You probably thought, when you read my last post about imminent reconciliation in Aleppo, that I was bonkers. Indeed the war rages on in Aleppo. Not only is the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) moving to retake the Eastern side of the city, but the fighters in East Aleppo, with Al Nusra and ISIS flags at the forefront, are persistently bombing areas of West Aleppo that their weapons can reach. Numerous civilians have been killed and wounded in these attacks on strictly civilian areas including many children (RT News, October 14 – 17). There is no doubt that there are also civilian casualties in Eastern Aleppo where the fighting is actually occurring as reported in the Western media.
The latest from the Syrian war reporters is that the SAA now holds a number of critical hills around East Aleppo, and they are feeling confident of an imminent victory. The reconciliation message is popular in Syria and so the government is promoting it, just as the US style reconciliation imposed by international agreements among competing states is popular in the west, and the absence of that possibility is the source of endless one sided propaganda in our news. In fact, it is a very aggressive schedule to expect the reconciliation plan to work so quickly. However, the cards are on the table. Amnesty for fighters who lay down their arms, a bus trip to Idlib for those who do not wish to continue a hopeless battle but do wish to fight for independence, and a rout for the foreign mercenaries and extremists leading too relief for civilians and ongoing support from the government.
When we met with Ali Haidar, he told us that whenever the reconciliation is imminent the intensity of resistance rises. He also said that building the reconciliation is a slow process. This is surely a problem in Aleppo where they are under a great deal of pressure from the international forces that are vying for power in Syria. The Syrians and their Russian allies have once again called a unilateral halt to fighting so that civilians and the wounded can be evacuated to West Aleppo. I hope this time they will be allowed to leave, but it is certainly not guaranteed. Al Nusra leadership has rejected the offer to leave Aleppo under international protection. The issue of sorting FSA moderates from Al Qaeda is once again on the table, though that too has been repeatedly rejected.
Meanwhile, the US is currently engaged in a battle to retake Mosul, Iraq from ISIS. Along with the Iraqi Army, Shia militias from the south and local Sunni militias, the Kurdish Peshmerga and Turkish forces, there are 1500 Americans in this battle as ‘advisors’. Shades of Vietnam. The coalition is not stable. Unlike the Syrian coalition, which is composed of allied forces, this is an ad hoc coalition of opportunity. The Sunni and Shia militias don’t trust one another. The Peshmerga expect to be repaid in villages given over to Kurdish governance, and Turkey has coveted Mosul since they lost it in the negotiations that ended the Ottoman Empire.
A little bird just whispered in my ear that the Syrian Government is in the final stages of securing a Reconciliation plan for East Aleppo.
There are a few details to be resolved, but it appears that fighters who wish to continue fighting will be bused out of town, and civilians allowed to leave in safety so that the field will be clear for a final battle with foreigners and those determined to stand to the end.
Apparently there is also a deal on the table in the UN Security Council to rescue the foreign fighters of Al Nusra/Al Qaeda/Fatah Al Sham -.
“Reconciliation” is what I called my presentation in Syracuse on Tuesday, August 30, the first related to my recent participation in the US Peace Council Fact Finding Peace Delegation to Syria. There was a pretty good audience of 30-40 people, and they were very positive towards the presentation and asked a lot of questions. There is so much potential for unity in Syria if only the people could be allowed to resolve their own problems without becoming pawns in a global power struggle.
Wilton Vought made a video of the talk where he integrated my slides in with my words so it is very easy to follow what I am talking about, and also covered a good part of the Q&A. See what you think.
I plan to write a piece soon that looks at some of the fluid facts on the ground in relation to the plans and ideas that I talk about in this presentation. JB’
Below is my recent interview with George Payne on his radio show, The Broken Spear Vision. We talked about my trip to Syria from a variety of perspectives. I’m always amazed at how much information we pack into each 1/2 hour show of the Broken Spear Vision. George wrote an excellent article in which he embedded the interview and posted to his personal blog. If we don’t agree on what is possible, George at least is open to what I have to say about my experiences and to the fact that I continue to look at the positive initiatives in Syria and the Region with the potential to restore not only the sovereignty of the smaller nations of the world but to move these populations towards a just peace.
I did a 15 minute Talk Nation Radio interview with David Swanson a week after I returned from Syria, which I never brought into this blog. If you haven’t heard it, I give a summary of my impressions of Syria when they were very fresh in my mind.
I am so proud of Sarah for the amazing empowered woman she has become, and the wonderful work she is doing. Please listen to Helen Coban’s interview below to understand Sarah’s take on war and peace, on refugees and reconciliation in the Middle East. It is her home and her passion. ……….
News Release: US to Syria Peace and Fact-Finding Delegation
2016 August 9~ A Peace and Fact-Finding Delegation, organized by the U.S. Peace Council (USPC) just returned from a week-long visit to Syria. The delegation met with representatives of numerous NGOs, heads of industry, religious leaders and civil society, high-level leaders of the Syrian government, and it held an extended private meeting with President Bashar al Assad.
The delegation’s findings could not be more timely as the world watched the Obama administration escalating violence and bombing in Libya and threatening to escalate its overt military role in Syria. These violent actions take place while the Syrian government and its allies are closing in on the various foreign-funded terrorist groups that have plagued the people of Syria for over 5 years.
Several members of my Delegation to Syria held a press conference at the United Nations with Dr. Ja’afari. Listen if you would like to hear other voices describing their experience in Syria and what they learned there.
Yesterday was quite an interesting day. We met with President Assad in the morning and talked at some length. We began by exchanging introductions and then we asked him some very serious questions. We were not allowed to record the session but many of us took at least some notes. He told us that his strongest focus is on representing the Syrian people and holding the state together on their behalf. He described numerous programs the Syrian state has enacted to protect the people during this very difficult time. The government has converted schools and other buildings into refugee centers. They continue to provide, to the best of their ability, free education and medical care to everyone in the government held areas; they supply power, clean water and food even to areas that are occupied by militants where it is possible.
And he proudly told us that the Syrian Arab Army, an army of the people which is defending the country against a brutal attack, have finally closed the road from Aleppo to Turkey. This is very important because the militants in East Aleppo, and especially Al Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda, have been receiving money and weapons from Turkey. He then told us that he had just issued the order to implement the humanitarian corridors and amnesty for Syrian nationals. He said that there are two ways to deplete the violence. The first is to fight to the bitter end. The other is to provide an incentive for people to stop fighting and give them a safe passage back to the lives they have left.
Greetings from Damascus. We had some great meetings so far this week. SANA News has been following us everywhere and reporting on our meetings daily. The show of solidarity means a lot to them. On Monday we met with the ministers of Health an Reconciliation. Ali Haidar is a very interesting person. His party is the Syrian Socialist National Party (SSNP). They were leaders in the peaceful resistance before the violence began. He has very interesting methods in his current position. We had him to dinner this evening. He never had a chance to eat but he gave a very interesting history of the political context in Syria. More on all this later.
We have met with Members of the government, the Chairman of the Lawyers Syndicate, the President of Damascus University and some members of the Damascus Chamber of Industry. The members of the government and the others all have the same message: The sanctions are harming the people of Syria and Syrian society. There are specific sanctions on medical supplies and oil infrastructure as well as the general sanctions that have made international bank transactions impossible and have severely depreciated the value of the Syrian Lb. There is only a political solution to the war but it must be an internal political solution. The objective of the government is to expel the foreign terrorists and make a reconciliation with those Syrian nationals who are currently disaffected and fighting their country. The United States could assist in this process by ceasing to arm and provide resources to the mercenaries engaged in the war, and restrain their allies to the same policy.