UN report: Syria conflict threatens whole region

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria on June 17 warned the UN Human Rights Council that the continuing civil war in Syria has "reached a tipping point, threatening the entire region." The Commission was established by the UN Human Rights Council in August 2011 to investigate and record all violations of international human rights law during the Syria conflict. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, chair of the Commission, condemned the international response to the conflict in Syria, stating:

Syria war fuels Lebanon hashish boom?

A May 20 Reuters report picked up by Israel's dialy Ha'artez portrays Lebanon's government as having basically thown in the towel on cannabis eradiction in the Bekaa Valley, apparently afraid of the war spilling across the border from neighboring Syria. Towns in the Bekaa were hit by rocket fire last year, and the valley continues to be shaken by periodic sectarian attacks related to the fighting across the border in Syria. During Lebanon's own 1975-1990 civil war, the fertile Bekaa Valley produced up to 1,000 tons of hashish annually, before production was nearly stamped out under an aggressive eradication program. "From the 1990s until 2012, cannabis eradication took place on an annual basis," Col. Ghassan Shamseddine, head of Lebanon's drug enforcement unit, told Reuters. "But in was halted because of the situation on the Lebanese borders and the instability in Syria."

ISIS behind Brussels Jewish Museum killings?

Now comes the disturbing news that a Frenchman arrested in the killings at the Brussels Jewish museum had traveled to Syria as an insurgent and is apparently linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Police in Marseille arrested the suspect, Mehdi Nemmouche, after he arrived on a bus from Amsterdam May 30. Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said he had an automatic weapon like that used in the Brussels attack, and ballistics analysis is underway to determine if it is the same weapon. The rifle was reportedly wrapped up in a white sheet scrawled with the name of ISIS. Police in Belgium meanwhile say the suspect had tried to film the May 24 killings, but his camera failed. Belgian federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said: "The new elements in this investigation draw attention once more to the problem of the 'returnees'—in other words the people going to Syria to participate in combat and return afterward to our country. All European countries are confronted at this moment with this problem." (AP, June 1) The days since the arrest have seen more raids on suspected "returnees" in France. Four were arrested in the Paris area and southern France on suspicion of recruiting militants to fight in Syria. Interior Minister Bernard Cazaneuve told Europe 1 radio: "There are people who recruit jihadists... We are acting everywhere. There will be no respite in the fight against terrorists." (BBC News, June 2)

Russia blocks ICC action on Syria, heightening 'anti-war' contradiction

Well, this is rich. Russia and China have vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have referred the conflict in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC). More than 60 countries supported the French-drafted text calling for an investigation into "likely" war crimes committed by regime forces or "non-State armed groups." (BBC News, May 22) Will all those on the "anti-war" left in the West who called for ICC action "instead of" military action (as if ICC action would stop Bashar Assad from killing his people) now protest this? Just asking, Kevin Zeese. We feel we should add a parenthetical "(sic)" after the phrase "anti-war," because those who oppose any pressure on the Assad regime are of course enabling an actually existing war that has now cost more than 150,000 lives. Repetition of the mantra that "the USA is not the world police" is worse than meaningless when accompanied by silence over the blocking of UN and ICC efforts to hold mass-murderers accountable, which effectively means the world order is set by thugs.

HRW cites evidence Syria used chemical weapons

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on May 13 that it has strong evidence the Syrian government used chemical weapons on three rebel-held towns in northern Syria last month. The announcement reveals results of a two-week investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) into the alleged chemical warfare. HRW asserts that evidence strongly indicates that the Syrian government dropped "barrel bombs" containing cylinders full of chlorine gas from helicopters into Keferzita, al-Teman'a and Telmans, three towns in northern Syria, between April 11 and 21. HRW also alleges that the attacks were targeted at civilians and that doctors treating the victims reported eleven deaths and approximately 500 injuries. A chemical warfare agents expert stated that information obtained through witness interviews and videos of the incidents "strongly support" the use of chlorine gas in the attacks. Nadim Houry, HRW's deputy director of its Middle East and North Africa division, condemned the use of chlorine gas as a weapon emphasizing that it is a violation of an international treaty that Syria joined last year. Houry recommended that the UN Security Council refer the situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Syrian government is suspected of the attacks, in part because it is the only party to the unrest with access to the necessary aircraft.

Transfer of Homs: the beginning of the end?

Syrian government forces this week retook control of Homs after the evacuation of rebel troops. State TV declared May 8 that the Old City was "totally clean of armed terrorist groups," although officials later confirmed that the evacuation was not fully over. The negotiated evacuation marks the end of three years of resistance in Homs, called the "capital of the revolution." (Al JazeeraDaily Mail, May 9; BBC News, May 8) This, with the upcoming sham elections, is being portrayed by the Bashar Assad regime as the beginning of the end for the revolution. Don't buy it. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) and allied groups are gaining ground in the areas around Latakia, Dara'a, al-Qunaitra and Aleppo. The FSA is in control of most of Dara'a, where a southern front is reportedly being organized. And the most reactionary elements in the insurgency, the Nusra Front and ISIS, are engaged in their own mini-civil war in Deir Al Zour and north of Aleppo. With any luck, they will destroy each other in the process. (Gulf News, UAE, May 8)

Chemical watchdog to investigate Syria attacks

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced April 29 that it would begin a fact-finding mission into allegations of the use of chlorine gas in Syria. Although both rebel forces and the Syrian government acknowledge that the chemical weapon was used on the Syrian town of Kafr Zita, both factions deny responsibility for the attack. Chlorine was not a chemical Syria was required to give up, but the use of chlorine gas is prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention, to which Syria is a signatory. Some western governments believe that Syria has failed to declare all the chemical weapons in its possession, including chlorine gas, and has retained some of its chemical stockpile.

Free Syria contingent at NYC May Day march

A contingent in support of the Syrian Revolution will meet at the Abraham Lincoln statue, in the 16th Street walkway of Union Square, at 5 PM for the May Day march in New York City this Thursday, May 1. The contingent has issued the following statement:


The Syrian revolution has its roots in the same kind of economic grievances faced by working people in the US and the West: widespread youth unemployment, high food prices, austerity measures, and a bloated military budget. Fearing unrest, the Bashar Assad regime muscled up on its security, pouring money into the police and intelligence services at the expense of social spending. Any vocal criticism of the government was met with persecution by the police state long before the eruption in the spring of 2011.

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