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 "

Saturday, June 16, 2012

16,000 and counting

It has been nearly four months since a post on Syria and its chaos (February 25, 2012). Unfortunately, nothing has changed for the better, but much for the worse.

A posting from a Syrian opposition communication blog created a graphic that compels us to update the sorrow and death toll there.

Click image for full picture

Since February, a number of events or trends have emerged or become clearer ...

The UN Peace Plan

According to Wikipedia, "The Kofi Annan peace plan for Syria or the U.N.-Arab League peace envoy for Syria launched in February 2012, is considered the most serious international attempt to resolve the Syrian conflict in the Middle East diplomatically. The peace plan enforced a cease-fire to take place across Syria since April 10, 2012, though in reality the cease-fire was announced by the Syrian government on April 14. Following the Houla massacre and the consequent Free Syrian Army (FSA) ultimatum to the Syrian government, the cease fire practically collapsed towards the end of May 2012 ..."

So, this peace plan pushed by former UN General Secretary Kofi Annan ended predictably. While one would never dismiss an attempt or repeated attempts to find diplomatic solutions, there is a point at which one must consider this effort in particular, an exercise in futility. With Assad having little reason to think he needed to give up power, and with the opposition receiving little more than faint praise, nearly everyone expected that it would end in failure, though no one would say so. Thus, we were able to listen to the chief proponent Annan singularly providing a lone positive spin on talks, unable to admit any possibility of it not working in order to negate any charges of a self-fulfilling prophecy. (The plan was simply that Bashar al-Assad and the opposition would sit down rationally and negotiate peacefully, UN monitors would come in and monitor, and the conflict would wind down in orderly fashion ...)

UN envoy Kofi Annan, left, and Bashar al-Assad, Syrian President, right, "conferring" on the prospects for peace in Syria ...

As the string of public meetings between Annan and Assad ran its course (along with a charade of positive statements: "hope" seen, monitors to be deployed, etc.) the shabiha - Assad's shadowy militia/gang - orchestrated massacres, shooting families in their homes execution style in Houla a series of villages near the Syrian city of Homs, while Assad's formal forces with heavy weaponry shelled opposition neighborhoods indiscriminately in several cities.

Assad's friends: Iran and Hezbollah enthusiastically fund Syria's Assad in their attempt to build a crescent of power, while Russia honors weapons agreements without regard or sympathy to the use of those weapons against Syria's own people. Both China and Russia declare - continually - that what a sovereign nation does inside its own borders is no one else's business (and these two countries represent a pack of oppressive governments who don't want another instance of an outside force interfering in a sovereign nation's affairs).

Syrian opposition's quiet and timid allies:
Turkey is providing refugee camps and security to over 24,000 Syrians, including some rear base sanctuary for Syria's Free Army elements. But in the past two months, this nation, at one time speaking loudly against its former ally has been quiet. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf state nations are quietly funneling money to the opposition, though up to very recently, no heavier weapons than small arms have been in the Free Syrian Army's arsenal.

Syria's and the world's vulture - Al Qaeda:
Abu Musab Al Suri, one of Al Qaeda's foremost strategists, was recently released from an Aleppo prison, according to an article in the London-based newspaper Al Hayat.

"Mr Al Suri was reportedly captured by the US army in Pakistan several years ago and, oddly, handed over to the Syrian authorities. Now he is out there, but nobody knows where exactly in a very unstable Syria, the writer said. Soon after his release, two bomb attacks hit security buildings in the city of Aleppo, north-west of Syria. Sure enough, Al Qaeda's Iraq branch issued a statement endorsing "jihad in Syria," though not explicitly claiming responsibility for the attacks."

The handwringing, moralizing, declaration-heavy but procrastinating and cautious Western response:
The US and Europe find all sorts of reasons (at least on the surface) to stay out of this one - eerily citing a litany of reasons that also applied to some degree to Libya which did NOT prevent their open intervention.

So here is the status of Syria's woes 15 months later after it began. The only difference is the steady increase in deaths, displacement and the likelihood of a bitter civil war, which would be reported on daily. As we've learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a terrible cost in intervention. But as we've learned in Rwanda and Darfur, there is also a horrific cost of sitting on one's hands.

Going forward - a few new elements

A new face
The Syrian National Council, the main opposition group outside Syria, last week chose Abdulbaset Sieda, a 56-year-old activist who has been living in Sweden for more than a decade, as their new face and perhaps leader. (One of the Western world's complaints is that they don't know who the Syrian opposition "really is," so now they have a person at least.)

Abdulbaset Sieda, the new face of a main Syrian opposition group. His Kurdish ethnicity raises interesting hackles and connections over in Iraq, as well as Turkey...

Time ticking on Turkey-US coordination of patience, patience, and more patience
From a Foreign Policy article, "Ankara and Washington both abhor the Syrian regime’s brutal crackdown on demonstrators. But according to some reports, Ankara is hosting the Syrian opposition and possibly even helping arm it.

In contrast, Obama’s cautious policy on Syria appears to be driven by a desire to avoid three things: the political unknown after Bashar al-Assad, war in an election year, and a new military campaign in a Muslim country.

[Turkey Prime Minister] Erdogan might find it increasingly difficult to tolerate Obama’s “wait-and-see” strategy. For the Turks, slaughter in Syria is not an overseas affair, but rather a tragedy close to home that they cannot ignore.

Turkey’s border with Syria spans 510 miles, crisscrossing ethnic groups and families. Some Turks have loved ones in Syria who are in harm’s way. These constituents demand that Erdogan do his utmost to stop the al-Assad regime from perpetrating its crimes.

And many Sunni Turks, including those in the Ankara government, cannot turn a blind eye to the crackdown because they see the violence as a horrifying case of persecution by the Alawites who run the country.

Such religious sensitivities will be heightened later this summer during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which starts in late July."

Will, in fact, the holy month of Ramadan (late July) change anything, or is it just another marker along the way?


Teatree said...

A Russian ship with weaponry, including refurbished attack helicopters heading to Syria has apparently stopped around Scotland, and later reports having it turning back towards Russia.

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