Saturday, March 31, 2012

WORLD_ Syria eyewitness dispatch: 'I watched as Assad's tanks rolled in to destroy a rebel town'

Syria eyewitness dispatch: 'I watched as Assad's tanks rolled in to destroy a rebel town'

As President Bashar al-Assad discussed a ceasefire for Syria last week, his tanks continued to crush northern rebel strongholds. In this dispatch from the town of Saraqeb, John Cantlie describes an assault at first hand.

Image 1 of 2
T72 main battle tanks advance into the market square district in Saraquib town centre Photo: JOHN CANTLIE

By John Cantlie
6:00PM BST 31 Mar 2012

The sound of the caterpillar tracks could be felt as much as heard, a deep rumble that sent a rattle through windows and a tremble of fear through the guts.

Then we saw them. Huge Soviet-made T72s, accompanied by troop carriers driving slowly into town, extra plates welded onto the sides to deflect rocket-propelled grenades. It was just after 9.30am, and the tanks were coming to Saraqeb.

"Light the tyres!"

The rebels of the Free Syrian Army in Saraqeb, a farming town of 30,000 in northern Syria, are better organised than many in the surrounding Idlib province. Squaring themselves away into formation around the central marketplace, they poured petrol on to truck tyres and lit them sending plumes of thick black smoke into the air, obscuring the sun and - hopefully - the tank gunners' visibility.

Still the tanks came, driving into town one after another. The troop carriers stopped to take up holding positions, while the T72s turned in pairs to face towards the centre.

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I had been smuggled into Saraqeb last weekend by a local guerrilla unit, keen to show the world that despite playing along with international efforts to broker a ceasefire, President Bashar al-Assad was continuing to use all-out force to crush his opponents. While he agreed last week to a six-point peace plan brokered by the veteran diplomat, Kofi Annan, what I saw for myself suggests the Syrian leader intends anything but.

As Syrian army snipers deployed to Saraqeb's high buildings to provide covering fire, the rebel fighters around me took up positions on street corners and pavements.

Their pick-up trucks screeched to a halt, bringing reinforcements, rocket-propelled grenades and improvised bombs built from gas bottles and steel pipes which are placed against kerbs and disguised with cardboard. Then came the click-clack of 200 Kalashnikovs being loaded, a few unaimed rounds loosed off in anger.

For five tense minutes, nothing happened.

Then the T72s began to advance toward the market square, the shriek of their tracks reverberating up the street as white smoke belched from their engines. Together with several dozen rebels, I watched from 100 yards away as the gun turrets swept first left, then right, scanning the side alleys for threats. For now, their 125mm cannon remained silent.

"Allahu Akbar!"

Chanting the rebel cry of "God is great", one fighter shouldered his RPG launcher, aimed down the tube and fired. The rocket flew straight and true, catching the lead T72 just to the left of the driver's porthole. A cheer went up, the rebels punching the air in celebration. Yet no-one had noticed the rocket had not exploded, but merely shattered into a hundred useless pieces of metal.

And that was when the tanks opened fire.

The first shells punched into nearby buildings, producing a shockwave of sound and a sea of grey dirt and dust that rolled up the road like a tsunami. Fist-size pieces of hot shrapnel sliced through the air, decapitating one fighter instantly.

His rifle clattered against a wall as his friends dragged his headless torso from the line of fire. The body was bloodless, cauterized. Another rebel caught a piece of shell in his leg, a deep femoral bleed that left a crimson trail across the road.

"RPGs! Get more RPGs up here!" shouted one game fighter, to little avail. With no real chain of command, the rebels use as much energy arguing amongst themselves as they do fighting the enemy. As panicky bickering ensued, a woman ushered her terrified children out of the door.

"Please don't shoot from here," she begged the rebels. "My mother is very old and cannot move - if you shoot at them here they will destroy our house."

"We will use our bombs to stop them, I promise," replied a fighter. But home-made bombs do little against a battle tank. As the T72s began shooting at the base of buildings to make them collapse Muktar Nassar, a young man in white robes, ran up with another RPG, one of the few with a functioning warhead.

Clearly terrified at being just 50 yards from a T72, he briefly got the perfect firing angle to hit the tank's more vulnerable side armour, only to be forced to run for cover again as the tank behind his target fired again.

"No good, it's no good" Muktar muttered as we retreated, showered again in dust. Up above, sniper rounds peppered the mosque minarets. The fighting was brutally one-sided. As a show of force it was absolute.

By 3pm the rebels knew it was over, retreating to cover to smoke cigarettes, leaving the tanks to roam and shell as they pleased. In the space of just a few hours, Saraqeb had been broken. Then it was everyone for themselves. Some families remained in their homes, hoping for the best, others threw belongings into cars and headed out of town.

The guerrillas, meanwhile, staged their own chaotic withdrawal, driving cars at 100mph down small country roads to villages beyond range of the shells, while an army helicopter circled overhead. If the tanks hadn't killed the rebels, their driving may have finished the job.

"What could we do against that?" lamented Abdul Karali, a student whose family live in Saraqeb. "We're not soldiers, we have no training and few weapons."

Seven were killed in the fighting that day and 28 wounded. Next morning, Sunday, an attempted rebel counter-attack ended in retreat, the fighters stranding themselves between two tank positions, 500 metres of open ground and a footbridge in full view of government machine guns.

The uprising in Syria is turning into a hit-and-run guerilla war, with the rebels disrupting government forces any way they can. But without money, training or anti-tank weapons, they have little bite. Until the big city businessmen from Damascus and Aleppo commit to the fight, Syria's revolution is a working man's uprising of limited means.

Farmers and students in the countryside sell their belongings to raise the $2,000 required for an AK-47 smuggled from Iraq and to pay $4 for each round of ammunition. But bullets are as much use as a catapult against a T72.

"Until the big cities help us we will scrape along for ways to fight this revolution," said Hussein al-Brahim, an activist from Saraqeb. "But Aleppo businessmen don't want to get involved. They cannot be anti-Assad because he gave them everything."

For those on the receiving end, the smoke and chaos that engulfed Saraqeb last weekend disguised the well-drilled military procedure that was under way. It has been honed during sieges of other rebel hotspots, from Homs and Deraa to Idlib city and other towns across the province. The tanks go in first, shelling rebel positions and driving them out. The next day, there is random shellfire to soften the target. Then, once every rebel - and foreign journalist - has left, the ground forces go in. This way, there are few witnesses to what happens next.

The accounts of atrocities committed when Syrian ground forces move are impossible to verify, but the numbers hurt and arrested are unquestionably high.

Using information stored on laptops, army intelligence officers detain all manner of people. Bad-mouthing the regime? Arrested. Seen at a protest? Arrested. Got an internet connection? Arrested. The list goes on.

"The shabiha (pro-government militia) came to my house and took my children," said Fatoum Haj Housin, a resident of the town Sarmin, five miles north-west of Saraqeb, which had been attacked a few days earlier.

"They took all three of them. They were young men in the army but they defected in January. The militia shot them in the head and burned their bodies in front of me in our courtyard. In the name of God, bring me a Kalashnikov and I will kill Assad myself!"

There was still scorching and ash in front of her house - and much evidence elsewhere in Sarmin of destruction by ground forces. The field hospital had been torched, walls and houses sprayed with AK47 fire and the mosque smashed by three shells.

When the tanks leave the city centres and the ground forces come in, this is what happens - with nobody from the outside to see.

Yet for every person killed the rebels' resolve seems to grow day by day.

"We can never go back now," said Feras Mulheen, a student from Saraqeb who had just seen his house destroyed by the tanks. "There's nothing to go back to. We either win or we die trying. There's nothing in between."

* John Cantlie is an independent photojournalist


(to be continued .. )

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WORLD_ Syria brutality continues unabated

Syria brutality continues unabated

Syrians attend a mass funeral for people whom anti-government protesters said were killed by Syrian security forces, in this March 26, 2012 file photo. (Reuters)

Arab news

Published: Mar 31, 2012 23:13 Updated: Mar 31, 2012 23:17

DAMASCUS/BEIRUT/BAGHDAD: Violence across Syria killed at least seven people yesterday as security forces fired at a Damascus funeral for protesters who died the previous day during demonstrations, monitors said.

Syria's regime declared yesterday it has defeated those seeking to bring it down while reiterating support for a UN-Arab peace plan, as its troops reportedly shelled rebels in the city of Homs.

The United States and Gulf Arab states yesterday urged envoy Kofi Annan to produce a "timeline for next steps" in his peace plan for Syria if President Bashar Assad fails to stop the bloodshed.

The Syrian Army will withdraw from urban areas "once peace and security prevail," Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdisi said in comments carried by state media yesterday.

Meanwhile, forces opened fire as thousands paid tribute to two protesters in the capital's Kfar Sousa district after they were gunned down on Friday during anti-regime rallies, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

At Kafaroma, in the northwestern region of Idlib, security forces killed a civilian who chanted anti-regime slogans when they arrested his father and brother during a raid, the group said.

The town was the site of a massive protest on Friday to denounce the Arab world's inaction in the face of Assad's bloody crackdown on the year-old uprising.

Elsewhere in the same province, scene of fierce clashes between troops and rebels in recent weeks, a civilian and his sister were killed during an assault on the town of Jisr Al-Shughur, said the Observatory.

In the central city of Homs, focus of the embattled Syrian regime's military campaign to crush armed rebels, rocket fire killed a child in the neighborhood of Bayada.

Shells pounded the Homs district of Khaldiyeh, where most of the rebels are holed up, at the rate of around one a minute, it added.

Random gunfire killed two civilians in Talbisseh, a town about 10 km from the border with Lebanon, the Britain-based monitoring group said. In Daraa province, where the uprising broke out in March 2011, one soldier was killed in a rebel attack on an armored personnel carrier, triggering clashes between the two sides.

Heavy fighting was also reported at dawn in Jarmana, Damascus province, following hours of clashes in the district of Jobar, according to the monitors.

Syria said the yearlong revolt against Assad is now over, but that it would retain its right to use its forces to "maintain security" before withdrawing from cities in line with a UN-backed peace plan.

Makdissi told Syria TV that United Nations-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan had acknowledged the government's right to respond to armed violence. Makdissi said that handling this was a Syrian matter.

He said Syria would cooperate with the United Nations to "remove any excuses" for further international pressure. "The battle to topple the state is over. Our goal now is to ensure stability and create a perspective for reform and development in Syria while preventing others from sabotaging the path of reform," Makdissi told the state news channel late Friday.

He said Syria's conditions on its acceptance of Annan's proposals included recognition of the government's sovereignty and its right to security.

"The other requirement is not to harm Syrian stability ... When security can be maintained for civilians, the army will leave. It is not waiting for Kofi Annan to leave, this is a Syrian matter."

Annan's spokesman has said the plan makes clear Syria must be first to withdraw troops and stop violence, saying "the deadline is now." His proposal says Syria must stop putting troops into cities and begin taking them out.

The United States and Gulf Arab states yesterday urged Annan to produce a "timeline for next steps" in his peace plan for Syria if Assad fails to stop the bloodshed.

The Iraqi prime minister's spokesman said Iraq may not participate in the "Friends of Syria" conference in Istanbul today as it wants to maintain its ability to serve as a mediator.

"We want to maintain our mediation role, and the role of mediator sometimes requires not participating in this conference or that," Ali Mussawi said

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WORLD_ Bin Laden 'fathered four children while on run'

Bin Laden 'fathered four children while on run'
Updated March 31, 2012, 1:00 am

'Fathered four kids after 9/11'
Osama bin Laden hid in five safe houses and fathered four children while on the run, his youngest wife has revealed.

ISLAMABAD (AFP) - Osama bin Laden fathered four children as he hid out in Pakistan after the 9/11 attacks, his youngest wife told interrogators, according to a police report seen by AFP on Friday.

Pakistani students recite the Koran at a Islamic madrassa near the final hideout of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. Bin Laden fathered four children as he hid out in Pakistan after the 9/11 attacks, his youngest wife told interrogators, according to a police report seen by AFP on Friday.

Amal Abdulfattah's account provides rare details of the Al-Qaeda leader's life from when he fled Afghanistan in late 2001 until his death aged 54 last May during a US Navy SEAL operation in Abbottabad, in Pakistan.

Abdulfattah, from Yemen, was arrested by Pakistani authorities following the US raid on bin Laden's compound near the Pakistani capital Islamabad, along with two of his Saudi wives, and her five children.

The three detained widows face charges of illegally entering and residing in Pakistan. Abdulfattah, 30, was shot while trying to protect her husband, according to the US.

The Pakistan police report, dated January 19, said Abdulfattah was born into a family of 17 children and married bin Laden because "she had a desire to marry a Mujahedeen", using the term for "holy warrior".

The report, from the office of the inspector general of police in Islamabad, recommended Abdulfattah and her children be immediately deported.

After arriving in Pakistan in July 2000 on a three-month visa, in the company of her sister and brother-in-law, Abdulfattah travelled to Kandahar, in neighbouring Afghanistan, at the time capital of the Taliban regime.

[[img: bin Laden killedlink=]

The date of her marriage to bin Laden was not specified, but the police report said afterwards she moved in with him and his other two wives.

"She further revealed that after the incident of 9/11, they all scattered and she came to Karachi with one of her daughter's, Safia," the report said. Safia, her first child by the Al-Qaeda kingpin, was born in Kandahar in 2001.

She stayed in Karachi for eight to nine months, moving between homes arranged for them by Pakistani families and bin Laden's oldest son Saad.

Abdulfattah then met back with the fleeing bin Laden in Peshawar, in northwest Pakistan. The report suggests that the pair did not part from that moment until the raid in Abbottabad.

They stayed for eight or nine months in Swat, then for two years in Haripur, 90 minutes from Islamabad, before moving to the garrison town of Abbottabad in 2005.

During this time, Abdulfattah had four other children by bin Laden, by then the most-wanted man in the world.

In Haripur, Aasia, a girl, was born in 2003 and Ibrahim, a boy, was born the next year.

On both occasions Abdulfattah gave birth in a public hospital, the police report said.

The other two children, Zainab, a girl, and Hussain, a boy, were born in Abbottabad in 2006 and 2008.

According to the report, the family movements while they were on the run were organised by "Ibrahim and Abrar", two Pakistanis given responsibility for the task by members of Al-Qaeda.

Both the men were killed by the Americans during the raid on Abbottabad and had been living in the same compound, along with Ibrahim's wife, Bushra, and bin Laden's son, Khalid.

The continued detention of bin Laden's wives has led to accusations that Pakistan is attempting to muzzle them to stop them from providing details that could embarrass Islamabad or add to suspicions it knew where bin Laden was.

Pakistan was humiliated by the covert American operation that killed the Al-Qaeda leader in the early hours of May 2, practically on the doorstep of the country's elite military academy.

Bin Laden born into wealth and privilege:

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WORLD_ Syria ignores new peace plan

Syria ignores new peace plan
AFP March 31, 2012 2:42AM

More violence: Shells rained down on the rebel outpost city of Homs, despite Syria's president's claim that he would agree to envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan.Picture: AFP Source: AFP

INTERNATIONAL envoy Kofi Annan urged Syria to immediately implement a ceasefire, as fighting raged on yesterday.

Battles broke out in Syria yesterday even after the embattled president Bashar al-Assad said he had accepted the peace plan.

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets across Syria to protest against what they regard as the inaction of Arab governments in the face of a crackdown that the UN says has cost more than 9000 lives since March 2011.

Mr Annan's ceasefire appeal came as monitors said shells rained down on Homs, a main rebel bastion which has been the focus of much of Assad's year-long crackdown on anti-regime protests.

"We expect him to implement this plan immediately. Clearly we have not seen a cessation of hostilities on the ground. This is our great concern," the spokesman said, adding the "deadline is now" for Assad's regime to end all violence.

The peace plan calls for a commitment to stop all armed violence, a daily two-hour humanitarian ceasefire, media access to all areas affected by the fighting, an inclusive Syrian-led political process, a right to demonstrate, and release of arbitrarily detained people.

"I can't tell you what the next steps will be if they don't stop now," the spokesman said, adding however that UN-Arab League envoy Mr Annan was due to brief the UN Security Council on Monday and "we will take it from there."

Mr Annan is also working to convince the Syrian opposition to "lay down their arms and start talking," he said.

State-run news agency SANA said on Thursday that "President Assad... has informed Annan that Syria approves the plan (the envoy) submitted but had made remarks about it."

Assad would "spare no effort" for the success of Mr Annan's six-point plan but said the proposal would only work if "terrorist acts" by foreign powers stopped.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 24 civilians and a soldier were killed in violence yesterday.

Protesters took to the streets despite a fierce assault by security forces on the town of Maaret al-Numan in Idlib province in the northwest.

"The desertion of the Arabs and the silence of the Muslims are the hardest things facing Syrians," read a sign held up at a protest by hundreds of people in the Idlib settlement of Kafaroma.

Internet-based activist group The Syrian Revolution 2011, one of the main motors of the uprising, had called for people to take to the streets after the main weekly Muslim prayers.

"The Muslims and the Arabs have abandoned us... but God is with us... and our determination will carry us to victory," the group said on its Facebook page.

An Arab summit in Baghdad on Thursday, largely ignored by Sunni Arab states, approved a resolution calling for an end to the Syrian regime's crackdown on dissent, for the opposition to unite and for parties to the conflict to launch a "serious national dialogue."

The opposition had urged a harsher statement backing hardliners Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which have called for Assad to step down and for rebels opposing his regime to be armed.

But Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said that giving weapons to either side "will lead to a regional and international proxy war in Syria."

In yesterday's violence, shelling and gunfire killed five civilians, including a 12-year-old child and a woman, in the city of Homs, while two others were killed in the province of the same name, said the Observatory.

In the heaviest bloodshed elsewhere, seven civilians were killed in clashes in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor between police and demonstrators, while security forces shot dead five people in Daraa province of southern Syria.

In Saudi Arabia, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held talks with King Abdullah in a bid to crank up pressure on Assad.

In Washington, the US Treasury Department announced it was targeting Syria's Defence Minister Dawoud Rajiha as well as the army's deputy chief of staff and the head of presidential security, in its latest round of sanctions against Damascus.

Mrs Clinton is due to attend a meeting of the "Friends of Syria" group in Istanbul tomorrow.

"The main objective of this conference is to increase the pressure on the Syrian regime to end the bloody repression," a Turkish official said.

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OPINION_ Syria’s cover for murder

Syria’s cover for murder
By Editorial Board, Saturday, March 31, 10:00 AM
The Washington Post

IT’S NOW BEEN 10 days since the U.N. Security Council endorsed a six-point plan for Syria created by former secretary general Kofi Annan, and the Obama administration’s ambassador described it as “the best way to put an end to the violence, facilitate much-needed humanitarian assistance and advance a Syrian-led political transition.” During that time, according to the London-based Strategic Research and Communication Centre, 624 more Syrians have been reported killed, including 58 women and 45 children.

The Annan plan calls for Syrian troops, tanks and artillery to withdraw from cities and towns. But according to multiple independent reports, those troops attacked and shelled the cities of Homs, Hama, Saraqeb, Daraa and Nawa this week. On Friday, three days after Mr. Annan announced that his plan had been accepted by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, regime forces opened fire on protesters in the eastern town of Quriya, killing at least eight.

There have been no humanitarian deliveries to these embattled cities; no two-hour daily “humanitarian pause,” as Mr. Annan called for; no release of detainees, who number more than 200,000. If the death toll and extent of fighting remain uncertain — the numbers we cite are based on reports from opposition sources — that’s because the Annan plan’s provision for freedom of movement for journalists, like every other one of its six points, has been ignored by the regime.

These results were completely predictable at the time the Security Council adopted the plan with President Obama’s support. They have more than proved what we, among many others, pointed out at the time: that the Annan plan would merely provide cover for Mr. Assad to go on killing his own people. Yet the Obama administration continues to bet on the initiative, while rejecting other options — such as the creation of a safe zone in Syria. “We want to see, and support very much, the efforts of Kofi Annan and give him the time and diplomatic space that he needs to make this work,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Thursday.

How much time? How many more dead? Mr. Annan’s spokesman in Geneva said Friday that “the deadline is now. We expect [Assad] to implement this plan immediately.” Those words will merely make Mr. Annan look more feckless. Mr. Assad will never implement the plan. Were he to do so, his regime would quickly collapse — and the dictator and his family long ago made clear that they have no intention of surrendering.

Obama administration officials describe the Annan plan as a tool that could facilitate the removal of Mr. Assad without triggering a civil war. But civil war — albeit a one-sided one — has been underway in Syria for months already. And the Annan plan does not provide for Mr. Assad to step down. On the contrary: The plan’s chief proponent, Russia, sees it as the means to keep the regime in power.

The Obama administration’s de facto choice to tolerate the survival of a regime that is Iran’s chief ally in the Middle East and the sponsor of Hamas and Hezbollah might have many motivations. But neither the will to prevent mass murder nor the pursuit of U.S. strategic interests could be among them.

Read more on Syria from PostOpinions

_ Richard Cohen: A need to lead on Syria

_ Jackson Diehl: The U.S. should help Syria

_ David Ignatius: A soft landing in Syria

_ Jennifer Rubin: Syria slaughter

_ The Post’s View: How to save Syria


Washington Post Editorials

Editorials represent the views of The Washington Post as an institution, as determined through debate among members of the editorial board. News reporters and editors never contribute to editorial board discussions, and editorial board members don’t have any role in news coverage.


tidelandermdva wrote:
3:53 PM UTC+1100
Please specify how many American deaths you think this is worth

Carloos wrote:
2:07 PM UTC+1100
The Post's View is absolutely right .. the reason that President Obama has not stopped the mass murder is his fear of this years election .. he is acting like a coward .. not like the leader of the home of the brave .. it is disgusting .. after 380 days the State Dept says it is depending on Mr. Assad to stop shooting .. the Gulf States and Turkey are being told by the State Dept to let the murder continue ... 380 days is not enough for Mr. Obama ..

Turkey's Mr. Davutoglu stressed that the signs were "not promising." He said the international community should be vigilant to the possibility that President Assad would use the plan "as an initiative which would allow him to kill his own people."

Listen to John McCain in the last half of this interview ..

MarkThomason wrote:
2:03 PM UTC+1100
This editorial also covers for murder, but in its case it is the Saudi Wahhabist opposition. That opposition also will not comply, and makes no mystery of that, just refuses to talk. The editorial supposes that the Syrian government will just shrug and walk away, leaving its country in the control of the Taliban.

40% of Syria is minorities, and they are rightly terrified of the rigid Sunni Taliban approach. The editorial too should consider to whom it would give power. This is cover for murder, following Libya style chaos.

jy151310 wrote:
1:43 PM UTC+1100
The UN covers for murder only when they aren't committing it themselves

moebius22 wrote:
1:22 PM UTC+1100
The Obama administration’s de facto choice to tolerate the survival of a regime that is Iran’s chief ally in the Middle East and the sponsor of Hamas and Hezbollah might have many motivations. But neither the will to prevent mass murder nor the pursuit of U.S. strategic interests could be among them.

How does the the Wapo Editorial Board know that tolerating Assad is not in the U.S. strategic interests? We had a previous Administration that thought opposing the Hussein government was in U.S. interests and look how that played itself out.

Bud0 wrote:
1:06 PM UTC+1100
"UN covers for murder." That's just the sort of cheapshot the world has come to expect from the Washington foreign policy establishment, whose real gripe with the UN is that they see its vision of a community of nations as a barrier to America asserting its true "greatness".

What is America's alternative? Invasion? Think that will save lives? But of course even the Washington hawks don't advocate invasion. So they've got nothing. The Post has nothing. And yes, I've just read "The Post’s View: How to save Syria". The Post has nothing.

The number of active wars, and the number of people killed by war, has diminished sharply in every decade since the UN's foundation. That's the achievement of collective security. The UN has also ended civil wars, arranged painful partitions, and with a few glaring exceptions, enforced the rule that no nation shall win land by military conquest. The UN has even eradicated diseases that killed millions. What has the US achieved? They used to boast about winning the Cold War but according to Mitt Romney, no, the Cold War is still on.

The US alternative to collective security - unilateral military diktat - was tested in Iraq with utterly disastrous results. Syria will have to kill 50 times as many people as it has so far to match that bloody fiasco. Given the Post's role in pushing that catastrophic blunder, I wonder if they can really look down on bloodsoaked Assad from such a great moral height

Bud0 responds:
1:10 PM UTC+1100
They certainly have no business looking down on the UN -- the organisation that actually destroyed Iraq's WMD.

Carloos responds:
2:12 PM UTC+1100
What is America's alternative? Budo asked .. Please listen to the last half of this interview link ..

John McCain knows ..

npsilver wrote:
12:59 PM UTC+1100
Annan was the wrong man to send on this mission of life saving. He stood idly by not more than ten air miles from where thousands of Hutu's and Tutsi' slaughtered each other in Rawanda a decade ago. Next time find a pro who isn't looking for a free paid vacation covered by UN (really US!) monies.

MilesKeogh wrote:
12:48 PM UTC+1100
Obama is not doing much either.Another example of him being in over his head.

Nissl wrote:
12:41 PM UTC+1100
Remind me why getting deeply involved in a sectarian civil war is in our strategic interest, again?

Shubi wrote:
11:57 AM UTC+1100
I'm not sure why US mainstream media still not showing both sides of the coin.
Per German news: Der Spiegel this is the link:,1518,8... Rebels admitting: "If we catch a Sunni spying, or if a citizen betrays the revolution, we make it quick," says the fighter. According to Abu Rami, Hussein's burial brigade has put between 200 and 250 traitors to death since the beginning of the uprising.

If this happening in the US I would definitely want our army to protect us. It's basically anyone doesn't want to be part of the revolution is assassinated and our government support these people?? It's another form of Al-Qaeda.

rbe1 wrote:
11:22 AM UTC+1100
Before you sign on to yet another intervention, perhaps you ought to more thoroughly acquaint yourselves with just who these freedom-loving, paragons of virtue are who are seeking to overthrow the current government.

______ Stevedoro responds:
11:32 AM UTC+1100
The suggestion was not to overtly support the Opposition, but to provide safe zones for the thousands of refugees and humanitarian assistance. That seems to be more than even the Administration and the Arabe league can muster at this point

______ rbe1 responds:
12:12 PM UTC+1100
Well the sticking point is that Assad insisted that the outside military aid be halted before he stopped fighting the rebels, and from everything I've read so far, elements from the Saudi government continue to support the rebels, so it's a little complicated.
Because I have become suspicious of everything western governments are saying, I'm willing to bet that the rebel account of what's going on there is not entirely on the up and up. The other problem is that the rebel position has been no talks until Assad leaves, which sort of makes the whole peace talk thing a joke, sort of like our insistence that Iran stop their program before we discuss whether they should stop their program. But of course, might always makes right.

Stevedoro wrote:
10:58 AM UTC+1100
A cogent and well written editorial. The Administration really has not Mideast Policy and it is doubtful it ever really will. The President has either lead from behind and as witenessed in this case, not at all while the slaughter continues in the face of a useless UN effort. Once again, Mr. Annan has groveled in front of a laughing Syrian Mafia. Shame on our President who apparently puts his reelection in front of this terrible humanitarian crisis.

Carloos responds:
2:17 PM UTC+1100
You have it absolutely right Stevedoro ..

.. pls here the last half of this video ..

blueskiestravel wrote:
10:52 AM UTC+1100
May peace prevails, but dictators do not listen to the people. I wish Mr. Bashar leaves Syria to a destination where some government can give him political asylum and leave Syria for Syrians. Syrian leader is responsible for 10's of thousand of killings a shameless massacre of the innocent

______ jleibund1 responds:
1:01 PM UTC+1100
Just like a feckless UN, diplomacy, pacifism, or a sitting US President driven only by election considerations, your "wishing Bashar" to leave won't succeed either.

______ blueskiestravel responds:
1:58 PM UTC+1100
Your frustration while sitting on a chair is not a solution either, Remember we are civilians and only thing in our controls is wishing well and hoping the best. Got it?

______ wireliner responds:
4:34 PM UTC+1100
Does the Washington Post think that no one else in the world notices the movements in foreign policy? Surely you must be kidding.

Americans aren't in favor of empire. Many studies show that, many ways. Does the WP think it can change that?

Why does the Washington Post continue to try to foist this nonsense upon us?


What do you think ?

Các anh chị nghĩ thế nào, có ý kiến- phê bình gì qua bài viết "Syria’s cover for murder" và 21 ý kiến- phê bình từ "21 Comments" của đọc giả ?

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Friday, March 30, 2012

Cuốc "com" chổi bút DIỆT tà

Cuốc "com" chổi bút DIỆT tà

Rác rưới cuộc đời rơi ngập lối
Vãi vương "nguồn cội" tối Nhà Nam
Cùng chung tấc dạ người cam
Cuốc "com" chổi bút ta làm phận dân (*)

"Đạo đức", "chân tâm" phường loạn ngữ
Giả nhân giả nghĩa bọn vong ngôn
Tồi tàn một kiếp "TRÍ đôn"
Nhục nhơ một kiếp "SỈ đồn" háo danh

Đội thù vọng ngoại hôi tanh "TRÍ"
Cổ rụt đầu đê "SĨ" lụy danh
Nhà Nam rác rưởi hôi tanh
Hỏi người con Việt có đành ngồi yên ?

Chẳng lực chẳng quyền bần dân QUYẾT
Cuốc "com" chổi bút góp sức hèn
Vạch trần TỘI ÁC Việt gian (**)
Vực dân nước Việt XUỐNG ĐƯỜNG đòi TỰ DO


Nửa đêm thức giấc lệ khô
Nhớ về cố quốc cộng nô đang hoành hành
Đau lòng xót dạ bần dân
Vài dòng tâm huyết góp phần riêng ta ..

Cuốc "com" chổi bút DIỆT tà .

(*) computer
(**) bè lũ phản quốc cướp nước diệt chủng bán nước Việt gian cộng sản VN

(Soi Dòng Sông Chữ Thấy Mù Tâm .. )

(Ta Hong Giọt Nắng Cho Vừa Nhớ Thương .. )

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Nguyễn Hoài Trang
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Đêm qua sân trước Một Cành Mai"

WORLD_ Syria clashes, protests complicate peace mission

Syria clashes, protests complicate peace mission

This image made from amateur video and released by the Syria media center Friday, March 23, 2012, purports to show Syrians pulling out the body of a man under the rubble of a building that was bombed in Homs, Syria. Syrian President Bashar Assad says he will spare no effort to make the mission of U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan a success but he demands that armed opponents commit to halting violence. (AP Photo/Syria Media Center via APTN) THE ASSOCIATED PRESS CANNOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE CONTENT, DATE, LOCATION OR AUTHENTICITY OF THIS MATERIAL. TV OUT

By ZEINA KARAM, Associated Press – 1 hour ago

WORLD_ Syrian Fighting Flares Ahead of Talks

Syrian Fighting Flares Ahead of Talks
Published: March 30, 2012

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Two days before a major international gathering aimed at marshaling efforts to end the Syrian crisis, fierce fighting continued on Friday in the north and center of the country while internal and exiled opposition forces jockeyed for influence and tried to better coordinate efforts to bring down President Bashar al-Assad.

The Local Coordinating Committees, a coalition of opposition groups in Syria, issued a statement complaining that opponents of President Assad were not represented at an Arab League meeting on Thursday in Baghdad — an omission demonstrating that the Arab League, from which the Syrian government is suspended, is not ready to take further steps against the Damascus authorities, like calling for Mr. Assad to step down and certainly not to recognize the fractious opposition as a representative of Syria.

Activist groups also depicted a patchwork of unrest across Syria from Homs and Hama in the center to the east of the country and the area around Damascus, the capital, further south. The Local Coordinating Committees said 30 people had died. Such reports cannot be independently verified, partly because of tight restrictions by the Syrian authorities on reporting.

Activists posted video purporting to show that snipers were preventing the government’s opponents from retrieving bodies from the streets. “The risk of being sniped has made it impossible to retrieve bodies from the streets and give them a proper and dignified burial,” the committees said in a posting alongside video showing people using chains, a pulley and what appeared to be a long cable to drag abandoned bodies as automatic weapons fire rattled nearby. The developments came after Syria’s exiled opposition groups met in Istanbul where the so-called Friends of Syria coalition, which includes many Western and Arab governments, are to hold a high-level meeting on Sunday. The exiles, grouped in the Syrian National Council, have been seeking an elusive unity to bolster their role as interlocutors with international powers trying to end to Syria’s yearlong uprising.

Those maneuvers seemed to be matched by efforts among armed opponents of Mr. Assad inside Syria to establish a formal command structure. In a video shown on Al Arabiya satellite television, a man identified as an army defector with the rank of colonel said that the armed opposition had formed military councils in the cities of Homs and Hama in the center of the country, Idlib in the north, Damascus, and Deir Azzour in the east each with its own local leader that were now coordinating with the Free Syrian Army leadership outside the country.

The leadership’s credentials have been questioned in the past as the Free Syrian Army has been depicted as a decentralized collection of armed groups without a real command structure. Fighters inside routinely castigate the outside leaders as failing to help them with weapons supplies, cash or cohesive political direction.

Despite those distinctions, Syrian insurgents appeared on Thursday to have stepped up a campaign to assassinate senior military officials, reinforcing and exacerbating the hostility between the Syrian government and rebel fighters who argue that armed struggle is their only chance for survival.

On Thursday, the Syrian government and opposition groups said that at least two senior military officers had been assassinated in two cities over the past several days. The killings came as Arab leaders met in Iraq to focus on the Syrian crisis and President Assad faced more pressure to carry out a peace plan endorsed by the Arab League and the United Nations.

But the killings seemed to dim even the glimmer of hope that the government might reconcile with the opposition. Instead, they validated the claims of activists and fighters who have said in recent interviews that rebel fighters were increasingly embracing insurgency tactics, including plans to assassinate government and security officials.

Such attacks send “a message to the regime that we can reach their leaders,” a fighter calling himself Abu Yazid said in an interview via Skype last week, shortly after an unusual battle between opposition fighters and government forces in the wealthy and well-protected Damascus neighborhood of Mezze.

Abu Yazid said he had taken part in the battle, which he said began as rebels attempted to assassinate Assef Shawkat, a brother-in-law of Mr. Assad and one of the government’s most feared security chiefs. Mr. Shawkat, like several other senior officials, has a house in the neighborhood.

It was impossible to corroborate that version of events; the government said only that a member of the security forces and two opposition fighters were killed in a raid on a “hide-out of an armed terrorist group.” But on Thursday, the government and opposition groups both reported new assassinations.

Opposition groups reported that four military officers were killed in three separate attacks in Aleppo and Hama, while the government said armed groups had killed two army colonels on their way to work in Aleppo. It was unclear whether both were referring to the same events.

The killings showed why it would be difficult to get Mr. Assad to put into effect the peace plan he has accepted on paper. In a letter on Thursday to the leaders of a group of emerging nations that includes his two major allies, Russia and China, Mr. Assad declared that he would not carry out the plan until groups of what he called terrorists stopped attacking officials and crucial infrastructure like pipelines.

The armed opposition has said it has no choice but to embrace such tactics in the face of overwhelming force.

Although Mr. Assad said that he would “spare no effort” to carry out the peace plan, which includes the release of arbitrarily detained prisoners, daily cease-fires to allow the provision of humanitarian aid and access for journalists, he added that his opponents must first commit “to stop all terrorist acts, disarm gunmen and to ending their terrorist acts, kidnapping, killing innocents and sabotaging infrastructure of both public and private sectors,” the state news agency SANA reported. He also demanded that other countries cease all financing for his armed opponents.

The plan is being promoted by Kofi Annan, the special envoy on Syria appointed by the Arab League and the United Nations. In a sign of the influence on events of Iran — Syria’s most powerful regional ally — Mr. Annan is expected to visit Tehran soon. Mr. Annan’s spokesman was quoted on Friday as saying Mr. Assad should implement the peace plan “now.” But Mr. Assad won fresh support when Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, told the visiting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Iran “is vehemently opposed to any intervention by foreign forces in Syrian internal affairs,” Iranian state media reported on Friday.

Mr. Assad’s promises have been met with skepticism and outright mockery by opponents in Syria and abroad. “The regime pretended that they agreed, but what happened?” said Walid Banani, a member of the Syrian National Council, at a news conference in Istanbul. “There are more killings, mass murders and no withdrawal of forces from streets.”

It was hard to tell whether the assassinations represented a coincidence or a new degree of organization on the part of rebels who recently announced the formation of military councils in various cities to coordinate the loosely knit armed groups.

Either way, the tactics — along with roadside bombings of military vehicles and buses carrying pro-government fighters — are similar to those of insurgents in places like Iraq, where the American military characterized them as “terrorist” attacks, as Mr. Assad does.

Mr. Assad and his supporters say that they have the right to use force against an unpredictable armed movement that is attacking institutions of the state — and that Western critics of his military response are hypocrites.

Roadside bombs have become more common. On Thursday, SANA reported that engineers had dismantled “a large number” of bombs made of gas cans and fire extinguishers that had been placed along roads at the entrances to cities in Idlib Province. Also on Thursday, opposition supporters posted a video of a tank entering the suburb of Dael in Dara’a Province. The video shows an explosion as a gray cloud engulfs the tank and a voice says, “God is great.”

Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Beirut, Lebanon, Sebnem Arsu from Istanbul, and Alan Cowell from Paris.

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WORLD_ Syrian Violence Kills 36; Arab Leaders Back Peace Plan

March 29, 2012
Syrian Violence Kills 36; Arab Leaders Back Peace Plan
VOA News

Arab leaders prepare to pose for a picture ahead of the opening session of the 23rd Arab League Summit, in Baghdad, Iraq, March 29, 2012.

Violence across Syria killed at least 36 people - nearly half of them soldiers - as Arab leaders in Baghdad backed a peace plan during a summit focused on resolving the year-long anti-government revolt.

Syrian state media said Thursday that insurgents kidnapped an Air Force general near Damascus while gunmen shot and killed two army colonels in the northern city of Aleppo. The state news agency SANA blamed the actions on "armed terrorist groups," a reference to army defectors and rebels of the opposition Free Syrian Army.

*** Kofi Annan's Six-Point Peace Plan

.A Syrian-led political process to address the aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people.

.A U.N. supervised end to armed violence by all parties in Syria

.Timely humanitarian assistance in all areas affected by fighting

.Increasing the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained people

.Ensuring freedom of movement for journalists

.Respecting freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully.Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elarabi, chairing his first regular Arab summit, emphasized the key issues facing the gathering.Elarabi went on to discuss tensions between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and urged Arab states to meet their financial obligations to help the authority pay its bills.Several new faces addressed the summit following revolutions in Tunisia and Libya last year.


Rights activists said forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad assaulted opposition hubs in central Syria and the northern province of Idlib Thursday. They said rebels killed two soldiers in an ambush in Hama province.

Meanwhile, Arab leaders at a Baghdad summit endorsed the Syria peace plan drafted by international envoy Kofi Annan and called for its immediate and complete implementation.

The plan urges both sides to start a cease-fire and a dialogue but does not call for Mr. Assad to step down as part of a political transition.

Arab leaders previously had urged the Syrian president to hand power to a deputy to manage the transition, but now they appear to have backed away from that demand.

Mr. Assad said he will "spare no effort" to ensure the success of the Annan plan, but that it would depend on an armed groups stopping their "terrorist actions." He also said countries providing money and weapons to the Syrian opposition must stop immediately to enable Mr. Annan's mission to succeed.

In an apparent reference to Turkey, a former ally that now hosts the rebel FSA, he singled out "neighboring countries that harbor these groups and facilitate their terrorist actions."

In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner called Mr. Assad's remarks "discouraging." He again urged the Syrian president to halt the violence immediately, saying government forces have done nothing to comply with the Annan peace plan in the three days since agreeing to it.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it is "essential" for the Syrian president to put his commitments into immediate effect. Speaking to Arab leaders at the start of the Baghdad summit, Mr. Ban accused the Syrian government of failing to fulfill its responsibility to protect its own people.

Only nine leaders of the Arab League's 22 members traveled to Iraq for the summit. Mr. Assad was not invited. The absence of other leaders reflected ongoing divisions within the Arab League about how to end Syria's violence.

Meanwhile, Britain announced that it will provide $800,000 in non-lethal support to anti-Assad activists inside Syria to help them document government rights violations and develop skills to build a democratic society.

The United Nations says violence linked to Syria's crackdown on the revolt has killed more than 9,000 people.

Watch related video of Syrian violence

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.


Comments (1)

Xaaji Dhagax Somalia 29-03-2012
High level meeting and high level of just talking tough. became a high level of CULTURE of Arab Governments of doing nothing. Bashar al-Assad needs to be stopped killing his own unarmed people. If the Arabs are sincere about helping the Syrian civilians... the "military intervention" is the only option left now for Arabs to do.


What do you think ?

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

WORLD_ No clear way to court for Syria war crimes suspects

No clear way to court for Syria war crimes suspects

By Stephanie Nebehay and Louis Charbonneau

Thu Mar 29, 2012 11:31pm EDT

GENEVA/NEW YORK, March 29 - U.N. officials have compiled a list of Syrian figures suspected of crimes against humanity in the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, but opposition from Russia and China means the accused are unlikely to appear in the dock at the international war crimes court any time soon.

As world powers press for an end to the violence that has racked Syria and claimed thousands of lives, pressure is building over accusations that Assad's security apparatus has committed crimes in suppressing the year-long revolt.

Syrian government forces have been accused in a U.N. report of committing widespread, systematic and gross human rights violations amounting to crimes against humanity. There was also evidence of abuse by some rebel groups, it said last month.

A U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria has handed over a confidential list of senior Syrian officials suspected of ordering crimes against humanity including murder, abductions and torture to the United Nations for possible prosecution - whether by an international court, or national bodies using universal jurisdiction, or even a Syrian court in future.

But in the case of Syria, the International Criminal Court - the world's first permanent war crimes court - is powerless for the time being. The ICC has no reach there because Syria is not a state party to the Rome Statute, and because the United Nations Security Council is deadlocked over the issue.

"If the Security Council provides a decision (that) we should investigate Syria, we will do it," ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said earlier this month. "We are always able."

But Moscow and Beijing have stone-walled in the Council.

"The Security Council can bring a case, but China and Russia are unlikely to agree so that the chances are slim at the moment," said Louise Doswald-Beck, professor of law at Geneva's Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies.

"But there is a possibility (of arrest and prosecution) if these people were rash enough to travel to states that can try people for war crimes and crimes against humanity."

The office of the ICC prosecutor has an information and evidence unit which can receive evidence submitted by members of the public or official bodies: so, for example, evidence from Syria could be submitted to the unit and held there in case an official investigation does go ahead.

But the office's representatives refuse to say whether they have received any evidence about war crimes in Syria.

U.N. officials have supported an investigation.

"I endorse the call by (U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay) to have the International Criminal Court investigate whether these amount to crimes against humanity," Juan Mendez, U.N. special rapporteur, or investigator, on torture worldwide, said in an interview.


The United Nations estimates Syrian forces killed at least 9,000 people over the past year as Assad's forces pounded rebel strongholds into submission. The government says opposition fighters killed 3,000 soldiers and security forces personnel.

The Hague-based ICC, which has investigated several cases involving alleged war crimes over the past decade, earlier this month handed down its first-ever ruling when it found Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo guilty of using child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

But so far it has missed the chance to try some of the biggest names suspected of genocide or crimes against humanity. Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, wanted on charges of orchestrating genocide, remains at large.

Last year, the ICC issued arrest warrants for Libya's former ruler Muammar Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and his spy chief, Abdullah al-Senussi, following a referral by the U.N. Security Council. Gaddafi was killed by rebel forces, Saif is in prison in Libya, while Senussi was recently detained in Mauritania: it remains unclear whether either of them will appear in The Hague.

With Syria, Moscow and Beijing have shielded Assad from U.N. Security Council condemnation by vetoing two Western-backed resolutions over the bloodshed, but they approved a Security Council statement on March 21 endorsing U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's bid to end the violence in Syria.


Legal experts such as Doswald-Beck say one possible chink in the case of Syria is if any of those involved in war crimes were to leave the country and travel to another jurisdiction which could try them - provided it can be shown that these individuals ordered a direct attack on civilians or torture.

"As they are probably all Syrian nationals, it would be only on the basis of universal jurisdiction that you could try them," she said.

"If these people choose to travel and they arrive in a state party to the Convention against Torture, they need to be brought to justice. As long as they are sitting in Syria and don't move, that's where the problem lies."

There is a back-door avenue for getting an ICC case going. One human rights expert told Reuters privately it is possible for an ICC member state to refer the Syrian case to the court, which would allow the prosecutor to look into the situation there. If the prosecutor found dual-nationality suspects with passports from ICC members, those individuals could theoretically be indicted.

Assad's wife, Asma, for example, holds a British passport and could be indicted if the ICC ever suspected she was linked to war crimes. But this approach would not apply to her husband, nor is it clear it would apply to anyone on the secret list.

The U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria's secret list of suspects is believed to include Assad's inner circle and senior officials of the Baath party, army and security forces.

"The Commission of Inquiry handed me a list of names of people in high positions, including in the military and security forces, who have been implicated in the most serious international crimes that fall under the jurisdiction laid down in the Rome Statute," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Pillay told Reuters in Geneva, referring to the treaty setting up the ICC.

"I will hand over this list of alleged perpetrators to any future credible investigations," said Pillay, a former ICC judge.

In its February report, a three-member panel, headed by Brazilian expert Paulo Pinheiro, said that Syrian forces bent on crushing the uprising had shot dead unarmed women and children, shelled residential areas and tortured wounded protesters in hospital under orders from the "highest level" of army and government officials.

"The commission also identified particular army units, security agencies and their branch offices for which there are reasonable grounds to believe that they carried out gross human rights violations," the report said.

There was also evidence of abuses committed by some rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups.

The U.N. report said it had reliable accounts that the National Security Bureau of the Baath Party National Command was used to translate policy directives into strategic operations.


Military and security forces, civilian authorities and Baath Party officials coordinated operations through local security committees, it said.

"On several occasions, senior security officials were deployed from the capital to coordinate operations involving crimes against humanity and other gross violations," it said.

"Most crimes against humanity and gross human rights violations were carried out in complex operations that involved the entire security apparatus and therefore would have required superior directives."

The four major intelligence and security agencies with direct reporting lines to the president's office - military intelligence, air force intelligence, the general intelligence directorate and the political security directorate - "were at the heart of almost all operations", it said.

As the conflict evolved, elite army units closest to the leadership - the Special Forces, the Republican Guard and the Fourth Division - played an increasingly prominent role, the latter two especially in Damascus and its suburbs, it said.

"You would expect from the institutions named in the report, that the key people in those institutions to be on the list, there are enough hints," said one international human rights expert who has not seen the list, but who saw the public report.

For the Commission of Inquiry to have included it, it is likely to be all corroborated evidence, but it still needs to be proved in a court of law, this expert said.

"The investigators would look at his close circle, the constitutional order, the ministers of defense, of interior, head of security services. You start with a matrix and corroborate evidence from witnesses, these are the criteria."


The existence of the list creates pressure on states to take action as it means that dozens of people can be brought to justice, once a credible jurisdiction is empowered to move on the case, said Mona Rishmawi, chief of the rule of law branch at the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Several countries, including Britain, Belgium, Canada, Spain and the United States, have established universal jurisdiction for some crimes such as torture, said Rishmawi, who led a similar U.N. investigation in Darfur which contributed evidence leading to the ICC's indictment of Sudan's President Bashir.

Aside from the U.N. report, there is other evidence that could be used to mount a case, legal experts said

U.N. special rapporteur Mendez said that a Channel 4 video purporting to show Syrian patients being tortured in hospital appeared to support increasingly grave allegations pointing to crimes against humanity.

"With respect of torture, as grave as the allegations were six to eight months ago, this latest seems a step or two above that," Mendez, himself a victim of torture while jailed by the military dictatorship in his native Argentina in the 1970s, said in an interview in Geneva.

"There's a limit to what I can do. I have to say that I am frustrated that I cannot do more. I wish I had more powers."

(Additional reporting by Sara Webb, writing by Sara Webb and editing by Peter Millership)

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WORLD_ Britain to double support to Syrian opposition

Britain to double support to Syrian opposition

Britain announced it would double support to Syria's fractured opposition forces amid reports that almost the entire 50,000 strong Christian population of Homs had been driven out by fighting.

Syrian rebels celebrate the destruction of a military tank during a day of heavy fighting with Syrian government forces in Idlib, north Syria Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP

By Damien McElroy, Adrian Blomfield
10:00PM BST 29 Mar 2012
1 Comment

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, told the Lord Mayor's Easter banquet in the City, that £500,000 would be set aside to provide "non-lethal" assistance to hard-pressed opponents of the Assad regime.

Britain has already provided £450,000 to the opposition since last year but the new resources will be used to extend the scope of support to include satellite communications equipment, training schemes and back office facilities for the opposition. Britain sent an expert mission to the region last month to help document the atrocities that have taken place, so that regime figures will ultimately be held to account.

The scale of violence reached an unrivalled peak in Homs where the number of Christian's left in the ancient city has fallen below 1,000.

As a major government offensive against Baba Amr and other rebel-held areas of Homs got under way in early February, many Christians left the city because of the intensity of the fighting.

One priest from the district of Hamidiya, who fled to Lebanon seven weeks ago, said friends who remained in the city had spoken of a growing "atmosphere of fear".

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"Some Christians who tried to escape a week ago were stopped from leaving by the rebels and were instead forced to go to a mosque to act as shields," he said. "They thought that, because Christians support Assad, the government would not attack them."

Church leaders have accused Muslim neighbours of turning on the Christians, who have fled to villages and towns around the city, as well as into Lebanon.

"The people we are helping are very afraid," Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo said. "The Christians don't know what their future will hold. They are afraid they will not get their homes back.

However Abou Salaam, a Jesuit priest in the city, said that Muslim imams had held meetings with the remaining Christians to reassure them they were safe in the city.

Despite the broad public respect they enjoy from the rebel leaders, many Christians fear that they will remain vulnerable. About one in 10 of Syria's 20 million population is Christian.

"There were rumours of extremists coming to Homs from other Muslim countries to fight with the rebels," he said. "We don't know if it was true, but it frightened many people."

He added: "The Christians are caught in the middle. We are victims of both sides."

Efforts to stop Syria's descent into civil war reached a decisive juncture with the launch of Mr Annan's peace initiative, which has the support of Russia and China as well as the West and the Arab League.

Officials said that the opposition needed to come together as a viable opponent and a potential alternative centre of power to President Assad, if, as hoped, he is eased out of power.

"The behaviour of the Assad regime so far is as futile as it is morally indefensible," Mr Hague said. "They have now said they will accept Kofi Annan's plan to end the violence and start a political transition.

"President Assad and his allies ... must be left in no doubt that if there is not a political transition that reflects the will of the people, then they will be shunned by the international community and we will close every door to them. They will face still more sanctions. Their assets will remain frozen. Their travel to Europe and many other nations will always be banned, as will the travel of their families. And they will be pursued by mechanisms of justice and held to account."

With at least 26 killed in continuing government offensives two days after the Syrian leader accepted Mr Annan's proposals. Mr Assad set out conditions of his own for a ceasefire.

The Annan plan must also get a commitment from armed groups to cease their "terrorist acts" against the government, according to the state news agency Thursday.

"It is necessary to get a commitment from other parties for armed groups to stop their terrorist acts, to withdraw the weapons of these groups ... and for them to stop ... kidnapping innocent civilians, massacres and the destruction of private and public infrastructure,"

Julien Barnes-Dacey, a Syrian analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said champions of the Syrian opposition had been forced to accept that diplomatic efforts to oust Assad would prevail over military options.

"The Annan plan is the only game in town for the moment," he said. "Outside intervention is impossible for diplomacy is the only way forward. Therefore there is a need to build a stronger opposition to take part in the political process."

At least one million Syrians need humanitarian assistance, a UN spokesman said Thursday at the end of an assessment mission to the country international experts.

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WORLD_ Syria: Arab League leaders gather for historic Baghdad summit

Syria: Arab League leaders gather for historic Baghdad summit

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met Arab leaders in Baghdad on Thursday to discuss a UN-backed peace plan for Syria as President Bashar al-Assad's forces continued their offensive against cities and towns across Syria.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) with Kuwait's Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Khaled Al Jarallah in Kuwait City Photo: AP Photo/Gustavo Ferrari

10:02AM BST 29 Mar 2012
The Telegraph

Regional leaders in Iraq for the Arab League summit have endorsed special envoy Kofi Annan's six-point plan that calls for a ceasefire and peace talks, but they remain sharply split over how to deal with the violence that risks deepening sectarian divisions.

Syria has accepted Annan's proposal, but rejects any initiatives taken by the summit and said it would deal only with individual Arab states, complicating efforts to implement the UN-backed peace plan on the ground.

"This is an important initial step that could bring an end to the violence and the bloodshed," Ban said of Syria's accepting Annan's plan, before arriving in Baghdad on Thursday.

"I strongly urge President Assad of Syria to put those commitments into immediate effect."

Arab states, while rejecting any foreign intervention in Syria, appear to have backed away from their initial proposal that Assad step aside to allow his deputy to organise talks.

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Sunni powers Saudi Arabia and Qatar have led the push to isolate Syria, including suggests for arming Syria's opposition, but non-Gulf Arab states such as Algeria and Shi'ite-led Iraq urge more caution, fearing that toppling Assad could spark sectarian violence.

Annan's proposal calls for the withdrawal of heavy weapons and troops from population centres, humanitarian assistance, the release of prisoners and free movement and access for journalists. But it does not explicitly call for Assad to step down from office.

Diplomats say one of Annan's ideas is for a UN observer mission to monitor any eventual ceasefire, a mechanism likely to require a U.N. Security Council mandate.

An Arab League observation mission in Syria last year failed to end Assad's crackdown on protests, and faced internal dissent. But the League has also discussed a joint U.N.-Arab mission for Syria.

Even as Arab foreign ministers held talks in Baghdad on Wednesday before Thursday's summit, Syrian forces bombarded cities and towns in southern and northern Syria, forcing thousands to flee violence.

The United Nations says around 9,000 people have been killed in fighting. Damascus blames foreign-backed terrorists for the violence, saying 3,000 soldiers and police have been killed.

The Arab Summit in Baghdad is the first in Iraq for more than two decades and the first hosted by a Shi'ite Arab leader, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.Pulling back from years of war, Iraq hopes to use the summit as a way to highlight its return to the diplomatic stage and has sought a fledging détente with Sunni Gulf Arab nations long wary of Iraq's close ties to Shi'ite power Iran.

Source: Reuters

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Ý Kiến- Phê Bình qua bài viết "If it brings freedom, a bloody Syrian civil war may be preferable to slavery"

If it brings freedom, a bloody Syrian civil war may be preferable to slavery

By Charles Crawford
Last updated: March 27th, 2012

Syria in flames: shall we just leave them to it?

The Good (notably former UN secretary general Kofi Annan) and the Not Quite Great (former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans) give us their high-profile thoughts on the grim situation in Syria.

Mr Annan is on a world tour to drum up support for a new peace plan. Here he is in Moscow:

Annan said it will be up to the Syrians themselves to decide if Assad should step down. "It may in the end come to that, but it's not up to me, it's up to the Syrians," said Annan, a former UN secretary-general. "Our effort is to help the Syrians come to the table and find the way out of all of this."

It’s safe to assume that the tried and proven way of the "Syrians deciding for themselves" what they want – namely through free and fair elections – is not what is envisaged here. This, of course, is the best the "international community" can come up with, given the strenuous Russian and Chinese opposition to anything which looks like taking sides against the Syrian regime.

Over at Project Syndicate, Gareth Evans gives us a similar position wrapped in ingenious obfuscations about the "responsibility to protect" under international law. This idea of the "responsibility to protect" (or R2P as it is wittily known) has considerable moral force. These days we think it right to intervene vigorously to stop our neighbour flogging his spouse or his dog. Surely it must be even more right to intervene vigorously to stop our international neighbours committing mass murder?

Only up to a point. As Gareth Evans points out, various principles have emerged to define what may or may not be legal or acceptable in such circumstances. Other peaceful options must have been tried. Any intervention must be "proportional". Above all, the "balance of consequences" must be considered: will military intervention do more harm than good?

Gareth Evans asserts that it is on this last question that any proposed military intervention is most problematic, as “any further militarisation in Syria runs the risk of turning what is already a nascent civil war into a full-blown one, with casualties on a much greater scale”. He sees all military options as “counterproductive”, with Annan’s political mediation the only show in town, albeit a tragic one:

Its unstated premise is that enough senior officials in the regime can be persuaded to change course, with enough safe exits for the most divisive figures, to enable the situation to stabilize and reform to start … That is a slim reed for the Syrian people to grasp, but unhappily it’s the only one around.

Hard not to agree that he has a point. But is it good enough?

Think what it means. It boils down to telling all Syrians who want a decent, democratic existence that they need to sit down nicely with the people who are torturing and oppressing them and try to cut a deal. That very process empowers the oppressors, not the oppressed. It defines the likely outcomes in ways which are more likely than not to allow some of the contemporary world’s most heinous villains to stroll away from their crimes, or even stay in political business indefinitely. It is not difficult to see why Moscow and Beijing might think that that is quite a handy outcome.

The idea that struck me most in Gareth Evans' piece was his (probably accurate) claim that any further militarisation in Syria ran the risk of creating a full-blown civil war with casualties on a much greater scale. The implication is that this would be a Bad Thing.

This week I was in sunny Prague. I was reminded of the stunning day in Wenceslas Square on 19 January 1969 when a young history student called Jan Palach doused himself in petrol and fell in flames, dying of his terrible injuries three days later.

Of course the context for his self-immolation was the Soviet invasion of his country a few months earlier to suppress the Prague Spring reform initiatives. Palach hoped that his action would compel the Czechoslovak population to confront its own fatalism in the face of their oppression and humiliation. In a sense he succeeded. A vast crowd attended his funeral. But not much changed immediately. It took a full 20 years before anti-communist demonstrations in "Palach Week" helped set in motion the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia in late 1989.

How do we look at Palach’s self-sacrifice now? An act of sublime heroism and moral leadership? Or a doomed and ultimately pointless waste of life?

One of the iconic principles of the Soviet Union still proclaimed by President Putin is the unimaginable sacrifice by the Soviet army and the general population to defend their country from the Nazis during World War Two. Indeed, any attempt to qualify that heroism and sacrifice (eg by pointing out that the war started because of a dirty deal between Stalin and Hitler at the expense of Poland, and that Soviet losses were far worse than they should have been because Stalin had murdered so many top generals) is furiously denounced by the current Moscow elite. In other words, the results justified the incredible loss of life used to achieve them. The fact that Soviet soldiers died in their tens of thousands attacking Berlin in the final frenzied days of the war is a measure of their country's greatness.

By contrast we are solemnly told by Annan and Evans (and by Moscow and Beijing) that much the best way forward for freedom-loving Syrians is to lay down their arms and start talking to the people brutalising them. Any escalation in their struggle which leads to greater casualties has to be avoided. More people could die! It could be destabilising!

I think Kofi Annan and Gareth Evans are wrong for one specific reason. They appear to put no value on the idea of fighting and dying for freedom as an end in itself.

The Syrian people should sneer at Gareth Evans’ "slim reed". They do have other options. Namely to escalate the conflict come what may, with whatever outside support they can get, deciding that it is better to die for freedom than slink around for a few decades more as slaves.

The more fiercely and mercilessly they fight and die, the more legitimate their cause will become. And the more bleak the final reckoning for those in their country and in smug international capitals who took sides against them.

Tags: Gareth Evans, Jan Palach, Kofi Annan, Syria


Charles Crawford

Charles Crawford retired from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 2007. He was HM Ambassador in Sarajevo (1996-1998), in Belgrade (2001-2003) and most recently in Poland (2003-2007). He is a founder member of ADRg Ambassadors and his personal website is


Showing 1-25 of 115 comments

Yesterday 12:05 PM
Surely a comparison to what has happened in Iraq to 100 000s of people over the past 5 years is more relevant than what happened to an individual in Prague over 40 years ago?

Sorry, I found the analysis a bit strange

Yesterday 08:17 AM
"This idea of the "responsibility to protect" (or R2P as it is wittily known) has considerable moral force."

The point of the libya conflict surely, to provide reinforcing precedent for a doctrine that permits the continued relevance of Britain and France on the security council.

______ randal
Yesterday 09:19 AM
"The point of the libya conflict surely, to provide reinforcing precedent for a doctrine that permits the continued relevance of Britain and France on the security council."

Coming from you, I'm not sure if you are being darkly cynical, or enthusiastically idealist with that suggestion :-)

Hopefully Libya was a body blow to the sovereignty-ending "R2P", and Syria finished it off, and now we've just got to endure some twitching and death-rattling before it's all over.

____________ Jedibeeftrix
Yesterday 10:09 AM

we remain within a westphalian system yet, but R2P was created with British input to revoke westphalian principle only under very specific conditions.

given the move to a post-westphalian system is happening anyway it seems better to manage and limit the evolution in ways acceptable to us, no?

____________ randal
Yesterday 10:49 AM
"given the move to a post-westphalian system is happening anyway it seems better to manage and limit the evolution in ways acceptable to us, no?"

Since the "westphalian system" was merely a move in the direction of formally recognising underlying principles of nationhood and national sovereignty, I don't think what follows it will necessarily involve a retrenchment from said sovereignty (although I accept it might, and technological advance clearly puts national sovereignty and territorial exclusivity under pressure).

But as a general principle, I don't trust notions of government "managing" change because governments are, in general, not competent to do so. Let our government try to manage the evolution in a particular direction, and the unintended consequences and/or blowback are likely to be very painful, and the actual objective not achieved.

All we can and should do beyond protecting our own direct interests is try to shore up national sovereignty and self-determination principles as much as we can in the face of the shrinking world, imo.

03/27/2012 11:30 PM
Is it my imagination, or is there a clear association throughout the world between the "Religion of Peace" and the absence of peace?

03/27/2012 09:38 PM
Charles Crowford.. you are calling the west to intervene and stop the mass murder as you are saying.

to be honest with you, mass murder is seen when you intervene.. and would expect your explanation of the hundred plus thousand civilians killed by direct bombardment of Liby by Nato... and the thousands killed so far after the end of Nato operations declaring freedom and democracy in Libya

And who has been killed so far in Syria is to a large extent due to your intervention by supplying the rebels with arms including mortar shells and anti-Tank missiles.

I believe most of your readers has replied to you very very well to whom we raise the hat...

I ask God that every penny you are paid to spill our blood is paid on your health... not sure I got it right, but God knows...

______ hatebigots
Yesterday 01:44 PM

if "hundred plus thousand civilians killed by direct bombardment of Liby by Nato..." is a true story why no one says that number but you?

Why international Amnesty when exposed NATO`s brutalities accused it of killing 555 civilians?

Not the " hundred plus thousand civilians" you made up?

Your propaganda sucks. N
No wonder there are no demonstrations against West in Syrian conflict!

Except a few ones with half dozen slave minded fools.

______ hatebigots
Yesterday 01:41 PM

Your master ASSad murdered 900 people so far;

Your master ASSad refused to negotiate with rebels;

Your master ASSad insisted in shooting protesters until thwey and many soldiers started to fight back.

Your master ASSad broke his promises of ending the vioplence at least 5 times at least 4 times:

-when Arabian League agreed with him to give him 3 days to stop violence;

-when that same League send a comission to Syria

- when he told to UN secretary Ban ki Moon he will end it almost a year ago (ban ki mon calling a liar when the massacres continued)

- when told that to Turkeys PM the same BS.

No NATO nor WEest soldiers in Syria.

And you dont blame ASSad?

Your wages for propaganda worth such ridiculous BS?

03/27/2012 09:15 PM
Mr Crawford, It's not going to be civil war, it's going to be neo-con liberal interventionism (under the radar) backed by NATO/EU states. You are here to just spout disinformation.

______ hatebigots
Yesterday 01:46 PM
And your propaganda for ASSad tyranny is not disinformation?

Not to mention neo-cons were kick out White House when Obama won.

Your prejudiced anti-West views are outdated.

So no word against the 90000 plus syrians murdered by ASSad?

03/27/2012 08:59 PM
"He was HM Ambassador in Sarajevo (1996-1998), in Belgrade (2001-2003) ...."

Methinks we've got a live neocon here, just itching to start another war in the name of "democracy" ... which the Syrians will have infinitely less of, if the fundamentalists we're backing get control.

So Charles, TELL us about Appendix B of the Rambouillet Treaty - making that an unconditional occupation/surrender ultimatum, not a treaty - and how you boys used that to aggressively force the unnecessary Kosovo war on the Yugoslavs. Remember, by the way, that by Nuremberg wars of aggression are a hanging offence.

And please take your warmongering elsewhere. Russia seems ready to take a stand, and Syria and the neocons are NOT worth World War 3.

Lou Coatney,

03/27/2012 08:37 PM
Syria has shed loads of chemical weapons. We do not want them to get out

03/27/2012 08:10 PM
Two things I have to say. (1) There will never be Democracy in any islamic country. Cannot be--read the koran! (2) Christians are allowed in Syria under the present regime; but if the West's darlings (muslim brotherhood) overthrow the regime as they did in Egypt, Tunisia, etc, it'll be another Christian bloodbath; does the West want that--apparently.

______ french toast
03/27/2012 08:23 PM
The muslim brotherhood are not the wests darlings...

____________ peter35
Yesterday 01:18 AM
Oh really, Govt toppled in Egypt; who's in charge now? Same in Libya, same in Tunisia. If you didn't know the "brotherhood" was behind the riots you're just as naiive as most western journalists. (And Governments)

____________ hatebigots
Yesterday 01:51 PM
If you thin the "brotherhood" was behind the riots you're just as paranoid as the believers of the BS about jews behind 9/11...

____________ ryeatley
Yesterday 02:12 PM
Bigot: The Muslim Brotherhood was crushed by an excessively brutal campaign by Hafez al-Assad. It's now making a comeback, and is most certainly involved

____________ hatebigots
Yesterday 02:17 PM
9000 people murdered by ASSad.
Very very few terrorist attacks by islamists.

But its all fault of islamists! Because all civilians fed up with ASSad`s dictatorship are islamists!

I gave up my hope of reading an honest and rational comment from you,RealNazy...

____________ ryeatley
Yesterday 06:23 PM
Bigot: "9000 people murdered by ASSad."

That's not true, is it.

____________ hatebigots
Yesterday 06:51 PM
repeating like a kid "That's not true, is it.", wont make your beloved ASSad`s propaganda more credible.
Nor your gullibility less pitiful.

But ASSad`s BS is true, isnt it... For you.

____________ ryeatley
Yesterday 09:00 PM
So, Bigot is the sentence "9000 people murdered by ASSad" true or not?

____________ french toast
Yesterday 08:42 AM
You really think any of this would have got to this stage had the said govenments had used DEMOCRACY in the first place instead of buturing them?? its YOU who is naive, the stupid tin pot dictators got what they deserved..and they were stupid enough to go down the route they did..all for keepoing power for them selfs..nothing else.
As i have already said, thera are loads of different cultures/religions/ tribes living right net to each other in all these Arab countries, is not democracy that had caused this..nor the west...not even the muslim brotherhood..they are gangsters with there oiwn agenda that can ONLY FUNCTION WHEN SOCIETY BREAKS DOWN something that the selfish short sighted govenments let happen by NOT LISTENING TO THE PEOPLE IN THE FOIRST PLACE.. do you think we would have got to this stage if there were fair elections?? decent human rights in the county?? a fair legal system?? leaders not using the counties GDP tofill their own bank accounts?? get a grip.

Let me tell you if society breaks down in any country you will have gangs and different cultures stick togther against others...its a natural human reaction to group togther and fight for territory..has been for thousands of cant use a breakdown of society and this happening as an excuse for govenments abusing the population for DECADES untill a revolt happens.

There was an easy way out of just needed the dictators to hold a fair election..nothin else.

____________ ryeatley
Yesterday 02:06 PM
Bigot: "had the said govenments had used DEMOCRACY in the first place"

It took him a long time, but Gaddafi offered internationally supervised elections during "our" regime-change action against him.

In Syria they've just had a referendum which removes the supreme position of Assad's Baath party - and a clear majority of the overall electorate voted it in. They have elections scheduled for May the 7th., and have actually accepted the U.N. six-point plan, which refers to:

o - an effective United Nations supervised cessation of armed violence in
all its forms by all parties to protect civilians and stabilize the

amongst other things. The plan put forward by the U.N. and accepted by the Syrian government may be found at:

So, that's progress, isn't it - and there is hope for a political solution, isn't there.

____________ hatebigots
Yesterday 02:13 PM
Gaddafi duc also said Libya was a "real" democracy for 42 years during his rule , that we was not a ruler.
He also said he would win the "internationally supervised election"

RealNazy, after ALL cases of dictators who promised free election in places like Burma, Cambodja, my country and broke all their promises, isnt pathetic your gullibility?

In Syria they've just had a referendum which removes the supreme position of Assad's Baath party?

Didnt Assad's Baath party won all election in Syria with 97 % of votes?
Becuase they were staged?
Yes to both questions.

Didnt ASSad made promises to end violence for a entire year and broke them all?

Isnt he still massacring civilians while he "accepts" Annan`s proposal with mere words?

Yes to both questions.

Have you ever said SINGLE critic against ASSad?


What do you think ?

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