Thursday, 11 September 2014

Obama’s Syria menu: Where’s the No-Fly Zone?

Cross-posted from

President Obama’s televised speech yesterday on US action to fight IS (Islamic State / ISIS / ISIL / DAESH) in Syria as well as in Iraq was preceded by a White House dinner with a bipartisan group of foreign policy experts, amongst other communications efforts. Missing from the speech, from dinner reports, from briefings by government spokespeople named and unnamed, was any mention of measures to stop the Assad regime’s ongoing bombing campaign against Syrian civilians.

The Violations Documentation Center in Syria has recorded over 13,200 individuals killed by Assad’s air attacks to date. That’s a minimum count of confirmed killings compiled by one organisation, not the total number killed. Of those, the vast majority were civilians: 12,661 to date, a number likely higher by the time you click on the link. This killing is ongoing: 260 of those civilians were recorded killed in the first ten days of this month.

Assad’s air war is not just a deliberate ongoing threat to civilians, it is also a major threat to the US strategy for fighting IS because that strategy relies on partnering with Syrian opposition forces, and also on establishing inclusive functioning governments in both Iraq and Syria to provide security for all sections of their populations. “A government that can protect them. A government that makes sure that their families are safe…”

Now that Obama has committed the US to fighting IS in Syria by means of both US strikes and greater support for Syrian opposition forces fighting IS on the ground, immediate measures should be taken to stop Assad’s attacks.

The US should declare that Assad’s air attacks are not only an ongoing breach of UN Security Council Resolution 2139, but are also a threat to US allies in the fight against IS, and a threat to US air operations against IS, and consequently the US should demand the immediate grounding of all military flights by Assad regime aircraft. Any further action by Assad aircraft should be punished by attacks on regime air assets: aircraft, airfields, ammunition stores, and air defences.

This would in effect impose a No-Fly Zone, not by the continuous patrol means seen in the 1990s in Bosnia and Iraq, nor by eradication as seen in Libya, but by means of deterrence and retaliation. This would be both safer and cheaper than other NFZ options.

Failure to take action against regime bombing of civilians would undermine support for US action against IS amongst the Syrian population, as well as exposing US allies amongst the Syrian opposition to avoidable danger. Furthermore, allowing regime air attacks on civilians to continue alongside US air attacks on IS would risk the US being blamed for deaths and injuries caused by the regime.


Monday, 1 September 2014

Monday, 25 August 2014

War situation

As we approach the first anniversary of the House of Commons vote following the Ghouta chemical massacre, here’s something from an earlier House of Commons debate:

I hope, indeed, that some of our ardent critics out of doors—I have nothing to complain of here—will reflect a little on their own records in the past, and by searching their hearts and memories will realise the fate which awaits nations and individuals who take an easy and popular course or who are guided in defence matters by the shifting winds of well-meaning public opinion. Nothing is more dangerous in war-time than to live in the temperamental atmosphere of a Gallup Poll, always feeling one’s pulse and taking one’s temperature. I see that a speaker at the week-end said that this was a time when leaders should keep their ears to the ground. All I can say is that the British nation will find it very hard to look up to leaders who are detected in that somewhat ungainly posture. If today I am very kindly treated by the mass of the people of this country, it is certainly not because I have followed public opinion in recent years. There is only one duty, only one safe course, and that is to try to be right and not to fear to do or say what you believe to be right. That is the only way to deserve and to win the confidence of our great people in these days of trouble.

From Hansard, HC Deb 30 September 1941 vol 374 cc509-51: The Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill.

Letter from a castaway

A stamp for GT Thomas, just a taste of what’s to come I hope.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Events marking the first anniversary of the Ghouta Sarin massacre

Below is a partial list – see here for more.

Cross-posted from


Brussels: Thursday 21 August, 6 pm at Gare Centrale.
Facebook event page.


Montreal: Thursday 21 August, 6:30-7:30 pm at Phillips Square.
Facebook event page via Ghouta – We Will Never Forget You.

Toronto: Saturday 23 August, 6 pm at Yonge-Dundas Square.
Facebook event page via Syria Solidarity Collective Toronto.


Paris: Thursday 21 August, 6 pm at Fontaine Saint-Michel, Place St Michel.
Facebook event page.


Berlin: Saturday 23 August, 4-7 pm at Alexanderplatz.
Facebook event page.

Frankfurt: Saturday 23 August, 2-5:30 pm, Frankfurt (Main) Hauptbahnhof.
Facebook event page.

Hamburg: Saturday 23 August, 5-8 pm at Ida-Ehre-Platz.
Facebook event page.


Dublin: Thursday 21 August, 6-8 pm at the Spire.
Via Irish Syria Solidarity Movement.


Milan: Saturday 23 August, 5 pm at Duomo Di Milano, Via Pattari.
Facebook event page.


Beirut: Thursday 21 August, 6:30 at Martyrs Square, Al Shouhada.
More at
Via Global Campaign of Solidarity with the Syrian Revolution.


Oslo: Saturday 23 August, 2-3 pm at Youngstorget.
Facebook event page.

Bergen: Saturday 23 August, 2 pm at Musikkpaviljongen.
Facebook event page.

Events are also planned in Stavanger and Larvik.


Granada: Saturday 23 August, 7 pm at Plaza Nueva.
Facebook event page.


Stockholm: Thursday 21 August, 6:30-8:30 at Mynttorget.
Facebook event page.


London: Saturday 23 August, 2-4 pm at Trafalgar Square, followed by a walk to Downing Street to leave flowers.
Via Syria Solidarity Movement.


Boston – there are two events, one on Thursday evening, and one on Sunday.

Boston: Thursday 21 August, 7 pm, candle vigil at the Montserrat Aspirers Community Center, Dorchester, Boston.
Facebook event page.

Boston: Sunday 23 August, 12-2 pm, Boston Common.
Facebook event page.

New York: Friday 22 August, 5-8 pm at Times Square, 44th Street and 7th Avenue.
Facebook event page.

Washington DC: Thursday 21 August, 12 pm at The White House.
Facebook event page. Organised by

See also events in Houston and St Paul on Saturday 23 August.

Friday, 1 August 2014

1 August 1944

BBC Timewatch: Battle for Warsaw

Friday, 11 July 2014

Israel plays Assad and Khamenei’s game in Gaza

This link will serve, a news story from The Globe and Mail yesterday, on how Hamas is armed by Iran with Syrian and Iranian-made rockets, particularly the Syrian-made M-302 Khaibar and Iranian Fajr-5 missiles. It cites Colonel Richard Kemp an analyst with London’s Royal United Services Institute, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
“Iran is … sending deadly weapons to terrorist organizations – via an elaborate network of secret operations around that world that aim to funnel rockets, missiles and other deadly weapons to be used to harm innocent civilians,” Mr. Netanyahu said, adding: “Hamas will pay a heavy price for firing toward Israeli citizens.”
In other words, Mr. Netanyahu makes clear that Gazans are pawns of Khamenei and Assad, but despite knowing this his retaliation will be limited to the pawns, with all the killing of civilians that comes with carrying out such an operation in Gaza.

This is a repeat of the stubborn stupidity of Israel’s conduct of war in Lebanon in 2006, where it targeted civilian infrastructure and held a fragile Lebanese government responsible for the actions of Hezbollah, rather than attacking Hezbollah’s actual backers, the tyrant rulers of Syria and Iran.

The foolishness of this was highlighted at the time by the strategically smartest American president of the 21st Century (not a big claim) GW Bush:
You see the irony is what they need to do is get Syria, to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it’s all over…
When Israel’s government declares the Iranian and Syrian regimes responsible for arming Hamas, and when it accuses Hamas of deliberately putting civilians in harm’s way, they make it clear that when they then go on to hit only targets in Gaza, and continue to contain Gaza’s population together with a Hamas regime that by the Israel government’s own account is happy to see them bleed, then Israel is playing Assad and Khamenei’s game in Gaza.

Assad and Khamenei are blessed to have an enemy like Israel, an enemy who will draw the world’s outrage while Assad’s helicopters and Khamenei’s militias get on with slaughtering Syrians across the border. And though Israel has repeatedly demonstrated that they have the ability to hit inside Syria, they’ll let Assad’s helicopters and Khamenei’s supply planes carry on flying.

Syria still needs a No-Fly Zone. It would serve the Israelis’ interests too, but they don’t seem to have the wit to see it.

At +972, Nobody should be a number: Names of those killed in Gaza, via Peter Beaumont.