Tag Archives: president vladimir putin

A FURTHER LOOK AT SYRIA

            Last week we took a brief overview look at the continuing civil war in Syria and the effect that Russian support had on the struggle. With 50,000 to 60,000 citizens killed and a continuing capacity to destabilize the Middle East, the world needs to worry about Syria.

            Russia appears to be going through a continual spasm as Vladimir Putin pushes not only for dominance but also to bend the elite to fit the national mood of the country. Recent decisions by the Duma (the lower house of the Parliament) passed undebated legislation to tighten the state’s control over dissent and political activism. The January 14, edition of The New York Times reports that Putin  has made strengthening Russia’s sovereignty his priority. Halting the adoption of the thousands of Russian children needing homes abroad is an example of how ruthless these decisions can be. Protestors filled Moscow’s streets.

As has been the case in Syria, it also reflects how wrong Russia can be.

The world of Syrian refugees continues to reflect the incredible hardship war has visited on the survivors. In Zaatar, Jordan, floods washed through refugee tents and left boggy, muddy trails through the camps. As winter approaches, many of the refugees fear for their survival. In these desert camps that crowd 50,000 people into nine square miles, normal is somewhere between horrible and inhumane.

International talks between Russian and the United States in Geneva, Switzerland expressed a mutual agreement that the war should end, but little else. At the United Nations Russia and China continue to block resolutions to pressure President Bashar Assad to leave. The United States can not envision how a new transitional government could be created if Assad is a part of it. While the diplomats argue, the combatants continue to kill each other.

Syrian troops advanced in a strategic suburb of Damascus, attempting to secure Assad’s seat of power in the capital. At the same time, rebels made advances in the north. The government announced recapturing much of Daraya, an area surrounding a major military air base just south of the capital. A day earlier the rebels took control of the northwest Taftanaz air base in a blow to the military. It is not easy to tell what this tit-for-tat exchange actually means. Often such announcements turn out to be propaganda. It is clear that one of the rebels most effective fighting units s is the Jabhat al-Nusra arm of al-Qaida. Not a good sign for the future!

In an unusual move, the rebels freed and swapped 48 Iranian prisoners for 2,000 prisoners held by the government. This number included women and children. The deal was brokered by Qatar, Iran, and Turkey. No one is certain why Syria agreed, but it may have been because of pressure applied from Tehran, Assad’s remaining major ally. Iran denied they were members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and claimed they were pilgrims to Shiite religious shrines in Syria. Such an explanation is of the order of explaining American troops are in Afghanistan looking for Santa Claus and the North Pole.

The civil war goes on and the death toll continues to rise. The United Nations appears completely inept. Can it get much worse? Yeah, it can.

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An Update on Israel

 

Change is in the air.

 

A number of incidents have occurred lately that didn’t make headlines in America. They aren’t earth shaking events, but might help you keep abreast of the times are unfolding. Change occurs in the Middle East at the speed of light. Consequently, the more we know, the better we are to judge the situation and make sound judgements.

Were you aware that Russian President Vladimir Putin dropped in for a visit this summer? While the occasion was more of a state formality with a dedication of a war memorial, it is interesting that the country with a hard history of antisemitism should have the newly elected president drop by for a chat. My guess is that the stop-by represents a recognition of the importance of Israel in the world scene and a concern for an attack on Iran (one of Russia’s allies). If so, Putin got an earful. Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres made it clear that in their view nuclear weapons in the hands of the Iranians remained a threat to Israel and the world. Putin said nothing, but got the message. However, there’s no change with Vadim.

Russia continues to oppose more sanctions against Iran while supplying weapons to Syria (calling them defensive armaments). They have also used their veto power to shield the Assad regime.

While in Israel, Putin helped unveil a monument to the Red Army’s defeat of Nazi Germany. Such remembrances are important because of the enormous price the Soviet Union paid in World War II. Over a half million Jews fought in the Soviet Army and 120,000 were killed. The idea for the monument began with Netanyahu two years ago when he proposed the commemoration to Putin.

On a different front, the former financial adviser to Yasser Arafat Muhammad Rashid revealed that Fatah had a secret bank account in Jordan amounting to $39 million. When Arafat died, he was one of the wealthiest men in the world with a monthly allowance to his wife in Paris of $100,000 a month. Three billion dollars disappeared and has not been found to this date. Rashid stated that only Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and two of his associates could access the account. He challenged Abbas to admit this fact because he had longed denied the existence of such an account. After a long-standing battled with the PA leadership, Rashid has threatened to expose corruption and scandal involving Abbas.

Change? Well, the covers are being thrown back. Seems the Palestinian Authority continues to deal under the table just as Arafat did.

Here’s another surprise for you. East Jerusalem Arabs are increasingly applying for Israeli citizenship. Forty-six years ago, the Six Day War (Yom Kippur War) exploded and the citizenship of East Jerusalem shifted. Because King Hussein claimed the rights to the West Bank and the PLO called these Arabs Palestinians, they ended up in effect non-citizens. Today, 260,000 east Jerusalemites are still non-citizens. A high number of this group were born in Israel, speak Hebrew, and have been virtually absorbed into Israeli society. Today an increasing number are convinced no change will every occur and are applying for Israeli citizenship. The idea of a Palestinian may never be resolved. The status quo isn’t relevant to this group.

Change is moving right along.

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PROBING INSIDE THE SYRIAN SITUATION

 

 

Over 200 bodies were recently discovered in Daraya, a small town just outside of Damascus. The frightening unofficial suggestion is that Syrian troops committed these atrocities that may be the worst since the beginning of the Syrian rebellion over 18 months ago. Because of the ongoing war, the exact count could not be independently confirmed.

The Local Coordination Committee, an activist organization, found mass body dumps in the same region. Their video recorded charred bodies wrapped in blankets as well as victims lined up together and shot in a mosque. The violence fits a pattern that has emerged from raids by government forces in other suburbs of Damascus. When the military raided towns held by rebels, they left behind piles of bodies. Generally, the victims were young men, most shot in the head execution style.

The stories go on and on. I have been blogging about these murders for months, but nothing seems to put the brakes on the killing. One of the burning question is why the Russians continue to sustain such violence. As we discussed in an earlier blog, they are making huge profits out of this warfare. Certainly, profit motives keep the guns blazing. But there must be more to this story.

In the August 19, 2012 edition of The New York Times, Misha Friedman reported on the current situation in Russia under the heading For Russians, Corruption is Just a Way of Life. Friedman grew up in Moldova, then a part of the Soviet Union. In the early 1990s, her family immigrated to the United States. Since then, she has made a number of trips back to Russia. On each one of these trips, she observed growing corruption and lawlessness. Today, Misha Friedman reports that the country has become immersed in immoral and depraved behavior at every level of society.

Ms. Friedman reports that President Vladimir Putin’s system of running the country is hurling Russia back into a medieval mode when lawlessness trumps all rules. She noted that Russians who travel  outside the country often hide their nationality because of a fear of being compared to the country’s ruling elite. The Pussy Riot trial or the imprisonment of Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky always comes up with embarrassing questions about what is transpiring inside the country. Friedman implies Putin’s government could care less about the consequences of their decisions as long as they prevail.

Syria would certainly be a case in point.

The author’s story states that corruption has become both a state of mind as well as a way of life. Citizens have become so accustomed to this decadence that they now accept it as the norm and view it as “Russia’s own special way.”

Friedman’s story leaves us with an obvious conclusion. If the Russian’s are making a buck, they care less about who is hurt. Obviously, I’m not indicting their entire society. Thousands marched in the streets to protest Putin’s election and how he runs the country. Unfortunately, they didn’t accomplish change. Nevertheless, as long as Russia’s military factories are kept busy, no one at the top will be calculating the cost.

So, the killing goes on in Syria while the rest of the world watches from the sidelines.

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