The reported presence of thousands of Hezbollah fighters and Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Syria to protect President Assad and his regime means Iran has made a strategic commitment not to lose Syria. That in turn means Syria will not follow the example of Libya.
Backed by Iran and Russia, Hezbollah will not allow Assad to be deposed, hunted down and assassinated, nor will it allow a massacre of Alawites and supporters of Assad. This emphasizes the importance of Hezbollah in Syria and the role it will likely play in any future settlement and government.
There will be no NATO/US military action in Syria, as there was in Libya.
But, as the US and Europeans support the Syrian rebels diplomatically and supply them with arms, Hezbollah’s presence in Syria is a game changer that should prompt policy rethinking.
With Hezbollah fighting alongside the Alawites, it will be impossible for the rebels to defeat Assad, and sooner or later the rebels will understand that they must make a deal which will allow for power-sharing and the protection of Alawites and other minorities. The Kurds, who have created a virtually autonomous region, will likely follow the path of the Iraqi Kurds toward quasiindependence.
Hezbollah is the critical element in such a deal - which would not only end the civil war, but ensure Hezbollah’s place in Syria - similar to its role in Lebanon.
As part of a new Syrian government, Hezbollah will be protected and legitimized.
A battle near a factory believed to be one of the Syrian regime’s main chemical weapons plants shows just how close such weapons could be to falling into al-Qaeda’s hands
Set amid the rolling plains outside Aleppo, the town of al-Safira looks just like another vicious battleground in Syria’s civil war. On one side are lightly-armed rebels, on the other are government troops, and in between is a hotly-contested no-man’s land of bombed-out homes and burned-out military vehicles.
The fight for al-Safira is no ordinary turf war, however, and the prize can be found behind the perimeter walls of the heavily-guarded military base on the edge of town. Inside what looks like a drab industrial estate is one of Syria’s main facilities for producing chemical weapons - and among its products is sarin, the lethal nerve gas that the regime is now feared to be deploying in its bid to cling to power.
Last week, Washington said for the first time that it had evidence of Sarin being used in “small” amounts during combat operations in Syria, a move that President Barack Obama has long warned is a “red line” that President Bashar al-Assad must not cross.
But as the West now ponders its response, the fear is not just that President Assad might start using his chemical arsenal in much greater quantities. Of equal concern is the prospect of it falling into even less benign hands - a risk that the stand-off at al Safira illustrates clearly.
The United States believes with varying degrees of confidence that Syria’s regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale, the White House said on Thursday.
But it added that President Barack Obama needed “credible and corroborated” facts before acting on that assessment.
The disclosure, made by the White House in a letter to Congress and by U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to reporters, moves the United States closer to declaring that Syria has crossed Obama’s “red line” on some kind of deeper involvement in the country’s civil war.
The White House has not specified what action Obama might take if he determines with certainty that Syria has crossed that red line with any chemical weapons use. But in its letter to lawmakers, it warned it was ready to respond.
“The administration is prepared for all contingencies so that we can respond appropriately to any confirmed use of chemical weapons, consistent with our national interest,” Miguel Rodriguez, White House director of the office of legislative affairs, said in a letter to lawmakers.
The White House said the assessment that Syria’s regime had used chemical weapons - specifically the chemical agent sarin - was based in part on physiological samples.
“The intelligence community has been assessing information for some time on this issue and the decision to reach this conclusion was made in the past 24 hours,” Hagel told reporters in Abu Dhabi.
* Clashes worst in border area since start of the war
* Region is important supply line for rebels
* Signs Hezbollah getting more openly involved (Adds rebel statement)
Syrian troops and Lebanese Shi’ite militias attacked rebel-held areas on the two countries’ border on Sunday, in the heaviest clashes of Syria’s civil war in the strategic region, Lebanese and Syrian sources said.
At least two towns held by Sunni Islamist rebels in the al-Qusair region near the Orontes River were overrun after sectarian clashes escalated early last week, threatening to bring in Iranian-backed Hezbollah openly into the battle, the sources said.
On Saturday, in the first attack well inside Lebanese territory, rockets hit the town of Hermel, a Hezbollah stronghold in the Bekaa Valley, causing damage but no casualties. A Hezbollah fighter was killed in the Shi’ite border town of Zita, inside Syria, residents said.
Gary North is not the only controversial figure involved in the development of that new Ron Paul Curriculum. One of the other people involved in it is Thomas Woods, an Ivy League-educated historian and a leading figure in the neo-confederate movement. Rachel Tabachnik has more information about him.
Woods was one of the founders of the League of the South, though he seems to want to downplay that at this point. An article he wrote in 1997 in the Southern Partisan has been removed but is still available on the wayback machine. Like most neo-confederates, he claims that the South losing the Civil War was the beginning of the end of American civilization. And he claims, accurately and unfortunately, that there are still people who want to refight that war today, which he says is about the survival of Christendom itself:
“But the growth of the Southern League and the continuing popularity of Southern Partisan reminds us that many Southerners are prepared to defend their civilization, and a people that still possesses even a spark of resistance, a sense of history and tradition, an attachment to the locality, and a strong Christian faith — is a potential threat to the Left’s new order.
he Republican Party is at war with itself and it is losing. For every successful Republican governor, there are Republican state legislators who embrace personally oppressive and interventionist initiatives. For every reasonable Republican member of Congress, there are more who embarrass. Every compelling soundbite from Republican candidates and pundits is overwhelmed by others that repel.
It wasn’t always this way. Republicans used to be known for ending wars, not starting them. President Dwight D. Eisenhower negotiated the end of the Korea War, Richard M. Nixon ended the Vietnam War and Ronald Reagan ended the Cold War. Republicans used to be known for competent management. Truman turned to Herbert Hoover to bring order to the chaos of the New Deal. Reagan established the Grace Commission to focus on government waste and reform, while launching the Baldridge Award to provide stellar examples of leadership, organizational effectiveness and customer service to make America more competitive. In 1995, Republicans in Congress cleaned up the scandal-ridden mess left by decades of institutionalized corruption.
Republicans were also once known for their emphasis on science, empiricism and environmental responsibility. Teddy Roosevelt established parks and a national ethic for conservation. Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency. Reagan led the way for private-public partnerships for historic preservation, notably the restoration of the Statue of Liberty. Eisenhower created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and started planning the moon missions. Man landed on the Moon under Nixon and dominated space with shuttles under Reagan.
Americans rewarded these policies and actions. The Reagan Revolution dominated America in the 1980s with three consecutive landslides of 489, 525, and 426 electoral votes. There was talk of the Democrats’ demise. Then something went wrong for Republicans. Terribly wrong.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry used an unannounced visit to Iraq on Sunday to lobby Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for greater scrutiny of flights the United States claims carry Iranian weapons and fighters across Iraq to Syria.
The Obama administration has been unable to persuade Iraq to block such flights or even to perform regular inspections. Iraq claims that Iranian flights over its territory carry only humanitarian supplies for the civil war in next-door Syria, and the only two known inspections of Iranian aircraft showed only those supplies.
The United States claims that the sheer volume of flights crossing Iraq points to regular arms shipments. A senior U.S. official traveling with Kerry said there are flights nearly every day. The official would not say how the United States is certain the planes are carrying weapons for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an Iranian ally, but repeatedly asserted that is the case.
The Old South’s Last, Desperate Stand
Hysteria, aggression and gerrymandering are a fading demographic’s last hope to maintain political control.
In understanding the polarization and paralysis that afflict national politics in the United States, it is a mistake to think in terms of left and right. The appropriate directions are North and South. To be specific, the long, drawn-out, agonizing identity crisis of white Southerners is having effects that reverberate throughout our federal union. The transmission mechanism is the Republican Party, an originally Northern party that has now replaced the Southern wing of the Democratic Party as the vehicle for the dwindling white Southern tribe.
As someone whose white Southern ancestors go back to the 17th century in the Chesapeake Bay region, I have some insight into the psychology of the tribe. The salient fact to bear in mind is that the historical experience of the white South in many ways is the opposite of the experience of the rest of the country.
Mainstream American history, from the point of view of the white majority in the Northeast, Midwest and West Coast, is a story of military successes. The British are defeated, ensuring national independence. The Confederates are defeated, ensuring national unity. And in the 20th century the Axis and Soviet empires are defeated, ensuring (it is hoped) a free world.
The white Southern narrative — at least in the dominant Southern conservative version — is one of defeat after defeat. First the attempt of white Southerners to create a new nation in which they can be the majority was defeated by the U.S. Army during the Civil War. Doomed to be a perpetual minority in a continental American nation-state, white Southerners managed for a century to create their own state-within-a-state, in which they could collectively lord it over the other major group in the region, African-Americans. But Southern apartheid was shattered by the second defeat, the Civil Rights revolution, which like the Civil War and Reconstruction was symbolized by the dispatching of federal troops to the South. The American patriotism of the white Southerner is therefore deeply problematic. Some opt for jingoistic hyper-Americanism (the lady protesteth too much, methinks) while a shrinking but significant minority prefer the Stars and Bars to the Stars and Stripes.
Read the rest here: alternet.org
A sane person might argue that the president and his family require special protection because they face threats the rest of us don’t. But the NRA and many of its most fervent supporters don’t see it that way. As far as they’re concerned, all of us are just as threatened as the person in the Oval Office. The fact that you’re an ordinary person and not the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth doesn’t mean you haven’t already been targeted by an al Qaeda death squad or a murderous drug gang, so you’d better be prepared, not just with a gun but with an entire arsenal of military-style weaponry.
But the real threat in the fantasy world some gun owners have spun inside their heads isn’t terrorists. You know the people I’m talking about: the “doomsday preppers,” the angry tea partiers talking about “watering the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants,” the folks who can’t talk about guns for 30 seconds without bringing up Hitler (who, for what it’s worth, didn’t actually disarm the German people, as so many gun advocates believe). What’s important isn’t just that these folks are paranoid, it’s who they’re paranoid about: the United States government.
Take, for one vivid example, James Yeager, the CEO of a Tennessee company called Tactical Response. In response to the prospect of stricter gun laws, he posted a YouTube video saying, “If that happens, it’s gonna spark a civil war, and I’ll be glad to fire the first shot. … I’m not letting my country be ruled by a dictator. I’m not letting anybody take my guns. If it goes one inch further, I’m gonna start killing people.”
(Reuters) - The Syrian opposition leader met Russia’s foreign minister on Saturday and a diplomatic source said he would also see Iran’s foreign minister, opening a window to a possible breakthrough in efforts to broker an end to Syria’s civil war.
Russia and Iran have been the staunchest allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad throughout an armed uprising against his rule, and any understandings they might reach with Assad’s foes could help overcome the two sides’ refusal to negotiate.
At an annual international security conference in Munich, Syrian National Coalition leader Moaz Alkhatib had talks with Russia’s Sergei Lavrov that may have been made possible by Alkhatib signaling readiness to talk to Damascus.
He also met separately with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and U.N. special envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi.
“Russia has a certain vision but we welcome negotiations to alleviate the crisis and there are lots of details that need to be discussed,” Alkhatib said after the meeting.
A diplomatic source said the Alkhatib would also meet Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, who was attending the Munich security conference on Saturday, but this could not be independently confirmed.
Russia has blocked three U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at pushing out Assad out or pressuring him to end the civil war, in which more than 60,000 people have died. But Moscow has also tried to distance itself from Assad by saying it is not trying to prop him up and will not offer him asylum.