Free Markets, Free People

Syria


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 16 Jun 13

This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss Scandalpalooza and Syria.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 28 Apr 13

This week, Michael and Dale discuss Syria and Obamacare.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.


When is a secret not a secret?

When government leaks sensitive national security information to the press, of course.

President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for rebels seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government, U.S. sources familiar with the matter said.

Obama’s order, approved earlier this year and known as an intelligence "finding," broadly permits the CIA and other U.S. agencies to provide support that could help the rebels oust Assad.

What is it that occurs in early November?  And who needs a little boost?

Oh, yeah.

Forward.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


There is no US national security interest in a Syrian intervention

I just wanted to make that clear as we look at the Turkish jet shoot down and the fact that Turkey has invoked chapter 4 of the NATO treaty:

That is the provision that calls on NATO member countries to “consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the parties is threatened.” Turkey’s Islamist foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, has announced that Turkey is calling for an emergency consultation of NATO members under Article 4 to consider a response to what it deems Syrian aggression.

Now the backstory, so you at least understand why this presents a possibility of NATO, and thus the US, being pulled into such an intervention (possibly willingly, I’ll get to that later).  It comes from Andrew McCarty at PJ Media:

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a Sunni Islamic supremacist with longstanding ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s most influential Sunni supremacist organization. The Brotherhood is leading the mujahideen (called the “opposition” or the “rebels” by the mainstream media) that seeks to oust the Assad regime in Syria — dominated by the Alawites, a minority Shiite sect. Unsurprisingly, then, Turkey’s government has taken a very active role in abetting the Brotherhood’s operations against the Syrian regime, which have also been joined by al-Qaeda and other Sunni militants.

On Friday, a Turkish air force jet entered Syrian air space, and Assad regime forces shot it down. Turkey claims the jet “mistakenly” cruised over Syria, and that, by the time it was taken down, it was in international air space over the Mediterranean. One need carry no brief for Assad to conclude that, given the interventionist drum-beat for no-fly zones and direct military and logistical aid to the “opposition,” Syria rationally took the presence of a Turkish military aircraft in its air space as a provocation. Turkey insists it was not “spying” — that this was just an accident to which Syria overreacted. That would be a good argument if the regime were not under siege and if the Syrian and Turkish governments had not been exchanging hostile words (mostly, threats from Erdogan) for months. That, of course, is not the case.

Confused?  Well don’t be.  This is just another chapter in the eternal war between the Sunnis and Shiites and between the religious and secular.  Turkey happens to be an Islamic Sunni enclave (some want you to believe the country is “secular” but it isn’t thanks to Erdogan) and Syria is ruled by a “secular” Shiite government which, by the way, is ideologically identical to Saddam’s Iraq.  You know, the Syrian government headed by a man this US administration labeled as “a reformer” not so long ago?  Well, it’s “under the bus” time for him.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia – that would be Wahhabist Saudi Arabia (Sunni) – have been arming the Syrian rebels along with who, oh yeah, the Muslim Brotherhood.  And that has ended up seeing good old Al Qaeda show up on the rebel side, which apparently is fine with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Brotherhood.

More:

The Obama administration, from its first days, has cozied up to the Muslim Brotherhood — both Brotherhood branches in the Middle East, and Brotherhood satellite organizations in the U.S., such as CAIR and the Islamic Society of North America. Obama has also been quietly supporting the Syrian mujahideen: coordinating with repressive Islamist governments in Turkey and Saudi Arabia to arm and train them, and reportedly dispatching the CIA to facilitate this effort. But it has thus far resisted calls for more overt participation — calls by pro-Brotherhood progressives in both parties for something along the lines of what Obama did in Libya, meaning: without congressional approval and toward the end of empowering virulently anti-Western Islamists.

There was no US interest in intervening in Libya but we did (we used R2P as the excuse and NATO as the tool).  Syria, of course, would present orders of magnitudes more difficulty militarily.  It is a much more sophisticated military power than was Libya.

The problem?  Well while Obama may be reluctant to intervene alone, NATO might provide a perfect excuse/vehicle.  And the benefits would be fairly obvious electorally.  It would “change the subject” again.  It would make him a “war time” president (yes, technically he is now, but A’stan isn’t “his” war so he doesn’t quite get the benefit public support for his continuation in office).  And he could cite “treaty obligations” as a reason without having to go to Congress.

He also has the “good experience” of Libya as a sort of enticement to try the same thing again.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia make out rather well too.  They  get the crusaders to fight and die in their battle all so the Islamists can eventually take the prize.  The US and NATO would end up fighting to help put Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood in charge in Syria.

Ironic?  Uh, slightly.

Point: This is not a NATO or US fight.  This is something that we should stay as far from as we can.

Politics, however, will be integral to any decision made at this point, at least in the US. Domestic electoral politics.  What scares me is the possibility the Obama administration may conclude it is a good idea politically to use NATO to “change the subject” and make Obama a “war time President” hoping the advantages of that situation will make the difference in November.  And it wouldn’t be a unilateral decision, but instead receive bi-partisan support as Sen. McCain and other GOP members have been outspoken in their desire to intervene.

Call me paranoid but I find nothing in my analysis that’s at all infeasible or improbable.  In fact, having watched this administration at work, I consider it to be a completely possible scenario.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


R2P, Syria and “dumb wars”

Remember the war in Libya?  Remember how the doctrine Responsibility To Protect (R2P) was invoked as the reason to intervene? 

Libya was somehow chosen as a country in which R2P must be exercised and quickly.  Of course NATO airpower and arms shipments to the rebels did the job of overthrowing Gadaffi, and what has since established itself in Libya is as bad if not worse than what the people of the country suffered under the dictator.

But more important than where the doctrine was exercised is where it hasn’t been exercised.  Syria … no R2P for you!

The U.N. said Tuesday that entire families were shot in their homes during a massacre in Syria last week that killed more than 100 people, including children. Most of the victims were shot at close range, the U.N. said.

Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the conclusions were based on accounts gathered by U.N. monitors and corroborated by other sources. He said U.N. monitors found that fewer than 20 of the 108 people killed in the west-central area of Houla were killed by artillery fire.

"Most of the rest of the victims were summarily executed in two separate incidents," Colville told reporters in Geneva. "At this point it looks like entire families were shot in their houses."

He said witnesses blamed pro-government thugs known as shabiha for the attacks, noting that they sometimes operate "in concert" with government forces.

I recall the justification for intervention in Libya quite well – “we” had to protect civilians who were being killed by their government.

Ahem.  Question for the decision makers – why did Libya qualify and Syria doesn’t?

Daniel Larison figured out the reason months ago:

Paradoxically, the Libyan war and its aftermath have had the unintended consequence of undermining the doctrine of "responsibility to protect" (R2P) that was originally used to justify the intervention. Many advocates of intervention believed Western involvement would strengthen the norm that sovereignty may be limited to protect a civilian population from large-scale loss of life. Instead, the Libyan intervention helped discredit that idea.

A key requirement of the "responsibility to protect" is that intervening governments assume the "responsibility to rebuild" in the wake of military action, but this was a responsibility that the intervening governments never wanted and haven’t accepted. All of this has proven to skeptical governments, including emerging democratic powers such as Brazil and India, that the doctrine can and will be abused to legitimize military intervention while ignoring its other requirements. The Libyan experience has soured many major governments around the world on R2P, and without their support in the future, it will become little more than a façade for the preferred policies of Western governments.

One of those “dumb wars” Obama condemned as a Senator.  Meanwhile our Prez said yesterday, when speaking of war:

"I can promise you I will never do so unless it’s absolutely necessary, and that when we do, we must give our troops a clear mission and the full support of a grateful nation."

“Absolutely necessary?”

You mean like Libya?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Hamas calls Greek stop of US blockade runner “inhumane”– Israel on “Specially Designated Country” list for first time

In the world of overwrought spin and propaganda we find a premiere example of the genre from Hamas:

The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas on Friday denounced Greece after its coastguard intercepted a US vessel which tried to sail to Gaza to break Israel blockade of the coastal strip.

In a statement issued by its political leadership in Damascus, the militant group described the action as "inhumane" and said Greece had played into Israeli hands.

"This is inhumane action, is contrary to international regulations and norms," said the statement by Hamas, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.

"Barring this aid from reaching the Gaza Strip is done as a result of pressure imposed by the Zionist occupiers," referring to Israel.

Of course the US ship, the “Audacity of Hope” has no aid.  It is sailing with nothing but letters of support.  Secondly, even if it was, there’s a very well-established route to deliver aid to Gaza.   The blockade runners simply want to further demonize the Israelis by attempting to provoke an incident like that which happened the last time this was tried.

Finally:

The Israeli-imposed blockade of Gaza "is unjust… and a mark of disgrace on the forehead of humanity," [Hamas] said.

Translation: “The blockade prevents us from smuggling in more weapons than we have now. “

Of course with the overthrow of Mubarak, the Egyptian portion of the border is quite porous now so even that objection is largely invalid.

Nope – just another example of a long line of examples of Hamas calling the right of a nation to defend itself “inhumane”, mostly because it doesn’t recognize that nation’s right to exist.  Given all the other ways to get aid to Gaza – real aid – it is clear this has nothing to do with any of that.

It is simply another in a long line of attempts to provoke that nation into acts of self-defense so it can condemn it further.   It is the equivalent of firing rockets into Israel and then condemning Israel when it reacts.

And for some reason, much of the rest of the world takes its condemnations seriously.

Meanwhile, CNS news reports that for the first time, Israel has landed on the “Special Designated Country” list.  What does that mean?

[T]he Obama administration is currently listing Israel among 36 “specially designated countries” it believes “have shown a tendency to promote, produce, or protect terrorist organizations or their members.”

Also on the list are countries like Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza.

This is the first time Israel has shown up as an SDC. 

Of course, no one seems to know how that happened, but ICE is the agency tasked to carry out the enforcement of what SDC means:

Even though the administration includes Israel among “specially designated countries” that it believes "have shown a tendency to promote, produce, or protect terrorist organizations or their members,” ICE Spokeswoman Gillian Christensen told CNSNews.com that the U.S. also considers Israel, as well as some other countries on the “specially designated countries” list, as partners in the struggle against terrorism.

“The U.S. does not and never has considered Israel to have links to terrorism, but rather they are a partner in our efforts to combat global terrorism,” Christensen said in a written statement. “Countries may have been included on the list because of the backgrounds of arrestees, not because of the country’s government itself.”

“The United States maintains close intelligence-sharing relationships with many of these countries in order to address security issues within their own borders and in our mutual pursuit of safety and security around the globe,” said Christensen.

ICE declined to say who put Israel on the list or when Israel was put there. However, in her written statement, ICE spokeswoman Christensen said the “specially designated country” list had been created "at least" seven years ago–which would have been during the presidency of George W. Bush–and that ICE was not responsible for creating it.

Yes, friends, it’s Bush’s fault.  Bottom line though, given how SDC is defined, it is hardly the appropriate list for Israel to be on.

Oh, and who didn’t make the list this time but was on the last one?

North Korea.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Syria using helicopter gunships against its citizens

So, where’s the UN, NATO and R2P? I mean, this should be bad enough to get them involved given the Libya scenario:

Syrian tanks took up positions outside the city of Hama on Saturday, where tens of thousands of people took to the streets to mourn the deaths of at least 65 protesters gunned down by security forces there the day before.

But wait, there’s more:

The government’s violent crackdown against a three-month-old popular uprising continued, with helicopter gunships killing 10 people in a neighboring province and residents of Hama bracing for a military assault that would be the first on the city since the government bombed it in 1982, killing at least 10,000 people.

Wow, that was enough to get Gadhafi the full might of the UN, NATO and the US to come down on him.

What is that?  Is that the sound of hypocrisy I hear in DC, Europe and the UN?   Inconsistency?  Or just cluelessness?

So many were treated for gunshot wounds at local hospitals that blood supplies ran low, residents said. Throughout the night, loudspeakers on mosques normally used for calls to prayer urged people to donate blood.

Yeah, this isn’t anything like our illegal war in Libya, is it?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Rubio on Syria and Obama’s lack of leadership

New Florida Senator Marco Rubio has been getting a lot of attention since he took office.   He has a piece in Foreign Policy magazine on line arguing that the US has an obligation to at least react to the massacres in Syria in a strong way.  He outlines precisely what President Obama should do:

U.S. President Barack Obama needs to make clear whose side America is on, back up our rhetoric with action, and clearly articulate why Syria matters to the United States.

Wow – he means actually lead for a change.  Rubio says at a minimum, this should happen:

Clearly, we should be on the side of the Syrian people longing for freedom and challenging the regime’s corrupt and repressive rule. Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s hesitancy to weigh in has been mistaken for indecision at best and indifference at worst. The president needs to speak directly to the Syrian people to communicate American support for their legitimate demands, condemn Assad’s murderous campaign against innocent civilians, and sternly warn Assad and his cohorts that they cannot continue grossly violating human rights, supporting terrorism, and sowing instability among Syria’s neighbors.

Of course none of it, to this point, has.  Libya, yeah, easy pickin’s, (or so it was thought), but Syria, well, that’s the land of the “reformer”, Assad and they have heavy ties with Iran (another country about which Obama was essentially silent).

Rubio also says even more stern action should happen as well:

But his words must be backed by clear, firm actions. As ill-advised as it was to restore diplomatic relations with Syria by sending an American ambassador to Damascus last year, we should now sever ties and recall the ambassador at once. While Syria is already under heavy U.S. sanctions as a designated state sponsor of terror, we should expand sanctions to include persons identified as authorizing, planning, or participating in deplorable human rights violations against unarmed civilians. Our partners in Europe, Turkey, and the Arab Gulf share many of our interests in Syria and play a large role in that country, and the president must put the full diplomatic weight of the United States behind an effort to convince them to adopt meaningful economic and diplomatic sanctions targeting Assad and his enablers in the regime.

America has an obligation to weigh in strongly about the situation in Syria. For years, its regime has aided the terrorist operations of Hezbollah and Hamas, supported Iran’s destabilizing policies, and helped terrorists kill Americans in Iraq. The regime has not only destabilized the region but also directly acted against the national security interests of the United States. We simply cannot sit silently as innocent people peacefully challenge a regime committed to undermining the United States and its allies.

Notice that Rubio hasn’t rattled a single sabre.  He’s talking about very basic first diplomatic steps – both words and action – which don’t involve military action.  Side with the oppressed, condemn the regime’s actions, withdraw the ambassador, impose sanctions, etc.   It is a regime that supports terrorists and terrorism.  How hard is this?

Apparently pretty hard when your modus operandi is to “lead from behind”.  This must be the part of that “open hand” Obama claimed he was going to offer regimes like Syria.  That’s working out well, isn’t it?

In two short years, foreign policy has gone from bad to worse – despite all the promises of how it would be so much better under the Obama administration.  Another example of talking the talk, but not being able to walk the walk.

~McQ


75 shot down in Syria by their own government. What no “R2P”?

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a number of times about the reason or UN “principle” applied to Libya.  Its application to Libya was purely arbitrary.

Former case in point of that particular claim was Iran – wantonly gunning down protesters in the streets.  Present case in point is Syria:

FOR THE PAST five weeks, growing numbers of Syrians have been gathering in cities and towns across the country to demand political freedom — and the security forces of dictator Bashar al-Assad have been responding by opening fire on them. According to Syrian human rights groups, more than 220 people had been killed by Friday. And Friday may have been the worst day yet: According to Western news organizations, which mostly have had to gather information from outside the country, at least 75 people were gunned down in places that included the suburbs of Damascus, the city of Homs and a village near the southern town of Daraa, where the protests began.

Massacres on this scale usually prompt a strong response from Western democracies, as they should. Ambassadors are withdrawn; resolutions are introduced at the U.N. Security Council; international investigations are mounted and sanctions applied. In Syria’s case, none of this has happened. The Obama administration has denounced the violence — a presidential statement called Friday’s acts of repression “outrageous” — but otherwise remained passive. Even the ambassador it dispatched to Damascus during a congressional recess last year remains on post.

Where are the Chicki-hawks on this – Powers, Rice and Clinton?  Oh, yeah, I forgot, Hillary Clinton claims that Assad is a “reformer” and that the big difference is that Assad isn’t using or threatening to use his airplanes to kill his own people.  I’m sure that makes a big difference to those dead Syrian protesters.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not calling for yet another intervention anywhere.  That’s not the point of this.  My point is about the purely arbitrary application of a so-called “principle” or “right” the UN has invented and calls the “Right to Protect” (R2P).  Apparently some protestors enjoy more rights than others to their lives.

If anyone, given what has occurred within the last 2-3 years or so, can point out the “bright line” over which a country can step and prompt the invocation of R2P, I’d be grateful.

To this point I can’t figure out what that line is.  Syria figured it was 20 KIAs a day.  But when they did 3x+ that, eh, no biggie.  Everyone’s favorite word for use when they don’t plan on doing anything  – “outrage” – was used so apparently diplomatic necessities have been served and its now time to ignore the massacres until it is again appropriate to declare the next occurrence an outrage.  That’s the treatment “reformers” get, don’t you know?

~McQ


Egypt woos US foes

Egypt continues to make more and more moves indicating that it desires to distance itself from the US and that more instability in the region will probably result from its diplomatic moves.

After decades of no relations with certain countries in the region, with the full approval of the US (and one would assume the lack of such relations would be in the best interest of the US and peace in the region), Egypt has now decided to change that course.  They tie to moves to regaining their regional prestige:

Iran and Egypt’s new government signaled Monday they were moving quickly to thaw decades of frosty relations, worrying the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia that the overtures could upset the Mideast’s fragile balance of power.

Iran said it appointed an ambassador to Egypt for the first time since the two sides froze diplomatic relations more than three decades ago, the website of the Iranian government’s official English-language channel, Press TV, reported late Monday.

Also Monday, officials at Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that new foreign minister Nabil Elaraby is considering a visit to the Gaza Strip—an area controlled by Hamas, a militant Palestinian Islamist group backed by Tehran and until now shunned by Cairo.

It would be pretty hard not to see where this could lead. 

Additionally, Egypt is reaching out to Syria:

Egypt’s outreach has also extended to Syria, a close ally of Iran. In early March, Egypt’s new intelligence chief, Murad Muwafi, chose Syria for his first foreign trip.

The result of our “hey, Hosni, get out of town” policy?

Amr Moussa, the former Secretary General of the Arab league, owes his front-runner status in Egyptian presidential elections later this year to his forceful statements against Israel when he was Egypt’s foreign minister during the 1990s. Islamist groups in particular have been empowered by Egypt’s abrupt shift to democracy, and analysts expect that Egypt’s next government will have to answer to growing calls that it break with U.S. foreign-policy objectives.

Some Islamist political voices within Egypt have already begun their own sort of diplomacy. Magdi Hussein, the chairman of the Islamist Al Amal (Labor) Party, met with Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi earlier this week in Tehran. Both sides encouraged a quickening of the diplomatic thaw between the two countries.

Egypt appears to be following a foreign relations pattern set by Turkey in the past decade—a strong American ally whose foreign policy has nevertheless decoupled from American interests. Regardless of its final position on Iran, the country is likely to be significantly less beholden to U.S. interests, American officials said, if only because Egypt was such a reliable ally under Mr. Mubarak.

"It’s hard to imagine a change that would improve on what we had" with the previous Egyptian regime, one U.S. official said.

If there’s a “Doomsday clock” for Middle East war, it is quickly moving toward 1 minute to midnight.

Meanwhile in Libya, the “days, not weeks” war enters its 2nd month with no resolution in sight.

~McQ