Aletho News


At What Point Will Putin Bend Under Obama’s Ukraine Extortion?

By Peter Chamberlin | There Are No Sunglasses | December 14, 2014

Have we reached the point where American economic warfare against Russia has become so painful that Putin has to stop standing in between Bashar Assad and Obama?  With the “one-two punch” of punitive banking and oil industry sanctions, followed by plunging oil prices, the American aggression is starting to bear evil fruit.

Further economic sanctions of similar severity and as yet to be identified legal sanctions will severely compound Putin’s problems, across the board. This would probably be enough to crash the ruble, even before any military provocations are carried out.  So, as is the way of geostrategic thinkers, Putin can easily see the endgame of Obama’s gambit, meaning that the military contest will decide everything in the end, so why not go there now? Thus explaining the resurgence of Russian apocalyptic references to the humiliation being forced upon it. If we get past all of the diplomatic B.S., who will blink first, when it comes to pulling the nuclear trigger?

If the United States Government insists on pushing this punish Putin paranoia over Ukraine and for resisting his will in Syria, then this summer will be a very dangerous time to visit Europe or the Middle East. Obama forced this “war or surrender” scenario upon Putin once before, over the Ghouta chemical weapons extortion caper last September (SEE: Syria: Russia will stand by Assad over any US strikes, warns Putin on September 6). Deflecting that ultimatum, Putin managed to sidestep Obama’s push with the plan to dispose of Assad’s chem weapons, catching everyone off guard on September 10 (SEE: Russian move to avert airstrikes on Syria benefits Obama and Putin).

Now we are faced with another contrived confrontation between nuclear superpowers, this time it is over Ukraine. The Russian war resolution, a.k.a. “Ukrainian Freedom Support Act,” authorizes Obama to cross all of Russia’s “red lines” on Ukraine, as punishment for helping the Syrian govt avoid the Western siege, as much as it is over aid to the NovoRussian rebels.  In this act, Russia is presented with a list of specific demands, running the gamut from semi-reasonable measures, such as stopping weapons to Donbass, to demands which are outrageous in the extreme, like vetting all Russian aid to Assad through the “internationally recognized government” of Syria, a “government” which is either run by Saudi puppet Ahmad Jarba, or Saudi hand-puppet, Hadi al-Bahra. In other words, the Saudi pretenders to the Syrian presidency (handpicked by Kerry and Obama) who were assembled in Geneva by Obama, will gain International legitimacy through the Ukrainian back door. After the Ukraine resolution goes into effect, Putin will be faced with this ludicrous dilemma, have to completely alter Russian foreign and domestic policies to accommodate Washington’s demands. It doesn’t matter what he does in Ukraine, if he continues to send military aid to Assad, without first getting permission from the Syrian National Coalition, he will be faced with even deadlier (as yet unknown) consequences than the economic warfare inflicted so far.

Assad will very likely be hung out to dry, flapping in the breeze, either way. Whether Putin accepts Obama’s ultimatum or forces a military solution, it will very likely become impossible for him carry-on for Syria much longer. Assad’s only hope is if Putin chooses to walk down the hard road, carrying little Bashar along the way.

Obama’s demands cover nearly all facets of Russian international commerce and diplomatic actions, including demands to vacate Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, reverse course in Moldavia, Georgia, not to mention, leaving the rest of Eastern Europe and the Central Asian Republics alone. Obama wants the entire former Soviet Union territory in one fell swoop. The US is claiming the equivalent of veto control over the Gazprom decision-making process, as well as the right to arm Ukraine to the teeth, and the right to install propaganda transmitters anywhere now covered by Russian broadcasts.

In other words, the US Congress has set up another international confrontation between the US and Russia, to veto ANY RUSSIAN BEHAVIOR which has not been pre-authorized by the White House. If Putin doesn’t cede total control over his govt to Obama, in the interests of peace and world government, then the US will move proxy forces into Russian territory, beginning with Eastern Ukraine. The Ukraine act plainly states that Western allies will enter the Donbass conflict, to provide “evacuation assistance” to refugees in the war zone.

All US anti-Russian sanctions, diplomatic moves and economic warfare have been directed towards bringing Russia to its knees, in a make-or-break showdown, intended to end either in total Russian surrender or world war. Now the US Congress, speaking on behalf of the entire human race, doubles Russia’s punishment, while also moving the contest into the military sphere, all with the overt intention of destroying the Russian economy and toppling Vladimir Putin.

When it comes down to the wire and Putin is left with no wiggle room, he will once again choose to bend over for Obama and let him ride right up his ass, if he cannot come-up with another judo dodge move. When push comes to shove, Bashar Assad will be toast and Obama will be crowned king of the world, or else we we warm-up the tactical nuclear missiles.

December 28, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , | 2 Comments

High School Bans “I Can’t Breathe” T-Shirts at Tournament

By John Vibes | The Free Thought Project | December 28, 2014

San Francisco, California – In the aftermath of the many recent high profile police killings, athletes all over the country have been using their platform to spread awareness about the growing police state.

Many professional players have worn shirts that say “I Can’t Breathe”, in remembrance of Eric Garner’s last words before his life was taken by NYPD cops. In most cases, the professional sports teams have stood by their athletes and respected their freedom of speech. However, many young athletes who play for school teams have been banned from wearing these shirts during games and tournaments.

At a high school basketball tournament in California, administrators have banned all of their players from wearing the controversial T-shirts during warm-ups and practices. The three-day tournament was actually temporarily cancelled until every player from every team involved agreed not to wear any police brutality related clothing during their warm-ups.

One female team from the Mendocino Unified School District was actually disqualified from the tournament after several girls on the team refused to comply with the new conditions.

Not everyone from the boys teams decided to comply with the orders, some decided to sit out because they felt that their rights to freedom of speech were violated. However, there were enough players on the boys team to agree for the tournament to take place.

According to a statement from Principal Rebecca Walker, the ban is intended “To protect the safety and well-being of all tournament participants it is necessary to ensure that all political statements and or protests are kept away from this tournament. We are a small school district that simply does not have the resources to ensure the safety and well-being of our staff, students and guests at the tournament should someone get upset and choose to act out.”

Mendocino teams created controversy on December 16th when the teams first wore the “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts before a game with Fort Bragg.

The political correctness brigade has succeeded once again at stifling the free exchange of ideas. To all those students who refused to comply with the dictates of the censors, we commend you; you are an example for children everywhere and a beacon of hope for society.

December 28, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism | , | Leave a comment

Oil Fields Are Refilling… Naturally – Sometimes Rapidly

There Are More Oil Seeps Than All The Tankers On Earth

By Robert Cooke – Newsday – April 10, 2005

Deep underwater, and deeper underground, scientists see surprising hints that gas and oil deposits can be replenished, filling up again, sometimes rapidly.

Although it sounds too good to be true, increasing evidence from the Gulf of Mexico suggests that some old oil fields are being refilled by petroleum surging up from deep below, scientists report. That may mean that current estimates of oil and gas abundance are far too low.

Recent measurements in a major oil field show “that the fluids were changing over time; that very light oil and gas were being injected from below, even as the producing [oil pumping] was going on,” said chemical oceanographer Mahlon “Chuck” Kennicutt. “They are refilling as we speak. But whether this is a worldwide phenomenon, we don’t know.”

Also not known, Kennicutt said, is whether the injection of new oil from deeper strata is of any economic significance, whether there will be enough to be exploitable. The discovery was unexpected, and it is still “somewhat controversial” within the oil industry.

Kennicutt, a faculty member at Texas A&M University, said it is now clear that gas and oil are coming into the known reservoirs very rapidly in terms of geologic time. The inflow of new gas, and some oil, has been detectable in as little as three to 10 years. In the past, it was not suspected that oil fields can refill because it was assumed the oil formed in place, or nearby, rather than far below.

According to marine geologist Harry Roberts, at Louisiana State University, “petroleum geologists don’t accept it as a general phenomenon because it doesn’t happen in most reservoirs. But in this case, it does seem to be happening. You have a very leaky fault system that does allow it to migrate in. It’s directly connected to an oil and gas generating system at great depth.”

What the scientists suspect is that very old petroleum — formed tens of millions of years ago — has continued migrating up into reservoirs that oil companies have been exploiting for years. But no one had expected that depleted oil fields might refill themselves.

Now, if it is found that gas and oil are coming up in significant amounts, and if the same is occurring in oil fields around the globe, then a lot more fuel than anyone expected could become available eventually. It hints that the world may not, in fact, be running out of petroleum.

“No one has been more astonished by the potential implications of our work than myself,” said analytic chemist Jean Whelan, at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in Massachusetts. “There already appears to be a large body of evidence consistent with … oil and gas generation and migration on very short time scales in many areas globally,” she wrote in the journal Sea Technology.

“Almost equally surprising,” she added, is that “there seem to be no compelling arguments refuting the existence of these rapid, dynamic migration processes.”

The first sketchy evidence of this emerged in 1984, when Kennicutt and colleagues from Texas A&M University were in the Gulf of Mexico trying to understand a phenomenon called “seeps,” areas on the seafloor where sometimes large amounts of oil and gas escape through natural fissures.

“Our first discovery was with trawls. We knew it was an area of massive seepage, and we expected that the oil seeps would poison everything around” the site. But they found just the opposite.

“On the first trawl, we brought up over two tons of stuff. We had a tough time getting the nets back on board because they were so full” of very odd-looking sea floor creatures, Kennicutt said. “They were long straw-like things that turned out to be tube worms.

“The clams were the first thing I noticed,” he added. “They were pretty big, like the size of your hand, and it was obvious they had red blood inside, which is unusual. And these long tubes — 3, 4 and 5 feet long — we didn’t know what they were, but they started bleeding red fluid, too. We didn’t know what to make of it.”

The biologists they consulted did know what to make of it. “The experts immediately recognized them as chemo-synthetic communities,” creatures that get their energy from hydrocarbons — oil and gas — rather than from ordinary foods. So these animals are very much like, but still different from, recently discovered creatures living near very hot seafloor vent sites in the Pacific, Atlantic and other oceans.

The difference, Kennicutt said, is that the animals living around cold seeps live on methane and oil, while the creatures growing near hot water vents exploit sulfur compounds in the hot water.

The discovery of abundant life where scientists expected a deserted seafloor also suggested that the seeps are a long-duration phenomenon. Indeed, the clams are thought to be about 100 years old, and the tube worms may live as long as 600 years, or more, Kennicutt said.

The surprises kept pouring in as the researchers explored further and in more detail using research submarines. In some areas, the methane-metabolizing organisms even build up structures that resemble coral reefs.

It has long been known by geologists and oil industry workers that seeps exist. In Southern California, for example, there are seeps near Santa Barbara, at a geologic feature called Coal Oil Point. And, Roberts said, it’s clear that “the Gulf of Mexico leaks like a sieve. You can’t take a submarine dive without running into an oil or gas seep. And on a calm day, you can’t take a boat ride without seeing gigantic oil slicks” on the sea surface.

Roberts added that natural seepage in places like the Gulf of Mexico “far exceeds anything that gets spilled” by oil tankers and other sources.

“The results of this have been a big surprise for me,” said Whelan. “I never would have expected that the gas is moving up so quickly and what a huge effect it has on the whole system.”

Although the oil industry hasn’t shown great enthusiasm for the idea — arguing that the upward migration is too slow and too uncommon to do much good — the search for new oil and gas supplies already has been affected, Whelan and Kennicutt said. Now, companies scan the sea surface for signs of oil slicks that might point to new deposits.

“People are using airplane surveys for the slicks and are doing water column fluorescence measurements looking for the oil,” Whelan said. “They’re looking for the sources of the seeps and trying to hook that into the seismic evidence” normally used in searching for buried oil.

Similar research on known oil basins in the North Sea is also under way, and “that oil is very interesting. There are absolutely marvelous pictures of coral reefs which formed from seepage [of gas] from North Sea reservoirs,” Whelan said.

Analysis of the ancient oil that seems to be coming up from deep below in the Gulf of Mexico suggests that the flow of new oil “is coming from deeper, hotter formations” and is not simply a lateral inflow from the old deposits that surround existing oil fields, she said. The chemical composition of the migrating oil also indicates it is being driven upward and is being altered by highly pressurized gases squeezing up from below.

This upwelling phenomenon, Whelan noted, fits into a classic analysis of the world’s oil and gas done years ago by geochemist-geologist John Hunt. He suggested that less than 1 percent of the oil that is generated at depth ever makes it into exploitable reservoirs. About 40 percent of the oil and gas remains hidden, spread out in the tiny pores and fissures of deep sedimentary rock formations.

And “the remaining 60 percent,” Whelan said, “leaks upward and out of the sediment” via the numerous seeps that occur globally.

Also, the idea that dynamic migration of oil and gas is occurring implies that new supplies “are not only charging some reservoirs at the present time, but that a huge fraction of total oil and gas must be episodically or continuously bypassing reservoirs completely and seeping from surface sediments on a relatively large scale,” Whelan explained.

So far, measurements involving biological and geological analysis, plus satellite images, “show widespread and pervasive leakage over the entire northern slope of the Gulf of Mexico,” she added.

“For example, Ian MacDonald at Texas A&M has published some remarkable satellite photographs of oil slicks which go for miles in the Gulf of Mexico in areas where no oil production is occurring.” Before this research in oil basins began, she added, “changes in reservoired oils were not suspected, so no reliable data exists on how widespread the phenomenon might be in the Gulf Coast or elsewhere.”

The researchers, especially the Texas team, have been working on this subject for almost 15 years in collaboration with oil industry experts and various university scientists. Their first focus was on the zone called South Eugene Island block 330, which is 150 miles south of New Orleans. It is known as one of the most productive oil and gas fields in the world. The block lies in water more than 300 feet deep.

As a test, the researchers attempted to drill down into a known fault zone that was thought to be a natural conduit for new petroleum. The drilling was paid for by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Whelan recalled that as the drill dug deeper and deeper, the project seemed to be succeeding, but then it abruptly ended in failure. “We were able to produce only a small amount of oil before the fault closed, like a giant straw,” probably because reducing the pressure there allowed the fissure to collapse.

In addition to the drilling effort and the inspection of seeps, Whelan and her colleagues reported that three-dimensional seismic profiles of the underground reservoirs commonly show giant gas plumes coming from depth and disrupting sediments all the way to the surface.

This also shows that in an area west of the South Eugene Island area, a giant gas plume originates from beneath salt about 15,000 feet down and then disrupts the sediment layers all the way to the surface. The surface expression of this plume is very large — about 1,500 feet in diameter. One surprise, Whelan said, was that the gas plume seems to exist outside of faults, the ground fractures, which at present are the main targets of oil exploration.

It is suspected that the process of upward migration of petroleum is driven by natural gas that is being continually produced both by deeply buried bacteria and from oil being broken down in the deeper, hotter layers of sediment. The pressures and heat at great depth are thought to be increasing because the ground is sinking — subsiding — as a result of new sediments piling up on top. The site is part of the huge delta formed over thousands of years by the southward flow of the massive Mississippi River. Like other major deltas, the Mississippi’s outflow structure is continually being built from sands, muds and silts washed off the continent.

Analysis of the oil being driven into the reservoirs suggests they were created during the so-called Jurassic and Early Cretaceous periods (100 million to 150 million years ago), even before the existing basin itself was formed. This means the source rock is buried and remains invisible to seismic imaging beneath layers of salt.

In studying so-called biomarkers in the oil, Whelan said, it was concluded that the oil is closely related to other very old oils, implying that it “was probably generated very early and then remained trapped at depth until recently.” And, she added, other analyses “show that this oil must have remained trapped at depths and temperatures much greater than those of the present-day producing reservoirs.”

At great depth, where the heat and pressure are high enough, she explained, methane is produced by oil being “cracked,” and production of gas “is able to cause sufficient pressure to periodically open the fracture system and allow upward fluid flow of methane, with entrapment of oil in its path.”

Copyright © 2002, Newsday, Inc.

December 28, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | 11 Comments

Selling ‘Peace Groups’ on US-Led Wars

By Margaret Sarfehjooy and Coleen Rowley | Consortium News | December 25, 2014

“War is peace” double-speak has become commonplace these days. And, the more astute foreign policy journalists and commentators are beginning to realize the extent of how “liberal interventionists” work in sync with neocon warhawks to produce and sustain a perpetual state of U.S. war.

More and more “peace and social justice” groups are even being twisted into “democracy promotion,” U.S. militarism style. But rarely do we get a window to see as clearly into how this Orwellian transformation occurs as with the “Committee in Solidarity with the People of Syria” (CISPOS) based in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, a spin-off of “Friends for a Nonviolent World” (FNVW), steering its Quaker-inspired founding in nonviolence to promote speakers and essayists with strong ties to the violent uprising to topple the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad, resulting in a war that has already taken some 200,000 lives.

Do the real pacifist members approve? Or even know?

Middle Eastern expats who support U.S. intervention in their countries are especially effective in promoting their message to Western audiences because they provide “proof” of the demonization of governments that the U.S. plans to invade and dominate, and often peace groups include these expats in presentations believing them to be representatives of an entire country.

In Minneapolis, FNVW and its spin-off CISPOS hosted several events with Syrian expats who were on record as supporting the U.S. bombing of their country. (This isn’t only happening in the U.S. In April 2011, a Vancouver peace group documented its objection to the fact that other Canadian “peace” groups were sponsoring speakers who justified and advocated “in favour of the NATO bombing of Libya.”)

Often Syrian “experts” speaking to peace groups, such as FNVW/CISPOS’s upcoming speaker, Mohja Kahf, have ties to the early destabilization of Syria. This American Prospect article documents how Najib Ghadbian, Kahf’s husband of over 20 years (apparently up to last year when they divorced) was one of the Syrian dissidents who attended the early 2006 meeting with Liz Cheney (then-Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter), along with other Syrian dissidents to plan how to destabilize Syria and topple its government. Like some Syrian version of Ahmed Chalabi, the neocons’ choice to run post-invasion Iraq, Kahf’s husband apparently got himself invited to Liz Cheney’s “Iran-Syria Operations Group” by having signed the “Damascus Declaration” in 2005, the year before.

When Najib and Mohja sat down for a long 2011 interview with The Arkansas Traveler, they discussed their involvement with the Syrian Revolution, even joking about Ghadbian becoming the next Prime Minister. Kahf and Ghadbian reportedly divorced in 2013 but when CISPOS-FNVW first published her long essays, they were still appearing together at Syrian revolutionary meetings and speaking forums. Additionally, CISPOS’s latest handout (December 2014) lists Ghadbian’s organization, (The National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary Forces) as a resource “For More Information on Syria and How to Help.”

Resources for information on Syria often come from “citizen journalists” with deep ties to neocons and U.S. government sources. From the State Department’s website , the $330 million in support for the Syrian opposition includes training for networks of citizen journalists, bloggers and cyber-activists to support their documentation and dissemination of information on developments in Syria.

Syrian dissidents received funding from the Los Angeles-based Democracy Council, which ran a Syria-related program called the “Civil Society Strengthening Initiative” funded with $6.3 million from the State Department. The program is described as “a discrete collaborative effort between the Democracy Council and local partners” to produce, among other things, “various broadcast concepts.”

James Prince, the founder and President of the Democracy Council, is also an adviser to , a project created in 2008 by the Jerusalem-based Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies, founded and funded by Sheldon Adelson, a patron and confidant of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Other resources include postings on social media and alternative websites with sensational stories such as the anti-Assad activist “Gay Girl in Damascus” who turned out to be a middle-aged American man in Scotland or Syrian Danny Abdul Dayem, who was frequently interviewed using fake gun fire and flames in his interviews.

With all of the information about Syria, what are we to believe as true? We know the facts about recent U.S. interventions in Middle Eastern countries. Why would Syria be any different?

Afghanistan is still in shambles with the majority of the people living in extreme poverty; Libya, which had the highest GDP per capita and life expectancy on the continent, is now a failed state; Western intervention transformed Iraq from an emerging country with moderate prosperity into an impoverished country with a starving population. In the lead-up to each intervention, “experts” emerged to explain that while anti-imperialism is good in general and in past scenarios, this time is different. Is it?

Isn’t it time for war-weary Americans to wise up and stop falling for these pretexts of bringing democracy and human rights to foreign countries through training and funding of “color (and umbrella) revolutions,” inciting of coups and regime changes and eventually, through U.S.-NATO military might?

Liberal interventionists clearly assist neocon warhawks towards their mutual goal of “full spectrum dominance” under the euphemistic guise of Pax Americana. Only the “Pax” always turns out to be endless war and occupation.

Margaret Sarfehjooy is an anti-war activist and registered nurse in Minnesota. Coleen Rowley is a retired FBI agent and former Minneapolis Division legal counsel.

December 28, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

US Senate will vote on Iran sanctions bill in January

Press TV – December 28, 2014

Hawkish Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has announced that the US Senate will vote on Iran sanctions legislation next month despite ongoing nuclear negotiations.

“In January of next year, there will be a vote on the Kirk-Menendez bill, bipartisan sanction legislation,” he said in a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday.

He was referring to sanctions legislation drafted by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez and Sen. Mark Kirk.

benjamin-netanyahu-with-senator-lindsey-grahamThe bill that would impose more sanctions against Iran came one month after Tehran and six world powers reached an interim nuclear agreement in Geneva in November 2013.

Several important lobby groups, including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), are working hard to build support for the measure.

The White House has said President Barack Obama will veto the bill if it is passed.

“We continue to believe that adding on sanctions while negotiations are ongoing would be counterproductive,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said last month.

The Obama administration is under pressure to put additional sanctions against Iran following the extension of nuclear talks between Tehran and the P5+1 countries — the US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany.

Last month, Iran and the six world powers agreed to extend the negotiations.

They also agreed that the interim deal they had signed in Geneva last November remain in place during the remainder of the negotiations until July 1, 2015.

December 28, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 1 Comment

The EU shifting its strategy on Syria, Iraq and fighting ISIS

By Sami Kleib | Al-Akhbar | December 27, 2014

After the United States abandoned the idea of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stepping down and enhanced security coordination with the Syrian army against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), it appears the Europeans began some time ago a series of meetings to change their policy on Syria. According to information obtained by Al-Akhbar, some senior European officials did not hesitate to say at the last Council of European Union Foreign Ministers meeting that “this policy was wrong.” It is necessary, therefore, to change it and let the United Nations envoy Staffan de Mistura’s initiative lead the way. Does that mean we will soon see favorable signs towards the Syrian regime and further disregard for the external opposition?

Geneva A European official told Al-Akhbar about the proceedings of an important meeting between United Nations (UN) envoy Staffan de Mistura and European Union (EU) foreign affairs ministers on December 11, confirming that there is a change in the European position towards Syria. He said the meeting was closed like all meetings during which Europeans discuss sensitive matters. De Mistura began to explain the situation in Syria and the regional and international framework surrounding his plan that is supposed to be implemented in three months “otherwise it loses its ability to be implemented.”

This, in short, is what de Mistura said and the Europeans’ position towards it.

  • The plan to freeze the fighting in Aleppo is the only one currently available. There is no hope for another plan. Therefore, the EU should support it practically and not just verbally. It is the only plan capable of freezing the fighting, securing people’s needs and returning the displaced people who are burdening neighboring areas and states. It will also allow for the eventual process of reconstruction.
  • Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who showed readiness to ensure the success of the international plan in Aleppo, convinced Russian President Vladimir Putin of the plan and played a major role in convincing his Iranian allies as well. This was necessary because Moscow was reluctant, thinking that no US-Atlantic effort can be trusted and the plan might lead to dire consequences for Russia and its allies.
  • Although the Americans expressed reservations and doubt about the plan at the beginning, they have become more flexible, tying their approval with that of some of their regional allies, meaning of course Saudi Arabia primarily. In any case, I am going to Riyadh to convince Saudi officials of the plan’s feasibility. If we obtain preliminary approval from them, I will subsequently continue my efforts in Damascus so we can start as soon as possible because time is running out.

Here, we should remember that Brahimi had told the Europeans once what he said on more than one occasion and in more than one place, namely, that his resignation will “relieve two people, Assad and Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister Saud al-Faisal” because his personal relationship with both men was quite bad. He was probably speaking about “Saud al-Faisal’s personal hatred towards Assad being a hindrance to finding a solution.” It is also known that the Syrian president, from his very first meeting with Brahimi, questioned his intentions especially when the Algerian UN envoy suggested that Assad should step down and intended to meet Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa before Assad prevented him from doing so, arguing that this is improper on an official visit. Brahimi at the time had to make do with a phone call. After a while, Sharaa was removed from power.

  • Turkey remains a real problem for the Europeans. Some officials say it is impossible to predict what Ankara could do next. Others believe that Turkey is pretty much the only country still facilitating the passage of foreign fighters to Syria, it has not made up its mind about fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and is trying to blackmail the international community with its position. Here, the Europeans make two suggestions. Either put pressure on Turkey, including perhaps issuing a warning – which some believe is pointless because it might make the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s position more intransigent and push him further into Russia and Iran’s arms – or try to cajole and get closer to Turkey, prompting it to commit to the international decision to fight ISIS and stop the flow of foreign fighters. Either way, the Turkish position remains worrisome for Europe.
  • Iran has become a central player in both the Syrian and Iraqi crises. It is necessary to deal with this reality regardless of the reservations that some might have. There is nothing to prevent engaging with Iran in a serious dialogue about Syria, even before signing a nuclear agreement. This is useful because it could lead to political concessions from the Syrian regime and it could strengthen the presence of European companies in Iran. Perhaps this has become a European need despite French reservations, which are understandable, given French-Saudi relations and France’s concern not to upset Israel.
  • It is impossible to think of serious solution or temporary solutions in Syria without Saudi Arabia, which has extensive relations with a number of Anti-Assad parties. It is important to reassure Riyadh that the European efforts do not intend to buoy up the regime. De Mistura said that Saudi Arabia implicitly welcomes his initiative. The Spanish foreign affairs minister was clearer, saying that Riyadh accepts the plan and it is in France’s interest to tone down its critique otherwise it will appear more extremist than Saudi Arabia, which is not an understandable position. The Spanish minister went as far as suggesting that an international conference for Syria be held in his country given that the idea might be accepted by everybody.
  • Russia remains the main obstacle to any solution that does not satisfy the Kremlin and the Syrian regime. Since its relationship with the US and Europe is currently strained because of Ukraine, it is necessary to look for ways to separate any discussion with Russia about Syria from the position regarding Ukraine. Some European officials intend to strengthen the dialogue with Moscow because “it is unacceptable to return to the logic of the cold war.” Perhaps the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini will visit Moscow soon. Besides, Russia is active and serious about finding a political solution. The Europeans keeping their distance from Moscow might mean distancing the US and Russia.

The Europeans with and against Assad

First, everyone agrees to de Mistura’s plan, but they want to support it because it is the only plan currently available while awaiting the results of Russian efforts to bring the opposition and the Syrian regime delegation together in Russia. However, France, which currently enjoys strong trade relations with Saudi Arabia and Britain, is ahead of other Europeans in its contacts with Iran and insists that the plan should not support the Syrian army against the moderate opposition in Aleppo. In other words, the issue should not be portrayed as standing with the army against ISIS because in Aleppo and its surroundings there are fighters affiliated with the moderate opposition and they should be taken into consideration and supported “so we won’t appear as though we are drawing a parallel between the regime and the opposition and that we view both sides equally.”

The French foreign affairs minister was the most intransigent even though some within the current French administration point out the need to take a new position towards Syria, especially after the terrorist attacks that took place on French soil. Laurent Fabius said, “We don’t want what happened to Homs to happen in Aleppo,” where suspending the fighting benefited the regime only and was not balanced. The fighters left after they turned in their weapons to the state and were transported in government buses to the areas they come from.

A European official with ties to the Syrian opposition said “the departure of the fighters then was a farce for them. Imagine that the Grand Mufti, Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, who is a regime loyalist showed up in the buses transporting the fighters joking with them and asking them isn’t it better to marry while they are young instead of getting killed on battlefronts? They were given cell phones to talk with their families and undermine their morale. In the end, the media image and the reality on the ground were in the interest of the regime.”

The French minister was insistent that “the regime should not benefit from this plan in terms of relieving it at the Aleppo front so it can focus on other fronts in other areas.” That is what Fabius was saying when the EU received information about the possibility of the Syrian and Iraqi armies engaging in a wide joint military operation in Deir Ezzor.

Second, the European relationship with Assad is possible, but it becomes evident during the discussions of the foreign affairs ministers and commissioners of the EU that they are at a loss on how to deal with Syria. For example, a European official in Geneva says that a number of his European colleagues have begun to talk about the failure of the policy adopted so far and about the “uncalculated mistake” of suggesting early on that Assad step down.

Some Europeans argue that their assessment of the situation was erroneous while others believe that trusting the US from the beginning was a mistake because Washington, as usual, places its interests ahead of all its alliances, often putting the Europeans in an awkward position. Still others argue that underestimating the capabilities of the Syrian army and its allies was their biggest mistake.

As such, EU officials are currently discussing how to “modify” the political position that has been adopted for more than three years in Syria. One sign of this change is abandoning the mantra of “Assad stepping down” and finding more realistic statements that have been repeated now and then, such as “Assad is not a final solution to the crisis” or “Assad will not stay at the end of the political solution” or “it is only natural that a political solution will eventually lead to transferring powers from the presidency and not all powers” according to Geneva I. Another sign of a change in position is abandoning the phrase “proceeding with a transitional process now” and replacing it with one accepted by all, namely, “calling for the start of a transitional process.”

It appears that Mogherini succeeded, to some extent, in promoting the point of view that “we agree on the end result but political realism and the developments of the situation require us to adjust our course and use new phrases.” In other words, even if everyone in Europe wanted Assad to step down, political realism suggests that this is not possible at this point and encouraging a political solution might eventually lead to this end, meaning this is no longer a European priority.

The security council in Aleppo?

In light of these discussions about modifying the European position towards the Syrian regime, the most important question in the EU is how to ensure the success of the Aleppo plan and how to implement it without portraying Assad as the winner, especially given that the Syrian army advanced in a noticeable way in Aleppo recently?

The dominant trend is to find a monitoring mechanism by the UN Security Council. However, the Europeans realize that this is impossible due to the dual Sino-Russian veto that is always ready to protect Syria. Therefore, unlike the French and British positions which insist on an international force from the UNSC, the EU is more inclined towards finding a diplomatic formula that talks about “a monitoring mechanism linked to the UNSC.”

All of this will be released soon in what is now called “the EU strategy on Syria, Iraq and fighting ISIS.”

Despair with the Syrian opposition, particularly, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, which for a long time monopolized, with international support, the representation of the opposition has infiltrated EU states after the US. The Europeans too are now more inclined towards expanding the scope of the opposition to include forces that were previously not accepted and undermine the Muslim Brotherhood.

It is remarkable for instance that when the head of the Coalition, Hadi al-Bahra, visited the EU in Brussels few days ago, representatives from the Coalition were calling the Europeans to say that Bahra no longer represents them. A European official says jokingly: “Everytime we begin to talk with an official from the Coalition, we discover that this Coalition held new elections and changed the official. So we start all over again. And every time we meet with a Coalition official, he repeats the same question, how are you going to prevent the regime from benefiting from the plan you are proposing? But we have noticed for some time now that some parties within the Coalition have come to accept the idea of negotiating with the regime and reaching a political agreement with it even if their ultimate goal is for Assad to step down. This is the case with Moaz al-Khatib and his team for instance. The problem of the Coalition is that it does not know the meaning of political realism and continues in its fragmentation as it is tossed around by conflicting foreign alliances.”

In light of all the above, is the EU starting to change its position towards Assad? Perhaps all its members still support the departure of the Syrian president. But political realism requires a change in behavior and approach and not insisting on Assad’s departure as a priority. This will become more evident in the future as terrorist attacks inside Europe have increased. The only solution left is to cooperate with Syrian security forces, the Syrian army and Iran in the context of fighting terrorism.

As for de Mistur’as plan in Aleppo, it is currently in a feverish race between a military solution and security arrangements that cannot be undertaken without the regime’s approval and that might be to its advantage.

Once again, history repeats the same old maxim, “international interests are more important than principles and people’s tragedies.”

December 28, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment