Peripheral Revision

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Archive for the ‘Syria’ Category

U.S. secretly backed Syrian opposition groups, cables released by WikiLeaks show

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Craig Whitlock, Washington Post, April 17, 2011

The State Department has secretly financed Syrian political opposition groups and related projects, including a satellite TV channel that beams anti-government programming into the country, according to previously undisclosed diplomatic cables.

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. Human rights groups say scores of people have been killed by Assad’s security forces since the demonstrations began March 18; Syria has blamed the violence on “armed gangs.”

Barada TV is closely affiliated with the Movement for Justice and Development, a London-based network of Syrian exiles. Classified U.S. diplomatic cables show that the State Department has funneled as much as $6 million to the group since 2006 to operate the satellite channel and finance other activities inside Syria. The channel is named after the Barada River, which courses through the heart of Damascus, the Syrian capital.

The U.S. money for Syrian opposition figures began flowing under President George W. Bush after he effectively froze political ties with Damascus in 2005. The financial backing has continued under President Obama, even as his administration sought to rebuild relations with Assad. In January, the White House posted an ambassador to Damascus for the first time in six years.

The cables, provided by the anti-secrecy Web site WikiLeaks, show that U.S. Embassy officials in Damascus became worried in 2009 when they learned that Syrian intelligence agents were raising questions about U.S. programs. Some embassy officials suggested that the State Department reconsider its involvement, arguing that it could put the Obama administration’s rapprochement with Damascus at risk.

Syrian authorities “would undoubtedly view any U.S. funds going to illegal political groups as tantamount to supporting regime change,” read an April 2009 cable signed by the top-ranking U.S. diplomat in Damascus at the time. “A reassessment of current U.S.-sponsored programming that supports anti-[government] factions, both inside and outside Syria, may prove productive,” the cable said.

It is unclear whether the State Department is still funding Syrian opposition groups, but 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, which said disclosure could endanger the recipients’ personal safety.

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04/18/2011 at 12:51 pm

Posted in Syria

The House of Saud won’t wake up

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Brian Downing, Asia Times, April 16, 2011

The once seemingly overwhelming momentum of the democratic movements in the Middle East has been stopped or at least slowed in many countries. The forces behind staunching the tide of change are often domestic in nature, but Saudi Arabia is playing an important supporting role – sometimes behind the scenes, sometimes through open use of force. These actions will have consequences throughout the region for quite some time.

Saudi Arabia and Iran

Once the “twin pillars” of US policy in the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia and Iran have become increasingly antagonistic over the past three decades. This was especially so after the Saudis supported Iraq’s lengthy and bloody war with Iran in the 1980s, which included a handful of air skirmishes between Saudi and Iranian aircraft.

More recently, Saudi Arabia has helped to build a coalition of Sunni Arab states opposed to Iranian influence and nuclear research. Such is the fear of Iran in Saudi Arabia that it is reportedly willing to grant fly-over rights for Israel to attack Iran.

The House of Saud’s concern with Iran has become a veritable obsession. It can be usefully likened to the obsession US national security institutions had for the Soviet Union during some of the more heated moments of the Cold War when many reformist movements around the world were deemed the machinations of Soviet intelligence officers. A pertinent case in point would be the Central Intelligence Agency’s conviction that the popular uprising that unseated the shah was the work of the Soviet KGB.

Similarly, the House of Saud has badly misinterpreted reform movements both inside the kingdom and throughout the region. The various crowds that assembled peacefully to call for a voice in their future are seen as the nefarious work of Iranian intelligence officers.

However, there is no evidence of Iranian intelligence personnel in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia, where the kingdom’s Shi’ite minority is concentrated, or in neighboring Bahrain, where the Shi’ites constitute 70% of the population. In both countries, Shi’ite and Sunni alike called for social and political change. “No Shi’ite, no Sunni, Just Bahraini.” Neither group needed foreign operatives to tell them that their futures were limited by monarchal cliques or that the Shi’ites were looked down upon and excluded from many parts of public life.

Nonetheless, the Saudis responded swiftly and forcefully. They issued dire warnings before the called-for demonstrations of March 11 in their country and security forces immediately set upon groups trying to coalesce that day, intimidating and beating them before they could form the numbers that assembled in Cairo until Hosni Mubarak had to step down. Outside the kingdom, Saudi national guard troops crossed the causeway into Bahrain and helped to crush the protest movement in Pearl Square with considerable loss of life.
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04/15/2011 at 4:31 pm

Honduras: The Forgotten Coup

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Gustavo J. Fuchs, Peace & Conflict Monitor, April 4, 2011

Contributing columnist Gustavo Fuchs details the lack of media coverage of violent repression against the popular resistance movement in post-coup Honduras, contrasting the underreported Honduran realities with the media’s recent obsession with popular demonstrations in the Middle East. Fuchs highlights the Honduran government’s repressive response to teachers’ strikes and impunity towards campesino murders – virtually absent in the headlines. Selective media bias in support of hypocritical Western agendas has left the Honduras resistance to fend for itself while the Middle East gets all the attention.


While the world watches with amazement the repression in the Middle East, the Honduran post-coup de facto government continues its systematic brutality against any popular dissent. While aggrandizing democratic ideals across the Middle East, Obama and his administration have to be held accountable for their failure to support democracy in their own backyard.

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04/05/2011 at 11:45 pm

Scahill: US wages covert war in Yemen – RT News

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“[It’s] actually a consistent US policy of supporting ruthless and brutal dictators as long as they’re doing the bidding of the United States” – Jeremy Scahill

From RT News

http://rt.com/usa/news/yemen-violence-usa-libya-war/

Violence in the Arab world continued to escalate, as thousands of protesters in Yemen took to the streets demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Jeremy Scahill, an investigative journalist & author of “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army” explained there is a solid contradiction between how the US is addressing Libya and how it is looking at Yemen.
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04/03/2011 at 3:21 pm

The Larger Game in the Middle East: Iran

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Libya is a sideshow. Containing Iran’s power remains their central goal in the Middle East. Every decision — from Libya to Yemen to Bahrain to Syria — is being examined under the prism of how it will affect what was, until mid-January, the dominating calculus in the Obama administration’s regional strategy: how to slow Iran’s nuclear progress, and speed the arrival of opportunities for a successful uprising there.

David Sanger, The New York Times, April 2, 2011

On a Tuesday afternoon in mid-March in the White House Situation Room, as President Obama heard the arguments of his security advisers about the pros and cons of using military force in Libya, the conversation soon veered into the impact in a far more strategically vital place: Iran.

The mullahs in Tehran, noted Thomas E. Donilon, the national security adviser, were watching Mr. Obama’s every move in the Arab world. They would interpret a failure to back up his declaration that Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi had “lost the legitimacy to lead” as a sign of weakness — and perhaps as a signal that Mr. Obama was equally unwilling to back up his vow never to allow Iran to gain the ability to build a nuclear weapon.
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04/02/2011 at 7:43 pm

Venezuela Says U.S., Allies Repeating Libya Strategy in Syria

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Venezuelanalysis.com, March 27, 2011

On Saturday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said the United States and other nations are seeking to intervene militarily in Syria using the same strategy as in Libya.

“The supposedly peaceful movements have already begun, and then there will be some deaths and they’ll be accusing the Syrian president of killing his people. Later, the Yankees come and want to bomb the people in order to save them, imagine that,” said President Chavez.

“What shameless cynicism! It’s a new strategy they’ve invented, to generate violent armed conflicts and spill blood in a country in order to then bomb it and intervene and take ownership of its natural resources and convert it into a colony,” Chavez said.
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03/31/2011 at 11:27 am

Posted in Libya, Syria, Venezuela

Chavez voices solidarity with Syrian leader

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UKPA

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has expressed support for Syria’s president, calling him a “humanist” and a “brother” facing a wave of violent protests backed by the United States and its allies.

Mr Chavez’s support for President Bashar Assad follows his defence of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who is fighting rebels backed by international airstrikes.

Venezuela’s socialist leader accused Washington of fomenting the protests in Syria as a pretext for Libya-style airstrikes.

“Now some supposed political protest movements have begun (in Syria), a few deaths … and now they are accusing the president of killing his people and later the Yankees will come to bomb the people to save them,” Mr Chavez said in a televised speech.
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03/27/2011 at 12:26 am

Posted in Libya, Syria, Venezuela