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President Bashar al-Assad interview with the Italian Rai_News_24 TV

President Assad: We focus today on getting rid of terrorists and their ideology...We can make Syria much better than before the crisis | Sep 29, 2013



Damascus, (SANA)- President Bashar al-Assad has given an interview to the Italian Rai_News_24 TV channel in which he stressed Syria's commitment to the international agreement on the prohibition of chemical weapons and its determination to go ahead with the political solution and halting violence.

The following is the full text of the interview:

Rai News: Mr. President, thanks for having us here. It’s a very important moment, because the UN Security Council just approved with unanimity a resolution asking Syria to eliminate completely its chemical weapons. Are you going to comply with this?

President al-Assad: Actually, we joined the international agreement for preventing the use and acquirement of chemical weapons before that resolution came to light. The main part of the Russian initiative is based on our will to do so. So, it's not the resolution. Actually, it's about our will. Of course, we have the will, because in 2003 we had a proposal in the United Nations Security Council, to get rid of those weapons in the Middle East, to have a chemical weapons free zone in the Middle East. So, of course we have to comply; this is our history: to comply with every treaty we sign.

Rai News: So, with no limit to any extent?

President al-Assad: According to every chapter in the agreement. We don't have any reservations. That's why we decided to join the agreement.

Rai News: How do you think you will organize this kind of dismantling, which is very complicated?

President al-Assad: This question should be directed to the organization itself. Of course our role is to offer the data and to facilitate their procedures, which is available so far. But I think it's about the technical side or aspect of the implementation, about how to reach those places, especially when you have terrorists who could put any obstacle, and about how to dismantle and get rid of those materials.

Rai News: Let me just speculate on this. It means you're going to help them and protect them. Because now security is a very important issue here in Syria.

President al-Assad: Of course. That's self-evident, yes.

Rai News: Let's go forward, Mr. President, trying to understand what's going on in Syria in the next few days, weeks and months, because now the attack which was very close a few weeks ago looks to be a little more distant. How are you going to work in this time? What is your personal roadmap?

President al-Assad: I'm sorry, for what?

Rai News: For political activities. I mean, how do you think you're going to use this time?

President al-Assad: Since the beginning of the crisis, we said political activity or solution, whatever you call it, is a very important part of the crisis. But when you have terrorism, you cannot expect the political solution to solve everything. In spite of that, you have to continue the political action, but there's no process yet. It's about the Syrians meeting around the table, discussing the political system that they want, the future of Syria, and whatever they agree upon, you'll have a referendum in order to have the endorsement of the Syrian people regarding whatever part of the future of Syria, whether it's the constitution, or laws, or whatever. That's what we've been doing since the beginning of the crisis, and this is the same action that we're going to continue with in the meantime.

Rai News: We'll go back later to the beginning of the crisis, but let us stay for a second on this. It means you're going to discuss with the opposition as well? Even with the armed opposition?

President al-Assad: No, when they are armed you don't call them opposition, you call them terrorists. Opposition is a political entity, is a political program, is a political vision; this is opposition. If you have arms and destroy and kill and assassinate, this is not opposition. This is what you call terrorism all over the world and in every other country. So, we can discuss with every party in the opposition. Regarding the militants, if they give up their arms, we'll be ready to discuss with them anything like any other citizen.

Rai News: So, we arrive close to Geneva 2, the peace talks, because Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the UN, said that it's very likely in November there will be a second Geneva meeting. Are you planning to attend it personally?

President al-Assad: That depends on the framework of the Geneva meeting. So far, that conference is not clear: what kind of conference, who's going to attend, what the criteria are for this conference. So, we have to be ready as government, but we cannot decide who's going to head the delegation until we have, let's say, the framework, the clear framework and the criteria.

Rai News: So, let me just ask you: which kind of framework would convince you to go there?

President al-Assad: As I said, any political party could attend that conference, but we cannot discuss, for example, al-Qaeda and its offshoots and organizations that are affiliated to al-Qaeda, for example, terrorists. We cannot negotiate with the people who ask for foreign intervention and military intervention in Syria.

Rai News: May I just name Qatar and Saudi Arabia?

President al-Assad: Let me be frank with you; they are client states, so I'm talking about states now. If you want to talk about states, they are client states; their master is the United States. We all know that. So, if the United States is attending, this is the main partner, and the others are accessories. If you want to talk about Syrian parties, regardless of their names, I'm talking about their behavior during the crisis. That's what we can discuss - their behavior.

Rai News: Since the situation on the ground is very complicated, could you also accept the idea of some international forces, like interposition on the ground, to try to stabilize in a way the situation?

President al-Assad: It doesn't work, because we're not talking about two countries fighting each other, like, for example, Syria and Israel, where you have a frontline, a clear frontline, where you can have the United Nations forces on both sides of the borders or the frontier, let's say, or the armistice line. It's completely different. You are talking about gangs; they could exist everywhere in Syria, within any city, where you don't have a frontier or clear lines. So, even if you want to suppose that you can accept that idea - which is not acceptable for us - but if you want to accept it, where can you position those troops? No-one can draw a map. You need a clear map. There is no clear map. There are gangs coming from everywhere, and they are terrorists who should be fought, not isolated from the Syrian troops.

Rai News: We were talking about Geneva 2, and I was thinking about Europe and the role of Italy in this kind of process. Do you see any role for Italy in this?

President al-Assad: Again, let me be very bold here, very blunt. If we want to discuss the role of Italy, we should see it in the light of the European role. Is Italy independent from the European role? If not, who's leading the European role? And, we have to discuss the relation between the European role and the American. Is Europe independent from the American policies today? I heard from many European officials that they are convinced about what we are saying, but they cannot announce it. This is not the first time, not only during this crisis. So, any role should be looked at in the light of two things: the credibility of that role, and second, the relation between the individual or the country or the government, let's say, with the different parties. Now, our reality today is that most of the European countries adopted the American, let's say, practice in dealing with different countries since George Bush came to his position more than ten years ago. When they have a problem or disagreement with any other country, they cut off all kinds of relations. So, if you want to play a role, how can you play a role where you don't have relations? How can you build credibility when you don't have relations? Regarding the credibility, how can you talk about the credibility of any European country now when they talk about humanitarian aid and at the same time they establish the worst embargo we've ever seen since the existence of Syria after the independence? Many things have to be discussed before asking for a role. We welcome any role. We support any country that would like to help the Syrians in their endeavor, but we cannot just ask for a role without having the foundation of that role. So, to be frank, most of the European countries today, they don't have the ability to play that role because they don't have the different factors that could make them succeed and could make them efficient and effective in playing that role.

Rai News: But things look to change quite quickly these days, because just this phone call between President Obama and Iranian President Rouhani, and so it looks like the balance in the region in some way is changing. Isn't it going to affect in some way what is happening in Syria?

President al-Assad: I think it's going to affect positively for many reasons. First of all, Iran is our ally. Second, because we trust the Iranians. Third, because the Iranians, like the Syrians, like many countries in the world, don't trust the Americans, and I think many of the American allies don’t trust the American administrations. So, for the Iranians to move closer to the Americans is not just a naïve move; it's a well-studied step that's based on the experience of the Iranians with the United States since the revolution in 1979. But if the Americans are honest about this rapprochement, I think the results will be positive regarding the different issues, not only the Syrian crisis, including every problem in the region.

Rai News: You know that in the day of the crisis and I mentioned the attack was so close. An important action was taken by Papa Francesco, Pope Francis, against the war. And now, speaking to the Christian minority here, they are all very scared. What is going to be your attitude towards minorities like Christians in the next few years?

President al-Assad: Syria is a melting pot. It existed like this, like it is today because it is a melting pot with multifarious cultures for centuries, before Christianity and after Christianity, before Islam and after Islam. If you have any change, dramatic change, in the demographic and social fabric of the Syrian society, you're going to have a big problem in the future regarding the future of Syria. I don't know what kind of problem, because it's more complicated than anyone would think, and that will affect the other countries in the region. So, Syria is a secular country and the Syrian society is a secular society. Secular means to deal with every citizen, regardless of their religion, sect and ethnicity. So, I think technically these minorities in Syria, especially Christians, in light of what is happening recently – burning churches, attacking Christian villages, expelling Christians form their houses and homes – in light of this, dealing with this crisis is not a Syrian issue, it's not only a regional issue, it should be an international issue, especially for Italy and for the Vatican.

Rai News: So, Mr. President, these have been very complicated weeks. The escalation has started with the infamous 21st August attack. Can we go back to that allegation about the chemical attack; which is your version, because you were speaking about having different evidence. UN inspectors are here working, can you help us understanding your version about this?

President al-Assad: Let me tell in you in brief. First, let's start by saying the Syrian Army didn't use it at all. It never arranged to use chemical weapons during the crisis, and we have every evidence that the gangs have used this.

Now, why the Syrian Army didn't use it? Logically and realistically, you don't use it when you're in advancement. The army was advancing. Why to use it? You didn't use it for two and a half years while you had many difficult situations in different areas in Syria, you had much more terrorists facing you in other places more than Damascus. Why didn't we use it? Why only in that place?

Second, the story now, or the American narrative; we invited the delegation to come to Syria, which is responsible for investigating the use of chemical weapons, before that incident, and the day they arrived, the second day, the Syrian Army used chemical weapons. Is that plausible? You cannot believe this story. Why, when we invited the delegation to come in March, why did the Americans put obstacles, and why did they accept that recently before the incident, and when they arrived, the attack happened? You cannot use it in a city where you can have tens of thousands of casualties including the army. The most important thing is that nobody verified the veracity of the videos and the photos, no-one, because in many places, the same pictures of the same children were used in different photos in different places, and you can find those pictures on the internet, they've been circulating on the internet.

On the other side, we have complete evidence, like the materials, containers that the terrorists used, we have the confessions of some of the terrorists that conveyed chemical materials from neighboring countries, and you have the indication that the interest of whoever committed this crime wasn't the Syrian Army; it was the terrorists. So, that's the whole story.

Rai News:Is there even the slightest chance or possibility that someone inside your circle or the army did it against your permission, against you, and then maybe see him defect in a few months? It's a very complicated crisis, so we're allowed to use speculations.

President al-Assad: It's a weapon of mass destruction, it's chemical. It's like if you say that somebody in a nuclear country wanted to use nuclear weapons without the authority of his master. You cannot believe this. This is a very naïve story. This could be a children's story. It's not a grenade ;you put it in your pocket and throw it on everyone. The process of using the chemical weapons if you have a war with any enemy and if you want to use it is very complicated, it's under strict procedure because it's complicated technically first of all to activate the material itself. This is first. Second, not a single unit in the Syrian Army has chemical weapons anyway; you have specialized units, and if you want to use it, these specialized units should join the army in order to use the chemical weapons. So, again, this is a children's narrative.

Rai News: So, since we're going back in time, let's go to the beginning of the crisis. At the time, you acted in a tough way against any sign of opposition. Do you have any kind of regret of the way everything began?

President al-Assad: We have to define the word "tough" because we dealt with the situation according to the constitution. It's like, if you say, the Americans sent the army to Los Angeles in 1995. Do you call it tough, or do you call it that they sent the army to fight the rebels? So, according to the constitution we should have fought the terrorists, because from the very first week, we had many victims from the army and the police, from the very first few weeks. So, that's normal, what we did, according to the constitution. This is the job of the government. If you talk about mistakes committed on the ground that could happen anywhere in the world. In the UK a few years ago, they shot a Brazilian guy by mistake, so that could happen anywhere. So, policy is different from the practice in many places in the world.

Rai News: But, just remaining on the political field, don't you think that you had the chance to do something more at the time? Like doing something more, maybe change, even politicians sometimes can admit some mistakes.

President al-Assad: Even if you want to look at your mistakes when you do it, and every human will do mistakes every day, that's normal, but how can you judge your mistake? After the end of the event, not during the event. So, we are still in the middle of the crisis. You can judge that at the end of the crisis. This is where we can revise our action, this is where the people can criticize us on, let's say, objective and methodical basis, not in an arbitrary way.

Rai News: Did you ever think to leave the power for the sake of your country? Did you ever consider the chance to leave your country just if the exchange was peace and stability for your people?

President al-Assad: It depends on the "if." If my quitting of my position would make the situation better, the answer would be very simply, without reluctance, yes. But there is the other question; would the situation be better? So, for me as president, so far, I have to be in my position because when you have a storm, you don't give up your position. You don't quit your position and leave your country in the middle of the storm. Your mission is to take your country to the shore, not to abandon the ship and the Syrian people.

Rai News: What would be the scenario in which you could decide that it's the right way for your ship to go to the shore, and then you decide to do something else?

President al-Assad: The first part, two things. As I said earlier, the political dialogue is very important to discuss the future of Syria and the political system. The second one is to stop the violence by stopping the smuggling and sending the terrorist form outside Syria, stopping the financial support, stopping sending them armaments and every logistical support, because if we don't succeed here, we cannot in the political part of solving the problem. Second, after solving this problem, regarding me, my position, the only way is the ballot box, because this is where the Syrian people can tell whoever they want. And for me, I should obey whatever the Syrian people want. There's no other way in any country. I mean, it's not the decision of any group in Syria; it's the decision of every Syrian citizen.

Rai News: Are you going to be in the elections of 2014?

President al-Assad: Before the elections right away, if I feel that the Syrian people want me to be in that position, I will run. If not, I will not.

Rai News: Mr. President, I do remember the beginning of your presidency, and you were looked to as a symbol of hope for Syria, because everybody knew that you knew the world, and you came here to give it a more modern and open society. Young people, intellectuals were looking at you in this way. Then, something happened in between. Do you think there's a chance you could do something so dramatically different to be seen again in that position, and not in the one in which you're seen in the very last days?

President al-Assad: You have to talk about the internal factors and the external factors, because you are part of a very complicated region in the world, so we'll be affected, and there's daily interaction with our periphery. The internal factor which is that when you talk about reform, it's not the reform of the president or the government; the government and the president should lead the reform, because it's about the whole society, because it's a matter of culture. It's not only laws and constitution. The laws and constitution are means for change, but the real change happens by the people themselves. So, according to our reality, when you talk about thousands of years of civilization, you are talking about mores, and customs, and traditions, and ethos, and folkways, and different things that are related to every society, and our society is very complicated because of this multifarious culture that we've had. So, it was moving forward. You cannot say that we didn't say anything. Some people say that it was false, some people say that it was too slow; this is subjective. Each one sees it in his own way. But in the end, no-one can say that we are in our position, because we moved forward, could be slowly, but surely. This is the first part.

Second, you have to talk about external obstacles. When I became president, two months later, the Intifada in Palestine started that influenced every country in the Arab world. The peace process actually had failed just a few months before I became president, and there was a stalemate. Third, eleventh of September happened, and we had to pay the price, one of the countries that had to pay the price. They invaded Afghanistan; we were against. They invaded Iraq; we were against. And after 2003, after the invasion of Iraq, Syria had to pay the price, and there was an embargo by the Europeans and the West, and so on. There was only an artificial period of conciliation, let's say between Syria – which could be not the very precise word – but kind of rapprochement between Syria and the West and especially Europeans between 2008 and 2011. Why artificial? Because it was under the supervision of the Americans; it wasn't genuine, because they weren't independent. And now we have the crisis. When we talk about reform, especially when we talk about dramatic reform, you need a different atmosphere. You have to be comfortable economically, politically and ideologically. Don't forget in that regard one of the external and internal factors at the same time is the invasion of the bad ideologies to the region, including Syria, and I mean the ideology of al-Qaeda that invaded many communities in our region, including part of the Syrian society. You cannot talk about reform and democracy while the ideologies are single-minded ideologies that don't accept any other one, because democracy, real democracy, is about accepting the others. Start by accepting the other, first of all, especially in a diverse society. So, I can say that we are still having the same will to move forward in that regard according to our reality. So, the scope of the reform will be limited by our reality.

Rai News: Very last question; if now the major threat looks to be over or a little lessened, what would you tell your people in terms of promise and pattern?

President al-Assad: I think the only thing that I can say now is one option that's left for us; which is to defend our country. So, first of all, we have to focus on getting rid of the terrorists, their terrorism and their ideology. Second, even if we get over this crisis, we have so many things to manage after the crisis, the leftover of this crisis, especially the ideological, the psychological and the social consequences on thissociety, so we have a lot of work. But, I can say with confidence that we can make Syria much better than before the crisis.

Rai News: Even with reforms?

President al-Assad: Yeah, of course. We need the reform. Without reform, we cannot. The reform is a very part of what I'm talking about. Actually, it's the major axis of making Syria better, that's for sure, but doesn't mean to be the hope in that regard of foreign countries or foreign people; I could be the hope of the Syrians, not any other one.

Rai News: I wish you all the best. Thank you very much, Mr. President. Thank you for your time and for hosting us here.

President al-Assad: Thank you for coming to Syria.

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SOURCE | http://sana.sy/eng/21/2013/09/29/504921.htm

US Anti-war Delegation Witnesses Syria’s Resistance to Imperialism

By John Parker and Sara Flounders  | Damascus, Syria


With the U.S. government keeping both massive bombing and regime change “on the table” for Syria in mid-September, we from the International Action Center and others among the anti-war forces in the U.S. believed it important to organize a delegation to visit this small country now facing imperialist attack.
Washington has coordinated a destabilization campaign against Syria for the last 30 months. The U.S., its NATO allies and the Gulf monarchies have flooded Syria with arms and mercenary fighters, while cultivating a vicious climate of sectarian violence.
The IAC, together with Syrian Americans, organized a delegation as part of a continuing campaign to build resistance at home to the U.S. war against Syria. All participants plan to continue organizing mass protests and educational campaigns in the U.S. that counter the demonization of Syria and expose all the fraudulent war propaganda, as well as explain to the movement here what is at stake in Syria today.
Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and former six-term Congressperson Cynthia McKinney led the delegation, which included Dedon Kamathi, of the All-African Peoples Revolutionary Party, and the two writers of this article. Johnny Achi, of the Los Angeles-based Arab Americans 4 Syria, met the group in Damascus.
The trip took place at a turning point in the war. In the U.N. Security Council, at the G-20 meeting in Moscow, and even within the NATO countries and the British Parliament, U.S. imperialism’s most effective and persuasive representative, President Barack Obama, had failed to win support for another U.S. war. With a Congressional vote authorizing war looking shaky and the U.S. population massively opposing a new war, the attack was put on hold.
Yet Secretary of State Kerry has said that the U.S. will increase arms deliveries to the more than 1,200 marauding bands of mercenaries that make up the opposition to the Syrian government. It was a crucial time to intensifying the global struggle movement opposing a new imperialist war.
Following an international forum in Beirut, Lebanon, on Sept. 16, the delegation drove along the narrow, winding, two-or-three-lane highway through the mountains to Damascus. The road on the Lebanese side showed the impact of many past wars in Lebanon. On the Syrian side it became a well-lit, six-lane highway leading into Damascus. Except for the occasional thud of mortars, everything seemed calm and well functioning in a very modern urban center.
But that is only part of a complex reality.
A third of Syrians displaced
Even a short visit to Syria revealed how the society has responded to the social crisis and mass displacement created by the war. More than one third of Syria’s 22.5 million people have been displaced by war. More than 5 million have been internally displaced, and another 2 million plus have fled to surrounding countries.
A visit to a center for displaced people at a Damascus school showed the scale of the disruption of family life. Most classrooms throughout the building were divided in two to accommodate families of sometimes eight or ten members. Conditions were orderly and clean, but crowded. Placing displaced families in schools meant that students have to be relocated and doubled up.
The proudest achievement of Syria is that schools reopened across the country in September, despite the war. In addition to offering emergency housing, the facility we visited provided a secure food source and medical care, plus classes so the children’s lives had structure and continuity. There were playgrounds and common areas.
Syria has full literacy and the highest educational level in the region. Free education is guaranteed, including graduate studies and medical schools.
We visited a classroom in the school’s basement where children were receiving new backpacks with school supplies. Printed on each bag was the slogan in Arabic: “Everyone has a right to education.” The children sat quietly and attentively at their desks. When their names were called, they came up and proudly received their gift.
One shy child could hardly look at us without giggling and hiding her eyes, while another little girl looked us straight in the eye as if to demand we change this situation.
Parents, teachers and many volunteers participate in running the center. They told us that despite the war the government remains committed to maintaining free health care and free education for all.
U.S.-led sanctions against Syria have prevented deliveries of essential medicine for children. One father told us that his child, who was only knee-high, suffered from a growth-hormone deficiency that was treated with a drug provided free by the government, but it is now in short supply due to sanctions.
The father said he had been displaced, with his whole family, in 1967 when the Israeli regime first occupied the Golan Heights.
Families told us of the trauma created when the mercenary bands of  “rebels” kidnap and hold family members for ransom. While some kidnappings have a political goal, others are because family members are working abroad, especially in the Gulf region, the U.S. or Europe, and the goal is to extort money.
Conditions in Aleppo
Several Syrians described the horrendous conditions in the major industrial city of Aleppo near the Turkish border in the north. The “rebels” have held half of Aleppo for months. Both Aleppo and Damascus are considered among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Large parts of Old Aleppo, even sites 4,000 years old, have been destroyed in car bombings and lootings.
Most of Aleppo’s population — nearly 3 million people before the war — are without electricity and means of communication. Potable water is in a crisis, and food has been scarce for months.
Government forces hold the western part of the city. But even essential food convoys have faced sniper fire from opposition forces, which have proved unwilling to provide or incapable of organizing even the most basic social needs in the areas they hold, people told us. These gangs’ main activity is looting whole factories, communication towers, trucks, cars, museums, antiquities and anything else that can be quickly taken over the border to Turkey and sold. These mercenary bands even battle each other for plunder, equipment and funding.
‘Over our dead bodies’
Over Our Dead Bodies
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“Over Our Dead Bodies”
Syrian flags fly everywhere in Damascus, and they are sewn on clothing and headbands and appear as car decals. Women and men are trained to back up their patriotism in neighborhood defense units that patrol streets and marketplaces.
At a military hospital we spoke to one retired man from a neighborhood defense unit recovering from a sniper wound. Most of the wounded were recovering from sniper attacks, a daily reality. The sophisticated weapons the U.S. supplies through Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Jordan make sniper attacks a growing problem.
The Syrian youth at the “Over Our Dead Bodies” encampment on Mount Qasioun outside Damascus brought the intense atmosphere of resistance to life. Mount Qasioun has a panoramic view of the entire sprawling city. On its peak are the city’s TV and communication towers.
Israeli planes bombed Mount Qasioun in January and May, killing more than 100 people in May. When a massive U.S. bombardment seemed imminent in early September, hundreds of youths set up a human shield there, erecting tents and pledging to resist any imperialist attack on Syria. Hundreds of young people come every day to join the encampment.
These youths posted pictures of our visit on Facebook before we had even left the mountain.
Everywhere there was enormous interest in meeting anti-war activists from the U.S. The Syrians we met, whether in hospitals, displaced centers, markets or the mountain encampment, acted with enormous confidence that they would succeed in their efforts to defy U.S. domination and ruin. People from all walks of life explained what is at stake for them.
They are confident that Syria is not isolated in the world or even in the U.S. Many people had contacts with the Syrian-American community  and had heard first hand of the demonstrations in New York’s Times Square, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and in large Syrian-American communities in Allentown, Pa., and Dearborn, Mich.
Meeting President Bashar al-Assad
For more than two years U.S. imperialism’s main demand is that President Bashar al-Assad’s government must step down. While Washington has had no problem backing the corrupt absolute monarchies in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates; the monarchies in Jordan and Morocco; or the Hosni Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt, they claim President Assad lacks legitimacy and must step down.
Washington has stopped every attempt to open negotiations by first demanding the Syrian government resign or be barred from participating. The focus of its attack on Syrian sovereinty is on the Assad government. The U.S. proposes instead a coalition cobbled together of U.S. and Saudi-funded mercenaries and sectarians.
The anti-war movement must accept the responsibility of standing up to this U.S. assault on Syrian sovereignty. By having an opportunity to hear President Assad present his position, the delegation demonstrated resistance to imperialist demands that he leave office.
Meeting with the delegation Sept. 18, President Assad said it was futile to try to push ideas through war. Instead, he said that if the U.S. would have spent just a tiny portion of its war funding on social or cultural programs in Syria, it would be far more persuasive.
Assad called the opposition forces in Syria “paid mercenaries and sectarian religious jihadist forces,” who don’t want a secular Syria but a broken, divided country with one exclusive religious viewpoint. This would push Syria back into ancient history.
President Assad said he was committed to keeping the progress being made in Syria and the secular nature of Syria that respects all religions and ethnicities. He emphasized that only through ideas, culture and education can you stop terrorism. Although Syria is committed to defending itself, he said that civilian deaths must be minimized and ideas cannot be changed through violence.
Assad also said Syria was committed to the Russian-Syrian agreement to remove chemical weapons. He said it is important to remind the world that it was Syria that introduced a proposal to make the Middle East a chemical-free and weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in 2003, but the United States opposed the proposal.
Assad made it clear that Syria has never used chemical weapons but warned of the danger that the U.S. could still find a pretext for bombing and disrupt the present agreement. He said there is a lot of forgery on the Internet, and accusations made through social media can be easily doctored and falsehoods manufactured.
In 2012 the Syrian constitution was changed, Assad said, to allow seven additional political parties to participate in elections. These parties will all receive guaranteed television time to campaign. The next elections are set for 2014 when he will also stand for election.
Former Congressperson Dennis Kucinich conducted an interview with President Assad for Fox News on the previous day
Meetings with religious leaders
Our delegation met with the Grand Mufti of Syria, Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, the highest Sunni Muslim religious leader, who stressed the importance of preserving the non-sectarian unity that has long been part of Syria’s tradition and history. He said he seeks to represent the interests of everyone in Syria: both Sunni and Shiite Muslim, Christian, Alawite, etc., and atheists. He said his goal is to promote unity of all nationalities and religions and to oppose Islamic forces that are exclusive to themselves.
The Grand Mufti’s role, he stressed, is not to promote a religious state but to make sure society remains moral in terms of benefiting all humanity. He described how Washington refused to give him a visa to visit the U.S. to meet with religious leaders there and discuss the importance of non-sectarian unity. He also told us his son was assassinated because he would not join the sectarian religious forces.
The Grand Mufti said he felt that President Assad’s government offers the best possibility of maintaining a secular state and of promoting ideas through culture and respect for education rather than violence, which he avoids as much as possible in this war to defend Syria.
During our visit  to the oldest Christian church in Damascus, dating from the 2nd century, senior clerics underscored this message of unity and opposition to those who fight to exclude all religious groupings from Syria except their own.
There are more than 2 million Christians in Syria, or 10 percent of the population, from many different denominations. The terrorist “rebel” forces have particularly targeted Christian churches and communities. In front of the Virgin Mary Cathedral hung a banner urging prayers for two archbishops, the Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo and the Greek Archbishop of Aleppo, who were kidnapped in April somewhere between Aleppo and Antioch.
International conference in Beirut
Before entering Syria, the delegation participated in the Arab International Forum Against U.S. Aggression on Syria and for Resistance in Beirut. The forum aimed to demonstrate that many political movements and countries stand with Syria. Member of Parliment George Galloway from Britain, Ramsey Clark from the U.S., and ambassadors from Russia, Iran, Nicaragua, Syria and Lebanon addressed the opening session. Organizations in Lebanon and from across the Middle East and Europe also participated.
View Sara Flounders’ talk in two parts on her trip to Syria presented at a Sept. 20 Workers World forum below.


John Parker is the West Coast coordinator of the IAC and Sara Flounders is co-director of the IAC.
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Syria Chemical Weapons Victims Were Staged Using Kidnapped Hostages: Report


Tuesday, September 24, 2013 | Brandon Turbeville | Activist Post

With the recent release of the UN report on the Ghouta chemical weapons attack, it is clear that the propaganda push against the Syrian government and Bashar al-Assad is still in full swing. Indeed, with headlines such as “Forensic Details in UN Report Point To Assad’s Use of Gas” by the New York Times and “UN report confirms chemical weapons use in Syria” by NBC, Western media outlets have done the thinking for the American people and have determined that not only did Assad use chemical weapons but that the UN investigators were responsible for this determination.

Of course, the task of the investigators was not to determine who used the chemical weapons, only to determine whether or not they were used to begin with. Still, Western governments and their media mouthpieces have been adamant in placing the blame on Assad, despite all relevant and available evidence showing that it was, in fact, the death squads running rampant in Syria that used the chemical weapons.

Yet, while so much attention has been placed on the UN chemical weapons report (which was not tasked with determining the guilt over who used the chemical weapons), very little attention has been paid to another report compiled by the International Support Team for Mussalaha (Consilience) in Syria for the International Institute For Peace, Justice, and Human Rights released on September 15, 2013.

The report, entitled “The Chemical Attacks On East Ghouta: To Justify Military Right To Protect Intervention In Syria,” and authored largely by Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross, who is President of ISTEAMS, not only argues that the chemical weapons attacks were the handiwork of the Syrian death squads, but also that the entire ordeal was a carefully crafted and planned propaganda campaign utilizing kidnapped citizens from Lattakiah, Syria as stage props.

Lattakiah was the area which was invaded and overrun by death squads in early August 2013, with 11 Alawite villages being overrun on August 4and over 150 women and children abducted by Jobhat al Nusra. Allegedly, the Nusra Front was attempting to use them as ransom for the release of jailed detainees.

In addition, shortly before the Ghouta chemical attack, dozens of civilians were abducted in Rabiha and marched through the streets as if they were cattle.

While the whereabouts of these individuals were unknown ever since their disappearance, some of them were identified by virtue of photographs and YouTube videos shown to relatives of the chemical weapons attacks in Ghouta.

In other words, a number of the Lattakiah kidnapping victims were later discovered in Ghouta as victims of the chemical weapons attack.

As the ISTEAMS report states,

On the other hand, we are in close contact with the survivors of the horrendous massacres perpetrated the 4th of August 2013 by Jobhat El Nosra and allies in eleven villages from Lattakiah mountains. As a Reconciliation Committee we are trying to liberate more than 150 women and children, abducted under the pretext to exchange them with detainees. We have been contacted by the families of some abducted women and children. They recognize their relatives in the videos published online that show the alleged victims of the Chemical Attack in East Ghouta.[emphasis added]Of course, unless these kidnapping victims managed to escape and then decided to start their lives over in Ghouta without telling their families back home and, additionally, did so all at the same time, it is indeed compelling evidence that the death squads were not only responsible for the chemical weapons attack but that they (most likely with Western help) were responsible for a coordinated and planned false flag attack which would subsequently be blamed on the Assad government.

Mother Agnes Mariam and ISTEAMS also show further evidence that the Ghouta chemical attacks were an entirely scripted event by demonstrating that, prior to the chemical weapons attack, Ghouta was largely a ghost town with residents having fled as a result of both the death squad incursion and the subsequent shelling of the area by the Syrian army. The report states,
East Ghouta is a distant eastern suburb of Damascus that was until recently a farming community. The urban population came mostly from Damascus and fled there as refugees to family members when rebels seized the town. Ghouta is no longer a community that includes women and children, but rather an armed camp of militant men, including many violent zealots. The social picture represented in insurgent videos is at complete variance with the demographic facts and street scenes of Ghouta under occupation – there are no women or children to be seen at all. 
Later the report contains personal testimony indicating the abandoned nature of Ghouta. It states,
I was in Damascus two days before. There was the heaviest shelling from the Syrian legal army on the East Ghouta. Going out to Lebanon I have seen thousands of refugees fleeing the targeted areas. It means that the area that was already emptied from its population was more emptied during the heavy attack of the Syrian army.Referring to a young boy that was interviewed about the chemical weapons attack, the report continues by writing, “Hear the little orphan who was interviewed having allegedly lost his parents: ‘who else died among your friends and neighbors?’ He said ‘nobody.’ They had already left or are refugees.”

Referring to a young boy named Abdullah, the report states,
This boy, Abdullah, does not say where he lives in East Ghouta. He asserts what everybody in Damascus and its rural area knows: that most of the neighbors had already fled from their houses because the East Ghouta is a semi destroyed area due to the continuous clashes between the rebels and the Syrian army and the violent aerial strikes and shellings of the Syrian army.In short, the ISTEAMS report suggests, with relevant evidence, that women and children kidnapped in Lattakia and Rabiha were taken to Ghouta and used as stage props for a false flag attack to be blamed on Assad and used to justify a Western military action against Syria.
The report also mentions photos and videos which were broadcast as photographic evidence of the death of the Ghouta residents early on in the immediate aftermath of the attacks and the propaganda push that followed it. ISTEAMS points out, however, that these photos and videos were not taken in Ghouta or even in Syria at all, but that they were actually photos taken from Cairo Egypt during the Muslim Brotherhood riots. The photos used to show dead bodies of Syrian adults were, in fact, photos of dead Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Egypt.

Such ruthless propaganda efforts hearken back to the earlier efforts to frame the Syrian army for theHoula massacre or even the recent photograph touted by the BBC as evidence of a mass murder by the Assad regime – a child jumping over what appears to be hundreds of dead bodies wrapped in burial shrouds – but what actually turned out to be a photograph taken in Iraq in 2003.

Indeed, the conclusion of the report reads as follows:
After insurgents murdered the men in these communities, they organized mass abductions of the surviving women and children. ISTEAMS’ report includes evidence that links these abductions to the ensuing chemical attacks(s) that killed mainly women, children, and infants in Ghouta, east of Damascus, on August 21, 2013. Women and children who went missing after their families were massacred in Latakia appear to be among the Ghouta victims shown in western propaganda videos. 
In the end, the Ghouta chemical attacks were, at best, an example of the Anglo-Americans and Western media seizing upon a crisis for a political purpose. At worst, the attacks were an entirely staged and coordinated event designed to justify military action against Syria. Unfortunately, considering the evidence presented by the ISTEAMS report, the latter seems more likely.

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Read other articles by Brandon Turbeville here.

Brandon Turbeville is an author out of Florence, South Carolina. He has a Bachelor's Degree from Francis Marion University and is the author of six books, Codex Alimentarius -- The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies, Five Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1and volume 2, and The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria. Turbeville has published over 275 articles dealing on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville's podcast Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST at UCYTV. He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com.

Americans Syrians & Iranians Victims-All of Israel


By Jim Kirwan | 27-Dec -13


NERO plays-out his twisted fantasies while America burns!

Meanwhile: It’s been revealed that the people in America, Syria and Iran are all suffering from the exact same global-criminal-treatment that’s coming from THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS, Israel & Nero, simultaneously. Today Americans can say for certain that they are no different than the victims inside Syria, Iran, or Palestine.

None of those four nations, Syria, Iran, Palestine or the USA have any rights any longer. That’s true of the USA, murdered by Caligula and buried by NERO. Palestine was murdered by Netanyahu and still not buried despite the best efforts of USI, Israel, and the US Congress. Syria because of open and continuous warfare that is blatantly protected by NATO and the UN from exposure to the global media. Iran meanwhile suffers from the criminal-insanity of Netanyahu, Nero and especially the U.S. Congress—just like every person in the U.S. does today. Here are the current conditions in Iran.

“The economic sanctions have already led to a depreciation of the Iranian currency, the rial, of 75% in relation to the dollar. And have caused enormous damage to the Iranian economy.”

K: Not unlike what has been done by the same evil-forces that have depreciated the American dollar immeasurably, causing “enormous damage” to the American economy. In fact our money has depreciated even more than has the Iranian rial ­ yet we did not react! Still Iran is not allowed to react to this horrific imposition that is being imposed upon them from the outside!

“Rohani is interested in an easing of the sanctions already at the start of the negotiations as a confidence building measure.

A wide range of sanctions were imposed on Iran in recent years by the US President, Congress, the UN Security Council and the European Union. U.S. President Barack Obama is authorized to ease only the sanctions that he himself imposed. But the sanctions that led to the change in Iran’s position were imposed first and foremost by the U.S. Congress, in 2011 legislation. ~ The legislation, which the Obama administration initially opposed, cut Iran off almost completely from the international banking system, forcing Iran to rely on barter deals instead of cash for selling its oil.” (1)

K: This massive and illegal interference in another nations fiscal policies when taken together with the other sanctions, that are crimes in themselves - amount to blatant war-crimes. These crimes were supposedly carried out to punish Iran when no one that passed those sanctions had the authority to act against another sovereign nation.

Those who passed these sanctions have been “punishing” Americans and Syrians now for decades, using the same methods without bothering to call them “sanctions”. Palestine is beyond the pale and has nothing with which to defend itself, much less any way at all to sell anything to anyone just to survive. Ironically ­ the world has failed to see or understand the depth of the criminality that the Congress, Nero and the U.N. have been doing to EVERY AMERICAN, since Poppy, GWH Bush, ran this show!

The “sanctions” that these creatures have levied against every American come in the form of Executive Orders, CZARS and traitors in every office of the government and treason - which has become the new “stamp of approval” for being part of this criminal conspiracy.

Nuclear Weapons in this already Damaged World

Iran just like every other nation has the right to buy the weapons it needs to protect herself. There is nothing whatever "NEW" in this. The nations that are threatening Iran, Syria, Palestine & the people of the USA already have hundreds (sometimes thousands in the case of the U.S.) of undeclared nuclear weapons, many of which they have already used against unarmed civilians, around the world: Why then should Iran be denied the right to maintain the same, by way of self-defense?

Netanyahu, Nero and the Congress of the USI have come together to allow Israel to remain a global-outlaw, when it comes to having and USING nuclear weapons in the course of their everyday activities against the rest of the planet. This fact makes what they now are doing to Iran ludicrous, on the face of their specious words.

Every nation that supposedly has nuclear-weapons is required to sign up with the IAEA, to be monitored and inspected routinely by the agencies that control nuclear armed nations ­ yet none of this has ever applied to Israel! In fact Israel has refused to allow the IAEA to inspect their nuclear program, and they still refuse to tell the world how many weapons they possess—yet for any other nation to do anything remotely approaching the same behavior is somehow massively threatening to the shitty-little-state of Israel?

Given the facts of this one-sided standoff - it stands to reason that any nation who is threatened by the one power-mad war-mongering state which refuses to obey any international or national laws of any other nation, must act accordingly; if that nation is to be able to protect itself from Israel.

Defending oneself against immanent death is not only the right of every individual facing uniformed thugs, like the ones that now routinely invade our homes - but this also applies to nations that are under siege by global-criminal-states, and their criminal death squads which are loyal only to total LAWLESSNESS!

Nero & Netanyahu are not men. They are amateurish children that have not understood the first thing about adult behavior. They are both terrified because the world has WOKEN-UP to what they’ve been doing to the planet for decades. This last version of Netanyahu’s permanent-paranoia is but one example: Neither of these savages can think much less speak to anything that’s going on in this war-weary world.

Americans’ need to begin to “GET-IT”. This Outlaw state has been attacking its own people for the last 13 years—openly. And still the public “listens to them” as if they mattered? Their positions in the fake-government are not real. Their legislation is written by whoever can pay them the most to write it—so the “laws” they write have no meaning or standing in the courts where there is still a Constitution. People need to stop feeding these political-parasites just as we need to stop listening to the war-rhetoric on each and every facet of this country.

What will happen very soon is that when the public finally has had enough of them - then the public will declare WAR upon this government, right down to the last idiot with a government “job”.

If sanity prevails we might confine ourselves to punishing say the top 5,000 criminals. After that we can rearrange our own lives and prosecute the lesser-criminals as needed. We do not have to cave-in to the collapse, unless we allow this to be done to us openly. Here’s something that can make a world of difference in how you and I could come to “deal” with these treasonous traitors.

(Following is Mike Rivero's excellent - and concise - comment today, against "borrowing" from the Federal Reserve banksters, posted on his "What Really Happened.com" website. Sept. 26, 2013)...

“I think it is time to ask the obvious question. Why is the government borrowing money at interest from a private central bank when the Constitution specifically grants Congress the authority to issue all money, interest-free?

"If our nation can issue a dollar bond, it can issue a dollar bill. The element that makes the bond good, makes the bill good, also. The difference between the bond and the bill is the bond lets money brokers collect twice the amount of the bond and an additional 20%, whereas the currency pays nobody but those who contribute directly in some useful way. It is absurd to say that our country can issue $30 million in bonds and not $30 million in currency. Both are promises to pay, but one promise fattens the usurers and the other helps the people." -- Thomas Edison, The New York Times (6 December 1921)

The fact is that the Constitution authorizes Congress to issue and control all money. It is in Article 1, section 8. "The Congress shall have Power ... To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof."

Now when the US was formed, the coinage was the money, as it had intrinsic metal value. The paper notes were mere claim checks for convenience, and were not the money itself. But Congress did have and still has the authority to issue those claim checks, as Kennedy briefly did under Executive Order 11110.

So if Congress KNOWS they have the legal authority to issue interest-free money for the use of the people, then they are INTENTIONALLY plunging We The People into debt-slavery to the bankers by continuing to raise the debt ceiling and borrowing from a private central bank that is simply creating that loaned money out of thin air.

One more point. Since it is the Constitution that granted the money creation authority to Congress, and did not provide for that authority to be delegated, I would argue that only a Constitutional amendment allows that money-creation authority to be transferred to a privately-owned central bank. as such, the Federal Reserve act is unconstitutional and illegal, and all interest debt to that illegal central bank is null and void.

We the people are owed a refund for all interest paid to the Federal Reserve over the last 100 years (and that would REALLY light up the economy)”!

Above all Americans must stop talking to politicians as if they are your friends—most of them are in fact your blood enemies and need to be arrested tried and executed. You and I need to talk to them with the facts in mind and stop speaking to them as if they are part of an American-government, because all of that died when the Supreme Court stole the election of GW Bush on 12-12-2000.

This is NOT your nation any more. This is NOT your government any more. These creatures are here to kill you and steal everything that you once thought was yours. It is way past time for us to begin to treat them the same way they treat us every day.

Let them know that you are an American and since they refuse to be Americans, they need act against this government & Israel, or resign. If they fail to do this then their future plans will no longer belong to them!

kirwanstudios@sbcglobal.net

1) Netanyahu’s Goal

http://theuglytruth.wordpress.com/2013/09/27/netanyahus-goal-preventing-the-u-s-from-sliding-down-irans-slippery-slope/

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Syrian Rebels Embrace al-Qaeda


September 26, 2013


Exclusive: The leading Syrian rebel groups have declared their intent to transform Syria into a Taliban-style state that would collaborate with al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in the heart of the Middle East. This lifting of the veil presents President Obama with an even trickier policy dilemma, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Official Washington was caught off-guard this week when the radicalization of the Syrian rebels went from being an obscured reality to an undeniable truth. Syria’s most powerful rebel forces renounced the “moderate” exiles, who have been nurtured by the West, and embraced an Islamic extremist organization affiliated with al-Qaeda.

This development now confronts the West with a set of even grimmer choices: help the radical jihadists win the war and turn Syria into a Taliban-style homeland for terrorism in the center of the Middle East; accept an indefinite continuation of the bloody civil war hoping that no one wins as the bodies pile up; or work with the Assad regime and the weakened “moderates” to bring about some kind of political reform that might placate the estranged Sunni majority while isolating the extreme Islamists.



President Barack Obama delivers remarks during his address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Sept. 23, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

If the last option seems to you to be the least worst, you would find yourself in a distinct minority inside Official Washington, where politicians and pundits still prefer to swagger about, issuing ultimatums demanding the unconditional removal of President Bashar al-Assad, whose regime has committed many atrocities in a civil war where brutality is common on both sides.

But if President Barack Obama were to pick the negotiation option, he would not only face resistance across Official Washington; his choice would put him at odds with Saudi Arabia and Israel, which have formed ade facto alliance in pursuit of joint regional goals, including the ouster of Assad.

Saudi Arabia and its neighboring oil sheikdoms have spearheaded the arming and funding of the radical jihadists who are now flooding into Syria from across the Arab world and from other Muslim areas such as Chechnya in Russia. Israel has quietly supported this effort, too, in political and diplomatic circles.

Though the Saudi monarchy has long presented itself as a “moderate” Arab state and friend of the United States, it is, in reality, an extremist government that imposes the hard-line Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam on its people. Through its skillful intelligence service, Saudi Arabia also has financed Sunni extremists for decades, including Osama bin Laden and other radicals who formed al-Qaeda in the 1990s.

Bin Laden may have become an expatriate Saudi before the 9/11 attacks, but alleged Saudi financing for al-Qaeda has remained a national security mystery in the United States, with the 9/11 Commission’s conclusions on this sensitive topic the only section redacted in its final report.

More recently, Saudi intelligence – now under Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the savvy former ambassador to the United States – has been pressing for the military defeat of Assad as a way to deal a severe blow to Saudi Arabia’s chief regional rival, Iran. The Saudis see themselves as the leader of Sunni Islam, seeking to counter the influence of Iran’s Shiite Islam.

Assad, who comes from the Alawite sect of Shiite Islam, is viewed as a crucial link in the Shiite crescent reaching from Iran through Iraq and Syria to the Hezbollah enclaves of Lebanon. The Saudis consider knocking out Assad’s regime as central to their regional strategy of expanding Sunni dominance of the region. They also recognize that Sunni jihadists, who often employ terrorist tactics, are among the most effective fighters and thus deserve Saudi backing.

Saudi Arabia’s oust-Assad strategy even brought Prince Bandar into a verbal confrontation with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July when, according to leaked accounts of the meeting, Bandar implicitly admitted Saudi control of Chechen radicals who have committed widespread acts of terrorism in Russia and who are considered a potential threat to the Winter Olympics in Sochi. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Should Cruise Missiles Target Saudis?”]

Israel’s Tilt

But the Saudis are not alone in their eagerness to see Islamic jihadists overthrow Assad’s regime in Damascus. Israeli leaders, too, have expressed a preference for the jihadist “bad guys” to take control of Syria if that’s the only way to remove Assad and his Iranian-backed “bad guys.”

Last week, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren told the Jerusalem Post that Israel “always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” Echoing the Saudi concern about the Shiite crescent, Oren said, “The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Israel Sides with Syrian Jihadists.”]

So, Tuesday’s pronouncement that the dominant Syrian rebel forces want Shariah law and are now in league with an al-Qaeda affiliate puts the Obama administration in the difficult predicament of either pursuing a course that could lead to radical Sunni Islamists establishing a Taliban-style state in the center of the Middle East or bucking the interests of Saudi Arabia and Israel.

To work toward a political settlement between Assad’s regime and the remaining Sunni “moderates” would require telling the Israelis to back off their anti-Assad lobbying and warning the Saudis about possible retaliation if they persist in arming al-Qaeda-style jihadists in Syria (and Islamic terrorists generally).

Only by getting the Saudis and their fellow oil sheikdoms to cut off the flow of arms and money to the jihadists in Syria could a negotiated end to the civil war even be remotely possible.

But the Saudis and the Israelis — operating with what I’m told is now an intelligence-level collaboration on their mutual interests which also include support for the new Egyptian military regime – feel they have the clout to counter any pressure from the big powers of the United States and Russia. The Saudis wield enormous economic power both over energy and finance, while the Israelis have unmatched skills at propaganda and politics.

It is not clear whether the Obama administration has either the will or the strength to convince Saudi Arabia and Israel to stand down. It’s easier to simply pretend that Assad is the obstacle to peace talks and that “moderate” rebels could somehow still win the day if the United States only shipped in supplies of sophisticated weapons. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Who Blocked Syrian Peace Talks?”]

However, the battlefield reality inside Syria is increasingly dominated by the Sunni militants who would likely end up with much of whatever the United States delivers, one way or the other, according to intelligence sources.

Thus, the Syrian option favored by most of Official Washington – to somehow funnel weapons exclusively to the “moderate” rebels so they can oust Assad and build a multi-ethnic democracy – has become a pipedream. Nor does it make much sense to follow through with threats of some calibrated air war to “degrade” Assad’s military unless you want to risk the possibility of its sudden collapse and a clear-cut victory by rebel jihadists.

Indeed, the rebel jihadists may be speaking out now because they had planned a major offensive to coincide with President Obama’s threatened missile strikes against Syrian government targets (following a disputed chemical weapons attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21) and were bitterly disappointed when Obama decided to pursue diplomatic initiatives instead.

The Syrian Battlefield

With Tuesday’s pronouncement, the dominance of the Islamic extremists can no longer be covered up or ignored. It is a reality that even the mainstream U.S. press corps is acknowledging, as Ben Hubbard and Michael R. Gordon reported for the New York Times from Beirut, Lebanon, on Thursday:

“As diplomats at the United Nations push for a peace conference to end Syria’s civil war, a collection of some of the country’s most powerful rebel groups have publicly abandoned the opposition’s political leaders, casting their lot with an affiliate of Al Qaeda. As support for the Western-backed leadership has dwindled, a second, more extreme Al Qaeda group has carved out footholds across parts of Syria, frequently clashing with mainline rebels who accuse it of making the establishment of an Islamic state a priority over the fight to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

“The fractured nature of the opposition, the rising radical Islamist character of some rebel fighters, and the increasing complexity of Syria’s battle lines have left the exile leadership with diminished clout inside the country and have raised the question of whether it could hold up its end of any agreement reached to end the war.

“The deep differences between many of those fighting in Syria and the political leaders who have represented the opposition abroad spilled into the open late Tuesday, when 11 rebel groups issued a statement declaring that the opposition could be represented only by people who have ‘lived their troubles and shared in what they have sacrificed.’

“Distancing themselves from the exile opposition’s call for a democratic, civil government to replace Mr. Assad, they called on all military and civilian groups in Syria to ‘unify in a clear Islamic frame.’ Those that signed the statement included three groups aligned with the Western-backed opposition’s Supreme Military Council.

“Mohannad al-Najjar, an activist close to the leadership of one of the statement’s most powerful signers, Al Tawhid Brigade, said the group intended to send a message of disapproval to an exile leadership it believes has accomplished little. ‘We found it was time to announce publicly and clearly what we are after, which is Shariah law for the country and to convey a message to the opposition coalition that it has been three years and they have never done any good for the Syrian uprising and the people suffering inside,’ he said.”

The prospect of Sunni religious extremism imposed on a post-Assad Syria is particularly troubling to Alawites, the sect to which Assad belongs, but also worries Christians, who include communities that date back to the founding of the religion. Other Syrian Christians are descendants of Armenians who fled the Turkish genocide a century ago. These groups fear that revenge by the Sunni jihadists could include extermination campaigns.

So, Official Washington’s effort to whip the American people into a war frenzy against Assad’s regime, particularly over its alleged use of chemical weapons, now has to contend with this new reality among the rebels. They can no longer be sold to the public as pro-democracy “moderates” locked in a good-guy-versus-bad-guy struggle with an evil dictator.

The leading rebel groups have now announced their intentions: They want a Shariah state and are willing to collaborate with al-Qaeda. But the U.S. options are further complicated because these Islamists have at their backs purported U.S. allies, Saudi Arabia and, oddly, Israel.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

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Questions Plague UN Report on Syria


First published 23 Sep 2013 | By Sharmine Narwani and Radwan Mortada

A senior United Nations official who deals directly with Syrian affairs has told Al-Akhbar that the Syrian government had no involvement in the alleged Ghouta chemical weapons attack: "Of course not, he (President Bashar al-Assad) would be committing suicide.”

When asked who he believed was responsible for the use of chemical munitions in Ghouta, the UN official, who would not permit disclosure of his identity, said: “Saudi intelligence was behind the attacks and unfortunately nobody will dare say that.” The official claims that this information was provided by rebels in Ghouta.

A report by the UN Mission to investigate use of chemical weapons (CW) in Ghouta, Syria was released last Monday, but per its mandate, did not assign blame to either the Syrian government or opposition rebels.

Media commentators and officials from several western countries, however, have strongly suggested that the Syrian government is the likely perpetrator of CW attacks in Ghouta and other locations.

But on Sunday, veteran Mideast journalist for The Independent Robert Fisk also reported that "grave doubts are being expressed by the UN and other international organisations in Damascus that the sarin gas missiles were fired by Assad's army."

The UN official’s accusations mirror statements made earlier this year by another senior UN figure Carla del Ponte, who last May told Swiss TV in the aftermath of alleged CW attacks in Khan al-Asal, Sheik Maqsood and Saraqeb that there were “strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof,” that rebels had carried out the attack. Del Ponte also observed that UN inspectors had seen no evidence of the Syrian army using chemical weapons, but added that further investigation was necessary.

The UN Inquiry tasked with investigating chemical weapons use in Syria hastily dismissed del Ponte’s comments by saying it had “not reached conclusive findings” as to the use of CWs by any parties.

So why then are we getting these contradictory leaks by top UN officials?

The recently released UN Report on CW use in Syria may provide some clues. While it specifically does not assign blame for the use of CWs to either side, its disclosures and exclusions very clearly favor a rebel narrative of the Ghouta attacks. And that may be prompting these leaks from insiders who have access to a broader view of events.

Startling environmental evidence

The UN investigations focus on three main areas of evidence: environmental sampling, human sampling and munitions forensics.

The most stunning example of the UN’s misrepresentation of facts inside Ghouta is displayed in its findings on environmental samples tested for traces of Sarin nerve gas.

On page 4 of the Report, the UN clearly states that environmental “samples were taken from impact sites and surrounding areas” and that “according to the reports received from the OPCW-designated laboratories, the presence of Sarin, its degradation and/or production by-products were observed in a majority of the samples.”



The UN team gathered environmental samples from two areas in Ghouta: Moadamiyah in West Ghouta, and Ein Tarma and Zamalka in East Ghouta. The Moadamiyah samples were collected on August 26 when the UN team spent a total of two hours in the area. The Ein Tarma and Zamalka samples were collected on August 28 and 29 over a total time period of five and a half hours.

The UN investigators specify those dates in Appendix 6 of the Report.

But in Appendix 7, an entirely different story emerges about the results of environmental testing in Ghouta. This section of the Report is filled with charts that do not specify the towns where environmental samples were collected - just dates, codes assigned to the samples, description of the samples and then the CW testing results from two separate laboratories.

Instead, a closer look at the charts shows a massive discrepancy in lab results from east and west Ghouta. There is not a single environmental sample in Moadamiyah that tested positive for Sarin.

This is a critical piece of information. These samples were taken from “impact sites and surrounding areas” identified by numerous parties, not just random areas in the town. Furthermore, in Moadamiyah, the environmental samples were taken five days after the reported CW attack, whereas in Ein Tarma and Zamalka – where many samples tested positive for Sarin – UN investigators collected those samples seven and eight days post-attack, when degradation of chemical agents could have been more pronounced.


Yet it is in Moadamiyah where alleged victims of a CW attack tested highest for Sarin exposure, with a positive result of 93% and 100% (the discrepancy in those numbers is due to different labs testing the same samples). In Zamalka, the results were 85% and 91%.

It is scientifically improbable that survivors would test that highly for exposure to Sarin without a single trace of environmental evidence testing positive for the chemical agent.

I spoke with Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, former commander of the British military’s chemical defense regiment and CEO at CW specialists, SecureBio Ltd. “I think that is strange,” he admits, when told about the stark discrepancy between human and environmental test results in Moadamiyah.

“It could be significant. Nobody else has brought that point up,” says Bretton-Gordon, who has read the UN Report closely since he actually trains doctors and first-responders in Ghouta via an NGO.

“I think that it is strange that the environmental and human samples don’t match up. This could be because there have been lots of people trampling through the area and moving things. Unless the patients were brought in from other areas. There doesn’t seem another plausible explanation.”

Bretton-Gordon notes that while Sarin’s “toxicity” lasts only between 30-60 minutes when humans are directly exposed, it can remain toxic for many days on clothes (which is why medical workers wear protective gear) and lasts for months, sometimes years in the environment.

Why did the UN not highlight this very troubling result of its own investigations? The data had to be included in the Report since the two samplings – human and environmental – were core evidentiary components of the investigation. But it is buried in the small print of the Report – an inconvenient contradiction that was dismissed by the UN team. If anything, the UN blatantly claims on page 5 of its findings:

"The environmental, chemical and medical samples we have collected provide clear and compelling evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent Sarin were used in Ein Tarma, Moadamiyah and Zamalka in the Ghouta area of Damascus."

There are several logical conclusions for the lack of environmental evidence and the abundance of human evidence of Sarin exposure in Moadamiyah:

One is that there was no Sarin CW attack in Moadamiyah. There can’t have been - according to this environmental data. A second explanation is that the samples from Moadamiyah were contaminated somehow, even though the human samplings showed no sign of this. This is an unlikely explanation since the UN went to great pains, explained in depth in several sections of the Report, to ensure the sanctity of the evidence collected.

A third explanation, mentioned by Bretton-Gordon, is that patients might have been “brought in from other areas.” All the patients were pre-selected by Ghouta doctors and opposition groups for presentation to the UN teams. And if this is the only plausible explanation for the discrepancy between environmental and human test results, then it suggests that “patients” were “inserted” into Moadamiyah, possibly to create a narrative of a chemical weapons attack that never took place.

This would almost certainly imply that opposition groups were involved in staging events in Ghouta. These towns are in rebel-controlled areas that have been involved in heavy battle with the Syrian government for much of the conflict. There is no army or government presence in these Ghouta areas whatsoever.

Human Testing

The UN team’s selection of survivors in Moadamiyah and Zamalka raises even more questions. Says the Report:

“A leader of the local opposition forces who was deemed prominent in the area to be visited by the Mission, was identified and requested to take ‘custody’ of the Mission. The point of contact within the opposition was used to ensure the security and movement of the Mission, to facilitate the access to the most critical cases/witnesses to be interviewed and sampled by the Mission and to control patients and crowd in order for the Mission to focus to its main activities.”

In short, opposition groups in these entirely rebel-held areas exercised considerable influence over the UN’s movements and access during the entire seven and a half hours spent gathering evidence. The Report continues:

“A prominent local medical doctor was identified. This medical doctor was used to help in preparing for the arrival of the Mission… Concerning the patients, a sufficient number was requested to be presented to the Mission, in order for the Mission to pick a subpopulation for interviews and sampling. Typically a list of screening questions was also circulated to the opposition contacts. This included the queries to help in identification of the most relevant cases.”

To be clear, doctors and medical staff working in rebel-held areas are understood to be sympathetic to the opposition cause. Shelled almost daily by the Syrian army, you will not find pro-government staff manning hospitals in these hotly contested towns. Bretton-Gordon, who trains some of the medical staff in Ghouta, acknowledges that this bias is “one of the weaknesses” of evidence compilation in this area.

"We've been helping doctors on the opposition side, so they tend to tell you things they want you to hear."

The entire population of patients to be examined by the UN team were essentially selected and delivered to the inspection team by the opposition in Ghouta. This, of course, includes the 44% of “survivors” allegedly from Moadamiyah.

In a report on Thursday, American CW expert Dan Kaszeta raised further questions. While concluding that Sarin was used in Ghouta based on “environmental and medical evidence” produced by the UN team, Kaszeta notes that testing only 36 survivors “cannot conceivably be considered a scientifically or statistically accurate sample of the population of affected victims. It would be considered scientifically unsound to draw widespread conclusions based simply on this sample.”

Kaszeta also points out that the survivors’ “exact presentation of signs and symptoms seems skewed from our conventional understanding of nerve agent exposure.” He gives as example the relative lack of Miosis - “the threshold symptom for nerve agent exposure” - in Ghouta patients, which was found in only 15% of those tested compared to 99% of survivors in the 1995 Tokyo Sarin attack.

Other patient indications that appear out of proportion to Kaszeta were those who experienced convulsions (an advanced symptom) but did not concurrently display milder ones like excess salivation, excess tearing or miosis. “That is very strange to me,” says Kaszeta.

“Generally, loss of consciousness is considered to be a very grave sign in nerve agent poisoning, happening shortly before death. How is it 78% of the patients had lost consciousness?” he asks.

“Is it possible that we are looking at exposure to multiple causes of injury? Were some of the examined victims exposed to other things in addition to Sarin? I am not stating that Sarin was not used. It clearly was. My point is that it is either not behaving as we have understood it in the past or that other factors were at work in addition to Sarin.”

Munitions “Evidence”

Although the highest rate of Sarin-exposure was found in Moadamiyah “survivors,” the UN team found no traces of Sarin on the 140mm rocket identified as the source of the alleged CW attack - or in its immediate environment.

Moving to an adjacent apartment building where the initial debris from rocket impact was found: “the Mission was told that the inhabitants of this location were also injured or killed by a ‘gas.’” There was no evidence of Sarin there either.

The Report also notes: “The sites have been well-travelled by other individuals both before and during the investigation. Fragments and other evidence have clearly been handled/moved prior to the arrival of the investigation team.”

That theme continues in both Ein Tarma and Zamalka where UN inspectors observed:

“As with other sites, the locations have been well traveled by other individuals prior to the arrival of the Mission. During the time spent at these locations, individuals arrived carrying other suspected munitions indicating that such potential evidence is being moved and possibly manipulated.”

While Sarin traces were found on munitions in the latter two locations, the UN Report cannot identify the location from which these munitions were fired. The team studied five “impact sites” in total, only two of which provide “sufficient evidence to determine the likely trajectory of the projectiles.”

These two sites are in Moadamiyah (Site 1), where an 140mm M14 artillery rocket was investigated, and in Ein Tarma (Site 4), where a "mystery" 330mm artillery rocket was identified as the source of the CW attack.

The flight path (trajectory) of these munitions provided in the UN Report may be more or less accurate, but less so is the distance they traveled, for which the UN offers no estimates whatsoever. And in a large "range" area criss-crossed by pro-government and pro-opposition areas, both sets of data are critical in determining the source of the alleged attacks.

Maps currently being disseminated by the media that claim to identify the point of origin of the projectiles, are misleading. I spoke with Eliot Higgins, whose Brown Moses blog has kept a running video inventory and analysis of munitions used in the Syrian conflict and who has worked closely with Human Rights Watch (HRW), which produced one of these maps:

“Munitions have a minimum range as well as a maximum range so it gives you a zone of where they can be fired from. Problem with the mystery rocket (in Ein Tarma) is that data doesn't exist so it’s harder to be sure. You can show the trajectories and if they intersect, it might suggest a common point of origin. While the M14 has a range of just under 10km, the other munition is harder to figure out, there's a lot of factors, not least the type of fuel. And it’s impossible to know the type of fuel short of finding an unfired one.”

In short, the only one of the two munitions whose range we know is the one from Moadamiyah, which has an estimated range of between 3.8 and 9.8 kilometers, was not found to have traces of Sarin, and is therefore not part of any alleged CW attack.

On the map produced by HRW - which points specifically to the Syrian army’s Republican Guard 104th Brigade base as the likely point of origin - the distance from Moadamiyah to the base is 9.5km. But since this now appears to be a munition used in conventional battle, it can't even legitimately be used by HRW in their efforts to identify an intersecting point of origin for CWs. It could have come from the military base, but so what?

The HRW map draws another line based on the trajectory of the Ein Tarma munition (the one with Sarin traces) to this Republican Guard base (9.6km), but we have no evidence at all of the range of this rocket. Its large size, however, suggests a range beyond the 9.8km of the smaller projectile which could take it well past the military base into rebel-held territory.

HRW has very simplistically assembled a map that follows the known trajectories of both munitions and marked X at a convenient point of origin that would place blame for CW attacks on the Syrian government.

It doesn’t at all investigate any evidence that the rockets could have come from more than one point of origin, and skirts over the fact that HRW doesn’t even know the distance travelled by either missile. As Higgins says: “the best you can do with the mystery munition is draw a straight line and see where it goes.”

But western media ran with HRW's extrapolations, without looking at theevidence. “This isn’t conclusive, given the limited data available to the UN team, but it is highly suggestive,” says the HRW report. Not really. The case for culpability will need much tighter evidence than the facile doodling on this HRW map.

CWs were used, but by whom and how?

The discrepancies in the story of the Ghouta CW attacks are vast. Casualty figures range from a more modest 300+ to the more dramatic 1,400+ figures touted by western governments. The UN investigators were not able to confirm any of these numbers – they only saw 80 survivors and tested only 36 of these. They saw none of the dead – neither in graves nor in morgues.



While media headlines tend to blame CW attacks on the Syrian government - and US Secretary of State John Kerry now flat-out states it - on August 21 there existed little motive that would explain why the army would sabotage its military gains and invite foreign intervention for crossing CW “red lines.”

If anything, the more obvious motive would be for retreating rebels to manufacture a CW false flag operation to elicit the kind of western-backed military response needed to alter the balance of force on the ground in favor of oppositionists. Which as we all know, almost happened with a US strike.

Clearly, further investigation is needed to put together all these contradictory pieces of the Ghouta puzzle. And for that you need an impartial team of investigators who have complete access to randomly sampled witnesses, patients, impact areas, their surroundings and beyond. More importantly, you need time to conduct a thorough investigation.

It should be noted here that during the UN team's visit to Moadamiyah on August 26, unknown snipers in the rebel-held area fired at the UN Mission, further limiting their time in the area for investigation.

This UN Report raises more questions than it answers. The entire population it interviewed – witnesses, patients, doctors – share a bias toward rebels. Almost all were pre-selected by the opposition and presented to the UN team for a rushed investigation. The munitions forensics provide little evidence as to their point of origin, which is critical to determine culpability. The human and environmental testing are inconclusive in that they don’t provide enough information to help us determine what happened - and even suggest tampering and staging. Why would evidence need to be manufactured if this was a chemical weapons attack on a grand scale?

At the end of the day, the UN Report does not tell us who, how or whathappened in Ghouta on August 21. As the team prepares to head into Khan al-Asal for further investigations, one hopes that they will learn from these shortcomings and provide the conclusive findings needed to assign blame for war crimes. These missions are not merely an exercise. While the UN itself may not be allowed to point a finger at either side in this conflict, they must produce water-tight forensic conclusions that help the international community reach a decisive verdict based on evidence.

And all these leaks from UN officials will dissipate the moment there is internal confidence that the job is being done properly.


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SOURCE | http://english.al-akhbar.com/blogs/sandbox/questions-plague-un-report-syria


Also Please read the related article below;

CW Expert Opinion on the UN Report on Syria | Sharmine Narwani


(First Published Oct 1 2013)
Chemical_weapon1
While investigating the UN Report on chemical weapons (CW) use in Ghouta, Syria, we sought a multitude of opinions from experts and others who offered insightful observations. We published our findings in an article entitled: Questions Plague UN Report on Syria.(above)
To learn more about Sarin and other nerve gases used in warfare, you would be hard pressed to find any better hands-on experience than in Iran, a country that suffered directly – and repeatedly – from Iraq’s use of CWs during the 1980-88 war between the two countries.
In Iran itself, there are few as qualified to speak about Sarin and other nerve gases as Dr. Abbas Foroutan, whose 2004 articles were reviewed in Neurology by Col. Jonathan Newmark of the Chemical Casualty Care Division, US Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense.

The reviewer refers to Dr. Foroutan’s work as “the only firsthand clinical descriptions of battlefield nerve agent casualties in the world literature” and is viewed as a valuable contribution to the US and NATO understanding of the treatment of casualties in chemical warfare:

“Foroutan’s lessons learned reassure us that a robust medical evacuation system, coupled with timely and appropriate medical care of nerve agent poisoning, will save many more lives on future battlefields.”

Upon our request, Dr. Foroutan reviewed the UN Report on Syria and provided us with some critical insights, addressing the issues of environmental and human sampling conducted by the UN investigators in Ghouta.
Based on his unique experience with casualties of nerve gas, Dr. Foroutan pointed out stark symptom irregularities displayed by Ghouta patients:
1. Sarin gas does not cause inflammation in the eye. We have observed many cases during Iraq’s war against Iran and victims presented with only brief and temporary redness in the eye. Here, 22% of cases still displayed inflammation after 5-7 days.

2. Miosis [constricted pupils] has been observed in 14% of cases while disorientation has been seen in 39% of the cases. This ratio is not logical. It is obligatory that complete raw data charts of the patients be published so that the correlation index between signs and symptoms of this case and other cases be calculated.

3. Regarding the 19% convulsion report: the reports from the victims themselves are not acceptable as they would have been unconscious at the time of convulsion. Unless others report the convulsion in the victim, these reports are otherwise unreliable.

4. The prescription of Atropine: this medicine is the most essential antidote for Sarin exposures and if a large amount of it is taken quickly and intravenously, it will save the patient . Rapid recovery of a severe case with high dose of atropine suggest the patient was exposed to a substance similar to nerve gas[sarin]. Unfortunately the information given is very incomplete and it has not been noted how exactly the patients have reacted to this cure.

5. Mentioning the vital signs like the pulse rate and blood pressure, which because of sarin classically become slow and low and subsequently atropine raises it up, is also an important diagnostic sign which unfortunately has not been recorded in the patients documents. Another important sign is auscultation of “wheezing” in the victims lungs, similar to the noise coming from an asthmatic patient, has not been mentioned. This neglection is abnormal.

6. Activity of an enzyme called “acetylcholinesterase” in the plasma and red blood cells will reduced immensely with nerve gases like sarin; and will reactivate (re-synthesize) after weeks until it becomes normal. Sarin is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor substance. Experts across the world are well informed of the importance of this lab data[reporting enzyme activity]. During the holy defense (Iran Iraq war) we would measure it in the frontline emergency center as a routine diagnostic test. The importance is that in moderate to severe cases, it decreases heavily without exception. Why has this examination not been done?

7. The claim of the identification of sarin molecules a week later in the biological samples needs an exact report of methodology of measurement for other experts of the world because of the high chance of technical error.

8. Regarding the environmental samples: according to the pictures, a lot of the places have been under the sunlight and due to the fact that sarin is very volatile, the claim of sarin detection should be accompanied with more description by the experts.

Overall in my view this report should be received/accepted medically with great caution and should be observed again by a team of international expert clinicians. My intention is not the denial of sarin but at least from the clinical point of view, the evidences of this report are not enough to prove the existence of a nerve gas [sarin] in this incident.
Dr. Foroutan also brought up a very important point about the UN’s assumption of Sarin in its testing, which can lead to false positives. In Appendix 7 of the UN Report, a notable number of the samples tested by two separate labs register different results:
“There is a possibility of a false positive recognition/diagnosis of sarin and by-products caused by natural decomposition and impurities with the primary gas.
An important point is that it seems the team has set up its experiment methods according to the pre-assumption that sarin had been used. 
That is why it should be requested that all of the experiment/lab measurements should be published with the details of sample preparation and analysis methods and also even the pictures and files of the curve from the analysis devices. 
During the imposed war (Iran Iraq war) a case of poisoning of the Iranian soldiers by Mycotoxins was reported by a credible lab in Belgium. They were definitely found in the urine and plasma samples but later we were informed that it was a false positive. In the UN study after the war it was proven that Iraq had no activity regarding the production of mycotoxins.”
I was informed that the above observations “were discussed in a medical gathering at the Shaheed Beheshti University of Medical Sciences led by Professor Abbas Foroutan.”

While we were fortunate to reach Dr. Foroutan for his insights on the UN Report, I am publishing this information now because he took the trouble of writing it out and sending it to me via an academic colleague who translated his comments in their entirety.

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