Greater Middle East

Syria: civil wars in the civil war

The Free Syrian Army has been at open war with the jihadists for months, but now fighting is reported between the two leading jihadist factions in the Syrian war, the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Clashes are reported between the two in Shaddadi, Hasakeh governorate—apparently over control of the Jibsa oil field. The two groups split earlier this year over whether to accept the Iraq-based leadership of the ISIS. (AINA, Sept. 23) The news comes just as the Syrian National Coalition, the official civilian leadership of the FSA, was publicly repudiated in an open letter by 13 rebel factions. These include both the newly formed 19th Division of the FSA, and jihadist groups including the Nusra Front and Liwa al-Tawhid. The statement called for the imposition of Islamic law throughout Syria. (The Telegraph, Sept. 26) In very ominous news, Al Jazeera reports Sept. 21 that the FSA's 11th Division has defected to the Nusra Front. A video purported to show hundreds of 11th Division defectors parading through Raqqah with Nusra fighters.

UN inspecting additional Syria chemical attacks

The UN said Sept. 27 that inspectors returned to Syria this week to investigate seven chemical weapon attacks, including three that occurred after the Aug. 21 incident in Damascus. The investigation is set to be finished by early next week, followed by a separate visit by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to inspect Syria's chemical weapon stockpile. The OPCW is also set to vote on a draft agreement which will be incorporated into a UN Security Council resolution, to which the US and Russia have agreed.

Egypt court bans Muslim Brotherhood

An Egyptian court on Sept. 23 banned the Muslim Brotherhood and ordered its assets confiscated as part of the military government's crackdown on the group. The Cairo administrative court declared that its ruling would apply to all organizations affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, including its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party. Although the Muslim Brotherhood was banned for most of its 85-year existence, it attained power when Islamist Mohamed Morsi became president in 2012. It is unclear if the Muslim Brotherhood will appeal the ruling.

Assad's useful idiots protect chem attack base

They've really outdone themselves this time. The last time we checked in on Cynthia McKinney, she was floating outlandish conspiracy theories about the Boston bombings. Now, Redress Information & Analysis is among the websites to take note of what she just posted to her Facebook page—that she is in Syria to sing the praises of the Assad regime and cheer on those serving as human shields. That is merely predictable. But a close reading reveals a truly special degree of either cynicism or dupery (we actually aren't sure which):

Assad to The Hague? Don't bet on it...

We've pointed out that some "anti-war" commentators are glibly calling for an International Criminal Court case as a "solution" for Syria—despite the fact that six years after the ICC issued a warrant for Sudan's Omar Bashir, he remains in power and carrying out mass murder (most recently against the Nuba people of South Kordofan, although the Darfur conflict continues even now). So while there may be much to recommend an ICC warrant for Syria's Bashar Assad, there is no reason to believe it will save a single Syrian life. And now  on Slate's The World blog succinctly explains why this pseudo-solution, in fact, isn't even possible...

Did climate change spark Syria crisis?

We've noted before that numerous experts have linked the Darfur conflict to climate change, but now a less obvious climate connection to the Syria crisis is persuasively argued by Peter Sinclair of the blog Climate Denial Crock of the Week. As the name suggests, it is generally dedicated to shooting down climate change denialism, but in this Sept. 5 entry he attempts to trace the Syrian explosion—indeed, the entire Arab Revolution—to an atmospheric phenomenon. Sinclair reminds us that in the summer before the wave of revolution swept through Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and beyond, Russia experienced a "1,000-year heat wave" (Bloomberg, Aug. 9, 2010) that shrivelled its crops and prompted Moscow to halt wheat exports (Washington Post, Aug. 6, 2010).

Towards a progressive position on Syria

On Facebook in recent days, I have been having a spirited exchange regarding Syria with Kevin Zeese of the website Popular Resistance, which we recently had to call out for running de facto Assad regime propaganda, filled with blatantly distorted claims. Zeese is the "Attorney General" in the Green Shadow Cabinet, an entity we called out here and here for similarly serving as a stateside amplifier for regime propaganda. Much of this is recycling media accounts that attempt to excuplate the regime in the Ghouta attack. For instance, Popular Resistance reprints a Guardian story, based on conveniently anonymous sources, "German Intelligence: Assad Did Not Order Chemical Weapons Attack." If you actually read past the headline, the unsourced claim is only that Assad didn't personally order the attack. Another Guardian piece picked up by Popular Resistance speculates that the US finding that Assad was behind the attack may be tainted by Israeli intelligence.

Syria chemical attack: rush to denialism continues

Human Rights Watch on Sept. 10 released a report, "Attacks on Ghouta: Analysis of Alleged Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria," examining what are said to actually be two suspected chemical attacks on the "opposition-controlled suburbs of Eastern and Western Ghouta, located 16 kilometers apart, in the early hours of August 21." The report relies on witness accounts of the rocket attacks, physical remnants of the rockets, and symptoms exhibited by the victims as documented by medical staff. "Rocket debris and symptoms of the victims from the August 21 attacks on Ghouta provide telltale evidence about the weapon systems used," said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at HRW and author of the report. "This evidence strongly suggests that Syrian government troops launched rockets carrying chemical warheads into the Damascus suburbs that terrible morning."

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