Despite Horrific Repression, the U.S. Should Stay Out of Syria

The worsening violence and repression in Syria has left policymakers scrambling to think of ways the United States could help end the bloodshed and support those seeking to dislodge the Assad regime. The desperate desire to “do something” has led to increasing calls for the United States to provide military aid to armed insurgents or even engage in direct military intervention, especially in light of the possible use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.

The question on the mind of almost everyone who has followed the horror as it has unfolded over the past two years is, “What we can do?”

The short answer, unfortunately, is not much.

This is hard for many Americans to accept. We have a cultural propensity to believe that if the United States puts in enough money, creativity, willpower, or firepower into a problem that we can make things right. However, despite the desires of both the right-wing nationalists and liberal hawks, this isn’t always the case.

Stephen Zunes

Foreign Policy In Focus, United States

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Can Obama Save Turkey From a Syrian Quagmire?

When Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, met President Obama at the White House on Thursday, the most pressing topic was the war in Syria. Turkey has not faced a threat on this scale since Stalin demanded territory from the Turks in 1945.

In 2011, the Turkish government severed all diplomatic ties with the government of Bashar al-Assad and began to support the Syrian opposition groups seeking to oust him. But, thus far, this policy has failed, and it has exposed Turkey to growing risks, most recently two deadly bomb attacks in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli that were most likely planted by pro-Assad forces in retaliation for Turkish support of the Syrian rebels.

Turkey’s blessing over the past decade has been its reputation as a stable country in an otherwise unstable region. In November 2012, the global ratings agency Fitch rated Turkish bonds investment-grade for the first time since 1994. The country’s improved international reputation has alleviated a chronic economic problem: lack of capital. A steady infusion of foreign investment for over a decade has ushered in phenomenal growth, at some points exceeding 8 percent annually, and propelled Turkey into the Group of 20 industrialized nations.

Turkey has become a majority middle-class society for the first time in its history, helping Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party win three successive elections since 2002.

But the war in Syria threatens these gains, and Mr. Erdogan’s political future. Turkey will not be immune to the fallout from a Somalia-style failed state next door — or from a rump Assad regime seeking revenge against Turkey for supporting the rebels. Turkey grows because it attracts international investment; and Turkey attracts investment because it is deemed stable. A spillover of the mess in Syria risks ending the country’s economic miracle.

Soner Cagaptay & James F. Jeffrey

The New York Times, United States

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Skeptics multiply as UN vote condemns Syria

When the 193-member General Assembly voted on Wednesday to condemn the beleaguered government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, there was an increase in the number of skeptics who neither supported nor opposed the tottering regime in Damascus.The resolution, which is legally non-binding, was adopted by a vote of 107-12, compared with 133-12 last August.

As the number of supporters to the resolution declined, from 133 to 107, the abstentions increased significantly, from 31 to 59, including a mix of Asian, African and Latin American countries.

The abstentions included Algeria, Bangladesh, India, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia, El Salvador, Eritrea, Fiji, Kenya, Lebanon, Myanmar, Singapore, Sudan, South Sudan and Uruguay.

Asked for a response, Jose Luis Diaz, Amnesty International’s UN representative in New York, told IPS, “I think the number of abstentions – and the divisions in the General Assembly – are the consequence of political considerations.”

He said some countries would have preferred to give space to a renewed push for negotiations in the wake of the recent agreement between Russia and the United States, including a proposed international conference on Syria.

“They abstained because to vote ‘no’ would have been to side openly with Assad and to ignore the appalling crimes taking place in Syria,” Diaz said.

Thalif Deen

Asia Times Online

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The last of the Semites

Jewish opponents of Zionism understood the movement since its early age as one that shared the precepts of anti-Semitism in its diagnosis of what gentile Europeans called the “Jewish Question”. What galled anti-Zionist Jews the most, however, was that Zionism also shared the “solution” to the Jewish Question that anti-Semites had always advocated, namely the expulsion of Jews from Europe.

It was the Protestant Reformation with its revival of the Hebrew Bible that would link the modern Jews of Europe to the ancient Hebrews of Palestine, a link that the philologists of the 18th century would solidify through their discovery of the family of “Semitic” languages, including Hebrew and Arabic. Whereas Millenarian Protestants insisted that contemporary Jews, as descendants of the ancient Hebrews, must leave Europe to Palestine to expedite the second coming of Christ, philological discoveries led to the labelling of contemporary Jews as “Semites”. The leap that the biological sciences of race and heredity would make in the 19th century of considering contemporary European Jews racial descendants of the ancient Hebrews would, as a result, not be a giant one.

Basing themselves on the connections made by anti-Jewish Protestant Millenarians, secular European figures saw the political potential of “restoring” Jews to Palestine abounded in the 19th century. Less interested in expediting the second coming of Christ as were the Millenarians, these secular politicians, from Napoleon Bonaparte to British foreign secretary Lord Palmerston (1785-1865) to Ernest Laharanne, the private secretary of Napoleon III in the 1860s, sought to expel the Jews of Europe to Palestine in order to set them up as agents of European imperialism in Asia. Their call would be espoused by many “anti-Semites”, a new label chosen by European anti-Jewish racists after its invention in 1879 by a minor Viennese journalist by the name of Wilhelm Marr, who issued a political programme titled The Victory of Judaism over Germanism. Marr was careful to decouple anti-Semitism from the history of Christian hatred of Jews on the basis of religion, emphasising, in line with Semitic philology and racial theories of the 19th century, that the distinction to be made between Jews and Aryans was strictly racial.

Joseph Massad

Al Jazeera, Qatar

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Pakistan elections and the hope for democracy

This year’s general elections in Pakistan will be remembered for two things: the determination of the people of Pakistan to see them through and the equal determination of the men of violence to prevent them. As Pakistanis prepare to go to the polls on May 11, there is much nervousness and hope for its outcome, potentially the first successful democratic transition between two popularly elected governments in Pakistan’s history.

What my experience as a district officer has taught me, however, is that there is nothing more dangerous than changing horses in mid-stream. National elections have proven in the past to lead to the collapse of law and order and the imposition of martial law. With the promise of the current elections, this is a cycle that appears to be broken, but we should be aware of its dangers.

Akbar Ahmed

Al Jazeera, Qatar

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U.S. options limited on Syria despite weapons report

The White House disclosure that the Syrian government has twice used chemical weapons still leaves the Obama administration stuck with a limited choice of military options to help the rebels oust President Bashar Assad.

Arming the rebels runs smack into the reality that a military group fighting alongside them has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda. Establishing a no-fly zone poses a significant challenge as Syria possesses an air defense system far more robust than what the U.S. and its allies overwhelmed in Libya two years ago.

President Barack Obama had declared that the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons in the two-year civil war would be “game changer” that would cross a “red line” for a major military response, but the White House made clear Thursday that even a quick strike wasn’t imminent.

Al Arabiya, United Arab Emirates

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Entering a resource-shock world

Brace yourself. You may not be able to tell yet, but according to global experts and the US intelligence community, the earth is already shifting under you. Whether you know it or not, you are on a new planet, a resource-shock world of a sort humanity has never before experienced.

Two nightmare scenarios – a global scarcity of vital resources and the onset of extreme climate change – are already beginning to converge and in the coming decades are likely to produce a tidal wave of unrest, rebellion, competition and conflict. Just what this tsunami of disaster will look like may, as yet, be hard to discern, but experts warn of “water wars” over contested river systems, global food riots sparked by soaring prices for life’s basics, mass migrations of climate refugees (with resulting anti-migrant violence) and the breakdown of social order or the collapse of states. At first, such mayhem is likely to arise largely in Africa, Central Asia and other areas of the underdeveloped South, but in time all regions of the planet will be affected.

To appreciate the power of this encroaching catastrophe, it’s necessary to examine each of the forces that are combining to produce this future cataclysm.

Michael Klare

Al Jazeera, Qatar

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