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 "

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Debacle in Syria - a presidential election amid gas attacks

Now overshadowed by the West-Russia confrontation in Ukraine, there is apparent growing consensus that Syrian President "Bashar al-Assad and his leadership are there to stay" as a new BBC article puts it.

The Syrian opposition, early dominated by a young demographic wishing for an "Arab Spring" in their own land, has morphed through various phases - from a militarized but responsible opposition that was essentially starved out by possible Western aid, to the current splintered, radicalized, rebels, dominated by hateful Islamic extremists of various sorts, each in turn supported by regional powers with their own agendas.

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2009 marches for better Syrian governance were, in hindsight, impossibly naive and optimistic. Photo from

Syria's Assad was bolstered early on by steady, robust Russian military and non military aid, as well as forceful intervention by Iran's Hezbollah, coming from Lebanon. Iran and Hezbollah may have their own agendas, ie creating an arc of influence from Iran to the Mediterranean Sea, but in the process, found supporting Assad was part of that calculation.

The regional actors: former Iran President Ahmadinejad, beleaguered Syrian President Assad, and Islamic leader of Hezbollah, Nassrallah. The fourth influential supporter, Russia's President Putin, is busy elsewhere ... Photo from

Assad's use of chemical weapons in the summer of 2013 was a horrific act and political miscalculation that almost, almost, resulted in a significant Western intervention. But diplomacy "won" the day, resulting in an agreement to remove the chemical weapons arsenal from Syria.

From marches asking for reform, to today's ghostly ruins and chemical weapon use against its own people, Syria's Assad and his allies leave this legacy. Photo from

Now, nearly 9 months on, 80-90% of the chemical percursors have been removed, leaving Assad apparently free for the occasional use of basic chlorine gas attacks. Chlorine is an element not under WMD classification, so any negotiations to prevent its use for this horrific specific purpose will be safely stretched out over months, if not years, if at all.

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Syrian children caught up in the latest gas attack by their government. Okay, to use moderate and enlightened diplomacy-speak, Teatree will insert "allegedly" into the picture caption. Photo from

A multi-year effort to bring a negotiated end to the conflict, led by the US, and artfully opposed by Russia (with Iran and Hezbollah in quiet agreement), has effectively petered out due to the new Russian incursion into Ukraine, where once again the US believes its own negotiating prowess (with virtually no track record to support such faith) will win the day.

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U.S. President Obama, symbolically just barely relevant to the occasion as illustrated in this photo, has also been left sputtering over Russia's military move into the Crimean peninsula (followed by a quick referendum that formalized the takeover), "That is not how-- international-- law and international norms are observed in the 21st century." Photo from

So, on we go to a Syrian Presidential election set for June. As the BBC article puts it, "The pressures on Mr Assad are now so light that he is preparing to have himself re-elected for another full seven-year term, rather than opting for a compromise two-year extension, an idea kicked around a few months ago when diplomacy was active."

Taken in March 2014, from Assad's own facebook page. Assad, his wife, and various synchophants ... Photo and description from

Want to bet on who will win?


Teatree said...

For a sobering viewpoint on Assad's Syria, try this: Inhumanity and the Moral Limit in Syria.

Sarah said...

"That is not how-- international-- law and international norms are observed in the 21st century." And yet...apparently that IS the norm in the 21st century!