Text of U.S. Assessment on Syria’s Use of Chemical Weapons

The White House

Here’s the text of the White House assessment of Syria’s use of chemical weapons last week.  Secretary of State John Kerry, in remarks at the State Department,  said the “findings are as compelling as they are clear.” The pdf is here and a map accompanying the text is here.

 U.S. Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s

Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013

The United States Government assesses with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013. We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the attack. These all-source assessments are based on human, signals, and geospatial intelligence as well as a significant body of open source reporting.Our classified assessments have been shared with the U.S. Congress and key international partners. To protect sources and methods, we cannot publicly release all available intelligence – but what follows is an unclassified summary of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s analysis of what took place.

Syrian Government Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21

A large body of independent sources indicates that a chemical weapons attack took place in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. In addition to U.S. intelligence information, there are accounts from international and Syrian medical personnel; videos; witness accounts; thousands of social media reports from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area; journalist accounts; and reports from highly credible nongovernmental organizations.

A preliminary U.S. government assessment determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children, though this assessment will certainly evolve as we obtain more information.

We assess with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack against opposition elements in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. We assess that the scenario in which the opposition executed the attack on August 21 is highly unlikely. The body of information used to make this assessment includes intelligence pertaining to the regime’s preparations for this attack and its means of delivery, multiple streams of intelligence about the attack itself and its effect, our post-attack observations, and the differences between the capabilities of the regime and the opposition. Our high confidence assessment is the strongest position that the U.S. Intelligence Community can take short of confirmation. We will continue to seek additional information to close gaps in our understanding of what took place. 2

Background:

The Syrian regime maintains a stockpile of numerous chemical agents, including mustard, sarin, and VX and has thousands of munitions that can be used to deliver chemical warfare agents.

Syrian President Bashar al-Asad is the ultimate decision maker for the chemical weapons program and members of the program are carefully vetted to ensure security and loyalty. The Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) – which is subordinate to the Syrian Ministry of Defense – manages Syria’s chemical weapons program.

We assess with high confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year, including in the Damascus suburbs. This assessment is based on multiple streams of information including reporting of Syrian officials planning and executing chemical weapons attacks and laboratory analysis of physiological samples obtained from a number of individuals, which revealed exposure to sarin. We assess that the opposition has not used chemical weapons.

The Syrian regime has the types of munitions that we assess were used to carry out the attack on August 21, and has the ability to strike simultaneously in multiple locations. We have seen no indication that the opposition has carried out a large-scale, coordinated rocket and artillery attack like the one that occurred on August 21.

We assess that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons over the last year primarily to gain the upper hand or break a stalemate in areas where it has struggled to seize and hold strategically valuable territory. In this regard, we continue to judge that the Syrian regime views chemical weapons as one of many tools in its arsenal, including air power and ballistic missiles, which they indiscriminately use against the opposition.

The Syrian regime has initiated an effort to rid the Damascus suburbs of opposition forces using the area as a base to stage attacks against regime targets in the capital. The regime has failed to clear dozens of Damascus neighborhoods of opposition elements, including neighborhoods targeted on August 21, despite employing nearly all of its conventional weapons systems. We assess that the regime’s frustration with its inability to secure large portions of Damascus may have contributed to its decision to use chemical weapons on August 21.3

Preparation:

We have intelligence that leads us to assess that Syrian chemical weapons personnel – including personnel assessed to be associated with the SSRC – were preparing chemical munitions prior to the attack. In the three days prior to the attack, we collected streams of human, signals and geospatial intelligence that reveal regime activities that we assess were associated with preparations for a chemical weapons attack.

Syrian chemical weapons personnel were operating in the Damascus suburb of ‘Adra from Sunday, August 18 until early in the morning on Wednesday, August 21 near an area that the regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including sarin. On August 21, a Syrian regime element prepared for a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus area, including through the utilization of gas masks. Our intelligence sources in the Damascus area did not detect any indications in the days prior to the attack that opposition affiliates were planning to use chemical weapons.

The Attack:

Multiple streams of intelligence indicate that the regime executed a rocket and artillery attack against the Damascus suburbs in the early hours of August 21. Satellite detections corroborate that attacks from a regime-controlled area struck neighborhoods where the chemical attacks reportedly occurred – including Kafr Batna, Jawbar, ‘Ayn Tarma, Darayya, and Mu’addamiyah. This includes the detection of rocket launches from regime controlled territory early in the morning, approximately 90 minutes before the first report of a chemical attack appeared in social media. The lack of flight activity or missile launches also leads us to conclude that the regime used rockets in the attack.

Local social media reports of a chemical attack in the Damascus suburbs began at 2:30 a.m. local time on August 21. Within the next four hours there were thousands of social media reports on this attack from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area. Multiple accounts described chemical-filled rockets impacting opposition-controlled areas.

Three hospitals in the Damascus area received approximately 3,600 patients displaying symptoms consistent with nerve agent exposure in less than three hours on the morning of August 21, according to a highly credible international humanitarian organization. The reported symptoms, and the epidemiological pattern of events – characterized by the massive influx of patients in a short period of time, the origin of the patients, and the contamination of medical and first aid workers – were consistent with mass exposure to a nerve agent. We also received reports from international and Syrian medical personnel on the ground.4

We have identified one hundred videos attributed to the attack, many of which show large numbers of bodies exhibiting physical signs consistent with, but not unique to, nerve agent exposure. The reported symptoms of victims included unconsciousness, foaming from the nose and mouth, constricted pupils, rapid heartbeat, and difficulty breathing. Several of the videos show what appear to be numerous fatalities with no visible injuries, which is consistent with death from chemical weapons, and inconsistent with death from small-arms, high-explosive munitions or blister agents. At least 12 locations are portrayed in the publicly available videos, and a sampling of those videos confirmed that some were shot at the general times and locations described in the footage.

We assess the Syrian opposition does not have the capability to fabricate all of the videos, physical symptoms verified by medical personnel and NGOs, and other information associated with this chemical attack.

We have a body of information, including past Syrian practice, that leads us to conclude that regime officials were witting of and directed the attack on August 21. We intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on August 21 and was concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence. On the afternoon of August 21, we have intelligence that Syrian chemical weapons personnel were directed to cease operations. At the same time, the regime intensified the artillery barrage targeting many of the neighborhoods where chemical attacks occurred. In the 24 hour period after the attack, we detected indications of artillery and rocket fire at a rate approximately four times higher than the ten preceding days. We continued to see indications of sustained shelling in the neighborhoods up until the morning of August 26.

To conclude, there is a substantial body of information that implicates the Syrian government’s responsibility in the chemical weapons attack that took place on August 21.As indicated, there is additional intelligence that remains classified because of sources and methods concerns that is being provided to Congress and international partners.

(Source / 30.08.2013)

The Saudi-Israeli Superpower

Exclusive: Egypt’s counterrevolution and Syria’s civil war could herald the arrival of a new superpower coalition, an unlikely alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia, one with great political clout and the other with vast financial wealth, together flexing their muscles across the Middle East, writes Robert Parry.

The twin crises in Syria and Egypt have marked the emergence of a new superpower coalition in the Middle East, the odd-couple alliance of Israel and Saudi Arabia, with Jordon serving as an intermediary and the Persian Gulf oil sheikdoms playing a supporting role.

The potential impact of this new coalition can barely be overstated, with Israel bringing to the table its remarkable propaganda skills and its unparalleled influence over U.S. foreign policy and Saudi Arabia tapping into its vast reservoir of petrodollars and exploiting its global financial networks. Together the two countries are now shaping international responses to the conflicts in Syria and Egypt, but that may only be the start.

President George W. Bush meeting with then-Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan at the Bush Ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Though Israel and Saudi Arabia have had historic differences – one a Jewish religious state and the other embracing the ultraconservative Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam – the two countries have found, more recently, that their interests intersect.

Both see Iran, with its Shiite rulers, as their principal regional rival. Both are leery of the populist Islamic movements unleashed by the Arab Spring. Both sided with the Egyptian military in its coup against the elected Muslim Brotherhood government, and both are pleased to see Syrian President Bashar al-Assad facing a possible military assault from the United States.

While the two countries could be accused of riding the whirlwind of chaos across the Middle East – inviting a possibility that the sectarian divisions and the political violence will redound negatively to their long-term interests – there can be little doubt that they are enjoying at least short-term gains.

In recent months, Israel has seen its strategic position enhanced by the overthrow of Egypt’s populist Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi, a political change that has further isolated the Hamas-led Palestinians in Gaza. Meanwhile, in Lebanon, the Shiite movement of Hezbollah has come under increasing military and political pressure after sending militants into Syria to support the embattled Assad regime.

Assad is an Alawite, a branch of Shiite Islam, and has been a longtime benefactor of Hezbollah, the political-military movement that drove Israeli forces out of southern Lebanon and has remained a thorn in Israel’s side. The growing sectarian nature of the Syrian civil war, with Sunnis leading the fight against Assad, also served to drive a wedge between Hamas, a Sunni movement, and two of its key benefactors, the Syrian government and its Iranian allies.

In other words, Israel is benefiting from the Sunni-Shiite divisions ripping apart the Islamic world as well as from the Egyptian coup which further weakened Hamas by re-imposing the Gaza blockade. Now, Israel has a freer hand to dictate a political solution to the already-weak Palestinian Authority on the West Bank when peace talks resume.

A Method to Neocon Madness

Giving Israel this upper hand has long been the goal of American neoconservatives, although they surely could not have predicted the precise course of recent history. The idea of “regime change” in Iraq in 2003 was part of a neocon strategy of making a “clean break” with frustrating negotiations in which Israel was urged to trade land for peace with the Palestinians.

The plan to dump negotiations in favor of confrontations was outlined in a 1996 policy paper, entitled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm” and prepared by prominent neocons, including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, for Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign for prime minister.

In the document, the neocons wrote: “Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq – an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.”]

The neocons failed to persuade President Bill Clinton to invade Iraq in the late 1990s, but their hopes brightened when George W. Bush became president in 2001 and when the American people were whipped into a state of hysteria by the 9/11 attacks.

Still, it appears that the neocons believed their own propaganda about the Iraqis welcoming American troops as liberators and accepting a U.S. puppet as their new leader. That, in turn, supposedly was to lead Iraq to establish friendly ties with Israel and give the U.S. military bases for promoting “regime change” in Syria and Iran.

In 2002, as President Bush was winding up to deliver his haymaker against Saddam Hussein, neocons passed around a favorite joke about where to go next after conquering Iraq. Should it be Syria or Iran, Damascus or Tehran? The punch line was: “Real men go to Tehran!”

However, the Iraq War didn’t work out exactly as planned. Bush did succeed in ousting Hussein from power and enjoyed watching him marched to the gallows, dropped through a trapdoor and hanged by the neck until dead. But the U.S. occupation touched off a sectarian bloodbath with Hussein’s Sunni minority repressed by the newly empowered Shiite majority. Sunni extremists flocked to Iraq from around the Middle East to kill both Iraqi Shiites and Americans.

The end result of the Iraq War was to transform Iraq from a Sunni-ruled authoritarian state into a Shiite-ruled authoritarian state, albeit still a place where sectarian bombings are nearly a daily occurrence. Yet, one of the principal beneficiaries of the Iraq War was Iran with its Shiite theocratic government unexpectedly finding itself with a new Shiite ally replacing a longtime Sunni enemy, Saddam Hussein, all thanks to the United States.

Widening Violence

But the Iraq War had another consequence. It exacerbated sectarian tensions across the region. Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf oil states that had supported Hussein in his war with Iran in the 1980s, were shocked to see Iran now have a “Shiite crescent” of influence extending through Iraq and Syria to the Shiite enclaves in Lebanon.

The Saudi monarchy was shaken, too, by the popular uprisings known as the Arab Spring. Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, a longtime Saudi ally, was ousted and replaced by a democratically elected government led by the populist Muslim Brotherhood.

Though the Muslim Brotherhood was Sunni, too, the movement represented a mix of Islam and democratization, which posed a threat to the Saudi princes who live pampered lives of unimaginable wealth and privilege. On a personal level, these playboys confine their wives to humiliating conditions out of the Middle Ages while the men sample the pleasures of lavish European resorts or fly in Scandinavian prostitutes for parties.

Yet, while the Arab Spring sent shivers down the spines of the oil sheiks of the Persian Gulf – and even brought a Saudi military intervention to put down a Shiite-led democratic uprising in Bahrain – the political upheavals also presented an opportunity to Saudi geopolitical strategists, the likes of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former ambassador to the United States and now head of Saudi intelligence.

By supporting rebels and militants in Syria, for instance, the Saudis and the other oil sheiks saw a chance to reverse Iran’s geopolitical gains. And, by funneling billions of dollars to the Egyptian generals, the Persian Gulf monarchists countered any pressure for restraint from the United States.

Increasingly, too, the interests of Saudi Arabia and Israel began crisscrossing, sparking a relationship that the Jordanian monarchy helped broker and encourage. Jordan has strong security ties to Israel and is dependent on the largesse of the Persian Gulf royals, making it a perfect matchmaker for this unlikely hook-up.

According to intelligence sources, Jordan has been the principal site for bilateral contacts between Israelis and Saudis, a behind-the-scenes alliance that finally went public with their joint support for the Egyptian coup. While Saudi Arabia arranged the finances for Egypt’s new military regime, Israel deployed its potent lobby in Washington to dissuade President Barack Obama from labeling the coup a coup, which would have forced a shutoff of U.S. military aid.

New Superpower

Now, this new powerhouse combo is teaming up on Syria, where the Saudis and other Persian Gulf states have been financing the rebels seeking to destabilize and possibly overthrow the Assad government, while the Israelis have been deploying their political and propaganda assets to increase international pressure on Assad.

Both the Saudis and the Israelis stand to benefit from having Assad’s regime bled over time into either a weakened state or its demise. For Saudi Arabia, regime change in Syria that would mark a strategic victory against its chief rival Iran.

Israel also would like to see Iran undercut and isolated, but there is the additional benefit of hurting Hezbollah and further alienating the Palestinians from important sources of support, i.e. Iran and Syria. That gets Israel closer to the neocon vision of leaving desperate Palestinians with little choice but to accept whatever “peace” terms that Israel chooses to dictate.

There is, of course, a potential downside for Israel and the West. Since Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are arming some of the most radical Islamists fighting in Syria, including groups affiliated with al-Qaeda, one outcome of the Syrian civil war could be a new haven for Islamic terrorism in the heart of the Middle East. In the 1980s, Saudi Arabia was the principal funder for Osama bin Laden and his jihadists who traveled to Afghanistan to fight the  Soviets before turning their hatred and suicidal tactics against the United States.

The emerging Saudi-Israeli alliance also may have serious ramifications for global geopolitics. The combination of Saudi Arabia’s extraordinary financial and economic clout and Israel’s equally extraordinary capacity to pull political and propaganda strings, especially inside the United States, could mean that a new superpower has stepped onto the international stage.

Its arrival may be heralded by whether Saudi Arabia and Israel can jointly yank the United States into the Syrian civil war.

(Source / 30.08.2013)

Hamas leader: We reject internal conflict

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Hamas leader Jamal al-Tawil said Friday that Hamas rejects “internal conflict” and urged security forces allied to Fatah’s President Mahmoud Abbas to not interfere with protests.

At a sit-in for Hamas supporters in al-Bireh in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, al-Tawil called on security forces and policemen to “prove their unity” by joining the demonstration.

“We came here to enjoy our right of expression, our opinion, and to say that arresting people (based on their political beliefs) in rejected anywhere in the world.”

He added: “We also came here to protest the Egyptian army’s arrest of five Palestinian fishermen and injuring two others. This behavior is unacceptable and we cannot be at ease with it.”

Demonstrators held signs and shouted chants calling for increasing popular actions in support of Palestinian prisoners, and in support of national unity.

(Source / 30.08.2013)

The Difference Between Sunnis and Shiites

Basics

The majority of the world’s billion-odd Muslims are Sunnis. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of all Muslims follow the Shiite branch (pronounced Shi‘ite, Shi‘a or Shia). Beyond that, it gets slightly complicated: Who lives where, and why the differences and conflicts between them? The answer is less daunting than it seems.

Sunnis form the overwhelming majority in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, Pakistan, Indonesia, Turkey, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Shiites form the majority only in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, and Azerbaijan, but they constitute sizable minorities in Afghanistan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen.

At heart, Sunnis and Shiites are like Catholics and Protestants in the commonality of some fundamental beliefs. But their differences, especially in nations where the Sunni-Shiite split is exacerbated by each other’s proximity (as in Iraq and Lebanon), run so deep that intolerance and violence shadow the two groups, making coexistence difficult.

Islam’s Origins

In 610 A.D., Muhammad ibn Abdallah was a successful 40-year-old Arab businessman and tradesman. Every year he retired to a cave near Mecca, in present-day Saudi Arabia, to pray and fast. Beginning that year on his cave retreats, he had overpowering revelation of the word of God, what would later come to be known as the Quran (which means recitation). By 610, Muhammad was preaching the Quran and directing his earliest followers to build a community, or ummah, where the practical and the compassionate (rather than the theological) was to predominate.

The year 622 marks the founding of Islam as a religion: It was the year of the hijrah, or migration, by Muhammad and his followers. They founded the first truly Islamic ummah inMedina.

By the time of Muhammad’s death in 632, Islam had conquered the Arabian peninsula roughly up to what today would be Saudi Arabia’s borders with Jordan and Iraq. Within a century, Islam would spread to western India, the Caucasus, Turkey, North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula. Its furthest advance was to the heart of present-day France, where the armies of Charles Martel stopped the conquerors in 732 in the Battles of Tours and Poitiers.

The Prophet Muhammad’s Succession

At Muhammad’s death in 632, Abu Bakr, a close companion of the Prophet, became his successor, or caliph. Most Muslims agreed that the most able and pious of the Prophet’s followers should be his caliphs. Their followers would come to be known as the orthodox branch of Islam, or Sunnis.

A few Muslims disagreed, arguing for a line of succession based on bloodlines. To those dissenters, the succession should have immediately gone to Ali, the fourth caliph — who took the helm after some of his followers assassinated Caliph Uthman, his predecessor. Followers of Ali would eventually form Shiite Islam.

What Sunnis and Shiites Believe

The Quran, the Prophet’s hadith, or sayings, and thesunna, or customs, are central to the belief system of both Sunnis and Shiites. So are the five pillars of Islam: The recitation of the creed (“There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his Prophet”); the salat, or the recitation of prayers five times a day; zakat, or the obligatory giving of alms to the poor according to one’s means; fasting from sunup to sunset during the month of Ramadan; and the hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca at least once in a Muslim’s lifetime, means permitting.

Sunnis and Shiites also believe in Islamic law. But its application varies.

Where Sunnis and Shiites Differ

Sunnis accept that the first four Caliphs, including Ali, were the rightful followers of Muhammad. However–rather like Protestantism in Christianity–they don’t grant the kind of divinely inspired status to their clerics that Shiites do with their imams. Shiites believe imams are descendants of the Prophet.

Islam has no codified laws per se. It has various schools of law. While Sunni doctrine is more rigidly aligned in accordance with those various schools, its hierarchical structure is looser and often falls under state, rather than clerical, control. The opposite is true in Shiitism: The doctrine is somewhat more open to interpretation but the clerical hierarchy is more defined and, as in Iran, the ultimate authority is the imam, not the state.

Both Sunnis and Shiites break down into various sects that range from puritanical (as with Sunni Wahhabism, prevalent in Saudi Arabia) to somewhat mysterious (as with the Druze of Lebanon, Syria and Israel, who form an offshoot of Shiitism).

Why Can’t They Get Along?

That’s a loaded, condescending question best answered by raising a mirror to the more familiar: Why couldn’t Catholics and Protestants get along for hundreds of years (and in straggling cases still aren’t getting along?). The answer must take account of doctrinal and historical differences, however irrational those differences might seem to the objective, uninvolved eye.

The answer must also take account of the inexplicable: Religious differences are, ultimately, as impossible to settle as metaphysical questions. Peaceful societies depend on what mechanisms or institutions they have developed for channeling those differences into non-violent conflict. The Muslim scholar Reza Aslan, in “No God But God,” argues that those very mechanisms are lacking in some Islamic societies such as Iraq and Afghanistan, where the Sunni-Shiite divide is pronounced. But the battle going on within Islam today is defined, in part, by the struggle for those institutions.

The Sunni-Shiite Divide

Country Sunnis Shiites & Offshoots
Afghanistan 84% 15%
Bahrain 30% 70%
Egypt 90% 1%
Iran 10% 89%
Iraq 32-37% 60-65%
Kuwait 60% 25%
Lebanon 23% 38%
Pakistan 77% 20%
Saudi Arabia 90% 10%
Syria 74% 16% (Alawites)
Turkey 83-93% 7-17%
United Arab Emirates 81% 15%
Yemen 70% 30%
Source: Congressional Research Service

(Source / 30.08.2013)

Should Muslim leaders be from the Quraish tribe?

 

Sahih Bukhari 01

By Abu Amina Elias for FaithinAllah.org

Question:

Is it a condition for leadership in Islam that a Muslim be from the Quraish tribe?

Answer:

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

The Prophet gave preference to the leadership of the righteous members of the Quraish tribe due to their position as the leading tribe in Arabia, but not because of an inherent virtue in their lineage. In the context of Arabia at the time of the Prophet, the candidate for high office was required to earn the respect of all the Arabs and this would have been difficult if not impossible for members of another tribe.

In this context the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

النَّاسُ تَبَعٌ لِقُرَيْشٍ فِي هَذَا الشَّأْنِ مُسْلِمُهُمْ تَبَعٌ لِمُسْلِمِهِمْ وَكَافِرُهُمْ تَبَعٌ لِكَافِرِهِمْ

The people follow the Quraish in this matter. The Muslims follow the Muslims among them, and the unbelievers follow the unbelievers among them.

Source: Sahih Bukhari 3305, Grade: Sahih

Because of their position as the leading Arab tribe, most classical scholars made it a condition that the Caliph be a member of the Quraish. However, some scholars did not require such a condition when the political context had changed.

Ibn Khaldun writes:

ومن القائلين بنفي اشتراط القرشية القاضي أبو بكر الباقلاني لما أدرك عليه عصبية قريش من التلاشي والاضمحلال واستبداد ملوك العجم من الخلفاء فأسقط شرط القرشية وإن كان موافقا لرأي الخوارج لما رأى عليه حال الخلفاء

Among those who did not require the condition of being from the Quraish tribe was the judge Abu Bakr Al-Baqillani when he realized that in his time the solidarity in favor of the Quraish had vanished and that foreign kings possessed power over the Caliphs, so he no longer saw a need for this condition, despite agreeing with the Khawarij on this matter, since he could observe the state of the Caliphs.

Source: Ta’reekh Ibn Khaldun

Abu Bakr Al-Baqillani (d. 402AH/1013CE) was a Maliki scholar who held the position of chief judge outside the capital city of Baghdad. He considered that the office of Caliph did not require the condition of descent from the Quraish tribe due to the fact that the Quraish had lost their reputation as the leading tribe in Arabia and the Muslim world.

We should not understand from the Prophet’s statement that there is an inherent virtue in the lineage of the Quraish apart from righteousness. The quality that makes someone virtuous is their righteousness and Godfearing piety (taqwa) and not their ethnicity or tribe.

Allah said:

إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ

Verily, the most noble of you to Allah are the most righteous.

Surah Al-Hujurat 49:13

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

وَمَنْ بَطَّأَ بِهِ عَمَلُهُ لَمْ يُسْرِعْ بِهِ نَسَبُهُ

Whoever is slow to good deeds will not be hastened by his lineage.

Source: Sahih Muslim 2699, Grade: Sahih

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ قَدْ أَذْهَبَ عَنْكُمْ عُبِّيَّةَ الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ وَفَخْرَهَا بِالْآبَاءِ إِنَّمَا هُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ تَقِيٌّ وَفَاجِرٌ شَقِيٌّ النَّاسُ كُلُّهُمْ بَنُو آدَمَ وَآدَمُ خُلِقَ مِنْ تُرَابٍ

Verily, Allah has removed from you the pride of the time of ignorance with its boasting about ancestors. Verily, either one is a believer who fears Allah or a miserable sinner. The people are all the children of Adam, and Adam was created from dust.

Source: Sunan At-Tirmidhi 3955, Grade: Hasan

Despite contextual preference given to the Quraish, this does not exclude other righteous Muslims from taking positions of leadership in Islam.

Anas bin Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

اسْمَعُوا وَأَطِيعُوا وَإِنْ اسْتُعْمِلَ عَلَيْكُمْ عَبْدٌ حَبَشِيٌّ كَأَنَّ رَأْسَهُ زَبِيبَةٌ

Listen and obey your ruler even if he were an Abyssinian slave whose head looks like a raisin.

Source: Sahih Bukhari 6723, Grade: Sahih

In this tradition, the Prophet commanded Muslims to obey their leaders even if they were led by slaves from Abyssinia (Ethiopia). Abyssinian slaves suffered disadvantage in ancient Arabian society for two reasons: first, many Arabs had feelings of racial superiority over those with black skin, and second, slaves were among the lowest levels of social status. Despite this, Muslims have been commanded to obey their leaders even if they are led by African slaves. This demonstrates that any qualified Muslim can obtain a position of leadership regardless of their background.

Bilal ibn Rabiah, the famous companion of the Prophet, was an African slave who suffered disadvantage in pre-Islamic times due to his lineage and social status. However, he became the leader of the Muslims among those who call to prayer.

Umar ibn Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, would say:

أَبُو بَكْرٍ سَيِّدُنَا وَأَعْتَقَ سَيِّدَنَا يَعْنِي بِلَالًا

Abu Bakr is our chief and he emancipated our chief Bilal.

Source: Sahih Bukhari 3544, Grade: Sahih

Bilal was considered a leader (sayyid) among the Muslims even though he had come from the lowest levels of status in Arabian society.

For all these reasons, many scholars in modern times have not required the condition that the Muslim leaders are from the Quraish tribe. There is no longer a practical benefit to upholding such a condition. The political context at the time of the Prophet necessitated that the leader be from the Quraish but this is no longer the case.

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.

(Source / 30.08.2013)

Global opposition grows against US attack on Syria

US President Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama
Worldwide opposition is growing to US planned attack on Syria which the Obama administration rushed for based on an alleged chemical attack that its dimensions remain doubtful for the international community.

The Arab League took the US by surprise on Wednesday with its opposition to their planned attack on Syria.

The UN Security Council also rejected the idea of authorizing the war and the UN chief Ban Ki-Moon asked for time to conclude an investigation to the incident which is underway by a group of inspectors already visiting Syria.

The international community’s positions are increasingly public and overwhelmingly opposed to the planned US attack, and almost no one wants to be on US President Barack Obama’s side in his latest adventure.

Egypt says it rejects the idea of foreign military operations in Syria, with many of the politicians warning about US strike as an opening to a new era in Washington’s interventions in the Arab world.

NATO-member Poland confirmed they’re not going to get involved. Britain’s parliament has delayed their government’s planned involvement too.

Jordan, which hosts a major US military base near Syria borders, also insisted they won’t allow their territory to be used as a “launching pad” for the war.

Jordanian officials said they’d rather cooperate for a political solution to the crisis in the country.

Jordan has been openly hosting a militant training center for months for anti-Syria armed groups, with US and Israeli officials conducting training of fighters who are then sent back into Syria to fight the army.

Jordan’s apparent hesitations maybe because of the fact that al-Qaeda is gaining more power in Syria while they’d preferred a more secular ruling System in there.

The war in Syria started as pro-reform protests in March 2011 but it turned to a deadly insurgency with intervention of US and its regional and Western allies.

US has been increasing its military activities around Syria based on conflicting reports that emerged last week of an alleged chemical attack that the anti-Syria militants claimed the army was responsible for it and killed 1,200 people.

Syrian government and army have categorically denied the accusations and have presented the UN security council evidences that they say proved the attack was actually carried out by the US-backed militants themselves.

(Source / 30.08.2013)

U.S. Had Intel on Chemical Strike Before It Was Launched

American intelligence agencies had indications three days beforehand that the Syrian regime was poised to launch a lethal chemical attack that killed more than a thousand people and has set the stage for a possible U.S. military strike on Syria.

The disclosure — part of a larger U.S. intelligence briefing on Syria’s chemical attacks — raises all sorts of uncomfortable questions for the American government. First and foremost: What, if anything, did it do to notify the Syrian opposition of the pending attack?

In a call with reporters Friday afternoon, senior administration officials did not address whether this information was shared with rebel groups in advance of the attack. A White House spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the information had been shared.

But at least some members of the Syrian opposition are already lashing out at the U.S. government for not acting ahead of time to prevent the worst chemical attack in a quarter-century. “If you knew, why did you take no action?” asked Dlshad Othman, a Syrian activist and secure communications expert who has recently relocated to the United States. He added that none of his contacts had any sort of prior warning about the nerve gas assault — although such an attack was always a constant fear.

Razan Zaitouneh, an opposition activist in the town of Douma, one of the towns hit in the Aug. 21 attack, said she had no early indication of a major chemical attack. “Even the moment [the attack hit], we thought it was as usual, limited and not strong,” she told The Cable in an instant message. That only changed when “we started to hear about the number of injuries.”

“It’s unbelivible that they did nothing to warn people or try to stop the regime before the crime,” Zaitouneh added.

The U.S. intelligence community is now all but certain that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons on rebels and civilians in the suburbs of Damascus nine days ago. And part of that certainty were the military’s signs of advance preparation for an attack.

“In the three days prior to the attack, we collected streams of human, signals and geospatial intelligence that reveal regime activities that we assess were associated with preparations for a chemical weapons attack,” said a U.S. intelligence report the Obama administration released Friday.

“Multiple streams of intelligence indicate that the regime executed a rocket and artillery attack against the Damascus suburbs in the early hours of August 21,” the report added. Satellites detected that the weapons were launched from territories held by the regime. They landed in rebel controlled or contested neighborhoods.

The intelligence assessment is based on “a substantial body of information,” including satellite imagery, intercepted communications, and social media reports from the scene of the attack.

“Our high confidence assessment is the strongest position that the U.S. Intelligence Community can take short of confirmation,” the report said. “We will continue to seek additional information to close gaps in our understanding of what took place.”

There had been reports of chemical attacks before the August 21 assault in Damascus. But it provided a wealth of new intelligence picked up by U.S. spy agencies that helped make the U.S. case for Syrian government culpability.

Foreign Policy reported Tuesday that U.S. intelligence had intercepted a panicked phone call between an official at the the Syrian Ministry of Defense and a leader of a chemical weapons unit in the hours after the attack. The minister demanded answers for the strike, which used a nerve agent. Those conversations helped convince U.S. officials that the Syrian regime was responsible.

The new intelligence assessment doesn’t definitively answer whether the attack was ordered by the highest ranks of the government, or if it was the work of a rogue military officer. But remarks this afternoon by Secretary of State John Kerry made it clear that the Obama administration is holding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad responsible.

“Read for yourselves the verdict, reached by our intelligence community about the chemical weapons attack the Assad regime inflicted,” Kerry said in remarks at the State Department.

The U.S. has determined that 1,429 people were killed in the attack, including at least 426 children. That number closely matches the casualty estimates reported by a Syrian opposition group yesterday. A separate report from the British Joint Intelligence Committee put the death toll much lower, at least 350 people. The U.S. assessment said the final tally “will certainly evolve as we obtain more information.”

In releasing the intelligence report, the Obama administration sought to assure Americans that its conclusions were based on multiple, verifiable sources, including public accounts, and that the intelligence community had not repeated the mistakes of 2003, when it incorrectly judged that Iraq possessed chemical weapons.

“We will not repeat that moment,” Kerry said, emphasizing that the intelligence about the Syrian attacks had been vetted and reviewed.

In addition to U.S. satellite and signals intelligence, the report also relies on “thousands of social media reports” in the hours after the attack, noting they were sent from “at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area.” Kerry mentioned the volume of the reports, as well. Ninety minutes after the attack, “all hell broke loose in the social media,” Kerry said, noting that the reports conveyed images and video of victims of the attack, showing some of them dazed, twitching, foaming at the mouth, or dead.

The report said U.S. intelligence “identified one hundred videos attributed to the attack, many of which show large numbers of bodies exhibiting physical signs consistent with, but not unique to, nerve agent exposure.”

Senior administration officials acknowledged that they had not yet obtained soil samples from the site of the attack to test for evidence of chemical agents. Physical evidence also wasn’t part of the new assessment, an indication that the Obama administration believes the abundance of reporting from other sources is sufficient to make its case that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons.

The intelligence report also suggests a possible motive for the attack.

“We assess that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons over the last year primarily to gain the upper hand or break a stalemate in areas where it has struggled to seize and hold strategically valuable territory. In this regard, we continue to judge that the Syrian regime views chemical weapons as one of many tools in its arsenal, including air power and ballistic missiles, which they indiscriminately use against the opposition.”

Kerry couched a U.S. response to the attacks in moral and humanitarian terms. But he did not advance any legal argument to support U.S. military action.

“2 things we did not hear from Secretary Kerry. (1) What is our military objective? (2) What legal justification is the Administration using?” Rep. Buck McKeon, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, tweeted after the secretary’s remarks.

The Obama administration’s case resonated with Syrian opposition. “Kerry laid out the evidence of Bashar’s regime using chemical weapons in a very clear manner,” Khaled Saleh, the media director of the Syrian National Coalition and a member of the executive officer of the Syrian National Council, told Foreign Policy. “He made a very strong case for the U.S. and the international community to act.”

Saleh said he was worried that the Obama administration’s attempts to gain public support for military action could delay the strike and give Assad time to bolster his defenses.

“This is one worry that we have. Since the international community has begun talking about a response to the chemical massacre, what we have noticed is that the Assad regime has started moving different military units into different areas,” Saleh said. “So they’re using that time to hide their more well-armed units. And you know, when they move them to schools, the U.S. and the international community can’t do a whole lot about that.”

If the US doesn’t strike Assad hard enough, or if the strike is too limited, he will likely hit back at Syrians in response. “Our worry is that Assad will turn to Syrians, and kill more of them,” Saleh said.

(Source / 30.08.2013)

BBC editor urged colleagues to downplay Israel’s siege of Gaza

The new Middle East online editor for BBC News has been praised by a pro-Israeli website for being “willing to listen to his critics” after he sent internal emails guiding BBC staff to write more favorably about Israel.

Raffi Berg was promoted to head the BBC website’s Middle East desk earlier this month, having already worked as a journalist with that desk. His emails, which have been posted on a pro-Israeli site, were sent during Israel’s eight day assault on Gaza in November 2012, which killed nearly 200 Palestinians.

In one, he asked BBC colleagues to word their stories in a way which does not blame or “put undue emphasis” on Israel for starting the prolonged attacks. Instead, he encouraged journalists to promote the Israeli government line that the “offensive” was “aimed at ending rocket fire from Gaza.”

This was despite the fact that Israel broke a ceasefire when it attacked Gaza on 14 November, a ceasefire which the Palestinians had been observing — firing no rockets into Israel

In a second email, sent during the same period, Berg told BBC journalists: “Please remember, Israel doesn’t maintain a blockade around Gaza. Egypt controls the southern border.” He omitted to mention that the UN viewed Israel as the occupying power in Gaza and has called on Israel to end its siege of the Strip. Israel’s refusal to do so is a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1860.

Berg wrote in both emails that the advice was being given to BBC journalists as a result of complaints that the BBC was too harsh on Israel in its early coverage of the assault.

Bowing to pressure

Both emails were originally posted onto the Zionist website Biased BBC on 21 November 2012 by a user going by the name “soothsayer.” They were reposted on another pro-Israeli website Is the BBC biased? on 13 April this year in an article which noted that the emails “indicate at least that Raffi Berg is willing to listen to his critics.”

In an email exchange earlier this week with a British-Palestinian activist, Berg said he was not responsible for posting the internal emails onto Biased BBC but accepted they were his work. The email exchange has been seen by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

The activist put it to Berg that his emails to BBC journalists “demonstrate a clear bias towards the Israeli government line and show a bowing to pressure from pro-Israeli groups.”

Berg replied: “We continually examine the language we use on contentious subjects, such as the Israel-Palestinian conflict, but do not take our lead from any pressure groups.”

In a later email, the activist pointed out that neutral sources agree that Israel’s assassination of Hamas commander, Ahmed al-Jabari, was the trigger for the assault which followed, and asked why Berg was requesting BBC journalists to take the emphasis off this fact.

Berg replied: “The cause of the conflict in Gaza is contentious, with Israel giving ongoing rocket attacks as grounds for its assassination of Ahmed Jabari…As you will appreciate, we do not take sides on issues but to avoid appearing to put a definitive starting point on the violence, a neutral form of words was found.”

Concealing Israeli aggression

In the days preceding the execution of al-Jabari, Israel killed seven Palestinians in Gaza, including five teenage boys, in the space of 48 hours.

The killings reveal the scale and regularity of lethal Israeli aggression in Gaza. But rather than dwell on this, BBC journalists stuck doggedly to the line, pushed by Berg, that Israel’s eight day pounding of the blockaded Strip involved Israel defending itself.

Berg has replaced Tarik Kafala as head of the online Middle East desk. Overseeing his work will be James Harding, who was appointed the BBC’s director of news and current affairs earlier this year.

In his previous post, as editor of Rupert Murdoch’s Times newspaper, Harding spoke in 2011 at a media event organised by The Jewish Chronicle. He told the audience: “I am pro-Israel. I believe in the State of Israel. I would have had a real problem if I had been coming to a paper [The Times] with a history of being anti-Israel.”

Harding, it would appear, need have no worries about his new online Middle East editor exposing the full scale and horrors of Israel’s occupation to the BBC audience. Berg’s internal emails reveal his willingness to toe the BBC’s line of concealing, obscuring or softening Israel’s violations of international law and its abuse of Palestinian human rights, allegedly in the name of “neutral reporting.”

He and the openly Zionist Harding should get on well.

(Source / 30.08.2013)

US’ war plan for Syria is part of Greater Israel Project: O’Keefe

Interview with Ken O’Keefe

“Those that are in the government would carry out the orders of those who are in charge of them and those that are in charge want another war and part of that is what we discussed earlier, the Greater Israel Project, to destabilize any Arab regime which might have any kind of autonomy and self-determination…, Any regime in the Arab world that is not an absolute puppet cannot be tolerated and who are the nations that we target? Those that are not puppets.”
Press TV has talked with Ken O’Keefe, a former US marine and war veteran in London, to shed more light on the Western-Arab war rhetoric on Syria following claims by the Syrian opposition and militants that the Damascus government used chemical weapons against civilians.

What follows is a rough transcription of the interview.

Press TV: Ken O’Keefe do you agree with that (Lawrence Korb’s remarks)? I mean some are saying, even the US lawmakers, that what Lawrence Korb there said, that it amounts to somewhat of a symbolic type of strike, if anything?

O’Keefe: Well, I do not agree at all. First off, how is it possible that anybody with any kind of sanity would consider the United States or Britain or the West in general to be in any kind of position to be punishing anyone for any illegalities?

If we want to take a look at Iraq, there is at least one million, probably even close to two million dead. We invaded that country, destroyed it, created millions of orphans, millions of refugees and never even so much was apologized for that.

Let us go back to Vietnam where we dropped 20 million bombs, more than all of World War II combined. We have destroyed so many countries. We have tortured and killed and maimed and raped around this planet, who in the hell in their right mind would consider the United States or the West in general to be in any position to punish anybody?

Never mind the obvious facts that this is a false-flag attack in a long list of false-flag attacks, which let us get into that please!

Press TV: Ken O’Keefe, it is kind of ironic that you have the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and the UN Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, practically if we really look at it, almost begging for the US and its allies including France and the UK to go to the Security Council in order to get backing for this, but of course you are saying let the chemical investigation by the UN inspectors to take place and for the results come out.

I mean what does that mean in terms of international law, what the US, UK and France in particular are pursuing here?

O’Keefe: Well, we do not operate under international law. What we have is the color of law, the law of the jungle in which the rich and the powerful, basically, determine what goes and what does not go. Iraq is a perfect example of that.

Why is not Tony Blair and George Bush rotting away in prison cell for the rest of their lives? Because the law is not being applied.

These are war criminals and they should be in prison for the rest of their lives, if not executed, if their own rules were adhered to, for their own crimes.

Not only that, but we need to really understand the truth here. First off, all of these players, these politicians are nothing more than puppets. They do not serve the people, there is no real democracy, they really serve the rich and powerful who run the world and that would be the bankers who control the money supply.

The bankers, of course, make huge amounts of money, whether they have made bad investments or not wars are great for them and ultimately they control the politicians and that is why we see these policies.

Obama and Cameron are nothing more than puppets who read the script and the script is: We need another war.

And the reason why we need another war, according to the psychopaths who are running the world, is because more and more people, despite the clueless masses who continue to be entranced by things so ridiculous as the X Factor and the American Idol, there are larger numbers of people around the world who are realizing the truth and beginning to recapture the capacity to think for themselves and they can see that these people who have been put in positions of public trust, are defying that trust and representing an agenda, which they could never speak about openly, because they are nothing more than … and nothing more than minions for the powers that be.

Press TV: It is very interesting Ken O’Keefe. I do not know if you caught the presser that Bashar al-Jafari, Syria’s envoy to the UN had earlier, a couple of hours back, and he said that this is all because of Israel, Israel is actually responsible behind the uprisings from North Africa throughout the Middle East; and this is a push by Israel onto US to, basically, go and attack Syria.

What is Israel’s role in this, Ken O’Keefe?

O’Keefe: Well, the greater Israel Project is all about destabilizing, surrounding nations, ultimately in pursuit of this dream of greater Israel from the Euphrates down to the Nile, all the way over to the Eastern Mediterranean. This is the dream of these psychopaths and so destabilizing governments, creating sectarian strife, is all part of that menu and all part of the design to create a greater Israel. So that goes …, it is self-evident.

I have to go back to what this gentleman was saying in Washington D.C. about the Americans not wanting to get involved or Obama not getting involved.

What are you talking about? We have been arming people, directly, who are al-Qaeda! Al-Nusrah Front is al-Qaeda! These people are psychopath to the worst order; they are conducting suicide attacks, they are gassing people, we know Carla Del Ponte said in May that it was the so-called rebels in Syria that were using the Sarin gas not the Bashar al-Assad regime. No it was not!

We know that the United States’ president is arming people who are on the US terrorist list. He should be convicted of aiding and abetting, giving material support to a terrorist organization but then again, you know, what we are …, we the West, the United States and in particular Israel and Britain, are the biggest terrorists on the planet.

So our little junior partners and al-Qaeda, which is nothing more than a CIA database, thus the name al-Qaeda, this is nothing more than a group of terrorists working together each playing one different role but all of them working together for the same goal which is to maintain this hideous and sick and twisted unjust world that we have, which is a perpetual state of war. Always one illusion, one bogyman after another but the fact is that Obama is nothing more than a puppet war criminal just like his predecessors and every other US president before him.

So please do not tell people out there that the US is not involved. It is directly involved and it is arming people who are absolute psychopaths.

Press TV: Ken O’Keefe yesterday Walid al-Muallem and then we had Bashar al-Jaafari today talk about how they have allowed the inspectors to go in, but it seems and why is that …, and I am thinking do not they have intelligence? Does not the United States already know who is behind this? It is obvious it is not the Syrian government.

An analyst has said two possibilities: One, obviously being the insurgents who have this and at a very low scale perhaps, maybe some low-ranking soldiers of the Syrian army not carrying through orders of not using chemical weapons but going out on their own which he has said there is a very small possibility of that.

Why does not the US want to wait along with its allies for the inspectors to analyze what has come out and then make an announcement based on that before they move in or attack?

O’Keefe: Because the United States has never been interested in anything other than war. The United States is in a perpetual state of war because the bankers control the politicians and they read the script as given to them by the banksters and they make huge amounts of money off of this.

What this gentleman is saying about the United States not wanting war and not wanting to get involved in this like Iraq 2.0. It is a repeat of the same rubbish that was said: Oh! We do not want war! War is the last resort. That is absolutely untrue, it is a lie.

Those that are in the government are nothing more than … who would carry out the orders of those who are in charge of them and those that are in charge want another war and part of that is what we discussed earlier, the Greater Israel Project, to destabilize any Arab regime which might have any kind of autonomy and self-determination.

Any regime in the Arab world that is not an absolute puppet cannot be tolerated and who are the nations that we target? Those that are not puppets. We do not target those like the Saudi regime, which is the biggest human rights violator in that region. It is cutting off peoples’ heads in public, cutting off hands, it is the most grotesque regime on the planet and yet we give that regime weapons and it is no problem whatsoever.

The duplicity and hypocrisy of the United States and the West cannot even be measured, it is so enormous and these mouthpieces such as this gentleman in Washington is only doing the disservice to himself and his country and the fact is that the American sons and daughters will get involved in this yet again and these chicken hawks who are pretending to care about the Syrian people are going to be sacrificing not their own sons and daughters, I would like this man to send his sons and daughters and his grandchildren off to Syria when this turns into a greater conflict because this is what we are flirting with, [it] is a world war, a third world war, this is not a joke.

We are flirting with the Third World War on the basis that apparently we care so much about the Syrian people, just like we cared so much about the Iraqi people and the Afghani people. The only people that by this sort of stuff are either bought off … or the dumbest of the dumb!

And we are also led to believe that Assad is the dumbest idiot dictator on the planet. Now, is not he? Because he invited the UN inspectors to come in and he brought them in; [and] on the very day that they come in, he decides to attack his own people ten miles away from where the inspectors arrived! This is beyond ridiculous and the only people to buy this, again, are bought off … or the dumbest of the dumb!

Press TV: Ken O’Keefe we have alluded to this throughout this conversation and debate but there are many who are not buying the US’ viewpoints, they are not buying what the UK and France are doing along with the US. Because they are saying that what US is saying limited in scope is not going to hardly cripple Assad’s sizable military infrastructure and forces unless this is a wider-scale war.

Do you think that is what we are looking at?

O’Keefe: Well, there is no question that they do not intend for limited strikes and that is not going to do anything. They want to go in full-scale, that is the plan. Of course they will use a pretext to justify the initial attack and then they will concoct more things to justify a greater involvement.

The Daily Mail reported here in the UK, and it is commonly understood to those who are paying attention that defense contractors, leaked emails from defense contractors, proved that there was already an approved plan from Obama …, to give these psychopath terrorist al-Nusrah Front, chemical weapons!

We know that al-Nusrah Front, 12 individuals in Turkey were caught with two kilos of Sarin gas, where did they get that from? And this is, you know, clearly a false flag. We understand this to be true and it is the only way that they could justify an attack at all.

And I have to say that I am happy that the gentleman in Washington mentioned [General Martin E.] Dempsey, General Dempsey of the Joint Chiefs [of Staff], because I tell you what, more than anything else it is the true American patriots, those who were sick and tired of having given up their lives to, basically, serve the American dream, the American nation, the constitution that they swore to uphold.

It is those military men and women, it is you now, it is coming to you now! Are you a patriot or are you not? Are you going to let your nation to [be] sent even further into the chaos and corruption that has been so sick and so twisted, that is destroying the American lives, as well as the rest of the world, to the tune of 22 American servicemen a day, who are committing suicide.

Are you going to sacrifice more of your American sons and daughters for Israeli wars? For Zionist wars? Are you going to continue to do that because you are not a patriot?

You are in fact aiding and abetting the terrorists [that] you supposedly think you are fighting against! And those Americans who are waking up to this, I hope to God, in the military in particular, that refuse your orders and this is why the people of America who were refusing to buy this nonsense, their overwhelming majority, do not support any kind of attack on Syria and those in the military, I know that the powers that be are very, very frightened that higher-ups within the military will refuse the orders and I hope that this is exactly what happens if an attack on Syria occurs.

(Source / 30.08.2013)

Any Attack on Syria Would Be Illegal, Increase Sectarianism in Middle East

Any Attack on Syria Would Be Illegal, Increase Sectarianism in Middle EastJESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

U.S. authorities say that they are ready and in position for an imminent strike against Syria. This is in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Britain, who is a close U.S. ally, will hold a parliamentary debate this weekend prior to deciding whether or not to take part in an attack. The Obama administration, on the other hand, has not indicated whether or not it will seek congressional approval prior to launching a strike. The saber rattling is getting to a fever pitch in Washington.

And now joining us to discuss all this is Vijay Prashad, who was in Beirut. Vijay is the Edward Said Chair at the American University at Beirut. He’s the author of many books, including The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South. And he writes regularly for The HinduFrontlinemagazine, and CounterPunch.

Thanks for joining us, Vijay.

VIJAY PRASHAD, PROF. INTERNATIONAL STUDIES, TRINITY COLLEGE: My pleasure.

DESVARIEUX: So, Vijay, let’s just start off and discuss the legality of an imminent strike against Syria by the United States. Is it legal for the United States, based on international law, to attack Syria?

PRASHAD: Well, in recent years the United States has not always followed, you know, for a minute let’s call it international law. So, for instance, when the United States launched an attack on what was then Yugoslavia and then later on Iraq, there was no attempt to seek an international law framework. In fact, the United States decided that the UN Security Council was not going to vote in its direction, so it launched attacks regardless of Security Council legitimacy. So that’s the first thing. The U.S. doesn’t always seek international law.

Secondly, what international law? I mean, generally it’s where a country is obliged to, you know, attack another country, it has to go to the United Nations if it’s not going to be a pariah state. And in the United Nations Charter, Chapter VII authorizes the Security Council to allow member states to attack other member states. You know, it’s a serious issue when one member state decides to attack another. The Security Council has to very judiciously assess the situation and then allow member states to use so-called Chapter VII rights, which is the use of military force. Now, if the UN Security Council gives the right under Chapter VII, then there is some international law mandate to attack another sovereign country.

You know, Syria is still, despite its many problems, a standing member of the United Nations. So until there is a UN resolution under Chapter VII which authorizes military force, any attack on Syria will be therefore illegal. And the United States in the Security Council has not been able to get a resolution. In fact, on Thursday in New York, the five permanent members had a series of meetings, which have all ended, you know, without agreement, because the Russians who called the meeting had been unable to walk the Americans and the British in particular down from the ledge of a Chapter VII resolution against Syria.

DESVARIEUX: Okay. And, Vijay, what is the strategic importance of Syria? Why is Syria such a player in all of this?

PRASHAD: Well, you know, Syria has been, as with a number of the other countries in the Arab world, a part of this momentum that we called the Arab Spring. Now, you know, many countries, the Arab Spring has had back it’s back–you know, it’s kind of turned backwards, as in Egypt. I mean, many countries, the Arab Spring has not been able to go forward, such as Bahrain. In that sense, there is no special thing about Syria, except that there’s been an enormous loss of life in Syria. Hundred thousand people have been killed. Over 2 million people have become displaced outside the country, you know, a very large number of people displaced inside the country. So the sheer enormity of the suffering in Syria has turned the world’s attention to Syria.

But that’s not really the issue that is driving the Western powers in, you know, the Syrian theater, nor is it the issue that’s driving the Russians or the Gulf Arab states or even Iran. You know, it’s not the huge humanitarian suffering that’s truly, you know, moving them. If that was indeed the case, then–for instance, let me give you a statistic. There has been a pledge of almost, I think, $12 million of food aid to refugees by all these countries. You know, particularly the United States and Western Europe have pledged large amounts of money for food aid. But just about a little more than a percent of their pledges have come in to the UN agencies, which means that it’s not the humanitarian issue that’s actually driving their agenda.

This is, I think, an important point to make, because the use the language of humanitarianism consistently. On the other hand, where humanitarianism, I think, is a serious issue, the crisis of millions of people, there have been empty pledges, unfulfilled pledges [inaud.] value, where it says that it’s moved in a humanitarian way over the Syrian crisis.

So if it’s not the humanitarian issue, what’s moving the West in Syria? Well, you know, there is a very obvious game plan here, which is that West has for a very long time, in fact since 1979, sought to weaken the attempt by Iran to create a kind of independent path in the Middle East. Now, whatever one thinks of Iran’s own politics, whatever one thinks of the limitations of the Iranian model, etc., it is certainly the case that the Iranians have, you know, the right, nominally, to do their own to kind of political arrangements, etc. And, in fact, even if one disagrees with the Iranians, one has to disagree alongside the Iranians, not against them.

The West has taken in the antagonistic position since 1979. You know, that is the reason Saddam Hussein was sent, essentially, to fight an eight-year, very bloody war against Iran. So if you understand the Syrian conflict from the West perspective, they see this as an enormously productive opportunity to weaken Iran.

And I think that’s [incompr.] and it’s a very silly, very myopic approach, because what this so-called anti-Iranian policy in Syria is going to lead to is an increased sectarianism of the Middle East, you know, making the conflicts in the Middle East about Shia-Sunni. It allows the West therefore to back the Gulf Arab states’ extremely sectarian approach to the region, where they want to push an anti-Shia agenda.

So in that sense, the West, by being obsessed by an anti-Iranian politics, has begun to play alongside the Gulf Arab states in an anti-Shia politics, which impacts not only Syria, but of course Lebanon, from where I’m speaking, where the sectarian situation has already had a, you know, very bloody civil war. And the last thing people in Lebanon want to see is the reopening of those wounds. So the West, you know, in its game up weakening Iran, is opening a tinderbox which it just will not be able to control.

DESVARIEUX: Okay. You’re actually in Lebanon, as you mentioned, Vijay. And Hezbollah, who is a close ally to Iran, can you talk specifically about what their connection is to this whole Syrian conflict? Where do they fit in into this battle?

PRASHAD: Well, you know, Jessica, I think it’s important to say in a sense that Hezbollah is not an ally of Iran or of Syria. Hezbollah is a movement that came out of, you know, sections of the Lebanese people to fight against the occupation of the Israelis in 1982. So Hezbollah’s principal and only, you know, reason for existence is, as the Lebanese call it, the resistance. In other words, they’re principally to fight for the right of Lebanon to exist as a sovereign state and against Israel.

But because this is their politics and because they are relatively isolated along the Mediterranean coast, Hezbollah has relied greatly on Iranian, you know, arms support and logistical support. And it’s only because they have been able to get–there’s a pipeline through Syria to bring in the Iranian logistical support and weapons that Hezbollah is so-called tied to Syria and Iran.

You know, Hezbollah shares very little ideologically, you know, politically with the Syrian Baath party, or indeed with the [r@”laI@fefV’ki] regime in Iran. It has very much its own view of the world.

But this is for Hezbollah a pragmatic alliance. You know, it’s only a pragmatic alliance. Their reason of existence is the protection of Lebanon. And that is why inside a country like Lebanon, where there is, in a sense, a very deep set of fissures between the different factions, Hezbollah has been trying not to get involved, not to at least turn its advantage, its military advantage in Lebanon into a civil war situation.

You know, because Hezbollah is not, you know, more than simply practically linked to the Syrian regime in Iran–it is not programmatically linked to Syria. You know, it has no programmatic ties with Iran. It is simply a practical relationship. Because of that and [inaud.] national force in Lebanon, you know, rather than understand Hezbollah’s role in this way, the West seeks to see Hezbollah as part of the pro-Iran axis and wishes to weaken Hezbollah.

The weakening of Hezbollah is a grave threat to the fragile peace in Lebanon. And I’m afraid this kind of cynical, simpleminded politics that the West is, you know, trying to put forward in this part of the world is going to open the doors of hell.

And I think that is very–you know, the West has been very cavalier in its conversation about this chemical weapon attack. Of course this chemical weapon attack, whoever did it, whether it is a chemical attack or not, whoever did it, it’s outrageous, and that needs to be investigated. There are UN steps that should be taken. But casual language about, you know, we’re going to do this, we’re going to bomb here, without understanding the very fragile peace in the neighborhood of Syria, I think that is something that, you know, needs to be pointed out. The West has to recognize that when very large amounts of cruise missiles are fired into this region, the effects are catastrophic for a generation at least.

DESVARIEUX: Okay. Thank you so much for joining us, Vijay.

PRASHAD: Thank you.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

(Source / 30.08.2013)