Greater Middle East
On Feb. 12, the International Syria Support Group (ISSG)—made up of the US, Russia, EU, Arab League, Iran and other powers—reached an agreement in (oh, the irony!) Munich for a "cessation of hostilities," to take effect in one week. You can bet that this signals a major escalation in the war. Already diplomats are saying "It's not worth the paper it's printed on." The Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov made clear the loophole big enough for a fleet of MIGs to pass through. "The truce does not go for terrorists… The military operation against them will be continued." Given the Russian propaganda trick of calling whoever they want to bomb "terrorists," this makes the whole deal utterly meaningless. Specifically, air-strikes on ISIS and the Nusra Front are excluded from the deal, but we shall see if there is any let-up at all in the horrific aerial bombardment of FSA-held territory. Russian and regime air-strikes have already cut off water supplies to the remaining inhabitants in besieged Aleppo. Bashar Assad has wasted no time in announcing that he intends to retake "the whole country" from rebel forces. We hate to agree with John McCain, but he called it when he said the Munich agreement is "diplomacy in the service of military aggression." The deal was arrived at without the participation of the Free Syrian Army, much less any voices of Syria's civil resistance. This "ceasefire" will not result in the ceasing of a single shot from being fired. As with previous bogus "peace" breakthroughts, the result will be much to the contrary. You read it here first. (Daily Sabah, Feb. 14; The Telegraph, EA WorldView, BBC News, BBC News, Feb. 12; Daily Sabah, Feb. 10)
A blog with the ostentatiously idiotic name of the AntiMedia (as if all blogs were not, by definition, part of "the media") unintentionally reveals how the current "leftist" (sic) vogue for monsterphilia—exalting dictators and war criminals as paragons of order and stability, if they affect even the most transparent anti-US posture—actually means an embrace of values utterly antithetical to everything the left has traditionally stood for...
Amnesty International reported Feb. 11 that nearly five years after Bahrain's Day of Rage protests sparked international concern over Bahraini government accountability in human rights, the hope for reform has dwindled. In Bahrain, February 14, 2011, was a day of protests that ultimately ended in the death and torture of rights activists. AI reported that peaceful opposition activists still face arbitrary detention and even physical punishment. AI called for the government to take accountability not only for current conditions but for the security forces that committed abuses during the initial protests.
Scuffles broke out between pro-Kurdish protesters and police outside the National Higher Studies Institute in Quito where Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was speaking Feb. 4. Three women who maaged to infiltrate the audience during Erdogan's speech and stood up to shout slogans in support of the Kurds were forcibly ejected by Turkish security guards. Local media also reported that a member of Erdogan's security entourage attacked a protester as the Turkish president exited the building. Ecuadoran MP Diego Vintimilla was also injured during the incident, posting pictures to Twitter of his bloodied nose. Ecuador's government formally protested the violence, with the Foreign Ministry summoning the Turkish ambassador and calling the guards' behavior "irresponsible." Nonetheless, Erdogan and his Ecuadoran counterpart Rafael Correa signed a series of bilateral deals to boost diplomatic and trade relations. (EuroNews, BBC News, Feb. 5)
Some 70,000 civilians from Aleppo are fleeing to the Turkish border, as Syrian regime troops backed by Russian warplanes advance on the city. They will join some 30,000 already amassed at the border and hoping Turkish authorities will allow them to cross. (Al Jazeera) Independent journalists have posted grim video footage and photos of the exodus to Facebook. French journalist Natalie Nougayrède writes in a commentary for The Guardian that "What happens next in Aleppo will shape Europe's future."
The Syria "peace" talks have opened in Geneva—without the participation of the Syrian Kurds. Those rebel leaders in attendance will not actually meet face-to-face with Damascus representatives, and are pressing their own demands. Salem al-Meslet, spokesman for the opposition's High Negotiations Committee, uniting most of the rebel factions, told Al Jazeera: "We came here to discuss with the special envoy UN Resolution 2254; lifting the sieges and stopping the crimes done by Russian air strikes in Syria." Syrian opposition activists have taken to social media with a campaign to boycott the talks, which they see as legitimizing a genocidal regime, using the hashtag #DontGoToGeneva. (Middle East Eye, Jan. 26)
We've been documenting for years how the much-lauded Counterpunch is actually a pseudo-left organ of fascism, relentlessly cheering on dictatorships and providing a soapbox for Paul Craig Roberts, Ron Paul, Alison Weir, Israel Shamir, Gilad Atzmon and other such exponents of the far right. But this time they have really outdone themselves. On Jan. 29 they posted a piece with the predictable title of "The Rise of ISIS and Other Extremist Groups: the role of the West and Regional Powers." The writer? None other than Bouthaina Shaaban, official public relations advisor for the genocidal regime of Bashar Assad. This time not just a "useful idiot" of the Anglo-American "progressive" (sic) talking-head set, nor just another paleocon dictator-enthusiast—but an actual paid flack of the dictatorship that continues to carry out mass murder and starvation against the Syrian people.
Turkey is threatening to boycott UN-backed peace talks on Syria scheduled for later this week if the main Syrian Kurdish party is invited. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said "of course we will boycott" the Geneva talks if the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing the People's Protection Units (YPG) are at the table, Cavusoglu said in a TV interview, saying it was a "terror group" like ISIS. "There cannot be PYD elements in the negotiating team. There cannot be terrorist organizations. Turkey has a clear stance." He added: "A table without Kurds will be lacking. However, we are against the YPG and the PYD, who repress Kurds, being at the table..." (Hurriyet Daily News, AFP, Jan. 26) Of course, he didn't say which Kurds should be at the table, and in fact there is no other significant Kurdish force in Syria. We've noted before the Turkish state's sinister game of equating the militantly secular and democratic PYD-YPG—the most effective anti-ISIS force in Syria—with their bitter enemy ISIS. But complicating the situation is that Russia, once again, has come to the defense of the Kurds. Moscow's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov blasted Cavusoglu's boycott threat as "blackmail," warning that it would be a "grave mistake" not to invite the PYD. "How can you talk about political reforms in Syria if you ignore a leading Kurdish party?" (ABC, Jan. 26)