ORB International Surveys in Syria are Probably Worthless.

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ORB International Surveys in Syria are Probably Worthless.

[ Posted by Lara Keller 2/10/17 ]

The UK public opinion survey company ORB International (Opinion Research Business) has conducted several polls inside Syria since 2013 (or is it 2014?). ORB International is owned by Gallup and is described as a “respectable” opinion poll company. They specialize in conducting public opinion polls in foreign conflict and other crisis zones. Their polls have been widely reported in the English speaking media as respectable realistic surveys of Syrian public opinion.

Criticism of ORB mainly relates to 2007 when it used surveys to estimate the number of people who died as a result of the Iraq War. There is little criticism of its surveys in Syria.

In 2015 UK BBC commissioned ORB to conduct a survey inside Syria. The part of the poll that covered Islamic State controlled Raqqa, was criticized in a “Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty (RFERL)” article ( https://www.rferl.org/a/raqqa-happiness-poll-syrian-activists-protest-bbc/27256546.html ) : “While most Syrians said IS had a somewhat negative or completely negative influence, a majority — some 70 percent — of the 53 people polled in IS-controlled Raqqa said IS had a somewhat positive or a completely positive influence on events in Syria.”

A Syrian activist Abu Ibrahim Raqqawi described these results as “crap”. ORB would not provide RFERL with information about the polling methodology used in Raqqa (being parsimonious about methodology information was also a complaint in the ORB Iraq deaths survey). Johnny Heald who runs ORB told the BBC that IS agreed to the poll because “as the data verifies, many of those living in Raqqa now are happier since IS took over.” This suggests ORB sought permission from IS to conduct the poll. Since Islamic State is also widely reported as ruthlessly suppressing free speech, it seems highly unlikely the people surveyed were chosen at random and allowed to freely express themselves.

As the Assad regime has also been widely reported for over forty years as ruthlessly suppressing free speech, it seems highly likely the same problem applies to ORB surveys in regime controlled areas. According to the 2015 survey 67% in regime controlled Damascus felt Bashar al-Assad had a completely positive influence, while 23% felt Assad had a “somewhat positive influence”. In Idlib the figures were 5% and 4%.

There is not much on the ORB International’s slick website about methodology. The BBC article on the ORB poll it commissioned contains more information ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-34173549 ): “ More than 14 supervisors and 40 interviewers travelled throughout the country to collect data. ‘It starts with one week’s training in southern Turkey where the supervisors come to Gaziantep and we go through the methodology, the questionnaire and the quality control procedures,’ Mr Heald said. ‘We pilot the questionnaire before it is fielded. We then ensure we have the relative permits/permissions to operate and undertake a risk assessment.’ ”

It seems likely then that ORB conducted their surveys in regime areas with Assad Regime permission, and must assume with the regime’s supervision in some form. Therefore negative or even neutral attitudes to Bashar al-Assad could not have been freely expressed to the ORB survey, and so it is reasonable to question if these parts of the survey have any meaning.

It also reasonable to suggest that different standards apply to the expected reliability of public opinion polls conducted domestically as opposed to those conducted abroad. In the same way as they do to the reporting of domestic and foreign news. A news reporting organization in the UK like the BBC is held to higher standards of impartiality in domestic reporting than in foreign reporting. In practice it is not expected to always be journalistically objective, but only to balance differing popular domestic opinions. There is no large constituency of pro-Syrian Revolution opinion in the UK, which means the BBC can commission and report dubious surveys from ORB, and not get any backlash. Indeed ORB’s reputation has not suffered in the media market due to their probably highly inaccurate Iraqi death toll survey. As Johnny Heald blithely said it was only an estimate. These estimates influence popular support or opposition to foreign policies, and so potentially effects the lives of millions of people.

The effect of the ORB poll has been reflected in countless internet article like this: “Suppose a respectable opinion poll found that Bashar al-Assad has more support than the Western-backed opposition. Would that not be major news?” ( https://news.alayham.com/content/suppose-respectable-opinion-poll-found-bashar-al-assad-has-more-support-western-backed ). The impression of ORB’s Syria surveys is to reinforce the idea that Assad or Islamic Extremists are highly popular with ordinary Syrians, and so the West’s intervention should be avoided. This closes down the popular debate that is urgently needed on good and bad intervention, which should keep the brutal dictators and the Western vested interests happy.

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Dear Sir Mark Rylance, Listen To Syrians, Not Stop The War Coalition

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 [By Lara Keller Last Updated 6th June 2017]

Dear Sir Mark Rylance, Listen To Syrians, Not Stop The War Coalition

Dear Sir Mark Rylance,

My apologies to you as patron of Stop The War Coalition, I did not realize this when I wondered why you were doing a fundraiser for STWc at the Pasha Islington in London on 7th December. It is comforting to think of the many British citizens who have received knighthoods for services to tyrants around the world that the British elites have favoured. Your knighthood is clearly for acting and services to the film and theatre industries etc, but your “Stop The War’s Coalition” campaign against the Arab Democratic Uprising must have found their supporters in the dictator hugging British elitist London clubland. Well done Sir Mark for getting a knighthood from a Tory government. You continuing patronage of Stop The War Coalition will be an even more valuable tool to camouflage the hard-left agenda of this neo-SWP organization.

Happy New Year and God Bless You Lara Keller

P.S. The people of Syria have suffered from a brutal self-serving Assad Clique dictatorship since 1970, which has used systematic torture and cynical division as its tools of governance. Any ideas how they get rid of the Assad Clique without any threat of military force? Perhaps culture will do the trick, Shakespeare?, a performance of Macbeth in Damascus, most of his inner circle understand English, they need it to arrange transfers of Syria’s wealth to tax havens, perhaps Macbeth, how could they not dwell on the lines “Thou marvell’st at my words, but hold thee still; Things bad begun make strong themselves by ill.” What better summary of the Assad regime? Think on this as you lie in your bed, protected by rights that every human being seeks, even Arabs.

On Tue, Nov 29, 2016 at 12:58 PM, mr@markrylance.co.uk <mr@markrylance.co.uk> wrote:
THANKS FOR LETTING ME KNOW YOUR POINT OF VIEW LARA,

MARK

Meryl Robertson
Assistant to Mark Rylance
07852 342 493

On 16 Nov 2016, at 20:39, Lara Keller <larakeller1937@gmail.com> wrote:

Why is Mark Rylance doing an Xmas Fundraiser for Stop The War? Stop the War are run by an ideologically driven group of ex-SWP Trots who are not pacifists in the true sense, but political opportunists. They campaign to block effective action against the brutal Assad and Putin regimes (and other MENA dictators) by promoting misinformation and rhetoric. Is this what Mark wishes to have his good name attached to, as STW promotion opportunity? While their PR clients Putin and Assad mount an ever bigger blitzkrieg against Syrians opposing this brutal dictatorship?

The reality of Stop The War has been known for some years now. Please see below some extracts that might aid your discussion:

Why Stop the War don’t want to listen to Syrians, Syria Solidarity UK, 12 November, 2015

THE FIRST [Stop The War LIE]

Denying the first, Stop the War say Andrew Murray’s position is that ISIS can only be defeated by strong and credible governments in Syria and Iraq. If Andrew Murray does not mean Assad when he talks of a Syrian government, what does he mean? Elsewhere he makes clear that he is against the fall of Assad, saying that a no-fly zone should be opposed because “regime change is the real agenda.”

Andrew Murray also calls on foreign powers to abandon “all the preconditions laid down for negotiations,” language that echoes the Assad regime and its backers in Moscow. Why? Because there is just one precondition that is contested: the demand that Assad step down. This was not originally a Western demand, but first and foremost a Syrian demand.

So Andrew Murray’s “strong and credible government” is one where there is no change of regime, and no demand for Assad to step down: in other words, a continuation of the Assad regime.

There is no lie here.

(http://leftfootforward.org/2015/11/why-stop-the-war-dont-want-to-listen-to-syrians/)

The Stop the War Coalition should do us all a favour and disband [Sunday 31 August 2014]

“The Stop the War Coalition of today does not represent mainstream or even consistent opinion, if it ever did. Its leaders are hardly mainstream: its former chair, Andrew Murray, is still a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain; there are long-standing historic links to the Socialist Workers’ Party; and vice-president Kamal Majid is a founding member of the Stalin Society. Uncle Joe, you may remember, was not a great valuer of human life, although I am sure Mr Majid would disagree.”

(http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/the-stop-the-war-coalition-should-do-us-all-a-favour-and-disband-9702292.html)

Statement on the upcoming Stop the War event at the House of Commons (Thursday, 29 October 2015)

Unfortunately, the upcoming 2nd November meeting at the House of Commons advocates a policy that is utterly divorced from the horrific reality experienced by civilians currently under attack by Russian and Assad regime aerial bombardments.

We categorically reject any policy proposal, be it for intervention or non-intervention that is not formulated in consultation with Syrian civic, medical or humanitarian workers.

(http://www.syriauk.org/2015/10/statement-on-upcoming-stop-war-event-at.html)

Leila al-Shami on Stop the War, 12th September 2015

Over the past few days, demonstrations have been held in London and elsewhere to oppose the UK bombing Syria. The demonstrations were organized by the Stop the War Coalition (STW), an organization which has long adopted a counter-revolutionary position on Syria. Since the start of the uprising in 2011 STW has refused to acknowledge the agency of the oppressed Syrian people struggling against a fascist regime or to support their struggle in any form, preferring to see the current conflict only through a geopolitical lens. Their selective anti-imperialism means they’ve only ever opposed Western intervention in Syria (even when this was not a reality) and refuse to actively oppose Russian or Iranian intervention. They have never called for any action against Assad or opposed the war he has waged on the Syrian people, raining down barrel bombs and targeting civilian areas with Scud missiles for over four years. It is this war which has been the main cause of civilian deaths in Syria and which has created the vacuum and desperation giving rise to Daesh. These ‘progressives’ have consistently refused to give a platform to revolutionary Syrians. They have even, shamefully, called the police to remove Syrians present at a recent meeting. Conversely, they give non-Syrian apologists for the Assad regime a voice, people such as the odious George Galloway and massacre-denier Mother Agnes.

At the demonstrations organized by STW some present were holding Baathist flags and pictures of the mass-murderer Assad. Seriously, a blatant fascist presence was considered acceptable at a protest organized by people who describe themselves as leftists. It is no wonder that their demonstrations were small (compared to the heyday of the Iraq war demos), with no large scale Syrian or Muslim presence. I am sure many who oppose the bombing of Syria would feel alienated joining a protest organized by those who ally themselves with a regime that practices torture on an industrial scale, sodomizes its opponents with broken bottles, and gasses civilian neighbourhoods. One of the speakers at the event held last Saturday, Tariq Ali (once considered a ‘radical’, so I’m told) rhetorically called for Britain to ally itself with Assad and Russia if it wanted to defeat Daesh. This was based on his erroneous claim that Russia is actually attacking Daesh, whilst the evidence shows that the majority of Vlad the Invader’s attacks are aimed at anti-Assad forces (which have also been fighting Daesh since January 2014) and civilians in areas with no Daesh presence. As for Assad, not only has he not attacked Daesh until recently (to gain international legitimacy as a partner in the ever expanding War on Terror) but has actively facilitated its growth.

Jeremy Corbyn, the current leader of the British Labour Party who has been the Chair of STW for the past four years and has now appointed the Stalinist and Putin supporter Seumas Milne as the party’s director of communications, is giving his party’s members the choice of whether to back joining the US coalition or not. To help them make up their minds he has invited Patrick Cockburn to brief Labour MPs on Syria ahead of the vote. Patrick Cockburn openly supports the fascist mass murderer Assad, has called for Britain to ally with Assad’s imperialist sponsors Russia and Iran, has consistently slandered Syrian rebels as ‘Al Qaeda’, makes shit up in his writing like pretending to be an eyewitness to massacres which likely never happened, and recommends Donald Trump’s analysis on the Middle East. Does anyone really consider these people progressives? As an anarchist, it seems to me that the statist ideologies of both left or right have much more in common with each other than any values or principles I adhere to.

( https://pulsemedia.org/2015/12/09/leila-al-shami-on-stop-the-war/ )

An “Anti-War” Movement in the West in Relation to Syria Is An Oxymoron

Thank you for this thoughtful article (“Socialists and Wars in the 21st Century?—?The Case of Syria.”)

One of the problems we face in a discussion around how to be anti-war in practice, is that the discussion is crippled by the one-dimensional framework of pro-war versus anti-war.

For all the anti-war movements I have supported or participated in, the actual content is never really limited to “opposing war.” While the existence of war is a sad commentary on the backwardness of the human race, the solution to that backwardness is in removing the causes of war.

Only strict pacifists always advise both sides in a war to simply put down their guns and stop fighting. In practice, one side following this advice only allows victory for the other power.

Thus in Vietnam “anti-war” meant that the U.S. and its allies should stop their war-making, NOT that the Vietnamese should stop their war of liberation. Opposition to the Contra war in Nicaragua, again, was in reference to the U.S. which created and supplied those forces, not a call for the Sandanistas to stop the defense of their country (anymore than we would have opposed the revolutionary war they had conducted against the Somoza dictatorship).

When we had “anti-war” demonstrations against the impending Iraq war, we never meant that the Iraqis should abandon their military defenses. In all such examples, “anti-war” really meant opposing the war-making of one side, but in effect justifying the military efforts of the oppressed nation under attack. It was only because the main enemy in each case were our own imperialist ruling classes that the term “anti-war” was a convenient and popularly formulated slogan expressing that content, in which we were actually (and unashamedly!) taking sides.

That is why an “anti-war” movement in the West in relation to Syria is an oxymoron. Obviously the revolution and civil war in Syria was not a result of any war-making on the part of Western imperialism (despite various fictions to the contrary). We should take the side of the oppressed in Syria every bit as much as we did in the above examples. But?—?unless you live in Russia or Iran?—?using the term “anti-war” doesn’t really specify which side you are on. And using that term robotically can only increase confusion and promote the myth that their revolution is a Western imperialist plot.

In other words, the discussion that Richard Fidler encroached upon was already distorted by the starting point: how to build an “anti-war” movement in the West. Rather, we need to start with the concept of building a solidarity movement with the oppressed. Only from that starting point can we formulate popular slogans and demands and determine if and how terms such as “anti-war” can be applied to those efforts.

— Jeff Meisner via Marxmail.

( https://medium.com/@_alhamra/an-anti-war-movement-in-the-west-in-relation-to-syria-is-an-oxymoron-ecf1a90b03bb#.82rduf5bc )

God Bless You
Lara Keller

God save us. God save Syria.

 [By Lara Keller Last Updated 6th June 2017]

God save us. God save Syria.

Been watching UK’s BBC Newsnight coverage (13/12/16) of the fall of Aleppo. The comments of the speakers ex ambassador Sir Tony Breton and the Times columnist Matthew Parris nailed for me the elitist, myopic, inhumane and neo-racism of the Western establishment. They also managed to sound just like the elitist, inhumane, dogmatic hard-left in the West. I can see how (but can never sympathise with) those people who turn to violent Islamic extremism.

Breton was UK ambassador to Russia. He says Putin could see a choice between Assad and Islamism (assume he always means extremist Islamism) in Syria and choose Assad. He says the backbone of the Syrian Opposition is at its core Islamist, and if they had won would have set up an extremist Islamist government. According to Breton all Western intervention in the Middle East must make things worse, he cites Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Syria.

Apparently the region must sort out its own problems. This is utterly impossible as “people power” means nothing when up against dictatorships with advanced weaponry. As Libya and Tunisia show even when the dictator goes, there is a strong counter revolution against Arab democracy lead by the fabulously well-resourced Sunni monarchies to stop the rebuilding of economies and disrupt security.

Then there is bloody smug Matthew Parris. According to him the West picked the wrong side in Syria, we did not know who the rebels were and what type of government they would form. We should have stood back. Assad was in a stronger position than the West understood. No one has told him that the West has stood back, and this allowed Iran and Russia to fill the gap. This is a so called British journalist.

According to Parris there is a limit to what the West can do, it is not our fight, and getting involved would involve attacking the Russian military. He says it is better that Assad wins in Aleppo, and I assume he would extend this argument to all Syria.

No one has told him about the 45+ years of brutal oppressive Assad government. That the Assad Clique controls a country in which most Syrians do not exist, and inequality rises year by year. He has not registered that millions of Syrians have been plunged into poverty, hunger, siege or exile; 100,000s killed and 10,000s tortured to death, almost all by the bloody Assad regime or its allies. He does not register the incredible courage of a people who stood against a regime that had ruled for 40 years by the use of systematic torture.

What conditions would Breton and Parris accept for providing adequate support to an uprising against a brutal dictatorship? Should also add all in the name of extending democracy to a region bordering Europe. According to Breton there must be a “clear ability” to form a democratic government, with he suggests little outside help. Otherwise “do not get involved”.

Look, the Syrian Opposition are the people of Syria, not the people holding the weapons. That is obvious. Islam is the religion of the region, and surprisingly many people want its principles to influence future governments, this does not make them Islamist extremists. For fuck sake when you are up against the advanced Assad war machine backed for decades by advanced weapons from the Russians, you need belief, you need belief in God. That is not a crime.

There are some Islamist extremists, just as there were or are in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Tunisia …. Because they get funding, and they get funding because the Sunni monarchies and Shia clerics have oil resources to throw at them. The reason is these elites do not want democracy or representative government of any type in the Middle East. These extremists exist in the climate of dictatorships with advanced weapons, a world that could not careless and having to fight against incredible odds. In other words they are a product of deep despair, anger and frustration.

Supporting the Syrian Opposition with weapons to fight Assad and his foreign militias is possible. The armed Syrian Opposition has the advantage that they are almost all Syrians fighting for their homeland. Most of those fighting for Assad are Shiite militias from Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Afghanistan and even Yemen. Assad relies on the Russians for an air-force and military supplies.

It is possible to provide consequences for the Assad military machine when war crimes are committed by Assad gangs, his allies or the Russians. This can be done by missile attack from beyond Syria’s borders. There is no need to engage Russian forces directly.

It is possible to supply adequate weapons to armed Syrian Opposition to defeat Assad gangs on the ground. It is possible to provide air defence systems to the opposition, to at least prevent helicopter and low level aircraft attacks. These weapons depend on sophisticated and vulnerable electronics to be effective. They can and have been made time and or GPS location dependent.

Providing supplies to the Syrian Opposition to build security of all types (military, food, shelter, medical) gives a government legitimacy, and enables a central leadership to create a control structure. Crisis is not inevitable, it can be fought by empowering Syrians to sort out their own problems.

So most of the crap spouted by Breton and Parris falls away. The real reason why the elites in the West do not want to get involved in Syria, is that they cannot see the point, even if a representative government replaces Assad.

The elites in the West can live with the crushing of the Syrian people. Refugees can always been turned away by building bigger fences. The increased number of extreme Islamists caused by the betrayal of Syria, may kill some Westerners, but this can be dealt with by limiting people’s rights, more of a police state, exactly what elites want to keep down the discontent about rising inequality and crises of a debt not redistribution driven economy.

The truth is that Putin has an expansionist agenda. In the West the rising far-right are waiting to take power under the disguise of populism. The very elites who smugly watch as Syria is mown down are not immune and neither are we. We the millions of people who live with hard fought rights from the past in the West, but who are now indifferent to the spirit of democracy.

All it takes is a Trump presidency this year to be followed by a Le Pen presidency next year. God save us. God save Syria.

It is absurd for Syrians not to have representative government.

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 [By Lara Keller Last Updated 6th June 2017]

It is absurd for Syrians not to have representative government.

The statement “it is absurd for Syrians not to have representative government” is the starting point for any discussion on the Syrian Revolution.  Apologists for the Assad regime regularly claim that Syria has always had free elections and the dictator Bashar Assad is wildly popular. This claim contradicts all the evidence of human right abuses, the size and brutality of the security brigades, censorship of the media, extent of inequality and the amount of wealth held in offshore tax havens. All this going back to 1970 and the beginning of the current regime with Hafez Assad’s illegal military coup against the Baarthist regime that had ceased power in 1963.

The regime and it’s apologists also claim the Syrian Revolution is not valid because it is composed of terrorist extremists. This is not true, and anyway the central issue is what the majority of the Syrian people want, rather than the composition of the armed opposition to regime. According to academics like Charles Lister, who closely studies these armed groups, a minority of the armed opposition are extremists. Groups that compile statistics on human rights violations, state that the regime, its foreign militias and Russian military are responsible for around 90% of violations, including civilian deaths.

The next claim is that the Syrian Revolution should be allowed to fail, because the opposition faces both Iran and Russia (backed financially by China). The Assad regime therefore cannot be defeated. Any attempt to escalate this “proxy war” by the West, by  giving more support to the opposition would lead to an unlimited war.

This amounts to appeasing Assad, Iran, Russia and China over Syria. After five years of brutal struggle against incredible odds this betrayal of the Syrian Revolution is utterly repulsive, but so also is the continuation of the war.

The “proxy war” claim ignores an essential reality. The elites in the West have no interest in empowering ordinary people anywhere, especially in the Middle East. The opponents of the Syrian Revolution are the elites in Syria (Assad Clique), Iran (clerical dictatorship), Russia (Putin dictatorship),  China(dictatorship), the Western elites (in US,Europe….) and the Sunni Dictatorships (Saudi Arabia, Egyptian Military Elite….). Western governments have had to pretend to support the Arab Democratic Uprising of 2011 onward, because their voters expect support for the concept of democracy in public.

In this realistic context the claim of “proxy war” needs to be reexamined. This “global elite” is not only fighting to prop up repressive government in Syria. It is also attempting to extend authoritarian government into the West. This year Trump and the UK’s Brexit. Next year potential Marine Le-Pen presidency in France, and a Geert Wilders government in Holland. All these victories for the far-right supported by the Putin Russian regime. The Western economies also sit on an ever growing debt crisis. Political upheavals and economic crises could easily form a self perpetuating machine driving the West towards authoritarianism, while authoritarian regimes support each other in securing these disasters.

So a war between the “global elite” and ordinary people is already being fought, with the ongoing Arab Democratic Uprising and the Syrian Revolution a part of it.

If Assad and Putin are appeased in Syria, then this will only lead to greater gambles by elites and more desperate extremism among ordinary people, resulting in more and deeper conflicts. The Syrian Revolution must succeed, as quickly as possible. This will happen by providing proper military and humanitarian support to the Syrian Opposition and by direct consequences on the Assad regime for war crimes that it or its allies commit. This support will strengthen the Syrian Opposition, by insisting it only goes to those who demonstrate a clear commitment to an inclusive representative government in the new Syria.

It is time to judge anyone in the West who claims to be “progressive”, or any leader who claims to have “democratic values”, by whether they support the Syrian Revolution.

 

 

 

 

Excellent summary of West progressives’ betrayal of Syrians

 

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[By: Mark Boothroyd, Facebook Post, 29th November 2016 …. Last Updated by Lara Keller 6/6/17]

Excellent summary of West progressives’ betrayal of Syrians

[start post]

The crushing of Aleppo was designed and implemented by the governments in Damascus, Tehran and Moscow, and permitted to occur by the governments in Washington, Berlin, London and Paris, but it was also aided and abetted by what passes for the Left and progressive forces globally.

How could Putin and Assad be reducing a city of 250,000 to rubble, without a hint of public opposition, if not for the lies, slander, misinformation, distortion and outright racism heaped on the Syrian revolt by hundreds of “anti-war”, “socialist” and “progressive” organisations?

These lies, slanders, the careful spreading of doubt and uncertainty, have all played a role in disabling and undermining any attempts to build solidarity with the revolt worldwide.

Whether with the gruesome adoption of “war on terror” language and narratives, whereby anyone supporting Syrian revolutionaries is supposedly backing Al-Qaeda or ISIS, or the more subtle, political and ultimately disempowering “anti-imperialist” arguments that we should concentrate on our own Westerns governments, that there was nothing we should or could do about Russian or Iranian interventions in Syria, the “Left” and it’s representatives played a key role in undermining solidarity with the Syrian revolt.

How else to explain the inaction? Over 500,000 have been killed, yet there have been none of the mass mobilisations which greeted the US attack on Iraq, or Israel’s periodic assaults on Gaza, or its war on Lebanon. Syrians protested for years demanding help, and were greeted with silence and inaction.

Russia and Assad bombed 120 schools in 2015, yet did a single teachers union protest this atrocious attack upon children and the right to education? 71 hospitals have been bombed by Russia and Assad in the last 6 months, but has a single health union worldwide condemned these atrocious attacks upon medical staff and civilians? Tens of thousands have been tortured to death is Assads dungeons, but this doesn’t stop leftists talking positively about the “stability” of the Assad regime versus the “chaos” and “extremism” of the rebel areas. The Syrian army employed mass rape as a tactic against women, yet feminist organisations remained silent, or focused instead on the lack of women in conservative rebel groups, or the presence of the hijab and niqab in opposition areas, versus the “secularism” of the regime controlled areas.

250,000 civilians have been besieged and are in the process of being bombed, starved and massacred in Aleppo, yet no anti-war organisation has called a protest against this. It’s left to Syrians themselves, liberal human rights groups and Syria solidarity groups to organise the only protests against this horrific massacre.

There can be no excuses for this. The Syrian conflict is the most well documented in history. It’s playing out on our television screens every night. “I didn’t know” won’t work as a reason for doing nothing. “It was too complicated” will just seem like studied ignorance. “I didn’t know what to do” will explain the vast majority of people, but what of the political activists, those who claim to have the answers, to believe in struggle for a better world? What can they say?

What can we say? Little, except that we failed. Or didn’t even try. And the entire world is going to pay the price of that failure. Is already paying the price of that failure. The price is Brexit, Trump, Le Pen, Orban, Sisi, and every other authoritarian, strongman or fascists who has ridden to power on the effects of the chaos spread by the Assad regime in Syria. The chaos that the Left did nothing to stop, and much to aid and abet.

[end post]

Criticism of detached myopia of West-centric expert Marc Lynch on Syria.

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[By Lara Keller Last Updated 6th June 2017]

Criticism of detached myopia of West-centric expert Marc Lynch on Syria.

Please see the recent article in “war on the rocks”: http://warontherocks.com/2016/10/whats-really-at-stake-in-the-syria-debate/#comment-852041

This article suffers from a number of basic limitations:

1. The objectives of the Syrian activists are to end the war, reduce human suffering and end the brutal dictatorship of the Assad Clique. All these goals are essential, as anyone with a sufficient knowledge of the regime and the recent Syrian conflict will know. The tone of this article is not just detached in the non-partisan sense, but detached from the idea of Syrians as agents of their own destiny.

2. The “interventionist ideas” are wider than the author suggests. I would suggest looking at Charles Lister (http://warontherocks.com/2016/09/a-plan-for-winding-down-the-syrian-civil-war/). The wrong concept is being used by the author. The strategy is about partnership, blocking or making counter-productive the use of advanced weapons to blitz the opposition into submission, and provide sufficient resources to enable the Syrian opposition to structure itself, and provide security in terms of safety, food, medical and housing security.

3. This conflict is the result of an uprising against 45+ years of brutal dictatorship based on mass torture, murder and exploitation. The “strategic trajectory of the war” can be changed if the Syrian opposition has the tools, and is sheltered from advanced weapons of mass terror.

4. The structure of the conflict is dependent on the nature of external support. Assad has the advantage of committed foreign supporters, committed to the preservation of his dictatorship. The opposition has had little and confused support from the West. The Sunni authoritarian regimes of the Gulf do not want the opposition to win and cannot be seen to allow it to lose too easily.

5. The author assumes that Shiite militias from Lebanon, Iran and Afghanistan are full of fighters who are glad to fight and die in Syria. They are mostly mercenaries bought or forced into this struggle. Even Assad’s Alawite militias are finding it hard to find fresh recruits, for a regime that has confined the fruits of exploitation to a narrow circle. Everyone is extremely tired of the conflict, but Assad has a fundamental problem. Assad depends on advanced weaponry, which is only successful because the opposition has no effective counter measures.

6. The “horrifying cost” of the conflict includes for Syrians an endless Assad dictatorship if he wins. The author does not seem to grasp this. He seems unaware what Syrians have endured for the last 45+ years, and that this cannot continue as inequality increases each year.

7. The resources of Iran and Russia are exaggerated by the author, in the concept of endless escalation. Their military strength is more illusion than reality. Russia has escalated involvement, not just because the opposition were making advances, but also because of the West’s reluctance to give adequate support. The failure of the West to respond to outrages by the Assad regime, effectively gave the green light to closer Russian involvement.

8. Syria is not principally a civil war. It is an uprising of an opposition demanding representative government against a brutal dictatorship. This is not to say that sectarianism has grown as a problem, with authoritarian regimes in the region wishing to fuel it.

9. A strategy of consequences against Assad regime military resources for serious war crimes and a strong adequately equipped opposition, would have led to a political solution long ago. The author gives the impression that Assad can escalate the conflict at will. The resources open to him depend on the calculations of his authoritarian supporters. The author invokes the “logic of strategic bargaining” as if the nature of the external backers of the sides in the Syrian conflict are similar. The authoritarian regimes in Russia, Iran and Syria rely for their legitimacy on the illusion of their inflated strength. Appeasement by the West has encouraged escalation by inviting these regimes to bolster this illusion at low risk. Remember how the Soviet Union collapsed after its disastrous illusion destroying involvement in Afghanistan.

10. The ethical imperative to support the Syrian people is not only due to the terrible human cost, but because a people stood up to a brutal dictatorship that has ruled since 1970 by the threat and use of systematic torture. This physical and moral courage is fundamental to all progressive instincts.

11. The author is wrong, as a lot of the argument is about “the moral calculus of action”. There is a strange wish by many progressives to become apologists for Assad, based on dodgy so called “non-corporate” media sources which are just cheap propaganda channels.

12. Activists in the West respond to the courage of the Syrian people and their suffering which is overwhelming the responsibility (around 90%) of Assad and Putin regimes. They are well aware of the failures of previous “interventions” in the MENA in the last two decades. Progressives have only been involved in blind opposition to intervention, and have not attempted to shape policies of constructive partnership with people in the MENA region. They do not feel that the West must act regardless of the chances of success. There is a problem with the wider public who feel something should be done, but have been convinced to believe that past actions have not been grossly inadequate, and that this shows that little can be done.

13. The article referenced by the author by John McCain is not about forceful action for its own sake. His argument is that conflicts in the MENA region, around authoritarianism and sectarianism will be exacerbated by the Assad regime remaining in power. He is highlighting the costs of inaction.

14. The author states that for critics “The lessons of Iraq and Libya loom appropriately large”. These critics come with assumptions that lead to large distortions of the truth. They lack scepticism of the myopia, competence or motivations of those responsible for Western “intervention”. They do not listen with sufficient attention to the people deeply involved with the struggle in these countries. The real lesson of Iraq is that it was an invasion designed to create chaos in a deeply sectarian alienated environment. The real lesson of Libya is that it was an uprising, which received insufficient support for the opposition to create an effective government after the ousting of Gaddafi, against the spoiling actions of MENA dictatorships.

15. The next Clinton administration may take the approach in Syria of repeating the mistakes of the past. It would do well to discount experts like the author Marc Lynch on the grounds of detachment from the reality of Syria, discount the subtle polished Assad apologists and instead listen to Syrians. Get to the people deeply interested in the welfare and rights of ordinary Syrians.

Stunning Article Syria’s Voice of Conscience Has a Message for the West

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Stunning Article Syria’s Voice of Conscience Has a Message for the West

[Last Updated by Lara Keller 7/6/17]

Stunning interview with Yassin Saleh https://theintercept.com/2016/10/26/syria-yassin-al-haj-saleh-interview/ “Syria’s-Voice of Conscience-Has a Message for the West”.

One commentator asked after reading the article, why the left should not be anti interventionist. This is how I condensed Yassin’s words to answer this as best I could:

“Yassin Saleh is critical of the nature of US military intervention, while he criticizes the left in the West for being anti “all intervention” that involves military force. This means there is some types of military intervention he would support. Syrian activists are pushing for a No Bomb Zone for example (see http://www.syriauk.org/p/no-bomb-zone.html strategy less risk than no fly zone).

Yassin repeats in this article that the right concept is about empowering Syrians. A partnership rather than an intervention. Syrians need to provide security for their society. An accountable organized force cannot be created without weapons and training. A credible government needs access to resources to provide food, health and housing security. There needs to be consequences to the Assad regime of its war crimes or those carried out by Putin in its name. This is the intervention that progressive people in the West should be demanding, in real solidarity with Syrians.

We have absolutely failed, while many practice high sounding hypocritical skepticism of the Syrian opposition. Are they moderate? Are they organized? Are they genuine? When we are totally useless. Government elites in the West have no policy. It is up to you to use your anger to demand a policy that supports the Syrian people. We must be active not passive critics. To do nothing and appease the “Eurasian Fascism” of Putin will be expensive, homicidal and worse than useless. Make instead for effective partnership.”

Examination of Pro Assad Attitudes in Briefing Paper for UK Labour Party MPs.

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Examination of Pro Assad Attitudes in Briefing Paper for UK Labour Party MPs.

[Last Updated by Lara Keller 7/6/17]

Introduction:

A copy of the UK Labour Party briefing paper for MPs before the Syria debate in Parliament on the 11th October 2016 was leaked. The document is seriously flawed. It does not provide MPs with accurate information that reflects reality. More seriously the document is structured to provide support for the propaganda lines of Assad and Putin Regimes. This is curious for a progressive democratic socialist party, and needs to be thoroughly investigated.

The briefing document is available at http://www.syriauk.org/2016/10/leaked-labour-briefing-on-syria-shows.html (and copy https://partnershipblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/18/uk-labour-partys-dishonest-leaked-briefing-paper-to-mps-prior-to-syria-debate-on-141016/)

Have analysed the document by considering each section by its relationship to reality and the nature of any distortions. Given the authoritarian rule of the Putin regime, and its control of the media, I have to use the term “Putin regime” rather than Russia, as the responsibility for the actions of the military belongs to Putin not the Russian people.

1. “Top Lines” Section.

The briefing paper starts with a statement on Aleppo “we need an ever more urgent and concerted effort by the international community to end the violence on all sides”. The reality is that civilians in East Aleppo are besieged and being bombarded by the air forces of Assad and Putin regimes. This is asymmetrical warfare with Assad and Putin as the main sources of violence.

It continues “If deliberately-targeted, attacks on civilian targets or humanitarian aid convoys, whether by Russian or Syrian forces, are clear war crimes for which there can be no excuse, and for which they must be held to account.” There can be no real doubt that the Assad and Putin regimes have been deliberately targeting civilians. The use of barrel bombs and “double tap” airstrikes on hospitals and bakeries leaves no doubt.

The answer is not anger but “we need all sides to get back around the negotiating table as soon as possible, calm the rhetoric, and start afresh on the hard work of securing a ceasefire, isolating the Jihadist extremists, opening safe channels for humanitarian aid to besieged areas, and negotiating a lasting peace.”

The reality is that “Jihadist extremists” applies to the large Shiite militias being used by the Assad regime, more than it does to the 10-15% of extremists on the Syrian Opposition side (see breakdown on opposition for Dec 2015 at http://www.syriauk.org/2015/12/who-are-syrian-rebels.html). The briefing also ignores the underlying problem of the large Alawite so called “security” forces, who were formed by Hafez Assad (45+ years ago) to protect the regime by the use of terror from the Syrian people.

The briefing paper accepts the Assad regime propaganda line that they are fighting Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (Al-Nusra). “…. we would urge the government to give the UK’s support to the proposal from the UN’s Syria Envoy Steffan de Mistura to ensure a safe escort from Aleppo for fighters belonging to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham to remove one clear obstacle from the chances of securing a lasting ceasefire in the city.” Fighters from Jabhat Fateh al-Sham are at most 10% of the 4000 fighters defending Eastern Aleppo against the regime (see Reuters http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-nusra-idUSKBN12E0R6 ). The reality is that the Assad regime will not change its rhetoric if they leave. The regime’s propaganda portrays all armed opposition fighters as extremists.

This section of the briefing paper gives the impression that the conflict in Aleppo is between two equally culpable sides.

2. “Lines on fight against Daesh (Islamic State)” Section.

This section states that the airstrikes in Iraq against Daesh are legal under international law because the Iraqi government requested them. Assad also uses this argument in claiming the bombing by Russia is legal because his regime requested it. Although in reality Assad regime cannot be considered the legitimate government of Syria because it is conducting a genocidal war against Syrians.

3. “Lines on the refugee crisis” Section.

There are no concrete suggestions except to provide more funding to councils to welcome the few refugees from Syria who make it to the UK.

4. “Background” to the Syrian Crisis section.

4.1 “The Syrian Civil War”

The briefing paper provides a wholly inadequate history of the Syrian Revolution. It states that problems began in Derra in 2011 when teenagers were tortured, several demonstrators were killed which resulted in nationwide protests. “By July 2011, hundreds of thousands had taken to the streets, and opposition supporters eventually began to take up arms.”

The reality is that the Assad regime was founded in 1970 by Hafez Assad who set up five “security forces” to spy on each other, and terrorise the population with the threat of systematic torture. Hafez’s obsession was the security of the regime. His son had backtracked on earlier reforms, and over 81.7% of Syrians wanted the regime to leave power by 2011. [see page 30, “Survey Findings: Syria 2011 Public Opinion Survey, Angela Hawken, September 20th 2011, Report Prepared for The Democracy Council of California” (important see note 1 below)].

The peaceful uprising of the Syrian people was brutally repressed by the regime by the use of torture and murder on an industrial scale. Tens of thousands of Syrians have been tortured to death by the regime (see the 55000 photos smuggled out of Syria by “Caesar” in 2014). In 2013 the regime launched a massive chemical attack against civilians in Ghouta, killing at least a thousand people.

The Syrian Network Of Human Rights has analysed statistics for causalities from 2011 to October 2015, the Assad regime is responsible for 95% of civilian deaths, 97% of death by torture, 93% of medical staff deaths and 95% of enforced disappearances (see https://sn4hr.org/overall-toll/). By June 2016 the regime was responsible for 98% of deaths due to siege (see http://sn4hr.org/blog/2016/06/22/research-death-792-individuals-due-syrian-regimes-isiss-siege-civilian-populated-cities/).

The briefing report states that Assad was not removed from power because “without a clear united force against Assad, the rise of Daesh, and the entering into the conflict of regional and world powers, the situation has become increasingly multi-dimensional, and locked in stalemate.”

The reality is that Russia had been supplying the Assad regime with the weaponry needed to create powerful armed forces (dominated by Alawites) since the beginning. After the uprising Russia continued (with Chinese financial backing) to generously supply Assad. Military support for the Syrian Opposition was meagre in comparison. This military asymmetry created a vacuum that encouraged extremism and allowed Daesh to flourish. The fall of Homs encouraged the creation of the Al-Nusra front with foreign MENA backing. The use of terror tactics by Assad’s thugs and his foreign extremist Shiite militias has encouraged sectarian hatred.

According to the briefing paper “successive attempts by both sides to encircle and besiege each other have left hundreds of thousands of civilians in the city [Aleppo] trapped without running water, electricity, medical support, or humanitarian relief”. The reality is that the regime is bombing and starving rebels in Eastern Aleppo into submission.

The briefing paper is again giving the impression that the conflict in Syria and specifically in Aleppo is between two equally culpable sides. This distorted impartiality creates a fake balance of responsibility.

4.2 The US-Russian ceasefire

It provides an outline of the 10th September ceasefire agreement. Also a statement by John Kerry highlighting the publically perceived threat to the West of the Sunni Islamic Fundamentalism of al-Nusra.

The actual 10th September agreement calls for the end of all hostilities, not just airstrikes. It contains a host of very specific terms and ends with “….each Side reserves the right to withdraw from this arrangement if they believe the terms have not been fulfilled.” This means that the agreement never had any chance of survival.

The briefing paper includes this term from the agreement “Those rebel forces would take action, with US support, to isolate themselves from Jihadist forces, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as the al-Nusra Front”. How in the real world could the rebel fighters of al-Nusra be separated from the rest of the Opposition fighters, when they are under huge military pressure form the Assad and Putin regimes?

The briefing paper states “…..Once isolated US and Russia would coordinate on air strikes against Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and Daesh”. There is no mention of this in the actual agreement.

The briefing paper says: “However, the ceasefire [September 2016] was violated almost immediately, before being fatally undermined by the attack on an aid convoy entering East Aleppo by Russian/Syrian forces, and then definitively buried by their ongoing, devastating assault on East Aleppo.”

In reality there were claims and counter claims of minor ceasefire violations. The briefing paper acknowledges the decisive and clearly gross violation was due to the bombing of the aid convoy by the Russians and the subsequent assault on Eastern Aleppo, which the Assad and Putin regimes were preparing during the ceasefire.

The false impression is given that al-Nusra is the dominant part of the armed Syrian Opposition. This agrees with Assad regime propaganda, as well as Western public opinion which fears Sunni Fundamentalism (given the outrageous and high profile terrorist attacks in recent years).

4.3. Defence Select Committee report

The briefing paper refers to Defence Select Committee report, “UK Military Operations in Syria and Iraq” (21st September 2016, see https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmdfence/106/106.pdf). This 100+ page document bemoans the lack of information from the UK Ministry of Defence [MOD], which the briefing paper points out as well.

The briefing paper states “They [Defence Select Committee] said it is ‘disappointing’ that the MoD has been unable to provide the Select Committee with full statistical analysis of UK airstrikes in Syria, which the Committee requested. Although the MoD’s rationale for doing so may be sound, their inability to provide detail may still undermine the Government’s assertion that ‘the bombing campaign in Syria is in support of credible moderate ground forces’.” The actual report’s rebuke is milder “may tend to undermine”, and is using the word “credible” in the sense of militarily effective.

The briefing paper states “It [Defence Committee Report] says it is ‘much less certain’ that the UK’s efforts in Syria are succeeding, in comparison to efforts in Iraq – this is because the goals in Syria are too ambitious to be realised by military means alone; that is, to not only defeat Daesh, but to also establish a government that will be ‘neither authoritarian and repressive, on the one hand, nor Islamist and extreme, on the other’.”

The actual report says in the section “Armed Actors in Syria, Conclusions: …. Whilst the military effort in Iraq is bearing fruit, that is much less certain in Syria. We believe this is partly due to the aspirations of the UK Government in respect of each country. The goals in Iraq are to remove territory from DAESH, to strengthen the Iraqi Government and to maintain Iraq as a unitary state. The goals in Syria are not only to defeat DAESH, but also to help bring into being a Government which will be neither authoritarian and repressive, on the one hand, nor Islamist and extreme, on the other. These goals cannot be accomplished by military means alone.”

The actual report only says that the goals in Syria are more ambitious than Iraq, and separately that they cannot be achieved by militarily means alone. It does not imply anything about the balance of military to non-military support in Syria. If anything the report implies that much more of both are required.

The briefing paper then states in the same paragraph “To this end, the Committee recommends the Government outlines ‘exactly how it intends to help ensure that political reform is achieved and what action it is planning to take to keep it in step with the military campaign’.” This appears in a different part of the report, “The danger posed by military success without political reform”, and is only in practice concerned with areas formerly under Daesh control. The rest of Syria has the problem of an advancing Assad regime.

The briefing paper gives a misleading impression of the Defence Committee’s Report, by glossing the report to imply that there is too much military support to the Syrian Opposition.

4.4 Steffan De Mistura plan

This is the most problematic section. The briefing paper gives a summary of the UN Envoy Steffan De Mistura’s plan to escort Jabhat Fatah al-Sham fighters Aleppo out of Aleppo. There is no context given.

The UN itself estimates that there are 800 Jabhat Fatah al-Sham fighters in Aleppo. The briefing paper does not mention that this is out of 4000 rebel fighters in Aleppo. As mentioned before the true figure in a Reuters report is believed to be as low as 200 fighters (5% of rebel fighters).

The Briefing Paper states “There are precedents for this plan: Jabhat forces were escorted out of Old Homs city in May 2014, and from Homs city in May 2015.” This is a gross distortion which needs to be explained fully by the author(s) of this briefing paper. Labour Party MPs were being lied to.

In May 2014 the Old Homs area surrendered to a policy of bombardment and starvation to Assad forces. As part of the surrender deal all the rebel fighters and their families were allowed to leave. In May 2015 a similar deal was done in the Waer neighbourhood of Homs. These were not humanitarian ceasefires. This was siege, surrender and ethnic cleansing. Assad forces were then able to turn their attention to Aleppo.

As in the rest of the Syrian Opposition the al-Nusra (now Jabhat Fatah al-Sham) were and still are a small proportion of the armed rebels. In reality the briefing paper is suggesting that the rebels surrender when confronted by Assad and Putin regime aggression and war crimes.

The Defence Select Committee report described above, spoke to several witnesses about the makeup of the armed Syrian Opposition. Charles Lister’s focus is to track and interview Syrian Opposition groups, and is the most informed of the witnesses called. This is his assessment of the Syrian Opposition:

“86. Charles Lister, when at the Brookings Institute, produced his own analysis of what he regards as moderate opposition fighters. When we asked him whether he thought that any of the names on his list would be unknown to the Assad regime, he replied that ‘Assad knows about the groups, but obviously defines them in a very different way’. He argued that Russia also had this information and that ‘all the groups together know what each of them represents, who their respective external backers are and what their political positions are’. His work—set out below—claims that the following groups would contribute around 65,000 of the stated 70,000 moderate opposition: ….. Mr Lister went on to argue that, in addition, there were ‘roughly 25–30 additional factions that would fall under this moderate label’ which combined, represented ‘a further 10,000 fighters’.” [page 89, UK Military Operations in Syria and Iraq, 21st September 2016, Defence Select Committee.]

This contrasts with Bashar al-Assad comments in October 2016 “In an interview given to Denmark’s TV 2 channel, President al-Assad said that ‘moderate opposition’ is a myth, and that reaching a political solution requires fighting terrorism, asserting that it’s not acceptable that terrorists will take control of any part of Syria.” [see http://sana.sy/en/?p=89763].

It appears that the author of the briefing paper tends to the Assad view.

4.5. Calls for war crimes charges against Russia and Syria

Briefing paper gives a summary of recent calls for Russia and Syria to be referred to the ICC, and notes that they are not members. It does not mention that a UN Security Council Referral could overcome this, but that Russia and China would veto it.

4.6. Latest humanitarian situation in Aleppo

A summary of the latest UN summary of conditions in Eastern Aleppo is given, without mentioning the obvious reality that this is a result of the Assad regime siege.

4.7 Suggested questions:

The briefing paper poses questions to push the Steffan De Mistura plan.

It then uses it’s misleading impression of the Defence Committee’s Report to suggest asking the government “….The Defence Select Committee has said that the UK’s goals in Syria are too ambitious to be realised by military means alone; that is to establish a government that will be ‘neither authoritarian and repressive, on the one hand, nor Islamist and extreme, on the other;. What is the government’s strategy to square that circle? “

There are then questions aiming at casting doubt on the number moderate opposition fighters.

Conclusion.

The briefing paper gives inaccurate information and promotes a viewpoint skewed towards the Assad and Putin regimes. The barbaric nature of the Assad regime’s actions and history is absurdly ignored. The number of extremist fighters in the Syrian Opposition is at the same time exaggerated, and increasing military support for the opposition is opposed. The briefing paper ignores the asymmetry of the conflict, with the Assad regime advantage in military hardware and the committed support of Russia and China. The briefing paper’s description of the Steffan De Mistura plan actually recommends surrender to the regime. Humanitarian concerns are pitched at a token level. This briefing is seriously inadequate as it does not connect to reality, and displays attitudes that are not progressive or democratic. This needs to be investigated. The shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry uses many of the same ideas in the debate on Syria in the UK Parliament.

Emily Thornberry: ……[ Steffan De Mistura plan….. There is a precedent for such a step in the way the Jabhat fighters were escorted out of Homs and other towns in Syria. While we must treat the Russians’ assurances with caution, it is an approach that Sergei Lavrov has said they are ready to support and can persuade the Assad regime to agree to, so will the Government lend their support to the plan put forward by the United Nations? The Government have yet to respond to the initiative at all. I believe that it is a serious initiative with some prospect of hope in it, and that it should not be ignored. Will they persuade their French and US counterparts to do likewise and seek to use this pragmatic proposal as the basis to restart talks? [11/10/16 House of Commons, UK Parliament]

** Note 1. The “Survey Findings: Syria 2011 Public Opinion Survey, Angela Hawken, September 20th 2011, Report Prepared for The Democracy Council of California” has been criticised on two counts. The poll was not approved by the Syrian government, and was conducted underground as a “guerrilla poll”. The authors claim that this was due to the Assad regime demanding all opinion polls are approved by the regime. This seems to be supported by the extremely brutal actions of the regime both before and after 2011, and the rigged elections. There do not appear to be any respectable independent polls on controversial issues conducted openly in Syria. The other criticism is that the Democracy Council is funded by the US government to promote democracy in the MENA, and that Angela Hawkins is part of the council and the lead poll researcher. This is a reasonable objection, but the results of the poll do fit in with information about the excessive brutality of the Assad regime. The oppressive history of the regime since 1970 would support the scenario of an unpopular regime kept in power by fear. Some have criticised the poll as showing only 5% of Syrians were critical of protesters in 2011. The false assumption is made that all Alawites supported the regime. The Assad regime is based around a clique of financial and security interests which exclude most Syrians, including Alawites.

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UK Labour Party’s Dishonest Leaked Briefing Paper To MPs Prior To Syria Debate on 11/10/16

 [Last Updated by Lara Keller 7/6/17]

UK Labour Party’s Dishonest Leaked Briefing Paper To MPs Prior To Syria Debate on 11/10/16

Please see below a copy of the dishonest leaked briefing paper for UK Labour MPs issued by the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) prior to the debate on Syria on the 11th October 2016. The original pdf can be found on http://www.syriauk.org/2016/10/leaked-labour-briefing-on-syria-shows.html .  The record of the resulting debate can be found on https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2016-10-11/debates/F9DCC666-4E96-4F13-A37A-8D51120B8594/AleppoAndSyria . Please notice the link between the briefing paper and the statements by the shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry.

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PLP Briefing

SO24 debate – Syria

Tuesday 11 October 2016

From the Office of the Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Emily Thornberry MP. For further information please contact Alice Hughes on 5156 or 07441279935, or via email at alice.hughes@parliament.uk.

Top Lines:

• With the innocent civilians of Aleppo living in a modern hell, and their situation getting more desperate by the day, we need an ever more urgent and concerted effort by the international community to end the violence on all sides, institute and maintain a UN-led ceasefire, and create safe corridors so vital aid can be delivered.

• If deliberately-targeted, attacks on civilian targets or humanitarian aid convoys, whether by Russian or Syrian forces, are clear war crimes for which there can be no excuse, and for which they must be held to account.

• But anger and recrimination over those acts will not stop the suffering in Aleppo or bring relief to its people, so as difficult as it is, we need all sides to get back around the negotiating table as soon as possible, calm the rhetoric, and start afresh on the hard work of securing a ceasefire, isolating the Jihadist extremists, opening safe channels for humanitarian aid to besieged areas, and negotiating a lasting peace.

• In particular, we would urge the government to give the UK’s support to the proposal from the UN’s Syria Envoy Steffan de Mistura to ensure a safe escort from Aleppo for fighters belonging to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham to remove one clear obstacle from the chances of securing a lasting ceasefire in the city.

Lines on the wider fight against Daesh:

• Labour welcomes the progress that has been made in the fight against Daesh and other Jihadist groups, but more must be done. We must restrict their funding, their supply of arms, their trade, and infrastructure, and clamp down on the individuals and institutions who are providing them.

• Labour voted for airstrikes against Daesh in Iraq in 2014. This action is taken at the request of the Iraqi government in line with international law. Our policy has not changed.

• Our thoughts are with our brave armed forces serving their country in operations over Syria, and we will continue to hold the Government to maintain diplomatic efforts to bring an end to the Syrian civil war.

Lines on the refugee crisis:

• The refugee crisis that Europe currently faces is the largest since the end of the second world war. There are more displaced people in the world now than there have been at any time in recorded history. Thousands of people have died making perilous journeys across the Mediterranean and in other places around the world.

• As an advanced, democratic, civilised nation, we have a duty to reach out the hand of humanity, support and friendship. We should also recognise that a disproportionate burden has been placed on Syria’s neighbours, particularly Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

• Labour will continue to press the government to provide more funding to local councils across the UK to meet the long-term costs of supporting child refugees and to encourage Labour Councils to offer resettlement and support for those fleeing the conflict in Syria.

Background:

1. The Syrian Civil War

• Anti-government protests in Syria began on 14 March 2011, in Deraa, in the south of the country, following the arrest and torture of a group of teenagers who had painted revolutionary slogans on a school wall.

• Security forces opened fire on demonstrators, killing several and triggering nationwide protests against President Bashar Al-Assad. By July 2011, hundreds of thousands had taken to the streets, and opposition supporters eventually began to take up arms.

• In the midst of the Arab Spring, there was reason to believe that the Assad regime would fall quickly, as had Mubarak in Egypt, Qaddafi in Libya and Bin Ali in Tunisia. Former UK ambassador to Damascus, Simon Collis, confidently predicted this would happen.

• However, without a clear united force against Assad, the rise of Daesh, and the entering into the conflict of regional and world powers, the situation has become increasingly multi-dimensional, and locked in stalemate. At least 14 nations, including all the permanent members of the UN Security Council bar China, are now militarily engaged in Syria.

• It is estimated that between 250,000 and 470,000 have been killed in the conflict to date, and around 4.5m have fled the country. The UN has also estimated that 4.6 million civilians are trapped in both besieged and hard to reach areas.

• Most notably in Aleppo, where mixed rebel groups hold the east of the city and the Assad regime holds the west, successive attempts by both sides to encircle and besiege each other have left hundreds of thousands of civilians in the city trapped without running water, electricity, medical support, or humanitarian relief.

2. The US-Russian ceasefire

• After 10 months of negotiations, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced on 10 September that they had reached an agreement on a temporary ceasefire, due to coincide with the Eid festival, on the following basis:

– Assad’s forces and the Russians would suspend their air strikes on territory controlled by non-Jihadist rebel forces, effectively grounding themselves;

– Those rebel forces would take action, with US support, to isolate themselves from Jihadist forces, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as the al-Nusra Front;

– Once isolated, the US and Russia would coordinate on air strikes against Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and Daesh; and

– Meanwhile, humanitarian corridors would be opened for the relief of civilians in Aleppo and other besieged areas.

• In response to criticism of the proposed military cooperation with Russia, John Kerry said: “Going after Nusra is not a concession to anybody. It is profoundly in the interests of the United States to target…Nusra, an organization that is opposed to a peaceful transition, an organization that is an enemy of the legitimate opposition, an organization that is currently plotting attacks beyond Syria’s borders, including against the United States.”

• However, the ceasefire was violated almost immediately, before being fatally undermined by the attack on an aid convoy entering East Aleppo by Russian/Syrian forces, and then definitively buried by their ongoing, devastating assault on East Aleppo.

• During the early phase of the ceasefire, US planes also accidentally attacked Syrian ground forces advancing on Daesh positions at the Al-Tharda mountain, killing more than 60 and injuring hundreds. Assad called the attack ‘definitely intentional’, and Syrian state television said it was evidence that the US was secretly supporting Daesh.

3. Defence Select Committee report

• A Defence Select Committee report, “UK Military Operations in Syria and Iraq” (21 September 2016), gives the most up-to-date, independent analysis of the effect of the UK’s intervention in Syria, and the strategy that underpins it.

[see https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmdfence/106/106.pdf]

• They said it is “disappointing” that the MoD has been unable to provide the Select Committee with full statistical analysis of UK airstrikes in Syria, which the Committee requested. Although the MoD’s rationale for doing so may be sound, their inability to provide detail may still undermine the Government’s assertion that “the bombing campaign in Syria is in support of credible moderate ground forces”.

• On this basis, the Committee recommends that: “If the Government is to continue to justify and validate its policy of airstrikes in Syria, it should provide the necessary detail on what is being targeted. We therefore recommend that the MoD put this information, as far as possible, into the public domain so that realistic judgements on the effectiveness of the UK’s air operations can be made.”

• It says it is “much less certain” that the UK’s efforts in Syria are succeeding, in comparison to efforts in Iraq – this is because the goals in Syria are too ambitious to be realised by military means alone; that is, to not only defeat Daesh, but to also establish a government that will be “neither authoritarian and repressive, on the one hand, nor Islamist and extreme, on the other”. To this end, the Committee recommends the Government outlines “exactly how it intends to help ensure that political reform is achieved and what action it is planning to take to keep it in step with the military campaign”.

4. Steffan De Mistura plan

• The UN’s Syria Envoy Steffan de Mistura last week appealed directly to the forces of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham to leave the city of Aleppo “because 1,000 of you are deciding the destiny of the 275,000 civilians.”

• The US estimates there are around 800 Jabhat fighters left in Aleppo; de Mistura says 1,000; Russia says 3,000, although it is in the latter’s interests to talk up their presence as a pretext for the bombardment of East Aleppo.

• De Mistura offered to physically accompany the terrorists out of the city in order to remove that pretext, and provide the basis for restoring the Kerry/Lavrov ceasefire. He said: If you did decide to leave, in dignity, and with your weapons, to [Jabhat stronghold] Idleb, or anywhere you wanted to go, I personally, I am ready physically to accompany you”.

• There are precedents for this plan: Jabhat forces were escorted out of Old Homs city in May 2014, and from Homs city in May 2015.

• Sergey Lavrov said on Friday the proposal deserved further exploration: “We are ready to support this approach for the sake of Aleppo and will be ready to urge the Syrian government to agree”. The US and the UK are yet to comment on the UN proposal.

5. Calls for war crimes charges against Russia and Syria

• Following the Russian veto of a Franco-Spanish UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to the bombing in East Aleppo, France is now pressing for Russia to face war crimes charges at the International Criminal Court for their role in the bombardment.

• “These are people who today are the victims of war crimes,” said President Hollande. “Those that commit these acts will have to face up to their responsibility, including in the ICC. If I do receive him [Mr Putin, due to visit Hollande next week], I will tell him that it is unacceptable. It could also seriously affect Russia’s image.”

• French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault had previously said France was working to find a way for the ICC prosecutor to launch an investigation into attacks on rebel-held eastern Aleppo, one difficulty being that neither Russia nor Syria belongs to the ICC.

• Last week US Secretary of State John Kerry also called for war crimes charges, saying Russian and Syrian government attacks on hospitals were “beyond the accidental” and part of a deliberate strategy.

• Commenting on September’s attack on the aid convoy entering Aleppo, Boris Johnson has also said: “We should be looking at whether or not that targeting is done in the knowledge that those are wholly innocent civilian targets. That is a war crime.”

6. Latest humanitarian situation in Aleppo

• The United Nations latest summary of the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo (compiled last week) is as follows:
– “Access to potable water remains limited despite service resumption of one of the water stations and repairs of water network”;
– “Civilian casualties reported in both parts of the city despite a limited reduction in the number of airstrikes”;
– “Medical items, such as anaesthetics, IV fluids, ICU supplies, surgery and trauma supplies are urgently needed in eastern Aleppo.”;
– “Distribution of remaining food rations will be split in half to increase coverage”.

Suggested questions:

• Does the government support the proposal from the UN’s Syria Envoy Steffan de
Mistura to ensure a safe escort from Aleppo for fighters belonging to Jabhat Fateh alSham, formerly the al-Nusra front, in order to remove one clear obstacle from the chances of securing a lasting ceasefire in the city?

• Will the government urge their American counterparts to support the De Mistura plan, as a basis for getting the Russian government back around the negotiating table?

• By what process does the government envisage those responsible for violations of International Humanitarian Law in Aleppo and more widely in Syria being brought to account for those violations?

• The Defence Select Committee has said that the UK’s goals in Syria are too ambitious to be realised by military means alone; that is to establish a government that will be “neither authoritarian and repressive, on the one hand, nor Islamist and extreme, on the other”. What is the government’s strategy to square that circle?

• What is the government’s current assessment of the numbers of non-Jihadist rebel fighters in Syria, and the extent to which they are trained and equipped to play the role for which the government told this House they are capable?

• What impact has the fighting in Aleppo and elsewhere had on the number of nonJihadist rebel fighters in Syria, especially in light of recent evidence that Russian airstrikes have systematically targeted groups like the Free Syrian Army?

• What progress has been made with coalition efforts to expand the number of nonextremist Sunni opposition fighters in northern Syria in order to reduce the dependence of the ground campaign on Kurdish forces?

• It is incumbent on all sides in this conflict to avoid civilian casualties from airstrikes, especially when we are holding others to account for the casualties they have inflicted. The government has said all ‘credible’ reports of civilian casualties from UK airstrikes will be investigated; how many such investigations has the government carried out?

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Topple The Bogus Sick Angels Of Hard Left.

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Topple The Bogus Sick Angels Of Hard Left.

[Posted by Lara Keller 4/6/16]

#SyriaNeedsYourAnger The humanitarian disaster that the criminal Assad regime has inflicted on Syrians for demanding a future free from state mass murder, torture, oppression and extortion is horrendous. The lack of response from “progressives” in the West is disgusting. If there is an excuse for this, then it is the “anti-imperialist” nonsense spouted by the hard-left, who ridiculously pose as principled humanitarians. They have given the pretext for the indecision on those on the left. There should be not hundreds of supporters for the Syrian Revolution but hundreds of thousands.