Sabbath 9/12/36/120

Dear Friends,

This week Tomohiro Nakanishi, senior Nikkei staff writer wrote concerning the Arab nations seeking closer ties with Russia and China due to their frustration with US foreign policy.  They are courting investment and arms deals.  This is not insignificant as Saudi Arabia is the fourth largest purchaser of military equipment and China is expanding rapidly.

He reported that: "American relations with the Arab world cooled considerably following a military coup in Egypt and the start of diplomatic efforts to strike a nuclear deal with Iran. The U.S. in July froze a planned shipment of F-16 fighter jets to Egypt after Mohammed Morsi, a democratically elected president hailing from the Muslim Brotherhood, was driven out of power by the military. Clashes between the military-installed interim government and Morsi supporters caused Washington to halt all military aid to the country in October.

Seeking a new arms provider, Egypt hosted the Russian foreign and defense ministers in Cairo in November, sparking speculation about a deal valued at $2 billion to $4 billion."

This shift in relationships is a significant change in the attitudes and loyalties of the Middle East.
He reports that "Nabil Fahmy, Egypt's minister of foreign affairs, denies that any deal has been reached. But citing the military ties between the two countries in the days of the Soviet Union, as well as the USSR's assistance in the construction of the Aswan Dam, Fahmy acknowledges that Egypt is seeking to broaden its options."

He also notes that: "Chinese businesses are eager to enter Egypt as well. Last fall, state-backed oil refiner Sinopec purchased a stake in a western Egyptian field owned by a U.S. firm. Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, a private automaker, plans to produce new models aimed at younger buyers. With no end in sight for the civil war in Syria, its key ally in the Middle East, Moscow is rethinking its diplomatic strategies in the region. Meanwhile, China is also looking to strengthen its economic influence. Beijing has pledged $8 million in military aid to Yemen, which has awarded China a $500 million contract to build power plants, ports and refineries.

The ideal situation is that for Arab nations experiencing domestic turbulence, Russia and China are ideal partners in that they have higher risk tolerance and are silent on human rights and democracy, one diplomatic insider is reported as saying.  This is of significance to the Japanese also who are increasing their concerns and their arms in view of Chinese expansion.

Concerns are also increasing in the USA. President Barack Obama, who pronounced his speech last week on the 2014 State of the Union has tried to minimize the United States contradictions. He said, in a passage devoted to the fight against Al-Qaeda: "In Syria, we will support the opposition which rejects the program terrorist networks." The President did not say what was the opposition "which rejects the program terrorist networks" or representing it.  What has been deliberately kept from the US people is that a reporting ban has been placed on secret congressional deliberations regarding the supply of arms to the moderate Syrian opposition. Increases in Ammunition and automatic weapons and SSMs are being supplied but SAMs are restricted as they do not trust the Al Qaeda linked operatives. Reuters has reported this from US and EU security officials.

Reuters reports that "The weapons, most of which are moving to non-Islamist Syrian rebels via Jordan, include a variety of small arms, as well as some more powerful weapons, such as anti-tank rockets.

The deliveries do not include weapons such as shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles, known as MANPADs, which could shoot down military or civilian aircraft, the officials said.

The weapons deliveries have been funded by the U.S. Congress, in votes behind closed doors, through the end of government fiscal year 2014, which ends on September 30, two officials said."
Lethal U.S. aid to the Syrian rebels dried up for a time due to congressional reservations last year due to US concerns with the Islamists.

Congressional committees held up weapons deliveries for months over fears that U.S. arms would not prove decisive in the rebels' efforts to oust President Bashar Assad and his government and could well end up in the hands of Islamist militants.

A U.S. official familiar with recent developments said national security officials and members of Congress are more confident that weapons delivered to southern Syria are going to, and remaining in, the hands of moderate rebels rather than militant jihadist factions.

Congress approved funding for weapons deliveries to the Syrian rebels in classified sections of defence appropriations legislation, two sources familiar with the matter said. It was not clear when the funding was approved, but unclassified defence funding passed Congress in late December.

The only problem in this is the looming US budget crisis with the debt ceiling.

The US acknowledges that this has not greatly increased U.S. expectations of victory by anti-Assad forces, whether moderate or militant.

"The Syrian war is a stalemate. The rebels lack the organization and weapons to defeat Assad; the regime lacks the loyal manpower to suppress the rebellion. Both sides' external allies... are ready to supply enough money and arms to fuel the stalemate for the foreseeable future," said Bruce Riedel, a former senior CIA analyst and sometime foreign policy adviser to President Barack Obama.

Both U.S. and European officials said that 'moderate' rebels had recently consolidated their positions in the Syrian south, where they are pushing out elements linked to al-Qaeda. More militant factions remain dominant in the north and east.

Another recent development favorable to more moderate factions is that Kurdish groups that had been providing weapons and other aid financed by donors in the Gulf state of Qatar indiscriminately to both moderate and religious extremist rebel factions had greatly reduced their involvement in the arms traffic, one of the officials said."  The US is not responding now to requests for information.

Reuters reported that: "As for'' non-lethal' aid like communications and transportation equipment, the United States hopes to resume deliveries to moderate groups in Syria soon, a U.S. official said on Monday. The United States and Britain suspended non-lethal aid to northern Syria in December after reports that Islamist fighters seized Western-backed rebel weapons warehouses, highlighting fears that supplies could end up in hostile hands. 'We hope to be able to resume assistance to the SMC shortly, pending security and logistics considerations,' said the official, referring to the Supreme Military Council moderate rebel group. 'But we have no announcements at this time,' he said, speaking on condition of anonymity."

Non-Lethal aid was resumed to civilian groups last December.

The situation in Syria is critical.  The Assad Regime is destroying areas in Damascus and Homs to punish those that had rebel forces in them even though they are no longer there. Whole areas are being bulldozed under the guise of regional planning and the regime is snubbing its nose at the UN.

The Human Rights Watch report (By Middle East correspondent Hayden Cooper) showed  the area in Hama where HRW declares a war crime has been committed.

Hama's Masha' al-Arb'een neighbourhood

Photo: Hama's Masha' al-Arb'een neighbourhood after it was destroyed in what Human Rights Watch calls a war crime. (DigitalGlobe/Human Rights Watch)

Map: Syrian Arab Republic

Syrian authorities have deliberately demolished thousands of homes for no apparent military objective but to punish civilians, a New York-based advocacy group says.

A report by Human Rights Watch uses before-and-after satellite imagery, along with witness testimony, to document the scale of destruction in major Syrian cities. The report concludes that great swathes of districts in the capital city Damascus and the central city of Hama have been completely levelled using bulldozers and explosives. Human Rights Watch says it recorded the destruction of 145 hectares of land in seven different cases during the past two years, an act it says is a war crime. It names the districts as Masha'a al-Arbaeen and Wadi al-Jouz in Hama, and Qaboun, al-Tadamon, Barzeh, Harran al-Awamid and Mezze airport in and around Damascus.

It says eyewitness reports and online videos suggest the Syrian government is responsible, and the demolition is collective punishment of communities suspected of supporting the rebellion.

Read the Human Rights Watch report: Razed to the Ground: Syria's Unlawful Neighbourhood Demolitions in 2012-2013

The Syrian regime simply dismisses the reports and claims the demolitions simply removed illegal buildings.

HRW said the destruction violated internationally recognised laws of war forbidding combatants from targeting civilians, and said Syrian authorities should be held accountable.

"No-one should be fooled by the government's claim that it is undertaking urban planning in the middle of a bloody conflict," said Ole Solvang, a Human Rights Watch researcher.

"This was collective punishment of communities suspected of supporting the rebellion."

In addition to this problem the UN is rebuking Syria for the unacceptable delays in removing Chemical weapons and to date just over 4% of the weapons stockpile has been sent for destruction and the rest appears to be deliberately delayed. This is causing serious concern in the US and in NATO generally and also in Israel.

US secretary Hagel has asked the Russians (Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu) for assistance in getting compliance.

We will remember that last year's chemical weapons deal appeared to provide Syria with a last-minute reprieve from possible Western military action that would have been launched in response to a major chemical attack last August.

The US Cape Ray has been despatched on station but the US and NATO are cynical that Syria will comply.

The situation is getting more serious by the day and the UN may well be forced to request unilateral action in the near future. Russia and China may well support requests from Egypt and Saudi Arabia given the policy shift but prophecy says it will be otherwise in the long run.  NATO will be forced to occupy Syria and Lebanon and the war will escalate from then on.  The actions from Iran will force the expansion and it will escalate from there. See also the paper War of Hamon-Gog (No. 294).

Pray that the women and children are preserved from this dreadful conflict.

Wade Cox
Coordinator General