In the latest video, Mr. Sotloff describes himself as “paying the price” for the Obama administration’s decision to strike ISIS targets in Iraq. The same masked fighter who appeared in the video of Mr. Foley’s beheading also appears beside Mr. Sotloff, asserting, “I’m back, Obama, and I’m back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards the Islamic State.”
The conflict in Syria has taken on many shapes as it mutated from a popular mass movement for political change into a proxy civil war with sectarian undertones. Each region of this land, a diverse tapestry with intricately interwoven social, ethnic and religious ties bound together with the strings of a shared history, has experienced the conflict in distinct ways.
Aleppo is perhaps unique in this respect, deviating from the standard Syrian model in that the conflict here follows the stratification of society along class and clan lines, rather than the general sectarian rift that delineates the conflict elsewhere. A large number of Sunnis from all backgrounds, including the working and rural classes, fight alongside the regime in militias or as willing conscripts. In other provinces, however, the split could be more or less described as halves of a once coherent social order split along purely confessional lines.
In Aleppo, the splits are more blurred. Needless to say, the entirety of the rebel forces — except for the foreigners fighting with the al-Qaeda affiliates — fighting under Islamist or mainstream groups are composed of poorer Sunnis from the countryside.
We need to care about this. Not only because it’s the decent humanitarian thing to do, but also because these children are the future of Syria. If they’re inured to the brutalities of war and permanently psychologically damaged, then it doesn’t bode well for the entire area, which is extremely geopolitically important.
Imagine if this was 5.5 million American children. Now stop and think about this: The U.S. has a population of about 317.6 million; Syria has a population of about 22.6 million, which means that those 5.5 million kids are no less than 25% of the ENTIRE population of the country, and 68% of ALL Syrian children under the age of 14. Let that sink in for a minute.
In one of the main threads on a different subject, Mattand said, “you can only get kicked in the teeth so much before you stand up for yourself.” True—so what happens when these kids get old enough to fight back? No one can say for sure, but I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of the rage- and pain-filled payback when it is inevitably unleashed.
The statistics presented in Unicef’s report, Under Siege - the devastating impact on children of three years of conflict in Syria, are daunting.
Up to a million children live in areas which are either under siege or very hard for relief agencies to reach, while around three million have had their education completely disrupted.
More than three million been displaced inside Syria - a threefold increase in the space of a year - and 1.2 million - more than half the total number - have become refugees abroad, up from 260,000. Some 425,000 refugees are under five.
In addition, many children have had to start working early and very young girls have been forced to marry for financial reasons. Boys as young as 12 have been recruited to support the fighting.
Around two million children are said to need counselling for trauma.
Here’s the full report:
2014 john McCain : Obama Is ‘Near Delusional In Thinking The Cold War Was Over’
2008 John McCain : “The Cold War is over, the Soviet empire is gone and neither one is missed,”
2014 John McCain : ‘Obama’s foreign policy “feckless” “We have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression.”
1980’s John McCain: The fundamental question is: What is the United States’ interest in Lebanon? It is said we are there to keep the peace. I ask, what peace? It is said we are there to aid the government. I ask, what government? It is said we are there to stabilize the region. I ask, how can the U.S. presence stabilize the region?… The longer we stay in Lebanon, the harder it will be for us to leave. We will be trapped by the case we make for having our troops there in the first place.
“The question is: Are those costs big enough to cause Russia not to take advantage of the situation in the Crimea? That’s the $64,000 question,” said Brig. Gen. Kevin Ryan, a retired Army officer who served as defense attaché in the American Embassy in Moscow and now, as a Harvard scholar, leads a group of former Russian and American officials in back-channel talks.
Russia is an even tougher country to pressure, too formidable even in the post-Soviet age to rattle with stern lectures or shows of military force, and too rich in resources to squeeze economically in the short term. With a veto on the United Nations Security Council, it need not worry about the world body. And as the primary source of natural gas to much of Europe, it holds a trump card over many American allies.
The longer-term options might be more painful, but they require trade-offs as well. The administration could impose the same sort of banking sanctions that have choked Iran’s economy. And yet Europe, with its more substantial economic ties, could be reluctant to go along, and Mr. Obama may be leery of pulling the trigger on such a potent financial weapon, especially when he needs Russian cooperation on Syria and Iran.
read more @ the New York Times
meanwhile, Fox News is reporting
A Ukrainian official announced Sunday that all military reservists were being called to active duty, even as Russian troops appeared to be advancing deeper into the Crimean Peninsula.
Foreign Policy takes on the complexity of alliances of language, ethnicity, and culture :
Even the Crimean Autonomous Republic isn’t quite as solidly pro-Russian and pro-Putin as it’s often depicted. The northern part of the peninsula is populated by ethnic Ukrainians, most of whom are bilingual and are likely to have some loyalties to Ukraine. The central and southern parts are populated by Crimean Tatars, who currently comprise about 15-20 percent of the total population. Most of them speak Russian on a daily basis, yet most also oppose Crimea’s annexation by Russia and strongly support the Kiev revolution. Several hundred have even joined the revolutionaries in downtown Kiev.
Kiev nicely illustrates another important nuance. It’s often said that Kiev speaks like the East and votes like the West: most Kievites are fluent in Russian, and most also support the ongoing anti-government revolution, just as they supported the 2004 Orange Revolution. (In the photo above, anti-government protesters in Kiev sing the Ukrainian national anthem.) This means that language preference does not as easily correlate with cultural preferences (Russia versus the West) or political choices (Yanukovych versus the democrats), as the East-West paradigm suggests. In that vast space between far East and far West, many Russian-speaking ethnic Ukrainians vote against the Party of Regions, support Ukrainian independence, and fear Putin’s Russia. Voters in Dnipropetrovsk, Poltava, Chernihiv, and Kharkiv provinces are known to cast votes for other parties. Neither Yanukoych nor the Party of Regions received 100 percent of the vote in any province. Not surprisingly, about one-fifth of the demonstrators in Kiev hail from Ukraine’s “pro-Russian,” south-eastern provinces.
I was checking out a thread downstairs yesterday and noticed the mention of Iran with regard to state sponsorship of terrorism, so I’d like to point out that the Department of State puts out a fairly detailed yearly report called Country Reports on Terrorism:
U.S. law requires the Secretary of State to provide Congress, by April 30 of each year, a full and complete report on terrorism with regard to those countries and groups meeting criteria set forth in the legislation. This annual report is entitled Country Reports on Terrorism. Beginning with the report for 2004, it replaced the previously published Patterns of Global Terrorism. […]
The reports contain a chapter specifically devoted to state sponsors of terrorism. There are four countries the U.S. has designated as state sponsors of terrorism: Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria. In case you’re not aware of how a country gets on the list (I wasn’t), the determination is based on the following criteria:
Countries determined by the Secretary of State to have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism are designated pursuant to three laws: section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act, section 40 of the Arms Export Control Act, and section 620A of the Foreign Assistance Act. Taken together, the four main categories of sanctions resulting from designation under these authorities include restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance; a ban on defense exports and sales; certain controls over exports of dual use items; and miscellaneous financial and other restrictions. […]
Based on the reports I looked at, it appears they aren’t released until sometime between May-August, so I guess we should expect to see a new one for 2013 within the next 3-6 months.
Here’s the one for 2012 for anyone who’s interested:
Additionally, since the death penalty (in Iran) was also mentioned in the thread I linked to above, and since I know many here are against it regardless of which country it happens in, I began searching and found a site called Death Penalty Worldwide which provides a searchable worldwide death penalty database as well as a mini “Country of the Day” profile that changes on each page refresh.
Being wary of any site I’m unfamiliar with, I read their About Us and FAQ pages, then Googled the site’s creator, Professor Sandra Babcock. Based on the half dozen items I read, she appears to be a well-respected Clinical Professor of Law.
In A Town In Syria, People Speak Aramaic, The language of Jesus & Christians & Muslims Live Side by Side
From the youtube video description
In a remote village nestled in Syrias picturesque Oalamoun mountains, resides a small Aramaic community. It is one of the last and it is devoted to preserving Aramaic: the language that Jesus spoke.
Protecting this 3000-year-old language has united Malulas residents: Christians and Muslims are like brothers in this town, says local resident Ibrahim Kamar. Whilst Mel Gibsons The Passion of Christ has revived interest in the language, fears that Aramaic is dying out continue. Malula, where the orphans must recite in Aramaic, is one of the last bastions for a language Mother Superior Savaf describes as a gift from God.
Produced by ABC Australia
Distributed by Journeyman Pictures
Is Syria concealing the full extent of the chemical weapons in its possession? A report published on Tuesday by CNN alleged that the US is currently examining new intelligence which may indicate that the Bashar al-Assad regime may not declare its chemical weapons arsenal in full, and may possess a hidden stockpile of chemical weapons past the conclusion of the efforts to destroy such weapons.
The report, which quoted several US officials, indicated that US intelligence agencies, the US Department of Defense, State Department and the White House are going over the intelligence, and an effort is currently underway to obtain more information so as to fully recognize the efforts being carried out by the Assad regime.
According to a US official quoted in the report, while the intelligence being examined is not conclusive at this point, “there are information threads that could shake our confidence - things have been done recently which indicate that Syria is not ready to see all of its chemical weapons destroyed.”
The BBC reports that The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed 10 cases of polio in war-torn Syria - the first outbreak in the country in 14 years.
The UN body says a further 12 cases are still being investigated. Most of the 22 people who have been tested are babies and toddlers.
Before Syria’s civil war began in 2011, some 95% of children were vaccinated against the disease.
The UN now estimates 500,000 children have not been immunised.
Polio has been largely eradicated in developed countries but remains endemic in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The WHO said the suspected outbreak centres on the eastern province of Deir al-Zour.
There are more than 100,000 children, all under age five, now at risk of polio in Deir al-Zour province alone, which has been caught in fierce battles between Syrian government forces and opposition fighters.
I typically ignore these types of stories, but since an LGF Page was created last month on the supposed practice “sexual jihad” in Syria, in the comments section of which I expressed my strong doubts about the story’s veracity, I want to point out that my instincts were correct
—it was yet another example of yellow journalism by the “Daily Fail”. [Correction: The source for the September Page about this topic was “Business Insider”, which in turn was citing “The Telegraph” and the Saudi-owned “Al Arabiya”.]
No other leader in the region — not Saddam Hussein in Iraq, nor Moammar Gadhafi in Libya — has relied as heavily on propaganda as Assad. His PR teams and state media are churning out a steady stream of partially or completely fabricated new stories about acts of terror against Christians, al-Qaeda’s rise to power and the imminent destabilization of the entire region. These stories are circulated by Russian and Iranian broadcasters, as well as Christian networks, and are eventually picked up by Western media.
One prime example is the legend of orgies with terrorists: The 16-year-old presented on state TV comes from a prominent oppositional family in Daraa. When the regime failed to capture her father, she was abducted by security forces on her way home from school in November 2012. During the same TV program, a second woman confessed that she had submitted to group sex with the fanatical Al-Nusra Front. According to her family, though, she was arrested at the University of Damascus while protesting against Assad. Both young women are still missing. Their families say that they were forced to make the televised statements — and that the allegation of sex jihad is a lie.
An alleged Tunisian sex jihadist also dismissed the stories when she was contacted by Arab media: “All lies!”, she said. She admitted that she had been to Syria, but as a nurse. She says she is married and has since fled to Jordan.
Two human rights organizations have been trying to substantiate the sex jihad stories, but have so far come up empty-handed. It appears that the Tunisian interior minister had other motives for jumping on this rumor: Hundreds of Islamists have left his country and traveled to Syria, and he is apparently trying to stem the tide by discrediting these fighters. Furthermore, Sheikh Mohammad al-Arifi, the man who is allegedly behind the sex jihad fatwa, denies everything. “No person in their right mind would approve of such a thing,” he says. […]
Please read the entire source article as it also covers some fictitious stories about the killing of Christians, at least one of which involved a forgery that managed to fool even the Vatican’s official news agency.
And please, before anyone starts sniping at me about how jihadists really do kill Christians—yes, I’m well aware of that, but it doesn’t mean that every story published about such things is true. As much as some people may prefer to believe otherwise, my intent is not to act as an apologist for Islamist jihadis or avoid legitimate criticism of the behavior of Muslims, but to push for and insist upon factual, verifiable stories, not propaganda manufactured by brutal Middle Eastern tyrants fighting for their survival.
Likewise, I’m equally disgusted by the propaganda manufactured by organizations that support or promote extremism of any sort, not to mention brutal jihadist groups, which is one of the reasons I posted a Page yesterday on West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.