Brett H. McGurk is an American lawyer and diplomat who was appointed by President Barack Obama on 23 October 2015 as Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL.
Here’s an excerpt of McGurk’s statement at a recent press conference,
Unanimously, nobody wants the Syrian regime to come back. Regime symbols, regime military forces. In terms of administrative services, teachers, hospitals, who pays those salaries, that is something where the Syrians are going to have to work that out. We are not in the business of, as I said, nation building operations. ~ RT, May 21: 10:14
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.
Robert Fisk reports that Saudi Arabia is too broke to pay construction contractors and guest workers. Despite the impending mulit-billion dollar US-Saudi arms deal, which they are ready to pay for, the Saudi Royals.are not meeting their minimal social obligations. He references the horrific violence an destruction of the Saudi led war on Yemen and the fact that the Saudis are funding al Nusra, ie. Al Qaeda in Syria to undermine that state as well. It is easy to judge the House of Saud for these crimes- but they are actually US crimes being carried out by the Saudi regime. While more and more anti-war folks are sounding the call to stop arms sales to the Saudi government and remove their privileged status among US allies, the US government depends on them to facilitate US wars. Despite a massive outpouring of sentiment in this country opposing the latest sale of weapons to the Saudi regime, Congress approved it. The Saudi Royals may be greedy and manipulative and determined to control the Muslim World, but it is the United States rulers who are arrogant and ruthless and committed to rule the entire world.
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.
I noticed the following in this morning’s Foreign Policy newsletter:
“Jordan’s stability is a high priority for the United States. It is a main partner in fighting the Islamic State, in confronting Iranian expansionism, and in supporting a peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Jordan’s quiet cooperation with its treaty partner, Israel, is a plus for U.S. regional interests. Domestic instability in Jordan — especially turmoil that threatens the leadership status quo — would endanger these important U.S. interests. Mounting pressures on Jordan’s meager resources from refugees — as well as corresponding austerity measures — could feed destabilizing anti-regime sentiment. Although Islamic State-inspired terrorist attacks in the kingdom would likely produce a rally-around-the-flag effect, security incidents could further damage an already strained economy. Any further flow of refugees could tip the scales, triggering a crisis — potentially from malcontents among the refugee population and/or from disaffected Jordanians.” (emphasis is mine)
So they actually consider ISIS attacks as a way to shore up the rule of the puppet Jordanian KIng. Hmmmmm. What to do – what to do?
You could turn the minuses into plusses and replace the name Jordan with Syria to see the planning of the status quo. I have written it below.
On the 5th and 6th of March, I attended the CodePink Saudi Summit at David A. Clarke School of Law in Washington DC. Saturday was jam packed with interesting speakers. Sunday we put our heads together to work out ways to address the multiple issues currently swirling around Saudi Arabia and the House of Saud. You can learn more about what is going on at End the US Saudi Alliance.
Rather than attempt to summarize an incredibly complex and nuanced conversation, I am going to post some recordings of the panel discussions. Rather than post the second rate videos from my Flip, I have posted my audio recordings, for those of you who would like to listen as you go about your day, at the end of this page.
If you have the time and the interest, CodePink has the entire set of recordings on the RealNews website. RealNews did an outstanding job of livestreaming the entire days worth of panels on Saturday and posting the reasonably high quality recordings on their website:
2016 Saudi Summit: Understanding The Saudi Kingdom and Its Global Role
To go with the audio recordings below, I’ve pulled in the excellent, wonderful, brilliant Keynote by Vijay Prashad:
This year, Peace Action New York State has been focused on building strong student chapters. They have been doing a great job. Judy Bello has had several opportunities to meet these young people who just might be the next generation of dedicated activists. In September Judy was invited to speak by the Western New York Peace Center at Canisius College in Buffalo. The subject was the war in Syria, a tough one for most Americans to wrap their minds around. Later she was invited by Peace Action, New York State (PANYS) to give some background on the recent flood of refugees fleeing into Europe, first at Hobart William Smith in Geneva and just this week at SUNY Geneseo.
For nearly a decade the United States has used drones to target and kill suspected members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen. Among others, US drones have killed busloads of civilians, guests attending weddings, taxi drivers, diners at a birthday party, people attending funerals and men attempting to reason with AQAP members. When we complained about these practices, in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and other places, one response was that it was better than carpet bombing like we did in World War II. That always seemed rather odd because World War II was a war, and the cities carpet bombed were ‘enemy’ cities.
I would say that, well, the places where the killer drones are operating are not places where it would be possible or ‘legal’ to carpet bomb. There would be no way to explain such a serious divergence from humanitarian law, the laws of war. They’ve made a fine point about targeting a globally dispersed enemy force, a point that I strongly disagree with though many are ready to buy it. One would think it would be beyond imagination to justify heavy bombing, carpet bombing in the same circumstance.
But Yemen has turned the world of ‘legal’ warfare on it’s head. Since last March, a Saudi led coalition of Gulf Emirates with US technical and political backing have been ferociously bombing Yemen
Here is the link: http://www.democracynow.org/2015/10/30/russias_entry_into_syria_worsens_deadly And here is what I said about it: Democracy Now! featured an embarrassingly awful interview with a woman from Physicians for Social Responsibility and a Syrian doctor from East Ghouta who was using a pseudonym to protect himself. One wonders how important the name is, if his face, his place of origin and his occupation […]
Please read this and come out one more time to tell Congress “We want peace and We want to start now!” Henceforth I’m going to refer to the Iran Accord. ‘Iran Nuclear Deal’ sounds crass and not necessarily positive! If we are talking about ‘Peace’ lets use the language of ‘Peace’ We will Vigil to support those members of the […]