Featured Post

Attorney Glenn Greenwald joins Trump defense team

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Egyptair MS804: What kind of bomb takes 3 minutes to blow up an aircraft?

If you haven't been brain dead to current events this week, you already know about the tragic crash of Egyptair MS804, an Egyptian Airbus A320-200 that went down over the Mediterranean Sea with the loss of all on board, 56 passengers and 10 crew on May 19th.

If you have been tuned into US media reports on this story, you also know that it has widely been used to keep up the terrorism scare. Reports on the crash have been largely used to bring on anti-terrorism experts to speculate on just how the terrorist may have gotten a bomb on board even though a single shred of evidence has yet to been found to point to the plane being brought down by a terrorist bomb.

The did the same thing with TWA Flight 800 in 1996.

This morning we finally have some hard evidence about a sequence of aircraft issues just prior to the crash. These don't come from the black boxes, which they are still looking for, they come from a telemetry reporting system that was in communications with the aircraft until the end. Most often, in the case of an aircraft brought down by an explosion, whether it be a bomb smuggled on board or missile, it is the very absence of problem reports from either the black boxes or the ACARS system, that points to an explosion as the likely cause - one minute the plane is flying straight and normal, no problems, and them - bam - the data just stops! If there is any instrument or audio feedback recorded after the explosion, it is likely to be very brief. That's my opinion and with that said, here are some facts about the Egyptair crash published today by Aviation Herald:
On May 20th 2016 The Aviation Herald received information from three independent channels, that ACARS (Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System) messages with following content were received from the aircraft:

00:26Z 3044 ANTI ICE R WINDOW
00:26Z 561200 R SLIDING WINDOW SENSOR
00:26Z 2600 SMOKE LAVATORY SMOKE
00:27Z 2600 AVIONICS SMOKE
00:28Z 561100 R FIXED WINDOW SENSOR
00:29Z 2200 AUTO FLT FCU 2 FAULT
00:29Z 2700 F/CTL SEC 3 FAULT
no further ACARS messages were received.

Early May 21st 2016 the French BEA confirmed there were ACARS messages just prior to break down of communications warning however that they are insufficient to understand the causes of the accident until flight data or cockpit voice recorders have been found. Priority as of current is to find the wreckage and the recorders.
From this report we can see that there was a problem with a window, and smoke detected both in the lavatory three minutes before and the aircraft electronics (avionics) two minutes before the transmission stopped. I don't think that points to a terrorist bomb as the thing that brought down plane, which is why I think this aspect of the story is being unreported.

Of course, it could still be a terrorist bomb, a small one, not designed to bring down the plane directly, but instead strategically placed to start a fire in critical electronics that then caused the crash minutes later. I just don't think that scenario is very likely. I also believe that this is the first hard evidence we have of what was happening inside the plane just prior to the crash and because it points away from the terrorist bomb fear mongering theories, it is being seriously under reported. That is why I took the time to write this before going in to work this morning.

On CNN this morning they made the release of the last conversations with the air traffic controller the lead and buried this ACARS story. Of course the conversation with the air traffic controllers tells us exactly nothing about the crash or its cause because nobody that was a party to that conversation had a premonition of what was going to happen. Yet they dwell on that and mention the ACARS data only in passing. Makes me suspicious about the timing of the conversation release because it is being used to bury the ACAR story.

Donald Trump didn't wait for any facts before declaring Egyptair a terrorist attack. You do not want this guy's finger on the nuclear trigger.!



The analysts at Stratford Global Intelligence think that fact that no group has taken credit for the crash points away from terrorism:
The Meaning of Jihadist Silence on the EgyptAir Crash
As the investigation into the crash of EgyptAir Flight 804 continues and searchers begin to find evidence, the jihadist world has been strangely silent. Air traffic controllers lost contact with the aircraft early May 19 and we are now nearly outside the timeframe in which jihadist groups have ordinarily taken credit for attacks. The one obvious explanation for this is that a catastrophic mechanical or electrical failure brought down the aircraft rather than a bomb, More...
The Wall St. Journal makes the same point:
EgyptAir Flight Mystery Deepened by Absence of Responsibility Claim
Groups behind attacks usually take responsibility fairly quickly, but so far not in the case of Flight 804
By Robert Wall in London,
Maria Abi-Habib in Beirut and
Tamer El-Ghobashy in Cairo
May 21, 2016 5:10 p.m. ET

Almost 72 hours after the disappearance of Egyptair Flight 804 raised concern that terrorists again may have struck commercial aviation, the absence of anyone taking responsibility has prompted questions about what transpired on the Airbus 320 aircraft. More...

UPDATE: ABC News Good Morning America finally reported on the ACARS story on Monday but they still held out hope. "It could still be terrorism" the commenter promised. CBS This Morning didn't mention ACARS or the Egyptian crash story at all, at least in the news section of its second hour. The story had dropped off of their radar as completely as it had dropped off of the air traffic control radar when it went down into the Med. CNN's Wolf Blitzer spent a quarter hour on the story, still pushing the terrorism angle and never mentioning ACARS.

24 May 2016 CNN mentions ACARS near the end of an article and makes this interesting connection:
The first two messages showed engines were functional, but the next message at 00:26 GMT stated a rise in the co-pilot window temperature and sent out messages of smoke in locations such as the lavatory and avionics compartment below the cockpit. The alerts continued until the plane vanished from radar screens.
...
There have been electrical problems with window anti-ice heaters in A320s. In 2003, the Federal Aviation Administration required windshields replaced in all A320s in the United States. It's not known whether Egypt followed the FAA directive.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Democracy Now discovers the Syrian Revolution

As regular readers of this blog well know, we have been very critical of Amy Goodman's coverage of events in Syria over the past five years. Generally speaking, she has taken the Putin/Assad line on the conflict as truth and she has treated the Syrian Revolution, the energy at the core of this conflict, as though it never even existed. For example, a Google search of democracynow.org for the term "Syrian revolution" turns up only 37 results. The last time the phrase "Syrian revolution" was used on Democracy Now was over 2 years ago, 18 December 2013 when Patrick Cockburn, an avowed enemy of the Syrian Revolution spoke of "a degrading of the Syrian revolution." Apparently it had become so degraded that the term never even came up again.

Since that show, since December 2013, while hundreds of thousands of Syrians have given their lives for it and millions have been forced to flee their homes because of the Assad Regime's response to it, the Syrian Revolution has not existed on Democracy Now, until this Friday. This is an excellent segment. The heart of it is an interview with Yasser Munif, of Emerson College, a long time Syrian activist. Linux Beach published an interview with him 13 September 2013, Inside the Syrian Revolution and what the Left must do. He should have been on DN back then too but I am very happy that Amy has finally allowed the other side to have some time on her show.


As the death toll in Syria’s five-year conflict reportedly reaches half a million people, we look at how Syrians are working at the local level to survive and organize in the midst of war—and to keep the revolutionary spirit of the 2011 Syrian uprising alive. We are joined by Yasser Munif, a Syrian scholar who specializes in grassroots movements in Syria, who describes the ongoing work of media activists, journalists, medical crews and rescue workers. "They don’t perceive the kind of work they are doing as humanitarian or relief work. They perceive it as the backbone of the revolution," Munif notes. "The revolution is still alive. It may be marginal, but if there is a ceasefire … it can come back. It is very much invisible and, for some, unthinkable." Munif is the co-founder of the Campaign for Global Solidarity with the Syrian Revolution.
TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to Syria, where renewed violence has erupted around the embattled city of Aleppo after a ceasefire between the Syrian regime and the opposition expired. A surge in fighting between rebels and the Syrian regime has killed about 300 people there over the past two weeks. At least three people were killed last week when a maternity hospital in a government-controlled section of the city was hit by rocket fire. Secretary of State John Kerry said the rockets appear to have come from a rebel area. The hospital attack came days after the Syrian regime destroyed a Doctors Without Borders-backed hospital, killing at least 14 patients and three doctors, including one of the last pediatricians in rebel-held East Aleppo.

Meanwhile outside Damascus, Syrian government officials turned back an aid convoy carrying the first humanitarian supplies to the rebel-held town of Darayya in more than three years. The Damascus suburb has been under siege by the Syrian regime since 2012. Residents who had gathered to await the aid faced a shelling attack blamed on the Syrian government. Two civilians were killed: a father and son. Opening up besieged areas to aid delivery has been a key demand of the opposition during the latest round of peace talks, as well as a key demand of international aid organizations.

Earlier this week, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States and Russia have agreed to push for the revival of a nationwide ceasefire in Syria, amid hopes of restarting stalled peace talks. On Thursday, the United Nations Security Council expressed outrage over the ongoing violence, including recent attacks on hospitals. Egyptian Representative Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta, the council’s president for this month, issued the condemnation.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA: The members of the Security Council expressed outrage at all recent attacks in Syria directed against civilians and civilian objects, including medical facilities, as well as all indiscriminate attacks, and stressed that these actions may amount to war crimes. They expressed their deep concern at violations of the cessation of hostilities endorsed by Security Council Resolution 2268.

AMY GOODMAN: According to a recent report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the death toll in the five-year conflict has reached close to half a million people, nearly twice the number counted by the United Nations a year and a half ago, when it stopped keeping track of the numbers killed because of the data’s unreliability. The ongoing conflict has displaced about half the prewar population, with more than 6 million Syrians displaced inside Syria and nearly 5 million Syrian refugees outside Syria’s borders.

But beyond the plight of refugees and the violence, there’s another story in Syria that receives far less attention, that of Syrians working at the local level to survive and organize in the midst of war and to keep the revolutionary spirit of the 2011 Syrian uprising alive. To talk more about these efforts, we’re joined by Yasser Munif, a Syrian scholar who specializes in grassroots movements in Syria. He’s made several trips to Syria in recent years, most recently in 2015, when he visited the Syrian-Turkish border. He’s a sociology professor at Emerson College in Boston and a co-founder of the Campaign for Global Solidarity with the Syrian Revolution.

Professor Yasser Munif, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about what’s happening right now in Syria?

YASSER MUNIF: So, there are a number of different things happening, and there is—the spirit of the revolution is still there in Syria. Most recently, with the ceasefire that happened last month between the Russian and the U.S., and imposed on the Syrian regime and the opposition, there were massive protests in the liberated areas, in the Idlib and Aleppo areas, and they were demanding the fall of the Syrian regime, and they were chanting for the revolution of dignity and freedom and for democracy and so on.

And what’s interesting during, you know, those protests was that they were also protesting against al-Nusra. In those regions, there is a powerful presence of al-Nusra. And they were demanding the release of the prisoners that were held in al-Nusra prisons. And al-Nusra was trying to crush those protests. And they were happening for days and days, almost a month. And what happened in the end was that the Syrian regime bombed those cities. For example, Kafr Nabl and another city, it bombed the market there, and it killed 40 in one city and 10 in another city. And the message was very clear: The Syrian regime fears very much that type of peaceful protest, revolutionary spirit, and it wanted to crush it, despite its opposition to both sides, the Syrian regime and the jihadists in al-Nusra.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Yasser Munif, you’ve spent several months in Syria since 2011. So could you tell us where you were in Syria, and also talk about some of the local groups you met there and how they’re organizing in the midst of this brutal war?

YASSER MUNIF: I’ve been several times to Syria since 2011. I’ve been to the suburbs of Damascus, but also to the liberated areas in northern Syria, in Aleppo, Raqqa and mostly Manbij, which is in the suburbs of Aleppo. And I spent several months there in 2013 and 2014, trying to see what’s happening and what people are doing. And what I’ve seen was really impressive, the kind of politics that people were reinventing and the kind of democracy that they were trying to build from the ground up and the institutions that they were trying to create to make their cities and their villages livable. And all that was taking place in a very challenging environment, with the violence of the Syrian regime and the incremental and gradual presence of the jihadists back then in 2013 and 2014. And yet, people were experimenting with new ideas, trying to create a new culture of resistance and dignity, and tried to also provide the basic needs for the population, without any kind of funding, without any kind of support and so on. And that’s the dimension of the Syrian conflict that is basically invisible or hidden for most in the West and beyond.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about, Yasser Munif, where ISIS fits into this story?

YASSER MUNIF: So, ISIS, obviously, has different histories and genealogies. Obviously, we can’t understand the emergence of ISIS in Syria without going back to the history of the U.S. and Saudi Arabia in Afghanistan, and more recently in Iraq, and the push for that kind of radicalization. We should also understand that the Syrian regime fears very much the grassroots, civilian, peaceful resistance that was happening back in 2011. And what it did was the release of many jihadists in 2011 and 2012, thousands of them, many of whom became leaders in the main military jihadist groups, including Ahrar ash-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam, al-Nusra and ISIS. And also, the chemical attacks, the way that the entire world responded to the chemical attacks and what people saw with the chemical attacks radicalized part of the population. And some people basically went and started fighting with ISIS. Combined to a culture of racism in Europe, which is also pushing part of the Muslim population, and also non-Muslim population—there are some Jews and some Christians who convert to Islam and go fight in Iraq and Syria. And so, it’s a combination of all these forces, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey, who are also funding and backing ISIS for very narrow interests that are basically against the Syrian revolution. So I think it’s important to understand the emergence and the hegemony of ISIS in those different dimensions. It’s not simply a creation by the jihadists and the Salafi currents or discourses in Syria.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Yasser Munif, you’ve just spoken of the xenophobia in Europe that has also led people from there to join ISIS. And I want to go to what presumptive Republican presidential nominee here in the U.S., Donald Trump, said about Syrian refugees coming to the U.S. He was speaking Saturday in Washington state.

DONALD TRUMP: We should build safe zones for Syrians. But we can’t bring them to Washington state. And you don’t even know where they’re going. You know, you saw what happened in Paris. You saw what happened at the World Trade Center. You saw what happened in California with the 14 people that they worked with—shot, killed, many people in the hospital, right now, many, many people in the hospital. These are people that nobody knows who they are, and they’re going to be in your community. You can’t do it.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Donald Trump speaking on Saturday. Yasser Munif, your response to what he said?

YASSER MUNIF: So, again, we can’t really understand the Syrian revolution or the Syrian conflict without understanding it in a more global and regional context. And that global context is one where there is a major economic crisis, high unemployment rates in Europe and beyond, creating resentments among white working classes and the marginalization, demonization, vilification of Muslims in Europe and beyond. And that’s also creating alienation among the Muslim population, that is reacting, part of it—we have to also point that this is really a small segment of the Muslim population, which is marginalized, and part of it think that going to Syria and fighting in Syria is a form of salvation, that Syria is heaven and that they could build what is referred to as the caliphate. And so, there is an environment of xenophobia that is very much—has a representation in Syria. For example, the far right also backs the Syrian regime. For example, David Duke and Alex Jones here in the U.S. or the BNP in the U.K. or the Le Pen National Front in France or even the white supremacists in Greece have backed the Syrian regime. And for some of them, they sent people to fight along with the Syrian troops, thinking that this is a war against Muslims and against jihadists and so on.

So, the Syrian conflict has many dimensions. And this is one of them. It’s also referred to as a civil war. It’s referred to as a sectarian conflict, as a proxy war, foreign intervention. But in all these narratives, what is really missing is the Syrian revolution. And for the most part, it’s been absent in any kind of discussion or talk about the Syrian revolution or the Syrian conflict.

And I think the left, the global left, has played a major role in that by dismissing what the Syrian people are doing, for a number of different reasons, in part because the Syrian regime imposed a media blackout and prevented journalists from going there. So there is very little reports from the ground that are in English and that people in the left and the progressive circles in the West and beyond understand. And for some people, they think that the Syrian regime is anti-imperialist, pro-Palestine, it’s allied to Iran and so on, and they have to side with the lesser evil, the lesser evil being the Syrian regime. For example, the—Seymour Hersh, as one example, has written four or five different narratives about the chemical attacks without ever really interviewing journalists or activists on the ground. And those narratives are really conflicting. For example, Robert Fisk, another journalist, who was very much against embedded journalism in Iraq, does only embedded journalism in Syria and has interviewed prisoners in torture chambers in Syria. Tariq Ali suggested that the only way to defeat ISIS is to side and back the Syrian regime. Some antiwar activists here in the U.S. and in Europe brought pictures of Assad in their demonstrations against foreign intervention. In many cases, leftists and progressives have organized conferences and panels about Syria, and oftentimes the Syrian voice was missing. And so, this has made the understanding of the Syrian revolution very much difficult, and marginalized and alienated part of the Syrian population, who think that leftists are against the revolution, that people don’t understand what is happening, that they are only perceived as Muslims and jihadists. And this revolutionary dimension is completely dismissed in those discourses.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to one of the journalists you just talked about, Seymour Hersh. Last month, I interviewed him, and he talked about Russia’s role in Syria.

SEYMOUR HERSH: Russian special forces are in the fight against ISIS with the Syrian army, with Hezbollah, with the Iranian army, the Quds Force. And the Russians have done an awful lot to improve the Syrian army in the past year—retrained them, reoutfitted them, etc., etc., etc. It’s a much better army since the Russians came in.

AMY GOODMAN: Yasser Munif, your response to Seymour Hersh?

YASSER MUNIF: So, Russia is a force of occupation in Syria. Like many others who are intervening in Syria—the U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran—the Russians are playing a very detrimental role. So, for example, in the recent intervention and the airstrikes that they have been conducting since a number of months now, more than 50 percent of the people who were killed are civilian. The Russian airplanes have also bombed bakeries. And that’s a strategies—one of the strategies of the Syrian regime, basically propagating and imposing their politics of despair on the Syrians who live in those liberated areas or besieged areas. And most people despise and really reject that Russian presence or colonization that has—that the Syrian regime has imposed on them. Most recently, the Russians have also organized trips for journalists. And more than a hundred journalists visited military camps and military bases, Russian bases in Syria, and celebrating the Russian presence, which is very detrimental for the Syrian. And it’s basically making the continuation of the conflict possible. It’s backing the Syrian regime and its violence and its vicious war. So I very much oppose what Seymour Hersh is trying to do and represents.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Yasser Munif, just before we conclude, I think one of the issues that we have here is a lot of confusion about who constitutes the Syrian opposition today. There seems to be a conflation of the opposition now with groups like al-Nusra, al-Qaeda, ISIS, etc. So could you tell us how you would characterize the opposition now?

YASSER MUNIF: So we have to understand that the al-Nusra and ISIS and other jihadist groups are part of a counterrevolution. There are a number of different—or the counterrevolution have different dimensions, one of which is those jihadist groups. Obviously, there is the foreign intervention in its different dimensions, whether it’s Russian, Iranian or American and European and so on, or Saudi and Turkish. And there is also, obviously, the Syrian regime. But for the most part, most of the people who look at the Syrian revolt or the Syrian conflict think that the Syrian opposition, the official Syrian opposition, represent the entire revolutionary aspect or the Syrian opposition to Assad, which is far from truth. The official opposition represent a minority. Most people despise that Syrian opposition. And many of the activists, many of the revolutionaries who are on the ground, who continue the revolution, who are creating that and continuing that politics of dignity and freedom, don’t recognize themselves as part of that opposition. They are, for the most part, unaffiliated.

But the type of work that they are doing is tremendous. They are media activists, they are journalists, they are the medical crews, and they are the rescue workers. And they don’t perceive the kind of work they’re doing as part of humanitarian or relief work. They perceive it as, you know, the backbone of the revolution. And that’s, again, part of the confusion. And this is why I think that the revolution is still alive. It may be marginal, but if there is a ceasefire, as we have seen in the past month, it can come back. And it’s still present very much, but very much invisible and, for some, unthinkable.

AMY GOODMAN: Yasser Munif, I want to thank you for being with us, Syrian scholar who specializes in grassroots movements in Syria. Thank you so much for being with us. Yasser Munif teaches at Emerson College in Boston.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we go inside a prison where there’s been a work strike for the last 10 days. We go to Alabama. Stay with us.
Other posts on Democracy Now:
09/27/2015 How Democracy Now helped to create the Syrian refugee crisis
04/10/2015 Crisis in Yarmouk: How Amy backs Assad's play
02/06/2015 On Democracy Now today: Amy sends another Valentine to Bashar
03/16/2013 Syria: for #Mar15, @AmyGoodman has Assad 'regime apologist' on Democracy Now
03/09/2013 What Amy didn't say on International Women's Day

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Friday, May 13, 2016

Daraya yesterday: People waiting for food are denied, then shelled

This morning Bissan Fakih of The Syria Campaign sent out this email that described the travesty of justice and humanity that took place in Daraya, Syria yesterday. I'll let him layout the facts. The question is can a world that continues to allow this sort of thing to go on even survive in the long run?
Dear friends,

Yesterday morning I was on Skype with Ahmad from the local council of Daraya, a town outside Damascus besieged by the Assad regime. Malnourished people were gathering at the town’s entrance hoping to receive aid trucks for the first time in three years.

But it all went wrong. Every time I spoke to Ahmad the updates got more and more devastating.

First, the UN and Red Cross showed up at a regime checkpoint outside the town around midday without any food. There was only baby milk, medicine and vaccinations on the convoy. People in the town were furious. Children in the town were dizzy with malnutrition. Families had been going days without anything to eat.

Then, Ahmad told me that soldiers had removed medicine off the trucks. A UN representative told them they were calling the Russians to try and persuade Assad’s forces to get it back on.

Hours later, without delivering a single thing, the convoy left.

Finally, and most tragically of all, the regime then shelled the people waiting for food. A father and his son were killed. Five others were injured.

Daraya is still starving. The regime won’t let aid in by land. We need urgent measures now to get food and medicine to people before the unthinkable happens.

More than a dozen countries are flying in Syrian airspace, including the US and the UK. They have the means to get this aid into Daraya that cannot be blocked by the Assad regime. Today, when these donor countries will be unpicking yesterday’s tragic failure, let’s call on them to airdrop aid to Daraya before it’s too late:

https://act.thesyriacampaign.org/sign/airdrop-aid-syria-now/

If you’ve already signed the petition, call the UK and US missions at the UN and demand airdrops immediately:

UK COUNTRY MISSION TO THE UN (Geneva)
Call: +41 (22) 918 23 00

USA COUNTRY MISSION TO THE UN (New York)
Call: +41 (22) 749 41 11

UK COUNTRY MISSION TO THE UN (New York)
Call: + 001 212 745 9200
Email: Philip.Reed@fco.gov.uk

USA COUNTRY MISSION TO THE UN (New York)
Call: +001 212 415 4000
Email: IbrahimME@state.gov

(The Geneva offices are open now. The New York offices will be open between 9 AM and 5 PM EST.)

Let’s do everything we can for Daraya right now,

Bissan

The Syria Campaign is building an open, global movement working for a peaceful future for Syria. We are people from all over the world who are coming together to tackle what the UN has described as “the greatest humanitarian tragedy of our time".

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.







Also this morning Democracy Now discovered the Syrian Revolution and carried an excellent segment on Syria in which Amy Goodman interviewed Yasser Munif of Emerson College. Regular readers of this blog know that we have been very critical of Democracy Now's coverage of Syria in the past. This was a breath of fresh air. Amy's intro begins:
As the death toll in Syria’s five-year conflict reportedly reaches half a million people, we look at how Syrians are working at the local level to survive and organize in the midst of war—and to keep the revolutionary spirit of the 2011 Syrian uprising alive. We are joined by Yasser Munif, a Syrian scholar who specializes in grassroots movements in Syria, who describes the ongoing work of media activists, journalists, medical crews and rescue workers. "They don’t perceive the kind of work they are doing as humanitarian or relief work. They perceive it as the backbone of the revolution," Munif notes. "The revolution is still alive. It may be marginal, but if there is a ceasefire … it can come back. It is very much invisible and, for some, unthinkable." Munif is the co-founder of the Campaign for Global Solidarity with the Syrian Revolution.
Linux Beach will reprint the transcript when it becomes available.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Andy Berman, long time member bids farewell to Veterans for Peace

Republished with permission Andy Berman: Threads of My Time

A Farewell to Arms:   Till We Meet Again
May 11, 2016


Preface:
As a longstanding member of Veterans for Peace, I often contributed to internal online VFP discussion groups over the last few years.  With Syria the bloodiest war on the planet, and thus a topic that nominally should be high on VFP’s agenda, I often wrote about developments in Syria.

My contributions frequently clashed with the self-identified “anti-imperialists” in VFP who blame the Syria conflict entirely on the United States and either defend or ignore the criminal role of Assad, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah in Syria.

While my prose was always exceedingly civil, I was relentlessly attacked by a handful of angry and disturbed VFP members using extremely vile personal diatribe against me... (CLICK IMAGE TO CONTINUE).  I was called a “spy, an infiltrator, and agent of the CIA, FBI and Mossad, a Trotskyite, a Zionist shit”, and other tirades. I resisted the impulse to return the insults because I knew that it would do no good to put myself in the gutter with those baiting me, and would be counter-productive.

The response of the VFP officer in charge of the online discussion server was initially to claim that I was engaging in personal attacks, which clearly I was the object of but never the instigator.  Next came his false allegation that I was advocating violence and US military intervention for “regime change” by denouncing Assad. He ordered me to stop doing so.  I continued to post the reports from Doctors Without Borders, Physicians for Human Rights, United Nations agencies, and other sources about Assad’s war crimes. I said that I could not abide by censorship of my views.

The straw that apparently broke the camel’s back and led to me being blocked from VFP discussion sites and thus effective kicked out of VFP, was my posting about George Soros.  Mr. Soros, a wise and generous philanthropist, has been repeatedly attacked on VFP sites, My posting noting that Mr. Soros is the founder and chairman of the Open Societies Foundation, which recently gave $200,000 to VFP, was the last submission I was allowed to make. My post may have been an embarrassing revelation. Immediately after it, I was blocked, denied the right to participate in VFP discussions, and thus effectively banned from the organization. 

Here below is my letter acknowledging my shunning, along with a small final request:
--------------------------------------------------------------

To: Gerry Condon, Vice-President, US Veterans for Peace
From: Andy Berman
CC: VFP Board of Directors

May 8, 2016

Subject: Farewells and a last request

Gerry,

I held my tongue while I was continually slandered on the VFP listservs. I have been repeatedly called a “spy”, an “infiltrator”, a “CIA agent,” an “FBI agent,” and a “Mossad agent” by a handful of sick and angry members. When they could not refute the solid documentation that in Syria Assad’s regime engages in massive war crimes and crimes against humanity, they turned to personal slander.

Now that I have been shut out of participating in VFP discussions, effectively tossing me out of VFP, I will speak more frankly.

Far worse than insults from conspiracy wackos has been your continual false assertion that I advocate violence and US military intervention to overthrow Assad. I have never done so in any of the scores of my posts over the past few years. I am very aware of the sordid history of US military intervention around the world. To my Syrian friends I have repeatedly said that the US government is not a reliable ally.  

What I have said on the issue of violence is that the decision of Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, South Africans and Palestinians to take up arms against the tyranny that oppresses them did not and does not stop honest antiwar activists from expressing solidarity with their determination to be free. Nor should it in Syria. Our success in promoting non-violence hinges acutely on our solidarity against oppression

The only difference between those nations and Syria is that the tyranny that oppresses Syria is not backed by US imperialism. The fascist dictatorship in Syria, which has imprisoned, tortured and killed tens of thousands political opponents, is backed by Russian imperialism. Russian imperialism is the effort to project Russian military power in the region, to keep in political power a compliant regime and to keep Russian military bases on Syrian soil.

This absolute refusal to see anything beyond US crimes, the willful blindness about the massive military intervention of Iran, Russia and Hezbollah in Syria are the defining characteristics of the phony “anti-imperialist” politics that you and others have pushed in VFP. It stinks of American national chauvinism and moral hypocrisy. Generating VFP positions on Syria without consulting Syrians is also Islamophobic. It is very characteristic of party line politics that some phony “Marxist” sects have tried to push on the US antiwar movement since the era of the Vietnam War.

Gerry your personal history of Vietnam War resistance is absolutely heroic. I fear you now sully your legacy with sectarian politics. In my 50 years of peace and justice activism, I have known a number of folks who, for various reasons, fell in with the easy dogma of sectarian ultra-leftism. I have often thought it is comforting and it relieves some frustration and it brings strong personal comradeship with a group of others. But several of these folks later discarded dogmatism and returned to the more challenging path of honest peace activism. Given your honorable history, I tend to think you will too.

My loss of access to the small audience on VFP-ALL is no great tragedy. There are many other venues that are much more open to serious discussion of the Syrian tragedy and work to heal the wounds of war. With the recent massive slaughter of civilians in Aleppo by Syrian Government and Russian airstrikes, a great upsurge in solidarity is happening worldwide. Demonstrations are occurring in cities throughout the world. New Syria peace and solidarity organizations are forming.

No Gerry, being booted out of VFP for speaking truth is no great loss to me. The greater loss is to those VFP members who will no longer hear the voices of Syrians and see the videos from Syria that I have been posting. As VFP founder Jerry Genesio noted, I believe that VFP is now betraying its roots as a peace and justice organization by adopting dogmatic politics covered with the shroud of a phony “anti-imperialism”

With the $200,000 grant from the very astute and generous George Soros for combating Islamophobia, I suggest you hire consultants who could train the chapters on how to reach out and dialogue with the Syrian-American community Hint: The largest Syrian-American organization is the “Syrian American Council” with chapters throughout the US. They are easily found on the internet. VFP members may not agree with everything they hear from SAC members, but they would certainly profit from a respectful conversation and fraternal exchange of opinions.

I am happy to note that our sisters in CODEPINK, having sent a delegation to work in a Syrian Refugee camp and talked with Syrians there, has now adopted a position condemning Assad, leaving behind its sole focus on the US role. Their latest statement says: “CODEPINK supports our brothers and sisters in Syria who are suffering either under the Islamic State or the bloody regime of Assad”  I have no doubt that if VFP members had better contact with Syrians, listening to their personal stories, VFP would move in the same direction as CODEPINK.

Gerry, until the day that I am invited back into VFP, I have one modest request: My $40 annual dues to VFP are paid up for another six months, As I have now effectively been excluded from the organization, please have the decency to cut a check for my remaining $20 and send it to:

Doctors Without Borders
Attn: Syria Medical Aid
333 7th Avenue,
 New York, NY 10001-5004

Go in Peace,

Andy


Friday, May 6, 2016

Leaked docs reveal: Assad & ISIS played us on Palmyra

Daesh, which is called the Islamic State by its supporters, has been working in collaboration with the Syrian Regime of Bashar al-Assad for a very long time, documents released this week by Sky News revealed. These documents particularly focus on the collaboration of Daesh and the Assad Regime in the losing and retaking of the famous World Heritage Site, the ancient ruins of Palmyra.


al-Araby reported on Monday:
Islamic State is collaborating with Assad, leaked documents reveal

Leaked documents from the Islamic State, which are being examined by a British news outlet, have revealed that the group is closely collaborating with the Syrian regime, confirming long-held suspicions.
Karim Traboulsi

2 May 2016
The Islamic State group is closely collaborating with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government, a new cache of leaked documents from the group has revealed, confirming long-held suspicions by opponents.

The Islamic State [IS] group and the Assad regime in Syria have been colluding with each other, says Sky News – who are examining the documents – anywhere from making "tactical withdrawal" deals on the battleground to trading oil and fertilisers.

It has consistently been argued that Assad played a crucial role in the rise of IS and other extremist groups like al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. But the new revelations confirm a much more direct role.

Most notably, the much-hyped regime victory in the ancient city of Palmyra against IS seems to have been at least partly the result of a prior arrangement with the extremist group that had been in control of the city.

But the cooperation has been going on for years, the documents handed to Sky News seem to show. More...
On Tuesday Sky News came out with:
IS Files Reveal Assad's Deals With Militants

Islamic State forces pulled out of Palmyra in co-operation that has been going on for years, documents handed to Sky News show.
3 May 2016
By Stuart Ramsay, Chief Correspondent

Islamic State and the Assad regime in Syria have been colluding with each other in deals on the battleground, Sky News can reveal.

Our exclusive investigation into leaked secret IS files suggests one piece of co-operation was over the ancient city of Palmyra.
...
IS defectors, meanwhile, have told Sky News that Palmyra was handed back to government forces by Islamic State as part of a series of cooperation agreements going back years.

New letters obtained by Sky News, in addition to the massive haul of 22,000 files handed over last month, appear to confirm this.
They show:
:: An agreement with the Syrian regime to withdraw IS weapons from Palmyra.
:: A deal between IS and Syria to trade oil for fertiliser and;
:: Arrangements to evacuate some areas by Islamic State forces BEFORE the Syrian army attacked.
All appear to be pre-agreed deals and suggest direct evidence of collusion between the Syrian regime and Islamic State chiefs. More...
In other words, Bashar al-Assad played us all on Palmyra and the
destruction of world heritage there by Daesh was his doing.

First came the "loss" of Palmyra

The Assad regime lost the city to Daesh a year ago in a much publicized regime defeat. At the same time it was losing Palmyra to Daesh, it was waging a cynical propaganda campaign to use the lost to condemn the West for not uniting with the Assad regime to save Palmyra. RT reported:
Moscow has condemned the massacre of civilians in the ancient city of Palmyra, urging the international community to denounce double standards in its approach to fighting terrorists, and unite against IS (Islamic State, formerly ISIS/ISIL) aggression.

“We strongly condemn the atrocities committed by armed extremists in Palmyra,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“Once again, we urge international and regional parties to abandon the vicious practice of using double standard approaches to fighting against terrorism, and launch efficient cooperation with the governments of Middle East countries, which are directly repelling the ISIS offensive,” the ministry said.
And the chorus responded. For example, Paul Mansfield opined in Global Research:
A disturbing element of ISIS takeover of Palmyra was the way it was able to move across expansive stretches of desert without being bombed by the US. To do so would have been assisting the Assad government and this is definitely not in the playbook of the US.
And Vijay Prashad said the same thing on Democracy Now:
you know, when ISIS seized Palmyra, the United States and other powers, other regional powers, refused to provide close air support to the Syrian troops that were amassed around Palmyra, for fear that if they got involved in providing close air support, they would be charged with backing the Assad government.
All of Moscow's minions were aligned. Even Robert Fisk repeated that charge in The Independent:
When Palmyra fell last year...We ignored, were silent on, the Syrian army's big question: why, if the Americans hated Isis so much, didn't they bomb the suicide convoys that broke through the Syrian army's front lines? Why didn't they attack Isis?
Of course the Syrian air force didn't bomb them either, which is one of the reasons some thought that Assad made it a little too easy. The New York Times wrote:
When the Islamic State captured the city in May [2015], the militants faced little resistance from Syrian troops. At the time, residents said officers and militiamen had fled into orchards outside the city, leaving conscripted soldiers and residents to face the militants alone.
While the Assad regime was losing Palmyra to Daesh in May 2015, it was also stepping up its barrel bomb attacks in Aleppo. Amnesty International reported Aleppo civilians suffering 'unthinkable atrocities' (5 May 2015) and this blog posted 50 earthquakes a day in Syria ignored by the "Left" (10 May 2015). Assad was slaughtering Syrian civilians in greater numbers but it was his lost of the ancient city of Palmyra that caught the attention of the West and along with their much publicized beheadings of westerners, went a long way toward elevating Daesh to the position of number one enemy of the world in Syria. Assad may have slaughtered a hundred thousand Arabs but Daesh beheaded westerners and blew up statues! Juan Cole wrote in Informed Comment, 28 March 2016:
Moreover, as the opposition pointed out, the fall of Palmyra was a propaganda windfall for Bashar al-Assad. All but 15,000 of Palmyra's 70,000 people promptly fled Daesh rule [Juan, didn't they flee the fighting first?], suggesting that the Baath regime was in fact preferable to that of the phony caliphate. And Daesh predictably damaged the spectacular archeological treasures of the ancient Roman outpost [not too much], drawing Western attention and implicitly again suggesting that even al-Assad rule was better than that of Daesh.
While Assad and his supporters continued to do 95% of the killing in the Syrian conflict. In Palmyra, Daesh was able to capture headlines by beheading Khaled Assad, the antiquities expert that had spent his life preserving Palmyra and destroying part of a key temple. Daesh quickly became the focus of Western attention, especially after the 13 November 2015 terror attack in Paris and the 22 March 2016 terror attack in Brussels that Daesh took credit for. Few in the West remembered that a representative of the Assad regime had promised just such terrorist attacks if the West bombed in Syria, as they were doing, or understood the connection of the Assad regime to Daesh. So he never became a suspect, as he should be. Instead Assad was rehabilitated as the lesser of two evils in Syria.

Then came the "liberation" of Palmyra.

Bashar al-Assad bragged to a French delegation in Damascus:
“The liberation of the historic city of Tadmur (Palmyra) today is an important achievement and is evidence of the efficacy of the strategy adopted by the Syrian army and its allies in the war on terrorism."
Seymour Hersh certainly didn't see any collusion between Daesh and the regime. He told Democracy Now:
The fighting in Palmyra that the Syrian army and the Russian special forces did was much bloodier. ISIS fought to the death. It was a terrible toll on everybody, but it was a victory for the Syrian army. We know all these things.
Writing for Reuters, 31 March 2016 Rasha Elass saw things a little differently:
And now, with all the pomp and glory of recapturing the ancient city of Palmyra, and the next round of peace talks scheduled to start on April 11, Assad will predictably try to present himself as the “secular regime” that protects World Heritage sites from the wonton destruction of Islamic extremists. Syrian TV is already monopolizing the airwaves with footage of the “victory,” and Russia Today keeps airing “exclusives” of the Syrian army’s defeat of Islamic State in Palmyra.

What is not mentioned is an explanation of why, exactly, did Assad lose Palmyra to Islamic State last May? His forces had all the advantages from the air, after all.

One regime insider told me that Assad badly wanted to convince the U.S.-led coalition to bomb the Islamic State fighters who were visible for miles in the desert on their march to Palmyra. It was intended to show that the regime was partnered with the West in the so-called “War on Terror.”

“After all, not only was ISIS marching toward a World Heritage Site, but it was also the gateway to Homs and the coast, where ISIS would have threatened Syria’s Christian and Alawite minorities,” he said, using an acronym for Islamic State.

But the coalition forces took no such step, and neither did the Syrian Air Force. Instead, top Syrian Army commanders and their Iranian advisers withdrew from Palmyra, leaving behind dozens of conscripts without provisions or support, according to locals and regime insiders. The conscripts were subsequently killed by Islamic State, and footage of these crimes was referenced by Syrian TV announcers as evidence of the state’s own war on terror.
Robert Fisk unwittingly seemed to confirm this last part even while promoting the Assad line when he wrote in The Independent:
“If the Americans wanted to destroy Isis, why didn't they bomb them when they saw them?” a Syrian army general asked me, after his soldiers' defeat....His men had been captured and head-chopped in the Roman ruins.
So his men got beheaded by Daesh, but the lucky general, he lived to talk another day. Thank you for that valuable admission Mr. Fisk, so rare to find anything honest in his writing these days. The rest was the kind of pure propaganda Fisk has been regurgitating lately, even raising the dead to throw us off the scent:
The biggest military defeat that Isis has suffered in more than two years. The recapture of Palmyra, the Roman city of the Empress Zenobia. And we are silent. Yes, folks, the bad guys won, didn't they? Otherwise, we would all be celebrating, wouldn't we?
...
As my long-dead colleague on the Sunday Express, John Gordon, used to say, makes you sit up a bit, doesn't it? Here are the Syrian army, backed, of course, by Vladimir Putin's Russkies, chucking the clowns of Isis out of town, and we daren't utter a single word to say well done.
What he was trying to feed back to us was the Russian line on the conflict. Alexey Pushkov, the head of the Russian parliament’s foreign affairs committee, complained that the US has not praised or thanked Russia for “liberating” the historic Syrian city of Palmyra, and the RT editorialized:
The recapture of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra was the single biggest defeat for ISIS since it declared its caliphate, but the West does not seem interested. Why? Because then they’d have to give some credit to Russia.
...
for a while we were treated to headlines about the Russians “helping” ISIS, or “giving ISIS and [sic] air force” [and btw the Russians didn't bomb Daesh on the way to Palmyra either] and other such nonsense which now looks rather embarrassing in hindsight. In this context, the recapture of Palmyra was not just a mortal blow to ISIS, it was also a mortal blow to the West’s entire rotten narrative on Syria.
Fortunately Palmyra was mostly "saved."

Considering the well founded fears that the Daesh occupation would lead to the wholesale destruction of the ancient ruins of Palmyra, the "liberators" were very surprised how little had been destroyed. While it is true that many small artifacts went missing, it is hard to know whether they were taken by Daesh or the Syrian army troops that occupied the site earlier. In 2012 amateur video was posted showing Syrian soldiers carrying away funeral stones and there were other reports of looting. Now it can all be blamed on Daesh. Could that have been another reason for allowing them to take and hold it for a while?



Still given that CNN ran the headline Palmyra: Will ISIS bulldoze ancient Syrian city?, 21 May 2015, we didn't see what we expected, the kind of destruction that Daesh had wrought in Assyrian city of Nimrud, or the museum in Mosul, Iraq. But then you wouldn't expect to see that in Palmyra, if Bashar al-Assad had anything to say about it. Before the uprising it bought 150,000 visitors a year to Syria. For the Assad regime it is a cash cow, rendered even more valuable now because the damage to the site was minimal while the value of the worldwide publicity the loss and re-capture has generated is enormous. Actually, the fact that Daesh apparently went against their beliefs and past practice to spare Palmyra is one of the best indicators that the fix was in and the world was being played. In any case the regime lost no time in organizing the first propaganda tour of Palmyra.

Bashar al-Assad has been getting over on the world and has many on the Left and in the government arguing that we should support Assad, as bad as he is, because the alternative is ISIS. The truth is that he is the man behind the curtain of Daesh and certainly can't be an alternative to it.

Supporters of the Revolution have been saying this for some time. Here are my posts on the subject:
09/09/2014Are ISIS and Assad enemies in Syria?
06/17/2014Bush, Barack & Bashar BFF to Islamic Extremists in Iraq & Syria
02/27/2014MEMO | ISIS & the Assad Regime: From Marriage of Convenience to Partnership
02/10/2014Man behind the Curtain for al-Qaeda in Syria is Assad
01/27/2014How Assad runs terrorist on "both sides" in Syria
01/20/2014Bashar al-Jihad: How Assad finances terrorists with oil
01/05/2014Bashar al-Jihad: Is ISIS a child of the regime?
12/22/2013Through the Looking-Glass: Viet Cong Terrorism and Syria
10/07/2012Syrian Defector: Assad behind "terrorist" bombs

Post Scripts: Both the Syrian and Russian air forces have been getting called out recently for their targeted attacks against hospitals and other health facilities. And now we have the claim that the rebels have also attacked a hospital. From EAWorldView we have this analysis of what looks to be another of Assad's false flag attacks:
Syria Special: How Regime May Have Staged “Rebel Attack” on Aleppo Hospital…and Fooled World’s Media

by Scott Lucas
4 May 2016
On Tuesday morning, Syria’s State media added an important story to its claims of rebel attacks on civilians in regime-held areas of Aleppo city.

For the first time, the outlets proclaimed that a medical facility had been hit, declaring that “terrorist rockets” had struck the al-Dhabeet Maternity Hospital in west Aleppo. Three women had been killed and 17 women and children wounded, said State news agency SANA. Photographs showed damage to the front of the hospital, with windows blown out, and destroyed cars in the street.

But the narrative immediately ran into trouble. Analysts quickly noted that the pictures did not point to a rocket attack but to a vehicle bomb, given that one of the cars had been blown into pieces and that the hospital showed the widespread effects of a bombing rather than the more direct impact of a rocket. Witnesses, including the hospital director, spoke of a “blast” rather than a strike from the air. More...

meanwhile Aleppo is still Burning!




Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Monday, May 2, 2016

FYI Aleppo Is Burning while you are kept ignorant

One of the greatest war crimes of our time is happening while I write this. This has been an extremely bloody week in Syria as Syrian and Russian forces carry out a massive attempt to crush any resistance and retake the entire city for the fascist forces. There are still many civilians in Aleppo and in the past 8 days they have been subjected to 240 air strikes and 120 artillery strikes. The strikes have specifically targeted critical civilian infrastructure like the water supply and hospitals. The Russian jets have been attacking civilians fleeing Aleppo on the only road out still open. They are trying bottle up the quarter million civilians still holding out in Aleppo so that they can starve them out as they have tried to do in other areas with the help of the United Nations.

They are doing this with full support of the Obama administration, which is not objecting to the Russian lead offensive, and the collusion of the US media, which has buried the story. Sadly most of the Left is participation in this cover up although happy we see that is staring to change.

If you are only now hearing about this from me, then you too have been the victim of a crime, the crime of cover up and criminal indifferent on the part of the establishment media, including Democracy Now.

'Aleppo is burning' protest outside White House Correspondents Association dinner in Washington, DC

Their is also a social media campaign of awareness and protest using the hashtag #AleppoIsBurning and many are painting their avatar red in protest.

Yesterday the Syrian Network for Human Rights issued a special report:
The Governmental and Russian Forces burn Aleppo Province
“The Red Death”


I. Introduction:
The neighborhoods of Aleppo Province, which is under the control of the armed opposition factions, witnessed daily bombardment by Syrian and Russian forces, and that one day after the declaration of the supreme body to postpone their participation in the Geneva negotiations held on the 19th of last April.
Many political declarations contributed in saying that the presence of the “Al Nosra” in Aleppo had contributed to the increase of violence and cruelty of those attacks. However, even with the presence of “Al Nosra” or even ISIL or any armed organization, does not justify randomly bombing targets of the city which is located within the control of any military faction and without taking into account the distinction between military and civilian people. Moreover, the violations targeted greatest goals-mentioned in the report- which were never military headquarters, and not even close to military headquarters. It is also relatively far from the lines of the clash, thus, no military value is found. We refer to the names of the victims and their pictures, women and children in addition to the families’ talks.

The report pointed out that the Governmental Forces are still using explosive barrels devices that are thrown from the sky and based on the principle of free fall. This is considered as indiscriminate weapon par excellence. We consider that every explosive barrel is a war crime, because it does not achieve any norm of international humanitarian law, and is still permitted in spite of Security Council resolutions, reports, and condemnations. The network recorded, during the period covered, around 86 explosive barrels on Aleppo city.

In this regard, Fadel Abdul Ghani, director of SNHR states:
“The responsibility for determining the places and the distributions of military sites for “Al Nosra” and ISIL exclusively, located mainly on the state sponsor of the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities. We have referred to this in the first days of launching the statement of the agreement in order not to justify bombing any civilian target, easily, even if it is located in an area under Al Nosra or ISIL. The Syrian and the Russian Forces have exploited this gap, deliberately, in the agreement and justified killing of hundreds of civilians since the start of the statement so far.”
VIEW FULL REPORT [PDF]

The Telegraph is reporting:
Aleppo braces for 'war of all wars' as regime prepares to retake key Syrian city

Josie Ensor, Beirut
29 April 2016 • 5:41pm
Aleppo saw one of its bloodiest days since the ceasefire began on Friday, as government forces laid the groundwork for a “war of all wars” to retake Syria’s second city.

The carnage of the last few days has propelled Aleppo - bitterly contested since 2012 and considered the jewel of Syria - once again to the main battlefield in the civil war.

The Syrian regime pounded rebel areas in the city with air raids, including on another medical clinic, while opposition fighters hit government-held neighbourhoods with rocket and artillery fire.

Friday prayers were cancelled across Aleppo for only the second time during the five-year war, so worried were residents that they would be targeted if they gathered in groups. More...
As reported by the Business Insider:
The Obama administration is 'giving full cover to the Russians' in Syria — and the results are 'catastrophic'

Natasha Bertrand
29 April 2016

Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad pounded the Syrian city of Aleppo in airstrikes on Thursday, targeting a hospital and killing at least 55 civilians in a new offensive that's believed to have been months in the making.

The situation has resulted in a "catastrophic deterioration in Aleppo over the last 24 to 48 hours," Jan Egeland, the chairman of the UN humanitarian task force for Syria, told reporters Thursday.

"Doctors have been killed, health workers have been killed, and medical workers have been blocked from coming to their patients," he said. "We can now refute allegations we heard from some government people and others that there are only fighters and terrorists in Daraya. We have seen with own eyes very many children, very many other civilians."

Local truces were brokered near Damascus on Friday, but there was no mention of halting combat in Aleppo, further north.

Both Moscow and Damascus have denied that their warplanes were responsible for airstrikes on Al-Quds hospital — a facility supported by Doctors Without Borders — and continue to insist that they are only striking terrorists. US Secretary of State John Kerry called it a "deliberate strike," one that "follows the Assad regime's appalling record of striking such facilities and first responders."

But the Assad regime considers all rebels to be terrorists, making medical facilities in opposition-held territory "de-facto illegal" and therefore legitimate targets, according to The Guardian.

Many analysts argue that the cessation of hostilities (CoH) brokered by the US and Russia in February has legitimized Russia and Assad's unwillingness to differentiate between Islamic extremists and more moderate, Western-backed opposition groups. The truce, they say, has allowed forces loyal to Assad to keep bombing rebel territory, as long as they can argue that terrorist organizations such as ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra are present.

As such, many are questioning the extent to which the agreement gave Assad and his allies cover to plan their onslaught on Aleppo.

"I was told back in February that a full Aleppo offensive would take 2-3 months to prepare," The Washington Post's Beirut bureau chief Liz Sly tweeted on Thursday. "So the CoH just filled the gap."

'The administration is now giving full cover to the Russians'

So far, Washington's response to the onslaught in Aleppo has been limited t0 official statements condemning the airstrikes that destroyed Al-Quds hospital. And most say it will stay that way.

"If the US doesn't have a plan to roll out just after official end of CoH (and Obama's comments suggest it), the perception of collusion [between Russia and the US] will grow," saidEmile Hokayem, a Middle East analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Hokayem was likely referring to comments Obama made in a press conference from London last week, where, in reference to the CoH, he said "we are going to have to play this option out."

"If, in fact, the cessation falls apart, we’ll try to put it back together again even as we continue to go after ISIL," he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State terrorist group. "And it’s my belief that ultimately Russia will recognize that." More...



Syria is the first holocaust of the 21st century!

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria