Iran: Nuclear Programme and the International Atomic Energy Agency

Tehran’s nuclear program has sparked an intensification of global tension as the European Union has increased its pressure on Iran through sanctions and Israel has threatened military actions against the threat of Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

Iran has Irritated Western Powers with Nuclear Build-up

Officials from the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency begin another round of talks on Monday with Iranian officials over the country’s nuclear program.  The scheduled talks between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iranian officials are seen as an opportunity for the agency to verify Iranian claims that its nuclear activities are simply for electricity generation.  Iran says it is producing enriched uranium to fuel civilian power plans and has refused international demands to halt its production.  Nevertheless, Western nations remain skeptical and believe the program is geared towards making weapons, claims that are supported by a November report by the IAEA that suggested Iran had carried out some weapons-related research.

“Importantly, we hope for some concrete results from the trip.  The highest priority remains of course the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear programme, but we want to tackle all outstanding issues.  This is of course a very complex issue that may take  while.  But we hope it can be constructive.” – Herman Nackaerts, Chief Inspector from the International Atomic Energy Agency

The information from the IAEA in November had stated the Iran had carried out tests relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device.  This information led to a decision by the US and the European Union to tighten sanctions against Iran, including measures targeting the country’s lucrative oil industry.  In retaliation to the increased EU sanctions, Iran’s oil ministry halted crude exports to French and British companies.  The EU sanctions put in place last month are meant to force Iran to provide more information on its nuclear program by the shutting of its sales of crude oil, which generates half of Iran’s revenue.  The EU is to enforce a full-force oil embargo beginning on July 1st but some of the EU’s 27 members have already stopped purchasing oil from Iran and others are reducing their purchases.  The UK, Austria and Portugal did not import any oil from Iran in the period from January to September 2011.  Belgium, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands, which bought a total of 2.38 million tons of Iranian crude in that period, have not stopped purchases and Italy, Spain and Greece are currently reducing imports.  The gestures are largely symbolic though, as Iran has various trading partner outside of the EU, yet the EU is largely dependent on Iran for its crude exports.  The 5-month phase-in period, during which existing contracts between EU members and Iran are allowed to continue, is meant to give member states time to find alternative supplies.

“Iran has no difficulty in selling and exporting its crude oil.  We have our own customers and have designated alternatives for our oil sales.  We shall sell to new customers, who will replace French and UK companies.” – Ali Reza Nikzad-Rahbar, ministry spokesman

Meanwhile, Israel has made it clear that it considers a nuclear-arms Iran an existential threat, and has made it clear that it is considering an attack on Tehran’s nuclear infrastructure.  The threat illustrates the tension existing between Israel and Iran, as well as intensified the already precarious position of the US in attempting to mediate the cold conflict between its Middle Eastern ally and a historical enemy.  The Us believes that talk of military strike against Iran’s nuclear program is premature and has advised Israel that an attack would be counterproductive.  Israel is surrounded by religious and cultural enemies, many of which received Iranian support during repeated occasions of embroiled war with Israel.  The complicated situation is what has influenced US diplomatic tactics, coercing Israel through political rhetoric and the implementation of still-tougher sanctions.

“I think it would be premature to exclusively decide that the time for a military option was upon us.  I think Israel has the capability to strike Iran and to delay the production of the capability of Iran to achieve nuclear weapons status, probably for a couple of years, but some of the targets are probably beyond their reach and, of course, that’s what concerns them.  That’s this notion of a zone of immunity that they discuss.” – General Martin Demspey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

In retrospect, Iran has long stood as a polarized extreme against the West and its build of nuclear capabilities is yet another illustrious example of its gun-ho attitude towards show-boating and cold threats. Iran’s tactics to oppose Western intervention or influence have been through diplomatic, theoretical and indirect fashions.  Though it has agreed to this UN/Western intrusion upon its country, the findings will confirm what Tehran wants it to confirm, that the uranium facilities spoken of are for peaceful purposes.  Iran’s intentions are merely to instigate more Western animosity in its country and throughout the Middle East and thus securing their stance as a superpower, of sorts, in the Middle East.  This stance as a Middle Eastern “democracy” will serve as a gradual lure to many of the liberalizing and revolting countries throughout North Africa and the Middle East during this perpetuating “Arab Spring”

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Syria: Russia/China Relationship with Syria is “Incomprehensible and Inexcusable”

With yet another United Nations Security Council resolution blocked by the greed of Russia and China, government forces in Syria have begun to shell the central Syrian city of Homs, killing at least 50 people on Monday morning.

Russia and China Have Vetoed Another UNSC Resolution, Prolonging the Suffering of Syrian People

The uprising began with mostly peaceful protests against President Assad, but government forces responded with a fierce crackdown.  Now, army defectors and others are taking up arms to combat such tyranny, raising fears of civil war.  With Russia and China on the receiving end of Assad’s blood money trade, fears have grown that with such international protection from the UN, Assad will be emboldened to intensify repressive actions.  So saying, escalation in the battle has already been seen, as Assad has intensified shelling with a rate of one shell every two minutes.  On Saturday, Syrian forces were reported to have killed up to 200 people in Homs, the highest death toll since the uprising began.  The news of the perpetuating massacre comes after Syrians had observed for the first time in 30 years the anniversary of the massacre carried out in Hama in February 1982.  It is still regarded as one of the most gruesome events in Syria’s modern history.  Parallel to the current uprising, the 1982 massacre involved former President Hafiz al-Assad, who decimated most of the city of Hama with aerial bombings and tanks.  About 30,000 inhabitants were killed and a similar number of people were detained, tortured and many disappeared in while in prison.  Just like today’s Syria allies in the East, the 1982 event occurred under the cover of the Soviet Union.

“Clearly there is a tragedy in that country.  Russia and China are protecting a regime that is killing thousands of people.  We find their position both incomprehensible and inexcusable.  By supporting that regime, they are strengthening it and allowing it to continue with that violence.” – David Cameron, British Prime Minister

As in the past, the tension and disparity between the West and East is evident in the widening gap of relations illustrated in the past UNSC resolution vote.  The UN endorsed norm of ‘responsibility to protect’ mandates a collective response when states wage war on their own populations.  With China and Russia wielding veto powers though, the intransigence of diplomacy in the face of humanitarian genocide is evident.  Moreover, the Syrian regime seems to mock and taunt the UN’s notion of collective action with its brutal assault on the city of Homs just as the UN vote was taking place.  Regional and international hesitancy in dealing with Syria has prolonged the violence, as well as allowing Assad to practice military force without restraint.  In some perverse positive outlook though, the lack of international assistance has aided the Free Syrian Army in recruitment and its ascendancy is now a nearly foregone conclusion.  Nevertheless, the threat of both sides turning to greater force has increased because of Russia and China’s determination to delay any and all international responses to the travesty in Syria.

“We will work to expose those who are still funding the regime and sending it weapons that are used against defenseless Syrians, including women and children. we will work with friends of a democratic Syria around the world to support the oppositions peaceful political plans for change.” – Hilary Clinton, US Secretary of State

China and Russia have drawn the wrath of the US, Europe and much of the Arab world for the weekend veto Protesters could be seen burning Russian and Chinese flags outside of the Russian embassy in Beirut, adding to the increasing numbers of voices demanding that they stop supporting the ongoing massacre. In an attempt to distill and reject such targeted demonstrations and criticisms, both Russia and China have tried to use ethical argument and moralistic diction to bolster their arguments behind vetoing the already watered-down UNSC resolution.  In reality, Syria is Moscow’s only major ally in the Middle East, as well as being home to Russian naval base and client for its lucrative arm sales.  China, on the other hand, has targeted western intervention in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq, suggesting that the violence still eminent in those territories is evidence enough of the error of forced regime change.  China remains hiding behind its statement that it was not supporting one side and was taking a fair and neutral stance on the civil war in Syria; yet with a 2009 trade quota that was estimated at over $2 billion, the facade is incontestable.

“On the issue of Syria, China is not sheltering anyone nor do we intentionally oppose anyone.  We uphold justice and take a responsible attitude.” – Liu Weimin, Chinese Foreign Ministry

Among those most vocal was Hilary Clinton, a staunch supporter for diplomatic means to end the violence in the tumult that has become Syria.  With US sponsorship, supporters of a democratic Syria intent to create a formal group of like-minded countries to coordinate assistance for Syria’s opposition, similar to the Contact Group on Libya that oversaw international aid for opponents of Qaddafi. Though similar in that sense, the NATO military operations that were seen in Libya is something that is not envision in Syria.  Sadly, with Western pursuits lying rooted in diplomacy and long-winded negotiations, a ragtag army of perhaps 10,000 Syrian rebels must combat and deter an army that while, far from invincible, enjoys an overwhelming advantage in numbers, equipment and firepower.

 

Syria: Assad-Russia vs UNSC

With the Arab League halting its much criticized and fruitless observer mission to Syria, violence and bloodshed have risen with security forces marching through Damascus, catalyzing the rift in Syria and the UNSC.

The Pleas for UN Involvement have Risen

The rising bloodshed has added urgency to new attempts by Arab and Western countries to find a resolution to the 10 months of violence that has killed at least 5,400 people. With Assad standing as a grim reaper above streets awash in his in the blood of his people, the thoughts of peaceful transition and negotiations between Assad and rebel forces are outside to the scope of rationality.  Many of the hopeful initiatives continue to face two major obstacles.  One problem is Assad’s general unwillingness to consider surrendering power and his recent rejection of an Arab peace plan that called for a transition to a unity government.  The other problem is Russia’s willingness to use its veto power in the UNSC to protect Syria from UN sanctions and the possible intervention by peacekeepers and a general Western intervention.  With Russia standing above Syria as some symbol of protection, Assad appears to feel invincible and untouchable, believing his forces will be able to quell and crush any and all anti-government forces.  Evidently, without the threat of Western intervention, such as NATO in Libya, Assad is escalating repressive actions in order to seize control of his country before the UN or NATO is able to intervene more effectively.

“We hope Syria seriously evaluates the decisions of the Arab League, puts an end to repression against its people and start a reform process in line with the demands of its people.” – Ahmet Davutogly, Turkish Foreign Minster

The Gulf Arab states and Turkey, which have spearheaded regional condemnation of the Syrian regime and have sponsored most plans, have been met with similar ridicule and rejection as the UNSC.  The Arab plan, which envisaged Assad transferring power to his deputy and the formation of a national unity government within 2 months, was rejected by Syria.  Saudi Arabia is the largest member of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) and other members include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.  Turkey, once a close ally of Syria, has been at the forefront of international criticism over Damascus regime’s crackdown on protests and has also become a haven for thousands of Syrian opposition activists.  With peaceful transition and international intervention or sanction being taken to the UN, opposition forces have taken it upon themselves, once again, to rekindle efforts to dismantle loyalist forces.  Syria’s military was forced to send tanks to neighborhoods on the outskirts of Damascus in an attempt to quell the most intense fighting yet seen so close to the capital.  The government attack on the suburbs began after the rebel forces, now known as the Free Syrian Army, occupied the area.  According to those forces, the assault involved more than 2,000 troops and 50 tanks.  The spike in violence has already claimed over 100 lives since it started on Thursday, with more dying each day in gun fights and tank bombardment of residential areas.

“I grew up hating NATO.  I was taught it was the devil.  It was unimaginable for decades for any Syrian t even think about asking for help from the West.  But now people on the ground want humanitarian intervention.  They want to be rescued.” – Bossma Kodmani, Syrian-French member of the Syrian National Council

Much hope for the Syrian opposition forces lies with the UN, despite their stalemate in the past because of Russia’s stance as a benefactor from the arms trade with the Assad regime.  The request for international assistance will go unanswered for a while yet.  Members of the UNSC are grappling over an appropriate response to Syria’s violent crisis.  The US, Britain and France are pushing for more international involvement, but veto-wielding Russia, backed by China,has blocked efforts to do more.  The recent draft resolution calls for Assad to resign powers to his deputy, mimicking the Arab plan.  Russia has vowed to oppose this draft resolution.  The failure of the observer mission and the GCC plan signals that regional efforts to halt the carnage have failed and the only alternative is to internationalize the crisis.  New York will not be the focus of concerted lobbying, with the Western power, the Arab League and the Syrian opposition all trying to persuade the Russians and the Chinese to not block a resolution adopting the previous Arab peace plan.  Evidently, the pressure is building up, both on Syria itself and on its international allies such as Russia and China who have so far staunchly protected it even from censure at the UNSC.

Syria: Assad’s “Iron Fist” and Failure of Arab League Involvement

As the 9-month-old revolt in Syria becomes increasingly bloody, the foreign and domestic tension has escalated with Arab League officials rebuking their own fact-finding mission and President Assad vowing to vanquish all those seeking to end his rule.

Assad Has Vowed to Repress all "Terrorists"

In his 4th speech since the protests began in March, President Assad has illustrated an ever growing vigilance to resist all attempts to usurp his rule, promising the perpetuation of bloodshed and torture in his country.  With no hint of flexibility or reform, the severity of the situation can hardly be overstated as the Syria death toll rises to well over 6,000 and an never-ending stream of reports detailing the torture and kidnapping of civilians.  Not only does Assad’s speech undercut efforts to pressure his regime, but the presence of thousands of rapturous supporters in Damascus has illustrated the division and manipulation of the people.  With dozens dying everyday, the only response from the international community has been ineffective sanctions and a fact-finding mission by the Arab League.  The Arab League had suspended Syria in November for failing to halt its crackdown on protests and now has also sent a fact-dining mission, which began in December.  So saying, the fact-finding mission has been criticized as arbitrary, a farce and many claim its only purpose has been to relieve pressure from Assad to allow him to regroup and revitalize his security forces.

“We cannot relent in the battle against terrorism.  We strike with an iron fist against terrorist who have been brainwashed.” – Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria

Of all the half-hearted and faulty responses to the Syrian crisis, the Arab League mission seems most affluent in its failures.  According to the UN, close to 400 Syrians have been killed since the start of the mission and the US ambassador to the UN stated that the killing had gathered pace since the mission began.  Many officials within the mission have already broken ranks, claiming that the mission is powerless to prevent countless crimes against humanity.  The target of most of these criticisms has been the leader of the delegation, the former Sudanese general Mohammed al-Dabi, who had already attracted controversy for his involvement in the Darfur conflict.  According to reports, al-Dabi has been attempting to avoid inciting Syrian officials by acknowledging unrest, but not on the scale or severity of the violence.  The opposition and corruption within the Arab League mission has heightened concern about the viability of its mission, which will be reviewed by officials for a second time on the 19th of January.  Evidently, the initial emboldening of anti-government forced has come to an end and the monitors from the Arab League are avoided as much as possible.

“What I saw was a humanitarian disaster.  The regime is not just committing one war crime, but a series of crimes against its people.  The snipers are everywhere, shooting at civilians.  People are being kidnapped.  Prisoners are being tortured and none were released.” – Anwar Malek, Algerian member of the Arab League fact-finding team

In Europe, the embargo and sanction on Syria have strained the economy and availability of resources for Assad’s regime, but as with most embargoes, the strain has also affected opposition forces, who are desperately trying to run guns across the borders of neighboring countries.  Moreover, the embargo placed by the EU is not without its faults.  Before, when the UN Security Council attempted to pass a resolution on Syria, both China and Russia vetoed its passing because of their lucrative trade deals with the country.  For example, a recent shipment of tens of tons of munitions was sent from Russia to Syria on Tuesday.  Russia is not part of the EU, so such a route would not have violated its embargo but the cargo ship dropped anchor off the southern Cypriot port of Limassol.  Custom officials boarded the ship to examine its cargo and later reported the vessel to be carrying munition to a destination near Turkey.

“Syria’s priority should be to listen to its people, not to denounce others; instead of massacring its people, it should listen to them.”– Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkish Foreign Minster

Turkey, which had once cultivated close ties with Syria, is now one of the Assad’s regimes most vociferous critics.  Turkey has imposed trade sanctions on Syria and is allowing its opposition groups to meet on its territory.  There were talks in the past about possible intervention by Turkey due to growing gears that Syria’s feud could spill over its borders and onto Turkey’s grounds.  Any intervention would be different from the one in Libya since Russia and China have made Syrian airspace a no-fly zone.  This means that the role of regional players like Turkey increase dramatically.  Turkey may have declared it does not welcome a military solution to the Syria crisis, but it has not ruled it out either.

Syria: Arab League Monitors and Fact-Finding Mission

The arrival of the Arab League monitors was intended to bring a relative calm to the growing civil war in Syria, but opposition forces have described worsening conditions in cities and towns amid an intensifying government offensive aimed at repressing all evidence of dissent.

The Arab League Fact-Finding Mission has Been Declared Pointless

The arrival of Arab League monitors comes at a time in which security forces and allied militia fighters are supposed to be withdrawing in order to end the violence involving more than 9 months of protest against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.  Instead, more than 20 demonstrators were injured and 10 killed in the Grand Mosque area of Douma, another 6 were shot in the central city of Hama.  Selected by Arab League Secretary-General Nabil el-Araby, the monitors have worked in the opposition epicenter of Homs, arrived in the cities of Daraa, Idlib, Hama, and have visited the general Damascus area.  The monitors are intended to serve as fact-finders, reporting on the Arab League initiative that calls for President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces to withdraw from cities, release detainees ad end violence. Evidently, the intensification of government violence indicates that al-Assad has taken an alternative approach, hoping o distill all violence through quick and decisive military action.

“The people of Homs and the youth activists have no faith in the Arab League mission.  It is clear now they are just another ploy by the Syrian regime to buy time.  They are ineffective and have no resource to change the situation. But we are doing are part and showing them what is happening in Homs, submitting evidence of killing and arbitrary arrest, and showing them what is happening.” – Khaled Abo Saleh, opposition activist in Homs

Arab monitors move to Syrian towns including Hama and Daraa today after a delegations to Homs was met with mass rallies of about 70,000 protesters in the city.  In front of the monitors, loyalist forces of al-Assad fired tear gas and live ammunition to disperse the crowd in Homs.  Reports suggest that close to 25 people die every day in the city of Homs alone, though now reduced due to international personnel presence.  Nonetheless, the Sudanese Lieutenant in charge of the fact-finding mission, Mohamed Dabi, stated that nothing was amiss in the city of Homs.  Opposition activists have repeatedly criticized the selection of the Sudanese military commander.  The activists report that the commander had a key position in the government atrocities committed in Sudan’s embattled Darfur region.  The head of the monitoring group has ignored many evident depiction of violence and death, often announcing relative calm or not announcing any information at all.

“All I see now is the head of the mission barely announcing any information while dozens have died in the first two days of the mission.  I would not have allowed people dying under the umbrella of the monitors mission and face the guilt on my consciousness or under the responsibility of our association.” – Ibrahim Zafarani, founding member of Arab Doctors Association

With dozens of people having died in the first two days of the fact-finding mission, the Arab League mission has so far been pointless.  Ibrahim Zafarani, a founding member of the Arab Doctors Association, withdrew from the Arab League fact-finding mission because he disagreed with the mission’s methods.  The United Nations has released reports that estimated around 5,000 people have been killed since March in violence linked to Syria’s unrest.  The Arab League currently has 75 monitors in Syria, with more expected to arrive in the coming days.  A permanent group will remain in Homs, which has been under a military siege for days.  The mission is aimed to establish an ambiance of transparency, allowing Syrian activists to be vocal in their grievances.

“Generally, we have 25 to 30 killed in Homs every day, now maybe the death toll is 9 to 10.  But martyrs cannot be counted in number they must be counted in the loss to their family and the devastation to their people.  I told al-Dabi that 15 people were killed in a protest the day the mission arrived in Homs. I showed him the body of a toddler killed by Syrian security forces.  I took him to see the destroyed neighborhoods and the parts of Homs completely cut off from food, water and electricity.” – Khaled Abo Saleh, opposition activist in Homs.

In retrospect, the presence of international monitors has pressured al-Assad to release detainees and meet other demands by the activists and the international community.  Nevertheless, al-Assad has stepped up military presence, trying to use the time allotted to him by the fact-fining mission, to arrest and suppress all vocal dissenters.   So saying, such as tactic of attrition will not calm nor eradicate the growing animosity of the people against the corrupt and cruel dictator that has left the country awash in the blood of its people.

Syria: Arab League Sanctions

The Arab League has approved economic sanctions against Syria after months of violent suppression of anti-government protests, marking an unprecedented and escalated step against the former Arab Member State.

Bashar al-Assad Stands as the Grim Reaper of the Anarchic Syria

With Syria on the brink of civil war, the tension and conflict within the region has exponentially intensified, as the Free Army heads its insurgents from its headquarters in Homs, using the border of Lebanon as a trade route for support and medical assistance.  Fueled by demand in Syria, the price for a black market Kalashnikov has gone up to $1,200 in Lebanon, evidently illustrating the significance and external influences the conflict is now causing in the Arab world. With the bloodshed of 8 months of conflict resulting in an estimated 3,500 casualties, the resistance movement against Bashar al-Assad has only deepened.  Syria’s government has maintained, almost since the start of the mass protests, that it was facing armed groups.  Coincidentally, after months of peaceful demonstrators being killed in the streets, the myth has become reality.

The Free Army, responsible for the armed resistance against security forces and army unites still loyal to al-Assad, has said that its objective is to protect civilians – especially the street protesters they believe will bring down the regime.  Despite widespread defections from loyalist forces, a whole unit has yet to change sides, depicting the element of brinkmanship that exists in the country.  The Free Amy leadership says that they need outside help from the West to bring that about.  Many are hoping for a no fly-zone, similar to those imposed by NATO on Libya, stating that such actions would be enough to decay the remaining pillars of support for the authoritarian regime.

“70% of the army are ready to defect.  Whole brigades with their officers; even the Special Forces.  But no battalion dares to move even 10 meters because they fear the Syria air force will attack.” – Walled al Abdullah, Lieutenant of the Free Army in Homs

Nevertheless, the cried for direct intervention by NATO or any Western power will go unanswered, as foreign powers are unwilling to risk casualties, the certain escalation of international tension and domestic resentment.  Rather, the European Union and the United States have involved themselves through economic sanctions.  Coupled with the newly approved sanctions by the Arab League, the sanctions have led to a travel ban against Syrian officials and politicians, a halt to all dealing with the Syria central bank and cessation of Arab-financed projects, all of which will be another tough blow to the already struggling Syrian economy.

In conjunction, the recent intensification of Arab League intervention has come after decades of irrelevance, reflecting the ossified politics of most of its members.  In early November 2011, the Syrian government accepted a plan brokered by the League to halt its violent suppression of demonstrators and convene talks with the opposition.  Nonetheless, the al-Assad regime launched a bloody assault to retake Homs.  Since this supposed period of detente, that only serve to exacerbate the conflict, Human Rights Watch has approximated an additional 104 casualties in the Homs area alone.  In response, on November 12th, the League voted to supposed Syria’s membership, targeting al-Assad’s clear breach of the agreement to stop the violent repression of demonstrators, the League further promised political and economic sanctions if al-Assad did not comply.  The moved served more so a symbolic purpose, as the Syria regime has long prided itself on bring an axis of Arab politics and a proponent of Arab unity.  Lastly, the approved sanction, effective immediately, have come after Syria’s refusal to admit international monitors in Syria to determine whether it was abiding by the league-brokered peace plan.

“The position of the people, and the Arab position, is that we must end this situation urgently.  It has almost been a year that the Syria people have been killed.” – Hamad bin Jassem, Qatari Foreign Minister

The Arab League resolution, also calls to the United Nations Security Council to adopt similar measures.  Consequently, the UNSC will remain ineffective due to the power of China and Russia.  As seen in the past blog (Syria: Failure of the UNSC), the trade routes between these countries mark a profit margin that neither would relinquish willingly.  Moreover, the move by Russia to have 3 of its warships enter Syria territorial waters to prevent US military interference mark the Russian intentions to ensure its interests are protected in Syria.  There are over 100,000 Russia citizens in Syria and Russia has used this presence to explain the supposedly obligatory measures to protect its citizens in Syria from any sort of military aggression by the US.

Furthermore, the power keg that is Syria will be an area of large international tension and conflict as the Obama presidency has taken a concentrated focus on the issues of the Middle East, escalating sanctions against Syria and Iran, both trade partner of Russia, as well as having intervened directly in Libya.  In the region there already exists the US nuclear aircraft carrier HW Bush, as well as a compliment of supporting ships, part of a carrier battle group, that includes support ships and frigates that provide unmatched fire power and force projection capabilities.  It is unclear what will happen if the US decides to start bombing targets in Syria but with intensified relations between the US and Russia, it could be seen as an attack against Russian citizens living in that country.

In retrospect, the movement within and without of Syria does not mark the trend seen in Libya, in which progressive actions were taken to institute a final objective of reform.  Instead, the violence and weak infrastructure that continues to be undermined by sanctions will result in anarchistic destruction, rather than reform.  Moreover, the international tension that is beginning to surmount because of the geopolitical situation, the destruction could also result a shift in the balance of power in which Russia and Iran will see Syria’s demise as a result of Western interference, vindicating some sort of counter offensive of political, fiscal and military means.

 

Egypt: Supreme Council of the Armed Forces

As the Egyptian police forces clash for a fifth day with protesters demanding the military junta relinquish power, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has accepted the resignation of Egypt’s Cabinet.

Demonstrators Target the Prolonged Rule of Mohamed Tantawi

Since the protests began on Saturday, 37 civilians have died, illustrating the claims that the supposed transitional military council that replaced President Hosni Mubarak in February, has now become the enemy of the revolution in Egypt.  The military, under Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, had originally pledged to return to barracks within 6 months of Mubarak’s removal, but its apparent reluctance to relinquish power and privileges has fueled frustration among Egyptians.  The clashes have gained international coverage and many human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, have targeted Egypt’s military junta for the use of excessive force that has sometimes exceeded the brutality of Mubarak.  Protesters have vowed not to leave Cairo’s Tahrir Square until the military council steps down, apparently giving Tantawi an ultimatum to which no amount of inflated rhetoric of false promises will get him out of.

“I urge Egyptian authorities to end the clearly excessive use of force against protesters in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in the country, including the apparent improper use of tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition.” – Navi Pillay, UN human Rights Chief

The resignation of the civilian Cabinet of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, has been among the political consequences resulting from the escalating street violence throughout Egypt.  The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has been targeted by domestic forces  and international media, as startling images come back of the brutal beating of already subdued protesters sparking memories of the cruelty that the Egyptian had fought against initially, under Hosni Mubarak.  In response, the military council has attempted to appease protesters through concession.  Mohamed Tantawi vowed in a public address Tuesday to hold presidential elections by July 2012.  The promise reminded many protesters of the hallow speeches of the former dictator, further infuriating protesters of the apparent authoritarian regime that has taken control of their country.  Aggravation has only to continued to intensify as Tantawi suggested holding a referendum on whether military rule should end earlier, which many viewed as a ploy to appeal to many Egyptians who fear further upheaval.  With the vacancy left by the resignation of Essam Sharaf’s Cabinet, Parliamentary elections are set to begin on Monday and Tantawi has pledged that polls would go forward as promised.

“There are many viruses in the system.  It needs to be cleaned out entirely.  We need to change the regime lie they did in Tunisia and Libya.” – Abdullah Galah, Computer Sales Manager and Tahrir Square Demonstrator

The next legislature has opened windows for many competing groups to begin pushing for power, illustrating the division of Egyptian society, as well as the instability that will remain for a longer period of time then is being offered by protesters.  The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s strongest and best organized group is not taking part in the ongoing protest, attempting to demonstrate its desire not to do anything that could derail the election, which it hopes to win along with its allies.  60 years after it was banned, the Brotherhood has found itself empowered in the wake of the February 11th usurpation of Mubarak.  Forming the Freedom and Justice party, the notorious opportunists hope to win enough seats in the new legislature to push through a new constitution with an Islamic slant and bring this mainly Muslim nation of close to 85 million people, close to an Islamic state.  Consequently, the expected win for the Muslim Brotherhood have stirred fears in Israel and its bilateral ties and the future of the country’s peace treaty.

In retrospect, the cries of joy and peace from the crowds that vindicated years of struggle against Hosni Mubarak have now turned into rocks and fists as the military junta dictates and suppresses their futures and their aspirations.  Similar to the French Revolution in 1789, which ended with the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte  and his military rule, the Egyptians have awoken to the reality of the instability and the terror that has come with a power vacancy being occupied by a military junta.  So saying, with an uneasy truce being held together by a “human shield” of clerics between police forces and demonstrators, the obstacles to democratic transition and the challenges to Egypt’s future are now only accumulating.