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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Petro Dollars, Aid Dollars, and UN support to Syria

In the following primary points I have used information that, admitedly, is dated. One article is dated 2008. This does not detract from the impact, importance, and implications of the U.S. government, business, and media not pointing at the abuses in Syria and crying.

33rd largest producer of oil at more than 400,000 bbl/day
Member of the United Nations
Member of the OIC
DAC listed ODA recipient for Developmental Alde as a lower/Middle Income country due to GNI per capita of $936-3,705 (2007)

The Syrian regime has killed hundreds of its own citizens for opposing the sitting government

The UN has demanded, sorry (the UN doesn’t ‘demand’ anything, not even adherence to its own rules for membership), rather, the UN has called for immediate access for aid workers to go in.

Starting in 1979 the US State Department listed Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism. State sponsor of … hmm, do you suppose that THIS is where the oil revenue went instead of to the people who work in the country? They were on the list from 1979 to 2010. Am I to believe that Syria was able to quietly push terrorist out of its country? has the 2010 report that states, in the eyes of the State Department, Syria is still a state sponsor of terror.

I want to ask, how long, how much more money (tax dollars to the UN, Foreign Aid, and through the purchase of foreign oil) has to be bled out of the United States before the People of the United States scream “No More! Not One Dollar More!”?

UN chief calls for access to Syria for aid workers

United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon called on Syria on Thursday to give U.N. aid workers immediate access to evaluate the needs of civilians caught up in a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests.
The world body has been largely shut out from Syria, which has also prevented most independent media from operating inside the country, making it difficult to verify accounts from authorities and activists.
Ban urged the government of President Bashar al-Assad to allow a team of U.N. human rights investigators, who have been in the region, to carry out their mission in Syria.
"In Syria, the killings continue and this must stop. I call on the Syrian leadership to deliver on its commitments and allow in the United Nations humanitarian assessment team and the human rights fact-finding mission mandated by the Human Rights Council. It is time to see progress there," Ban told reporters.
Residents in the Syrian city of Hama blocked streets with burning tyres on Thursday to keep out busloads of security forces, and dozens of families fled to a nearby town, an activist and a resident said.
On Bahrain, where Sunni rulers crushed mostly Shi'ite-led pro-democracy protests in March, Ban welcomed the start of a national dialogue.
"That dialogue must be genuine, fully inclusive and concrete. It must set the stage for real reforms that meet the legitimate aspirations of the Bahraini people," he said.

Terrorist Syria Seeks Spot On Human Rights Council

The world has no lack of totalitarian regimes that slaughter their own people. We are hardly surprised to read about the oppression and cruelty suffered by millions around the world. The irony strikes us, however, when these regimes intend to join the United Nations Human Rights Council. Like ivory hunters gathered at the elephant's anti-poaching club, terror and human rights don't mix well.

Syria's government has killed at least 350 demonstrators since its pro-democracy protests began last month, yet Syria expects to win a seat on the UN Human Rights Council when elections are held May 20. In a historical move, UNHRC did suspend Libya's membership in March because of Libya's poor human rights record. It seems bizarre, therefore, to replace Libya with Syria. What was the point of bothering to toss out Libya?

Fifty human rights groups have signed an appeal to stop Syria from being elected to the UN Human Rights Council for obvious reasons. Syria has shamelessly murdered hundreds of civilians during the past month, battering groups that dare petition their government for greater freedom. Syria has also been classified as a state sponsor of terrorism because it constantly supports the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah. Non-governmental organization UN Watch is leading the crusade to block Syria's election. UN Watch and partnering organizations have taken the wild position that countries on the Human Rights Council should actually demonstrate some concern for human rights.

On Monday, the Syrian government sent tanks rolling into the city of Dara'a from four directions, cutting off electricity and killing at least 25 people that were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Snipers shot at civilians from house tops, and bodies reportedly lay strewn in the streets with no ambulances called to get them. According to TIME, nine soldiers have been confirmed dead recently, including five officers, but rights activists claim the soldiers were killed because they refused to follow orders to shoot civilians.

Iran may be involved in the violence against the Syrian people. Syrian opposition sources claim that the snipers were sent by Tehran. Syria has long been an Iranian ally – or puppet – used both to divide the Arab world between the Sunnis and Shiites and, of course, to fight Israel.

The Assad regime is important to Iran, and under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran has made its presence felt in Syria. Iran has opened "Islamic Cultural Centres" across Syria, and the mullah missionaries have been sent in to teach the Syrian people to be good Shiites.

Syrian dissidents and victims will arrive for a press conference at the UN headquarters on May 19th, backed by UN Watch and the much-signed petition with the goal of stopping Syria's election.

Not that Syria hasn't said the right things. After it was nominated by the Asian Group and its nomination was endorsed by the Arab League, Syria issued a statement, "pledging to uphold the highest standards in promotion and protection of human rights ... and fundamental freedoms…Syria considers that the protection of human dignity and fundamental rights are the basis of freedom, justice and peace."

That's very nice.

The fact is that many of the 47 nations on the Human Rights Council are well known abusers of civil rights. Yet, while they mow down their own people, the countries on the council have long attacked Israel.

"Choosing Syria to be a global judge of human rights would be like appointing Bernard Madoff to defend victims of financial fraud," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based monitoring group. "It's a moral outrage."

"If Syria is elected to the UN Human Rights Council, it will be yet one more indication of an organization that has totally lost its moral clarity and betrayed the lofty ideals on which it was founded," Advancing Human Rights executive director David Keyes said. "Allowing one of the worst human rights violators in the world to join a body dedicated to upholding human rights would be comical, if it wasn't so sad. The Syrian dictatorship is slaughtering civilians in the streets by the hundreds and arresting them by the thousands. Is there anything at all that would disqualify one from serving on the Human Rights Council?"

If Syria does win a seat on the council, it will not say much about Syria. However, it will say a great deal about the UN. 

·         State Sponsor: Syria

Holly Fletcher

·         Updated: February 2008
o    Introduction

Syria continues to be categorized as a state sponsor of terrorism, since its first designation in 1979. According to the State Department, Syria’s government supports U.S.-listed terrorist groups and allows some of these organizations such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to maintain headquarters in Damascus. The 2006 State Department Country Report says the Syrian government remains an active supporter of Hezbollah and has a covert presence in Lebanese politics. According to the report, Syria has suspected ties to the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. Syria rejects the terrorist categorization, denies involvement in the Hariri killing, and says it regards Hamas, Hezbollah, and other groups on its soil to be legitimate resistance movements aimed at liberating Arab territory held by Israel.
Does Syria sponsor terrorism?
Yes. Syria, a secular dictatorship accused of committing serious human rights violations by the Human Rights Watch, has been on the State Department list of countries sponsoring terrorism since the list’s inception in 1979. However, Syria has not been directly involved in terrorist operations since 1986, according to the State Department, and the country bars Syria-based groups from launching attacks from Syria or targeting Westerners. Some experts characterize Syria’s involvement in terrorism as “passive support.” Historically, Syria has been involved in numerous past terrorist acts and still supports several terrorist groups. The 2006 Country Report by the state department says the ongoing investigation by the United Nations into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri indicates that Syrian officials were likely involved.
What groups has Syria supported which Washington regards as terrorists?
Syria gives the Lebanese militia Hezbollah political, diplomatic, and organizational aid, according to the State Department. Iranian arms bound for Hezbollah regularly pass through Syria, experts say. Syria, which effectively occupied and controlled neighboring Lebanon from 1990 to 2005, also let Hezbollah operate in Lebanon and attack Israel, often ratcheting up regional tensions.
In late 2006, Syria and Iraq ended a twenty-five-year long break in diplomatic relations, entering into a five-year agreement to cooperate on increasing border control and combating terrorism. Previously, the United States had accused Syria of letting militants supporting the Iraqi insurgency to easily pass through its border. Since the agreement, some have accused Syria of not applying stringent border control.
Syria has also provided training, weapons, safe haven, and logistical support to both leftist and Islamist Palestinian hard-liners. Syria allows several regional terrorist organizations—such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command—to have external headquarters in Damascus, according to the State Department. The Syrian government contends that these headquarters are for political and informational mobility only and that these groups “represent legitimate resistance activity as distinguished from terrorism” according to a 2007 Congressional Research Service report (PDF).
From 1980 until 1998, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which sought an independent Kurdish state, used Syria as a headquarters and base of operations against neighboring Turkey.
How did Syria react to September 11?
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad—an ophthalmologist who came to power after the death in June 2000 of his long-ruling father, Hafiz al-Assad—condemned the September 11 attacks. Syria has also reportedly shared some intelligence with the United States about Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network, even as Assad’s regime continues to sponsor terrorist groups. In April 2002, President Bush said that the time had come “for Syria to decide which side of the war against terror it is on.” However, U.S.-Syria diplomatic relations remain at low levels despite a pledge from the Syrian government to offer increased protection to U.S. citizens and property within its borders after a 2006 attack on the U.S. embassy, in which the four attackers and a Syrian guard were killed.
Does the Syrian government have ties to al-Qaeda?
No. The secular, Arab nationalist Syrian government is hostile to bin Laden’s Islamist network, which Syria views as a terrorist organization; Damascus differentiates between the Sunni Muslim fundamentalists of al-Qaeda and groups it sees as national liberation movements, such as Hezbollah and Palestinian groups. Also, experts say, Syria, which is ruled mostly by Alawites, an often marginalized Shiite sect, is more broadly concerned that Islamists could rally the country’s Sunni majority against the regime. So in the past, the ruling Baath Party has dealt harshly with domestic Islamists. In 1982, Assad quashed an uprising organized by the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni group, in the central Syrian city of Hama, bulldozing neighborhoods and killing an estimated ten thousand people. The brutal response to the Hama uprising deterred further Islamist activism in Syria, experts say.
Does Syria cooperate with other state sponsors of terrorism?
Yes. Syria and Iran work together over issues related to Hezbollah. The 2007 Congressional Research Service report calls the relationship between the two countries “a marriage of convenience” that stems from geopolitical necessity. In 2004, Syria and Iran signed a mutual defense agreement. The July 2006 Hezbollah strikes on Israel prompted allegations that Syria and Iran were using the group to deflect international attention from other issues, such as Iran's contentious nuclear program. This Backgrounder takes an in-depth look at the Syria-Iran relationship.
Does Syria have weapons of mass destruction?
Yes—and the ballistic missiles to deliver them, according to U.S.defense and intelligence reports. Syria has an active chemical weapons program, including significant reserves of the deadly nerve agent sarin. Its research programs are trying to develop even more toxic nerve agents. It also has a biological weapons program, but experts say Syria is incapable of producing and militarize large quantities of dangerous germs without substantial foreign help.
After an Israeli air strike on a remote Syrian military facility in September 2007, experts speculated that Syria accepted North Korean support in establishing a nuclear program. Syrian officials deny the allegations.
What is Syria’s current relationship with Lebanon?
After twenty-nine years of occupation, Syria was forced out of Lebanon in April 2005 largely due to massive public and international protests. The results of a preliminary UN investigation into the February 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri implicated several top officials in the Syrian government. Following the preliminary report, the United Nations passed a resolution requiring full cooperation from Damascus into the murder investigation.
An indirect actor in the Israel-Hezbollah war in July 2006, Syria continued to financially and politically support Hezbollah’s opposition to the Lebanese government after the conflict ended. Although Syria has officially withdrawn from Lebanon, the State Department says it maintains covert intelligence operations there, and continues to exert some influence, both in politics and through its support of Hezbollah.

Syria: Crimes Against Humanity in Daraa
Killings, Torture in a Locked-Down City Under Siege
June 1, 2011
Bodies of people killed by Syrian security forces during protests in Daraa city, stored in a mobile refrigerator, May 4, 2011.
© 2011 Private
For more than two months now, Syrian security forces have been killing and torturing their own people with complete impunity. They need to stop – and if they don’t, it is the Security Council’s responsibility to make sure that the people responsible face justice.
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch
 (New York) - Systematic killings and torture by Syrian security forces in the city of Daraa since protests began there on March 18, 2011, strongly suggest that these qualify as crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
The 54-page report, "‘We've Never Seen Such Horror': Crimes against Humanity in Daraa," is based on more than 50 interviews with victims and witnesses to abuses. The report focuses on violations in Daraa governorate, where some of the worst violence took place after protests seeking greater freedoms began in various parts of the country. The specifics went largely unreported due to the information blockade imposed by the Syrian authorities. Victims and witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch described systematic killings, beatings, torture using electroshock devices, and detention of people seeking medical care.
"For more than two months now, Syrian security forces have been killing and torturing their own people with complete impunity," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "They need to stop - and if they don't, it is the Security Council's responsibility to make sure that the people responsible face justice."
The Syrian government should take immediate steps to halt the excessive use of lethal force by security forces, Human Rights Watch said. The United Nations Security Council should impose sanctions and press Syria for accountability and, if it doesn't respond adequately, refer Syria to the International Criminal Court.
The protests first broke out in Daraa in response to the detention and torture of 15 children accused of painting graffiti slogans calling for the government's downfall. In response and since then, security forces have repeatedly and systematically opened fire on overwhelmingly peaceful demonstrators. The security forces have killed at least 418 people in the Daraa governorate alone, and more than 887 across Syria, according to local activists who have been maintaining a list of those killed. Exact numbers are impossible to verify.
Witnesses from Daraa interviewed by Human Rights Watch provided consistent accounts of security forces using lethal force against protesters and bystanders, in most cases without advance warning or any effort to disperse the protesters by nonviolent means. Members of various branches of the mukhabarat (security services) and numerous snipers positioned on rooftops deliberately targeted the protesters, and many of the victims had lethal head, neck, and chest wounds. Human Rights Watch documented a number of cases in which security forces participating in the operations against protesters in Daraa and other cities had received "shoot-to-kill" orders from their commanders.
Some of the deadliest incidents Human Rights Watch documented include:
·         An attack on al-Omari mosque, which served as a rallying point for protesters and a makeshift hospital for the wounded protesters, and attacks on ensuing protests from March 23 to 25, killing more than 30 protesters;
·         Attacks on demonstrators during two protests on April 8, resulting in at least 25 deaths;
·         Attacks during a protest and a funeral procession in the town of Izraa on April 22 and 23, resulting in at least 34 deaths;
·         Killings during the blockade of Daraa and neighboring villages beginning on April 25, and during an effort by residents of neighboring towns to break the siege on April 29, which left up to 200 dead.
Nine witnesses from the towns of Tafas, Tseel, and Sahem al-Golan described to Human Rights Watch one of these attacks which happened on April 29, when thousands or people from towns surrounding Daraa attempted to break the blockade on the city. Witnesses said that the security forces stopped the protesters who were trying to approach Daraa at a checkpoint near the Western entrance of Daraa city. One of the witnesses from the town of Tseel who participated in the protest said:
"We stopped there, waiting for more people to arrive. We held olive branches, and posters saying we want to bring food and water to Daraa. We had canisters with water and food parcels with us. Eventually thousands of people gathered on the road - the crowd stretched for some six kilometers.
"Then we started moving closer to the checkpoint. We shouted 'peaceful, peaceful,' and in response they opened fire. Security forces were everywhere, in the fields nearby, on a water tank behind the checkpoint, on the roof of a nearby factory, and in the trees, and the fire came from all sides. People started running, falling, trying to carry the wounded away. Nine people from Tseel were wounded there and one of them died."
Another witness, from Tafas, said:
"There was no warning, no firing in the air. It was simply an ambush. There was gunfire from all sides, from automatic guns. Security forces were positioned in the fields along the road, and on the roofs of the buildings. They were deliberately targeting people. Most injuries were in the head and chest.

"Two men from Tafas were killed there: 22-year-old Muhammad Aiman Baradan and 38-year-old Ziad Hreidin. Ziad stood next to me when a sniper bullet hit him in the head. He died on the spot. Altogether, 62 people were killed and more than a hundred wounded, I assisted with their transportation to Tafas hospital."
Syrian authorities repeatedly blamed the protesters in Daraa for initiating the violence and accused them of attacking security forces. All of the testimony collected by Human Rights Watch indicates, however, that the protests were in most cases peaceful.

Human Rights Watch documented several incidents in which, in response to the killings of protesters, Daraa residents resorted to violence, setting cars and buildings on fire, and killing members of the security forces. Human Rights Watch said that such incidents should be further investigated, but that they by no means justify the massive and systematic use of lethal force against the demonstrators.

Syrian authorities also routinely denied wounded protesters access to medical assistance by preventing ambulances from reaching the wounded, and on several occasions opening fire on medical personnel or rescuers who tried to carrying the wounded away. Security forces took control of most of the hospitals in Daraa and detained the wounded who were brought in. As a result, many wounded people avoided the hospitals and were treated in makeshift hospitals with limited facilities. In at least two cases documented by Human Rights Watch, people died because they were denied needed medical care.

Witnesses from Daraa and neighboring towns described to Human Rights Watch large-scale sweep operations by the security forces, who detained hundreds of people daily, as well as the targeted arrests of activists and their family members. The detainees, many of them children, were held in appalling conditions. All ex-detainees interviewed said that they, as well as hundreds of others they saw in detention, had been subjected to torture, including prolonged beatings with sticks, twisted wires, other devices, and electric shocks. Some were tortured on improvised metal and wooden "racks" and, in at least one case documented by Human Rights Watch, a male detainee was raped with a baton.

Two witnesses independently reported to Human Rights Watch the extrajudicial execution of detainees on May 1 at an ad hoc detention facility at a football field in Daraa. One of the detainees said the security forces had executed 26 detainees; the other described a group of "more than 20." Human Rights Watch has not been able to further corroborate these accounts. However, the detailed information provided by two independent witnesses and the fact that other parts of their statements were fully corroborated by other witnesses supports the credibility of the allegations.

On April 25, security forces began a large-scale military operation in Daraa, imposing a blockade that lasted at least 11 days and was then extended to neighboring towns. Under the cover of heavy gunfire, security forces occupied every neighborhood in the city, ordered people to remain indoors, and opened fire on those who defied the ban. Witnesses said that Daraa residents experienced acute shortages of food, water, medicine, and other necessary supplies during the siege. The security forces shot out water tanks. Electricity and all communications were cut off. Unable to bury or properly store the growing number of dead bodies, Daraa residents stored many of them in mobile vegetable refrigerators that could run on diesel fuel.

Syrian authorities also imposed an information blockade on Daraa. They prevented any independent observers from entering the town, and shut down all means of communication. Security forces searched for and confiscated cellphones that contained footage of events in Daraa, and arrested and tortured those whom they suspected of trying to get images or other information out, including some foreign nationals. In some areas, electricity and communications remain cut off.

Human Rights Watch called on the Syrian government to halt immediately the use of excessive and lethal force by security forces against demonstrators and activists, release all arbitrarily arrested detainees, and provide human rights groups and journalists with immediate and unhindered access to Daraa. It also called on the Security Council to adopt targeted financial and travel sanctions on officials responsible for continuing human rights violations, as well as to push for and support efforts to investigate and prosecute the grave, widespread and systemic human rights violations committed in Syria.

"Syrian authorities did everything they could to conceal their bloody repression in Daraa," Whitson said. "But horrendous crimes like these are impossible to hide, and sooner or later those responsible will have to answer for their actions."

19 July 2011Last updated at 13:42 ET

Syrian troops 'kill mourners in Homs assault'

Security forces have opened fire at a funeral procession in the volatile Syrian city of Homs killing 10 people, activists say.
Witnesses said the shooting took place outside a mosque during funerals for people killed in the past 24 hours.
Amateur video posted on the internet shows a crowd taking part in the procession before gun fire breaks out.
International journalists have been denied access to Syria, making it difficult to verify reports.
Human rights groups and activists say dozens of people have been killed in Homs since Saturday.
The Local Co-ordination Committees, which helps organise anti-government protests, said shooting erupted outside the Khaled bin al-Waleed mosque shortly after noon local time (1000GMT) as families held funeral processions for 10 people killed the previous day.
The mother of one of those being buried was among the victims, activist Mohammed Saleh told AP news agency.
Another Homs resident said snipers were positioned on rooftops, monitoring the largely deserted streets.
"We haven't slept since yesterday," he told AP by telephone, with the sound of machine-gun fire in the background.
Syria's official news agency has released images of what it says are funerals of policemen in Homs
"I am lying down on the floor as I talk to you. Other people are hiding in bathrooms."
Intense gunfire was reported overnight in Homs, with one resident telling Reuters there were "troops and armoured vehicles in every neighbourhood".
The latest violence is part of a crackdown on the four-month anti-government uprising in the country.
"The irregular forces with [the troops] are death squads," an unnamed resident told Reuters by phone.
"They have been firing indiscriminately since dawn with rifles and machine guns. No-one can leave their homes."
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 30 people died in sectarian fighting on Saturday and Sunday, following the discovery of the mutilated bodies of three regime supporters.
The supporters were reported to be Alawites - the minority sect to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs.
However, the Syrian National Human Rights Organisation said that only seven people were killed in the weekend attacks, which it said were carried out by security forces.
Human rights groups say that about 1,400 civilians and 350 security forces personnel have died since the protests began.
The government blames the unrest on "armed criminal gangs" backed by a foreign conspiracy

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