North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Syria continues to sink, Western media distracted

Unfortunately, it seems the Western media has slipped into a routine concerning the chaotic and violent stalemate in Syria. At least in the US, we are likely to read or hear (or be fed) the "implications" of a 30 vote swing in the Iowa caucus and what it might mean for the GOP, or the allegations of an "open marriage" request by another GOP candidate as he battles for votes in the religiously conservative state of South Carolina, than of Syria.

In Syria, Bashir Assad's regime fights on, perhaps even emboldened by the apparent declining pressure and coverage by the Western press. And it is not the Western press or governments alone. The UN blandly tracks and reports that perhaps 5,000 citizens have died since the uprising. The Arab League, which had sent an observer mission to the country, is now facing a report due Saturday on the observers findings, and the league seems particularly unexcited about further moves than perhaps a 1 month extension of the "observation." As the BBC notes, "the mandate of the Arab League observer mission in Syria is due to expire, a month after it arrived to verify the implementation of a peace initiative. The head of the mission is finalizing a report on the ongoing violence, which will be discussed at a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers on Saturday."

Contrast the rhetoric and actions of Western nations, the UN, and the Arab League concerning Libya, with how they address Syria. There are major differences of course. Libya's Gaddafi had long been a loner when it came to support within the Arab League, as well as many international odious actions which isolated the regime. Libya is somewhat geographically isolated among a tier of north African Arab nations while Syria is embedded in close proximity to the Arab-Israeli powder-keg, as well as near the oil rich Persian Gulf. Iran had little at stake in Libya, but is deeply involved with both Lebanon and Syria. Libya was a small country of 6 million, Syria is 20 million. And then there is oil ... Libya has a lot, Syria has little.

Syria's borders - the most problematic is the one with Lebanon where arms are being smuggled into the country for the opposition, even though the Lebanese government is dominated by Iranian and Syrian leaning supporters.

All this to note that because there is little enthusiasm for dealing with Syria, observers are fearing that the failure to budge the entrenched Assad regime is increasing the chances for a widespread civil war.

An Australian newspaper report noted that "Lebanese black market arms dealers are struggling to cope with a soaring demand for weapons and ammunition from Syria, where a ten-month uprising is steadily evolving into an armed confrontation. The failure so far of peaceful protests to dislodge the regime of President Assad and international hesitancy to intervene in Syria ... has encouraged the emergence of armed rebel groups who are fighting back against security forces."

Captured weapons being smuggled into Syria from Lebanon are shown here to the press.

The article goes on, "The scale of the violence, the durability of the regime and the reluctance of the international community to intervene directly have persuaded many Syrian activists that peaceful protests have run their course and that armed resistance is the only alternative. "We don't need people. We have the people. We need weapons and ammunition. If we had that, I can assure you that Assad will be finished very quickly," said Ahmad, an activist in hiding in Lebanon. He added that the Free Syrian Army was ready to recruit from the civilian population but could not do so until more armaments become available. "Either we wait for support from other countries or we will play for time and see how much we can steal from the regime," he said."

Click on image for full picture
Syria's strategy to intercept smuggled weapons is two fold. Syria is mining its border with Lebanon ... which portends poorly for citizens in the future...

Syria is also pressuring the Lebanese government, shown meeting here, to aggressively stop smuggling, which the government has announced it will do.

So, a sad and violent story continues to unfold far from the election frenzy in the US, and apparently no longer high on the agenda of the UN and the Arab League. The festering tragedy will continue ...

Click on image for full picture
The town of Zabadani, close to the Lebanese border is being fiercely contested by the Syrian armed forces and the Free Syrian army. The Free Syrian Army is still a lofty goal as it remains a loose knit grouping of armed opposition groups


Ben said...

I wonder if there is a study out there that correlates a rise in global human rights violations with the U.S. presidential election season. Probably wouldn't matter - there are violations aplenty.

Teatree said...

And then there is Russia, announcing the sale of a half billion dollars worth of new fighter planes to its ally Bashir Assad.