Posted by Joshua on Thursday, August 18th, 2011
EU and US say Syria’s Assad must step down
Reuters, Aug 19, 2011
BRUSSELS // The European Union told Syrian President Bashar Al Assad today to step down, following a similar call by the United States, and threatened to toughen its sanctions against his regime.
“The EU has repeatedly emphasised that the brutal repression must be stopped … The Syrian leadership, however, has remained defiant,” the EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.
“This shows that the Syrian regime is unwilling to change… The EU notes the complete loss of Bashar Al Assad’s legitimacy in the eyes of the Syrian people and the necessity for him to step aside,” she said.
Ms Ashton said the EU’s 27 governments were preparing to extend their list of Syrian entities targeted by EU sanctions and discussing ways to broaden the bloc’s measures against Mr Assad.
“The EU is moving ahead with discussing further restrictive measures that will broaden its sanctions against the Syrian regime. By these efforts we continue to aim at assisting the Syrian people to achieve their legitimate aspirations,” she said
Obama Calls for Syrian President to Step Down, By MARK LANDLER and NADA BAKRI in the NYTimes
“The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way,” Obama said in a statement. “His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing, and slaughtering his own people.”
“For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.”
EU To Consider Ban On Refined Product Exports To Syria, 2011-08-18, Dow Jones Newswires
Fact Sheet on Syrian Sanctions By New York Times
Resistance Transforms a Once Mute Syrian City
This article was reported by an employee of The New York Times from Syria, and written by Anthony Shadid from Beirut, Lebanon. August 17, 2011
HOMS, Syria — The narrower the streets of this city, a caldron of revolt and resistance against four decades of rule by the Assad family, the blunter the graffiti becomes. It is scrawled on walls, garbage bins, phone booths, doors and even tree trunks, as a city that was long quiescent declares these days that it will no longer stay quiet.
“We won’t bow to anyone but God,” says one slogan.
The sentiments are echoed in the streets, most remarkable perhaps for the simple notion that no one — not young men filming, not fathers hoping for a glimpse of defiance and not grandmothers chanting from their balconies — seems ready to give up.
“Syria wants freedom,” goes their cry.
Syria’s uprising has entered its sixth month, as protesters defy an escalating crackdown that has killed hundreds this month in cities like Hama, Deir al-Zour and, now, Latakia. International condemnations have mounted, even as diplomats acknowledge a paucity of tools to determine the uprising’s outcome. But daily life in Homs underlines the degree to which the uprising has already transformed life in a country once remarkable for its dearth of politics.
Dissent and defiance in Homs, its residents say, have become knitted into the city’s fabric, signaling to the government that however ferocious the repression, it will face a resilient opposition for the foreseeable future.
Each night, in Homs, the battle begins anew…..
The conceptual gap between Syria and the U.S.
By David W. Lesch in Foreign Policy, Wednesday, August 17, 2011
…..For an orderly transition from dictatorship to democracy two elements are crucial: “an elite willing to hand over power, and an alternative elite organized enough to accept it.” In Syria neither exists. Will it at some point? Probably not, but it is not out of the realm of possibility, as there are stirrings that something might emerge on both sides of the equation.
Most of us watching from the outside — those making policy decisions in Washington, at the U.N. or in European capitals — are from a decidedly different world and conceptual paradigm than the Syrian leadership. To think that we could all get on the same page and collectively find a peaceful way out of this has been more fantasy than reality. The weltanschauung prisms are anchored in vastly different experiences, pre-conceptions, local politics, and ideologies, and they have a very hard time seeing and understanding each other.
Re-Examining the Arab Spring – August 15, 2011 | STRATFOR
…..Among Europeans and within the U.S. State Department and the Obama administration is an ideology of human rights — the idea that one of the major commitments of Western countries should be supporting the creation of regimes resembling their own. This assumes all the things that we have discussed: that there is powerful discontent in oppressive states, that the discontent is powerful enough to overthrow regimes, and that what follows would be the sort of regime that the West would be able to work with.
The issue isn’t whether human rights are important but whether supporting unrest in repressive states automatically strengthens human rights. An important example was Iran in 1979, when opposition to the oppression of the shah’s government was perceived as a movement toward liberal democracy. What followed might have been democratic but it was hardly liberal. Indeed, many of the myths of the Arab Spring had their roots both in the 1979 Iranian Revolution and later in Iran’s 2009 Green Movement, when a narrow uprising readily crushed by the regime was widely viewed as massive opposition and widespread support for liberalization.
The world is more complicated and more varied than that. As we saw in the Arab Spring, oppressive regimes are not always faced with massed risings, and unrest does not necessarily mean mass support. Nor are the alternatives necessarily more palatable than what went before or the displeasure of the West nearly as fearsome as Westerners like to think. Libya is a case study on the consequences of starting a war with insufficient force. Syria makes a strong case on the limits of soft power. Egypt and Tunisia represent a textbook lesson on the importance of not deluding yourself.
The pursuit of human rights requires ruthless clarity as to whom you are supporting and what their chances are. It is important to remember that it is not Western supporters of human rights who suffer the consequences of failed risings, civil wars or revolutionary regimes that are committed to causes other than liberal democracy.
The misreading of the situation can also create unnecessary geopolitical problems. The fall of the Egyptian regime, unlikely as it is at this point, would be just as likely to generate an Islamist regime as a liberal democracy. The survival of the al Assad regime could lead to more slaughter than we have seen and a much firmer base for Iran. No regimes have fallen since the Arab Spring, but when they do it will be important to remember 1979 and the conviction that nothing could be worse than the shah’s Iran, morally or geopolitically. Neither was quite the case.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t people in the Arab world who want liberal democracy. It simply means that they are not powerful enough to topple regimes or maintain control of new regimes even if they did succeed. The Arab Spring is, above all, a primer on wishful thinking in the face of the real world.
Syrian Bank Rejects U.S. Charges on WMD Ties
Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011
The Lebanon branch of a state-run Syrian financial institution on Wednesday rejected U.S. charges that it had carried out transactions that assisted unconventional weapons operations in North Korea and Syria, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, Aug. 11).
The United States last week unveiled punitive measures against the Commercial Bank of Syria and its subsidiary, the Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank, for doing business with Syrian and North Korean entities blacklisted previously by Washington for purportedly supporting WMD proliferation activities.
The U.S. Treasury Department also said the Syrian bank has done business with blacklisted Iranian entities such as Bank Melli, Bank Saderat and the Export Development Bank of Iran.
The Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank described the U.S. charges as “unfounded political allegations.”
“Since the establishment of our institution, we have never had any operation with either a North Korean or an Iranian entity even before the existing sanctions,” the bank stated.
“As a result, we deny all accusation of being involved in any illegal activity with any suspected country,” the firm said in released remarks
Syria: the Cost of Crisis
Wed, Aug 17, 2011
Chaosistan, Middle East, Strategic Deterrence
By Vladislav GULEVICH (Ukraine)
Syria has entered the sixth month of anti-government riots, orchestrated from abroad. Protesters no longer seek moderate reforms, they aggressively demand Bashar Assad`s resignation. Western media accuse Damascus of ‘opposing democratic changes’. The former US Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Craig Roberts, had earlier explained what these changes were about: “We need to topple Gaddafi in Libya and Assad in Syria because we want to oust China and Russia from the Mediterranean” (‘US risks war with China and Russia’).
Russia has a naval base in Syria`s Tartus, the only place in the Mediterranean where the Russian fleet has its warships stationed. In 1991 Russia reformed its Mediterranean squadron, and since then has sailed to the area only several times. Meanwhile, the US and NATO presence there is not decreasing.
The base in Tartus was established to replace one in Sevastopol if Ukraine bans Russia from having its navy there. There is an alternative port in Novorossiysk but it can`t accommodate as many ships as the one in Sevastopol. On ousting Russian sailors from Syria, Americans will fulfill their goal. That is why Washington is being so persistent in trying to topple Bashar Assad, who is Russia`s ally. The day Assad leaves, Russian sailors will be asked to quit, too. The next step for Washington will be to oust Russia’s Black Sea Fleet from Crimea to Novorossiysk. After that Russia will no longer remain in the list of countries enjoying naval presence in the west…..
To conclude, I would like to say the following:
– in case riots in Syria end in Assad`s resignation, Syria will be controlled by the US
– Turkey, Russia and Iran will have its positions in the Middle East weakened
– Russia will be ousted form the Mediterranean and locked inside the Black Sea basin, where it will have to deal with Romania, Bulgaria and Georgia – US allies and anti-Russian foreign policies
– the Kurdish issue will become even a greater threat for Turkey, especially in view of the fact that a pro-American Assad`s successor won`t be opposing what Kurdish rebels are going to implement on Syrian territories
– Al-Qaida has already voiced its support to Syrian rioters, and it appears that they are going to strengthen their position in post-Assad Syria, the fact which Ankara cannot favor; but this will allow Washington justify its military presence in the region
– If Assad steps down, Turkey will face huge economic losses (in 2010 bilateral trade between Syria and Turkey stood at $2.5bln, and the sides agreed to reach the $5bln level)
– If this all happens, Turkey will have no alternative but to abandon its ambitious plans to create a free trade zone with Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.