason Ditz

In what is certain to be an enormously controversial decision, the Israeli government has issued a permit to the Genie Energy company to begin drilling for oil in the occupied Golan Heights, despite it still be internationally recognized as part of Syria.

Genie Energy International’s President is retired Israeli General Effi Eitam, a former Likud Housing Minister and MP who has repeatedly called for Israel to “cleanse” the occupied territories of all Arabs, and predicting in a New Yorker interview that eventually “we will have to kill them all.”

Before his successful political career Eitam was investigated for war crimes in the Gaza Strip, after men under his command testified he ordered them to “break the bones” of Palestinian civilians. He was reprimanded after one of the beaten men died.

Genie is well politically connected beyond Eitam, with a special Strategic Advisory Board that includes former Vice President Dick Cheney, News Corporation Head Rupert Murdoch, and several other high profile figures.

Israel “annexed” the Golan Heights in 1981, 14 years after the occupation began, but that is not recognized by any other nation. Israel had refused to grant any oil permits for 20 years, as negotiations were ongoing which were liable to return Golan to Syria as part of a peace deal.

Genie’s experts say they believe a large amount of oil is available under the heights, and that it is in “relatively tight formations.” Energy Minister Uzi Landau allowed the first bids for Golan permits last year, and this gives Genie an “exclusive” license for nearly 400 square kilometers of Syrian territory.

The decision to allow drilling seems certain to start an international incident since it will have major ramifications on any future peace settlement between Israel and Syria