International Security Umbrella for Lebanon To Be Guaranteed By Superpower Pact?

[Barack Obama stands on the verge of pulling-off one of the greatest reversal of fortunes ever witnessed by a democratic politician—if the Obama/Putin gambit is successful, then Obama may turn his diplomatic/military defeat in Syria into a Comprehensive Middle East Peace Treaty.  This magnificent feat of “jujitsu” politics, if successful, will undercut every antagonist involved in this great international soap opera known as the Middle East, including the Zionist state of Israel.  The broad elements of a Middle East breakthrough of unbelievable proportions can be seen developing in the following report from Lebanon’s Daily Star:  international Lebanese security shield; Iranian/Saudi rapprochement; Hezbollah withdrawal from Syrian conflict;  withdrawal of Saudi support for Syrian Islamists; US/Russian security agreement as basis for Nuclear Free Middle East. 

These are just a few of the horizons that are being breached, even now.  If Putin and Obama do what is now needed for the rest of the human race, then they will turn their agreement over Syrian chemical weapons’ disposal into a comprehensive security arrangement covering the entire Mideast region, a solution which appears to be in the process of becoming reality, in the form of superpower guarantees for Lebanese security as a first step.  According to the Daily Star report, the first signs of this agreement bearing fruit will either be a Rouhani visit to Riyadh, or Hezbollah withdrawal from Syria.]

International ‘security umbrella’ to revive communication between Lebanon’s political blocs

daily star
File - Lebanese President Michel Sleiman speaks during a press conference in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
File – Lebanese President Michel Sleiman speaks during a press conference in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

The lines of communication between the country’s political blocs will be revived this week, fueled by the global desire to set up a international “security umbrella” over Lebanon that would protect it from regional tensions.

Sources told The Daily Star that President Michel Sleiman informed regional and Western officials that he met in New York during the annual U.N. General Assembly gathering of the situation in Lebanon, which has reached a point that calls for speeding up talks to save the country from a vacuum engulfing all of its institutions.

The sources said that Sleiman was relying on the international and regional rapprochements, particularly that between Washington and Tehran and Riyadh and Tehran, to achieve understandings and agreements within Lebanon on the shape of the government, its makeup and ministerial statement.

Political sources in the country expect a deal coinciding with the agreement over Syrian chemical weapons that is under American and Iranian sponsorship.

The first signs of the awaited internal Lebanese settlement, which is based on an Arab, regional and international rapprochement, is Sleiman’s indication in interviews with the BBC and Tele Liban that Hezbollah is on the verge of pulling its fighters out of Syria.

The statement is based on a number of factors gleaned out of the bilateral meetings held in New York, particularly with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

The sources linked President Sleiman’s statement to a broader political context of warming relations between the U.S. and Iran after the phone call between President Barack Obama and Rouhani, which signals the start of a new political era in the region that will feature settlements and normalization on a number of levels.

The sources said the presidential delegation was optimistic, noting that there was international agreement that Lebanon should be isolated from the crisis in Syria in anticipation of a regional settlement. Such a settlement will begin with a pilgrimage visit by the Iranian president to Saudi Arabia, during which he will meet the Saudi king, which will augment an international settlement between Washington and Moscow.

The first signs of this regional resolution will be Hezbollah pulling its fighters from Syria and the diminishing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ presence in some Syrian cities, in return for Saudi Arabia halting its support for Al-Qaeda elements in Syria while retaining its assistance to the Free Syrian Army.

Members of the presidential delegation said Lebanon would be the main beneficiary of this new political stage, though it will not solve all of its internal crises. Lebanon will await the conclusion of regional and international talks on the Syrian chemical weapons issue and Iran’s nuclear file, particularly since a resolution of the first problem will take the Syrian crisis from the street to the negotiating table of the Geneva II peace conference in November, according to diplomatic sources.

This potential improvement in the regional situation was reflected in measures, confirmed by a security official, which relaxed many of the procedures taken by Arab and Western embassies after the latest car bombs in Lebanon and talk of an American strike on Syria, as a result of the return of calm to the Lebanese scene and the protective, international “security umbrella” over Lebanon.

The security official said that embassy staff who departed from Lebanon were instructed to remain careful and vigilant and were restricted from visiting dangerous areas in the country. The staff returned after the American-Russian agreement on Syria. Only the staff of the American Embassy remains incomplete due to a decision by the State Department to await the results of regional and international talks.

Sources say there is noticeable movement on the issue of the Cabinet formation, with exceptional efforts that were evident in the meeting in recent days between former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Speaker Nabih Berri, which featured a long discussion on reviving Berri’s government initiative while leaving the issue of the defense strategy separate. It was agreed that the current priority is social and livelihood issues in light of the difficulties faced by the Lebanese Treasury, which is evident in problems with paying the salaries of public sector employees.

On the Cabinet formation, a glimmer of hope appeared in indications by more than one political faction pointing to a near-agreement on the ministerial agenda of the Cabinet, which could revive talks that are stalled over issues like the kingmaker minister, the entire makeup of the Cabinet and veto power.

The agreement under consideration would include a form of the tripartite declaration of the “Army, people and resistance,” but while separating the words in the text of the declaration by placing them on different lines. The agreement would also include the Baabda Declaration, drafted last year and intended to isolate Lebanon from regional crises. Most of the declaration’s provisions have internal support among the various political factions.

Elements Come Together At UN With Great Potential To Discover Better Path

U.N. may see big action on Syria, Iran

the columbian

Stage set for U.S., Iranian leaders to meet for first time since hostage crisis

President Barack Obama, from left, Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Russian President Vladimir Putin may meet this week at the UN. It would be the first meeting of American and Iranian leaders since Iran's Islamic revolution and the hostage crisis that coincided with it in 1979.

President Barack Obama, from left, Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Russian President Vladimir Putin may meet this week at the UN. It would be the first meeting of American and Iranian leaders since Iran’s Islamic revolution and the hostage crisis that coincided with it in 1979.

WASHINGTON — After years of estrangement, the United States and Russia are joined as partners in a bold plan to rid Syria of chemical weapons. More surprising yet, American and Iranian leaders — after an exchange of courteous letters — may meet for the first time since the Islamic revolution swept Iran nearly 35 years ago.

Hopes are unusually high as world leaders gather at the United Nations in New York this week. While the results are far from certain, all players in the delicate diplomacy confronting them in the coming days could even come out winners in a world increasingly fraught with zero-sum outcomes.

It begins with the U.N. Security Council scrambling to put together a resolution that is sweeping enough to ensure that Syrian President Bashar Assad surrenders all his chemical arms, and with sufficient penalties to discourage him from reneging.

The five permanent members of the Security Council — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France — all hold veto power, and Russia has not shied from blocking a council resolution that would punish Syrian behavior in the civil war. The Russians were especially vigorous in promising to veto air strikes to punish Syria for the Aug. 21 chemical attack that killed hundreds of people in a Damascus suburb. The U.S. blames Assad’s regime for the attack; Russia says there is no proof that the regime was responsible and suggests it may have been the rebels who carried it out.

Lacking U.N. approval, U.S. President Barack Obama — who had warned last year that Assad’s use of chemical weapons would cross a “red line” — was nevertheless about to wage a limited air offensive against Syria but pulled up short and sought U.S. congressional approval. It then quickly became clear that Obama would not get that backing, with polls showing the American public solidly against any further military involvement in the Middle East.

At that point, Russian President Vladimir Putin stepped in and strong-armed Assad into agreeing to turn over his chemical arsenal to international control and destruction. Obama, faced with the prospect of attacking Syria against the will of both the U.S. Congress and the U.N. Security Council, jumped to accept the Russian gambit.

“Putin has put himself on the line. This was not done lightly. This was not done to embarrass Obama,” said Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus at New York University. “This was done for what Putin and (Foreign Minister Sergey) Lavrov think is Russia’s national interest.”

James Collins, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former U.S. ambassador to Moscow, offered a similar assessment.

“Putin has put his neck way out in terms of responsibility for seeing this happen,” he said. “If the Americans can resist the idea they have to micromanage everything and have it done only our way,” the Russians will force Assad to rid himself of chemical weapons.

Putin Ties Issue of Syrian WMD To Israeli Nuclear Weapons, Arguing Syrian Self-Defense

In the poker game with Obama on Syria, Putin playing the Israel card

haaretz logo

After deal to get rid of Syria’s chemical weapons, Russia is dragging the Israeli nuclear issue into the Middle East negotiations.

By Asaf Ronel and Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin at the final plenary meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club in the Novgorod Region, Russia. Photo by AP

 

by  Asaf Ronel

Asaf Ronel
Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that Syria’s chemical weapons cache was built up in response to Israel’s alleged nuclear weapons stockpile, and that these nuclear capabilities make Israel into a target.

“Syrian chemical weapons were built in response to Israel’s nuclear weapons,” Putin said, responding to a question about the chances of persuading Syria to give up its arsenal, as agreed under a deal proposed by the Kremlin last week.

Speaking at the Valdai International Discussion Club in the Novgorod Region, north of Moscow, Putin said there are people in Israel who oppose nuclear weapons. Referring to nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu, Putin said Vanunu was not anti-Israel, and that he did not change his stance on nuclear weapons even after years in prison.

Putin said that dismantling weapons of mass destruction was a key issue and that “Israel’s technological superiority means that it doesn’t have to have nuclear weapons.” Israel’s nuclear weapons “only make her into a target,” he said.

In a conversation after the panel, Putin told one of the conference participants that Israel will have to agree to get rid of its nuclear weapons, as Syria was giving up its chemical weapons. The difference between Israel and Russia concerning nuclear arms, he said, was that Russia is one of the five legitimate nuclear weapons under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Playing the Israel card

Putin’s statement is a new card in the Russians’ poker game against the Americans vis-à-vis Syria’s chemical weapons, former Israeli ambassador to Russia Eli Magen said. Putin’s statement, he added, followed two similar remarks by senior Kremlin officials in closed conference sessions.

“Russia is dragging the Israeli nuclear issue into the Middle East negotiations,” said Magen, today a senior researcher in the Institute for National Security Studies. “Perhaps this is a turning point in Russia’s approach to Israel. So far Moscow has kept normal relations with Jerusalem.”

But the move may have implications regarding Iran as well. Since Hassan Rohani‘s rise to power, he has been exchanging messages with the West, especially with the United States. If Washington and Tehran start direct negotiations, the Russians will be neutralized in yet another Middle Eastern arena they had been active in, after the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks were resumed under American patronage without Moscow’s involvement, he explained.

The Russians, who are also trying to resume dialogue with Iran, are even proposing renewing weapons and military supplies (S-300 air defense missile systems and a new nuclear reactor), Magen said, but added that as of now, it seems that this was not tempting enough for the Iranians. “Perhaps raising the Israeli issue will persuade Tehran to resume their talks with the Russians, since the Americans cannot deliver that,” he said.

However, Vitaly Naumkin, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Chair of Faculty of World Politics, Moscow State University, said Putin did not intend to link Israel’s nuclear weapons to Syria’s chemical weapons.

“Putin said it was preferable for the Middle East to become clean of mass destruction weapons. It’s an old idea Russia has been espousing for years. The Russians see it as the most effective way to ensure peace and stability in the Middle East,” he said.

Naumkin said Putin is not conditioning dismantling Syrian chemical weapons on dismantling Israeli nuclear weapons. “The chemical weapons will be removed from Syria unconditionally,” he said.

As far as the Russians are concerned, the ball is now in the UN Security Council’s court. Moscow says it is interested to assist the UN inspectors, in any way possible, to disarm Syria of chemical weapons. However, Putin’s words left some room for doubt.

“Syria agreed to join the Chemical [Weapons] Convention. Will we be able to accomplish it all? There is no one hundred percent certainty,” he told a crowd of journalists and Russian experts, “But everything we have seen so far in recent days gives us confidence that this will happen … I hope so.” At one of the closed sessions, he sounded even more skeptical: “every effort that will enable us to dismantle,” according to a Kremlin official.

Some experts view these reservations as signs of insincerity on the Russian part. As Magen sees it, for Moscow this is yet another bargaining chip in their attempt to receive a higher return from Washington for disarming Syria. In one scenario, he speculates, Bashar Assad could be left in power, as part of an agreement with the U.S. that would prohibit a military offensive. Another scenario could be something to do with the second Geneva peace conference, where Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his American counterpart John Kerry will discuss ways to end the war in Syria.

The Valdai International Discussion Club is an annual event, held in a different location in Russia every year, in which academics and journalists meet with Russian officials for a series of conferences and forums. The event, organized by the Russian RIA Novosti news agency, provides a unique opportunity to hear the Kremlin’s take on central international events.

Taking part in the forums are some 200 “Russian and international experts on history, politics, economics and international relations” according to the organizers. Marking its tenth anniversary, the event is being held in its inaugural location – a hotel on the shores of Lake Valdayskoye, a favorite vacationing spot for the Russian elites in Soviet times. Despite a décor face-lift, the place still exudes a certain Soviet spirit, for better or for worse.

Moscow considers the event an important venue for promoting the nation’s image, as part of its efforts to portray Russia in a positive light which highlights its complexities. Participants sample the best in Russian cuisine, of course – including a meal served by nuns from the nearby Valday Iversky Monastery, a central site of the Russian-Orthodox Church.

Among the participants are senior Russian opposition members, who are bestowed with a chance to present their views. This year, one of them was Kseniya Sobchak, a TV anchor turned opposition leader. Attending the forums were also senior figures of the Russian church, leaders of the Russian Muslim community and a representative of Russia’s Jewry, who participated in a panel devoted to Russian interreligious dialogue.

‘Garage-manufactured’ chemical ammo

This year, the topic of Syria dominated the conference. Besides Putin, the official Kremlin position was presented in the forum by Lavrov, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Kremlin’s Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov.

In their dispute with the UN inspectors – and with the West in general – the Russians maintained their position on the culpability for the usage of chemical weapons in Syria. Putin, Assad’s main ally in the more than two-year-old civil war, said he had strong grounds to believe that an August 21 chemical attack in Syria was staged by opponents of the Syrian regime.

“We always talk about the responsibility of the Assad government, if he was the one who used it (a chemical weapon). What if the opposition used it?” Putin said. “We have every reason to believe it was a cunning provocation.”

Russia argues that it has never supplied Syria with ammunition suited for chemical weapons use – and thus the Cyrillic script on shells found to have been used in the August 21 chemical attack in the outskirts of Damascus prove it was carried out using improvised weapons, made, as one official put it, “in garages.” Or as Putin put it, the use of Soviet ammunition could be construed as ”a clever provocation.”

Moreover, Moscow continues to claim ground samples it obtained prove improvised chemical weapons were used by rebels near Aleppo on March 19, adding it is willing to share this evidence. This attack on Kham al-Assal, was at the focus of the UN inspectors’ Syria original mission, before attention was turned toward the large-scale attack near Damascus, for which both the rebels and the Syrian government trade blame.

On a fundamental level, Russia’s policy is an objection to unilateral action in the international arena or one that is not within the framework of international law. As a senior Russian official said, every military action not sanctioned by the UN Security Council or not in self-defense is an act of aggression.

“We see an attempt to violate the principles of international law and create a unipolar world,” said Putin. “Russia is convinced that decisions must be made jointly and not according to the interests of one country. We must understand that there are regions in the world that cannot live according to the same model, whether it is the American model or the European model. They have other traditions.”

The uprising in the Arab world in recent years, he argued, prove his point. “In Egypt we have returned to the starting point. In Libya, they (the West) had noble goals. Now the country is falling apart and everyone is fighting with everyone. Where is the democracy there?”

The founders of the UN had stated that the matters of war and peace should be decided unanimously, Putin noted, and added that if one country would act unilaterally it would undermine international order and the Security Council.

American and Israeli fears

To Israelis, Putin’s statements sound hackneyed. Israel is used to acting in contravention of international law and it views every one of its attacks is viewed as being in self-defense, regardless of the international community’s position.

But for Russia, holding firm on these principles stems from its desire to limit American influence in the world and putting an end to what it sees as arrogance of bringing democracy by force to oppressive countries. Moscow wants to end American military actions across the globe, which are carried out in the name of protecting human rights, but are not supported by Russia.

Russia is reminding that unilateral actions by the U.S. in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya caused in the long run more harm than good. The “Libyan example,” a reference to the disappearance of large quantity of shoulder-fire missiles from Libyan army stockpiles and their transfer into 12 countries, is repeatedly mentioned by senior Russian officials. In their view, there is a clear and direct line heading from what happened in Libya to the events in Syria. When just 25 percent of the rebels in Syria support the West, as they Russians claim, Syrian chemical weapons falling into the rebels’ hands constitutes a threat to the entire world. These warnings speak to both American and Israeli fears.

During his appearance at the conference, Putin mentioned the op-ed piece he wrote that was published in The New York Times. “It was my idea,” he said. “I noticed that [U.S.] President Obama had transferred the discussion over an attack on Syria to the Senate, and I wanted to provide the decision-makers with my position.”

With his characteristic cutting humor, Putin wrote off the response essay written by U.S. Senator John McCain that was published in Russian media and had called Putin a corrupt dictator. “I think that he has a certain deficit of information about our country,” Putin said in reference to the U.S. senator. “He wanted to be published in a newspaper that is most authoritative… Pravda is a respected publication the Communist party, now in the opposition, but the level of its distribution in the country is minimal.”

GENERAL STRIKE CALLED for Entire United States—October 11-13 (Yes We Can!)

one million bikers rally dc

[One-million bikers just completed their convoy to Washington, DC, without effect.  How many long-haul truckers would it take, to shut-down Obama’s war machine for three days?  It is long past time that we found that out. 

Support the GENERAL STRIKE on Oct.11-13.]

Convoy to D.C. – Truckers To Shut Down America in October

SHTFplan-logo-350

Mac Slavo

SHTFplan.comhammerdown

Last year the American Truckers Association prepared a report for Congress highlighting the susceptibility of the nation’s just-in-time delivery system, the majority of which is made possible by the transport and delivery of freight. In the event of a catastrophic disaster such as a war that drives fuel prices through the roof or even a natural disaster such as a solar flare that renders electronic trucks inoperable, there would be a “a swift and devastating impact on the food, healthcare, transportation, waste removal, retail, manufacturing, and financial sectors,” according to the report.

The backbone of commerce in the United States are the truck drivers who spend long hours on the road ensuring our very survival as a modern society.

But with fuel prices continuing to rise, wages dropping, jobs becoming harder to find, and rampant corruption in Washington D.C. furthering the country’s economic death spiral, America’s truck drivers, like the majority of our fellow citizens, are fed up.

Between October 11th and 13th they have called for a general strike, asking truck drivers around the country to refuse to haul freight, a move that could carry with it a significant impact on the American economy.

The protest calls for truckers to make their way to Washington D.C. in a massive convoy in an effort to call attention to, among other things, the Benghazi cover-up, the recent attack which killed 25 members of Seal Team 6, ever rising fuel prices, and claims that President Obama has engaged in treasonous crimes.

Moreover, they’ve requested that the American people join them in solidarity by not shopping or engaging in any economic activity that benefits the government or their corporate interests.

The American people are sick and tired of the corruption that is destroying America! We therefore declare a GENERAL STRIKE on the weekend of October 11-13, 2013! Truck drivers will not haul freight! Americans can strike in solidarity with truck drivers!

Breaker 1 9 calling on all Trucker to shut America down for three days October 11-13. The American people are bleeding out with no relief in sight, It is time to change the NEWS. Let us show our elected officials that we are 100% fed up with corruption and the blatant disregard of the Constitution that they swore to defend.

Bob tail it hammer down to the bull$hit city with flags flying high.

My fellow Patriot this effort is to support the truckers in a major shut down of America ion a 3 day strike October 11th thru 13th.

Obamacare will be in effect and most people will be ready to take action. No commerce on those days stock up on items that you will need. No banking no shopping no money transactions. It does not matter If a million or 50 roll through DC in this effort. Congress will listen to We The People. Which is remove Obama from office for crimes of treason and misdemeanors. We want Congressional hearing on Benghazi and Seal Team 6. Louis Learner put in jail. No amnesty, remove all Muslims in our government that do not uphold the Constitution. Remove Eric Holder from office for crimes against the people and the Constitution. Last but not least is Fuel prices.

Via: The Truckers to Shutdown America Facebook Page

The protest comes on the heels of a massive biker rally held in Washington D.C., and other grass roots efforts to hold the government to account for various Constitutional transgressions including everything from stripping Americans of their right to bear arms, to forced health care mandates soon to be implemented across the country (with exemptions for members of Congress and corporations with insider access, of course).

Calls of accountability have grown louder over the years from all political sides, starting most notably with the Tea Party movement and progressing to Occupy Wall Street.

The corruption and need for real change in America’s government has transcended political lines.

If the hundreds of thousands of truckers across America who keep our delivery systems running efficiently were to join together and stop hauling freight for even a week, the impact would be devastating and could not be ignored.

There’d be no food on the shelves, no fuel at our gas stations, and no medical supplies at our pharmacies and hospitals.

Congress and the President, who would like nothing more than to be perceived as our saviors and benefactors, would have no choice but to address the concerns of freight haulers, because the American people would feel the effects of the protest directly. And, chances are they’d be in the streets protesting themselves because of lack of access to essential goods they can’t live without.

We may often feel as if we, as individuals, have no power against the mighty United States government, but as Karl Denninger points out, we have much more power than we think.

If we get just 10% of America on board the entire game changes.

Especially when the business world — and government — realize that the next one is Black Friday weekend.

Just 10% of Americans can change the course of history, much like they did during the Revolutionary War.

Whether it happens in October, during Black Friday sales this November, or at some point in the future, this seemingly untenable situation is coming to a head.

Robert Kennedy may have said it best:

A revolution is coming — a revolution which will be peaceful if we are wise enough; compassionate if we care enough; successful if we are fortunate enough — But a revolution which is coming whether we will it or not. We can affect its character; we cannot alter its inevitability.

Robert Kennedy
Senate Floor
May 9, 1966

The snowball in America continues to roll down the hill, gaining speed and mass.

Please Spread The Word And Share This Post

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“We are prepared to take the first cruise missile with our bare chests.”

[SEE:  1000 Americans Rush To Defend Syria As Human Shields]

OVER OUR DEAD BODIES

OVER OUR DEAD BODIES

American Bombing Still Likely

 

“Go Tell It on the Mountain, From the Peaks of Qasioun!”

 

by FRANKLIN LAMB

 

Damascus.

 

At the height of the war scare here in early September, a group 9 primarily Sunni, Christian, and Alawite students and activists, led by a charismatic and agnostic pro-Hezbollah Lebanese Shia woman from Hermel in Lebanon’s North Bekaa Valley, set up a Human Shields and Observers camp to protect the Syrian TV channels, radio and communication towers situated at the crest of Mount Qasioun which rises up 1,151 meters (3,776 ft) at its crest. The small community has the air of a sit-in as well as a teach-in. Within a few days, their numbers exceeded 200, and at weeks end the “Ala agsadona” (“over our dead bodies”), website was hosting thousands of visitors every day.

 

“We are prepared to take the first cruise missile with our bare chests,” explained one young man, an architecture student at Syrian University, a relatively expensive private institution which offers majors in French, English, German, Italian and other western languages.

 

Mount Qasioun, transliterated from Jabal Qāsiyūn, is the high mountain that overlooks Damascus from the north, and many assume its communication towers would be among the first targets of American cruise missiles. Normally a popular tourist spot for hiking and rock climbing, the area is cherished by Syrians as a place of beauty and peace, where one can get away from life’s pressures and enjoy the mountain’s cool temperatures. Here one may also dine at a range of glass-fronted restaurants from which the whole city may be viewed in panorama—and as Damascus has expanded over the years, some districts have even been established on the foot of the mountain. Perhaps as a sign of the times, these days Qaisoun is also honeycombed with Syrian armed forces.

 

The special connection of Mount Qasioun and the people of Syria is perpetuated by oral and written histories signifying what the Mountain has meant to this region since prehistory. On the slopes of Jabal Qasiun, just above the “Ala agsadona” camp, is a cave, which, it is said, the first man, Adam, inhabited for a period. Historians have recorded a variety of stories about Ibrāhīm (Abraham), and ‘Īsā (Jesus) also having sheltered and prayed in it. Medieval Arab history books speak additionally of it as the site where Qābīl (Cain) killed Hābīl (Abel). Moreover, it has been known for hundreds of years as a place where prayers would immediately be accepted by God, and in Syrian history when a calamity threatened the people, and especially in times of drought, rulers of Damascus would climb to the cave and pray for safety and often for rainfall.

 

During these days of slaughter and the threats of US-led western bombing, the camp has come to symbolize Syrian resistance to foreign hegemony and occupation.

 

Sitting below “Adams cave,” not far from the camp, this observer listened as some of these students and activists, many of whom have taken to sleeping on foam mattresses in or alongside tents, explained for me their involvement in the Human Shield project and their objectives. One is Alaa, a United States social history buff, who, to my great enjoyment, sang a resistance song she is writing, asking me my opinion. The song is adapted from the Afro-American spiritual classic, written by John Wesley Work, Jr. in the mid-19th century, with just a few changes to the lyrics:

 

“Go Tell It on the Mountain, From the Peaks of Qasioun and Everywhere;

 

Go Shout It out from Adam’s Cave– Where Syria’s Blessed Resistance Was Born!”

 

Some of the most active and inspirational youngsters up at “Ala agsadona” camp are in their “adolescent” 60’s and 70’s. Many of them have lost loved ones during this God-awful continuing crisis. The camp is on high alert 24/7 given the threats against its dwellers from foreigner jihadist groups—given also that the mountain was targeted by mortars, as well as bombed by Israel, last spring. Several army check points minutely screen all traffic heading up its slopes. But despite the various threats, the attitude and general esprit inside “Ala agsadona” is one of resistance, pride and patriotism, not exclusively for the current regime, but intensely focused on Syria—its ten thousand-year history as the cradle of civilization and culture, as well as its centuries as the region’s superpower.

 

Ogarit Dandask, whose idea it was to establish the camp, explained: “We will protect our land with our bodies, for we prefer dying in dignity than living under any occupation. We call on all the Syrians to join us, because it’s our country that is being threatened, not the regime or any specific person.”

 

After hearing of preparations for large numbers of Americans and other foreigners to come to Syria to serve as human shields and international observers in solidarity with the Syrian people, Ms. Dandask made an appeal to “all the free people in the world, all those who believe that people have the right to decide their own future,” to join this grass roots campaign. Many Syrians have offered to open their homes to foreign supporters of Syria, who likely would be camped at key potential bombing sites.

 

Asked if the current pause in Obama Administration bombing plans would lead them to break camp, the response has been that the participants will remain vigilant, prepared to resume their full numbers, and to man their posts should the threats of immediate bombing re-surface. A majority of the Quisoun “minute-men and women”, reflecting the Syrian population’s general view, believe that the current pause is just that. And that American bombing is still likely.

 

Yet as appears to be the case across Syria, there is a palpable sense of relief, even some limited euphoria at the moment, along with hope and optimism, that the United Nations, Russia, Iran, the USA, and Syria can settle this crisis that has destroyed such a great part of Syria and brought widespread death and destruction to so very many of her families.

Franklin Lamb is doing research in Syria and Lebanon and can be reached c/o fplamb@gmail.com

Snowden nominated for Sakharov Prize

Snowden nominated for Sakharov Prize

iran-english-radio

Former NSA (National Security Agency) contractor Edward Snowden, who exposed the US’s worldwide espionage activities, has been nominated for the European Parliament’s prestigious Sakharov Prize.

Members of the European Parliament announced Wednesday that they would officially nominate the whistleblower for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
The European MPs said Snowden risked his freedom to help protect that of other people and deserves to be honored for exposing “systematic infringements of civil liberties by US secret services”.

The European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) political group, who submitted Snowden’s candidacy, said: “Edward Snowden risked his life to confirm what we had long suspected regarding mass online surveillance, a major scandal of our times…He revealed details of violations of EU data protection law and fundamental rights.”

Snowden leaked information showing that the NSA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) conduct massive surveillance operations which monitor the phone records and Internet data of American and foreign nationals and even officials in ally nations.
The Sakharov Prize has been designated for human rights advocacy, which the parliament awards annually to honor individuals who “combat intolerance, fanaticism and oppression.”
The winner of the Sakharov Prize will be announced in October, with the recipient receiving a monetary award of €50,000.

Will Obama Honor the Deep Principles Behind the United Nations, Or Will He Destroy It?

[Syria could either be a concrete wall where the American ship of state crashs in total ruin, or else it could be a pivotal point for a smart president, who knew when it was time to pivot in place and to turn away from the disastrous policies established by his predecessor.  Until now, Obama has perpetuated the deadly policies of the zionist neocons.  Look at where it has gotten us.  If Obama actually has the balls to follow through on his promises to devastate Syria (in effect, becoming even more Bush-like than Bush himself, who refused to bomb Syria for Israel’s sake in 2006), he will have publicly divorced himself from the will of the American people whom he has sworn to defend.  As a lawyer himself, Obama can clearly see the precious legal institutions and hallowed American Constitutional laws that he will have abrogated, if he takes the next step before the whole world and “pushes the button” on Syria. 

None of this was supposed to have gone down like this in the great master plan….If it wasn’t for that damned human free will.  These questions and legal boundaries were all supposed to have been crossed on Bush’s watch, but he refused to be that guy who pushes the big, shiny, red button and murders off a large portion of the human race.  If the argument given in the report below holds true in the coming days, then the forces backing humanitarian interventionism will have established dominance over the anti-wmd crowd, preserving UN authority to intervene for humanitarian reasons, while moving debate on control of the spread of wmd from the Security Council to the courts, where it belongs.  The way to do all of this would simply be to turn this anti-Syrian, anti-wmd debate now ongoing at the UN into a reporting mechanism for wmd violations, where any future wmd violations would then automatically trigger a UN investigation and response (if any is required).  Obama could then deflate the current hysteria over the Damascus attacks by taking the announced military response to those attacks off the table.

The White House and the Pentagon long ago abandoned the legal justifications for the terror war and reasons to continue and to expand the fighting, based upon the Congressional resolutions which authorized the war in Afghanistan.  By looking for other excuses to increase the US Government’s reach, based on those original resolutions, such as wmd enforcement, the “war on terror” ceased to be, becoming from then on, the war against wmd, even though the lawyers and legal spinners argued that it was a key strategy in avoiding mass-terror.  It is now vital that some responsible leaders move our government to separate the two streams of enforcement, the containment of wmd taken-out of the struggle for basic human rights.  There is no connection, except in the mind of Dick Cheney.  Cheney’s speciality has always been to muddy-up the waters of whatever the current controversy, until no one can see to the bottom of things, especially since his days at the helm of Halliburton, where his company created a reason for Saddam Hussein to invaid Kuwait).

Enforcement of all anti-wmd laws would thereafter be accomplished by an international regime for controlling ALL weapons of mass-murder, the first real step towards their total elimination, and in the process, strengthening both the authority of the United Nations, as well as the US Constitution.  A global ban on all wmd would form the basis for a comprehensive global peace treaty, the foundation for all Hope for humankind, the great Promise that has been given by all of the great Prophets, who have been sent by God.  We find the way to True World Peace and future humanity will think of us for the right reasons.

It is time for you to do great things, Mr. Obama, if you are up to the task.]

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Syria Is a Legal Triumph

slate

If a deal holds up, it will be a tremendous victory for international law, despite Obama’s bungling.

U.S. President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama addresses the nation about the situation in Syria from the East Room at the White House Tuesday night.
Photo by Evan Vucci/Pool/Reuters

President Obama has bungled Syria. He said he’d enforce the accidental red line he drew on chemical weapons, then tacked to asking Congress for approval for military strikes, then swerved again to nudge the Russians to broker an unlikely deal with Assad. The zigzagging made his big speech Tuesday night confusing and unconvincing.

And yet, all of this looks pretty good at the moment if you’re tracking not Obama’s credibility or political skillsbut the rule of law. Of course it could all fall apart, but right now international and constitutional law are looking stronger than they did before the president got himself into his red-line mess.

There are two competing norms of international law at stake in the world’s response to the Syrian gassing: The ban on chemical weapons and the post-World War II system for maintaining relative peace around the globe—the 1945 U.N. Charter. The two norms are directly clashing at the moment. Syria never signed onto the Chemical Weapons Convention, in force since 1993. And the U.N. Charter requires the Security Council to approve the use of force Obama has planned—approval that Russia and China, which have veto power, won’t give. And so the big clash on the left is over which to value more: preventing the use of chemical weapons or maintaining the U.N. system that limits the legal use of force more broadly.

The pro-intervention argument, made forcefully by Obama’s U.N. ambassador, Samantha Power, values enforcing the chemical weapons ban over respecting the procedures by which the U.N. operates. If the Russians are holding the Security Council “hostage,” as Power says, then the U.S. gets to opt out. The contrary, not-so-fast argument, captured by Yale law professors Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro, is that all of our breaches of U.N. rules “add up — and each one makes it harder to hold others to the rules. If we follow Kosovo and Iraq with Syria, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to stop others from a similar use of force down the line.” Hathaway and Shapiro are reminding the country that opting out of the U.N. rules isn’t free, no matter how worthy the humanitarian rationale. They want Obama to think about whether punishing Assad’s use of chemical weapons “is worth endangering the fragile international order that is World War II’s most significant legacy.”

The president seemed inclined to brush by this question. But the country, plus our reluctant allies—thank you, Britain—wouldn’t let him. The continuing lack of support at home and abroad for striking Syria forced Obama to say he would go to Congress. And that’s a victory for another kind of rule of law: The Constitution’s war-making powers. Presidents have taken more and more of this authority, either because they’ve usurped it or because Congress has handed it over. Obama did his own grabbing when he intervened in Libya without going to Congress first. The War Powers Act—the congressional answer to Vietnam—should have stopped him. It didn’t.

But Obama declined to take presidential power that one more step. Without NATO, or decent poll numbers to back him up, Obama decided he had to have Congress behind him. This isn’t the most high-minded way to get there, but I’ll take it. Score one for limiting executive power as the Constitution calls for.

Skeptics, among them Slate columnist Eric Posner, point out that Obama keeps saying he retains the power to strike Syria even if Congress votes against him. And so he’s aggrandizing rather than humbling his office. Another problem is that the legal rationale the administration is floating—that the president can bomb another nation, on his own, based on his own decision that an “important national interest” is at risk—is crazy broad. It sounds like anything goes, who needs Congress, unless American troops are going in on the ground.

But as long as Obama doesn’t actually strike Syria if Congress won’t authorize it—and isn’t that becoming unimaginable?—these excesses are like the bad night of drinking that doesn’t end in actual injury.

I do see an obvious pitfall here: Future presidents could run away from Congress based on the Obama experience. Don’t take anything to Congress because it’s a huge mess! But hang on. What if this all ends better than it began—what if the Russians get more from Assad than bombs would have? Yes I know that securing Syria’s chemical weapons will be enormously difficult, practically speaking. But think about it: Syria just admitted for the first time that it has chemical weapons and announced that it wants to sign on to the treaty that bans them. Russia is pressuring Assad to do something good rather than standing by and letting him do evil. If any kind of deal can be cobbled together, it will be a net gain. Obama will be right that it would never have happened without the credible threat of the use of force. And at the same time, as long as the threat doesn’t materialize, it won’t erode the international system of law or the Constitution’s division of powers either. Given how very badly this could have gone for both—and could still go—that sounds like victory to me.