If you have an interest in what is happening throughout the Middle East, I suggest you read this excellent analysis.
Perhaps we'll all understand better what is happening in Iraq and Syria.
We need better leadership, better understanding among decision makers of the tribal/religious issues so different from our culture (but not all that much as America's culture evolves).
For further insight, read my book: "The Camp David Peace Accords 35 Years Later: No War, No Peace."
The Road to Hell in Iraq and Syria | Center for Strategic and International Studies
October 6, 2016
There is nothing pretty about the rubble left behind by the collapse of the U.S. strategy for Syria. One of the most horrifying civil wars in modern history has gotten worse. Russia, Iran, and Assad have all gained at the expense of the United States and its allies, and no credible scenario has promised an early end to the civil war, to the steady build up of factional sectarian and ethnic tensions, or to the long-term threat posed by Islamic extremism and terrorism.
One cannot doubt that the Obama Administration and Secretary Kerry have had good intentions—intentions that might have worked had the other actors shared the same goals as the United States. The problem is that it was never clear that any of the other actors in the conflict—other than our European allies and key UN diplomats like Staffan De Mistura—did share those intentions. The end result is that those good intentions have helped pave the road to hell. The Obama Administration now faces the choice between lame duck and highly uncertain escalation to new levels of forces, and the situation seems likely to get substantially worse between now and when a new Administration will be able to act.
A Plague From Both Their White Houses
Looking back, there are several lessons the United States needs to learn. One is the need to integrate the military and civil dimensions of war. The second is that the use of force is not a matter of force size, but whether the chosen use of force can be decisive enough to both defeat the enemy and create some form of viable outcome.
The Bush Administration made massive use of force without setting clear goals for the civil dimensions of war and the post conflict situation in Iraq—just as it had done earlier in Afghanistan. It repeated a critical grand strategic mistake the United States had made in Vietnam—failing to shape the civil dimension in ways that could bring security and stability to a weak state and structure of governance, and failing to support the military dimension with the kind of “nation building” that could give tactical victory lasting meaning.
The Obama Administration chose to minimize the use of force, and still constantly repeats the theme that there was no military solution to Iraq and Syria. In fairness, it originally did so because American politics were not prepared to support the costs and casualties of another major deployment of U.S. ground forces, and it was far from clear whether such an intervention would have had local support in a deeply divided and partly hostile Iraq or Syria.
At the same time, the Obama Administration failed to address the fact that there could be no civil solution in either Syria or Iraq without a military solution. It chose to use the absolute minimum of force until an event forced it to slowly escalate. It took close to half a decade to build up an effective train and assist mission and a strategic partnership in Iraq. Its failure to intervene decisively early on in Syria ensured that there was no clear military or nation building option in Syria, and helped ensure that its deeply divided rebel factions became steadily more extreme.
If the Bush Administration was guilty of using excessive force, without a workable civil dimension, the Obama Administration was guilty of using indecisive forces without any meaningful civil effort at all. Both failed to address the reality they were supporting the equivalent of failed states, and that only an effective civil and military operation could produce some kind of lasting victory—if one was really possible at all. Both Administrations also to some extent made the same mistake of assuming that the other actors inside Iraq and Syria shared a common desire for stability and security.
Houses Divided Against Themselves
If Bush pursued the neocon dream that the overthrow of Saddam and the end of history would lead to democracy and common values in Iraq, Obama seems to have had much the same dream about the impact of the “Arab Spring in Syria.” He seems to have hoped a moderate opposition that had no real experience with politics, governance, or development could bring order and progress to Syria.
The key lesson of the British and U.S. civil wars, French and Russian revolutions, most of Europe in 1848, and the collapse of most post colonial attempts at democracy were ignored or forgotten. Weak and inexperienced moderates without guns lose to extremists and those with guns or authoritarian reaction.
The Bush dream of uniting Iraq with Shiite exiles and de-Baathification ignored the realities of Sunni and Shi’ite tensions, the Kurds, Iran’s presence and strategic goals, and the different objectives of the Arab states—including all of America’s allies. It ignored the self-seeking and factional goals of the leaders involved, and never developed workable integrated civil-military plans and efforts. Its surge achieved good tactical results largely because al Qaeda’s treatment of Sunnis was even worse than the central government’s. At the same time, the Bush Administration lacked the will and leverage to create a functional state, and it confused aid with trying to make Iraq a mirror image.
The Obama Administration tried to stand aside from both Iraq and Syria as the situation steadily deteriorated in both countries, and only took serious action when ISIS (ISIL/Daesh) became a massive threat in late 2014. It then chose an “Iraq first” strategy that only now is getting the military resources that were once needed, and it has never found a credible way to bridge the deep divisions between Arab Shi’ite, Arab Sunni, and Kurd; between the factions and extremist within each group; and between their divided and often corrupt leaders.
The Obama Administration has never offered any public explanation of its goals for Iraq; of what happens if ISIS is defeated; of how Iraq can be secure if Syria is not; or for what role it expects Iran to play when it no longer needs U.S. airpower and arms to flow into Iraq.
There are no good analogies to describe the resulting mess, but the focus on ISIS to the near exclusion of other actors seems to be a bit like focusing on a termite problem in a house inhabited by the Hatfields and McCoys, at least four other hostile clans, and all their enemies. There is some hope that Iraqis have suffered so much already that they will not turn to actual fighting, but Iraq is also bankrupt, and “burnout” has always been a very uncertain road to conflict resolution.
As for Syria, the Administration has never honestly faced the steadily growing mess that now exists at either the security or civil levels. It has relied on the myth of effective Syrian moderate forces, and competent moderate political figures with actual followings. It has not addressed the reality that the vast majority of effective Arab rebel fighters against Assad are Islamist extremists with ties to al Qaeda. It has been equally unwilling to admit that Syria’s Kurds are effective fighters, but are divided and anything but moderate nationalists. It never addresses the fact that it is fighting ISIS in Eastern Syria, but most of Syria’s population is in the West where Assad is now gaining.
The Administration has never begun to explain how any ceasefire could lead to a workable government, deal with the anger and hatred growing out of the war, cope with nearly 5 million refugees and more than 7 million internally dispersed persons, and an economy only 20-25% of the size it was when the civil war began. Iraq is merely deeply divided and bankrupt, Syria is a desperate mess whose population has no clear hope for recovery, and suffers more by the week. It also has never publically addressed the fact that the defeat of ISIS in the East may end in dispersing many of its foreign fighters as terrorists while its Arab fighters join the Islamist extremist Arab rebels.
Enter the Outside Actors
Worse, a divided Iraq and Syria are now only part of the problem. Both a lame duck Obama Administration and the new Administration face a massive strategic shift since ISIS became a major factor in Iraq and Syria. The United States no longer dominates the military and civil scene.
Iran has steadily expanded its influence in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. Turkey has actively intervened in Syria, is at war with its own Kurds, and has chosen sides in the Kurdish factional fighting in Iraq. The other Arab states have increasingly become pro-Sunni rather than “Arab,” but have failed to establish any serious power base or influence in Iraq, and seem more limited to arming Syrian Arab rebels rather than exercising any great influence over them.
Just as defeating ISIS in key urban areas like Mosul and Raqqa may end in creating new mixtures of Sunni extremists in Syria and Iraq, the internal ethnic and sectarian alignments in Iraq and Syria are likely to see even more Turkish and Iranian involvement the moment the “Caliphate” is gone.
Here, one key issue that United States will have to address is that the U.S. and its European allies may see ISIS as the primary threat or strategic focus of the fighting, but none of the regional states see ISIS as the primary threat. ISIS has been contained for over a year to the point where the key question for every local state and faction is what serves its interests relative to competing states and factions, and how this interacts with the broader struggle for the future of Islam that now increasingly is Sunni vs. Shiite and Alawite, and moderate/traditionalist vs. extremist.
It is not fair to blame the Bush or the Obama Administration for the lack of good options. As the UN’s Arab Development Reports—and the analyses of UNDP, IMF and World Bank—pointed out a decade or more before the Arab spring, the MENA region was headed for a major crisis because of misgovernment, corruption, and failed development and economic policies.
Every event since the uprising of 2011 has made this situation worse, and Turkish, Iranian, and outside Arab influence adds one more set of problems to the problems of Syria and Iraq at a time that tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia keep rising. The end result is a steady decline in U.S. leverage that has scarcely been help by JASTA and rising U.S. tensions, and a U.S. and European political climate that makes power projection and aid even more difficult.
Exit the Stage Chased by a Bear?
The final variable is Russia. There are good reasons why Shakespeare’s The Winters Tale is rarely performed. Like Iraq and Syria it is something of an ungovernable mess, and it is most famous for a single stage direction—“exit the stage chased by a bear.”
The practical question for both the twilight months of the Obama Administration, and the dawn of the next Administration, is exactly how much pressure Russia will put on the United States vs. the pressure the United States will put on Russia. In blunt terms, there are only three options: The Bear chases the United States off the stage, the United States chases the Bear, or the United States and the Bear end up in an ongoing confrontation.
There is no way to really know how much hope and trust Secretary Kerry ever put in Sergei Lavrov. As long as the White House refused any form of more decisive military action, Kerry had to play the only hand he was dealt. Still, it has never been clear why the Obama Administration or anyone else thought that Russia would play by U.S. rules or share the same goals and values.
Russia never had all that much reason to care about ISIS in Syria and Iraq as long as the United States was committed to containing or defeating it. It is equally unclear why Putin felt a naval facility in Syria was all that critical or could not be retained after Assad’s fall. It was even less clear why Putin would think the stability of the MENA region was better than leaving it an unstable challenge to the United States and Europe. Russia is effectively a petro economy that has everything to gain from any uncertainty in oil and gas exports in the Gulf that raise prices and the demand for Russian exports.
No outcome in Syria was going to ease relations in Putin’s major areas of concern: Russia’s prestige and influence, and its control over the Ukraine and the “near abroad.” Moreover, this was never a game where Russia faced a “quagmire” unless it grossly overcommitted to a limited objective.
Russia never showed much humanitarian restraint in Chechnya or the Ukraine, and had no great reason to see any part of the Arab rebels as potential allies. Putin did not have to engage in anything like starting a “new Cold War,” when it could make major gains for Russia in 19th Century geopolitical terms at minimal risk and cost. Moreover, Russia effectively “won” enough to justify its intervention at its very start in September 2015—simply by showing it could intervene in the Middle East without any U.S. reaction.
Russia became an instant major player in the MENA region, and it never had to up the ante if Assad still lost, particularly if it retains its naval base in some ceasefire or conflict resolution deal. The military costs have been limited and well worth spending simply to test Russian military systems and gain operational experience.
This confronts the United States and the new Administration with three realities. First, Russia is a now broad strategic rival and is likely to remain so at least as long as Putin is in power. Second, the United States can’t rebalance to Asia away from Europe or the Middle East. And third, short of being chased off the stage, the United States will have to play out a weak hand in Syria to limit and contain Russian influence.
U.S. options simply are not that good. Arming the Arab rebels with effective air defenses is an option, but a dangerous one that could easily see these systems turned against Western targets. Using countervailing power by arming the Ukraine is another option, but one where Russia can up the ante in the Eastern Ukraine, pressure Poland and the Baltic states, or provide more advanced arms to Iran.
If there is a quagmire, it really isn’t Russia that faces the greatest problems. Russia really doesn’t need a favorable outcome in Syria or a stable Middle East. The result may well be a legacy where the next President inherits the combined legacies of both Iraq and Syria, and the new Great Game moves Central and South Asia to the Middle East. The unfortunate fact is that the Bear doesn’t have to chase the United States off the stage.
I just read an NBC interview with President Assad.
He keeps saying whether he remains President of Syria depends on the wishes of the Syrian people AND not the interests of the U.S. government which he believes has no true set of policies, but rather appears bent on chaos in the Middle East.
Hillary is doing Israel's bidding and Assad is willing to fight to get all those terrorists out of Syria and defeated.
He says Russia's interests are to defeat ISIS, Al Qaida, Al Nusra, et al before they attack Russia.
But he believes the U.S. should be fighting ISIS much more effectively than it is now.
The U.S. has, as we know, hired mercenaries to fight Assad, with financing from Qatar and Saudi Arabia (we knew this but its rarely reported in the U. S. media).
It seems to me that Assad should not be "removing" our president and conversely, the U.S. (Obama/Hillary) have no business removing the president of a sovereign nation, Syria - As we did in Libya, Egypt, Iraq.
He intends to defeat ISIS, et al with Russia's help, but welcomes the U.S. in that fight.
On Syria and Immigration.
By way of introduction I feel particularly qualified to write on this subject because of my families ongoing ties with the region.
I recently received a welcomed email from my 20-year old cousin Abdullah “Abboud” Zein. Earlier, Abboud had sought my unsuccessful assistance in hopes of migrating to America from Damascus, Syria where he lived with his parents, my cousins, who have lived in that city for hundreds of years. For the past five years they have been suffering from bombings, terrorist attacks by ISIS, Al Qaeda, Al Nusra Brigade, all extremist Islamists seeking to topple the Assad government and convert Syria from a secular state to an Islamic state. The Assad government has protected minorities including Christians, Jews, Alawhites, and Druze (the latter two being Shiite branches in a nation with 80% mostly moderate Sunni Moslems). The Zein family believes they would have already perished during the now 5-year war if not for Assad’s government.
Abboud told me he had finally found a way out of the turmoil of Damascus to safety, freedom and a way to continue his education, a major foundation of Syrian and Lebanese Christian families. Likely the same for most moderate Sunni Moslems.
Recently, he escaped through Turkey, found passage on a small boat to Crete then to Greece as a refugee among the millions driven away by the scourge of the extremist Jihadists. Penniless, Abboud then travelled north through Europe and finally arrived in the Netherlands where the government provides housing for immigrants. He quickly enrolled in the university and is comfortably pursuing his graduate degree in business administration and marketing. He still holds on to his dream of coming to America to eventually pursue business opportunities but these days, it seems most Syrian refugees are not welcome in these United States.
The Netherlands with a population of 17 million has accepted 2,600 Syrian refugees. Canada with 30 million people has welcomed over 25, 000. My friends in Montreal tell me the Syrian refugees are overall better educated than Canadians, seek no government assistance and very soon start their own businesses or resume their professions.
The U.S. with 300 million citizens has, as of latest reports, vetted and accepted just 2,500 Syrian refugees, shame on our government. Whatever happened to our Statue of Liberty and all it stands for? Are we so protective or selfish with our beautiful nation?
In my research, I found that despite all the political brouhaha over immigration and the fear our politicians and media, especially CNN with its new “tabloid” format, have depicted immigration into the United States today as “dangerous and overwhelming,” this ratio percentage is less than or equal to the immigration numbers following World War II. Most immigrants after World War II were driven from devastation in France, England, the Baltics, Germany, and Eastern Europe.
Were we less xenophobic then? The United Nations carefully vets all requesting refugees from Syria, a process taking up to two years. In addition, our government has built an extraordinary regimen of vetting that is so comprehensive very few are able to survive the process.
Four years ago, my cousin’s family migrated from the very small village of Douma, my father’s ancient homeland village in the northern mountains of Lebanon, to Palm Beach County near family members. Their father immediately found work driving construction heavy equipment and the children, Abraham, 15, and Grace, 14, settled in immediately and enrolled in local public
schools; their mother, unable to speak English, suffered the most and became quite lonely.
Although the family had lived in a village of only 2,500 inhabitants, Abraham and Grace amazed everyone here by testing two years ahead of their classmates. They each spoke Arabic, French and English, and, as a result, Grace helped her classmates with French lessons. Both children received straight A’s and got academic scholarships to nearby universities. While it was very difficult for
their mother and father to leave their homeland, friends, relatives, their work and familiar customs, they brought their children so they could have safer, better lives. Their principles of their faith, religion, family and education are vital as they have been throughout our family and most Syrian and Lebanese families.
Why do I feel strongly about Syrian refugees? And why should Americans care?
First, America, like many developed countries, needs more young, educated, and energetic workers to provide for the aging population. Second, these United States has been the beneficiary of immigrants since it was founded. Most immigrants are “hungry” for good lives, work very hard, seek the best education possible and eagerly want to build a family in safety with simply an
opportunity to succeed. The benefits to our nation’s society are so immense and have been since the first immigrants arrived here. We need them as much as they need us.
See also my historical/romance novels Beyond the Cedars and the The Immigrant, a trilogy, in addition to my memoir The Camp David Peace Accords 35 Years Later: No War, No Peace.
"All minorities you mentioned do not make more than 15% of the Syrian population. I am glad they are protected, but what about the fate of the other 85% of the population, does it matter to you at all!"
My reply. I understand, as you do, that minorities within Syria constitute about 15% of the total population, and that the majority are Sunni Muslims.
Isn't it ironic that Syria's neighbor, Iraq is predominately Shiite?
Syria and Iraq, both under the Baath Party, have governed secular nations, meaning freedom of religion and equal rights for women. I favor that.
Being of the Syria Orthodox church, I naturally am concerned about the same, particularly because I still have cousins, uncles and others in Damascus.
It is very regrettable that, generals and other leaders, principally Sunni Muslims hate America and lead ISIS.
As you know, the US government sees the Middle East through the lens of Israel, unfortunately turning its back on the Arab and Muslim people as the citizens of America. I am grateful to be here but many times, like many Americans, I disagree with the actions of our government.
Obama called for Assad "To go". In my opinion he opened the flood gates to every extremists group and removing Assad without a political settlement is foolhardy. The existing government performs many things within a political infrastructure which would disappear creating additional chaos.
Russia instead supports Assad, believing that it does no good for the Syrian people to have him forcibly removed and need to "nation build" (As the U.S. incorrectly believes it has been doing in Iraq and Afghanistan.)
In time Syria will have to rebuild every aspect: infrastructure, highways, electricity, water and sewer, buildings and a social culture with trust.
I pray I will live long enough to see that."
ON SYRIAN REFUGEES My Canadian friend Don asked
Why the U.S. is so afraid of allowing Syrian refugees into the U.S.?
Don lives part of the year in South Florida and part in Montreal, Canada and is a citizen of Canada. He told me there are more than 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada at this time and there has been no trouble. He told me the Syrians, by and large are better educated than Canadians, do not want government subsidies, and are eager to start their own businesses. Last Sunday evening on 60 Minutes, the Canadian Prime Minister was interviewed, repeated that indeed, Canada has opened its arms to Syrian refugees and have accepted 25,000 saying the U.N spends up to 24 months vetting each refugee followed by Canadian vetting and that he is absolutely confident they are good people.
Now compare Canada's population of 36 million with that of the US 300 million.
Don added that the churches and Syrian/Lebanese communities help the refugees with food, clothing, housing and getting them jobs. Sounds like the American culture of our past when America was the beacon of hope for the world. It seems today too many of us feel, "I've got mine. You get yours somewhere else."
Doesn't reflecting our proud Judeo - Christian beliefs does it?
I told my friend, Don that it appears our politicians and media and thus our citizens are consumed with FEAR and ANGER like we've never seen before (perhaps after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 2941) when President Roosevelt famously said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."
Even Florida with 20 million residents refuses to accept a tiny 1300 or so. Why?
There are already thousands of Moslems in Florida and more Syrian Americans, mostly Christians. Almost all own their own businesses or are among families that do. Syrians make wonderful citizens in America.
Surely we and our Intelligence community are capable of protecting us.
And, I understand, of the 350 reported arrests of Moslems in the U.S., more than 90% were because fellow good citizen Moslems reported them to the police when they saw anything suspicious.
I just signed the petition "Syrian ceasefire talks must include Christian representatives" on CitizenGO. Will you sign it too?
Join this petition! Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon: Syrian cease fire talks must include Christian representatives: http://www.citizengo.org/en/pr/32890-syrian-ceasefire-talks-must-include-christian-representatives?tc=gm&tcid=20232069
A Statement on the Cease Fire in Syria Feb. 15th 2016.
All peace-loving people everywhere applaud the unanimous agreement to a cease fire throughout Syria.
More than 12 million, TWELVE MILLION!, at least, innocents have been driven from their homes (displaced internally and abroad)!
My relatives, some still in Damascus, have been traumatized, threatened and bombed. They have been unable to get food except during the few quiet hours in the morning or the evening. Schools have been targeted by opposition and ISIS (al Qaida), ITA branch of Al Nousra.
Like Hussein in Iraq, Assad, while a strong man, never was a threat to America. Both Hussein of Iraq and Assad were Baath Party leaders. Assad strongly enforced a secular society, with freedom of religion, freedom from religion and protection of woman's rights, religious rights and minorities including Christians, Jews, Druze and Alawites.
In Iraq, 75% of the population was Shiite while Hussein was Sunni. In Syria 80% of the people were Sunni, while Assad and his own people are Alawites, a Shiite branch and a true minority in Syria.
My cousins as all innocent Syrians welcome the unanimous agreement to a truce allowing humanitarian aid to arrive especially in Aleppo, once a magnificent city with a very large Christian population, and where the Episcopal church has been feeding, housing and sheltering innocent women, men and children for 4 years!
While everyone is happy about the truce and cease fire, all are wary.
Remember that ISIS, Al Qaida and other terrorist groups opposing the Assad government are not parties to this agreement and could resume the fighting, bombing and shooting, as well as throwing rockets on and kidnapping and killing innocents.
We will all see if the superpowers can enforce this agreement.
Actually, many believe Russia has been on Assad's side all along, and will continue so
If the U.S. succeeds in pushing Assad out, there would be a chaotic vacuum that ISIS would fill, and innocents, especially Christians like my relatives, would perish and disappear from their historic land.
Only with peace in Syria can Lebanon reconstruct itself and resume a higher level of stability
I HAVE INCLUDED A MAP OF SYRIA AS A GUIDE TO MY SYRIA PAGES
For a background to the situation in the middle-east please refer to my book The Camp David Accords - 35 years later: No War, No Peace.
The memoir recounts a 1978 trip Sandy Simon made at the request of the then Secretary of State Cyrus Vance to the leading eight Arab counties.
President Jimmy Carter was seeking the information on the political views of those leaders on the proposed Camp David Peace Accords.
Feb 3rd 2016.
Under the U.N. auspices, the parties have arrived in Geneva with President Assad's delegation and an "umbrella" delegation representing several "Opposition" groups, excluding, at Assad's insistence terrorist, extremist Jihadists , IAIS, Al Qaida, Al Nousra Brigade, et al. This group of "Opposition" forces, sponsored by Saudi Arabia insist on toppling Assad. Others, especially minorities in Syria including Christians, Jews, Druze, Alawhites (Shiite branch) support Assad and his insistence on Syria remaining a Secular nation whereby freedom of religion for all, women's equal rights are strongly protected. They fear since Syria is the place of a "Proxy War between Iran (Shiite) and Saudi Arabia (Sunni), the Saudi influence pressed by the extremist Wahabi tribe in S.A. and its "Moral police" are striving to remake Syria into an Islamic state and sectarian. Syrians for thousands of years have insisted on free enterprise. Even during the cold war when the Soviet Union was the singular supporter yet NOT ONE SYRIAN AGREED TO WORK AT THE HUGE SOVIET EMBASSY
Until 700 A. D., Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Armenia and Lebanon were 100% Christian.
The situation in Syria keeps evolving as the Assad government continues to gain control over more and more of western Syria. (Damascus, Assad's power base, in located in southwest Syria. Russia's base of operations is in and near the major port of Syria, Latakia on the west Mediterranean coast of Syria.
Assad, the Kurds and perhaps the militias the U.S. has armed and trained are doing battle with ISIS and some rebel militias, Al Qaida, Al Nousra and other Islamic extremists including the menacing Muslim Brotherhood continue to battle Assad.
The U.S. has agreed with Russia not to demand that Assad be removed before negotiations begin which are currently in their preliminary stages as they seek to define who the negotiating partners will be.
The 4 year chaos in Syria continues unabated. - October 20th 2015
Old militias including Al Qaida, Sunni, (Osama Bin Laden), The Al Nusra Brigade (from Iraq) and ISIS (Sunni) continue their assault on the Assad regime, and on Christians and "Non believers"
When President Obama declared "Assad MUST GO!" these militias decided to fill the vacuum everyone thought would occur in Syria as Assad surely would fall if the (misguided) U.S. demand came true.
The President's absurd statement satisfied only Netanyahu and the Neo cons (the people who had convinced President Bush to destroy Iraq government and Iraq, one of the only two SECULAR Arab states, i.e. all citizens free to worship as they choose).
Hillary Clinton, President Obama and John Kerry, ill advised, decided to spend $500 million to train "Moderates". These moderates, who were mostly Muslim Brotherhood and anti Assad were "carefully vetted" by Turkey who is in bed with the Muslim Brotherhood and hates Assad. This training turned out to be an abject FAILURE! and is now being revised.
ASSAD HAS NOT GONE AND HIS MAJOR ALLY, RUSSIA, HAS FILLED THE SECOND U.S. VACUUM.
Russia is attacking ISIS and Assad's opposition and is wanting Assad to survive under the condition he accepts a political solution. Time will tell where Syria goes now. Yet, meanwhile, millions of innocent Syrian women, men and children are refugees seeking safety in Europe, Lebanon, Jordan and the Mediterranean nations.
Our policies in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria are so ill advised and are reaping nothing but enemies
and ill will while draining the U.S. of its treasures, moral standing and resources (aside from the "Military/Industrial complex President Eisenhower warned us about).
Alexander A Simon Jr
A Prayer for the Victims of the Syrian Conflict
We pray for those damaged by the fighting in Syria.
To the wounded and injured:
Come Lord Jesus.
To the terrified who are living in shock:
Come Lord Jesus
To the hungry and homeless, refugee and exile:
Come Lord Jesus
To those bringing humanitarian aid:
Give protection Lord Jesus
To those administering medical assistance:
Give protection Lord Jesus.
To those offering counsel and care:
Give protection Lord Jesus.
For all making the sacrifice of love:
Give the strength of your Spirit
and the joy of your comfort.
In the hope of Christ we pray. Amen.
-Church of England Prayers for Syria
September 15, 2015
Episcopal Relief & Development is engaging the Syrian crisis through support to agencies in Syria, to the Diocese of Jerusalem’s Holy Land Institute for the Deaf and in support of large numbers of people traveling out of crisis areas into Europe. The agency is in contact with Anglican Communion partners through The Episcopal Church’s Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe and The Church of England’s Diocese in Europe, as well as interfaith partners such as Islamic Relief.
“Our relationships with Anglican Communion and ecumenical organizations enable us to contribute efficiently and effectively to the relief of those fleeing the Syrian conflict,” said Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Senior Vice President for Programs. “These agencies are leveraging our support to meet critical needs for basic supplies, as well as language and cultural mediation to lower the anxiety of displacement and help people access available services.”
In Italy, St. Paul’s Within the Walls Episcopal Church in Rome operates the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center as its primary outreach ministry, providing a safe space for 200-250 individuals per day to access legal, vocational, medical and language services. Episcopal Relief & Development support will enable the Center to expand its ministry to serve the increased number of displaced people seeking safety and assistance.
The Church of England’s Diocese in Europe plans to distribute emergency funds to churches in Greece, Italy, France and Hungary that are responding to the needs of displaced people for food, clothing, shelter materials and medical supplies. The Diocese is reportedly working with Orthodox churches in these areas as well, which expands the capacity to ensure needs are met.
Islamic Relief is active on the island of Lesvos, Greece, where Syrians fleeing the conflict arrive at the northern town of Molyvos, closest to Turkey, and travel to the southeastern town of Mitilini in order to take the ferry to the mainland. Arabic-speaking Islamic Relief staff, working with other organizations and local volunteers, are offering food and guidance to those arriving, including information about transportation options such as buses to save the 40-mile journey on foot.
Please continue to pray for all those fleeing violence and unrest. Contributions to the Syria Response Fund will help Syrians fleeing violence as the country's civil war enters its fifth year.
WITH THE PRESENT SITUATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST IT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER TO UNDERSTAND THE HISTORY OF THE REGION - SANDY'S BOOK - A Memoir - The CAMP DAVID ACCORDS 35 years later: No War, No Peace. -- (B&W and Full Color copies are available) Gives a you this overview of the history
See Book Page for FULL information and follow link to order.
New York Times
Photograph - President Bashar al-Assad with troops in Damascus. In one Russian idea, his government and the opposition would share power. Credit Syrian Arab News Agency, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
U.S. Signals Shift on How to End Syrian Civil War
By ANNE BARNARD and SOMINI SENGUPTA JAN. 19, 2015
BEIRUT, Lebanon — American support for a pair of diplomatic initiatives in Syria underscores the shifting views of how to end the civil war there and the West’s quiet retreat from its demand that the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, step down immediately.
The Obama administration maintains that a lasting political solution requires Mr. Assad’s exit. But facing military stalemate, well-armed jihadists and the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the United States is going along with international diplomatic efforts that could lead to more gradual change in Syria.
That shift comes along with other American actions that Mr. Assad’s supporters and opponents take as proof Washington now believes that if Mr. Assad is ousted, there will be nothing to check the spreading chaos and extremism. American planes now bomb the Islamic State group’s militants in Syria, sharing skies with Syrian jets. American officials assure Mr. Assad, through Iraqi intermediaries, that Syria’s military is not their target. The United States still trains and equips Syrian insurgents, but now mainly to fight the Islamic State, not the government.
Now, the United States and other Western countries have publicly welcomed initiatives — one from the United Nations and one from Russia — that postpone any revival of the United States-backed Geneva framework, which called for a wholesale transfer of power to a “transitional governing body.” The last Geneva talks failed a year ago amid vehement disagreement over whether that body could include Mr. Assad.
One of the new concepts is a United Nations proposal to “freeze” the fighting on the ground, first in the strategic crossroads city of Aleppo. The other is an initiative from Russia, Mr. Assad’s most powerful supporter, to try to spur talks between the warring sides in Moscow in late January. Diplomats and others briefed on the plans say one Russian vision is of power-sharing between Mr. Assad’s government and some opposition figures, and perhaps parliamentary elections that would precede any change in the presidency.
But the diplomatic proposals face serious challenges, relying on the leader of a rump state who is propped up by foreign powers and hemmed in by a growing and effective extremist force that wants to build a caliphate. Many of America’s allies in the Syrian opposition reject the plans, and there is little indication that Mr. Assad or his main allies, Russia and Iran, feel any need to compromise. The American-backed Free Syrian Army is on the ropes in northern Syria, once its stronghold, and insurgents disagree among themselves over military and political strategy.
And perhaps most of all, the Islamic State controls half of Syria’s territory, though mostly desert, and it has managed to strengthen its grip even as the United States and its allies try to oust it from neighboring Iraq.
Still, Secretary of State John Kerry declared last week that the United States welcomed both initiatives. He made no call for Mr. Assad’s resignation, a notable omission for Mr. Kerry, who has typically insisted on it in public remarks. Instead, he spoke of Mr. Assad as a leader who needed to change his policies.
“It is time for President Assad, the Assad regime, to put their people first and to think about the consequences of their actions, which are attracting more and more terrorists to Syria, basically because of their efforts to remove Assad,” Mr. Kerry said.
On Thursday in Geneva, Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations envoy for the crisis in Syria, also signaled a tactical shift, saying that “new factors” such as the growth of the Islamic State, also called ISIS or ISIL, must be taken into account. He said there was no point in trying to organize a third round of Geneva talks before building unambiguous support from both the Syrian government and its opponents for some kind of “Syrian political process.”
The urgent search for a political solution, Mr. de Mistura said, must “bear in mind” not only the Geneva framework, “but also the need to adjust aspirations without preconditions, in line with the new factors which have come up in the reality of the area, such as ISIS.”
The shifts reflect a longstanding view among United Nations officials in Syria that the West must adapt to the reality that Syrian insurgents have failed to defeat Mr. Assad. Syrians on both sides have said frequently in interviews that they fear the growing influence of foreign militants, and while they mistrust all international players that have financed warring parties, they are willing to explore compromise with other Syrians.
Western diplomats who had long called for Mr. Assad’s immediate resignation say now that while he must not indefinitely control crucial institutions like the military, a more gradual transition may be worth considering.
One Western diplomat at the United Nations said that while a “post-Assad phase” must eventually come, “the exact timing of that, we can discuss,” as long as the solution does not “cement his position in power.”
Western leaders now openly talk about a deal allowing some current officials to remain to prevent Syria from disintegrating, like Iraq and Libya.
“The political solution will of course include some elements of the regime because we don’t want to see the pillars of the state fall apart. We would end up with a situation like Iraq,” the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, told a French radio station last Monday.
At the same time, such statements have further alienated Washington from ordinary anti-Assad Syrians and rank-and-file insurgents, reinforcing the idea that the West has decided to tolerate Mr. Assad.
The view that the United States supports Mr. Assad is spreading even among the groups receiving direct American financing, groups deemed moderate enough to receive arms and work with a United States-run operations center in Turkey. A fighter with Harakat Hazm, one such group, said Wednesday that America was “looking for loopholes to reach a political solution and keep al-Assad.”
Tarek Fares, a secular Syrian Army defector who long fought with the loose-knit nationalist groups known as the Free Syrian Army but who has lately quit fighting, joked bitterly about American policy one recent night in Antakya, Turkey. “This is how the Americans talk,” he said. “They say, ‘We have a red line, we will support you, we will arm you.’ They do nothing, and then after four years they tell you Assad is the best option.”
The United Nations freeze proposal tries to improve on efforts over the last 18 months inside Syria, where the government and insurgents have reached local cease-fire deals to restore basic services and aid delivery — most recently on Thursday in the Waer neighborhood of the city of Homs.
But those cease-fires have never had the imprimatur of international bodies, and they often collapse. With a few exceptions they have amounted to insurgents’ surrender to a government strategy of siege and starvation.
Juliette Touma, a spokeswoman for Mr. de Mistura, said that his plan would not resemble the past cease-fires, and that the United Nations, not the Syrian government, would be the guarantor. Yet even the modest Aleppo proposal is on shaky ground. While Mr. Assad has said he will consider it, his government has not signed off on the plan; Mr. de Mistura’s deputy arrived Sunday in Damascus for consultations.
The Moscow talks are arguably in worse shape. While Mr. Kerry said he hoped the talks “could be helpful,” several crucial opposition groups have refused to attend and say the United States has not pressured them to go.
That leaves American policy ambiguous, offering only modest verbal support to the new mediation efforts while continuing to finance some Syrian insurgents, yet not enough to seriously threaten Mr. Assad. Even a new program to train them to fight ISIS will not field fighters until May.
Critics argue that Washington is simply trying to disengage and offload the Syria problem to Mr. Assad’s allies, Russia and Iran, even at the cost of empowering them.
Still, any attempt to bring the parties to the table should be considered constructive, another Western diplomat said. “You can’t say to the Russians, ‘Go to hell.’ ”
Anne Barnard reported from Beirut, and Somini Sengupta from the United Nations. Reporting was contributed by Nick Cumming-Bruce and Michael R. Gordon from Geneva, and Ben Hubbard and Hwaida Saad from Beirut.
As the U.S. government forms and activates a unifies attack on ISIL, the plan is easier in Iraq because we are in concert with the Kurds and the still weak and non inclusive Iraqi government.
In Iraq the new Shiite controlled government still has not included Sunni members, so some in ISIL will continue to posoiit that the government remains an adversary since most ISIL fighters are Sunni, rebelling for inclusion. Sunnis are in the minority in Iraq, but are the majority (65% plus in Syria, which could mean there are thousands of young Sunni males who demand inclusion in Syria's government, thus, providing potential recruits into ISIL.
The conundrum for the U.S. is that without the existing government's approval allowing attacks on their homeland, the U.S. could be charged with invading a sovereign state.
Actually, attacking ISIL in Syria would be far more successful with government assistance and cooperation on the ground instead of arming the small "Moderate" Opposition?
What are the real reasons Obama and the Congress want Assad out? Is it because we've deemed him a dictator? (consider Russia, China, Cuba, N .Korea, Venezuela and several more: Are we not attacking them.
It just doesn't make sense. Is Syria's government a threat to the U.S. and the American people? There is no evidence Syria has ever been a threat to the U.S., but ISIL is considered an existential threat to the entire Middle East. So, should not the U.S. work with the existing Syrian government if that is by far the most efficient means to defeat ISIL? Our best long term interests would be, many believe, is to ally with Assad to defeat ISIL in exchange for Assad to include Sunnis in his government.
Assad, like Saddam Hussein in Iraq governs a secular state where all minorities, women are free as equals.
We destroyed Iraq for false reasons and now we appear ready to do the same in Syria.
Alexander A Simon Jr
Sandy Simon - We thank you for your action.
We thank this Senator for his support and action - Sandy Simon.
Sen. Nelson plans bill to approve air strikes in Syria
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson is planning to introduce legislation authorizing U.S. air strikes against the Islamic State in Syria, in a bid to ensure President Obama is not waiting on Congress to escalate the military campaign.
When Congress returns next week, Sen. Nelson says he plans to introduce a bill to "ensure there's no question that the president has the legal authority he needs to use air strikes in Syria."
Nelson said in a statement: "Let there be no doubt, we must go after ISIS right away because the U.S. is the only one that can put together a coalition to stop this group that's intent on barbaric cruelty."
Legal analysts and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have long been at odds over what type of military action requires congressional approval -- the debate flared during the 2011 operation in Libya, and amid the threats of military action in Syria last year -- and this case is no different.
Nelson told Fox News on Wednesday that he doesn't personally think the president needs legislative approval for the expanded military action. But he said his legislation would "get rid of" any "ambiguity" for the president. "The head of the snake is in Syria," Nelson said.
The president also has taken heat in recent days for what critics describe as a muddy approach to the Islamic State. Obama admitted last week his team does not have a strategy yet for tackling the group, also known as ISIS, in Syria.
He tried to clarify those remarks during a press conference on Wednesday -- on the heels of another American journalist's execution at ISIS hands -- and suggested the hang-up might be congressional authorization.
"I was specifically referring to the possibility of the military strategy inside of Syria that might require congressional approval," Obama said.
The question of whether Congress needs to weigh in bubbled during the August recess, as lawmakers claimed the issue should be put to a vote. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and others said Congress should play a role.
After Nelson announced his legislation, Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., on Wednesday announced plans to introduce a similar bill.
But whether the president even needs to seek a vote for such military action is an unsettled issue.
The White House and Congress, during any military hostilities, navigate a web of laws and powers deriving from the Constitution, and U.S. laws and policies dating back decades.
One of those is the 1973 War Powers Resolution. The resolution, passed in defiance of then-President Richard Nixon at the end of the Vietnam War, says presidents must seek congressional approval to keep U.S. forces in hostilities for more than two months.
During the Libya operation, the White House argued that the military action did not rise to the level of “hostilities,” while continuing to keep Congress formally apprised.
The White House is doing the same this time, sending Congress formal, written updates on air strikes in northern Iraq, which it says is “consistent with the War Powers Resolution.”
But whether the White House would seek formal congressional approval under that resolution is unclear. Presidents of both parties have defied the 60-day limit in that resolution, ever since its passage.
Another factor is the 2001 authorization for use of force after the 9/11 attack, and the 2002 authorization for use of force in Iraq. But lawmakers have questioned whether either of those authorizations applies here – one complication is that the 2001 measure was against Al Qaeda, and the Islamic State is not technically Al Qaeda.
Still, other legal scholars have pointed simply to the Constitution as the only document that matters here.
John Yoo, who was a major figure in the George W. Bush administration's Justice Department, has argued that despite the provision giving Congress the power to “declare war,” that is not the same as hostilities.
During the debate over military action in Syria last year, he argued that throughout history, “neither presidents nor Congresses have acted under the belief that the Constitution requires a declaration of war before the U.S. can conduct military hostilities abroad.”
He noted that the U.S. only formally declared war five times, while Congress gave “authorization” for using force a handful of other times, including in 2001 in Afghanistan.
But in between those major military actions were more than 100 engagements where military force was used, often against groups – “Indians, Barbary pirates and Russian revolutionaries” – as opposed to enemy nations.
Yoo argues that Congress' “check on the presidency” is, rather, its ability to cut funding for operations it opposes.
Asked Wednesday whether Obama needs further congressional support in the case of ISIS, Yoo told FoxNews.com in an email: "I think that the President has both constitutional and statutory authority."
Information taken from FoxNews.com
My reply to questions from Syrian Journalist - Sept 4th 2014
Dear Maha Atrash, (Khalil Matar) in answer to your questions, listed below, I submit the following.
* To what extent are the American people receptive to the US media presentation versus the role of the Syrian American community explaining the facts?
* As an immigrant Syrian, what does Syria mean to you? Are you thinking of visiting Syria?
* Please give us an idea of your background, career and civil activities.
I respect you and your efforts and hope what I have can help us achieve our common goals The Syrian people have insisted on individual freedom of trade, dignity and integrity for thousands of years. They are rightfully a proud people.
The crisis in Syria is of vital importance to me as a first generation Syrian American and to many Americans who are very sympathetic to abuse of children will respond to images of children being abused. Your film is quite powerful. No one wants to see children killed, abused and have their lives ruined by war.
I love Syria! Its people, its culture its history, and my family's history there of which I am very proud.
My mother's family migrated to Brazil in 1905 as my grandparents brought my infant mother to the United States. Today, there are an estimated ten million Brazilians of Syrian heritage and an estimated fifty million in all of Latin America, nearly all are Christians.
For fourteen years, I served as Senior Vice President of the National Association of Arab Americans (NAAA) 1973-1987, then, in 1978 as part of a four member on a "Fact Finding mission" requested by President Carter's Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance during the Camp David Accords, in 1978. We met with heads of state and highest officials of eight Arab countries. We met with President Hafez Al Assad for 3 hours and with several ministers including the Ministry of Foreign affairs, Foreign Minister, et al.
I wrote a book on that mission as a memoir including verbatim statements of President Assad, King Hussein of Jordan, the Emir of Kuwait, high officials of Iraq, Bahrain, Qatar, the King (2 hours) and high officials of Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon and the PLO (Chairman Arafat, for 3 hours (midnight to 3 A.M). and attended several receptions and held long conversations with Syrian ambassadors to the U.S
The book, THE CAMP DAVID PEACE ACCORDS 35 YEARS LATER: NO WAR, NO PEACE. is available through Amazon.com (my name as author is Sandy Simon).
The U.S. government does not consider Syria an ally, and even now does not want to be considered an ally of Assad even to work together to destroy IS in Syria and Iraq, which I believe is wrong headed. But, remember, being realistic, as long as Syria is considered an adversary of Israel, politically it is not likely the Obama administration nor many in Congress will risk angering the Pro-Israel lobby.
For many years, Syria was a client state of the Soviet Union during the long cold war...(because the U.S.(and therefore Europe) would not sell arms or trade with Syria since the U.S. was so beholden to Israel, as told to me by high Syrian officials
As an adversary of Israel, Syria today is considered by the U.S. government and U.S. media as an adversary of the U.S. The U.S. government is heavily influenced by the richly financed Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington. They are so powerful and influential, they can elect or remove any senator or Congressman by gathering millions of dollars for campaign and large bloc votes to swing a close election in most state and certainly for presidential elections
They can get more than 75% of the Congress and Senate to vote their way on any issue in the Middle East.
Obama and the government choose not to ally with President Assad's government they say in the U.S. media all the time, "because his government is so brutal to his own people and he used chemical weapons on his own people, and three years ago when there were peaceful demonstrations in the streets, his army attacked them..."
Today IS is a growing and brutal force to be reckoned with. I believe Britain is more apt to attack IS than is the U.S. willing to cooperate with the Syrian government to do so. However, the more Americans can see your film with children, the more SAF can become effective, the more Assad's government liberalized, the more likely that can change.
I think there is a growing disdain for Israel's actions, particularly young Americans in the 19-35 age range (as reported recently in the press.) because they haven't been brainwashed for 60 years by Israel's propaganda
IS, Al Nousra, et al. present an existential threat to the entire Middle East and the world., and in the minds of many removing IS is more important, actually critical, to the Western states, especially England, then France, Denmark, et al. than dealing with Assad.
The solution- If the Assad government would meet with the FSA leaders and come to some sort of agreement liberalizing Syria's laws, become more "INCLUSIVE with easing of human tights, that could attract the West to ally with Assad and the FSA and destroy the IS in Syria and Iraq. At the moment the US Appears, to favor working with the FSA and not Assad's government to remove IS from Syria and Iraq. I think very soon Obama will announce his (admittedly late) policy to deal with IS.
Meanwhile, The Syrian American Forum (SAF) is growing across America, making itself known, but it is very young, underfinanced, and not yet considered a powerful political force. I think having Syrian emissaries (attractive, articulate women-with only slight accents- would be best) come to and hold speaking tours in England and America to appear on CNN, FOX, ABC, NBC, Public radio and television to tell everyone what are the real conditions and how the Syrian people are suffering and have for 3 years, and how the Syrian people love America, want to build bridges of understanding with the American people and "look like Americans...light skinned, Christian, clothing, free women, etc. In other words, remove the government image and replace with human images. I think SAF members could host these people and accompany them before the cameras and audiences. (We should create our own propaganda and marketing oriented efforts.
I hope the above helps you.
Alexander A Simon Jr
Message from Sandy Simon Aug 28 2014
I just spoke with a news woman named Maha in Damascus who asked what impact a 5 minute movie now available on the SAF (Syrian American Forum) web site entitled " I WILL LIVE ON." will have the American public. It is a professionally made film with statements of beautiful Syrian children who are shown running from bombs sent to their school and homes by the militants, mostly Islamic State militants who seek to destroy the Syrian culture, its antiquities and its secular society and turn it into an Islamist state. These children want to live. They will live because their fate depends on the good will of the American people to help rid Syria of these cruel Jihadists who present an existential threat to all the Middle East and to the civilized world.
We urge every American to go to the SAF web site: Syrian American Forum.org and spend just a few moments viewing this excellent, tastefully done movie.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: CONTACT
"Sandy" Simon, Chairman, SAF FL Chapter, Member National Policy Committee.
Cell Phone Number: 561-7890928, e mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Report from United Nations Aug 28 2014
More than three million Syrians are now registered as refugees and the desperate crisis is only getting worse, the UN's refugee agency says.
The UNHCR says Syria is now "the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era" with almost half of all Syrians forced to flee their homes.
The majority of refugees have fled to countries neighbouring Syria, with most now seeking shelter in Lebanon.
More than 190,000 have been killed in Syria's three-year civil war.
Opposition groups in Syria have been fighting forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad since his government violently suppressed protests against his rule in March 2011.
The situation has been worsened in recent months by the formation and advance of the Islamic State group, which now controls large swathes of Syria and Iraq.
'Exhausted and scared'
The UNHCR says one in every eight Syrians has fled across the border and a further 6.5 million are displaced within Syria. It says more than half of those uprooted are children.
The number of registered Syrian refugees has soared from two million just under a year ago.
Families arriving at refugee camps in neighbouring countries are exhausted and scared, with some having spent a year or more fleeing from village to village inside Syria.
The UN agency says the journey out of Syria is also becoming tougher, with many people forced to pay bribes to armed gangs.
Where Syrian refugees are
1,175,504 in Lebanon
832,508 in Turkey
613,252 in Jordan
215,369 in Iraq
139,090 in Egypt
23,367 in North Africa
6.5 million others are displaced within Syria
Source: UNHCR - 29 August 2014