The heat is on bitches !!!
- guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 28 May 2013 05.10 EDT
Russia is to go ahead with deliveries of anti-aircraft missiles to the Syrian government, the BBC reports.
Sergei Ryabkov, the deputy foreign minister, has said the S-300 missiles were a “stabilising factor” that could dissuade “some hotheads” from joining the conflict.
Earlier Israeli defence minister Moshe Yaalon said the S-300 missile system had not yet left Russia. “I can say that the shipments are not on their way yet,” Yaalon told reporters. “I hope they will not leave, and if, God forbid, they reach Syria, we will know what to do,” he said.
Israel is worried the missiles could be used to attack its own cities.
Russia’s foreign minister said on 13 May that Moscow had no new plans to sell the S-300 to Syria but left open the possibility of delivering such systems under an existing contract.
Russia and Iran will be keen to see Bashar al-Assad step down as soon as his seven-year term is up in 2014, according to Professor Fawaz Gerges, the director of the Middle East centre at the London School of Economics.
He said that the way Russia and the United States viewed their proposed Syrian peace conference was “a matter of nine/eight months of negotiations”:
This would coincide with the end of President Assad’s presidential term, 2014. My take on it is the United States and Russia are viewing 2014 as the tipping point of a real political transition, whereby the end of Assad’s term, elections would take place, and the transfer of authority to a transitional government might take place.
With Assad, or without him?
Without Assad. The Russian and Iranian leaderships have made it very clear that Assad will stay in place until 2014. I take it that both the Russian leadership and the Iranian leadership basically would like to see Assad go: a face-saving formula: he stayed, he fought, and then a new government would take his place.
The question is: what kind of government, what kind of transitional government? What kind of reforms would be implemented within the security forces, in particular the army … and the balance of power between elements of the regime and the opposition itself, and this is really where the talks and the hard work and the details become very complicated.
I asked Gerges what he thought of William Hague’s theory that the threat of arming the rebels would be enough to force Assad to the negotiating table.
My reading of the state of mind of President Assad and his conduct over the last two years tells me that I don’t expect Assad to respond in the same way that Mr William Hague believes him to. I think had the decision been taken a year ago it would have made a probably critical difference.
The Syrian conflict has now gone too long. It’s an open-ended war by proxy. Assad is fighting a war to the bitter end. He views this war as existential. His regional supporters are deeply involved on his side. Russia is deeply invested in the survival of the Assad regime, if not Assad himself. I doubt it very much whether the European threat of sending arms to the rebels will make a qualitative difference, in particular because the United States remains opposed to arming the rebels.
He said the “game-changer” would be if the US decided to get involved, either directly or by arming the rebels – but he agreed this was unlikely. “Obama does not want another military adventure in the Middle East … He believes that Syria is the responsibility of Europe and the Arab world.”
What did Gerges think of the theory that any weapons meant for the “good guys” among the rebels might make their way to Islamist insurgents such as the al-Nusra Front.
One of the lessons we have learnt over the last 50 years when it comes to civil wars and regional conflicts, is once you send arms to a particular country, to a particular faction, the supplier will have no control over where the weapons go and where they travel … I doubt it very much that Britain and France would have control over where the arms go once they enter Syria.
But he felt Britain had no intention of actually sending arms at this point, and the decision to lift the embargo was a “political tool, a threat”. And he added:
Mr William Hague has made it clear more than once that Britain knows the risks that these weapons could and would fall into the wrong hands. But Britain is willing to take risks given the escalation of this conflict, and given the huge human toll that the use of massive force by Bashar al-Assad has exacted on the Syrian population.
Here is William Hague’s statement on the EU decision last night.
The British foreign secretary said: “It has been difficult for many nations, of course. That is why we have had such long discussions today … We have agreed as member states to make clear commitments about the restrictions on any arms we would supply, and on common rules, on the basis of common rules, and I think the whole of the European Union is very strongly committed to a political settlement in Syria. So yes, of course, on such a difficult foreign policy issue, there are disagreements, and yes we have had some disagreements today, but we have resolved those disagreements, I think on the right basis for the future.
Oxfam’s Anna Macdonald said the charity was disappointed in the EU’s decision, adding: “This decision does not give the green light to any member states who want to supply arms to groups in Syria. As clearly laid out in the EU Common Position on Arms Transfers, any transfers must be subject to full risk assessment procedures against the risks of arms being used for violations of human rights and humanitarian law.”
Robert Fox, the London Evening Standard’s defence editor, was just interviewed about the lifting of the arms embargo on BBC News.
We’re encouraging intervention, but not necessarily with our boots on the ground – which is the worst of all possible worlds, because … it means that the criminal networks that can distribute arms now feel that they’ve got a go-ahead, as long as somebody else does.
In the past when this has happened – Yugoslavia, Afghanistan … Libya in particular – the wrong arms go to the wrong guys. And if we’re talking about highly portable, highly sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles it could end up very quickly among the al-Qaida affiliates like the al-Nusra Front, which is very prominent in the fighting in Syria.
And nothing that seems to be said from the EU, by Mr Hague, by Paris, or by Whitehall, seems to have a clue how to stop all of that.
Eyewitness testimony and graphic video footage seems to support claims that one of the worst atrocities of the Syrian civil war was carried out in three neighbouring districts in Bayda and Baniyas earlier this month, the BBC reports.
The BBC says opposition activists have documented the deaths of more than 200 people, including women and children; the Syrian government says it killed “terrorist fighters”. The BBC reports:
On 2 May, government troops and militias marched into al-Bayda, in Tartous province on Syria’s Mediterranean coast. The following day they attacked neighbouring Baniyas.
Together government forces have described these operations as a “strike against armed terrorists”.
State media reported that 40 opposition fighters were killed. But Syrian human rights activists and eyewitnesses claim that more than 200 civilians died and hundreds are missing in what they allege was a brutal sectarian attack against innocent civilians …
Numerous pictures and videos that appear to show the aftermath of Baniyas are horrific; men, women and children, some terribly disfigured, piled together, and what appear to be entire families killed.
The women we interviewed described similar scenes. “There were slaughtered corpses and charred bodies everywhere”, says Om Abed [not her real name]. “Houses were on fire. The people inside them were burning. An entire family lay down dead, slaughtered in one house. There was so much blood.”
This map shows where Bayda and Baniyas are (yellow
Link to read more…