Thursday, December 18, 2014

A People's History of Syria--Part 27: May to December 2011 Period

According to an article by Sibel Edmunds that was posted on Nov. 21, 2011 on the website, in late April or May 2011 a “joint U.S.-NATO secret training camp in the U.S. air force base in Incirlik, Turkey, began operations…to organize and expand the dissident base in Syria,” “weekly weapons smuggling operations” were “carried out with full NATO-U.S. participation since” May 2011 and, subsequently, deserters from the Baath regime’s army such as “Col. Riad al-Assad” and “several other high-ranking” defecting “Syrian military and intelligence officials” were then “added to operations’ headquarters in the U.S. base.”

Coincidentally, according to a timeline of Syria’s civil war by Thomas Plofchan that was posted on May 14, 2014 on The Cairo Review of Global Affairs website, on July 29, 2011 “defectors from the Syrian Army announced the formation of the Free Syrian Army, led by former Col. Riad Al-Assad;” and in 2011 James Gelvin’s The Arab Uprisings observed that “Syrian opposition leaders” said “that, should they remove Bashar al-Assad from power, they will reorient Syria toward the United States and the West and away from Iran.”

So, not surprisingly, in 2011 “the United States and the European Union both imposed their own escalating sets of sanctions on Syria.” On Aug. 17, 2011, for example, the Obama Administrations “Executive Order 1358” banned “Syrian oil imports and new U.S. investments in Syria and” blocked Syrian “government property in the United States,” according to Thomas Plofchan’s timeline on The Cairo Review of Global Affairs website.

According to a May 13, 2013 internet article by Musa al-Gharbi, “Wikileaks cables reveal that the U.S.” government “had begun cultivating opposition groups against the al-Assad regime, inside Syria and around the world, as early as 2006” and “these policies continued under” the Obama Administration. As an Apr. 18, 2011 Reuters article, titled “U.S. secretly backed Syrian opposition: report,” noted, The Washington Post reported on Apr. 17, 2011 that the U.S. “State Department has secretly funded Syrian opposition groups, according to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks” and “the cables show that the State Department has funneled as much as $6 million since 2006 to a group of Syrian exiles to operate a London-based satellite channel, Barada TV, and finance activities inside Syria.”

According to the Apr. 17, 2011 Washington Post article by Craig Whitlock:

“The London-based satellite channel, Barada TV, began broadcasting in April 2009 but has ramped up operations to cover the mass protests in Syria as part of a long-standing campaign to overthrow the country’s autocratic leader, Bashar al-Assad…Barada TV is closely affiliated with the Movement for Justice and Development, a London-based network of Syrian exiles….The channel is named after the Barada River, which courses through the heart of Damascus…

“The U.S. money for Syrian opposition figures began flowing under President George W. Bush…in 2005. The financial backing has continued under President Obama...The cables indicate money was set aside at least through September 2010. While some of that money has also supported programs and dissidents inside Syria, The Washington Post is withholding certain names and program details at the request of the State Department...The State Department declined to comment on the authenticity of the cables or answer questions about its funding of Barada TV…

“Syrian exiles in Europe founded the Movement for Justice and Development. The group, which is banned in Syria, openly advocates for Assad’s removal. U.S. cables describe its leaders as `liberal, moderate Islamists’ who are former members of the Muslim Brotherhood…Several U.S. diplomatic cables from the embassy in Damascus reveal that the Syrian exiles received money from a State Department program called the Middle East Partnership Initiative. According to the cables, the State Department funneled money to the exile group via the Democracy Council, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit….Edgar Vasquez, a State Department spokesman, said the Middle East Partnership Initiative has allocated $7.5 million for Syrian programs since 2005. A cable from the embassy in Damascus, however, pegged a much higher total — about $12 million — between 2005 and 2010.

“The cables report persistent fears among U.S. diplomats that Syrian state security agents had uncovered the money trail from Washington….”

According to Musa al-Gharbi’s May 13, 2013 internet article, “as conflict erupted in Syria” after March 2011 “the U.S. attempted to create a shadow government (the Syrian National Council), comprised largely of expatriates, pro-Western ideologues, and Washington insiders, handpicked years before;” but “due to America’s obvious imprint, both this government and its successor enjoy little credibility with the Syrian people or the opposition forces on the ground” and “even should Bashar be deposed, it seems implausible that `a football dad from Texas’—Ghassan Hitto, the Syrian-American IT Executive from Dallas who is now the SNC’s prime minister—will end up governing Syria.” In Musa al-Gharbi’s view:

“As with Libya and Iraq, the U.S. believed Syrians loathed Bashar, the rebellion was popular, and the regime’s collapse was inevitable and imminent. In fact, none of these were true. Yet the U.S. designed their Syrian strategy around these falsities, relying on half-measures and `light footprints,’ believing these would be sufficient to topple the regime. They interfered with negotiations within Syria, saying there could be no dialogue until Bashar resigned. As a result, U.S. involvement in Syria propagated and escalated the violence, rather than stopping it.”

According to a 2012 Amnesty International human rights group report, Assad’s undemocratic Baath regime responded in 2011 to street protests that called for the democratization of Syrian society, the relinquishment of power by Assad or the overthrow of the Baath regime in the following repressive ways:

“Government forces used lethal and other excessive force against peaceful protesters who took to the streets in unprecedented numbers to demand political reform and the fall of the regime…More than 4,300 people reportedly died during or in connection with the protests and during funerals of demonstrators, most apparently shot by members of the security forces, including snipers. Tanks were used in military operations in civilian residential areas….The protests spread rapidly as government forces tried to quell the protests by brute force, including by using snipers to shoot into peaceful crowds while claiming that shadowy `armed gangs’ opposed to the government were responsible for the violence.”

But the 2012 Amnesty International Report also noted that in 2011:

“…Bashar al-Assad announced various reforms in response to the protests. In April, he lifted the national state of emergency that had been in force continuously since 1963, abolished the notoriously unfair Supreme State Security Court that had jailed thousands of critics and opponents of the government, and decreed that some members of the Kurdish minority should receive Syrian citizenship…A new Peaceful Assembly Law was introduced under which only demonstrations `properly licensed’ in advance by the authorities are considered lawful. In March, June and November, the President granted five separate amnesties for different categories of prisoners; among those freed were prisoners of conscience and people detained during the protests, although the vast majority of such detainees remained behind bars. Laws covering new Parties, elections and the media were passed in August [2011]...”

(end of part 27)

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