Posts Tagged ‘Lebanon’

Some years ago, we predicted with shattering accuracy in this blog exactly what was about to occur in Syria. Before it started.

If the future conflict in all its horror was clear to a blogger thousands of miles away in Australia, we cannot understand how it was ignored by all the great and good, by those who are paid to know, by those who are tasked to avoid these things.

Instead we stumbled into an entirely avoidable civil war, with hundreds of thousands of dead and injured, with vast swathes of land now ruled by a murderous end-of-days fundamentalist regime that murders and destroys at will and is very likely un-defeatable, with other areas controlled by an Al-Qaeda affiliate that is apparently now our ally, with 4 million refugees, and a once relatively wealthy country reduced to rubble. And with a disgusting fascist regime clinging tenaciously to power, supported by a superpower ally who is now steadily installing forces in the regime’s defence on the ground.

You may wish to consider purchasing this t-shirt. It is consistently one of the most popular I sell, and the most commented on when I wear it myself. Buy a shirt, change the world, one person’s opinion at a time. It might not seem much, but it’s better than doing nothing. And the great strength of the design is that it doesn’t matter which side of the conflict you “support” … and it is also, of course, applicable to a variety of other conflicts worldwide.

http://www.cafepress.com/yolly.431431249

Stop bombing civilians

Buy the shirt, change the world one person’s opinion at a time.

Oh, and if you’re one of those asking why Syrian refugees don’t go back where they came from, well, this is why.

Destroyed buildings in Syria's besieged central city of Homs following shelling during fighting between government and opposition forces.

Destroyed buildings in Syria’s besieged central city of Homs following shelling during fighting between government and opposition forces.

plane

If only he WAS going to be flying one of the jets, Abbott might not be quite so enthusiastic.

In the last couple of weeks, we have watched dismayed as Australia has become perhaps the most gung ho of all the world’s nations waiting to wade in and “stop” IS – the so-called Islamic “State”.

Let there be no mistake – we also think these appalling thugs need expunging from the world, and as soon as practicable.

But we are alarmed and worried by the enthusiasm with which the Australian government – especially Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop – have not just fallen in lock-step with our Western allies. but have been seen to be stoking the fires of conflict with a triumphalist air that amounts to “Look at us, we’re strong leaders, and you want strong leaders, right?”

We are undoubtedly already seeing the first signs of a deeply unpopular government using the conflict to bolster its electoral fortunes – a so-called “khaki election” looms – and given that our bravura chest-beating almost certainly increases the likelihood of a terrorist attack against Australians, that’s a very risky card to play. Nevertheless, for a Prime Minister with a Government that has proven itself both tone-deaf and gaffe-laden, the conflict with IS is the gift that keeps on giving. “Hey! Let’s all stop worrying about Medicare co-payments and go BOMB something, already!”

This rhetorical style has been echoed to a lesser extent by Cameron in the UK and the Republicans in America, especially the surely past-pensionable John McCain, but much less so by a carefully-nuanced President Obama. It’s almost as if Barack phoned Tony and Dave and said “Ramp it up a bit, will ya, cobbers? We’re a bit bruised over here and I have to be a more laid back.” Surely not?

There’s no question that IS are pretty much the worst of the worst going round at the moment, but let us be absolutely clear what their murderous public tactics are designed to achieve. These are people playing a long game, who have no respect or care for their own lives or for others. They are trying to drag the democratic West, against which they have a visceral, systemic hatred, into a seemingly endless conflict in a war zone where the alliances and influences shift weekly, and where the sectarian divisions are about as deep as it is possible to find them. It’s virtually impossible to “pick winners” in this environment, because this week’s ally is last week’s mortal enemy. As even Abbott himself once presciently remarked about Syria, “it’s a choice between baddies and baddies”.

We have already seen America co-operating with Iran and Russia to attack IS – both countries currently under sanctions and blockades from the West. We have seen America calling openly for Iran to aid in the fight against IS, despite the fact that they already are, a call that has been rejected by the top Ayotollah, despite the fact that this is exactly what they are already doing.

We have moved from being a day away from air strikes against Assad in Syria (thankfully averted when it became clear that the gas attacks on the Syrian public were probably carried out by rebels, and perhaps that the White House knew that all along, and even allegedly that the rebels were deliberately encouraged to do so, under Western guidance) to now cautiously needing to support him against IS, which will lead to the partial abandonment of the non-extremist Syrian opposition, or what may be even more bizarre, the joining of Assad with his former enemies to create a newly viable Syrian state to defeat the IS and Al Nusra insurgents.

How anyone is supposed to conduct a sane rational policy in this environment is beyond us. It’s a floating, shifting miasma of shifting lines, and we see no end to it. We are reasonably sure, though, that bellicose trumpeting is the least helpful thing we can do, especially as we have no idea how that plays amongst the general public in the contested regions.

What IS knows is that in this confused environment, mistakes can and will happen. IS and their backers know that the first time a bunker buster hits a school in Mosul there will be a flood of worldwide sympathy from both within the Sunni Muslim community and without it, and there’ll be a fresh rash of recruits flooding to a simpler, less complex view of the world than that offered by democracy. The angst and confusion created by the Israeli bombardment of Gaza will be seen to be just a shadow of what’s going to happen in northern Iraq and parts of Syria. Indeed, the mistakes (and concomitant slaughter of innocent civilians) are already happening, even if they’re not being widely reported in mainstream media.

Is there any question Bishop sees this as her chance to leap Malcom Turnbull and become Abbott's obvious replacement? We think not. Mind you, if we could win wars just with her "death stare", we'd be home and hosed. She scares the hell out of us, wonder what she does to IS?

Is there any question Bishop sees this conflict – and that with Russia in the Ukraine – as her chance to leap Turnbull and become Abbott’s most obvious replacement? We think not. Mind you, if we could win wars just with her “death stare”, we’d be home and hosed. She scares the hell out of us, wonder what she does to IS?

But that’s only the half of it. We cannot deploy hundreds of Australian troops (and thousands of Americans) plus people from all parts of the globe, and not expect some of them to fall into IS hands.

If we see that the road to war has been greased by the appalling executions of journalists and aid workers, not to mention the mass slaughter of civilians, Peshmerga and Iraqi army fighters, then imagine what will happen the first time video is released of a clean-cut Aussie or Yank fighter pilot or special forces hero having his head clumsily sawn off for the camera.

The calls for “boots on the ground” would surely become irresistible, especially if a newly-bolstered Iraqi army makes no discernible progress in recapturing rebel-held areas, or in forming a more broadly based Government capable of yoiking together Sunni and Shia in a workable state.

Having failed once to pacify Iraq, there is little doubt that we are very close to being dragged into the same maelstrom again, with a side serve of Syria and for all we know Lebanon and God knows where else as as well. We do not purport to know what the answer is – although one thing we cannot understand is why the Arab states, who are at least as much at risk from IS as anyone else, especially Saudi Arabia, cannot be prevailed upon to play a much more intrinsic role – perhaps they are so aware of the powder keg many of them sit upon that they dare not risk enraging them by sending ground troops to attack the Sunni IS as 85-90% of Saudis are Sunni – but as a start we could at least begin by not looking so goddamned happy to be heading off to war again.

We are not alone in our caution, which frankly borders on despair. This excellent opinion piece by experienced Middle East hand Paul McGeogh in the Sydney Morning Herald deserves to be widely read. His neat skewering of the lack of Arab co-operation, the unseemly rush to attack and the lack of an exit strategy (yet again) is spot on, and echoes our own concerns.

war sheepIt seems to us that only those who have actually fought wars show real reluctance to engage in them again. That is rarely politicians, especially those who have spent their entirely career crawling slowly up the political ladder.

Having seen the slaughter of innocents, the gore, the messy incompleteness of most military solutions, military men are almost invariably more cautious before setting off to the trenches once more.

But politicians revel in the limelight. It’s that set jaw, that gleam in the eye, the grimly-expressed determination. Not a hint of doubt, or worry, or regret. Nothing is allowed to ruffle their seeming purposefulness.

The prelude to war always looks to us like people with their egos way out of control about to play roulette with other people’s lives, and right now, it sure as hell looks that way again.

I warmly applaud this article by Emily, which I consider to be both timely and wise. The prospect of another war with Israel in the south for tragic little Lebanon, already so pressed by the situation in Syria on their border, is simply too horrible.

We must learn Emily’s core understanding – violence begets violence. When will the leaders in the Mid East remember Churchill’s famous adage “Jaw-jaw is always better than war-war”? We are talking about violence, which could, if it embroils Israel, Iran, Syria and Lebanon – a true regional conflict – cause not just hundreds or thousands of casualties, but cost hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of innocent lives. And as Emily so presciently points out, we seem to be sleep-walking into it.

War will continue until men refuse to fight

I know some will accuse me of being naive, but it’s what I believe. http://www.cafepress.com/yolly.431431252

Emily L. Hauser - In My Head

We learned on Friday that America and Israel have concluded that the bomber in last week’s bloody attack in the Bulgarian city of Burgas was an operative working with the Lebanon-based Hezbollah, under orders from Iran “to avenge assassinations targeting its nuclear scientists” (such as Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, killed in January when an assassin bombed his car in Tehran).

In the meantime, we’ve also learned that the New York police have found evidence linking Iran or its proxies to nine other plots against Israeli or Jewish targets around the world. According to former Israeli National Security Adviser Uzi Arad, this should not surprise us – and Israel is “to a large extent, the initiators.”

We hit [senior Hezbollah leader] Imad Mughniye [in 2008], and, mainly, we’re leading a struggle against Iran. We’re not a passive side. And the other side is the defending, deterring, and attacking one.

…If Israel will…

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Syria takes to the streets

How should the West react?

I am re-publishing my original article on the situation in Syria, originally published on 23rd December, and before Syria became the issue du jour on the nightly news, because my conclusion then seems even more pressing today.

Sadly, what I predicted them – a full-scale civil war that threatens to spill over into neighbouring countries and embroil the area in an unpredictable and murderous regional conflict – is even more likely than it was a couple of months ago, if it could not be said to be enthusiastically underway already.

I return to my thesis of before Christmas. Distasteful as it may be to contemplate, the Assad regime is not only vicious and cruel, it is also proving extraordinarily difficult to dislodge. Atrocity is heaped on atrocity – even if, sadly, we only really pay attention when brave western journalists are deliberately targeted and killed and injured – and the situation, already bloody in the extreme, threatens to spiral utterly out of control.

The simple fact is, if you thought the mess in Libya was protracted, and you are disappointed that the flowering of democracy in Egypt merely appears to have resulted in the same bad guys remaining in charge under a different name, then get used to being depressed, because the situation in Syria is infinitely more complex and even less likely to provide a neat solution sensible to Western tastes.

Whilst the rebellion is now unlikely to be put down successfully, the infinitely stronger and better equipped government forces can continue to wreak havoc on rebel areas for many months or years. There is no widespread desire to replace Assad in the capital as a whole, not because it is a highly successful regime, but merely because the capital of this relatively modern and essentially secular country fears the arrival of an incoming Islamic regime even more.

Whilst Assad and his cronies must, eventually, step aside for there to be a lasting settlement, with no obvious “out” they will cling to power – stubbornly – for a long time yet, and the country is rapidly degenerating into a “failed state” governed by competing factions and warlords. The stage is set for a humanitarian disaster that will make the civilian casualties in the Arab Spring thus far look like a merely prelude to the main tragic opera.

I repeat what I said below: there needs to be a circuit breaker, and the circuit breaker, much as even saying it sticks in my craw, is to create a safe haven for the Government and its more enmeshed Baathist fascists.

Many will remain behind, and de-Baathification of some future Syria is a myth. Just as with Iraq, the other country ruled for a generation by a brutal Baathist strongman, they will be needed to ensure a continuance of civil society after the Assad dynasty and its most ironed-on supporters have been spirited away – to Russia, perhaps, which has proven entirely disruptive of any attempt to bring its satellite to heel.

So shout “Assad out” for all you’re worth, by all means. He and the shadowy figures behind him will not be missed. But remember, as you do, that the only way to actually achieve “Assad out”  without tens of thousands of casualties will be exactly that – an out, for Assad, and the rest of his miserable crew.

And if you don’t want to re-read the original article, just flick to the bottom, and buy the damn tee shirt.

The original article is below

Ignore cafe society trudging on unconcerned in parts of Damascus. There is a genuine and widespread rebellion going on in Syria, yet the reporting of its scale to the west is patchy. Sadly, the regime’s determination to hang on is resulting in many more thousands of deaths than previously feared, at least 400 of which have been children. Read more here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/22/6200-killed-in-syrian-crackdown

It should also be said that the anti-Assad forces may well also be responsible for horrible atrocities. (See the Robert Fisk article below.)

The West’s response to all this, thus far, apart from some ineffectual chest beating, has been muted. Does this reflect that the West would rather a weak President Assad still in place that they can control rather than an unknown, unquantifiable and possibly pro-Islamic-extremist opposition?

Let us be clear. The longer the aspirations of the Syrian people are crushed, the more fundamentalist, non-secular and anti-Western the incoming regime will be. It is time for the West to be unambiguously on the side of the angels, and the angels are emphatically not Assad and his cronies.

No, no: I do not mean the West should invade Syria on behalf of the rebels, or any other sort of militarist posturing or adventuring. But back channels must now be used effectively to ensure that the true leaders in the military-Baathist alliance realise that the game is well and truly up, and they must make way for a new and more democratic Syria, or inevitably end up hanging from street lights themselves.

And if necessary – and let us say the unsayable here – safe haven must be found for current regime insiders – yes, including Assad and his family themselves – stomach-turning though that prospect may be – in order to prevent the possible loss of tens of thousands of innocent lives in a full-scale civil war.

Time is short. And as this article by the eminent British writer Robert Fisk enumerates, the fear of the coming conflict embroiling next-door Lebanon is very real too.

http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/robert-fisk-shadow-of-syrian-conflict-stretching-into-lebanon-2630243.html

These are dangerous times indeed, and needless to say, if we do not manage them correctly, then the real losers will be – overwhelmingly – innocent men, woman and children who simply dream of living in peace and freedom. It would be easy to despair, but we cannot. This situation must be resolved, or we abandon the innocents to the militia, the armed lunatics, and fanatics, and the psychopaths.

On all sides.

You may also wish to consider purchasing this t-shirt. It is consistently one of the most popular I sell, and the most commented on when I wear it myself. Buy a shirt, change the world, one person’s opinion at a time. It might not seem much, but it’s better than doing nothing.

http://www.cafepress.com/yolly.431431249

Stop bombing civilians

Buy the shirt, change the world one person's opinion at a time