“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The old sarin gas trick: The usual regimes, the UK and France, are still looking for an excuse to intervene in Syria.

Matthew Feeney|Jun. 4, 2013 2:37 pm

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said that tests conducted in Paris on samples taken from Syria confirm that sarin gas has been used "several times and in a localised manner" during the Syrian conflict.
The announcement comes shortly after United Nations investigators said that they had “reasonable grounds” to believe that chemical weapons were being used in the Syrian conflict by government and rebel forces.
The White House has said that U.S. is continuing to gather evidence of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
Because the European Union’s arms embargo on Syria was not renewed at the end of last month it would be easier for France and other countries that have advocated for increased involvement in Syria to assist Assad’s opposition by sending them weapons. The recent news will almost certainly be used as the latest argument for intervention.
In August 2012 Obama said that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be considered a “red line.” Given that tests from Paris have confirmed that sarin gas was used the Obama administration will be under pressure to increase involvement in the conflict.
If the Obama administration does not react to the confirmed use of chemical weapons in some way it could be interpreted by Hezbollah, Russia, Iran, and the Syrian government to mean that when it comes to Syria Obama is all bark and no bite. This is not a perception that Obama will be keen on fostering, especially given the bipartisan support for intervention on Capitol Hill.
The Syria Transition Support Act of 2013, which would allow the Obama administration to arm “vetted” rebels in Syria was passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month. It is now awaiting action in the Senate.


The Syrian army has regained control of the strategic city of Qusayr on the border with Lebanon, Syrian state television has reported.

"Our heroic armed forces have returned security and stability to all of the town of Qusayr," a statement carried by the station said on Wednesday.

Government and rebel forces have been fighting a fierce battle for the control of the city for more than two weeks. The city is on a critical cross-border supply route between Lebanon and Syria.
Al Jazeera's Rula Amin, reporting from the Lebanese capital Beirut, said the report was "just a claim" from a pro-government TV station,  but added that it had been preceded by regime forces' gains on the battle field.

"What we know is that the government made significant advances yesterday," she said, adding fighting was continuing as there were still "pockets of resistance" in the town.

Qusayr remains a strategic town for government troops and the Lebanese Hezbollah fighters battling alongside regime forces, said our correspondent.
Syrian troops backed by Hezbollah fighters have besieged the town, which controls vital supply routes from Lebanon and access between the capital Damascus and the coastal heartland of President Bashar al-Assad's minority Alawite sect.


  1. Syria is increasingly becoming a foreign policy thorn in America’s side. Uninformed and out-of-touch politicians, such as Senator John McCain (R-AZ), are urging the administration to authorize a more direct U.S. involvement in the war in Syria; he believes that America should aid the rebels against the Assad regime. The U.S. has no true allies in the Middle East. The one nation we could rely on, Israel, does not care for President Obama and the feeling is obviously mutual. Despite this fact, the two nations share certain interests in the region, so could we see Israel act as an US proxy in Syria?

    Often, it has not turned out well, when the U.S. decides to back an opposition group, in the name of bringing down a brutal dictator. Iraq, Libya and Egypt are obvious examples. In Iraq, the U.S. took it upon itself to dethrone Saddam Hussein. That country has been in chaos ever since and appears to be heading towards an all-out civil war. In Libya, President Obama took it upon himself to order the bombing of then Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi’s forces. Currently, Libya is ruled by an interim government – the General National Council – which includes representatives from dozens of parties. Libya awaits its new Constitution but, at some point, it is almost inevitable that Islamists will make a move to gain total power. In Egypt, America backed the wrong horse because the Progressives who control the White House are politically aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood – an organization which is far more Marxist than it is Islamist.

    Additionally, it should not be forgotten that the U.S. armed and trained the Afghan Mujahideen against their Russian occupiers; opening the door for al-Qaeda and the Taliban to consolidate their power and, eventually, turn on us.


  2. {…}

    Contrary to what John McCain thinks, it is clearly not going to be possible for the U.S. to pick out “the good guys” from among the various factions that make up the opposition to Bashar-al-Assad. Even if such a thing could be done, those “good guys” are not going to prevail in a post-Assad Syria. With Assad gone, Syria will find itself at war with Hezbollah. This, of course, would be a good thing for Israel; it’s two most implacable foes tearing each other to pieces.

    In early May of this year, Israel twice carried out airstrikes against targets in Syria. One of the strikes was apparently aimed at missiles that were being transported from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon. The other was an attack on a Syrian military installation close to the capital, Damascus. With Hezbollah in Syria, Israel is concerned that the terrorist group will acquire advanced weaponry from the Assad regime, which will then be used against Israel.

    In the meantime, the United States appears to be searching for a way to get involved, without actually getting involved. Were Israel to act as an US proxy in Syria, both countries would achieve a goal, although not necessarily for the same reasons: While Israel has no love for the Syrian dictator, it fears that those who replace him could prove worse. An ongoing conflict between a new Syrian government and Assad’s Hezbollah allies might be the only thing that prevents Syrian Islamists from attacking Israel.

    The U.S. knows that the Syrian regime has stockpiles of chemical weapons. Recently, it has come to light that such weapons have allegedly been used in the civil war, although it has yet to be confirmed who used them and against whom they were used. America certainly cannot afford to see those weapons fall into the wrong hands, so backing Israel’s airstrikes in Syria is highly expedient; not only is damage inflicted upon Assad’s forces, but Hezbollah is also thwarted in its attempts to obtain advanced weapons; weapons that might one day be used in terrorist attacks against U.S. assets.

    There is no good way for the United States to intervene in the war in Syria. Israel will continue to intervene in order to protect its own interests and maintain its security. Were Israel to act as an US proxy in Syria, neither it, nor the United States, would win any friends – either in the region or elsewhere. That should matter little to either country, however; Islamists are bent on the destruction of both nations and will continue to be, no matter what.

    Written by Graham J Noble - Guardian

  3. The UK and French regimes tried this scam a month ago. No mention of the canister found in Turkey, belonging to al Qaeda and the use of sarin in Iraq.

  4. Russia awaits Turkey’s explanation on sarin gas, bomb plot
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated on Friday that his country is expecting an official explanation from Ankara over Syrian militant al-Nusra’s possession of sarin gas. 3 June 2013

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated on Friday that his country is expecting an official explanation from Ankara over Syrian militant al-Nusra’s possession of sarin gas.

    Seven members of the al-Nusra group were detained on Wednesday after Turkish police found sarin gas, which was reportedly going to be used in a bomb attack, during a search of the suspects’ homes, Turkish media have reported.

    “We look forward to receiving full information from our Turkish colleagues over the matter. The situation is very serious. It seems like the ones who speak about chemical weapons continue to play interesting games. All the details about the matter need to be investigated,” said Lavrov while speaking at a press conference in Moscow.

    Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich has also stated that they are following the matter closely, adding that Russia would never accept the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

    “The Syrian government had promised several times that chemical weapons would never be used in internal conflicts. Russia has taken all the necessary guarantees from the Syrian government,” said Lukashevich.

    Newspapers claimed on Thursday that two kilograms of sarin gas, which is usually used for making bombs and was banned by the UN in 1991, had been found in the homes of suspects detained in the southern provinces of Adana and Mersin.

    Twelve suspects were caught by the police on Monday. The reports claimed that the al-Nusra members had been planning a bomb attack in Adana on Thursday but the attack was averted when the police caught the suspects. Along with the sarin gas, the police seized a number of handguns, grenades, bullets and documents during their search. Five of the suspects were released later on Thursday.

    In another incident in Adana, the police received intelligence that a bomb-laden vehicle had entered Adana, the bombs being the same type used in a recent attack in Hatay's Reyhanlı town, the Taraf daily reported on Thursday.

  5. Al Qaeda in Iraq Still Threatens America
    Posted GMT 6-3-2013 20:1:6
    A week ago, Obama declared that Al Qaeda was on a path to defeat. Not only is that not true of Al Qaeda as a whole; it’s not even true of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

    During his multiple withdrawals from Iraq, Obama claimed that the mission had been successfully concluded and that the war there never had anything to do with Al Qaeda. Unfortunately Al Qaeda in Iraq begged to differ.

    This May, over a thousand Iraqis have been killed, nearly equaling the death toll from the worst days of the Iraq War. Car bombings in Baghdad no longer make the evening news, but they are commonplace and despite the withdrawal, Americans haven't been immune from the violence.

    Among the Benghazi attackers were about a dozen members of Al Qaeda in Iraq. The four Americans who died in the attack could be considered four additional Al Qaeda in Iraq kills.

    But Al Qaeda in Iraq's real mission lay in Syria. The Al-Nusra Front has dominated the Sunni side of the Syrian Civil War. Robert Ford, the United States ambassador to Syria, has said that the Al-Nusra Front is just Al Qaeda in Iraq operating under another name.

    While Obama has been taking an extended victory lap, his unfinished business in Baghdad is on the way to accomplishing in Syria what it failed to accomplish in Iraq; take over an entire country. The Al-Nusra Front started life as a Syrian arm of Al Qaeda in Iraq which fed foreign fighters into the Iraq War and made the fighting so bloody. It has now become Al Qaeda in Iraq's biggest success story.

    In April, the head of Al Qaeda in Iraq announced the creation of an Islamic state encompassing Iraq and Syria. The Al-Nusra Front responded by pledging allegiance to Al Qaeda while avoiding acknowledging that they are not a Syrian independence movement, but a transnational Salafist front operating in Syria.

    All this might seem academic. After years of trying to police Iraq, most Americans could be forgiven for not giving a damn who is blowing up who in Syria or Iraq. Unfortunately as we found out in Benghazi, what happens in Iraq, doesn't stay in Iraq. It doesn't stay in Benghazi either.

    Iraqi authorities have arrested five members of Al Qaeda in Iraq and seized a production facility for manufacturing Sarin nerve gas along with remote controlled planes that they planned to use as drones to deploy their chemical weapons. Their immediate targets were Shiite Muslims, but the Iraqi defense ministry stated that there were plans to smuggle the weapons to the United States and Europe.


  6. {…}

    Meanwhile Turkey arrested members of an Al-Nusra Front cell with their own stockpiles of Sarin nerve gas. Syria claims to have done the same thing.

    While there are good reasons to be skeptical of any claims from the Syrian government, Carla del Ponte, a member of the U.N. Independent International Commission of Inquiry, had stated earlier that evidence pointed to the use of Sarin nerve gas by the Sunni rebels.

    The seizure of multiple WMDs from Al Qaeda in Iraq's operations across three countries shows just how big the problem has become.

    In his recent national defense speech, Obama repeated the familiar theme that Bush had diverted focus from the fight against Al Qaeda by going into Iraq and that he had restored the proper focus by moving back to Afghanistan.

    In fact, Al Qaeda was far stronger in Iraq than in Afghanistan when he took office and remained so during his failed attempts at defeating and then appeasing the Taliban. While Obama threw away lives fighting the Taliban, Al Qaeda in Iraq was laying plans for capturing an entire country and its WMD stockpiles.

    There is a certain irony to Al Qaeda in Iraq threatening the United States with Sarin, classified officially as a weapon of mass destruction, long after the Democrats had discredited the Iraq War with taunts of "Where are the WMDs?"

    Chemical weapons are notoriously tricky and it's likely that Al Qaeda in Iraq still has some work to do before it can successfully deploy a WMD. In the nineties, a Japanese doomsday cult's Sarin nerve gas attacks only killed twenty people and sickened thousands. But 0.5 milligrams of Sarin is a lethal dose for an adult and the Al-Nusra Front cells had kilograms of it.

    Syria as a whole may have a thousand tons of Sarin. The Tokyo doomsday cult planned to kill millions with its 70 tons. And as Syrian bases and facilities fall into the hands of the Al-Nusra Front, it will no longer have to rely on crude attempts to manufacture weapons that it can just pick up wholesale.

    In his speech at the National Defense University, Obama declared that the war must end. And no doubt it will. One way or another. Nothing lasts forever. But his implication that America can end the war by becoming more passive is wrong.

    The war did not begin because the United States was too active, but because it was too passive and took refuge in the cult of root causes instead of dealing directly and immediately with threats. September 11 was shocking, but it was also inevitable. It is equally inevitable that a terrorist attack will one day occur that will be bigger and more devastating than it.

    Washington, D.C. often lives in its own bubble. Having forgotten about Iraq once it stopped being a political football, Democratic politicians imagine that Iraq and its Al Qaeda legions have forgotten about them. The Sarin raids in Iraq, Turkey and Syria are a reminder that Al Qaeda in Iraq may now be a bigger threat than it ever was before.

    The Clinton Administration chose not to take down Bin Laden when it had the chance, instead taking refuge in outreach and "smart" targeted strikes that were the predecessors of today's drone warfare. It believed that showing Muslims that we would engage in humanitarian intervention to empower their national aims in Yugoslavia would count for more than hunting down Osama bin Laden. It was wrong.

    September 11 was the outcome of its neglect. Now the Obama Administration is allowing history to repeat itself with more humanitarian interventions and smart strikes that overlook the real threat growing on the horizon.

    The Sarin raids should be a wake up call. But this is not an administration that takes 3 AM calls.

    By Daniel Greenfield

  7. I am not understanding this place any longer.

    AnonymousTue Jun 04, 06:41:00 AM EDT

    I am doubting Obama will come out strongly against repressing the protesters in Turkey.



    I put up this, and WiO replied:

    spot on

    which means he was simply agreeing with me. And now his comment is gone. I do not get it. It was a perfectly appropriate and innocuous comment.

    Also at the bottom of the last thread I made two simple statements, one sincerely apologizing to Quirk, and the other making a lame joke about being called sparky.

    I simply do not get what is going on with all this.

    I haven't even been around all day, wasn't involved in any arguments at all.

    (Been counting holes in the wall from the testosterone challenged football players with a contractor: 24. Last time I am renting to football players)



  8. I can't understand why Britain and France would want to intervene in Syria. I can understand France in Libya. But Syria? There is something missing.


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