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Joint Statement of the United States and the Russian Federation, as Co-Chairs of the ISSG, on Cessation of Hostilities in Syria

The United States of America and the Russian Federation, as co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) and seeking to achieve a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis with full respect for the fundamental role of the United Nations, are fully determined to provide their strongest support to end the Syrian conflict and establish conditions for a successful Syrian-led political transition process, facilitated by the UN, in order to fully implement the Munich Statement of the ISSG on February 11th, 2016, UN Security Council Resolution 2254, the 2015 Vienna Statements and the 2012 Geneva Communiqué.
In this regard, and in furtherance of the February 11th decisions of the ISSG, the United States and Russia, as co-chairs of the ISSG and ISSG Ceasefire Task Force, announce the adoption on February 22, 2016, of the Terms for a Cessation of Hostilities in Syria attached as an Annex to this statement, and propose that the cessation of hostilities commence at 00:00 (Damascus time) on February 27, 2016. The cessation of hostilities is to be applied to those parties to the Syrian conflict that have indicated their commitment to and acceptance of its terms. Consistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and the statements of the ISSG, the cessation of hostilities does not apply to “Daesh”, “Jabhat al-Nusra”, or other terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council.
Any party engaged in military or para-military hostilities in Syria, other than “Daesh”, “Jabhat al-Nusra”, or other terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council will indicate to the Russian Federation or the United States, as co-chairs of the ISSG, their commitment to and acceptance of the terms for the cessation of hostilities by no later than 12:00 (Damascus time) on February 26, 2016. In order to implement the cessation of hostilities in a manner that promotes stability and protects those parties participating in it, the Russian Federation and the United States are prepared to work together to exchange pertinent information (e.g., aggregated data that delineates territory where groups that have indicated their commitment to and acceptance of the cessation of hostilities are active, and a focal point for each side, in order to ensure effective communication) and develop procedures necessary for preventing parties participating in the cessation of hostilities from being attacked by Russian Armed Forces, the U.S.-led Counter ISIL Coalition, the Armed Forces of the Syrian government and other forces supporting them, and other parties to the cessation of hostilities. Military actions, including airstrikes, of the Armed Forces of the Syrian Arab Republic, the Russian Armed Forces, and the U.S.-led Counter ISIL Coalition will continue against ISIL, “Jabhat al-Nusra,” and other terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council. The Russian Federation and United States will also work together, and with other members of the Ceasefire Task Force, as appropriate and pursuant to the ISSG decision of February 11, 2016, to delineate the territory held by “Daesh,” “Jabhat al-Nusra” and other terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council, which are excluded from the cessation of hostilities.
In order to promote the effective implementation of the cessation of hostilities, the ISSG Ceasefire Task Force, co-chaired by the United States and Russia, has been established under UN auspices, including political and military officials from the co-chairs and other Task Force members; the UN Office of the Special Envoy for Syria (OSE) serves as secretariat. The primary functions of the Task Force are, as provided in the ISSG Statement of February 11, to: a) delineate the territory held by “Daesh”, “Jabhat-al-Nusra” and other terrorist organizations designated by the United Nations Security Council; b) ensure communications among all parties to promote compliance and rapidly de-escalate tensions; c) resolve allegations of non-compliance; and d) refer persistent non-compliant behavior by any of the parties to the ISSG Ministers or those designated by the Ministers to determine appropriate action, including the exclusion of such parties from the arrangements of the cessation of hostilities, and the protection it affords them.
The United States and Russia are prepared, in their capacities as co-chairs of the Ceasefire Task Force and in coordination with other members of the ISSG Ceasefire Task Force as appropriate, to develop effective mechanisms to promote and monitor compliance with the ceasefire both by the governmental forces of the Syrian Arab Republic and other forces supporting them, and the armed opposition groups. To achieve this goal and to promote an effective and sustainable cessation of hostilities, the Russian Federation and the United States will establish a communication hotline and, if necessary and appropriate, a working group to exchange relevant information after the cessation of hostilities has gone into effect. In addressing incidents of non-compliance, every effort should be made to promote communications among all parties to restore compliance and rapidly de-escalate tensions, and non-forcible means should be exhausted whenever possible before resorting to use of force. The United States and Russia as co-chairs of ISSG Ceasefire Task Force will develop such further modalities and standard operating procedures as may be necessary to implement these functions.
The United States and the Russian Federation together call upon all Syrian parties, regional states and others in the international community to support the immediate cessation of violence and bloodshed in Syria and to contribute to the swift, effective and successful promotion of the UN-facilitated political transition process in accordance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 2254, the February 11 Statement of the ISSG, the 2015 Vienna statements of the ISSG, and the 2012 Geneva Communiqué.
ANNEX
TERMS FOR CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES IN SYRIA
The nationwide cessation of hostilities is to apply to any party currently engaged in military or paramilitary hostilities against any other parties other than “Daesh”, “Jabhat al-Nusra”, or other terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council.
The responsibilities of the Syrian armed opposition are set out in paragraph 1 below. The responsibilities of the Armed Forces of the Syrian Arab Republic, and all forces supporting or associated with the Armed Forces of the Syrian Arab Republic are set out in paragraph 2 below.
1. To take part in the cessation of hostilities, armed opposition groups will confirm – to the United States of America or the Russian Federation, who will attest such confirmations to one another as co-chairs of the ISSG by no later than 12:00 (Damascus time) on February 26 2016 – their commitment to and acceptance of the following terms:
To full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, adopted unanimously on December 18, 2015, including the readiness to participate in the UN-facilitated political negotiation process;
To cease attacks with any weapons, including rockets, mortars, and anti-tank guided missiles, against Armed Forces of the Syrian Arab Republic, and any associated forces;
To refrain from acquiring or seeking to acquire territory from other parties to the ceasefire;
To allow humanitarian agencies, rapid, safe, unhindered and sustained access throughout areas under their operational control and allow immediate humanitarian assistance to reach all people in need;
To proportionate use of force (i.e., no greater than required to address an immediate threat) if and when responding in self-defense.
2. The above-mentioned commitments will be observed by such armed opposition groups, provided that the Armed Forces of the Syrian Arab Republic, and all forces supporting or associated with the Armed Forces of the Syrian Arab Republic have confirmed to the Russian Federation as co-chair of the ISSG by no later than 12:00 (Damascus time) on February 26, 2016 their commitment to and acceptance of the following terms:
To full implementation of UN Security Resolution 2254, adopted unanimously on December 18, 2015, including the readiness to participate in the UN-facilitated political negotiation process;
To cease attacks with any weapons, including aerial bombardments by the Air Force of the Syrian Arab Republic and the Aerospace Forces of the Russian Federation, against the armed opposition groups (as confirmed to the United States or the Russian Federation by parties to the cessation of hostilities);
To refrain from acquiring or seeking to acquire territory from other parties to the ceasefire;
To allow humanitarian agencies, rapid, unhindered and sustained access throughout areas under their operational control and allow immediate humanitarian assistance to reach all people in need;
To proportionate use of force (i.e., no greater than required to address an immediate threat) if and when responding in self-defense.
The Russian Federation and the United States, as co-chairs of the ISSG and ISSG Ceasefire Task Force, are prepared to work together to ensure effective communications and develop procedures necessary for preventing parties participating in the cessation of hostilities from being attacked by Russian Armed Forces, the U.S.-led Counter ISIL Coalition, the Armed Forces of the Syrian government and other forces supporting them, and other parties to the cessation of hostilities.
All parties further commit to work for the early release of detainees, particularly women and children.
Any party can bring a violation or potential violation of the cessation of hostilities to the attention of the Task Force, either through the OSE or the co-chairs. The OSE and Co-Chairs will establish liaison arrangements with each other and the parties, and inform the public generally about how any party may bring a violation to the attention of the Task Force.
The United States and the Russian Federation as co-chairs confirm that the cessation of hostilities will be monitored in an impartial and transparent manner and with broad media coverage.

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If the idea is strengthening the radical elements imported from everywhere, then, way to go.

Mekonen Haddis

A Smoldering Tinderbox

War With Syria and its Repercussions

A U.S. invasion of Syria could be the first war based on a Youtube video.  After a video was released showing victims of an alleged chemical weapons attack, England immediately declared the Syrian government responsible, while Obama began drawing up military plans, saying there was “little doubt” the Syrian Government was at fault (zero evidence currently exists to suggest this). An extra U.S. warship has already been deployed in response.

Instead of responsibly waiting for the UN chemical weapons team — which is already in Syria — to investigate the incident, the Obama administration has already stated that such an investigation is “too late to be credible,” because:

“The evidence available has been significantly corrupted as a result of the regime’s persistent shelling and other intentional actions over the last five days.”

Of course, this is for the UN to decide. The Obama administration is already creating a justification for war that circumvents the UN, like Bush before him.

After the recent chemical weapons incident occurred, Obama falsely accused the Syrian government of not allowing the UN team into the new area (which is in a rebel controlled area). After the Syrian government gave permission to the UN to investigate, Obama then said it’s “too late”, and accused the Syrian government of destroying the evidence.

Americans are well versed with this type of deceitful warmongering, since Bush Jr. spewed the same nonsense in his quest to invade Iraq: making up lies, skewing facts, accusing without evidence, etc.

Obama quickly forgot that he already lost all credibility in Syria after previously having accused the Syrian Government of a chemical weapons attack, an attack that UN investigator Carla del Ponte blamed on the U.S.-backed rebels, who receive money, guns, training, and media and diplomatic promotion from Obama.

By now, most people understand that Obama’s rebels are dominated by Islamic extremists aiming to transform Syria into a fundamentalist version of an Islamic State, which would likely mimic the despicable totalitarian dictatorships of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who are also giving massive aid to the rebels.

Any person using the slightest bit of common sense would not assume the Syrian Government is responsible for the recent chemical weapons attack. For example, the UN is currently in Syria — invited by Assad — investigating a previous chemical weapons attack, since Assad blamed the previous attacks on the US backed rebels. It’s possible that the most recent chemical weapons attack also serves to distract from the ongoing UN investigation that would have proved Assad right.

Of course Assad would have no motive to launch a massive chemical weapons attack just miles from where the UN is currently investigating the previous attack, especially when Assad is handily defeating Obama’s rebels using conventional weaponry. Obama’s rebels are the only ones who would benefit from such an attack.

Ultimately, we’ll have to wait to see what the UN says about the recent attacks, assuming they are given the time to do a proper investigation.  But following in Bush, Jr.’s footsteps, Obama looks poised to do his own investigation, using his own “evidence,” and then acting as judge, jury and executioner.

For example, the Guardian newspaper reported that there is a “summit” in Jordan this week, likely to be attended by the U.S. and its allies to decide what to do next in Syria. The Guardian ominously reported that the U.S. is already collecting its own “evidence,” no doubt to be used as a justification for war that avoids the pesky UN:

“Biological samples taken from victims and survivors of the attack have now been passed to western officials [U.S. and allies] in Jordan after having been smuggled out of Syria over the past 72 hours. Unmarked questionnaires have been distributed to officials in the three most affected communities, asking for forensic and environmental details, as well as for organ tissue and clothing worn by victims.”

So the U.S. and its allies are using their own “evidence” and will come to their own conclusions, likely much faster than the UN is able to investigate. Obama will then say that Syria poses an “immediate threat” and that there is no time for the UN to investigate. It’s sadly predictable; we’ve seen it all before.

Of course, the Obama administration and its anti-Syrian allies cannot act as an objective party in this matter, since they have been directly backing the Syrian rebels.   Nor can Obama be trusted that his “evidence” that was “smuggled” out of Syria is any evidence at all.  Again, this is why there is the UN: to perform an impartial investigation.   Even if there were evidence of a chemical weapons attack — which looks likely — such evidence doesn’t say who launched the attack, which, of course, is the key issue.

Why would Obama risk directly entering the Syria maelstrom at this point? Several reasons:

1) Assad is winning the war against Obama’s Islamic extremist rebels.  Bombing Assad will thus give the rebels a boost, extending the war (assuming there is not a full US invasion).

2) Obama has invested much political capital into the conflict; if he backs out now, he loses political credibility domestically and internationally.  When a U.S. president doesn’t back up his threats, he looks weak; and “projected strength” is now a backbone of U.S. foreign policy, which keeps weaker nations aligned and “rival” nations submissive.

3) Destroying or weakening Syria will drastically weaken Obama’s two other regional rivals: Iran and Hezbollah.

4) Most importantly, the landscape of the Middle East is changing fast, and U.S. influence in the region is quickly deteriorating. An action in Syria will remind the region that the U.S. is intent on staying, and that its threats are to be respected. Obama will not simply preside over a dying empire; he must go “all in” to secure U.S. “national interests” in the region.

For these reasons and others Obama seems intent on going to war with Syria, although it won’t be called a war. Obama will say that he’s declaring a “no fly zone” over parts of Syria to provide a “humanitarian corridor” for refugees, which requires that he destroy the Syrian air force, ground to air weaponry, and other military facilities, i.e., war.

These plans have already been mapped out by the U.S. military, and to make matters even more imminent, the Obama administration is dabbling with a “legal justification” for waging what would be, by definition, an illegal war (any war not approved by the UN is de facto illegal).

Because a war on Syria would be illegal, Obama’s “legal” justification will be  —according to an unnamed “White House official” — based on Bill Clinton’s illegal war against Yugoslavia. The New York Times reports:

“It’s a step too far to say we’re [the Obama administration] drawing up legal justifications for an action [against Syria], given that the president hasn’t made a decision,” said the [White House] official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the deliberations. “But Kosovo, of course, is a precedent of something that is perhaps similar.”

Kosovo is being picked as a legal precedent because it was considered the last “good war” that the U.S. waged. But as Diane Johnston explains in her excellent book, Fools Crusade, the U.S.-led NATO war against Yugoslavia was a war of aggression based on the very false premise of “humanitarian intervention.” The many lies that were generated to “liberate” Slovenia, Croatia, and Kosovo from Yugoslavia are now being copied and pasted onto Syria.

Obama has not told Americans about the potential ramifications that war with Syria could produce. For example, Iran’s military chief recently promised “harsh consequences” if the U.S. intervened militarily; Russia too is strongly backing the Syrian regime and could easily be drawn into any conflict. Israel is already involved in Syria’s conflict, having made several bombing missions this year. At the same time new massive shipments of arms have made their way to the Syrian rebels, possibly in time for a U.S. “no fly zone.”

The whole region is a smoldering tinderbox, and Obama seems intent on pouring fuel on the flames. The many Americans who thought that such a war was impossible will have to think again.  And although Obama will hide the war behind a Bush-like “coalition” of Europe, Arab and Israeli allies, the U.S. will be leading this puppet coalition while pushing an already unstable Middle East into full fledged regional chaos, which could instantly take on an international character.

Shamus Cooke

 

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