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Washington Arming Syrian Insurgents
By Stephen Lendman

It's no surprise. It's an open secret. It's been ongoing since early last year directly and/or indirectly. Rhetorically supporting peace while waging war exposes Washington's transparent hypocrisy.

On June 15, the UK Daily Telegraph headlined "US holds high-level talks with Syrian rebels seeking weapons in Washington," saying:

In the past week, a Free Syrian Army (FSA) representative met with outgoing Syrian ambassador Robert Ford and special Syrian coordinator Frederick Hof at the State Department.

Meetings with senior National Security Council officials were also held.

FSA members want heavy weapons. They include anti-tank missiles and heavy machine guns.

"(T)he Daily Telegraph has learned that advanced contingency plans are already in place to supply heavy weapons to the rebels, including sophisticated anti-tank weapons and surface to-air-missiles."

Plans may crystallize at the upcoming June 30 Geneva Friends of Syria meeting. The June 18-19 Los Cabos, Mexico summit will focus more on Eurozone economic crisis conditions.

Syria discussions won't change Russian and Chinese opposition to military intervention.

Nonetheless, Obama and Putin will hold bilateral talks. It'll be their first meeting since Putin's reelection. Obama will also meet privately with Chinese President Hu Jintao. Expect no Syrian breakthroughs.

Unnamed "(s)enior Middle East diplomatic sources" said large insurgent weapons supplies are already stockpiled. "(I)nevitable" intervention is coming. At issue is toppling Assad. One unnamed source said:

It "will happen. It is not a question of 'if,' but 'when.' "

"Middle Eastern diplomatic sources said that the Obama administration was fully aware of the preparations being made to arm Syrian opposition groups."

"The US has also agreed to be part of a group of countries that coordinates assistance to the rebels, the sources said, but was still deliberating over the time frame for escalation."

On June 16, DEBKAfile said Washington "is very near a decision on the types of weapons to be shipped to the Syrian rebels and when."

Most supplied are bought and paid for. Saudi Arabia and Qatar funds were used. "The White House is also close to deciding on the format of its military operation in Syria."

"Some sources" call it "Libya lite." It includes a no-fly zone. It also involves "direct air and other strikes...."

If implemented, expect full-scale war. Washington always resolves issues this way when other interventionist measures fail.

According to Alexei Pushkov, Chairman of the Russian Duma's International Affairs Committee:

Thousands of insurgents are waging war on Syria. They're using "heavy weapons." They include "heavy machine guns (and) anti-tank guns...."

They're coming from Libya. Lebanese authorities interdicted a ship. It was "full of US weapons...."

Syria is secular, multi-ethnic and multi-religious. Syrians lived together peacefully for years. If war erupts, "100 thousand" may die.

If protracted and intense, it could be many more. Libya's population numbers around six million. Syria is four times its size.

Some estimates say 100,000 or more Libyans died. Conflict continues. Casualties mount daily. Syria could be Libya 2.0. Imagine the potential toll and regional destabilization.

Pushkov added:

"We think that the Libyan example showed that these kinds of interventions lead to chaos and to the creation of a parallel international law...."

Russia rejects subverting rule of law principles. "We donít want to accept a world where there would be another international law instead of the internationally accepted one."

"Syria is just a very serious example of the Russian desire to fight for international law which is universally accepted."

In May, Ford and Hof held State Department meetings with Syrian Kurdish National Council members. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman attended.

At issue was enlisting anti-Assad support and creating an autonomous Syrian independent Kurdistan region together with Iraq's Kurdish north.

Turkey is fundamentally opposed. At issue losing some of its territory for a Greater Kurdistan. Resolving that issue appears distant.

In 2007, Bush administration officials held talks with then Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns were involved.

At the time, then State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said:

"Weíre not going to manage Israeli foreign policy. But letís take a look at Syriaís behavior over the recent past, and I donít think youíre going to find many indications of Syria showing the rest of the world that they are interested in playing a constructive, positive role in trying to bring about a more peaceful, secure region."

Macormack accused Assad of supporting Lebanese "terrorist groups" linked to Iran. He meant Hezbollah without saying so.

US and Israeli officials met to discuss possible war with Syria. Then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert contacted Assad secretly.

At issue was discussing peace in return for Syria severing ties with Iran and Hezbollah. Rejection was assured.

Olmert claimed Assad declined his offer. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said he was ready to negotiate based on land for peace. He added that Israel signaled no interest.

Since Israel annexed Golan and other Syrian territory in 1967, it showed no willingness to relinquish it. Hostile relations continued. Hawkish Israelis believe withdrawing from any part of Judea and Samaria exposes Israel to annihilation.

Then opposition leader Netanyahu asked:

"What is a peace agreement with Syria worth? A piece of paper!" His comment left no ambiguity. It also suggested Israel's preference for war, not peace.

At the time, Israeli intelligence suggested that Syria, Iran and Hezbollah planned joint preparations for war. An alleged Syrian arms build-up was claimed, including sophisticated Russian anti-aircraft systems and long-range missiles. Any part of Israel could be attacked.

In response, Israel conducted military exercises. Syria became Israel's top focus. Then Chief of General Staff General Gabi Ashkenazi said:

"The IDF is preparing for an escalation on both the Palestinian and the northern fronts."

Israeli cabinet ministers expected Syrian war preparations completed within weeks. Israel television showed IDF tanks positioned in case of attack.

A ministerial committee on Syria was established. Preparations for war were readied. Cooler heads worried it could happen by "miscalculation." Damascus could misinterpret Israel's mobilization or vice versa.

At the time, Dick Cheney favored conflict, not diplomacy. Condoleezza Rice turned hardline. She demanded Syria close its Iraq border and crack down on Palestinian "extremists." Normalizing relations with Washington depended on it. She accused Assad of regional destabilization.

Syria believed Israel wanted war. It prepared countermeasures just in case. On September 6, 2007, Israeli warplanes invaded Syrian airspace. They bombed an alleged nuclear site.

Later evidence showed none existed. Damascus denounced the raid but didn't retaliate. At the time, IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei said satellite imagery showed little likelihood that the building struck was a nuclear facility.

After days of initial reports, Israel said little more about it. War might have erupted. What was avoided then threatens now. Washington wants it. Israel may as well. It's coming. Expect it. Only its timing is unknown.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"

Visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.    Palestinian Footballer Near Death

By Stephen Lendman

Several Palestinian prisoners continue hunger striking for justice.

Footballer Mahmoud Sarsak declined food for 90 days and counting. He's been detained uncharged for nearly three years. He demands release. Israel refuses.
Israel Prison Service (IPS) officials don't care if he lives or dies.

Israel shows contempt for non-Jews. Institutionalized racism is policy. So is cold-blooded persecution.

Thousands of Palestinian prisoners rot unjustly in gulag conditions. Hundreds are uncharged. They can be held indefinitely with no possibility of justice.

Sarsak and others resist their only way possible.

On July 22, 2009, he was arrested at Gaza's Erez checkpoint. He headed for a West Bank Balata refugee camp football match. He was taken to Ashkelon Prison for weeks of interrogation.

On August 23, he was lawlessly detained under Israel's Unlawful Combatant Law (UCL). Using it results in long-term indefinite detentions. Sarsak was never charged or tried.

On March 19, he stopped eating in protest. His fundamental rights are denied. He spent punishing time in solitary confinement. Supporters worldwide demand his release.

FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, criticized his lawless detention. On June 12, headlined "Alleged illegal detainment of Palestinian football players," saying:

Blatter "today expressed....grave concern and worry about" lawless Israeli detentions.

"The reports FIFA received state that in apparent violation of their integrity and human rights and without the apparent right of a due process (trial), several Palestine football players have allegedly been illegally detained by Israeli authorities."

"In particular, the mentioned reports refer to the Palestine player Mahmoud Sarsak, whose health is in a very delicate state due to the fact that he has been undergoing a hunger strike for approximately 90 days in protest of his alleged illegal detention."

FIFA "urgently calls on IFA (Israel Football Association) to draw the attention of the Israeli competent authorities to the present matter, with the aim of ensuring the physical integrity of the concerned players as well as their right for due process."

Sarsak plays for the Palestinian National Football Team. He's from southern Gaza's Rafah refugee camp. He faces imminent death. He's gotten appalling medical treatment. IPS officials won't transfer him to a civilian hospital for proper care. He desperately needs it.

Palestinian Center for Human Rights Director Raji Sourani addressed FIFA President Sepp Blatter, saying:

"We urge you to use all available means, including approaching the relevant Israeli authorities, to save the life of Mr. Al-Sersek and help him return again to the football pitch."

"Your voice will constitute a message of hope for the thousands around the world who believe that sport, and football in particular, can contribute to enhancing human dignity."

Amnesty International's Philip Luther said:

"After almost three years in detention, the Israeli authorities have had ample opportunity to charge al-Sarsak with a recognizable criminal offence and bring him to trial."

"They have failed to do so, and instead repeatedly affirmed his detention order on the basis of secret information withheld from him and his lawyer."

"The specialized medical care al-Sarsak urgently needs is only available in a civilian hospital and he must be admitted to one or released so that he can receive it."

"Israel should repeal the Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law, which lacks minimal safeguards for detainees' rights."

Top European footballer Seville Frederic Kanoute and other players expressed solidarity with Sarsak, saying:

"In the name of sporting solidarity, justice and human rights, we declare our support for Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak. As European sportsmen, we believe that every person has the right to a fair and independent trial."

"In the name of civil liberties, justice, and basic human rights, we call for the release of Mahmoud Sarsak."

Other supporters include Nicolas Anelka, Eric Cantona, FIFA's Sepp Blatter, and FIFPro, the worldwide professional football players organization.

UK MP John Austin urged UEFA (The Union of European Football Associations) to "reconsider its decision to hold its under-21 championship in Israel in 2013."

On June 14, Sarsak agreed to ingest milk for a few days until Israel's High Court reviewed his case. IPS policies are killing him.

On June 17, Haaretz contributor Amira Hass headlined "Israeli reservist goes on hunger strike in solidarity with Palestinian prisoner," saying:

"Yaniv Mazor, a 31-year-old Jerusalem resident, was sentenced last week to 20 days in jail over his refusal to fill any position, be it combat or otherwise, in what he said was the occupying army."

"He was transferred to the IDFís Tzrifin prison on Monday, launching his hunger strike the following day."

"In a phone conversation with his attorney Michael Sfard on Friday, Mazor said that he had 'become appalled over the last few months by the hunger strike initiated by Palestinian administrative prisoners, but I couldnít do much about it.' "

He "decided to start a hunger strike in solidarity (with the Palestinians), and in order to raise awareness on the issue of administrative detention, and not to prompt (his) own release."

Numerous Israeli male and female current and former soldiers belong to "Breaking the Silence."

They provide compelling testimonies about appalling IDF abuses. They demand accountability not forthcoming.

Mazor is an IDF reservist. He's cut out of the same mold. Despite personal risks, including prison time, he's more concerned about justice than his own safety and well-being.

He also said he "regret(ted) not having been aware of what the army does when (he) enlisted, because the more (he learned) the clearer (his) understanding that" he no longer could support what he now rejects.

His decision left him "at peace with himself." What he saw explained that he "no longer (could) be part of the army." He hoped he'd inspire others facing active or reserve duty to resist and say no.

Mazor's friends learned of his prison isolation. As issue was refusing to wear proper attire and address IPS commanders by their official ranks.

His automatic sentence shortening was cancelled. Reasons weren't given. Mazor served in the IDF armor corps from 1999 - 2002. He was mostly assigned to the Jordan Valley and West Bank.

He also performed reservist duty. He told journalist Hagar Matar that Israel's occupation harshness weighed on him, saying:

"I arrived in the army as a typical product of the system." He thought of himself as "a nice boy, serving in the territories, doing what he's told. Without thinking. Mostly without thinking."

He also tried "grey insubordination." It means objecting privately. After going abroad and returning, he no longer could "resume the facade anymore."

At first, he received a 15-day suspended sentence. After refusing to serve, he was told "to go home and think."

He spent time with Breaking the Silence activists. His views hardened. He refused orders in protest.

He was told to return to his base for sentencing and would continue receiving military service orders.

IDF officials confirmed his trial and sentencing without further comment.

A May Haaretz editorial headlined "Submit to the strikers," saying:

No one know for sure how long anyone can survive without food. On average they manage for two months or longer before expiring.

Haaretz called Palestinian strikers "the latest rock in the avalanche of largely nonviolent flotillas, 'fly-ins,' and marches that Palestinians and their supporters have organized, to great success, in the last several years."

Hunger strikes and other nonviolent initiatives "achieved a lot for the Palestinian national struggle...."

They expose Israel's moral illegitimacy. They attract worldwide support. They weaken and ultimately may contribute to Israel's eventual isolation.

They confirm what Breaking the Silence members say in describing "the depth of corruption which is spreading in" Israel's military and society.

They demand accountability not forthcoming. They're tired of "feel(ing) like an infantile kid with a magnifying glass looking at ants (and) burning them."

They deplore innocent civilians being persecuted for not being Jewish. They refuse any longer to participate in human slaughter, wanton destruction, dispossessing homeowners, and shooting to kill anyone who moves if ordered.

Israeli conscientious objectors, Refusniks, students and others feel the same way. They won't be part of they call vile, corrupt and lawless. They believe Israeli militarism and persecution must stop.

Mazor and growing numbers of others are cut out of the same mold. Their courage deserves global support.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"

Visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.



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