Tuesday, September 10, 2013
President Obama delivered the following remarks making the case for a military strike against the Syrian government on Sept. 10, 2013, at the White House. PRESIDENT OBAMA: My fellow Americans, tonight I want to talk to you about Syria -- why it matters, and where we go from here. Over the past two years, what began as a series of peaceful protests against the repressive regime of Bashar al-Assad has turned into a brutal civil war. Over 100,000 people have been killed. Millions have fled the country. In that time, America has worked with allies to provide humanitarian support, to help the moderate opposition, and to shape a political settlement. But I have resisted calls for military action, because we cannot resolve someone else’s civil war through force, particularly after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The situation profoundly changed, though, on August 21st, when Assad’s government gassed to death over a thousand people, including hundreds of children. The images from this massacre are sickening: Men, women, children lying in rows, killed by poison gas. Others foaming at the mouth, gasping for breath. A father clutching his dead children, imploring them to get up and walk. On that terrible night, the world saw in gruesome detail the terrible nature of chemical weapons, and why the overwhelming majority of humanity has declared them off-limits -- a crime against humanity, and a violation of the laws of war. This was not always the case. In World War I, American GIs were among the many thousands killed by deadly gas in the trenches of Europe. In World War II, the Nazis used gas to inflict the horror of the Holocaust. Because these weapons can kill on a mass scale, with no distinction between soldier and infant, the civilized world has spent a century working to ban them. And in 1997, the United States Senate overwhelmingly approved an international agreement prohibiting the use of chemical weapons, now joined by 189 governments that represent 98 percent of humanity. On August 21st, these basic rules were violated, along with our sense of common humanity. No one disputes that chemical weapons were used in Syria. The world saw thousands of videos, cell phone pictures, and social media accounts from the attack, and humanitarian organizations told stories of hospitals packed with people who had symptoms of poison gas. Moreover, we know the Assad regime was responsible. In the days leading up to August 21st, we know that Assad’s chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack near an area where they mix sarin gas. They distributed gasmasks to their troops. Then they fired rockets from a regime-controlled area into 11 neighborhoods that the regime has been trying to wipe clear of opposition forces. Shortly after those rockets landed, the gas spread, and hospitals filled with the dying and the wounded. We know senior figures in Assad’s military machine reviewed the results of the attack, and the regime increased their shelling of the same neighborhoods in the days that followed. We’ve also studied samples of blood and hair from people at the site that tested positive for sarin. When dictators commit atrocities, they depend upon the world to look the other way until those horrifying pictures fade from memory. But these things happened. The facts cannot be denied. The question now is what the United States of America, and the international community, is prepared to do about it. Because what happened to those people -- to those children -- is not only a violation of international law, it’s also a danger to our security. Let me explain why. If we fail to act, the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons. As the ban against these weapons erodes, other tyrants will have no reason to think twice about acquiring poison gas, and using them. Over time, our troops would again face the prospect of chemical warfare on the battlefield. And it could be easier for terrorist organizations to obtain these weapons, and to use them to attack civilians. If fighting spills beyond Syria’s borders, these weapons could threaten allies like Turkey, Jordan, and Israel. And a failure to stand against the use of chemical weapons would weaken prohibitions against other weapons of mass destruction, and embolden Assad’s ally, Iran -- which must decide whether to ignore international law by building a nuclear weapon, or to take a more peaceful path. This is not a world we should accept. This is what’s at stake. And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike. The purpose of this strike would be to deter Assad from using chemical weapons, to degrade his regime’s ability to use them, and to make clear to the world that we will not tolerate their use. That’s my judgment as Commander-in-Chief. But I’m also the President of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy. So even though I possess the authority to order military strikes, I believed it was right, in the absence of a direct or imminent threat to our security, to take this debate to Congress. I believe our democracy is stronger when the President acts with the support of Congress. And I believe that America acts more effectively abroad when we stand together. This is especially true after a decade that put more and more war-making power in the hands of the President, and more and more burdens on the shoulders of our troops, while sidelining the people’s representatives from the critical decisions about when we use force. Now, I know that after the terrible toll of Iraq and Afghanistan, the idea of any military action, no matter how limited, is not going to be popular. After all, I’ve spent four and a half years working to end wars, not to start them. Our troops are out of Iraq. Our troops are coming home from Afghanistan. And I know Americans want all of us in Washington -- especially me -- to concentrate on the task of building our nation here at home: putting people back to work, educating our kids, growing our middle class. It’s no wonder, then, that you’re asking hard questions. So let me answer some of the most important questions that I’ve heard from members of Congress, and that I’ve read in letters that you’ve sent to me. First, many of you have asked, won’t this put us on a slippery slope to another war? One man wrote to me that we are “still recovering from our involvement in Iraq.” A veteran put it more bluntly: “This nation is sick and tired of war.” My answer is simple: I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria. I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan. I will not pursue a prolonged air campaign like Libya or Kosovo. This would be a targeted strike to achieve a clear objective: deterring the use of chemical weapons, and degrading Assad’s capabilities. Others have asked whether it’s worth acting if we don’t take out Assad. As some members of Congress have said, there’s no point in simply doing a “pinprick” strike in Syria. Let me make something clear: The United States military doesn’t do pinpricks. Even a limited strike will send a message to Assad that no other nation can deliver. I don’t think we should remove another dictator with force -- we learned from Iraq that doing so makes us responsible for all that comes next. But a targeted strike can make Assad, or any other dictator, think twice before using chemical weapons. Other questions involve the dangers of retaliation. We don’t dismiss any threats, but the Assad regime does not have the ability to seriously threaten our military. Any other retaliation they might seek is in line with threats that we face every day. Neither Assad nor his allies have any interest in escalation that would lead to his demise. And our ally, Israel, can defend itself with overwhelming force, as well as the unshakeable support of the United States of America. Many of you have asked a broader question: Why should we get involved at all in a place that’s so complicated, and where -- as one person wrote to me -- “those who come after Assad may be enemies of human rights?” It’s true that some of Assad’s opponents are extremists. But al Qaeda will only draw strength in a more chaotic Syria if people there see the world doing nothing to prevent innocent civilians from being gassed to death. The majority of the Syrian people -- and the Syrian opposition we work with -- just want to live in peace, with dignity and freedom. And the day after any military action, we would redouble our efforts to achieve a political solution that strengthens those who reject the forces of tyranny and extremism. Finally, many of you have asked: Why not leave this to other countries, or seek solutions short of force? As several people wrote to me, “We should not be the world’s policeman.” I agree, and I have a deeply held preference for peaceful solutions. Over the last two years, my administration has tried diplomacy and sanctions, warning and negotiations -- but chemical weapons were still used by the Assad regime. However, over the last few days, we’ve seen some encouraging signs. In part because of the credible threat of U.S. military action, as well as constructive talks that I had with President Putin, the Russian government has indicated a willingness to join with the international community in pushing Assad to give up his chemical weapons. The Assad regime has now admitted that it has these weapons, and even said they’d join the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits their use. It’s too early to tell whether this offer will succeed, and any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keeps its commitments. But this initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force, particularly because Russia is one of Assad’s strongest allies. I have, therefore, asked the leaders of Congress to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force while we pursue this diplomatic path. I’m sending Secretary of State John Kerry to meet his Russian counterpart on Thursday, and I will continue my own discussions with President Putin. I’ve spoken to the leaders of two of our closest allies, France and the United Kingdom, and we will work together in consultation with Russia and China to put forward a resolution at the U.N. Security Council requiring Assad to give up his chemical weapons, and to ultimately destroy them under international control. We’ll also give U.N. inspectors the opportunity to report their findings about what happened on August 21st. And we will continue to rally support from allies from Europe to the Americas -- from Asia to the Middle East -- who agree on the need for action. Meanwhile, I’ve ordered our military to maintain their current posture to keep the pressure on Assad, and to be in a position to respond if diplomacy fails. And tonight, I give thanks again to our military and their families for their incredible strength and sacrifices. My fellow Americans, for nearly seven decades, the United States has been the anchor of global security. This has meant doing more than forging international agreements -- it has meant enforcing them. The burdens of leadership are often heavy, but the world is a better place because we have borne them. And so, to my friends on the right, I ask you to reconcile your commitment to America’s military might with a failure to act when a cause is so plainly just. To my friends on the left, I ask you to reconcile your belief in freedom and dignity for all people with those images of children writhing in pain, and going still on a cold hospital floor. For sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough. Indeed, I’d ask every member of Congress, and those of you watching at home tonight, to view those videos of the attack, and then ask: What kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas, and we choose to look the other way? Franklin Roosevelt once said, “Our national determination to keep free of foreign wars and foreign entanglements cannot prevent us from feeling deep concern when ideals and principles that we have cherished are challenged.” Our ideals and principles, as well as our national security, are at stake in Syria, along with our leadership of a world where we seek to ensure that the worst weapons will never be used. America is not the world’s policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong. But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth. Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.
The conviction on Tuesday of four men for the brutal rape and murder of a 23-year-old student late last year in Delhi shows that there is no reason justice cannot be delivered swiftly in India, a country where most legal cases drag on for years. Unfortunately, the case also demonstrates that it takes thousands of people protesting in the streets to put enough pressure on Indian lawmakers to get the wheels of justice moving. As the world’s largest democracy, India is filled with potential but it also suffers many political and economic handicaps, as we wrote in an editorial on Monday. One of the more important challenges facing the country is ensuring the safety of its citizens, particularly its women. India’s police are notoriously corrupt, underpaid and poorly trained. There are far too few courts, judges and lawyers to serve the needs of the country’s 1.2 billion people. In a speech earlier this year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that the country has a backlog of 30 million legal cases and 26 percent of them had been pending for more than 5 years. Those numbers, of course, do not account for crimes that never get to court because the police are reluctant to file new cases or investigate those that are registered. Some activists and family members of the 23-year-old victim have been arguing that nothing less than a death sentence for the four convicted men will satisfy them. (A fifth defendant was found dead in his jail cell in March and a sixth was sentenced to three years in juvenile court last month.) The death penalty may seem an appealing end to this case on an emotional level but it will serve no purpose other than to perpetuate violence. It would be a far greater tribute to the memory of the student, who cannot be named because Indian law forbids the identification of rape victims, if Indian society finally got on with the difficult work of making the country safe for its women, and its police and judicial system function for all of its people. Sadly, there has been no shortage of examples of heinous crimes against women since the Delhi rape. Last month, a photojournalist was assaulted and raped by a gang of men in Mumbai, the country’s financial capital that many Indians consider to be a much safer city for women than Delhi. “It is a crime to be born as a woman in India. You always live in fear as anything can happen to you at any time,” a 27-year-old female police officer who was raped three weeks ago in eastern India as she took the body of her sister to be cremated, told Bloomberg News recently.
A recent Washington Post article reporting that the United States has stepped up surveillance of Pakistan's nuclear program has once again raised questions about the bilateral relationship between Washington and Islambad. The reported surveillance has focused new attention on the issue of mutual trust in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. Pakistan has always maintained its nuclear arms are totally secure and has rejected any suggestion they could fall into the wrong hands. But the recent Post article based on what it said are classified documents reported that Washington has increased surveillance of Pakistan’s nuclear arms. Does this reflect U.S. distrust of Pakistan? "The United States helps Pakistan to establish frames of reference and abilities to safeguard material, but then, at the same time, there is not the same kind of transparency to allow the United States to go in and verify those activities," said Thomas Lynch, a Distinguished Research Fellow at the National Defense University in Washington D.C. So, the United States, being a large country, doing the same things that it does with other countries with nuclear programs, expends capital and expends energy to determine if the assistance is having the desired effect." But he adds such reports are bound to raise concerns in Islamabad over U.S. intentions towards Pakistan’s nuclear program. "I think most American policymakers recognize that in Pakistan, this kind of activity gets morphed into a dramatic worry that the United States is spying on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons in order to take them or eliminate them," LYnch said. "That fear is understandable, but it is quite overblown." After the story appeared in the Post, Pakistan reiterated that the command and control structure of its nuclear program is completely safe. Experts say while there may be some distrust in U.S.-Pakistan relations, the two countries are united by vital common interests. "Mutual interests are prevalent throughout the spectrum," said Aqab Malik, who is a Carnegie Fellow at the New America Foundation. "And it’s about balancing those interests with the negative threats that may emanate from each side. It’s a balancing act. And overall strategic interest is much greater than the threats against each other." And Malik is optimistic about the direction of the U.S.-Pakistan relations. "Pakistan and the United States have established strategic dialogue again. They reinitiated it," he said. ?The new government wants to facilitate better relationships with Afghanistan and India, as well as the United States and other countries." Analysts stress that eliminating threats from militants and ensuring the safety of U.S. troops as they withdraw from Afghanistan should be the main priority for Washington and Islamabad.
Security Council meeting on resolution aimed at securing chemical stockpiles cancelled in the face of differences.A possible diplomatic resolution on Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles seems to have become mired in political debate as Russia differs with France and its allies over a UN resolution. France said on Tuesday it would submit a UN Security Council resolution calling on Syria to put its chemical weapons beyond use or face "extremely serious" reprisals. Later an emergency UN Security Council meeting, originally called by Russia for Tuesday, apparently to discuss its own plan for Syria, was cancelled after Russia withdrew the request.Russia, the main backer of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, opposed the French-drafted resolution and had been expected to propose a weaker Security Council statement, which are largely symbolic statements on the chemical arms crisis. The main sticking point was that France wanted to invoke Chapter Seven of the UN Charter, making any resolution legally binding and enforceable by military action. France was backed by the UK and the US in proposing the statement that Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, said would threaten "extremely serious" consequences if Syria failed to hand over its banned weapons. The US administration has said it would not fall victim to stalling tactics, and France's proposal reportedly outlined a rapid timetable for disarmament. 'Serious consequences' Sergey Lavrov, Russian foreign minister, said it would be "unacceptable" for the Security Council to pass a resolution that blames the Assad government for an August 21 chemical-weapons attack near Damascus which prompted a Western threat of military strikes against government forces. The US, Britain and France accuse the Syrian government of staging the attack, which the US administration says killed more than 1,400 people. The Syrian government has blamed opposition fighters for the deaths. During a Google+ roundtable on Tuesday, Lavrov said Russia would send the US ideas on how to secure chemical weapons from Syria. Also using Google+, John Kerry, US secretary of state, said Russian suggestions that the UN endorsement come in the form of a non-binding statement from the rotating president of the Security Council would be unacceptable to the Obama administration. Fabius had said the resolution would demand that the individuals responsible for the attack be put on trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague in the Netherlands. "It will provide for extremely serious consequences in the event of Syria violating its obligations," Fabius said. Earlier, French President Francois Hollande and US President Barack Obama agreed in a phone call that they still wanted to keep "all options open", indicating that military strikes were still on the cards if no progress was made. Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, has said the disarmament initiative would only be successful if the idea of military intervention was taken off the table. Russia has announced that officials have begun talks with the Syrians on a "concrete plan" to put their chemical weapons beyond use. "We [Russia] are currently working on preparing a workable, precise and concrete plan and for this there are literally right now, in these minutes, contacts with the Syrian side," Lavrov said in Moscow. "And we expect to present this plan soon and we will be ready to work on it with the UN secretary-general, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, with the participation of members of the UN Security Council." Jean-Yves Le Drian, France's defence minister, said Russia's initiative demonstrated that international pressure backed by the threat of military action had worked, but he cautioned that Syria had to act swiftly to prove its good faith. Syrian opponents of the Assad regime denounced the Russian move as a "political manoeuvre" designed to avert strikes and create division within the international community - a view that was widely echoed by commentators across Europe. Selim Idriss, head of the opposition Free Syrian Army, said on Monday that Assad and the Russians could not be trusted.
Facing weak support for U.S. military action, President Barack Obama said that a plan suggested by Russia to have Syria hand over its chemical arsenal to international control could avert American strikes "if it's real." Syria's prime minister said Damascus supports the Russian initiative. Will Moscow's proposal delay a U.S. strike? How can Obama sway Americans to support military action, and how might the recent diplomatic developments affect his approach? Obama's remarks in his televised address to the nation at 9 p.m. Tuesday will be crucial. Latest developments: • While U.S. forces are in position and capable of striking immediately, the Pentagon needs more guidance from President Barack Obama about time frames for a possible strike against Syria, a senior U.S. military official said. The official noted that the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz can't stay in the Red Sea much longer as it is already overdue to go home, while destroyer ships in the area will also need to be switched out. "The question is how long do we stay at a certain ... high-readiness level," the official said. • Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that the plan to avert an international military strike in Syria by having Syria's government hand over its chemical weapons "will only mean anything if the United States and other nations supporting it tell us that they're giving up their plan to use force against Syria." The Russian leader added, "You can't really ask Syria, or any other country, to disarm unilaterally while military action against it is being contemplated." • Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said Tuesday, before leaving Moscow, that his government is "ready to fully cooperate" with a Russian initiative that would include Damascus joining the Chemical Weapons Convention and turning over its chemical weapons. "We are ready to disclose the location(s) of chemical weapons, stop manufacturing chemical weapons, also show the locations to representatives from Russia and other countries and the U.N.," Moallem said in his remarks, as translated from Arabic.
The change is dramatic. Moscow suggested to Damascus that it should hand over its chemical weapons, destroy them under international supervision and join the Convention on the Banning of Chemical Weapons. Syria responded to this plan approvingly and quickly, while President Barack Obama also sent a signal, claiming that Syria's response was "a potentially positive development." This unexpected turn, after Washington showed its plan to launch an air strike on Syria, brings some relief.
Once again, Washington has effortlessly beaten down Russian President Vladimir Putin in the arena of public opinion. In recent days, media from the US and Europe have chimed in with official accounts from the US and France, claiming that it was Syrian government troops who used chemical weapons. Some media even derided Putin for "acting crazy" over the Syria issue. It is still unclear which side in Syria used chemical weapons. It should be noted that the so-called evidence presented by the US and France is too ambiguous and insufficient to convict Syria, an entire country, of crimes, and military strikes on Syria will very likely cause many casualties. As countries built on the rule of law, the US and France have made reckless decisions. The problem is both Washington and Paris do not really care about international law. Every action they take on Syria stems from their own political judgment of Syria's national situation. Such a judgment is also based on their geopolitical interests in this area. It is irrational to say that someone who wants to stop a war is "crazier" than someone who wants to start one. Washington has made its judgment - even if it turns out that chemical weapons were not used by Syrian government troops, the US knows it won't be held to account for launching such a misguided war, as it did in Iraq. A journalist with the Associated Press has reportedly revealed the inside story, claiming that Syrian opposition forces mishandled chemical weapons. But this revelation has not been given enough attention since it was reported, either from the US government or Western media. US President Barack Obama's decision to press the war button does not depend on sufficient proof, as requested by Russia. What he really cares about is how much risk it will cause to American domestic politics. The US has fought two notorious wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where a startling number of American soldiers were killed. And Washington is still bogged down by the post-war situation there. The Taliban has regained political influence in Afghanistan. In Iraq, though the Saddam regime has been toppled, the democracy that the US vowed to build has shown its ugly side. To make matters worse, nobody is really being held responsible for the chaos left by these two wars. President Bush has left office and doesn't need to concern himself with the consequences. Obama still has about three years left in the White House. As long as he manages his remaining time well, nobody will ask him to be responsible for Syria in a few years' time. The two-party system in Washington is also to be blamed. Successive governments can shrug off responsibility for the mess in the Middle East. So striking the Assad regime, though potentially risky, means the stakes are much lower for the current US government. The Assad regime, which has struggled for two years under intense pressure from Western countries, has already become a thorn in the side of the US. How much longer it can stand will test whether and to what extent the pattern of global powers has shifted.
Russia has suggested that Syria puts its chemical weapons under international control, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday. Now specialists are preparing a "workable and clear" plan to carry out this proposal, while a number of countries supported it already. The Voice of Russia discussed Russian initiative with Susan Dirgham – an activist and a member of Australians for Syria group. What do you make of this current situation that the US arguing right now that if Syria actually fulfills its obligation to get rid of chemical weapons, they will delay this? What do you think about that? It is very-very unpredictable. It is really hard to know. But I think it is very that their threat to have a military strike against Syria has brought out a lot of attention from church groups, from peace groups. And people are analyzing what is actually happening in Syria. People are asking questions that they didn’t ask before. So, I think it is going to be very difficult for the American administration to continue in the same vein. I noticed that you said that Human Rights Watch has said that it is almost certain that the Syrian Government was responsible for the chemical attack. That is the Human Rights Watch that is saying that, but there are lots and lots of other people saying that that’s not true at all. Do you believe that taking chemical weapons out of Syria would actually solve the problem? I think that it is very that we’ve got a breathing space. Most of the countries have chemical weapons. This is just being used as a way of getting at Syria. I agree with other commentators that have said that it is a false flag. There was a push for something to happen before there is an investigation, because if it is found out that these children are actually victims not just of the chemical attack but of the rebels, that they could have been children that were kidnapped from Latakia during the massacres there – the world will be shocked and appalled. It is really totally unpredictable what can happen to the US administration if they are pushed into a corner and they have to somehow explain how they can support the rebels that massacre people, kidnap the children and then kill them with chemical weapons. Has the Australians’ perception of what is happening in Syria changed over these years? The media here has been I think quite irresponsible in its reporting of Syria. It trusted to a large extent the sources like Al Jazeera which is very committed to anti-Syrian Government line and the view of Qatar. People were also influenced by the war propaganda from other sources like the Guardian. There’s been lots and lots of rhetoric, lots of slogans but very little analysis. But I think people, if you ask them, they agree that you have to have a diplomatic solution. They agree that they can’t trust America. But people are so busy with their lives that they don’t generally do the research, they don’t do the thinking. Most people here think in terms of the Assad regime versus the rebels. But it is not. It is the Syrian people versus terrorists. Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2013_09_10/People-analyze-what-is-happening-in-Syria-ask-questions-they-didnt-before-activist-4628/
Pukhtunkhwa Times never publish pictures of dead bodies.For such pictures,Please visit the link.http://rt.com/news/experts-un-syria-chemical-649/Footage and photos of the alleged chemical attack in Syria, which the US cites as the reason for a planned military intervention, had been fabricated in advance, speakers told a UN human rights conference in Geneva. Members of the conference were presented accounts of international experts, Syrian public figures and Russian news reporters covering the Syrian conflict, which back Russia’s opposition to the US plans, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The speakers argued that the suspected sarin gas attack near Damascus on August 21 was likely a provocation of the rebel forces and that a military action against the President Bashar Assad government will likely result in civilian casualties and a humanitarian catastrophe affecting the entire region. The possible attack by US military without a UN Security Council mandate would violate international law and should be prevented by the United Nations, some of the speakers said. Evidence for the Russian case, including numerous eyewitness reports and results of investigations of the chemical weapon incident by activists, was handed over to a UN commission of experts probing the Syrian crisis, the ministry said. The Obama administration voiced an intention to use military force in Syria after reports of mass deaths in Eastern Houla, a neighborhood of Damascus, which killed more than 1,400 people according to US estimates. Washington says the deaths was due to a chemical weapons attack of the Syrian army on rebel forces and says it plans to use force to prevent such incidents in the future.Russia is convinced that the chemical incident was a provocation by rebel forces, which staged a false flag attack to drag the US into the conflict and capitalize on the damage that the Syrian army is likely to sustain in the American intervention. An increasing number of reports is backing Russia’s position, with local witnesses, US and British former intelligence professionals and Europeans recently released from rebel captivity all speaking for a provocation scenario. In the latest development this week a possible way to de-escalate the tension was voiced, which would involve the Assad government handing over control of his chemical arsenal to the international community. The plan was backed by Russia, China and Syria's main ally Iran, while Syria said it will review it. Mixed signals over the plan came from the US. The US State Department initially said Secretary of State John Kerry, who initially voiced a possible disarmament, saw it as a rhetorical move and didn’t expect Bashar Assad to actually disarm. But later President Obama said such a move from Damascus would make him put the military action plan on pause. Meanwhile RT learned that Syrian rebels might be planning a chemical weapons attack in Israel. The possible attack would be carried out from the territory supposedly controlled by the Syrian government and would trigger another round of escalation, leaving little hope of defusing the tension.
Implementation of Russia’s initiative on placing Syria’s chemical weapons under international control may prevent a major war in the Middle East and will furnish with US President Barack Obama with a way out for untangling the Syrian crisis peacefully, Dr. Alexei Pushkov, the chairman of the State Duma Foreign Policy Committee told a news conference Tuesday. A US strike at Syria looked practically inescapable as recently as last weekend but a pivotal moment in the situation emerged after Russia’s proposal and it might grow over into a real breakthrough, Dr. Pushkov said. He recalled Obama’s statement that if the Assad government did effectuate the transfer of weapons to international controllers a military action would be put off then. “And to put off would mean to renounce in that situation,” Dr. Pushkov indicated. Russia’s initiative is highly beneficial for President Obama “who aspires to playing the role of a peacekeeper.” “That’s a good way out of the situation because there’s a chance to follow the pathway of political and diplomatic settlement,” Dr. Pushkov said. “The probability of a U.S. strike is reducing dramatically.” He stressed the special role that Russia was playing in the settlement of the whole situation around Syria. Had a similar proposal come from the U.S. Administration, Damascus would have hardly agreed to it. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday Russia was urging the Syrian government to place the chemical weapons available to it under international control with a view to its gradual further elimination and the signing of the Chemical Weapons Convention in the future.
The much-delayed All-Parties Conference on national security, finally held on Monday, seemed to confirm that we have run out of ideas on how to deal with the Taliban. The joint declaration issued after the APC was merely a reiteration of talking points that our politicians have been reciting for years. Drone attacks were condemned as illegal, terrorism was blamed on blowback from the Afghan war and, in the only major policy announcement, all the major political parties endorsed holding talks with the Taliban. The idea of negotiating with the Taliban is neither original nor one that is certain to work; it is simply the last option left for a state that is weary of a war it hasn’t been able to win. The idea of talks, though approved at the APC, still has a long way to go before it becomes reality. So far the TTP has shown no inclination to negotiate with the government or agree to cease attacks if and when talks are held. The government has also not told us what conditions it will agree to and whether they will include completely unacceptable points like completely withdrawing the military from the tribal areas rather than agreeing to a temporary ceasefire. The devil, as always, is in the details but as yet we have only been given a vague outline. Only once we know what the government is willing to give up can we decide if talks are a good idea. On the matter of drones, the APC was correct in pointing out their illegality and saying that the matter will be taken to the UN. But we should not delude ourselves into thinking that will amount to any more than a PR exercise. The UN has been powerless as the US readies itself to go to war in Syria; it certainly won’t be able to stop drone attacks. The APC also devoted some time to the law-and-order problems in Karachi and Balochistan but had little to say beyond recommending that the provincial governments use their authority to tackle those situations. We do not as yet know what the intelligence chiefs told the political parties at the APC since those sessions were conducted in-camera. As news trickles out it will be interesting to know if the military is also keen on negotiations. Past experience shows that talks with the Taliban are at best a short-term, stopgap measure. Neither the government nor the military has been able to explain why this time things will be different.
EDITORIAL: DAILY TIMESThe much awaited All Parties Conference (APC) concluded in Islamabad on Monday with a joint resolution emphasizing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan and expressing complete trust and confidence in the armed forces. After detailed briefings by the COAS General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani and DG ISI Lt General Zaheerul Islam, the APC, attended by all party heads including the ‘reluctant debutante’ Imran Khan, reminded the people of the recommendations of the previous six APCs and joint sittings of parliament from 2008 to 2013 that had not been implemented. The APC made reference to the ‘give peace a chance’ philosophy underlying these recommendations. It expressed sorrow and regret for the thousands of civilian lives and military personnel lost in the struggle against terrorism over the years, declared the drone attacks illegal and immoral, and underlined the blowback from the actions of NATO/ISAF in Afghanistan on Pakistan’s security. The APC underlined the colossal damage to social and physical infrastructure, financial losses and the adverse effects on the economy of the ongoing strife. It emphasized the need to compensate and rehabilitate the victims of terrorism. It also recommended that Pakistan consider taking its case against drone attacks to the UN Security Council. The APC appreciated and supported the collaborative efforts of the federal and Sindh governments in conducting a targeted operation against violent criminal elements in Karachi. Peace within and without lay at the root of the joint resolution’s advocating dialogue to bring the alienated Baloch back into the mainstream and supporting peace efforts in Afghanistan. The federal government was given a mandate to do whatever it considered necessary to achieve these goals of peace, without which no progress was possible. Earlier, in his opening remarks at the start of the APC, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, chairing the moot, appealed for eschewing politicking on certain issues of national importance such as terrorism and the energy crisis and stressed the need for unity in the face of these adversities. He appreciated the fact that both major stakeholders, the PPP and the MQM, were on board vis-à-vis the Karachi operation. The positives that can be counted from the holding of the APC, despite a healthy dose of scepticism on the part of most analysts regarding what may or may not be achieved from what some considered a futile exercise, are that all the political forces and the armed forces were in agreement on the way forward. General Kayani underlined this in a statement on the day. The thrust of the APC’s conclusions boils down to giving dialogue and negotiations with the terrorists a chance. Imran Khan, whose desire for a separate briefing before the APC was conceded by a meeting just before the APC with the prime minister, COAS, DG ISI and interior minister, argued that the government should not employ talks and force simultaneously, but allow the dialogue option a fair run before taking a different tack. That desire is reflected in the APC’s joint resolution’s emphasis on dialogue as the first option, although media reports go further than the wording of the resolution and say force remains the fallback option if talks fail. The APC was originally scheduled by the government for July 12 but could not be held for, among other reasons, the fact that the government’s preparations were not yet complete. It has been argued in certain quarters that amidst all the other blunders by Musharraf, sending the army into the tribal areas for the first time in Pakistan’s history in 2004, ostensibly under US pressure, was a grave error that is mainly responsible for the chaos that has overtaken the country since. What this narrative ignores is the complete picture of the trajectory of events since 9/11. Musharraf practiced a dual policy vis-à-vis his ostensible US and western allies in the war on terror by acting against al Qaeda and protecting, nurturing and providing safe havens to the Afghan Taliban to fight on in Afghanistan. This enmeshed Pakistan not only in Washington and other western capitals pressing for Islamabad to ‘do more’ vis-à-vis the terrorist safe havens, it arguably led to unbearable pressure that culminated in the ill-thought-through adventure of sending troops into the tribal areas. Since then, rounds of fighting have been punctuated by peace talks, agreements derived from these having a sorry history of violations by both sides and the terrorists using peace interludes to strengthen themselves. The icing on the cake was provided by the Lal Masjid fiasco, after which the TTP was formed and declared war on the state. While the APC’s positives are not to be sneezed at, the proof of the pudding lies in the eating. The consensus achieved in Islamabad is heartening and welcome, but the follow up is even more critical.
By Elf Habib The myth and magic of these contenders, however, are now fast fading, creating new curiosities about Zardari’s fate, future and fortunes The valedictory guard of honour, salutes by the smartly starched armed contingents, the feasts, flowers and formalities for Asif Zardari were really unprecedented in Pakistan as the first ever democratically elected civilian president departed after his stipulated tenure. Unprecedented equally was the saga of his success and survival despite the tempest of tirades, turbulence, contempt, criticism and conspiracies stirred by the media, opposition, superior judiciary, agencies and the establishment that invariably decide, dictate and manage most of the events and policies on this puritan soil of Pakistan. No less ruthless, at times, were some of his apparent allies like the MQM in extracting their pound of flesh by perpetrating the furore, fuss and ferment in Karachi. Unique and unprecedented actually was his entire span as the masses after a long devastating dictatorship wished that democracy would somehow deliver the dividends that they had dreamed of. Yet they were never guided to the galling reality that whatever the form of government and the party or the person steering it, the country could never muster adequate resources for them as they are mostly devoured by our obsession for defence, security and strategic depths in neighbouring lands, leaving us desperately dependent upon foreign favours and donations even for our elementary utilities and infrastructure. The media machine, rather than explicating this, concocted and propagated the perception that all our miseries were merely due to the mismanagement, corruption, impiety and incompetence of the ruling alliance led by Zardari. They ruthlessly blasted his planks and performance and nonchalantly promoted the contenders who promised piety, purity, honesty, efficiency, competence and miracles merely through their good governance. The myth and magic of these contenders, however, are now fast fading, creating new curiosities about Zardari’s fate, future and fortunes. It would be, for instance, really surprising to see if he would survive the forces that are inexorably sworn to ensure his nemesis. The prime suspense spawned by the dragnets gathering around him is whether he would stay here and fend them off or would rather prefer a firmer foreign pitch to face them the way his spouse often did. The superior judiciary in contrast to its palpably softer stance against the Mian brothers has been rather overtly strident against Zardari and a writ to bar his exit abroad under the pretext of the Abbottabad case has already been manoeuvred before it. The (politically) empty Imran Khan, known for his great fall from a crane, has proffered his cooperation to Nawaz Sharif if he could bring back the ‘plundered wealth’, evidently implying to rev up the case against the fabled five billion dollars Swiss stash. The return of this controversial bounty has defied the devices of Zardari’s tormentors, jailers and the wizardry of our pompous judicial and administrative protagonists for decades. But besides this tranche, there are claimed to be another 34 pages of cases pending against him. The cases on each page generally are not enumerated but if every page is assumed to contain one case and each in turn is to spread over five years, he would perhaps have to be a bicentennial wonder to settle these scrolls. Millions would wish him those eventful years and his opponents would also relish the fight. Zardari’s opponents are evidently over-intoxicated with pride and persistence to fight for futilities and can easily endure a few more decades digging for his elusive cache even if they have to splurge five times its worth on their pursuit. The fight, frivolities and the fireworks thus would undoubtedly keep following Zardari’s farewell. He himself as well as his legions like Jahangir Badr and Manzoor Wattoo have already revealed his resolve to stick around in Pakistan and reinvigorate his party that he is alleged to have ruined by scorching its real soul and spirit through his excessive interventions for reconciliation and appeasement verging often on retreats. The successive retreats evidently became too reeling to rebound and recharge. Not only his critics but even some enthusiasts of the PPP have reiterated that he must leave the reins of the party, restricting himself to behind the scenes operations, the way he often did when Benazir Bhutto blazed the trail. The background style was forced further by the strictures set by his status as the president and seems to have congealed as a norm. So how his slow, measured and restrained manner would be pitched against the rambunctious verbosity and antics of his opponents like Shahbaz Sharif, Imran Khan and piety-peddling pontiffs could be equally critical. So would be his transformation into a more accessible man of the masses, rushing around to reach them, infusing confidence in his policies and energising his workers. Zardari’s exposure and access similarly may be hampered by the terrorist threats that he miserably failed to flush out and that almost paralysed his party’s electioneering and prospects. Yet, notwithstanding these odds, there could certainly be a sunnier side to Zardari’s future as he also has some rare and unrivalled assets and avenues that can help him rise even with a low restrained profile. His three children beaming Benazir’s image and mantle can be groomed to garner a new vibrant vision to mesmerise and galvanise the youth. They can inspire a real futuristic vanguard as his adversaries merely strive to attract the youth without actually having any comparable youthful nucleus in their ranks. The new vision has to be on education, excellence, innovation and a symbiotic interaction with the advanced world and eschewing the contempt, confrontation and provocation against it. The PPP flaunting the cause of the masses similarly has to recast itself, making people and their problems as a real pivot of its policies. It must stress pragmatism, sharing the real truth and dictates of the present world with the people and dispelling the wild unattainable phantoms and passions fed to them by the puritan mullahs and militarist mindsets and now being rebranded by the ‘empty bottlers’. It must also guard them against the corporate fantasies and the trickle down dreams being spun by the Mian Brothers and their behemoth business mafia, the harrowing aftermath of which are writ large at several sites in Africa. This mission would verily entail a new course and covenant to ensure an effective and manifest care for the masses. The pervasive grouch against his party for doubling the unproductive allocations over five years while ignoring the worsening terrorism, energy crisis and inflation undoubtedly has to be relieved. Zardari’s forte to reassure and reconcile the masses would certainly seal his fate and the future.
The Baloch HalWHILE Gen Kayani’s statement on Friday that no military operation was under way in Balochistan may be technically correct, the reality is that the province is far from stable. And the way the military — specifically its intelligence apparatus — has handled the separatist insurgency has had a large part to play in fuelling Balochistan’s discontent. Speaking at a Defence Day event at Sui Military College in Dera Bugti, the army chief said that the military had stopped work on building additional cantonments in the province. He added that Baloch youth were being enrolled in army-run educational institutions and were also being recruited in the armed forces in greater numbers. These are all positive steps. Yet any goodwill such gestures generate is negated when Baloch activists go ‘missing’ and the dumping of their corpses continues. BNP-M leader Akhtar Mengal, who recently re-entered electoral politics, told newsmen some days ago that nothing has changed since the new provincial government took over. The Baloch politician added that a “fifth operation” was continuing in the province. Even the Supreme Court has reprimanded the Frontier Corps — headed by army officers — for failing to resolve the missing persons’ issue. Balochistan’s problems are complex and many, ranging from separatist and sectarian militancy to poverty and lack of development. We have repeatedly said that extrajudicial counter-insurgency methods have only alienated the province further. The security apparatus can play a positive role by addressing allegations that it quietly supports kill-and-dump tactics by cracking down on any such impunity within its ranks. The provincial government has also to get its act together and be given the freedom to pursue a political solution to the Balochistan crisis. The federal government, which seems to have left the province to its own devices, must also play a more visible role in addressing the province’s myriad issues. Combined and sustained efforts from all these stakeholders will create the ground from where the reconciliation process in Balochistan can begin. Statements and photo opportunities will mean little otherwise.
BY LAL KHANThe maiden speech by the third time prime minister, Mian Nawaz Sharif, was no different from the ones we have heard from the rulers of this tragic land ever since its creation. Every time a prime minister or a dictator addresses the poor nation on assuming the power, we are informed of the following: the country is in danger, we are facing gigantic problems, the nation has to offer more sacrifices, we are passing through the most critical phase of our national life/history, and we have to make painful decisions. Nawaz Sharif’s speech on August 19th was hardly different in content. Perhaps the only difference was the degree of pessimism. His narrative was indeed gloomy. Lacking substance, it was a speech devoid of any promises. Even when he made hollow promises, conviction was lacking. Far from being an inspiration for the masses it only added to their desperation and disillusionment. In analysing this speech a dialogue of Shakespeare’s Hamlet comes to mind. “Lord Polonius: what do you read, my Lord? Hamlet: words, words, words. Lord Polonius: what is the matter, my lord? Hamlet: between who? Lord Polonius: I mean, the matter you read my Lord.” This is the first regime that has been forced to skip its honeymoon. The jury is still out on the authenticity of Sharif’s mandate but even those masses who voted for the PML (N) did so out of utter despair and disillusionment with the other incumbent parties, in particular the Zardari outfit, rather than having any high hopes in this right wing party representing the corrupt and the reactionary ruling classes of Pakistan. The crisis of the economy, price hikes and the terrorism of the past five years has been even more intensified during the first few weeks of the present regime. The price hikes in petroleum products, electricity and other basic necessities of life has been rising with an unrelenting rapidity. The budget presented just days after Sharif took power was unashamedly and outrageously anti poor with full benefits to corporate capital and the ruling elites. They are in such a grim state of crisis that this regime did not have any room for mere small cosmetic measures such as opening YouTube or the installation of a 3G network. The macroeconomic indicators have worsened and the depreciation of the rupee is sharply moving towards a free fall. All those boasts and proclamations of breaking the begging bowl and defying the IMF have proved to be quixotic gimmicks. The new loans of the imperialist institutions would only increase the burden of debt upon the shoulders of the toiling masses further increasing the costs of debt and interest servicing resulting in further reductions in the GDP expenditures on health, education and other basic needs. The recipes of the IMF such as privatisation, down sizing, liberalisation, restructuring and deregulation will be carried out with greater ferocity. However, it would not be possible to privatize large- scale state enterprises as a whole in a climate of world capitalist recession whose recovery is far fetched to say the least. They will dissect these enterprises into various components in exactly the same manner as a butcher dissects a lamb or a cow into individual pieces and displays the best pieces by tying them up in his shop front. But this privatisation will end up throwing lakhs (100,000s) of workers onto the scrapheap of already massive unemployment that is perilously aggravating social tensions and turbulence in society. The obscene borrowing for the circular debt has further added to the fiscal and the GDP deficits. The economic default that has been delayed temporarily by the IMF tranche will boomerang catastrophically. The main corporate bosses are now sitting in at the crucial meetings of the economic planners and the policy makers of this government with crucial powers of veto. The government is taking up debt to pay for power usage and thus creating profit for the enterprise bosses. The imperialist owners of the IPPs and other sectors where this money is being stashed are having their hay day. The deafening mantra of Chinese investment to kick start the economy and develop the infrastructure is farcical. The current clique in power in China is not here to solve the problems of Pakistan with its friendship ‘higher than the Himalayas and deeper than the deepest sea.’ Their main concern is to prop up a falling rate of growth in China. Moreover the Gawadar Xinxiang railway line and the highway running to China are pipe dreams. The path of these projects is riddled with terrorism, bloodshed, crime and proxy wars. The Chinese are also blundering into these projects in their lusts for profits. “Negotiations and the use of force to combat terrorism”. Is this anything new? Has this not disastrously failed in the last decade? With whom and with which faction of the ‘terrorists’ are they going to negotiate and which ones would be destroyed with the use of force. What if this force is found to be complicit with those groupings that it is supposed to decimate? The terrorist attacks and violence have sharply increased since the inauguration of this government. The bloodshed and the proxy wars in Baluchistan have intensified. What administrative or state structural changes can end this harrowing conflagration? There is not much chance of reforming and improving the state institutions that have rotted to an irretrievable extent due to the crisis of the catastrophic socio- economic system they were built to protect. The reality is that there is not much room for even minimal reforms that could benefit the masses. What they call reforms are ironically the policies devised to enhance the rates of profits for the capitalists and imperialist corporate capital. The rich will become richer with the further accumulation of the obscene wealth, the black economy will spread its tentacles deeper and the already impoverished masses will be thrust further into the black pit of poverty, misery and deprivation. Crime and bloodshed will go unabated. This right wing regime is destined to fail. But how and when is the question? Either the country will descend into an even greater chaos or the masses will arise for a revolutionary transformation of this rotten system. A majority right wing government is a provocation for the oppressed masses that are being tormented with this avalanche of socio-economic onslaught. Now the barricades are drawn and the classes are confronting each other without the buffers of social democracy and reformism. This class war has to be fought to the finish. The victorious outcome for the toiling masses is the only way for the salvation and emancipation of society.