Posts Tagged ‘Council’

Call to arm Syrian rebel fighters

July 29th, 2012 Comments off

The head of the exiled opposition Syrian National Council calls for foreign states to arm rebel fighters, as government troops continue their assault on Aleppo.
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UN extends Syria observer mission

July 20th, 2012 Comments off

The UN Security Council unanimously votes to keep its observer mission in Syria for a “final” 30 days, as violence continues in the capital Damascus.
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In Translation: The Revolutionary Youth Coalition’s final report

July 18th, 2012 Comments off

We’re really fortunate to bring to you a long translation of an important document today — one made possible by the upstanding chaps at Industry Arabic, who provide great Arabic translation services and more. If you or your business have need of top-notch translation from Arabic into another language, please give them a try and help them keep on helping us.

The Revolutionary Youth Coalition was the most important umbrella group to emerge out of the protest movement of January 25. It continued to be the main reference and contact point for “youth” for several interlocutors in the months that followed Mubarak’s overthrow, holding meetings with state representatives and often representing protestors at national conferences and elsewhere. On July 8, the Coalition announced its dissolution and published the document below —  an examination of its actions, mistakes and successes in the last sixteen months. As the writers note, such self-examination is rare in Egyptian politics, particularly as it has descended into a circus in the last few months. It makes for poignant reading, and I’ve added a few notes for clarification.

An Account of the Actions of the Coalition of Revolutionary Youth

From the Coalition of Revolutionary Youth Facebook page, July 8, 2012.

We believe that every experience should either continue or end according to facts on the ground and logical reasoning. And — even though it is not standard operating procedure in Egypt — we believe it is necessary that every group and/or political entity submit a transparent and clear account that outlines what the organization has done over time, be it good or bad.

Under exceptional circumstances, like that of the great Egyptian people’s Revolution, we contend that it is our duty to publish this account for the Egyptian public, for they placed their trust in the Coalition of Revolutionary Youth, as well as for those who criticized the organization. This account is also dedicated to the best of Egypt’s youth – the activists and believers in the goals and values of this revolution and similar revolutionary movements – as well as for that sector of the Egyptian elite who did what they could in service to this nation. This is for the admirable victims of this revolution who paid the greatest price and who continue to do so for the sake of this revolution; and this is also for the souls of the revolutionary martyrs who continue to fall – up to today – in anticipation of the day when this nation will achieve freedom and dignity, the day when each Egyptian will receive his demands for “Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice.”


The establishment [of the Coalition] was comprised of groups that coordinated with one another before the Revolution and the Coalition’s formation was announced under the name the Revolutionary Youth Coalition in [Tahrir] Square on February 1 [2011]. Its first press conference was held on February 4 with the following organizations at the time of the announcement: the Campaign for Supporting ElBaradei, the April 6 Movement, the Youth Movement for Justice and Freedom, the Youth of the Democratic Front Party, the Muslim Brotherhood Youth, in addition to the following independent individuals: Nasser Abdel Hameed, Sally Toma, and Abdel Rahman Fares. Thereafter, other groups were added, such as the Progressive Youth Union and the Campaign for Supporting Hamdeen Sabahi.

The State:

The Military Council: The Coalition of Revolutionary Youth met with a number of members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces twice. The first session took place in the final days of February, during which conversations focused on two papers the Coalition presented. These two documents had been prepared in detail with a group of nationally respected figures. The first document included [a request] for the resignation of the government of Air Marshal Ahmed Shafik, the abolishment of the Emergency Law, and the dissolution of the State Security Investigation Service; the rest of the demands were associated with democratic transformation. A second socio-economic document included a plan for a timetable for implementing special procedures concerning wages and other demands made by Egypt’s laborers, farmers, and the poor.

The second session was a joint session that brought together the Coalition and the Revolutionary Youth Union with Major General Mahmoud Hijazi. This took place in March. The discussions were haphazard. The most important point was the decision to review the two preceding documents of the previous meeting, in addition to: the discussion about breaking up the journalists’ sit-in in front of Maspero [the state television building], doubts that the virginity-test affair “had not yet been confirmed”, and other issues concerning poor and slow performance and management.

The meetings then ended entirely and definitively after the pre-dawn attack on protesters [in Tahrir Square] on April 9, 2011.

The Government of Dr. Essam Sharaf

Contact with Dr. Essam Sharaf’s government was first undertaken after Dr. Sharaf himself called the Coalition to have a meeting, in which he proposed to the Coalition the same two documents previously mentioned. After a lengthy presentation, he both emphatically welcomed [the ideas] and promised to work [with the Coalition] on implementing the contents of the two documents.

The Coalition was presented with the option of choosing a number of its members for work inside the Cabinet of Ministers as advisors to the Prime Minister in order to create a direct line of communication between him and the revolutionary forces. The Coalition rejected this entirely, confirming that it would become a political supporter of this government only if it sincerely desired to achieve the goals of the Revolution. This in turn compelled the Cabinet of Ministers to rely on other young Egyptians for this endeavor.

A number of Coalition Youth participated in the Council of National Justice, under the Cabinet of Ministers, which was responsible for trying to find radical solutions to the issue of sectarianism and discrimination that developed following [the burning of the Two Martyrs] Church in the village of Sol. The Council’s duty was to draft a legal bill on the standard role of religious practice, as well as the creation of a unit for early warning, especially concerning confessional problems and other similar instances.[1]

A number of Coalition youth also participated in the council responsible for the fund for martyrs and injured persons at a time when the idea had not yet been implemented. All of the participating youth members thereafter definitively refrained from attending the two councils after a number of sessions ended without achieving any of the desired or anticipated goals.

After it became clear to all that this government was weak and without any real power, Dr. Essam Sharaf met with some Coalition members before Friday July 8[2], after a long break at his home. They clearly and candidly demanded from him the resignation [of the government] and that people return to [Tahrir] Square. Dr. Essam Sharaf did not respond. The Coalition then announced in the Square on July 8 that Dr. Essam Sharaf’s government needed to be deposed and that a revolutionary government, endowed with plenary powers, be forcibly established by the will of the Square.

The General Intelligence Services:

The Coalition held one meeting with General Murad Muwafi and a number of members of the Intelligence Agency at the beginning of September. A majority of members attended, but the Justice and Freedom Movement[3] abstained. This is the same period in which the Intelligence Agency held a long series of meetings with a number of civil rights activists, public and political figures, as well as revolutionary movements. A number of respected and well-known public and political figures were also in attendance. On the following day, in order to maintain transparency, the Coalition announced to all media outlets that the meeting was held, as well as the details of everything that had been discussed. This was in accordance with the Coalition’s practice of declaring each of its meetings with the Military Council, as well as with the Government. (We published the draft of the two meetings with them in all newspapers and in press conferences.)

Evaluating the [Coalition’s] Relationship with the Government:

In a number of long conversations about the issue of communication, we faced much criticism representing a broad set of disapproval, ranging from the opinion that continuous and intensive communication was important and that it is wrong to interrupt communication even if there were differences, to the opinion that any and all communication would be a grave mistake. Between these two positions, there were some who believed that nothing is certain in politics and that cooperation must be pursued according to each case and situation.

Relations with the Revolutionary Forces

The Coalition appeared as though it were an umbrella coordinating body representing some of the youth organizations that helped the Egyptians in their grand revolution. On February 1, the establishment of the Coalition was announced, but due to some latent fear of attempts to sabotage the new organization, the Coalition closed down shop. This was an unjustifiable and serious mistake. Attempts at expansion undertaken by the Justice and Freedom Movement and independents actors from the Coalition were unsuccessful, though some small organizations were added to it. We believe that this had soured contact with other respectable revolutionary groups. Afterwards, attempts at rectifying this mistake were undertaken for the sake of the general welfare, through this dispatch of a representative of the Coalition to the Alliance of Movements and Parties.

The People’s Assembly Elections

Differences in opinion arose over elections. Specifically, some from within the Coalition called for boycotting the elections, which resulted in some of the youth abstaining from running the elections and others from participating at all. In general, participation in parliamentary elections was not ideal, insofar as the Coalition at the time was not able to enter the elections as a group. Some of its members preferred to enter the elections on the Egyptian Bloc list, and some others on the Revolution Continues Alliance list; some entered the elections running for independent seats. This was not conducive to creating a situation whereby everyone that might have been nominated for the list of a single electoral alliance could have run in the elections.

Presidential Elections

Since the beginning, there has been a group from within the Coalition – the Egyptian Current Party[4] – that has supported Dr. Aboul Fotouh and has also greatly helped his campaign at the national level. There is another group that did not decide to support any particular candidate, but it did try to help achieve setting up a presidential team that grouped together all the revolutionary candidates. This was undertaken with the help of a number of public figures. Also, a number of other initiatives cooperated, like the Council of 100. But neither these attempts nor the sessions held with the five [major] candidates – both directly and indirectly – were helpful in achieving the desired goal.

Therefore, the situation has continued in this manner. As a result some of the members have chosen to boycott the elections, whereas some other members have continued to support Dr. Aboul Fotouh. The rest have declared their support for Hamdeen Sabahi. Of course, this came at a later time, after which the idea of a presidential project had failed. As for the second round, the majority of Coalition members have decided to boycott the elections, but members of the Egyptian Current Party and the April 6 Movement have decided to support Dr. Mohamed Mursi.

The Intelligence Services and the Million Man Protests

  • The Coalition participated in the popular diplomacy initiative, which was involved in the Nile River Waters case. A number of the Coalition’s members traveled as part of a delegation of public figures to Uganda and Ethiopia.
  • The Coalition participated in the call for some of the important Million Man Protests, starting with the Million Man Protest calling for politically purging the government immediately after the Revolution.
  • Some members of the Coalition participated in some of the campaigns, like the Kazeboon (Liars) Campaign against SCAF.


A Letter to the Revolutionary Youth

We are aware that we have erred, that we have at times appeared to be monopolizing dialogue in the name of the Revolution. And we are aware that there are many among you who are better than us in both word and deed, and that there are many of you more suited to contributing to this great Revolution. And we are aware that there are many among you who have paid a price far greater than we have paid. But it is fate that has deemed us to be at this place at this time. We are also aware of the fact that you all hold many reservations concerning some of our practices and our meetings. God knows that in our appearance, in our dialogue, and in the meetings we have held, we have only ever worked for the sake of the Revolution and never for anything else.

A Letter to the Egyptian People

We only hope that you will graciously accept what we have done and forgive us for not fulfilling your expectations and wishes. We hope that you will at least acknowledge the pressure and the confusion we have faced, for this experience has not been easy and the complications involved are beyond most people’s imaginations. There is a whole universe of issues that lies beneath the surface. But every moment we see you in the street and see what you achieved in the parliamentary and presidential elections, this has all served to confirm our faith in the idea of the Revolution. Change is the greatest common variable now and it follows that the responsibility falls on all our shoulders to make this change real.

A Letter to Mr. Hamdeen Sabahi, Dr. Aboul Fotouh and Dr. ElBaradei:

We were not able to approach this [next] step until you all announced that there is a radiant energy emanating from within the formation of a broad national front that can guide the opposition in Egypt over the coming period. We believe that this is perhaps the best and most appropriate thing for the period to come. Everyone should be able to participate in this front; it should be truly representative and reflect the national interests, and it should be a way for accomplishing the goals of the Revolution; similarly it should serve as a reference upon which the Egyptian people can depend.

Finally, since a number of months the Coalition has not played a positive role that has pleased its members or the population at large. But only in name has dialogue continued in the media. We consider this to be an error. Similarly, we do not want to preserve the organization superficially only so that the name itself gains some gravity. Respect for the Revolution requires self-evaluation and criticism. In this context, we have decided to dissolve the Revolutionary Youth Coalition, on the condition that its constituent groups continue to practice their natural role practically. In another context, it could be appropriate for each group to join a broad national front when it is established – God willing – at which time it is also natural that some Coalition members would join as well.


  1. Regarding Timing: The decision had been made more than once several months ago to undertake this step, but each time the quick succession of events in Egypt prevented it from happening; it appeared as though the surprises that occurred during the transition period would not end. The idea of announcing to the media the formation of a broad national front after the presidential elections helped.

  2. Regarding the Revolution’s Path: The decision to dissolve the Coalition suggests that the Revolution’s path necessitates different and myriad means, as well as different frameworks, in order to realize its goals in the future. This is especially true if one takes recent developments into consideration.

  3. Regarding Joint Action: The Coalition was composed of organizations that were completely ideologically different, ranging from the far right to the far left. The Coalition was successful many times at reaching a consensus with major participants and in solving disputes democratically. But there were a number of changes that necessitated a new alignment, whereby it could be possible to reach a decision under a different framework. This is due to the fact that the experiment of joint and group action was successful in achieving broad common goals relatively often.

  1. None of this has happened.  ?

  2. The “Friday of Determination”, which was the largest protest in Tahrir Square since February 11.  ?

  3. Youth movement of the Muslim Brotherhood.  ?

  4. Muslim Brotherhood dissidents.  ?

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The Brotherhood: Battling on all fronts

July 15th, 2012 Comments off

This piece by Noha Hennawy in Egypt Independent has it right — it’s not about Brotherhood vs. military in Egypt, it’s not even Brotherhood vs. the military and the judiciary, it’s about Brotherhood vs. military and a range of potential allies, some of whom are only allies on occasion:

In the midst of this feud, the Brotherhood and its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, have also immersed themselves into a different battle with another, no less significant force: privately owned media. The group’s daily newspaper recently coined the term, ‘black media’, for the private channels and newspapers that regularly criticize the Brotherhood’s performance. It accused these media outlets of implementing the agenda of corrupt businessmen, known for ties with the old regime.

Akram Ismail, a columnist and youth leader in the leftist Popular Alliance Party, says the Brothers may not win these battles because their adversaries ‘are very powerful.’

‘The Brothers are fighting influential groups,’ he said, listing the bureaucracy, the businessmen, the upper-middle class, intelligence officials and the security apparatus.

‘It is a large social mix,’ he said. ‘The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces stands as the political representative of this network.

‘These forces might not be able to form a political party and win elections, but they can invest in the media, the military council and the judiciary to team up against the Brotherhood,’ said Ismail, addressing what is commonly referred to as ‘the deep state.’”

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Calls for tough UN action after Syria killings

July 14th, 2012 Comments off

Thousands of Syrians from Mareh protest against the massacre in TreimsaPeace envoy Kofi Annan said Friday Syria had "flouted" Security Council resolutions with mass killings in Treimsa village, as UN chief Ban Ki-moon demanded that the Council act to stop the bloodshed.

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This man is posing as the Arab revolutionary

July 8th, 2012 Comments off
Saudi Arabia and Qatar want to fund and arm the rebels, but Western powers have misgivings about sending more weapons into what could become a wider sectarian conflict. Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani called in Paris for the Security Council to be sidestepped.  “Are we able to do something outside the Security Council? Yes. Have we done things outside the Security Council in the past? Yes, and there are many examples … “We are ready to take part in any effort of any kind to free the Syrian people of this tragedy they are in.“”

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Ban calls for reduction in Syria military observers

July 6th, 2012 Comments off

UN chief Ban Ki-moon, pictured in June 2012UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Friday called on the Security Council to consider reducing the number of unarmed military observers in Syria and put more stress on political efforts to end the conflict.

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Cole’s Opposition to Iraq War in January, 2003

July 1st, 2012 Comments off

The Neocons, masters of disinformation, keep trying to put it about (and it is in the current Wikipedia article on me) that I somehow was initially supportive of the idea of going to war with Iraq. I was not. I thought it was a horrible idea and would end badly. I was going through my private email archives for January, 2003, and pulled out some excellent contemporary evidence for my opposition to the idea, below. Early in the history of Informed Comment I had set up an email announcement board,, to which I sent extra material that did not necessarily appear at the blog. Most of the messages below are from that board and so were quite public. The politics of reputation is not without an impact on one’s life. This smear (via Wikipedia) last winter caused a conference organizer to be attacked for inviting such a warmonger as myself. Since I took so many lumps for opposing the war in its early years when it was mysteriously popular in the United States, it is ironic that Karl Rove tactics could succeed in turning all this on its head.

It strikes me that with all the unknowns of January, 2003, I also was pretty at calling the dangers.

I have addressed these issues before, to little avail. It is one reason I think wikipedia is sucky.

Maybe this file will help set the record straight (though what was already on the blog was clear enough).

Sat Jan 18 02:34:32 2003
From: Juan Cole
Subject: Chirac warns on Iraq

French President Jacques Chirac issued a blunt and forceful warning today to the Bush administration that for it to launch a unilateral attack on Iraq without a second, explicit UN Security Council resolution would constitute a breach
of international law. Too right! It is absolutely unacceptable that the Bush administration should act in such a high-handed manner, and can only have bad repercussions on the US throughout the world. It is a horrible idea. Launching a war with a security council resolution is risky enough! But at least then it would have some legitimacy.

From ???@??? Wed Jan 15 02:14:21 2003
X-Mailer: QUALCOMM Windows Eudora Version 4.3
From: Juan Cole

Date: Wed, 15 Jan 2003 01:49:03 -0500
Subject: Re: Iraq

I don’t think there is much doubt that the US will go to war against Iraq this spring. I’d say the chances are 90%. And, I think this was decided on very early in the Bush administration as a plan, but only became feasible given the public mood after 9/11 and given that Afghanistan went so well.

There were two chances to stop it. One was the congressional vote last fall. The other was the Security Council vote in November. Probably only the Congressional vote could have effectively derailed it.

There is nothing in the world to stop Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld from going through with this now. Powell would probably like a second UN resolution, but the administration does not really need that.

cheers Juan

Wed Jan 29 02:58:49 2003
From: Juan Cole
Subject: Wednesday, January 29, 2003
Wednesday, January 29, 2003

* Iraqi Vice President Tariq Aziz has warned Kuwait that Iraq would not rule out hitting it if it allows US troops to launch an invasion of Iraq from its soil. Such complicity, he said, would make this action legitimate. (It is not clear exactly what Aziz is threatening to do. However, if it involved the deliberate targetting of civilian populations, it would not be legitimate; it would be a war crime. Aziz should be careful; he may find himself in the docket.)
*Jabir al-Mubarak al-Sabah, Kuwait’s Minister of Defense, said he was not surprised by this threat, and that it revealed the sort of intentions Iraq had toward its neighbors. He pledged that the Kuwait armed forces stood ready to repel any threat. (Kuwait is a nice little country, but I’m afraid its armed forces aren’t exactly up to this, and that it is the American umbrella that emboldens the minister).

*Saddam Hussein asked his generals to be vigilant against traitors in their midst who might sell out to the Americans. He saw the same reports the rest of us did, that the Saudis and other neighbors have been trying to convince someone to make a coup and depose Saddam so as to avert the looming war. (I wouldn’t hold my breath. Saddam is not the resigning kind; he is a genocidal megalomaniac. And all the generals who even thought about a coup are pushing up daisies. Of course, if he and his circle of Tikritis actually cared about the country and the people they have looted and brutalized, they would go into exile. But they aren’t that sort of person to begin with, which is one of the reasons we stand on the brink of war).

*Newsday reports that US Vice President Dick Cheney and special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad have been working to expand the expatriate committee of Iraqi politicians primed to succeed Saddam Hussein from 65 to 100, so as to dilute the influence of the pro-Iran bloc of 15 members from the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Khalilzad is said to envisage a situation where policy makers will be drawn from the committee, but technocats from inside Iraq will also be given power if they are untainted by association with Saddam Hussein. Khalilzad is said to recognize that since some 60 percent of Iraqis are Shi`ite, a similar proportion of high government officials will be. But apparently he has come to realize that SCIRI’s support inside Iraq may actually be shallow. Many Iraqi Shi`ites are secularists. Apparently he will be looking for such secular Shi`ite technocrats as a counter-ballast to the clerical SCIRI.

One problem: If SCIRI’s troops, the 15,000-man al-Badr Brigade, plays a “northern-alliance” type role in this new Iraq war, it may well be positioned to garner enormous political power in the aftermath despite the planning on paper going on now. A SCIRI dominated Iraq would be a huge gift to the clerical hardliners in Tehran, and it has long puzzled me why the Bush administration was putting so many eggs in that basket. Now they are backing off, causing a furore. . .

*Bush’s State of the Union address gave specifics about what weapons of mass destruction the US thinks Saddam has and what he would have to prove he has destroyed to satisfy the Bush administration: 25,000 liters of anthrax; 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin; 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent; 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents; mobile biological weapons labs designed to produce germ warfare agents. But the wording was a little unclear, since the president kept saying Iraq had had materials sufficient to produce these quantities of these weapons, but seemed to sidestep the question as to whether it actually had done so. Apparently the anthrax and some of the chemicals were provided to Iraq in the 1980s by the Reagan administration to ensure that Iran did not win the Iran-Iraq war. I suppose that is how this administration is so sure Iraq has this stuff; it has people serving in it who provided the material to Saddam. Anyway, it seems clear to me that Bush is set on war. They are saying now it might not be until mid-March. . .

Wed Jan 29 11:43:49 2003
To: xxx
From: Juan Cole
Subject: Re: Fwd: Iraqi defectors?

Dear xxx:

Bush specifically mentioned information from Iraqi defectors as the basis for some of his WMD charges.

Since some of the defectors were scientists working for Saddam, they should know what they are talking about. On the other hand, they have a vested interest in overthrowing Saddam, and so may be tempted to exaggerate. As an example, Khidir Hamza insists that Saddam is very close to having a nuclear capability, but al-Baradei says the inspectors cannot find evidence that this is so. Since a nuclear program would require hundreds of scientists and lots of equipment and facilities, and would be awfully hard to hide from al-Baradei.

It seems to me that it would be easy enough to pass the defectors’ specific allegations over to the inspectors for verification, and that way we would know for sure.

Of course, one problem is that there hasn’t to my knowledge been much defection since 1998, and many of the defectors came before then, so that their information is old. There would have been time to move stockpiles and some may genuinely have been destroyed (or not created in the first place, since Bush kept talking about the *potential* for producing them).

This is what I said today:

Bush’s State of the Union address gave specifics about what weapons of mass destruction the US thinks Saddam has and what he would have to prove he has destroyed to satisfy the Bush administration: 25,000 liters of anthrax; 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin; 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent; 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents; mobile biological weapons labs designed to produce germ warfare agents. But the wording was a little unclear, since the president kept saying Iraq had had materials sufficient to produce these quantities of these weapons, but seemed to sidestep the question as to whether it actually had done so.

cheers Juan

Thu Jan 30 12:21:18 2003
To: [JP]
From: Juan Cole
Subject: Re: Iraq WMD – Potential or Actual?

Dear [J]:

Yes, I saw that. I am fairly cynical about all this. Cheney, Perle, Wolfowitz and Condi have wanted a war on Iraq for a long time, and the WMD stuff makes a nice pretext. I have concluded it is mainly about power politics; these “American Nationalists” just won’t put up with sass.

cheers Juan

Thu Jan 30 13:44:34 2003
From: Juan Cole
Subject: 30 Jan. 2003

*The question was raised on a list of what would happen if the US invaded Iraq and found there were not weapons of mass destruction there. I fear I replied somewhat cynically, but also called it as I see it. If Iraq turns out not to have much WMD, the administration will fall back on its other main argument, that Saddam is a monster who has killed and brutalized his own people and repeatedly invaded his neighbors. We already have had Halabja survivors among the Kurds protest the doubts some Westerners have expressed about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction and willingness to use them. They say, basically, *we* know all about WMD. And, given the thousands of Shi`ites the Baath killed in the south, there are almost certainly mass graves that will provide a macabre justification ex post facto for the removal of that regime. Footage of the Iranian vets injured by mustard gas could also be put on television. How wars are justified before they are launched and how they are justified afterwards is frequently different. If there is a relatively quick victory, no one will inquire into the justifications too closely. If it becomes a quagmire, it won’t matter what the justification was: the public will turn against the war anyway if it goes badly…

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Could Syria-Turkey Conflict Pull NATO In?

June 26th, 2012 Comments off

The shooting down by Syrian anti-aircraft batteries of a Turkish F-4 Phantom jet flying over international waters a few days ago has the potential to internationalize the Syrian revolution and pull in NATO.

In the absence of a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force against the Syrian state, France and other European powers have felt hamstrung.

Russia and China are blocking a UNSC resolution, largely because they want Syria in the sphere of influence of the Shanghai Cooperation Council (Russia, the Central Asian states and China, with Iran as an observer). They don’t want it to become a NATO sphere of influence. Russia’s president Vladimir Putin and the Russian Arabists who advise him view Syria as a long-time Russian client that gives them a foothold in the eastern Mediterranean (Russia leases a naval base at Tartous from Syria).

But in the United Nations Charter, there are two grounds for war. One is self-defense. The other is a UNSC resolution designating a state as a source of disorder in the international system.

By firing on the Turkish plane (more especially in international waters), Syria has presented Turkey with a legitimate casus belli, a legal cause for war. The news that Syria actually tried to shoot down a second Turkish plane underscores this legal point. Turkey may defend itself. (For the moment, Turkey is considering non-military responses such as cutting off electricity to Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.

Here is the kicker. Turkey is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. And the NATO charter’s article 5 declares that an attack on one member is an attack on all. NATO is duty-bound to defend Turkey if it is attacked and if it asks for help. Article 4 allows a country to call for consultations among the allies if it feels its territorial integrity is threatened.

Turkey is asking for help. It is asking that NATO be convened under Article 5 for only the second time in the organization’s history.

Aljazeera English reports from Antakya:

Turkish intelligence says that it has evidence that the Syrian military knew that the plane was Turkish, referring to it as “komsu,” the Turkish word for “neighbor.”

One can only speculate at Syrian motives. But Turkey has given refuge to large numbers of Syrian dissidents in its Hatay province near to Syria. Turkey and Syria had established good relations in the last decade, but the revolution and civil war have forced Turkey to take a stand. Ankara has sided with the revolutionaries, and called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down. Qatar and Saudi Arabia are suspected of supplying the Syrian revolutionaries with rocket-propelled grenades and other war materiel that would allow them to take on the powerful Syrian military machine. Some observers believe that the RPGs and other weapons are being smuggled in from Turkey. And, such smuggling operations might need aerial support to make sure there aren’t Syrian troops along the smuggling route.

So the Syrians may have deliberately been sending Turkey a message, to back off.

It was a stupid move. As long a Syria did not engage in hostilities with other states in the region, it was teflon, since Russia and China were protecting it at the UN. But now that it has fired on a NATO plane, it has offered Turkey and its colleagues a legal way to use force.

I don’t think either Turkey or other NATO members will be at all happy to be drawn into military action in Syria. (Nor do I think that would be a good idea). But they might be drawn into creating a humanitarian corridor at Hatay in Turkey, and guarding it from Syrian attack.

By its unwise aggression against Turkey, Syria may have internationalized its civil war, something it and its allies had desperately been trying to avoid.

Moreover, if Turkey really does stop helping with electricity exports to Aleppo, that step could contribute to further discontent in one of the few major cities where protests have been muted and somewhat infrequent.

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Turkey warns of Syrian ‘threat’

June 26th, 2012 Comments off

Turkey tells the UN Security Council that Syria’s shooting down of a Turkish jet is “a threat to peace”, as Nato is set to discuss the incident.
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