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 Syria-Iran red line show

This eminently Bushist Obama “red line” business, applied to Syria, Iran or both, is becoming a tad ridiculous.

Take Pentagon head Chuck Hagel’s tour of Israel and the “friendly” GCC (the de facto Gulf Counter-revolution Club) last week. US defense contractors had the Moet flowing as Hagel merrily congregated with that prodigy of democracy – United Arab Emirates (UAE) Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed – to celebrate the sale of 25 F-16 fighter jets.

There’s more on the way; 48 Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD missile interceptors, at a cool US$1 billion. The Pentagon is sending one of its only two of such systems to Guam this month to counter that other threat – missiles from North Korea.
The weaponizing free fest to Israel and the Gulf petro-monarchies – missile defense, fighter jets, mega-bombs – could not but be duly hailed as the proverbial “message” to “counter Iran’s nuclear ambitions”, or “the air and missile threat posed by Iran”, or the general “worry about Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon” or “Washington’s determination to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”

Pepe Escobar

Asia Times Online, Hong Kong

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Israeli yellow card for US on Iran

Though a military conflict in the Persian Gulf does not appear to be imminent, the situation in the region today somewhat resembles that in Europe just prior to World War I, a top Russian security analyst told Asia Times Online. While nobody wants a war, the different actors could easily be drawn into one, said Dr Victor Mizin, vice president of the Center for Strategic Assessments in Moscow.

It is conceivable that the Iranians might try to weaponize in the future their nuclear potential, Mizin said, much like the Indians did in the past, largely under pressure from their own nuclear scientists. In this case, Israel would likely “be doomed to use force” despite pressure from Washington and military assessments that a successful operation would require the attacker “to knock out immediately some 2,000 targets” including nuclear facilities, military and missile bases, and air defense installations.

Victor Kotsev

Asia Times Online

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A post-history strip tease

Conceptually, post-history cuts all corners. The flow of history is degraded as fake. Simulacrum trumps reality. We see history repeating not as tragedy and farce but as a double farce; an overlapping example is jihadis in Syria weaponized just like the former “freedom fighters” in Afghanistan in the 1980s anti-Soviet jihad conflating with the Western gang in the UN Security Council trying to apply to Syria what they got away with in Libya; regime change.

We also have history repeating itself as cloning; neoliberalism with Chinese characteristics beating the West in its industrialization game – in terms of speed – while at the same time repeating the same mistakes, from the mindless excesses of an acquisition mentality to no respect for the environment.

It goes without saying that post-history buries the Enlightenment – as favoring the emergence of all sorts of fundamentalisms. So it had also to bury international law; from bypassing the UN to launch a war on Iraq in 2003 to using a UN resolution to launch a war on Libya in 2011. And now Britain and France are taking no prisoners trying to bypass the UN or even NATO itself and weaponize the “rebels” in Syria.

Pepe Escobar

Asia Times Online, Hong Kong

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The Islamic Emirate of Syriastan

And now some breaking news coming from the Islamic Emirate of Syriastan. This program is brought to you by the NATOGCC corporation. Please also tune in for a word from our individual sponsors, the United States government, Britain, France, Turkey, the House of Saud and the Emir of Qatar.

It all started early this week, with a proclamation by the elusive leader of al-Qaeda Central, Ayman “The Doctor” al-Zawahiri, hidden somewhere in the Pakistani tribal areas; how come Double O Bama with his license to kill (list) and prime drone fleet cannot find him?

Puzzled infidels from Washington to Beijing may be entitled to believe this is straight from Monty Python – but it’s actually deadly serious; especially as the House of Saud, the Emir of Qatar, the neo-Ottoman Erdogan in Turkey and King Playstation from Jordan – vastly supported by Washington – continue to weaponize the Syrian “rebels” to Kingdom Come. And one of the top beneficiaries of this weaponizing orgy has been – who else – the M&A gang now known as the Islamic State of the Iraq and Levant.

Pepe Escobar

Asia Times Online

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Eyeing Syria, White House woos regional rulers

When President Barack Obama meets over the next month with leaders from Mideast and other regional nations, he will have a timely opportunity to try to rally the Syrian opposition’s main backers around a unified strategy to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Jordan, Turkey, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – whose Sunni Muslim leaders will meet separately with Obama starting April 16- are all believed to be arming or training rebel forces seeking to overthrow Assad’s regime. But disparate political, geographic and religious considerations have led to conflicting approaches to which rebel factions to back and what kind of support to provide.

Al Arabiya, United Arab Emirates

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Syrian conflict mobilizes hundreds of fighters from Europe: study

Hundreds of Europeans have traveled to Syria to engage in the fight against President Bashar al-Assad, a year-long study by the London-based International Center for the Study of Radicalization has found.

The study, entitled “European foreign fighters in Syria,” was released on Tuesday, and put the figure at up to 600 individuals from 14 countries, including the United Kingdom, Austria, Spain, Sweden and Germany.

Dr. Peter Neumann of King’s College London, lead researcher on the project, said the remaining contingent was made up of fighters from the wider Middle East, who traveled to the country to join forces with the opposition.

Estimates are based on freely available information from more than 450 open sources in the Western and Arab media, as well as the martyrdom notices that have been posted in jihadist online forums.

“It’s very difficult to ascertain, with certainty, the exact numbers of fighters who travel from Europe to Syria. The figure of 600 is the top end of the estimate,” the lower end is 150, Neumann told Al Arabiya

Saffiya Ansari

Al Arabiya, United Arab Emirates

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