The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

Syria opposition leader demands Patriot missiles, UN seat | Al Akhbar English

Meanwhile, via jpost:

NATO said on Tuesday it had no intention of intervening militarily in Syria after a Syrian opposition leader said the United States should use Patriot missiles to protect rebel-held areas from President Bashar Assad’s airpower.

"NATO has no intention to intervene militarily in Syria," a NATO official said after opposition leader Moaz Alkhatib said he had asked US Secretary of State John Kerry for American forces to help defend rebel-controlled northern parts of Syria with Patriots.

The powers-that-be will be sticking with their KSA - CIA-led proxy war for now. NATO and the U.S. military prefer countries be more thoroughly immiserated before installing a compliant, west-friendly puppet engaging in their infamous humanitarian work.

Iraq had hoped that hosting the summit would herald its return to the Arab fold after two decades of isolation, but the absence of more than half of the Arab leaders and the ability of militants to launch attacks despite a massive security operation suggest that Iraq may still have some way to go before it could fully return to normalcy and reintegrate into the Arab world. Explosions heard as Arab summit opens in Baghdad | Egypt Independent

Syria 'accepts' Annan plan to end crisis | Al Jazeera English

The Syrian government has agreed to accept the six-point plan by joint United Nations-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan on ending the violence in Syria, the former UN chief’s spokesman has said.

"The Syrian government has written to the joint special envoy Kofi Annan, accepting his six-point plan, endorsed by the United Nations Security Council," Ahmad Fawzi said in a statement on Tuesday.

The text of the six-point plan under debate is below. It asks the Syrian authorities to:

(1) commit to work with the Envoy in an inclusive Syrian-led political process to address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people, and, to this end, commit to appoint an empowered interlocutor when invited to do so by the Envoy;

(2) commit to stop the fighting and achieve urgently an effective United Nations supervised cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties to protect civilians and stabilise the country.

To this end, the Syrian government should immediately cease troop movements towards, and end the use of heavy weapons in, population centres, and begin pullback of military concentrations in and around population centres.

As these actions are being taken on the ground, the Syrian government should work with the Envoy to bring about a sustained cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties with an effective United Nations supervision mechanism.

Similar commitments would be sought by the Envoy from the opposition and all relevant elements to stop the fighting and work with him to bring about a sustained cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties with an effective United Nations supervision mechanism;

(3) ensure timely provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by the fighting, and to this end, as immediate steps, to accept and implement a daily two hour humanitarian pause and to coordinate exact time and modalities of the daily pause through an efficient mechanism, including at local level;

(4) intensify the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons, including especially vulnerable categories of persons, and persons involved in peaceful political activities, provide without delay through appropriate channels a list of all places in which such persons are being detained, immediately begin organizing access to such locations and through appropriate channels respond promptly to all written requests for information, access or release regarding such persons;

(5) ensure freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists and a non-discriminatory visa policy for them;

(6) respect freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully as legally guaranteed.

UN Security Council backs Syria peace plan | Al Jazeera English

The United Nations Security Council has adopted a statement backing joint UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s plan for ending the violence in Syria, as a government crackdown on opposition strongholds has continued.

Mark Lyall Grant, the UK’s ambassador to the UN and the current president of the council, read out the statement during a UNSC session on Wednesday.

The statement expressed the council’s “full support” for Annan’s efforts, and called upon both the government and the opposition “to work in good faith with the envoy towards a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis” and to fully implement his six-point proposal.

The statement threatened “further steps” if the government failed to comply with the proposal.

The plan calls for a ceasefire to be established, as well as for both sides to engage in political dialogue and to allow humanitarian aid agencies access to areas where citizens have been caught up in an increasingly militarised conflict.

It also calls for those detained during a government crackdown on protests to be released, and for restrictions on the freedom of movement of foreign journalists to be removed.

The UNSC called on the Syrian government to commit to working with “an inclusive Syrian-led political process to address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people”.

The statement has the backing of all 15 members of the council, including China and Russia, who have twice vetoed earlier UNSC resolutions on the crisis, citing concerns that the UN was taking sides.

Russia to veto U.N. Syria resolution if put to Friday vote | Reuters

Two words in a toothless resolution based on recommendations from the toothless Arab League are holding up the UN from…well, I don’t know what exactly.

Anyway, here’s the report:

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Russia shot down suggestions from some U.N. Security Council members of an imminent deal on a draft resolution aimed at stopping Syria’s bloody upheaval, warning it would veto the text if it were put to a vote Friday.

Pakistan’s U.N. envoy said the council was “two words away” from agreement and council chairman Togo said a consensus was near on an amended version of a draft backing an Arab League plan for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told a closed-door session of the world body that Moscow would veto the draft if it were submitted Friday with a phrase saying the council “fully supports” the plan, a Western diplomat said.

European and Arab drafters of the text were still likely to prepare a vote-ready version of the resolution later on Thursday, despite Russia’s objections, said the diplomat.

That does not necessarily mean a vote is imminent and it was not clear when the resolution’s sponsors would call for one. France said it foresaw a vote Friday, Saturday or Monday at the latest.

Russia has balked at any language that would open to door to “regime change” in Syria, its most important Middle Eastern ally over the almost half-century that Assad’s family has ruled it.

If you’re still unsure why Russia is opposed to any action that might threaten the Assad regime - 1) It’s geopolitical (not for resources, but the maintenance of at least a minimal MENA “footprint” with a non-Western aligned government) which leads to 2) the Tartus naval base (the only Russian naval base on the Mediterranean) and don’t forget 3) continuous Russian discomfort following the eastward expansion of NATO and the U.S. led “interventions” in Serbia, Iraq, and Libya.

Syria's Crisis Deepens: Does Internationalization Loom? | Juan Cole

The intensification of the violence [in Syria over the weekend] comes, as Ian Black at The Guardian notes, as the regional and international politics of the Syrian crisis is coming to a new boil. The Arab League’s observer mission, manipulated by the regime and proven useless, has been withdrawn. Two high Arab League officials are briefing the United Nations’ Ban-ki Moon and the League may go to the UN Security Council for an intervention, as it did with Libya. Russia expressed dismay at the Arab League decision. Russia has a naval base in Syria on the Mediterranean, and has long viewed Damascus as a client, going back to Soviet times, and wants to forestall UN intervention there.

The UNSC is expected to take up the Syria issue again on Tuesday. That the Security Council may become more aggressive in seeking an international resolution of the crisis frightens Bashar al-Assad, since most likely the international community would pressure him to step down and start a transition to a new order in Syria.

So far, Russia and China have run interference for Damascus at the UN. Russia may be especially reluctant to back down on Syria given the upcoming presidential election, in Which Vladimir Putin will want to look strong against the West. The Libya intervention was extremely unpopular in Russia, where it was seen as neo-imperialism, and forestalling American and European meddling in Syria might make Putin look strong at home.

On the other hand, the more brutal the regime becomes, and the more unpopular, the more Russia risks taking a big fall in the whole Arab world if the Baath collapses. Sami Moubayed argues that Russia is now backing an Arab League/ Saudi plan calling for Bashar al-Assad to delegate most of his power to his second in command, Farouk al-Sharaa, who should form a national unity cabinet with members of the opposition Syrian National Council in preparation for moving to new elections. (This plan resembles the Gulf Cooperation Council plan for Yemen, which, while so far implemented, has not worked very well). But that Russia is planning to meet Syrian oppositionists and seems to be content with al-Assad being pushed at least somewhat aside indicates that the president’s days may be numbered.

GCC Nations to Withdraw Monitors, Push for UN Intervention Against Syria | Antiwar.com

The Arab League member nations from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have announced today that they are withdrawing all monitors from Syria, shifting their focus to pressing the United Nations Security Council for intervention against the Assad regime.

The removal of GCC staff will leave the Arab League looking to replace about a third of its monitors at a time when the Syrian Foreign Ministry has announced that it has agreed to extend the mission.

The move reflects a growing split within the Arab League between the Saudi-led GCC nations, increasingly in favor of a foreign invasion of Syria to install a new (more GCC-friendly) regime, and a number of other members who are trying to negotiate some sort of settlement.

The monitor mission has largely not gone to plan. Violence between military forces and defectors has been reported in several cities across the country. The mission was initially intended to make way for reconciliation talks, but as fighting continues and Syria rejects a “Yemen solution” pushed by the Arab League, the struggle to find some sort of amicable end-game continues.

Syria Rejects Arab League Call for Power Transfer | VOA

Unsurprising news of the morning:

The Syrian government has rejected an Arab League plan for President Bashar al-Assad to transfer powers to his deputy, accusing the league of trying to interfere in Syria’s internal affairs.

Syrian state television quoted government officials Monday as rejecting the proposed initiative, calling it “a flagrant interference.”

A day earlier, Arab League foreign ministers called on the Syrian government to begin a national dialogue with the opposition within two weeks and to form a new government in two months.  This would be a prelude to early parliamentary and presidential elections.

Arab League calls on Assad to delegate power | Al Jazeera English

The Arab League has called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to delegate power to his vice president and for elections to be held under a “national unity government,” the latest steps in a slow-moving diplomatic effort to end 10 months of bloody uprising.

The bloc’s members agreed on Sunday to a political initiative that would call for a unity government and early elections to end the crisis, the Qatari prime minister said after a meeting of the 22-member body in Cairo.

The new plan envisions the “peaceful departure of the Syrian regime” and resembles the arrangement in Yemen, where Gulf nations convinced President Ali Abdullah Saleh to delegate power and leave the country, Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani said.

Al Thani said the League will ask the United Nations Security Council to support its plan for transition.

“After the establishment of the government of national unity, there has to be a referendum and preparation for new elections. The Arab League’s Secretary-General is to send a new special envoy to Syria, and will call on the international community to support this national unity government to fulfill its functions,” he said.

He also reiterated the Arab League’s demands that the violence in Syria be brought to an end, that political detainees be released, that the Syrian military pull out of cities and that citizens be allowed to demonstrate peacefully.

The League has called on the opposition and government to being a new round of dialogue “within two weeks”.

Al-Thani said that while the League was taking its case to the Security Council, it was not in favour of an international military intervention.

Syria rejects Arab troop proposal | Al Jazeera English

Syria has rejected any plans to send Arab troops into the country, saying it will “confront” and “stand firm” against any military intervention after the leader of Qatar said in a television interview that Arab countries should step in with force.

The state-run SANA news agency quoted a “credible source” at the foreign ministry as saying on Tuesday that the country is “shocked” by the comments, which “could worsen the conflict and kill the chances of Syria working closely with Arabs”.

The emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, was quoted by an American television programme on Sunday as saying that Arab troops should be sent to Syria to stop the deadly violence.

It was the first time an Arab leader had called for the deployment of troops inside the country.

'What is this team going to do? This team is not there to stop the violence. It is not there to pull back the military. It is not there to free prisoners. It is to verify. It is not a peacekeeping team,' the Arab official said. 'Any similar operation needs six to eight weeks to prepare before deploying,” he said, noting that the mission had begun only days after receiving ministerial approval. “Can you imagine if we had waited six weeks? We would have been massacred by the press and the opposition.

That’s a rather unfortunate choice of words.

Arab monitors flounder amid Syrian violence | Reuters

Syrian leader blames 'foreign interference' | Al Jazeera English

More public lying than a republican debate:

The Syrian president has made a defiant speech blaming foreign interference for the violence in his country.

In a televised speech on Tuesday, he accused the Arab League of hypocrisy for lecturing Syria on democracy and reform.

Assad claimed he never ordered anyone to open fire on anti-government protesters. However, opposition activists said at least 28 people were killed across the country on Tuesday alone as part of the government’s security crackdown.

Assad asked what right other Arab governments, including the absolute monarchies of the Gulf, had to lecture Syria about democracy or reform. [that’s actually a fair question, TAB]

[…]

Assad defended the government’s ban on most reporting by foreign media inside the country, saying that at the beginning of the unrest all media had been allowed to work freely.

“But fabrications from inside convinced us to put some control on this,” he said.

Al Jazeera is among many media organisations banned from reporting without restrictions from inside Syria.

[…]

Reacting to Assad’s speech, the Syrian National Council (SNC), the largest opposition umbrella group, called it an “incitement to violence” indicating “more criminal behaviour” by the government.

“There is incitement to violence, incitement to civil strife, some talks about sectarian divisions which the regime itself has fomented and encouraged,” Basma Qadmani, an SNC member, said in the Turkish city of Istanbul.

“Our concern today is that such a speech is quite indicative of the total dismissal by the regime of the international community.

“And that is an indication that we are going in the direction of more irresponsible and more criminal behaviour by the regime in the coming days and weeks.”

Qadmani also said Assad’s speech indicated that the regime “is breaking up with the Arab League”.

“This is a turning point, a rupture with its Arab environment,” she said.

Read more →

Arab League says 'killings continue' in Syria | Al Jazeera English

Thanks for the update Arab League!

Meanwhile, without acknowledging their toothlessness, the Arab League tries to bare its teeth in response to recent criticisms of the “observer mission” in Syria:

Syria’s military has withdrawn from residential areas and is on the outskirts of the country’s cities, but gunfire continues and snipers are still a threat, according to the secretary-general of the Arab League.

Nabil El-Araby said on Monday that security forces have not stopped shooting at protesters in Syria, despite the presence of an Arab League observer mission in the country.

“Yes, there is still shooting and, yes, there are still snipers,” El-Araby told a news conference in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, where the Arab League is based.

“Yes, killings continue. The objective is for us to wake up in the morning and hear that no one is killed. The mission’s philosophy is to protect civilians, so if one is killed, then our mission is incomplete.” “There must be a complete ceasefire,” he added.

El-Araby also said tanks and artillery have been pulled out from cities and residential neighbourhood. He added that food supplies had reached residents and bodies of dead protesters had been recovered.

At least 150 people have been killed since the observers began their mission last Tuesday to verify the compliance of President Bashar al-Assad’s government with an Arab League peace plan aimed at ending the nine-month-old crackdown on anti-government protesters.

“We call upon the Syrian government to fully commit to what it promised,” El-Araby said.

No more partial commitments. Then all will be fine.

The notion that the league of Arab tyrants are in a position to monitor human rights violations in a sister country is ridiculous. To make the exercise of the Arab League mission more absurd, Qatar selected an intelligence commander from the tyrannical regime of Omar al-Bashir of Sudan to head the Arab League monitoring mission. Those representatives of Arab tyrants wouldn’t recognize human rights violations even if they hit them in the face. The exact nature of their mission is not clear. As’ad AbuKhalil, Arab League Monitors via Al Akhbar (via charquaouia)

(via charquaouia-deactivated20120116)