Russia, Syria and the United Nations

In quite extraordinary scenes at the United Nations security council, Britain, France and the USA directly accused Russia of committing war crimes in Syria. The accusations are based on the use of bunker-busting bombs and other heavy weapons in east Aleppo where many civilians are trapped.

Matthew Rycroft, the UK ambassador to the UN said “Incendiary munitions, indiscriminate in their reach, are being dropped on to civilian areas so that, yet again, Aleppo is burning. And to cap it all, water supplies, so vital to millions, are now being targeted, depriving water to those most in need. In short, it is difficult to deny that Russia is partnering with the Syrian regime to carry out war crimes.” Then, along with his French and American counterparts, they walked out in protest before the Syrian government representative began speaking.

What all this shows is just how powerless the UN really is. Because each permanent member of the UN security council has a veto and can block any decisions it doesn’t like, the whole thing can be brought to a standstill. It is obvious that Russia and probably China will block any resolution about taking action to bring the blood, death and misery in Syria to an end.

Maybe the UK, France and the USA will invoke the “Uniting for Peace” resolution of November 1950 (resolution 377 (V)). This states ‘the Assembly may also take action if the Security Council fails to act, owing to the negative vote of a permanent member, in a case where there appears to be a threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression. The Assembly can consider the matter immediately with a view to making recommendations to Members for collective measures to maintain or restore international peace and security.’

This resolution hasn’t been used very often but the feeling is that now there is genuine anger, spilling over into direct and less than diplomatic speech by certain security council members at the actions of Russia in Syria. At the end of the day, this resolution can only make recommendations. In 1980, the General Assembly convened in a “Uniting for Peace” session and passed a resolution demanding the Soviet Union’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Soviets merely shrugged. Russia would mostly likely do the same if such a resolution were passed today.

The biggest irony for me regarding Russia’s actions in Syria is that it claims to be a christian country, in fact the link between the Orthodox church in Russia and the Kremlin would take many by surprise. It is directly influencing the making of laws in Russia. Where is the church’s role in this? Giving guidance on morality or where are the politicians who claim to be christian asking themselves, ‘what would Jesus do in my situation?’ You would have to wait a very long time indeed for that to happen.

There we have it, the UN is basically pointless, it can’t live up to its charter, it is unable to stop wars or give all the aid needed to the refugees caused by those wars. The big powers simply ignore the UN when it suits them. The UK, France, USA and China are just as guilty as Russia, it is basically a toothless old dog that needs to be put down. In fact if there were no UN it would make it much easier for countries, acting alone or as a group to take action and intervene. Instead they are all stuck in an organization which is unable or unwilling to do anything. Innocent people continue being slaughtered. Well done UN, you are 71 years old now, maybe it is time you were retired.

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The war against Daesh (ISIS)

The resolution at the United Nations last week to declare the world is at war with Daesh is all well and good, but….

How do you destroy an idea which has spread around the world and becomes stronger with every bomb that is directed against that idea? Bombs have a certain effect but killing the idea, that takes real work.

The state of things

The human-race is like a car which is rolling towards the edge of a cliff and instead of hitting the brakes we seem to be hitting the gas.

United Nations

At the UN Headquarters, “let us beat our swords into ploughshares”

The vast majority of people just want to get on with their lives, wanting to raise their families in security both financially and physically, but we now live in a time when that is becoming harder and harder for more and more people. Society is becoming very deeply divided and tribal, politics,religion race and wealth are the dividing factors.

After World War 2, there was a period when things seemed to be going reasonably well. During that time we saw nations rebuilding themselves along with the fall of colonialism, businesses were booming and the quality of life was improving for the majority, medical care was made easily available, housing was easy to find, as were jobs that paid a living wage even at the lower end of the social scale. Racism was recognized for the injustice that it is and action was taken, women were able to take their place in the workplace, no longer simply as a secretary but as lawyers and doctors etc. Of course challenges remained but the point is, improvements were being made in society which were unimaginable not so long before. Of course there was the cold war, and some terrible proxy wars were fought between the two superpowers, Korea and Vietnam, at terrible human cost but in many ways the world was more stable during the cold war than it is today.

Politics was also less partisan in the past, the different parties of many countries could often find a way to work together. Today, politics of the democratic system is polarized and tribal in a way not seen for a very long time and to be honest the wheels are starting to fall off. Then there are countries where there is a single “strong man” in power, as always the power goes to their heads. Those who desire power should never be allowed to have it. The same goes for countries which are governed or ruled by a single family or tribe. They can not imagine never being in power and so set up systems to perpetuate themselves no matter the suffering that might cause others.

Interestingly, over the course of human history, we have tried all forms of government, royal rule, emperors, feudal systems, dictators, authoritarianism, communism, democracy yet none of them can prove themselves in the long run. For sure there have been some benevolent kings and queens in the past who genuinely cared about their subjects but then they died and the situation invariably changed. It strikes me that we are not able to govern ourselves and as society becomes more divided the task will only become harder and more dangerous. As a thought experiment, maybe what is needed is a benevolent global ruler or organization that has the power to put a stop to all the chaos. Quite honestly, if things continue the way they are then the situation can only become worse. The cliff edge approaches.

Religion is a big issue too these days. Everybody is aware of radical Islam and in particular how ISIS (daesh) use it as an instrument of power and fear. The Pope recently said there could be a case for creating an international military force to take them on. This is interesting as the Vatican usually stays neutral on the use of armed force, at least publicly. It must be said that ISIS (daesh) are doing everything they can to create a clash of civilizations, the wanton destruction of historical sites is more about trying to provoke an international reaction rather than for any religious belief. That the Vatican is now weighing into the situation, with all its power and influence, could well lead to what could be seen as a christian crusade by the muslim world even if they don’t support the extremists. To be honest the entire Middle East is beyond hope. Those of you who follow this blog know of my deep interest in the region, it is like a second home to me but the political and religious situation will only become worse. Nothing short of a geo-political earthquake of a magnitude never imagined can resolve the chaos, game playing, war and death. Israel and Palestine is a crazy situation, they are family, literally related to each other but hate each other with all the fury of an erupting volcano. In fact if you could take religion out of the equation there would be no other difference between the Jews and the Palestinians, just members of the same blood line going back to the biblical Isaac and sharing the land.

Our political leaders do not have the answers to the challenges facing the human-race today, their impotence and incompetence becomes more obvious every day. They try to change things but ultimately nothing ever changes, they only add another layer to the crust of everything which has gone before. The global political system has taken on a life of its own which ultimately nobody can control, a little like Frankenstein’s monster and see how that ended for its creator!

The United Nations which was set up after World War 2 to bring about international “peace and security” is little more than a place where political games take place, where self interest is made apparent and very little good is ever done. Saying that, if the global situation continues the way it is, when we really could on the brink of destroying ourselves it could well turn out to be the organization to be given real power and oversight of the international situation, but the situation will have to develop much more for that to happen, maybe when our leaders and politicians see there is a direct threat to their own security. Can and will it happen? Yes. Will it be successful? No.

I have written this article because for all the following I do of international politics, religion and economics, whatever I write is ultimately futile, not that it will stop me, it is just that for the moment I am tired of writing about specific situations because there are so many of them and too many new things happening every day. All the atrocities of war, the political arrogance, the religious meddling, honestly it takes a lot of energy and I can see where it is all heading. It is not my intention to depress anybody with this article, simply to demonstrate that the global system as it stands (political, economic and religious) is self destructive and beyond repair. It needs to be dismantled.

United Nations vs ISIS?

This week is going to be a busy one at the United Nations. As well as the General Assembly meeting there will be others to address the situation with ISIS (Daesh) and Ebola in west Africa.

Now that airstrikes in Syria against Daesh have started, led by the USA and Arab states, it is time to understand what is happening. Before I do, I want to tell you the reaction of my Syrian friends regarding the airstrikes. None of them are happy about it, not because they like Daesh but because they only see Bashar al Assad benefiting from the situation rather than the majority of the Syrian people. In general the view is that when the USA gets involved, the resulting situation is always worse than it was before. It has to be said, history tends to back them up on this.

A few weeks ago, President Obama spoke of the need to build a global coalition against the global threat of Daesh, their network is spread around the world and they have been preparing for for attacks by the West for quite some time. The USA has been leading talks behind the scenes with all the members of the U.N as a way of confronting the crisis.

While the act of attacking Daesh and stopping them in their tracks can only be a good thing there are many risks involved, in particular who or what will fill the vacuum which will follow. This is the real fear of the Sunni muslims in both Syria and Iraq. It could lead to expanded sectarian conflict across the region rather than bringing any sort of peace. Russia has already condemned the airstrikes in Syria as there has been no agreement by the Security Council of the U.N. It seems that Obama is going to try and rectify the lack of agreement this week by arguing that as Daesh are a global threat the response also needs to be global and there is only one global organization which can do the job, the U.N. In order for that to happen it would need all U.N member states to give real teeth to what until now has been little more than a corrupt talking shop. By giving the U.N genuine power it would be the only organization capable of confronting Daesh at the international level. This is why I believe this week will be quite interesting, there really could be moves to make this happen.

The crisis in the Middle East isn’t the only crisis in town. Ebola in west Africa is threatening to decimate populations and I use the word literally. It is a crisis which also requires a global response as it has the potential to spread far beyond where it is now. It has arrived to the point where there are now infected bodies in the streets, there are not enough medical facilities or staff to cope with the outbreak. There are cases where highly infectious bodies lie in the streets. It does not require a huge leap of the imagination to see how easy it would be for terrorists to extract blood from these bodies for extraction of the virus to be used as a weapon, the process is not complicated. Ebola is something which has the potential to effect us all and requires a global response of the same level that militant Islam is receiving.

Finally, I want to go back to the way most ordinary Syrians view Daesh compared to the government of Bashar al Assad and illustrate it with something I saw today. They don’t want Daesh but the Sunni majority hate the Syrian regime even more. By destroying Daesh they feel it will allow Assad to kill even more people and the USA with its military action will inadvertently help him to do it. These are not my opinions but are based on numerous conversations I have had with Syrians in the last few days.

Syrian Regime vs ISIS (Daesh)

Syrian Regime vs ISIS (Daesh)

Today is World Refugee Day

There are now as many refugees in the world as at any time during the Second World War. The number of refugees worldwide has now reached some 50 million, more than the entire population of many countries.Refugees are a symptom of a failed global political system which allows the wars and oppression that create the problem.

The United Nations in particular has failed miserably in its mandate of maintaining international “peace and security”. Why? Because the countries it consists of are more interested in their political and power games than in people.

The way things are going, the global refugee crisis is going to get worse not better. The political system is not going to resolve the situation because it is at the heart of the problem, eating away like cancer.

For the moment, this is going to continue so we need to think about our fellow human beings and how we can help those who have been forced to flee their countries. Donate something to a charity that focuses on helping refugees, every penny counts but I would avoid giving anything to a United Nations organization, they waste too much money, very little reaches the people who really need it.

These are people we are talking about, what has happened to them can happen much closer to home too. Remember what happened after hurricane Katrina? Who is to say something like this won’t happen again. It is about time we start thinking about people as humans, rather than what group they belong to. Remember, we are all part of the Human Race.

As an aside, China Youth Daily, one of the biggest newspapers in China have run a feature today for World Refugee Day. I was privileged to be able to contribute to it with my experience in Syria. Here is a link to the Google Translate version in English of the article

China Youth Daily

China Youth Daily, my contribution to them for World Refugee Day

 

Syrian chemical weapons. What does the new deal mean?

So finally there has been a breakthrough and a deal made between Syria, Russia and the USA with regard to Syrian CW. On the surface it looks like a good thing and if you take it at face value then for certain it can only be good that there is one less way for Assad/Russia/Iran to kill civilians in Syria.

On the other hand, you have to remember that all sides of this deal all have their own political strategy and these haven’t changed. The USA still wants to see Syria divided up into three parts. Russia and Iran are working as business partners and their objective is to increase their dominance in the middle east. Syria is being used like a pawn in a chess game. Assad himself is little more that a figurehead these days, a marionette with Iran and Russia working together to pull the strings.

If we look at the terms of the deal it raises lots of questions but also gives an insight into the objectives of all the parties involved. I give my opinions based on my own observations and analysis as well as my understanding of the psychology and political thinking of the various parties.

Under the terms of the deal brokered in Geneva, Assad has a week to account for his CW stockpile, type, location and quantity etc. This raises the first question, nobody knows exactly how much CW Assad holds, any declaration he makes is going to have to be accepted at face value as there is no way to prove otherwise. Can he be trusted to make a full declaration of his CW assets? Further to this, just how do UN inspectors expect to be able to carry out their work, to examine if Assad is telling the truth or not, this is after all a conflict zone? This last factor gives the possibility for so many delaying tactics, if security of the UN inspectors can’t be guaranteed then how are they supposed to carry out their work?

As for the Syrian rebels, they see the talks in Geneva and subsequent deal as simply buying more time for Assad and view with high suspicion the motivations of the deal that has been made.  Therefore it is highly unlikely that they will agree to a temporary ceasefire in order for the UN to go into the country. The rebels view all the talk about CW as very hypocritical and political maneuvering, for the rebels there is no difference between Assad killing women and children with bombs and bullets rather than chemical weapons. If the west were serious about stopping the killing of innocents it would have stepped in a long time ago.

Russia is playing the better political game at the moment but it is early days and you can be sure that there will be a lot of pushing backwards and forwards between the USA and Russia over the next few month as they fight their proxy war in Syria. Russia certainly doesn’t have a problem with Assad using chemical weapons, when Chechen rebels took hundreds of hostages in a Moscow theatre a few years ago they used gas knowing that many innocent hostages would die. For the Russians, it was more important to kill Chechen separatists than save the lives of innocent theatre goers. So Assad has no pressure from the Russians about his use of gas. As long as you create the appearance of trying to do the right thing, this is all that matters.

The USA went with this deal because it gives them the perfect get out clause, they are no longer committed to air strikes on Syrian regime CW assets, not that they ever really wanted to in the first place. Syrian air defense systems are pretty strong and are getting stronger through the installation of Russian made S-300 system. Russia has its advisers on the ground training the Syrians on how to use the system, if the USA were to attack and destroy one of these installations and Russians were subsequently killed then the USA and Russia would be brought into direct conflict and that is a situation that neither side can afford. At the same time the USA wants the war in Syria to keep going for as long as possible as a way of getting Iran to commit more and more resources, human and weapon, thereby making Iran weaker as the financial costs of this conflict build up. What we are seeing is that the USA is getting more weapons than before to the FSA, which is forcing Iran to spend more money on helping Assad. Will this strategy work? Time will tell.

Then we come to Iran, so far they are the biggest winners in the Syrian conflict. The world’s eyes are toward Syria as they continue a pace and much closer to completion the development of their nuclear capability. They have two objectives that I know of with regard to Syria. The first is colonial, Iran has always had a desire to dominate the middle east, they desire to have once again a Persian empire. Assad miscalculated when he became President and allowed the Iranians deep inside the workings of the country, politically, militarily and economically. Now Assad is little more than a puppet on a string. Of course he would like to think that he is in control but he lost that a while ago. The second of Iran’s objectives is to keep the world occupied with Syria while it works on completing its nuclear development program. The new Iranian President Rouhani portrays the face of moderation and is warmer to the west but this is all part of the Iranian game of smoke and mirrors. Rouhani doesn’t have the real power, that belongs to the Ayatollahs and the Republican guard and their objectives have not changed. Rouhani is simply a delaying tactic. The USA thinks helping the FSA will force Iran to spend more money than it can afford on supporting Assad with weapons and fighters and Iran is pouring more resources into Syria to keep the USA busy as it hurries to get nuclear capability. Iran and Russia have a business partnership based on economics, oil, gas and weapons and geo-strategy, political influence and weakening the influence of the USA in the middle east.

Ok, time for a scenario, time will tell if I am right or wrong but based on my understanding of the different actors involved, I think there is a real possibility that something along these lines will happen. As nobody knows exactly how much CW Assad has or where he has it, we can make a safe assumption that the UN will not be able to take control of all the chemical weapons.  What I believe will happen is that some time after the UN has taken control of the declared CW assets one of two things will happen, maybe even both. Assad will use chemical weapons against an Alawite town or village. These weapons will be from part of the hidden stockpile that he didn’t declare or he will use his own people to make a raid on a UN guarded CW facility to steal them and at the same time make it look like it was the rebels who made this attack. Why would he do this? Assad has in the past killed those on his side that were no longer useful if he thought it could give him a propaganda advantage. He would be able to say, tongue in cheek, that all CW are under control of the UN so it isn’t possible that he launched the attack, much less so on people from his own tribe. It would be a huge propaganda coup for him on a global scale. You must also remember that the majority of the Alawites are also treated badly by the Syrian regime, it is only a small minority that have the wealth and power. Most Alawites are poor just like the majority of the Syrian population. The regime made the Alawites fear the Sunni majority in order to create a sectarian division, the fear that the Sunni would slaughter them if they ever came to power, this guaranteed that these poorly educated people have followed Assad not out of love and loyalty to a family member but out of fear that the treatment from the Sunni would be worse than that they already receive.  Assad despises the majority of Alawites only slightly less than he despises the Sunni. Killing a few thousand Alawite and making it look as if the rebels did it would be like a wet dream come true for Assad.

If Assad can pull this off then it would be a huge political and propaganda win for him. World opinion would shift and the rebels would lose a lot of good will but more importantly the USA would have serious egg on its face as it gets accused of supporting rebels who have finally been ‘proven’ to have used chemical weapons. This would put America in a very difficult and much weakened position on the international stage, Russia and Iran would wet their pants laughing at the USA as they build up their own global influence.

As I have said in a previous post, what is happening in Syria is no longer about revolution but rather a battlefield that is being used by two superpowers to try and outsmart and out maneuver each other in their battle to increase their global power and influence.

If you have any questions then please leave a comment or send me a private message.

The reason why President Obama is happy the Russians won’t accept the French UN proposal on Syrian chemical weapons

Oh the games that are being played. So Obama jumped at the chance to accept the Russian offer to get Assad to hand over his stockpile of chemical weapons (CW) I actually laughed when I heard that bit of news. Just how do you go about collecting huge stockpiles of CW in the middle of a war zone. Back in the 1990’s it took UN teams 3 years to deal with Iraq’s CW and things were a lot easier there. So how on earth they could do the same in Syria is anybody’s guess. The fact is everybody knows this and it is just words being used to give an impression that something is being done.

Then there is the case of the French UN proposal that Assad must hand everything over in 15 days. The French knew that Russia would object to this. To be honest even the French know it isn’t possible for Assad to do this in 15 days. The French have made this proposal with US backing. So what is the reason? There are 2 possibilities:

The first is that the USA will launch an air strike on targets in Syria and all this talk about going to the UN is just hot air.

The second possibility is that the USA never had any intention of making a direct strike and all this talk about going to the UN is still just hot air. I believe this to be the more likely of the 2

As I have said many times before, the USA want to keep this war going for as long as possible. The reason being, is to get Iran and Hezbollah to commit ever more resources and consequentially become weaker. Bashar al Assad has become little more than a figurehead who is controlled by Iran. The USA helps the Free Syria Army (FSA), not enough to enable them to overthrow Assad but just enough to keep fighting. Saying that, very recently the US supplied the FSA with a large quantity of Chinese ‘Red Arrow’ anti tank/anti aircraft missiles and launchers as well as sniper rifles and several truck loads of ammunition. These were supplied through various Russia region Mafia groups the US uses when it needs to have deniability for certain actions. The intention is to give the FSA a morale boost, nothing more.

Non of the countries that say Assad should be punished care one iota for the ordinary Syrian people. They are using the war there for their own political aims. The USA and her allies know very well that Assad is under the control of Iran. If Iran were to win this war then it would be a big step in its ambitions to dominate the entire middle east. Iran with its business partner Russia are doing all they can to win this war, at the moment they have the upper hand over the USA. I would go as far as saying that the war in Syria is being used as a test of strength, cunning and strategy by the USA, Russia and Iran to see who is the top dog. Syria is being used like a pawn in a game of chess as the ‘superpowers’ battle for supremacy.

The war in Syria is no longer just about revolution, if there were no international interference then the Assad government would have been overthrown a long time ago. You would be amazed at the level of defection that is taking place from the Syrian army to the FSA at the moment. Iran is having to work full time sending its own replacements in to bolster what remains of the Syrian army. Russia is supporting Assad with weapons and new air defense systems and the USA is supporting the FSA in its fight against Assad. What we have happening is a classic proxy war. One false move by the USA or Russia and this conflict will have global consequences. The problem is they are blinded by their own hubris and ideas of how smart they think they are. In the next months events will happen which will take them all by surprise.

To finish, I am posting a link to a video interview I made with Mustafa. He is now back in Syria. The interview gives an insight into the thinking of what the normal Syrian people want. We only hear about extremists but they really are in the minority compared to the 180,000 of the FSA. The Syrian people are by nature moderate. They just want to have a quiet life. Watch the video and see what you think. Also if you have any questions or comments please feel free to comment or send me a private message.