Aleppo in the Eye of the Storm

Reconciliation and the War in Aleppo

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.

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UNAC Statement on Syria, 9/26/16

The US has moved from supporting proxies to direct intervention in Syria. It is the second time in as many months that they have killed nearly 100 Syrians in an air raid. They have betrayed a long negotiated treaty and when confronted, US Ambassador Samantha Power dissembled and attacked the messenger. It is clear that the United States remains committed to overthrowing the internationally recognized government of Syria. Pentagon planners have shown no respect whatsoever for international law or for the United States diplomatic commitments in Syria. They hope to prevent any resolution before a new president is inaugurated.

US participation in the ceasefire was a sham and now the US continues to dissemble, buying time to reinforce their proxies and put more US soldiers on the ground. The Pentagon is sowing the seeds of open warfare against the legitimate government of Syria (and the threat of war with Russia) while exacerbating the horrific humanitarian crisis of the Syrian people.

The time to stop them is NOW!

Hands off Syria!

US Out of the Middle East!

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Russian Interests in the Syrian War

There are 2 schools of thought about what is happening in Syria.   One is that somehow this vicious war on the Syrian State and the Syrian people is being fought to save the Syrian people from some demonic force, to free them from oppression, and the organizationally fragmented extremist jihadi fighters who are driving it and their sponsors in Qatar and Saudi Arabia will somehow make an idyllic populist democracy there – if they suffer from poor taste that isn’t our problem.

The other is that the United States in her allies are attempting to destroy the last secular republic in the Middle East because popular governance is inconvenient,  and they will persevere at any cost to do so.    We need to look at the realities because the Syrian Arab Republic, however imperfect, is just that, the last secular republic in the Middle East with functioning (albeit weakened) public utilities and resources, and a government and military populated by people of all sects, regions and ethnicities across the country including a reasonable proportion of women.   Furthermore, Russia and Iran are on the sidelines giving more or less support and weighing the risks of a bold confrontation with the United States.  No sane person wants to trigger another world war.   How far should they let this go?

While the Mainstream media is bleeding over endlessly looped  one sided stories of the misery of war and analysis that ignores the behavior of what are essentially occupying forces in many towns and cities of Syria, this is what is really going on in this war – right now.   As Americans, is this what we want our country to be doing?

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Pray for Syria, Bach and Prokofiev in Palmyra

Pray for Syria, a concert for a country and a people who can use all the prayers we can pray.   On May 4, conductor Valery Gergiev, and the Russian Mariinsky Theater Orchestra played a benefit concert for the UNESCO site at Palmyra, and a tribute to the men who liberated the city from ISIS a few weeks before, in Palmyra’s historic amphitheater.  The concert was played before an audience that included Syrian and Russian soldiers who have remained in Palmyra to clear bombs left behind by ISIS to destroy the site and  the nearby town of Tadmor. They dedicated the performance to Aleksandr Prokhorenko, a Russian Soldier who sacrificed his life during the retaking of the city, and to Aleksandr Prokhorenko, the Syrian proprietor of the Archeological site there who was beheaded by ISIS and hung from a column in the main square at the historic site.

I finally found time to listen to the concert last night.  I can attest, after listening, that Gergiev and his orchestra put on a brilliant performance.   Moreover, the outdoor setting, the splendor of the ancient ruins in the midst of open desert under a cloudless blue sky, where the audience sat on the same bleachers as members of the Roman Empire more than two millennia ago was an austere space, but also a sort of dreamscape where past and present overlap in simple perfection.  And the music, the music was exquisite,  During intermission, children with wreaths of flowers in their hair sang a patriotic song.     What a lovely and gracious gift to the people of Syria!

View the concert below:

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Syrian Kurds Alliances with the US and Russia

An article in the Russian blog, Russia Behind the Headlines asks the question “Why does Moscow need Syrian Kurdistan?”   I think they are asking the wrong question.   The Russians initially allied with the Kurds to make sure that the Syrian border with Turkey would be sealed.   To end the Syrian war, it is necessary to bar the flow of fighters and goods for ISIS and al Nusra crossing the border.   It is necessary to end the flow of oil crossing into Turkey from Syrian wells under ISIS control.   There was no problem with being allied both with the Syrian central government (with Assad as President) and with the Kurds, because the Kurds have been allied with the central government throughout the war.   They may have wavered for a moment when the U.S. came in and supported them in Kobani, but that is an old story now.  

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