Saturday, February 19, 2005

Syria Accountability Act - Distorted Truths and Outright Lies

The leaders in the House International Relations Committee agreed to not allow any witnesses for the opposition of the bill to testify at their committee hearings and when it was time to vote, of the 435 House members only four voted against the act.

A similar bill was passed in the Senate and is being enacted, as you may have heard the president say in his State of the Union address earlier this year.

I just want to touch on some of the major issues in the act.
(4) The Government of Syria is currently prohibited by United States law from receiving United States assistance because it has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism, as determined by the Secretary of State for purposes of section 6(j)(1) of the Export Administration Act of 1979 (50 U.S.C. App. 2405(j)(1)) and other relevant provisions of law.
(5) Although the Department of State lists Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism and reports that Syria provides "safe haven and support to several terrorist groups", fewer United States sanctions apply with respect to Syria than with respect to any other country that is listed as a state sponsor of terrorism.

According to the State Department's most recent annual report, Patterns of Global Terrorism, "the Syrian Government has not been implicated directly in an act of terrorism since 1986."

1986 was the year Syria was implicated in the attempted bombing of an El Al flight. North Korea, Sudan, Libya, and Iran all have been involved with international terrorism in recent past. Cuba and Syria are the only others on the list and neither of those states have sponsored terrorism recently. Cuba is on the list simply for political reasons, and the Clinton administration offered to remove Syria from the "state sponsors of terrorism" list during the Syrian-Israeli peace talks, if it would agree to Israel's terms. Officials at the State Department admitted that keeping Syria on the list was just for political leverage.

The report further states,
The Syrian Government has repeatedly assured the United States that it will take every possible measure to protect US citizens and facilities from terrorists in Syria. During the past five years, there have been no acts of terrorism against US citizens in Syria.
The Government of Syria has cooperated significantly with the United States and other foreign governments against al-Qaida, the Taliban, and other terrorist organizations and individuals. It also has discouraged any signs of public support for al-Qaida, including in the media and at mosques.
Kuwaiti officials have...worked with Syria and Iran to develop procedures to increase intelligence sharing and enhance customs and border-monitoring cooperation.
In 2003, Syria was instrumental in returning a sought-after terrorist planner to US custody. Since the end of the war in Iraq, Syria has made efforts to tighten its borders with Iraq to limit the movement of anti-Coalition foreign fighters into Iraq.
Syria has cooperated with the United States against al-Qaida and other extremist Islamic terrorist groups and has made efforts to limit the movement of anti-Coalition fighters into Iraq.

Syria has given the US hundreds of files regarding al Qaeda and other radical Islamic groups in the Middle East and Europe. These included data on the activities of radical cells and intelligence about future terror operations in Behrain which a retired National Security Council member claimed, "would have killed a lot of Americans". Seymour Hersh reported in the New Yorker, July 28, 2003, that a retired undercover CIA agent told him that "the quality and quantity of information [from] Syria exceeded the agency's expectations" but Syria "got little in return for it." Saudi Arabia refuses to cooperate with the US in search of al-Qaida and they remain one of our closest allies. Syria hands over hundreds of files, maybe helping to stop one or more planned al-Qaida attacks, and the US now strains the relationship with that state to the point that they have stopped helping.

The act also says,
(6) Terrorist groups, including Hizballah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, maintain offices, training camps, and other facilities on Syrian territory, and operate in areas of Lebanon occupied by the Syrian armed forces and receive supplies from Iran through Syria.

Syria's role in promoting international terrorism is certainly not as extensive as implied.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) hasn't had any real power since its peak in the 1970s. It now remains in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, but simply as a legal opposition political party. Their limited recent military activities have all been within the West Bank and Gaza Strip, areas controlled by occupation forces from Israel and the Palestinian Authority. None of these attacks have originated in Syria.

The PFLP-GC has also lost power since the 1970s and their only recent attacks have been minor and were from area in southern Lebanon which are not controlled by Syria. There is no evidence that Syria had any involvement with this group's attacks.

The only two mentioned groups who do take part in continuing terrorist acts are Islamic Jihad and Hamas, both of which are based, again, in Palestinian Authority and Israeli occupation force controlled ares in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. There are political offices of these two groups in Syria, as in the capitals of many Arab countries, but most of Hamas' support comes from Saudi Arabia and most of Islamic Jihad's support comes from Iran. Syria has suppressed the extremist Syrian Islamists who have similar views as these two Palestinian groups.

The "training camps" refers to a supposed Islamic Jihad base in a Palestinian refugee camp near the capital, Damascus. This, however, was bombed in late 2002 by Israel and was actually an abandoned PFLP-GC camp. This mistake was covered up as the Bush administration claimed there were "active" military facilities at the camp, which referred to the anti-aircraft batteries located there. These are normally considered to be for defense and not for terrorism. Apparently not in this case. Besides, the normal method of terrorism from Islamic Jihad is the familiar suicide bomber with explosives strapped to them. Why would they need a training base? And why would it need to be in a foreign country, especially one who doesn't allow that sort of activity within its borders?

The only group mentioned that may have received support from Syria is the extremist Lebanese Shi'ite group Hizballah, but Syria has traditionally been allied with Hizballah's rival, the Amal faction. Hizballah's support comes from Iran and even that has largely declined since the early 1980s. Anyway, Hizballah is a legally recognized Lebanese party and serves in the Lebanese parliament. Their violence has been restricted, again, to Israeli occupation forces in southern Lebanon, and not against civilians. These groups, admittedly, carry out attacks. However, attacks against foreign occupation forces are legitimate, as recognized by international law. There is no reason, apart from the US's unconditional support for Israel, that these groups are any longer considered "terrorists". It would be akin to calling Kuwaitis terrorists for defending themselves against the Iraqis when they were invaded in the early 1990s.
Article 7: United Nations Security Council Resolution 520 (September 17, 1982) calls for "strict respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence of Lebanon under the sole and exclusive authority of the Government of Lebanon through the Lebanese Army throughout Lebanon.

Accurate, but misleading. UN Security Council Resolution 520 mentions only one country who had troops in Lebanon - Israel. Israel invaded Lebanon three months prior and held nearly half of the country by that point, including the capital, Beirut. Soon after the passing of Resolution 520, Israel pulled its troops out of the capital and from most of the country, but remained in southern Lebanon until May 2002, which was in violation of this and nine other UN Security Council resolutions. At the time of this resolution, there were Syrian troops in Lebanon. They had been there for six years as the majority of the peacekeeping force, which was authorized by the Arab League, to try to stop the civil war. The US then supported the Syrians because it meant in all probability the Lebanese National Movement (leftist) and the Palestinians would lose. So when it is good for US interests, it is okay to station your troops in someone else's country (Afghanistan, Iraq). But when you are a country we want to be mean to because you disagreed with our war in Iraq, you'd better watch your back.

Another thing - none of the supporters of the act, most of whom were in office at one point during the eighteen or so years Israel was violating the UN resolutions, ever asked Israel to withdraw troops and they never passed acts calling for economic sanctions against Israel either. We instead gave unconditional economic and military aid to Israel whilst it was in obvious violation of ten UN resolutions, one of which being the same resolution they are using as justification for the sanctions against Syria today.
There are more than 90 UN Security Council resolutions being violated by states other than Syria. Almost all of these countries receive support from the US in the form of billions of dollars in economic and military aid.

Don't get me wrong. I don't believe that it is okay for Syria to have troops in Lebanon against their wishes. They should withdraw, no questions about it. But Lebanon has not ever asked the Syrian troops to leave. It is clear, though, that the US government obviously doesn't care about the people or government of Lebanon, otherwise they would have imposed sanctions on Israel in the 1990s and early 2000s. This is all politics. This is simply the demonization of a country that the Bush regime dislikes. The justification for the war in Syria will be the false claims of terrorist ties, as stated in this act, and their newly founded relationship with Iran. Or the war in Iran will be due to their terrorist ties (which, by the way, are much more real than the Syrian ties) and their new relationship with Syria. Maybe it will be a dual war against both states simultaneously. That would be nice. Double the pretty fireworks on CNN everynight. Anyway, I am sure that this Syria-Iran relationship, though it hasn't been mentioned as such yet, will be considered a hostile action in the future and may even begin the new Allies vs. Axis ("of Evil") war.

Another thing, I am saddened by the hints of connection between Syria and the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Secretary of State Rice didn't directly blame Syria. No, that would be too obvious. Just like it was never stated definitively that Saddam Hussein was tied to al-Qaida. It was just hinted at. She simply said that Syria's refusal to withdraw troops "was a factor" and that "there is no doubt that the conditions created by Syria's presence there have created a destabilized situation in Lebanon. That is very clear to everyone." Oh, really? Because Syrians troops weren't in Beirut, or any other major Lebanese city for that matter. They haven't been in Beirut for two years or so. Besides, I see the insurgency in Iraq and it looks to me as though the 13,000 Syrian troops in rural Lebanon are creating much less of a "destabilized situation" than the 150,000 American and coalition forces in Iraq.

It gets better. We tell Syria they must get their troops out of Lebanon, and then when this bombing occurs we ask why their troops didn't stop it. Why can't the 150,000 troops in Iraq stop the MANY attacks there, almost daily? And again I say their troops are not in the large cities. This, by the way, should go at least a small distance to proving that they are not trying to control the government of Lebanon. They are simply there for peacekeeping. Syrian Ambassador to the US, Imad Moustapha, stated that if the current or soon-to-be-elected Lebanese government asks Syrian forces to leave, "We will leave immediately. We will not blink an eye."
The star witness in the House International Committee hearings on this bill was Michel Aoun. Mr. Aoun is the former Lebanese general who forcibly seized the role of prime minister in 1988 and tried, unsuccessfully, to stop the Taif Accords (which ended up stopping the 15-year civil war). He was removed by Lebanese troops aided by the Syrian troops in late 1990, right before the first Gulf War. The US supported the Syrian and Lebanese ousting of Aoun since his largest foreign supporter while in power was Saddam Hussein.

(13) Even in the face of this United Nations certification that acknowledged Israel's full compliance with Resolution 425, Syria permits attacks by Hizballah and other militant organizations on Israeli outposts at Shebaa Farms, under the false guise that it remains Lebanese land, and is also permitting attacks on civilian targets in Israel.

Shebaa Farms is a disputed border region between Syria and Lebanon. Syria now acknowledges it is part of Lebanon. Israel seized the territory in 1967 during the invasion of the Syrian Golan plateau and occupy it to this day. Whether it is Syrian or Lebanese land, armed resistance against occupying forces is legal under international law. Besides, these attacks stopped in early 2003. The UN acknowledges the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, but Secretary General Kofi Annan said in his 2003 report on the situation in Lebanon (in reference to Israel flying over Lebanese airspace), "the provocative air violations by Israel not only intimidate the civilian population of Lebanon but they are at variance with Israel's otherwise full compliance with Security Council resolution 425 (1978)"

There have been very, very few clashes involving Hizballah on the Israeli-Lebanese border since 2000 when Israel withdrew. In July 2003, some shells from anti-aircraft fire (against Israeli planes invading Lebanese airspace illegally) fell into Israeli territory and injured three civilians. However, there are no Syrian forces near the Lebanese border with Israel, so it makes no sense that Syria could be permitting or not permitting these attacks.
(15) The Israeli-Lebanese border and much of southern Lebanon is under the control of Hizballah, which continues to attack Israeli positions, allows Iranian Revolutionary Guards and other militant groups to operate freely in the area, and maintains thousands of rockets along Israel's northern border, destabilizing the entire region.

Hizballah attacks against Israel have nearly all been against the occupation forces in the Shebaa Farms area since the Israeli withdrawal from Southern Lebanon. The Iranian Revolutionary guards were abundant in the area during the early 1980s but have since left. Also, the only apparent increase in weapons on the Lebanese side of the border are additional anti-aircraft batteries which, again, are defensive weapons. Israel's attacks in Lebanon have killed thousands of civilians while Hizballah attacks have killed less than two dozen Israeli civilians, and none for the last six years. Lebanon has not occupied northern Israel, but Israel illegally occupied Lebanon from 1978-2000. However, it must be the militia defending itself that is causing the instability, rather than the army that invaded, occupied, and reapeatedly bombed Lebanon, right?
(6) the Governments of Lebanon and Syria should enter into serious unconditional bilateral negotiations with the Government of Israel in order to realize a full and permanent peace;

Bilateral negotiations? Why is this always the case? The US refuses to accept multilateral negotiations with China and North Korea, and here they disallow multilateral negotiations between Syria, Lebanon, and Israel. The Lebanese and Syrian government have offered security guarantees and full diplomatic relations with Israel in return for Israeli withdrawal from Syrian territory. This is demanded by UN resolutions 242 and 338 but has been rejected by the US-backed Israeli government of Ariel Sharon. I am unsure of how entering negotiations with a country who refuses to withdraw from the territory they occupy will "realize a full and permanent peace". The only negotiation could be to accept the Israeli annexation of the Syrian Golan region. That however is forbidden by the UN Charter, which disallows any country to expand its territory by force, and UN resolution 497, which declares that the 1981 annexation of the region by Israel is illegal and must be rescinded.
(18) The Government of Syria continues to develop and deploy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.
(19) According to the December 2001 unclassified Central Intelligence Agency report entitled 'Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat through 2015', 'Syria maintains a ballistic missile and rocket force of hundreds of FROG rockets, Scuds, and SS-21 SRBMs [and] Syria has developed [chemical weapons] warheads for its Scuds'.

True, but Israel has Jericho I (short-range) and Jericho II (medium-range) missiles, both of which use solid propellant and are capable of carrying nuclear materials. The missiles Israel has are more technologically-advanced, more accurate, carry a larger payload, and have a wider range than those Syria has. Syria's neighbor, Turkey, has 120 or more MGM-150 tactical missles and cruise missiles as well. Egypt has intermediate-range Badr 2000 missiles and many short-range missiles including the Harpoon, the CSS-N-2, the Project T, and the Ottomat. Yet these are allies of the US. It is also understandable that in this environment a country would develop weapons that could match the capabilities of its neighbors.
(25) Syria is not a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention or the Biological Weapons Convention, which entered into force on April 29, 1997, and on March 26, 1975, respectively.

Ah, but neither are Israel or Egypt, two of the US's best allies and the world's two largest recipients of US military aid.
(20) The Government of Syria is pursuing the development and production of biological and chemical weapons and has a nuclear research and development program that is cause for concern.

It is true that Syria, as well as many US allies in the region and many other countries, has a chemical weapons program. But there is absolutely no evidence that Syria has any biological weapons. Also, the nuclear research and development program should not be of concern, considering that the country is a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (the same treaty the US demands Iran sign to ease its mind about their nuclear program) and has "accepted the full scope safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency" to detect any diversion from a purely electrical, civilian production of nuclear materials. There is also no evidence to suggest that Syria is developing any kind of nuclear weapons.
(22) On May 6, 2002, the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, John Bolton, stated: "The United States also knows that Syria has long had a chemical warfare program. It has a stockpile of the nerve agent sarin and is engaged in research and development of the more toxic and persistent nerve agent VX. Syria, which has signed but not ratified the [Biological Weapons Convention], is pursuing the development of biological weapons and is able to produce at least small amounts of biological warfare agents."

The Department of Defense, however, states that though Syria does have the ability to produce limited biological agents, it has not attempted a major effort to produce such agents nor to put them into weapons, and that they would require a large amount of foreign assistance to do so. Also, John Bolton has very little credibility in the intelligence community. He claimed in that same testimony that Cuba had a biological weapons program as well, which was dismissed as pure fantasy.
(5) the Government of Syria should halt the development and deployment of medium- and long-range surface-to-surface missiles and cease the development and production of biological and chemical weapons;

There is no evidence of "deployment" of these missiles. And I think I remember the same act stating that Syria was producing short- and medium-range missiles, not medium- and long-range. Again, there are many other countries in the region who have weapons that threaten Syria.

Egypt was the first country in the Middle East to obtain and use chemical weapons. They used mustard gas and phosgene in the mid-1960s intervention in Yemen. There is no indication that Egypt has ever destroyed and of its chemical weapons or agents and it is widely believed that the US-backed Mubarak regime continues to research and develop chemical weapons. Egypt begain a program to weaponize biological agents in the early 1960s and in 1996 US officials publicly acknowleged that Egypt had developed biological warfare agents. There is again no evidence to the elimination of these weapons or agents. However, Egypt is a major ally of the US and gets over $2 billion in economic and military assistance each year. No sanctions here.

Israel has produced and stockpiled an extensive range of chemical weapons and is continuing research into this field. They also maintain a sophisticated biological weapons program, including anthrax and more advanced weaponized agents and toxins. Israel also has a large nuclear arsenal with sophisticated delivery systems. The only UN Security Council resolution addressing WMD proliferation in this part of the Middle East is UN Security Council resolution 487, which demands Israel place its nuclear facilities under the oversight of the IAEA. Israel continues to violate this resolution as well, but it appears not to matter.

Syria has asked for a treaty to create a WMD-free zone in the entire Middle East, but can they be forced to disarm without forcing the surrounding countries to do so? I think that would create some instability. Besides, is it really the US's jurisdiction to dictate which countries can have which types of weapons? It is apparently okay for our allies to develop WMDs but nobody we dislike. Double-standards just do not work.
(30) On March 28, 2003, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld warned: '[W]e have information that shipments of military supplies have been crossing the border from Syria into Iraq, including night-vision goggles ... These deliveries pose a direct threat to the lives of coalition forces. We consider such trafficking as hostile acts, and will hold the Syrian government accountable for such shipments.'
(34) On April 13, 2003, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld charged that 'busloads' of Syrian fighters entered Iraq with 'hundreds of thousands of dollars' and leaflets offering rewards for dead American soldiers.

I am not sure where he gets this information, but there in no independent confirmation of these findings. Besides, while Syria is ruled by the Ba'ath Party (Sadaam was a Ba'athist), they have traditionally been a major rival of Iraq's Ba'ath regime. Syria stopped its diplomatic relations with Iraq in the 1970s and never renewed them. Damascus was home to many exiled anti-Saddam Iraqi leaders and groups. Syria was the only Arab backer of Iran in the Iran-Iraq War. It was one of the only non-monarchial Arab nations to back the US in the Persian Gulf war of the 1990s. It was a temporary member of the UN Security council and backed resolution 1441 which demanded Iraq cooperate with UN inspectors, and Syria also supported resolution 1551 on post-war Iraq.

Also, Donald Rumsfeld is the same man who made the following statements on WMDs in Iraq:
March 30, 2003 - "We know where they are. They are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, north and south somewhat."
March 23, 2003 - He said that American intelligence reports indicate that Iraqi forces "have chemical and biological weapons, and that they have dispersed them, and that they are weaponized, and that, in one case at least, the command and control arrangements have been established."
November 14, 2002 "Two sons-in-law of Saddam Hussein defected, went into Jordan, and the word came out and they told where these inspectors could go look, they went and looked, and they found weapons of mass destruction."

These reports were obviously made up and I think it shows Secretary Rumsfeld's credibility.

The problem Congress has with Syria is not that it supported Saddam's regime but simply that Syria, like most nations, opposed the invasion of Iraq by US and coalition forces.
The US continues to believe it has the right to impose sanctions on countries it doesn't like for its policies while awarding its allies who have the same policies billions of dollars in military, logistical, and economic aid. This is absolutely disgusting and I just want you to remember this article when - pardon me - the shit hits the fan.

HR 1828 Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003
S 982 Syria Accountability Act of 2003
UN Security Council Resolutions

Friday, February 18, 2005

Iraqi Vote Certified - I Was Correct

It seems as though my prediction was correct after all. The Shi'ite United Iraqi Alliance has gained a great majority of the places in the new Iraqi government.

CNN reports that, of the 275 total elected positions, the United Iraqi Alliance now will hold 140. The Kurdish Alliance gets 75, and the US-backed Iraqi List receives just 40 seats. Other, smaller, parties receive a small number of seats, including: Iraqiyun (led by the current Iraqi interim president) has 5 seats, the Iraq Turkmen Front gets 3, the Independent Coalitions have 3, the Islamic Labor Organization gets 2, the Islamic Kurdistan Society also receives 2, as well as the People's Union. Receiving just 1 seat are the Reconciliation and Liberation Front, the National Democratic Coalition, and the Rafidain Front.

Despite the fact that the UIA received just a slim majority of the votes, there was a rule set in place that a party must have a minimum of 30,000 votes, or they would change the votes to other parties. This explains the larger majority of seats the UIA won. So, they changed people's votes for them. Sounds like a fair election.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Sorry For The Lapse

Hey folks. Sorry about the long time with no new articles. I recently started a job and have been working each day since my first.

The promised article on the Syrian Accountability Act will be forthcoming. I have all of the information collected, I just need to organize my thoughts and post them. I think I shall actually be going to bed now so I can arise early to do so. Hopefully it will be finished today or tomorrow.

Until next time...