Tag Archives: Syrian Civil War


BLOG 366 September 25, 2017

            Iran is back in the headlines. President Donald Trump’s speech at the United Nations called Iran an international pariah. While the entire rest of the world is telling Trump to leave the nuclear accord with Iran alone, Trump seems to think he knows more than all the other nations. At this point, his narcissistic tendencies are dangerous. However, in the Middle East, Iran remains a major problem not discussed at the moment. Is there something more to the current concern over Iran than the press is releasing?

Let’s take a deeper look at what has been happening in Syria. Their persistent civil war has gone on the backburner with the problems of North Korea coming to the fore, but nothing has stopped in the conflict between the US and Russia as they stand on different sides of the Syrian conflict. More is afoot than meets the eye. On October 2016, Martin Chulov in The Guardian wrote “militias controlled by Tehran are poised to complete a land corridor that would give Iran huge power in the region.” Mr. Chulov put his finger on the problem.

A similar perspective was expressed in June in The Jerusalem Post by Jonathan Spyer. He wrote, “if the US and its allies are eclipsed in eastern Syria, the result will be the establishment of a contiguous land link from Iran, across Iraq and Syria to Lebanon and the Israeli border.’ As summer ends, it is clear that in the last several months the Iranian-backed regime in Damascus has increased in its power.  Clearly, the land bridge drive is picking up steam.

Add to this configuration the possibility that Iran is building a missile factor near Baniyas Syria. Israel has maintained a policy of interception of the flow of weapons from Iran to Hezbollah, striking whenever a shipment starts through. The creation of a new missile factory in Syria would provide a new way for Iran to aid it’s friends.  Now Israel must carefully re-think what it will do next. A new missile factory in Syria would pose a serious problem for Israel. In August, Prime Minister Netanyahu told Russian President Vladimir Putin that Iran is stepping into the role that ISIS once played and that Iran continues to threaten the annihilation of Israel. The creation of a land bridge from Iran to the Mediterranean Sea would make Israel totally vulnerable. The stated intention of Iran is to use such a corridor against Israel. Netanyahu made it clear to Putin that Israel will not remain passive and allow such a passage to be established that is a direct threat to Israel.

The constant flip-flops of the Trump administration let Iran continue to march forward. There does not appear to be any consistence in the Trump foreign policy and State Department personnel have been leaving in large numbers. Virtually no legislation has happened since Trump took office and now it appears that the Health Care issue is going nowhere again. Israel is left standing in the cold.

Would somebody wake up the current administration that their lack of perception and action is allowing a land bridge to be established that in the end can actually backfire on the United States!

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BLOG 327 November 21, 2016


            No matter where we look, the world is turning upside down. Hundreds of thousands gathered in downtown Seoul, South Korea to demand the resignation of President Park Geun-hye. The president of the Philippines wants the American military out of the country, suggesting he is looking to China for a new relationship. Germany’s Angela Merkel is the last powerful defender of Europe and the Trans-Atlantic alliance. Britain is pulling out and Obama is gone. With a resurgent Russia at her back, Angela Merkel is tired and struggling. The world is fast becoming a different place. Change is on the way.

Reports say that even President-elect Trump has changed. The brash, rudeness has given way to a more restrained soberness. Last week, we considered changes evolving after the Presidential election. Here’s some more.

Egypt appears to be smiling. El-Sissi said Trump would make a strong leader and Trump believed in a new “good chemistry” with Egypt. Following the military takeover of the government and the jailing of elected president Mohammed Morsi, relations with Egypt went into a tailspin. For a period of time, the Obama administration even suspended aid. A definite chill set in between el-Sissi and Obama. Egypt’s pro-government backed media railed against Obama. Even going so far as to accuse Washington of backing the Muslim Brotherhood. (which was nonsense) Trump appears to be attempting to ease the tension.

Predictions are that Trump will be less concerned over human rights issues. He will probably give el-Sissi political support as the battles with ISIS inspired and led forces continue in Sinai and Libya. A pro-el-Sissi TV host predicted a major shift in Egyptian-American relations under Trump.

As far as ISIS goes, during the political campaign, Trump repeatedly pledged to intensify the war both in Iraq and Syria. He set crushing the Muslim extremists as his main priority. Americans generally applauded this stance. However, the jury is still out on how this effect complex alliances in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia always smiles while slipping money under the table to the extremists. One of the yet-to-be resolved twists in this situation is Trump’s statements that the rebel may be worse than President Bashar Assad, indicating defeating ISIS may be more important to him than getting rid of Assad.

Behind these issues is the question of Trump’s new approach to Russia. Giving the impression that he and Putin might become pals, does jar the picture considerably and raises important questions. Should Trump strike a deal with Putin at a cost to the rebels, the Middle East would be plunged into a new situation.

As Americans generally do, the new president-elect is given time to get his cabinet in order. Because Trump has offered little insight into a comprehensive Middle East policy or perspective on what comes next after the Syrian Civil War, one cannot be sure how all the cards will be played out.

At this point, we’re not even sure what’s being dealt at many major points. Don’t panic, but keep your cards close to your chest.

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Blog 311 July 18, 2016

With the wild swings in American politics dominating the headlines, we don’t hear much about the war in Syria these days. Mass killings and police shootings have sent people to the streets in protests. Black Lives Matter dominates the headlines. No problem with those stories being up front – it is just that they have pushed the Middle East out of media coverage while the war in Syria goes on full tilt. And we need to be kept up on all fronts.

The civil war in Syria is approaching a six year anniversary with control swinging back and forth. The Russians abruptly emerged as leading the fight against the rebels and ISIS with America viewed as wobbly with no viable objectives in mind. The rebels wonder if the US would stand back and let them lose. Maybe.

Because of President Obama’s reluctance, Russian air power has now changed all calculations. At this late date, any American direct intervention could end up with a direct clash with Russia. Actually, Putin appears to be in control and dictating events inside Syria. Would the Obama Administration confront Russia in an election year? Not a chance.

The impeding assault on Aleppo has been projected to be a turning point in the entire war. With the help of Russian air power, Assad now appears to be back in the drivers seat. Even though starvation is a war crime, the Syrian government has put the squeeze on the 300,000 people left in Aleppo. This home once to 2.1 million citizens is now little more than rubble. With Damascus and Homs under Assad’s control, the fall of Aleppo would give him the main population and economic centers of Syria.

An analysis from the Carter Center suggests Assad’s government now controls 40% of the country with the rebels, Kurds, and ISIS holding about 20%. The numbers paint their own picture. The deal reached in Munich for a “cessation of hostilities” has done nothing. The bombs keep falling and ISIS keeps killing.

Why has the Obama administration been so dilatory? You tell me. ISIS has killed thousands and ethically cleansed 300,000 citizens by blindfolding men and elderly women and shooting them in the back of the head. Over 6,000 women have been sold into slavery and mass rape. The United Nations Independent International Commission said, “Genocide has occurred and is ongoing.” Are we missing something here? What part of the equation does America not understand?

Assad is a despotic murderer and ISIS is a indiscriminate killing machine. What don’t we understand about the Syrian debacle? Is anyone in the American camp going to do anything? It appears the USA has been entirely pre-empted by Russia.

Keep your eye on Aleppo and what happens next. The result could have long range consequences.

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Filed under America, middle east, Russia, Syria, Uncategorized


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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BLOG 298 April 11, 2016

The political wrangling in America has absorbed the headlines and pushed the civil war in Syria to the back page. Don’t let the insults and nonsense distract you. Events in the Middle East remain paramount.

In a brazen assault near Damascus, ISIS abducted 300 workers from a cement plant. At the same time, the ISIS supply line from Turkey was cut off, endangering their strongholds in the Aleppo area. With key military leaders being killed by airstrikes, ISIS is not doing well!

The next round of peace talks is set for April 13 and hopes remain positive for substantial progress.

One of the ongoing problems is that the United States remains hesitant and timid with no coherent strategy to change circumstances in Syria. While the USA has not conceded the Middle East to Putin, they are not far from doing so.  The kicker is the sudden withdrawal of Russian airplanes and troops from Syria.

The unexpected Russian retreat remains somewhat of a mystery. Even the White House had to “spit ‘n spatter” in trying to explain what happened. They didn’t know either. Always problematic, questionable, and unpredictable, Putin’s true and bottom line motives are seldom clear.

However, several possibilities are clear. First, Putin’s attempt to prevent the immanent fall of Assad has been achieved. Assad’s government is no longer in retreat. Second, the Russians are now keenly aware of the problem of getting bogged down in the Syrian quagmire. (They learned a painful lesson from their defeat in a ten-year war lost in Afghanistan in 1970.) Putin has pulled off from their first international military achievement since the collapse of Communism.

At this point, Russia has maneuvered itself back to being on an equal superpower playing field with the United States while the US continues to lose credibility and friends in the region. It would appear that Russian dominance in Syria has pushed Iran into an insecure position. They can no longer claim to be in charge.

As of this day, no one is certain what Russia is up to with this withdrawal. Whatever, the winner is Putin. While clearly corrupt and a new Stalin, Vladimir Putin is running an oligarchy that has made him one of the richest men in the world. You can bet the withdrawal from Syria is not a fluke. While Russia’s economy is shaky and the country is filled with dissidents that hate him, Putin has used his entry into the Syrian conflict purely to his advantage.

Anyone in Washington, D.C., paying attention?

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BLOG 289 February 8, 2016

Not a new story – but still troubling! ISIS continues to commit cultural genocide. Destruction of the heritage of the past in such places as Syria’s Aleppo and Mosul has destroyed mosques, minarets and Christian monasteries (See Blog 287). The world understands the importance of historic memory. ISIS doesn’t.

Currently, another treasure has surfaced from the history of the Syrian Christians. First excavated in l932, scholars found a picture of a third-century baptistery that may be the first depiction ever discovered of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. The discovery occurred in Deir ez-Zor that is now the ruins of Dura-Europos that was once the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire. The house had once been buried to provide a fortress against invaders in 250 CE. The coverage provided important and rich treasures for our time and the future.

The early house-church was buried in the middle of the third century in eastern Syria where images of Jesus, Peter, and David were also discovered. Surrounding the baptistery was a well-preserved procession of women. To one side is a faded but still discernable picture of a woman leaning over a well and drawing water. The woman is looking over her shoulder and seems to be surprised by something happening behind her. What?

These pictures now hang in the Yale University Art Gallery. Officials first thought the painting to be a scene of Jesus encountering the Samaria women at the well that is described in John’s Gospel (Jn. 4) However, in this biblical story the Samaritan woman was conversing with Jesus. This is not the case in this picture. The picture is far more like the setting of the Annunciation when the angel visited the Virgin Mary saying, “Hail, you are highly favored, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women.” Eastern Orthodoxy always placed great importance on the story of Mary at the well and so it would have been a natural for an inclusion in a baptistery scene.

Archival photographs suggest more secrets may be revealed in the picture. Previously hidden lines now seem to say that this scene depicts the moment when the incarnation began. If so, then this depiction is one if the most important treasures from the past. Such an image is even more important than a museum piece. The heritage of an ancient people and their religion tells us much after yesterday.

The current Syrian Civil War puts such a heritage in danger. Secretary of State John Kerry once noted that ISIS not only beheads individuals but is shredding the heritage of a whole civilization. Some of the worst damage beyond Aleppo has been at Mosul. An 8,000 year history is tied to Mosul that connects Jews, Christians, and Muslims and is where the city of biblical Nineveh once stood.

Important history indeed!



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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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BLOG 280 November 23, 2015

The terrorist killings and attacks in Paris and Belgium have raised new fears and questions about refugees. This flood of humanity pouring out of Syria and the Middle East represent the largest migration in the recorded history of the world. But why aren’t they going South instead of North? Aren’t Saudi Arabia and Kuwait closer? Why not them?

Actually, Lebanon has received the largest number of Syrian refugees on a per capita basis. The Saudi’s claimed to have taken in 2.5 million but the actual number is more somewhere between 100,000 to 250,000 at best. This doesn’t begin to touch the 60 million currently on foot. Not since the surge of displaced persons, including Jews and other refugees after World War II, has the world witnessed such an upheaval. They are coming not only from Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza, but also North African countries. Currently, the United States is caught in a political debate about the possibilities of receiving Syrian immigrants that might have a few terrorists in the mix.

And it all began with the Syrian Civil War nearly five years ago!

So, why don’t they all march South?

One reason is geography. It is easier to take your chances in surviving ocean crossings than a trip across the scorching desert. A second look at a map reveals endless stretches of thirsty sands. I once crossed the Sinai desert in the winter and felt humidity that was like a minus 20% below the scale. With all the amenities, I carried, the journey still imparted genuine concern.

Another reason is the strict regulatory rules imposed on any influx of foreign labor. Because these countries did not sign the 1951 Geneva Convention regulations on refugees, they do not have to confer basic rights on refugees.

Countries like the Saudis continue to be concerned that a large migration could destabilize their kingdoms. Really? That isn’t a genuine concern in Europe today? Note how Hungary dogmatically closed their borders.

Even Arab journalists have described life in Europe as holding out better possibilities for equality and justice under the law. Women are treated equally and such is not the case to the South.

At the same time, many in France, Germany, and countries like Austria and the Czech Republic worry about where this will end. For example, Passau, Germany has 50,000 inhabitants with 48 churches and four pubs. Today and everyday 35,000 immigrants pass through the town. This influx has caused the local officials to end up in an outspoken conflict with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Polls indicate Germans are equally divided on accepting or rejecting asylum.

While the knee-jerk reaction of politicians running for the White House as well as a majority of governors screaming to stop the overflow into their areas, the dam is still broken and the flood has already spilled over. Two basic questions confront the entire world: What can be done practically – and – what is our moral response.

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BLOG 232 December 29, 2014

With a new year only a few days away, the media will begin their prognostications for what’s coming down the track in the coming year. Probably most of predictions will turn out to be little more that wild guesses. Making divinatory projections about the Middle East will be little better – but then again, why not give it a try?

With an Israeli election in March, you can bet the political tension will heat up. Because their government is a coalition system, the juggling and horse trading will become fierce. Whether Netanyahu will stay or leave will be analyzed up to the last minute. He could go.

One of the issues that may prove explosive is whether the pursuit of a two-state solution for the struggle with the Palestinians is profitable for Israel. American Secretary of State John Kerry just announced the only path to peace is the two-state route. Less than 24 hours earlier Economy Minister Naftali Bennett dismissed that idea was unrealistic. With states like Egypt and Jordan now recognizing the value of Israel’s existence for the larger Arab world, support for a Palestinian state may be slipping enough that Israel would dare to drop the idea. As radical as such a solution might be, the Middle East has a long history of abrupt changes and unanticipated shifts. The Palestinians are playing their cards to the United Nations and the European Union which doesn’t impress Israel. The Israelis have no tolerance for Palestinian terrorism and might see a radical shift as having nothing to loose but a lot of heated rhetoric. Sound far out? Who knows?

With more than 200,000 citizens killed and a million wounded, the Syrian civil war rumbles into its fourth year with no end in sight. The war has reached a chaotic stalemate going nowhere. Many Syrians, who were part of the original rebellion, now feel their gamble to de-throne Bashar al-Assad is a failure. The rebels have broken into various Islamic groups that fight with each other more than they attack the government troops. The Nursa Front (aligned with Al Qaeda) and the Islamic State (ISIS) battle over their differing interpretations of Islamic practice while ISIS has been loosing ground in Iraq. Unfortunately, no one now seems to remember why the war started in the first place. While these groups uniting could bring a quick end to civil war, no one in one group can trust the other. In the south, rebels trained in a covert CIA foray have more freedom of movement. However, their recent successes have come with the help of the Nursa Front that has weakened government military with their suicide bombing attacks. Strange contradiction.

While Israel knows Assad is a bitter enemy, they have stayed on the sidelines because they believe “the devil you know” is to be preferred to “the devil you don’t.” Other prognosticators believe the USA wants Syria split between Assad’s forces and the Sunni extremists. Is that possible? Not in the near future.

What’s ahead in 2015? One sure bet is a long grinding war accomplishing nothing.

Happy New Year.

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            The possibilities of Armageddon, the angelic blast of the final trumpet, the clash of armies in Israel, and The End of it all fascinates Americans to no end. Many people believe they have the inside story from the Bible that no one else has found. One of my  friends believed the final battle would begin on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Didn’t happen. Then, he adjusted the date to Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. No better results. He bet me a special expensive supper if he was wrong. After several years of buying meals, he threw in the towel. His number is legion.

A recent report by Lifewayresearch.com indicated that one-third of Americans believe that the war in Syria is part of the end time plan. One-fourth of the country holds the position that a U.S. strike in Syria would lead to Armageddon. They note that women are more likely to see a link between the Bible and the war in Syria than men (whatever that means). Southerners with a household income under $25,000 were the most likely to believe in such an outcome. Northeasterners with incomes of over $75,000 were the least like to accept these ideas. (I’d hate to think income determines your faith, but …)

When I was in college, Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth came out and people were grabbing copies by the arm load. No one knew quite what to think of his linking the headlines in the newspaper to the Bible. During the era of Sputnik, the Cold War, and the Berlin Wall, such a book was seen by many as a road map to the future and Armageddon. Sorry. Virtually nothing that Lindsey wrote turned out to be true, but he got rich through book sales.

Headlines from Syria continue to tell the ongoing story. Several rebel brigades including an affiliate of Al Qaeda seized one of Syria’s largest oil and gas fields. This decisive move will have a strong effect on the Syrian government as Assad needs these resources to stay solvent. The two and a half year war has seriously effected the Syrian government’s ability to have the income needed to function. At this point, it is not clear whether the rebels will be able to hold this oil rich area. Moreover, it remains to be seen if they will be able to resume production.

The government reconciliation minister Ali Haida barely escaped assassination when his convoy was attacked near the Mediterranean coast. The driver of his car was killed. No end in sight to the killing.

Serious doubts can be raised about the Syrian war being the end of time unless you are one of the participants. Then, the issue becomes the end of your time. Keep watching and don’t believe everything you hear.

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