Reuters & AP
February 4, 2013
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Monday that Syria’s crisis could not be solved by military means and he called for a national accord leading to elections.
“War is not the solution…A government that rules through war – its work will be very difficult. A sectarian war should not be launched in Syria,” he told Al Mayadeen television.
“We believe that [deciding] whoever stays or goes is the right of the Syrian people. How can we interfere in that? We must strive to achieve national understanding, and free elections.”
Posted by David Ignatius on February 4, 2013 at 9:46 am
Munich — Syria is the world’s most intractable and dangerous problem. But two ideas emerged on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference that could draw Russia into a more constructive role in solving the crisis, rather than allowing it to remain an obstructionist bystander.
Neither of these initiatives has yet yielded any positive results, and this still looks, unfortunately, like a war to the death. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in his public comments at the conference, remained determinedly downbeat — and reaffirmed Russia’s opposition to any forced removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
But let’s look at the new ideas for a moment, rather than the old intransigence:
• Vice President Joe Biden is said to have proposed, in his private meeting Saturday with Lavrov, that Russia and the United States work jointly to maintain secure control of Syria’s chemical weapons, in the event that Assad’s government should fall.
This idea of Russian-American cooperation to prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction echoes one of the most positive joint efforts after the end of the Cold War, when the two countries worked together to keep the old Soviet nuclear arsenal from falling into the hands of others. That effort was known as the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, named after the two senators, Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar, who authored it in 1992.
In the case of Syria, a joint effort to secure chemical weapons would reassure Russia that it will have a role in future security and stability in Syria and the region. It would also reduce the danger that these weapons might fall into the hands of the jihadist groups, such as al-Nusra Front that’s linked to al-Qaeda.
• Sheik Mouaz al-Khatib, the leader of the umbrella coalition group of the Syrian opposition, repeated Friday night in Munich his willingness to meet with acceptable representative of the Assad regime, “to ease the suffering of the Syrian people.” He had initially made this proposal early last week and was blasted for it by other, more hawkish members of the opposition. His willingness to repeat it, during a panel discussion I moderated here Friday night, was a positive sign. His statement was welcomed by Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. special representative for Syria, who was also on the panel.
Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on Monday quoted the Saudi Cabinet as condemning “the Israeli aggression against Syrian territories which it considers a flagrant violation against the territories of an Arab state and against its sovereignty.”
The Syrian army said in a statement on January 30 that two people were killed and five others injured in an Israeli airstrike on a research center in Jamraya, located 25 kilometers (15 miles) northwest of Damascus.
On January 26, Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal called for militants fighting against the Syrian government to be given sophisticated weapons, including anti-aircraft weapons.
Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former intelligence chief and brother of the Saudi foreign minister, said, “What is needed are sophisticated, high-level weapons that can bring down planes, can take out tanks at a distance. This is not getting through.”
In December 2012, the Saudi regime pledged to allocate 100 million dollars in aid to the Western-backed Syrian opposition, reiterating its recognition of the so-called National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said that Riyadh would assign the money to the Syrian opposition to assist them in fighting against the Syrian government.The Saudi minister further called on all Syrian opposition groups to unite under one leadership.
Published: 02 February, 2013, 17:29
Edited: 03 February, 2013, 02:05
Military intervention in Syria is unacceptable even if it aims to create an air-protected humanitarian corridor, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov has said. Syria is one of most hotly debated topics at an annual Security Conference taking place in Germany.
”Russia does not support the idea of a humanitarian corridor in Syria. Any use of military power is unacceptable, and not just because we still remember what it lead to in Libya,” Lavrov said while addressing the Munich Security Conference. “We need to see the world the way it is. We need to recognize that military operations bring more chaos into the international matters and can send off waves of instability that will be impossible to hide from in any of what we may think as an island of security.”
Lavrov confirmed that the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal is under full control of the country’s government, and poses no danger as long as it does not fall into the hands of the rebels. Such an event would be a “red line” nobody wishes to see crossed, he said.
Despite the worsening situation in the region, peace is still within reach, Lavrov explained: “The war in Syria could be over if all sides stuck honestly and loyally to the principles of the June 30 Geneva conference.”
But US Vice President Joe Biden expressed a different view of how peace could be brought to Syria. “President Assad, a tyrant hellbent on clinging to power, is not longer fit to lead the Syrian people and must go,” Biden said in his Munich speech.
Lavrov, however, expressed doubts about the right of the US to decide the legitimacy of the Syrian government: “We have many questions as to the policies of our western colleagues. Can you justify terror methods for the purposes of regime change? Can you fight same enemies in one conflict if you ally with them in another? How do you make sure the illegally supplied weapons don’t turn against yourself?”
“Who of the leaders are legitimate, who is not?” Lavrov said. “When you can cooperate with the authoritarian regimes, whether secular or not, or when you can sponsor fights against them? In which cases do you recognize democratic choices of a nation or cut all ties with them? What criteria or standards do you use for that?”
Lavrov also said that countries involved in brokering peace in the troubled region “could agree to support democratic reforms in countries on the path for changes, but not impose on them a whatever scale of values, accepting there exist multiple models for development.”
The Russian Foreign Minister has also met for the first time with Syrian opposition chief Moaz al-Khatib on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. The topic and nature of the talks were not disclosed.
US Vice President Biden was also scheduled to meet with Lavrov and Khatib, and UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi in Munich, the White House said earlier.
The meeting between Lavrov and al-Khatib did not include Biden or Brahimi, despite initial reports that suggested four-way talks might be held, as all four are in currently in Germany.
The Syrian conflict has wracked the country since March of 2011, when thousands took to the streets to demand the resignation of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, whose family has been in power for decades. The country is currently embroiled in a full-scale civil war, with rebels and the army fighting for control of every town and refugees spilling across the country’s borders. Assad has refused to step down, and said he is a legitimate leader who is fighting against a well-armed insurgency sponsored from abroad.
The Munich Security Conference is an annual gathering of top security officials that focuses on issues surrounding European-Atlantic security, the situation in Syria and Mali, as well as non-proliferation and arms control.
Published: 03 February, 2013, 14:39
Syrian TV has broadcast images of what it said was the aftermath of an Israeli airstrike on a research facility near Damascus. Israel has implicitly admitted it was behind the raid, which allegedly targeted a weapons convoy headed to Lebanon.
The footage broadcast on Saturday by Al-Ikhbariya TV and Syrian state TV showed destroyed cars, trucks and military vehicles, and a damaged building with its windows broken and interior damaged. The video was allegedly shot at Jamraya, northwest of Damascus. The Syrian military earlier said that Israeli jets bombed the area.
Israel has not officially confirmed the allegations. But on Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that “What happened in Syria several days ago… that’s proof that when we said something we mean it. We say that we don’t think it should be allowed to bring advanced weapons systems into Lebanon.”
“Hezbollah from Lebanon and the Iranians are the only allies that [Syrian President Bashar] Assad has left,” Barak told reporters at a security conference in Munich, adding that the “imminent” fall of the Assad government “will be a major blow to the Iranians and Hezbollah.”
Earlier, it was reported that the Wednesday airstrike targeted a convoy carrying SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles to Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon. The advanced Russian-made missiles would have enabled troops in Lebanon target Israeli warplanes, which can currently intrude into Lebanese airspace unopposed.
The reports were denied by the Syrian military, which said that no such weapons transfer had been planned.
Damascus vowed to retaliate against the Israeli airstrike, while Syrian rebel forces battling the government criticized President Bashar Assad for not responding to the bombing.
On Sunday, President Assad accused Israel of trying to destabilize Syria through the attack. He warned that Syria will confront “current threats… and aggression” against it during a meeting in Damascus with Iranian national security council secretary Saeed Jalili. The remarks were the Syrian leader’s first public comment on the airstrike since it happened on Wednesday.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 4, 2013, 12:06 PM (GMT+02:00)
Syrian ruler Bashar Assad has ordered the resumption of weapons transfers to the Lebanese Hizballah, debkafile’s exclusive military and intelligence sources report. This was agreed with Iran’s National Security Director Saeed Jalilee, who arrived in Damascus after Israel’s reported air strike last Wednesday, Jan. 30, inter alia, on Syrian trucks preparing to ferry to Lebanon for Hizballah the sophisticated Iran-supplied arms stored at the Jamraya military complex north of Damascus.
The Syrian ruler assured the Iranian official that he would not be deterred by what he called acts of “aggression.” It was up to Syria and Iran to put their heads together to find a safe method of getting the hardware across to Hizballah without exposing it to Israeli attack in truck convoys on the open road.
Jalilee is still in Damascus. He arrived Saturday to discuss with Syrian and Hizballah how to activate against Israel the secret mutual defense pact binding Iran, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas.
According to our sources, Israeli military tacticians believe that as winter weather starts clearing up, Syria and Iran will devise crafty methods for outwitting Israel and getting the weapons to Lebanon – for example, disassembling the missiles and launchers and disguising them as non-lethal merchandize. They could then be spirited across from Syria to Lebanon in small packages by the smuggling rings regularly operating on their common border.
In anticipation of such tricks, the Israeli Air Force has in recent days thrown a round-the-clock blanket over the border area. It is constantly monitoring the traffic moving across and is ready to prevent any arms traffic. Without going through any formalities, Israel has thus effectively imposed a no-fly regime over a buffer zone straddling the Syrian-Lebanese border and placed it under the control of its air force.
Israeli officials have been warning for months that the IDF will not allow the transfer of advanced Syrian weapons – including chemical and biological weapons – to terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front and Hezbollah.
Without directly confirming the Israel attack on the Jamraya military compound, defense minister Ehud Barak told the Munich security conference Sunday “…what happened in Syria several days ago… that’s proof that when we said something we mean it… and we say that we don’t think it should be allowed to bring advanced weapons systems into Lebanon.”
Israel’s actions to this end, including over flights by its air force which are widely reported by the Lebanese media, were undertaken after Assad was seen to be bent on testing Israel’s resolve to prevent arms transfers to Hizballah. These transfers were expressly prohibited under UN Security Council Resolution 1701 which ended the Israeli-Hizballah war in 2006.
Feb 4, 2013
Israel claims it bombed a weapons convoy, while Syria claimed that a research facility was hit. Who is right?
Israeli warplanes struck several targets inside Syria overnight Tuesday, including a biological weapons research center that was reportedly flattened out of concern that it might fall into the hands of Islamist extremists fighting to topple the government of Syrian president Bashar Assad, Western intelligence officials tell TIME.
The irony is thick, as the U.S. is directly backing the Islamist extremists fighting to topple the Syrian government.
A Western intelligence official indicated to TIME that at least one to two additional targets were hit the same night, without offering details. Officials also said that Israel had a “green light” from Washington to launch yet more such strikes.
But the U.S. isn’t just an arm-chair quarterback … it may directly join in the action:
One Western intelligence official told TIME the U.S. military was poised to carry out similar airstrikes around Aleppo if rebels threaten to take sites associated with weapons of mass destruction in that region.
In the bizarro world of American and Israeli propaganda, arming Al Qaeda rebels or bombing Syrian assets does not count as “intervening” in a war:
Though no country has intervened in Syria’s civil war directly …
In diplomatic terms, surgical strikes launched in the name of preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction tend to be well-tolerated by the international community, especially when the attacks are not publicly acknowledged. Israel still does not officially acknowledge its secret 2007 destruction of a Syrian nuclear reactor.
“I’m not going to give any condemnation of Israel or rush into any criticism,” British foreign secretary William Hauge told the BBC on Thursday. “There may be many things about it that we don’t know, or the Arab League or Russia don’t know.”
What does this mean?
The endless war on terror has been re-branded through propaganda. There are no new wars launched by America and its allies. There are simply “kinetic actions“, and “covert operations” carried out in secret.
Postscript: The official narrative says that these endless series of wars secure our national defense and stimulate the economy.
DEBKAfile Special Report February 3, 2013, 2:36 PM (GMT+02:00)
Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak had strong words for Iran and its allies at the Munich Security Conference Sunday, Feb. 3, while, in Damascus, Iran’s National Security Director Saeed Jalili conferred urgently with Syrian President Bashar Assad. They discussed activating the secret mutual defense pact binding Iran, Syria, Hizballlah and Hamas in reprisal for the Israeli air strike which reportedly hit a military complex near Damascus last Wednesday.
Without directly confirming the Israel attack on the Jamraya military compound, defense minister Barak said, “…what happened in Syria several days ago… that’s proof that when we said something we mean it… and we say that we don’t think it should be allowed to bring advanced weapons systems into Lebanon.”
Addressing top world diplomats and defense officials, Barak when on to say: “Hizballah from Lebanon and the Iranians are the only allies that Assad has left.” Assad’s fall is “coming imminently” and that “will be a major blow to the Iranians and Hizbollah. I think that they will pay the price,” he said.
In Tehran, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani warned Israel Sunday of the consequences of its alleged strike. “The world is witnessing a vengeance carried out by the West, particularly the US, and some backward elements in the region against resistance.” Larijani called on countries in the region to distance themselves from Israel and said he believed “the Islamic awakening movement in the region would give a proper response to the Zionist regime.”
On the face of it, Tehran looks as though it is passing the buck for “a proper response to the Zionist regime” to fellow Muslims and the Arab world.
However, debkafile’s Iranian and intelligence sources believe the Iranians are simply playing for time to decide how to retaliate for Israel’s reported strike on the military complex which Syria shares with its allies. The man to watch is Jalilee who, we can report exclusively, arrived post haste in Damascus Saturday, Feb. 2, to warn Syrian leaders that Tehran is not willing to forego a military response to an attack which destroyed a whole supply of advanced Iranian weapons Tehran sent to Hizballah in the last two years and which were stored at the Jamraya compound.
The Syrian ruler clearly agrees with his Iranian guest. Sunday, he accused Israel of trying to “destabilize” his country. His first remarks on the reported Israeli air strike in Syria on Wednesday came after he met Jalilee. He added that Syria was able to confront “current threats… and aggression.”
Iran, Syria and Hizballah must now decide on the nature of their reprisal, set up the operation and assign forces for its implementation, while taking into account Israel’s options for a counter-response.
Barak’s tough comments in Munich told Tehran that Israel is ready to remove the gloves against Syria and Hizballlah. Iranian leaders heeded his words well while at the same time keeping track of the Syrian opposition leader Mouaz al-Khatib’s meetings in Munich with US Vice President Joe Biden and, for the first time, with the foreign ministers of Russia and Iran, Sergey Lavrov and Ali Akbar Salehi.
Salehi spent 45 minutes with the Syrian dissident on the sidelines of the conference addressed by the Israeli defense minister.
Those meetings were taken as suggesting that the Syrian opposition does not expect the Syrian ruler to fall in the short term and has therefore decided there is no option but to start talking to him about a power-sharing format for ending the Syrian conflict. Tehran is already angling for a role in a Syrian peace settlement.
However an Iranian-backed reprisal operation countered by a tough Israel response could upset this promising scenario.
DEBKAfile February 3, 2013, 5:14 PM (GMT+02:00)
“Those who treated the Israeli government like a spoiled child should know that history will not forgive Israel’s state structure,” said Turkish Prime Minister Reccep Erdogan. Asked about Israeli attacks on Syrian targets, he said Iran should first of all reconsider its attitude on Syria. Saturday, the Turkish foreign minister “found” a secret deal between… Israel and Syria to explain why Assad’s army did not hit back at Israeli warplanes. DEBKAfile: The Ankara government is facing embarrassing questions about why it was left to Israel to strike a military facility of the Assad regime, not Turkey.
Published: 02 February, 2013, 12:07
Edited: 02 February, 2013, 15:18
Israel may strike at Syria again if it detects the movement of weaponry intended for Hezbollah, sources have told the media. The US has voiced support for any measures that prevent weapons from falling into the hands of the region’s extremists.
Tensions have risen in the area after Wednesday’s Israeli strike on a military research center in Syrian territory. The attack provoked the ire of both Syria and Iran, who condemned the strike as an affront to Syrian sovereignty and promised “serious consequences.”
Ephraim Kam, deputy director of Israel’s Institute of National Security Studies, told the Telegraph that threats of retaliation from Iran and Syria were greatly outweighed by the possibility of weapons falling into Hezbollah’s hands.
“If tomorrow the IDF [Israeli Defense Force] sees the movement of this weaponry, it will and should strike again,” he told the Telegraph. “This week’s attack was a kind of warning – we are ready and prepared to do this.”
Israel moved a third missile battery of its Iron Dome defense system to its northern borders on Friday, joining two others that had been deployed from the south on Monday.
The IDF confirmed the move, but said that the deployment was “routine” and not connected with Wednesday’s strikes. The IDF has refused to comment on whether it ordered the aerial attack in Syria earlier this week.
However, the strike has become a hot topic in the Israeli media, with publications discussing the possible ramifications of the attack.
“Complete restraint over the long term to Israel’s actions could be considered weakness by Hezbollah, so we should expect some form of response, even if not immediately and not necessarily a broad rocket and missile attack on Israel,” defense commentator Amos Harel wrote in Israeli daily Haaretz.
Publication Yediot Aharonot reported that the Israeli army’s northern command had been placed on high alert, although the military did not confirm this to AFP.
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