Syria: Nusra Front attack Christian village

Jihadist forces of the Nusra Front launched an attack Sept. 4 on the ancient Christian village of Maaloula (Rif Dimashq governorate), which is on the UNESCO tentative list of world heritage sites. The assault began as a suicide bomber blew himself up at the army checkpoint at the village entrance, overwhelming the defenses. Nusra fighters briefly occupied the village, surrounding the church and mosque, before being driven out by reinforcements. Fighting is said to continue outside the village, with fears that the Nusra Front could establish footholds in the surrounding mountains and shell Maaloula from above. Maaloula, some 60 kilometers northeast of Damascus, is home to about 2,000 residents, mostly Aramaic-speaking Greek Catholics (Melikites). Aramaic is listed by UNESCO as a "definitely endangered" language.

Syria: denialism delegitimizes 'anti-war' position

We have noted how the "anti-war" forces are "fighting the last war" to such a degree that they can refer to the WMD charges against Syria as "false pretenses"—mere days after a chemical attack that may have killed over a thousand. We can't help but use quotation marks when the "anti-war" forces are covering up for monstrous war crimes. Yeah, this is a case of the proverbial boy who cried wolf—if Dubya hadn't lied a decade ago, Assad would not be getting such a free ride from the "anti-war" folks today (one hopes). But that doesn't let anyone off the hook: denial of the Ghouta attack still constitutes a shameful betrayal of human solidarity that completely delegitimizes any "anti-war" position. Diana Moukalled writing in the pan-Arab Asharq Al-Awsat Sept. 4 decries: "Iraq overshadowing Syria's cries for help"...

UN SG questions legality of US strike on Syria

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sept. 3 questioned the legality of the US plan to strike Syria. Ban stated  that the use of force is lawful only in two very limited circumstances: (1) when used in self-defense according to Article 51 of the UN charter or (2) when the UN Security Council (UNSC) approves such action. Ban questioned whether the planned use of force would solve the situation in Syria, adding that such use would cause more damage. Ban noted that UN inspectors are deployed to investigate whether chemical weapons have been used in Syria. According to Ban, the UNSC would be able to overcome its differences and take action once investigations are done. A potential US strike has been opposed by Russia. President Vladimir Putin on on Sept. 4 warned the US and its allies to take any unilateral action. However, he stated that he may support the UN action once investigations confirm use of chemical weapons. 

HRW: Syria continuing use of cluster bombs

The Syrian government is currently using cluster munitions in its ongoing conflict, according to a report issued Sept. 4 by the Landmine and Cluster Munition Moniter (LCMM), an organization co-founded by Human Rights Watch (HRW). Cluster munitions are banned under two separate treaties, in 1997 (Mine Ban Treaty) and 2008 (Convention on Cluster Munitions). The latest report identified more than 200 cluster munition sites in Syria, charging: "Syria is persisting in using cluster bombs, insidious weapons that remain on the ground, causing death and destruction for decades... Meanwhile, other countries around the world that have joined the treaty are showing a strong commitment to get rid of cluster bombs once and for all." Neither Syria nor the US have signed either treaty.

'Anti-war' movement still betraying Syrian people

We noted over a year ago that the increasingly poorly named "anti-war" movement (more of a gaggle than a "movement," and highly selective in being "anti-war") was betraying the Syrian people by failing to even acknowledge Bashar Assad's atrocities, and portraying the opposition as all CIA pawns or al-Qaeda jihadists or both. Now that Assad is apparently escalating to genocide and the US threatens air-strikes, is there any sign that the "anti-war" forces have been chastised into a more honest appraisal? Sadly, no.

Syrian voices on Syria

Since the Syria war began over two years ago, we have been seeking voices of the civil resistance within Syria, which supports a democratic and secular future for the country. Although marginalized by utterly ruthless armed actors that have come to dominate the scene, such a civil resistance continues even now to exist in war-torn Syria. The "anti-war" voices now mounting in the US have displayed very little awareness of these progressive voices in Syria, or even interest in whether they exist—much less their perspectives on the looming military intervention, or the opposition to it. Today, three pieces appeared on the Internet addressed to "anti-war" commentators in the West—two by Palestinians with family connections in Syria, one by a Syrian. They contain some harsh admonitions...

Are you ready for World War 5?

Days after it was reported that Lebanese authorities are barring entry to Palestinian refugees fleeing Syria, The Guardian tells us of the sudden flight of Syria's "well-heeled elite" into Lebanon—predictably meeting no interference from authorities. With nearly 2 million already in refuge beyond Syria's borders according to the UNHCR (up from 1.4 million just four months ago), and hundreds of  thousands more internally displaced, many facing hunger and harsh conditions for well over a year now, it is almost satisfying to see the pain get passed around to the regime's favored lackeys. But the threat of US air-strikes which has sparked this exclusive exodus also looms over Syria's commoners—as we saw in Libya, "smart bombs" and "surgical" targeting still have a habit of wiping out civilians. And yes, there is something utterly perverse about the world sitting and watching, arms folded, as Syria escalates to genocide—as in Darfur. But the threat is very real that US intervention will internationalize the conflict, and set off a regional or even global conflagration...

Lebanon turns back Palestinians fleeing Syria

Palestinian refugees fleeing the violence in Syria have been refused entry into Lebanon for three weeks now. Since Aug. 6, according to Human Rights Watch, the Lebanese government has turned back Palestinians, who had originally sought refuge in Syria when they were forced from their homes in 1948 and 1967, and are now fleeing once more with their descendants, this time from the conflict in Syria. A source at the Lebanese General Security confirmed to IRIN news agency that the government is no longer letting Palestinians from Syria into Lebanon. Makram Malaeb, program manager for the Syrian response at the Ministry of Social Affairs, said exceptions would be made for "humanitarian cases."

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