Category Archives: Civil War


BLOG 363 September 4, 2017

            Americans have an interesting habit of listening intently to a crisis, getting highly upset, and then in a few days forgetting all about it. Right now the disaster in Houston is on everyone’s mind. Give it a week or so and we go on to the next issue and leave Houston underwater.

Currently, the nation’s media appears to be doing so with the civil war in Syria. Not much as appeared lately, but the wheels of destruction continue to grind away in that war torn land. One of the major mistakes of the Obama Era was drawing red lines and then doing nothing when the Assad regime crossed them. Trump fired a few rockets and then went back to the latest debacle created by his administration. Without a sustained American policy and plan, the people fighting in Syria struggle on often when there is no hope in sight.

Wendy Pearlman’s book We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled, chronicles the Syrian lives that are struggling to survive. A professor of politics at Northwestern University, Pearlman speaks fluent Arabic, and has traveled extensively through the area collecting stories of what happened to the citizens. A doctor told her about the unconventional method they discovered to deal with tear gas victims. They pour cola on their faces and that counters the effects of the gas.
Amin, a physical therapist, shared how they evade security forces who dial them through the cell phones captured from people they trapped. After killing them, they dial numbers on their cells to find their next victims. Amin said they don’t delete the original phone numbers but change the name to Martyr. When a call comes in on the deceased phone, they know it’s the regime. When he opened his contact list, it was all Martyr, Martyr, Martyr.

Syria created the “weaponization of health care” as the government with more than 800 medical workers killed in hundreds of attacks. Doctors were arrested for treating injured protestors while medical supplies were withheld from besieged areas. Inhumanity continues to rule supreme.

The continuing refugee crisis remains one of the biggest challenges in memory. European countries still struggle to know how to deal with immigrate populations that swamp their cities. Syrian populations continue to attempt to get out of the country. The Geneva Convention on protecting civilians in wartime was never consistently enforced and is now openly flouted. The Syrian crisis is currently pushing the world toward nationalism and the rise of the security state. The world seems awash in chaos and uncertainty more so than at any time since the end of the cold war.

The Syrian war goes on and the whole world pays the price. The old adage, “Lord help us,” certainly applies.

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September 4, 2017 · 2:06 pm


BLOG 304 May 30, 2016 MEMORIAL DAY

Memorial Day: A time to remember.

On this day of sacred remembrance, we pause to consider what war has cost us. In the United States, we remember the fallen who fought for our highest values. While the rest of the world has other days of commemoration, universally we salute those who gave their lives and pause in thankful prayer for their sacrifices.

The Syrian Civil War has sent an entire population running for their lives to other countries while a countless multitude have fallen, many into unmarked graves. In Israel, knife attacks have killed 34 Israel soldiers and 190 Palestinians. Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Abbas and the Hamas leaders shed no tears but don’t want the confrontations to flair up and spin our of control. The 2014 Gaza war cost their side far too much.

Today the suffering and misery of the 1.8 million Gazan’s who live in 365-square kilometer ghetto is unbearable. Suicides in Gaza increase everyday. The water is undrinkable and there is no electricity. When a group of refugees attempted to escape across the Mediterranean, their boat capsized and left 500 to drown. Death is a daily specter in the Gaza Strip.

In addition, the war in Gaza left behind a construction crisis. One hundred and thirty thousand homes were destroyed or damaged. To keep Hamas from confiscating cement, iron rods, and construction materials for building attack tunnels, Israel put in place an embargo. Israel and the United Nations have a computerized system to monitor any supply of cement that comes into the Gaza. The result is that the area is in total collapse and looks as devastated as the day the war ended.

Where is it all going? Nowhere. Oh, enough despair exists to produce another uprising. From the Israeli point-of-view, the Palestinians are too dumb not to get the point that more attacks will only result in death. From the Palestinian perspective, they have no other alternative but to die fighting. The result? More death for everyone.

Such terrible alternatives have pushed the world into war after war. Remember the social protest popular song of the 70’s Where Have All the Flowers Gone? ending with, “when will they ever learn?”

On this Memorial Day, may it be a time to learn and demonstrate that we had better understand. We have already stood at more than enough grave sites. Let us commit ourselves to seeking the higher road to peace and being unafraid to walk down the nobler pathway.

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Filed under America, Arabs, Civil War, Israel, middle east


BLOG 288 February 1, 2016

January is past and we’ve already broken those New Year’s resolution. The time for projecting the future of 2016 is almost past. So, let’s take a last peek behind the Middle East curtain before we launch into February. What’s happening that’s not in the media?

`           Syria continues to be the target with all sides acting like they don’t know what’s going on. The truth is that they all do.

You don’t have to follow the headlines closely to know the American CIA has been arming the rebels fighting Bashar Al-Assad and his government. The CIA efforts have been largely financed by Saudi Arabia. The Saudis in turn shrug and say they don’t know what that contention is all about.

On the other side of the battlefield, Vladimir Putin brought in a fleet of jets to bomb the rebels while he is claiming to be fighting ISIS. The truth is that Assad was just about to topple and Syria was the only ally Russia had in the Middle East. Putin saw Russian influence slipping away and showed up “just to help.”

What we have is a proxy war –without end!

A January 24, report from The New York Times indicated the Saudis, the Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan, and Egypt are about to buy thousands of American-made missiles, bombs, and other weapons for the on-going war. Behind the scenes Israel and Saudi Arabia are in a de facto alliance against Iran. Consequently, the United States keeps arming the gunfight at the OK Corral.

The merry-go-round of killing continues to whirl.

The ultimate war behind the scenes is a centuries old feud between Sunnis and Shiites. The Bush-Chaney administration came loping along chasing Saddam Hussein and turned a quiet feud into a regional chaos. Now, we have an all-out warfare that is destroying multiple countries.

People like Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan are running around buying up armaments to keep the Syrian rebels fighting. In turn, the sacking of the Saudi diplomatic mission after the Saudis executed a senior subversive Shiite cleric reflected how complicated and deep these rifts run. Iran is now considered the country to oppose and Iran always strikes back. On and on it goes—

US President Obama appears to have no Middle East policy except to be “buddies” with all the Muslim factions. The naïveté of this approach is reflected in the fact that the year’s old Syrian war has no end in sight and the two major Arab factions go on killing each other (and a few Americans along the way)

If the Syrian war ended tomorrow, the fighting between Sunnis and Shiites would continue into the next century and beyond. Unless America and Russia come to some agreement about ending the Syrian civil war, the mess will be in the lap of the next American president.

Good luck.

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As the ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) troops continued their civil war inside Iraq, the Obama administration backed away from working with Iranian troops that are already inside Iraq. What’s going on?

Inside Syria, the country has virtually imploded with three different groups building on the ruins from the civil war: the Assad regime, the Kruds, and the jihadists that have become dominated by ISIS. These three factions hold different parts of the country with no hope of negotiations in sight. The Kurdish enclave in the north close to the Turkish border are holding their own against both Assad and ISIS. Of course, the world now knows that the brutal  ISIS forces have turned their attention to defeating the Shia in Iraq and are making dramatic headway in defeating the current Maliki government.

Last week some American politicians talked of cooperation with Iran. Why did Obama back away? Take a look at the actual record of current Iranian President Hassan Rohani and see what you think. The Canadian Parliament just concluded their investigation of how Rohani has responded to human rights violations in Iran. Their conclusions are not good for Iran. Here’s their findings.

1. Prior to Rohani’s election, Iran had the highest per capita execution rate in the world. The alarming rate of executions has actually increased under Rohani. More than 650 executions have been carried out since he became president. Over 250 executions have been carried out since the beginning of 2014 alone.

2. Currently, there are 895 political prisoners and prisoners of conscience sitting in Iranian jails. The UN reporter on human rights Dr. Ahmed Shaheed describes these people as being political activists, human rights defenders, journalists, and leaders in Iranian society. Virtually all jailed activists before Rohani’s election are still there.

3. Dr. Shaheed described detainees as being subjected to torture or cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment including prolonged solitary confinement to coerce confessions. Torture includes beating, whipping, and assault in 100% of the cases. Rohani has not only been silent, but promoted the head of the prison system to the office of director general of the Justice Department in Tehran Province.

4. Persecution of the practitioners of the Baha’i faith include the incarceration of a group of seven Baha’i leaders. The Iranian regime’s systematic persecution of Baha’i has resulted in widespread hate crimes against the group with no attackers ever brought to justice.

5. Iran continues to imprison more journalists than almost any other country. During the 2009 contested elections, dozens of journalists were arrested.  Often the regime intimidates and harasses their families in an effort to pressure journalists to discontinue their work.

6.  Judicial independence and the rule of law is completely absent in Iran. Forty lawyers have been detained since 2009. Rohani’s appointments to justice minister and the office of legal affairs are men with long histories of human rights violations, including the 1988 massacre of 5,000 political prisoners.

This history is so gruesome it sounds like I made it up, but this is simply the report from the Canadian Parliament of their conclusions.  The United States backed away from involvement with a government that is as bad as the ISIS.

Can’t criticize the Obama administration for that move!

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Filed under America, Civil War, Iran, middle east

Iraq Blows Up!

Iraq is falling apart. At the risk of repetition for my faithful readers, I have already covered how the war between the Sunni and Shiite (Shia) factions is endless. What we are witnessing in Irag today is a return to a holy war.

Let me put this in contenxt.

The world has traditionally recognized three types of war: just, unjust, and the holy war. The unjust war is an assault in which for one side attempts to destroy the other. World War I was of this order.  The just war occurs when one side is clearly fighting to restore justice and stop the other from illegitimate aims. Beside of the violent objectives of Hitler as well as the Holocaust, World War II was considered just. The holy war develops when one side believes God has sent them on a divine mission. The Crusades were created by the Pope sending soldiers to reconquer the Holy Land in Medieval times.

Holy Wars are the most violent and dangerous form of combat.

In Iraq, the ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) have issued edicts stating the harsh terms under which they will govern under Sharia Law. They have already murdered government officals and police officers. ISIS kills relentlessly. They are unrelenting and purist in their religious objectives. Their ultimate objective is creating a caliphate, an Islamic religious nation spanning sections of Iraq and Syria. ISIS is fighting a religious war!

The Shia- Sunni conflict has remained at the epicenter of Islam due to the fact that it is not only persistent in ideological differences between Shia and Sunni sects, but also a disagreement about who possesses the rightful claim to political power. Although this conflict has been persistent within Islam for centuries, the rift between Shia and Sunni factions has only widened over time, creating a power struggle which became illuminated due to the 9/11 attacks and the emergence of Jihad as the defining aspect Islam.

The 2003 United States occupation of Iraq can be argued to have been the initiator of the rise of ‘jihadist’ movements within Iraq in the twenty-first century.  The U.S. invasion and occupation fueled the growth of Islamic militancy across the world and in Iraq. The American attack became a major instigator for the concept of Jihad affecting so much of the twenty-first century politics.

Today Republicans blame Obama for the deterioration in Iraq. They have forgotten Obama ran on a platform of stopping the war and getting soldiers out of that country. His position won the election. Americans had enough. Unfortunately, Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction and all America did was stir up a holy war. Maliki’s incompetence and political  problems continue because he won’t allow  Sunnis in his government. Why are the Iraqi soldiers dropping their weapons and not fighting? Same reasons. No one trusts Maliki to be democratic and inclusive.

Can we at this late date make a difference? Not unless we want to nuke ISIS and kill everybody in sight. Of course, American will not do so. And so the war goes on and all we can do is decide between getting back into “their war” or same out of the fray.

Let’s hope the politicians don’t do something stupid.

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Filed under Civil War, Iraq, middle east


United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Sima Sami Bahous, working in the U.N. Development Program, released a report on the casualties in the three-year on-going civil war. Over 120,000 citizens have been killed. Five and one-half million children need assistance. Six million have been displaced with ten million still living in poverty. Two and half million are refugees now living in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, and Egypt. While these countries have been gracious, the load is approaching the unbearable point.

One glances at these statistics and soon drowns in the massive numbers. To keep in touch with the extreme cost, we have to step back and fasten on one children’s face twisted in anguish and fear –then multiply that one face by millions more. The people paying the highest price are the women and children. Syria is sinking in pain.

As the third year of fighting begins, there is no end in sight. Reports from within Syria now reveal that Assad is using starvation as a weapon to force some areas to submit. An anonymous Syrian rebel, Skyped that people are eating whatever they can find, including grass. Deaths from malnutrition-related illnesses are not uncommon. One of the hardest hit areas is Moadamiyya that has been under siege for 15 months. Opposition held towns in the Damascus suburbs and Old Homs report a similar story. A spokesperson for the UN World Food Programme reports about 200,000 Syrians in 40 besieged communities are in desperate need of aid.

The city of Homs is a good example of the crisis. As many as 4,000 people are trapped in besieged neighborhoods. Around 100 are critically wounded, trying to survive in sadly under-equipped makeshift clinics. Because Assad’s siege is total, no one can get in or out. No help or equipment has made it in or out for over 600 days. One man sent a Skype internet call, saying Syria has become a “war of starvation.”

Why? Because Bashar Assad lacks the manpower to engage street battles with the rebels, he has resorted to this strategy. Long ago labeled the “butcher of Syria,” he is apparently not bothered by such an approach. Turning now to barrel bombs in the Damascus suburb of Darayya, he is using explosives designed to create terror more than take out rebel forces. The rebels read this tactic as a sign that Assad has little left to fight with except such explosives and hunger.

Because the Geneva “supposed peace talks” have accomplished absolutely nothing, Syrians have lost faith in the international community. Rebels believe the UN has done zero to stop Assad. Yet, the rebels will not back down. Another anonymous rebel reported, “We would prefer to die of starvation than return to Assad’s rule.”

And so the war goes on . If you believe in praying about such situations, now would be a good time to get down on your knees.

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Filed under Civil War, middle east, Syria, United Nations


This week’s headlines declared the second round of Syrian talks to be a failure. The United Nations mediator for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi concluded the second round of talks without even setting a date for further negotiations. Both sides were sent home with instructions to reflect on their commitment to possible diplomacy. These attempts at discussions have only been a dismal failure. In the beginning, I took the position that such was inevitable regardless of international pressure to move forward.

The Syrian government stalled because they believed they are currently ahead in the war. The inside story revealed the Assad regime so closely monitored the discussions that even the smallest details were checked by them. Russia has either not tried or at least not made progress in changing Assad’s mind. The Syrian regime’s delegation refused to discuss a change of government which is exactly what the rebels are fighting for. End of story. A train going nowhere.

This past week the town of Homs was  again filled with tragedy. Two trucks attempting to bring food and supplies into rebel held areas came under heavy fire, wounding four paramedics. Apparently, the trucks were targeted by roadside bombs and mortar shells. As the week progressed, dozens of women and children attempted to escape from the town under an agreement between the government and the rebels for a three-day cease fire. Like everything else in Syria the truce tragically didn’t hold. Taking cover behind United Nations vehicles, the citizens ran to exit the town. When explosions returned, many left their baggage and belongings and ran.

The government accused rebels of trying to score points with the international community by capitalizing on human suffering while the negotiations were still in session. However, anyone following the plight of the citizens trapped in the Old Homs area knew of the severe food shortages and the frail condition of these exhausted survivors.

During these efforts, the commander of the main Western-backed rebel group appealed to the Islamic extremist groups for unity. The Al-Qaeda linked Al- Nusra Front vowed to torpedo these efforts as well as negotiations with the government. Consequently, it is almost impossible to identify who actually speaks for the rebels.

When all of these elements in the conflict are mixed together, it makes for one big-time mess going nowhere. With more than 135,000 Syrians already killed and 9.5 million driven from their homes, the debacle continues to escalate. As I painfully noted earlier, no end appears in sight until the last soldier has been massacred.

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Filed under Civil War, middle east, Refugee camps, Syria


            In case you missed the headlines, 733 Iraqis were killed in January. According to United Nation’s reports, these figures did not include casualties from an embattled western province. Tragically, most of the victims were civilians. Sunni Muslims angry over their claim to second-class treatment by the Shiite controlled government created serious conflicts in the Anbar Province. The United Nations mission chief expressed concern about the struggle of thousand of displaced families in Falluja where they lack water, fuel, food, and medicines. Also a bomb exploded in an outdoor marketplace in Baghdad killing others. The Sunni-Shiite war continues.

            Now, on to the BIG war in Syria. The news is not any better. By now, I am sure you are aware that the so-called peace talks ended with a thud. The Syrian regime came with an unyielding position that any discussion of the replacement of President Bashar Al-Assad was off the table. Well, da-a-h! That’s what the entire civil war is about.

As predicted from the beginning, the first face-to-face meetings turned out to be confrontations. As the sessions came to a close, the Assad delegation refused even to commit to return for the next round of talks previously scheduled in ten days. The UN mediator Lakhar Brahimi couldn’t even find position words to describe what had occurred in the heated head-butting that was anything but talks.

The aggressive position of Assad’s team represents the superior position they believe they now hold in the conflict. The infighting among moderates and al-Qaida-inspired militants has seriously crippled the rebels. In addition, most of the West has been retreating from the rebel side because of the Islamic extremists. The left-wingers do not want help from the West which has also fueled tension with their Western-backed opposition. As reported earlier, Syria is a backyard war actually waged by Iran against Saudi Arabia.

Some countries have been critical of the United States for backing away from leadership in this portion of the Middle East. As I have reported earlier, such a retreat is the smartest position the United States could take as the West remains in a no-win position no matter what they do. The Sunni-Shiite wars have gone on for centuries and will not quick because the West wants peace.

The Syrian situation is no different. The fighting will not stop until one side wins. Sorry. But that’s how it looks from here.

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            Like a meteor crashing to the earth, change comes quickly in the Middle East – and then again – it can take forever. However, a number of events have happened recently that you might have missed. The media goes for the headline grabbers, but the informed look behind the bold print and keep up on shifts that might have not made the evening news, but still have importance for the future.

            Here are several items worth noting.

The trial of 85-year-old Hosni Mubarak in Egypt resumed behind closed doors. Mubarak is faced with charges related to the killing of 900 protestors during the rioting that resulted in his ouster. Former intelligence chief Murad Muwafi has already taken the stand. Other top officials are scheduled to appear. All done with the public kept outside.

Since General Sisi (who now runs the country) came up through the ranks under Mubarak, you can bet the court room will not be a hostile environment. If you like to gamble on such, the odds are in Mubark’s favor. We’ll see.

The violence rages on in Iraq. In a Shiite part of Baghdad, 72 people were killed and 120 wounded by a suicide bomber. In the past few months, sectarian violence has increased. To date the death rate exceeds totals for 2008. A shop discreetly selling liquor in a Sunni  area of Azamiya was attacked and four people killed. Muslims forbid drinking liquor. Apparently, the locals have their own way of enforcing their ten commandments.

Once violence starts and goes unchecked, there is no end to the cruelty that follows. You can also safely bet that the agitation in Iraq will not slow down. Tragically, more deaths are coming.

The civil war in Syria drags on.

This week fighting raged over control of a suburb of Damascus. A suicide bomber attacked a government checkpoint, killing 16 soldiers. The use of suicide bombers reflects the increasing sway of extremists groups. The Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria are prominent in the north and east where arms are easily transported in from Turkey.

At the other end of the spectrum, residents of Mouadamiya, on the southwest outskirts of Damascus, sent out an emergency appeal to the world. The residents scrambled to get enough power to run a computer. “Save us from death. Save us from the hell of Assad’s killing machine,” they typed out. The hope of these beleaguered survivors is that the world is listening and will respond.

Will they? Probably not.

As we stay aware of these and similar events, we are able to get a feel for the pulse beat of conflict. On some days, it’s hard to detect and then the next day the rate explodes. Certainly a heart attack situation!

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Filed under Civil War, middle east, Syria


          The Syrian civil war affects many on the outside of Syria.

          An Israeli charity has just delivered 70 tons of sanitation items, 670 tons of food, as well as 20 tons of medications to Syrian refugees. Because of the traditional hostility of the Syrian government, the organization cannot be named. Nevertheless, 1,200 Israelis continue to serve the victims of Syria’s civil war. They have been fund-raising to purchase 3,000 special protection kits for Syrian medical teams now working in 14 towns in Syria.

Israeli relief groups recognize the danger that they could come from Arab attacks. However, they believe they are at the right place at the right time making a significant difference.  Rather than retreat because of fear, they believe not recognizing the impact of indifference also has its own way of killing.

Jordanians struggle with different concerns. Even though they are a small country, Jordan hosts a huge number of refugees. Because the civil war seems endless, they fear many omigrants are settling in for a long stay. Because of the influx of large numbers of Palestinians fleeing the Israeli war of Independence as well as the Yom Kippur war, they know that such numbers can upset the fragile demographic balance. The Jordanians had to eventually run Yasser Arafat and the PLO out of their country. The war in Iraq sent tens of thousands into Jordan. In a country of six million, the new presence of 600,000 Syrians produces a new challenge to the balance of power.

With a common language and racial background, the Syrians quickly adapt to their Jordanian surroundings and settle in. Obviously, schools and water supply are stained by the sudden increase in population. However, the balance in population is also affected by the influx of outsiders. The original population of Jordan came from Bedouin tribes previously known as the “East bankers.” However, his group, (that the monarchy depends on) has slowly been losing their influence as previous wars have brought more immigrants into their country. East bankers and the indigenous population fear they could become a minority and guest in their own land.

A government minister recently noted that the influx is the equivalent of the United States absorbing Canada overnight. The cost of hosting these Syrian refugees is now at least a billion dollars a year. To add to the strain, low-skilled Jordanians often lose their jobs to Syrians who work for less and are generally better trained.

A Jordanian recently said, “We’re not against the Syrian refugees, but we want them kept inside the camps.”

No end is in sight except to build more camps.

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Filed under Civil War, Israel, middle east, Syria