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August 2012 Letter

Paragraph
6-8-12

Dear friends, hello

After weeks of complete absence from your screens, and the cascade of events occuring during this time, this mail might take the charachter of a letter, more than that of a brief Paragraph dispatch. We will deal here with many news, starting with the ... weather here: horendously hot; the hottest summer we remember since we were doing national service in the Navy, way back then, 1988 ...

We do not intend to talk about the weather, albeit with all those rapid (and worrisome) developments in Syria one could be easily tempted to do just that ... Incidentally, this ("talking about the weather") is what most political parties do in Greece regarding Syria, and possibly with with good reason. Given the terrible socioeconomic straits Greece is now going through (whose effect is mirrored in the apprehension one discerns in every Greek, of all social strada and persuassions) many a politician know that anything they say on this matter might affect the county's relations with powerful powers, and thus they tend to keep their mouths shut and to worry more about the approaching -and expected "hot"- September.

A notable exception in our political establishment's prudent silence on Syria is Syriza, who's Foreign Affairs team recently released a remarkably accurate and impartial Press Release included it in our Syria Dossier. Indeed, we are so much in favour of circulating any REALISTIC, reasonable, and peace-oriented estimates of the situation that we took the liberty to translate it in English, so you all may have it. And kudos to the wise individuals in the Syriza Foreign Affairs team, who staunchly refused to be part of any chorus of warmongering frivolous "intervention cheerleading"* and thus defended the cause of regional peace (as any leftist worth of their salt ought to) by simply "calling a spade a spade"!

War, widespread war, lurches towards Near East; not just Syria but also Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, Iran; and Israel, and Turkey. God knows how far such a conflagration will go if allowed to proceed unchecked. This is The Paragraph's grim but earnest assesment regarding the potential of the raging Syrian civil war - yes, now it has become a civil war. And in this context we plead with readers - private individuals, academics, politicians of all hues, think tank analysts, peace activists, buisnesspersons, journalists - to do their best to stem this lurch towards a general conflagration in the Near East. The first step to achieve this is by double-checking the Syria news we hear, thus "denying access" into our hearts and brains to various "quick fix" recipies advanced by war sirens. In such a complicated situation, and with so many players involved, "quick fix" recipies are certainly very effective battle-cries, but are also equaly certain to produce wide spread mayhem ...

There are people out there, powerful ones -unfortunatelly some of them women**- who, in order to show steadfastness and resolve do not hesitate to threat (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-C7KYK0crc&feature=related) other powerful players. Thus the tragic situation in Syria is fast becoming a battleground of great power interests: this is outrageous given the vast human and material cost the average Syrian pays every day. If we add to this exposive mix the trigger of the well-funded Saudi machinations, we get to an intractable situation. Not only in Syria but also in Washingthon DC where influential people push for intervention while others, e.g. Stephen Walt, are trying to stem this tide. Not only Stephen Walt, but "realists" in the US establishment are involved; and not only american "realists": Please check this RT video, in the second part of which the English Professoir Mark Almond (now teaching International Relations in the Bilkent University in Turkey) deals with Hillary's "Russia and China have to pay a price" overt threat. (http://www.youtube.com/watchNR=1&v=GlcJjMEiHiI&feature=endscreen) It is an up-hill fight: Saudi money are flowing in the banks of the Potomack, Washinghton DC, not to mention other capitals. Oh yes ...

Lest we forget: Saudi money was cruicial in funding the Afganistan (80s) and then the Balkan (90s) wars; and since propaganda and "perception shaping" was an essential part of those wars, lots of Saudi money ended up buying influential people, "opinion makers": It certainly bought the support of the "philosopher at large" of Frence Bernard Henry-Levy; it bought Coushner and the MsF, back in the 90s. Now gossipers say that Saudi petrodollars may have influenced Daniel Con-Bendit and payed for Samantha Power's red Porshe; Power later sold it, and appologised for the frivolty*** NOTE: This last gossip may be untrue but the "purchase" of anti-Serb support in France (historically pro-Serb country) is common knowledge to anyone who has followed the 90s Yugoslav Succession wars. *4 And the most important point is that the Saudis (and Qataris) have formed a network of "clients" in the intellectual and politoco-journalistic circles in Europe; and they "re-activated" this network with the opportunity of the Libya up-rising.

Sending in jihadists - from S. Arabia or other Moslem countries - did the rest, to Afganistan during the Soviet invasion, then to Yugoslavia, to Chechnya (oh yea, the Ruskies have many open scores with the rich and willy "desert Kingdom"...), then Iraq and Libya - and now Syria. If the factor "Saudi Arabia and Qatar" is not in your equations regarding Syria then take care to "factor them in" ASAP, and independently from US, Israel, we think. And remember a tell-tale sign: Their pampered "advocacy journalists" will utter NOT A WORD on Bahrain, or on supressing the Shias of "the desert Kingdom".

A sign that the tension between Saudis and Ruskies is rising can be found in a comment of K. K. Dolgov, Representative on Human Rights of the MFA of Russia, "on situation in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia." This half page comment is published in the site of the russian ministry of foreign affairs: www.mid.ru. It starts with an unusual (for Russians) phrase: "The incoming information on the development of situation in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia in recent days causes great concerns". It is rare for the Russians to overtly poke into other states internal affairs. It continues: "One of Shi'ite religious leaders, sheik Nimr Al-Nimr, is among the victims - he was arrested by the police. (Not killed or injured, just arrested; calling him "a victim" is do tit-for-tat the western press exagerated language, using the word "suppression" of anti-Putin rallies, or of "The Pussies".) Then things get wilder: "We expect that"...

Do not mind what comes after this "we expect that" - the key words have been uttered: in traditional diplomatic parlance (Russian diplomacy follows the tradition) this "we expect" is almost insulting when talking about somebody else's internal affairs; only a "we urgently demand" could be heavier. Now let us take stock of a fact: Russian diplomacy, contrary to the US one, does not go lightly into verbal "interventionism". So way back then (12-7-12) The Paragraph took this MFA comment as a sign that a fully fleged Ruso-Saudi diplomatic war is happening. The propaganda hubub about the recent UN General Assembly vote on Syria -on a draft resolution proposed by Saudis - confirmed our feeling ... Now we just hope no Chechen bombs start exploding in Russia as soon as the Olympic Games are over ... We do not need that - anywhere.

If one adds to the Russian pocking into Saudi "internal affairs" a recent official Iranian warning to Turkey "not to dare to think" to invade Syria, we understand that in the diplomatic front the heat is on among regional players; their language gets hotter and hotter. Buddhists say "Angry thoughts lead to angry words; angry words to angry deeds". They MUST de-escalate right NOW!!!

We conclude this brief account of the raging propaganda battle to shape the world public's perception on the international concensus regarding Syria with a last observation: Two paragraphs before we purposefully used the words "propaganda hubbub" when we refered to the western and arab mainstream media reports of the recent UNGA (UN General Assembly) Syria vote. The reason is that we got upset by the distance we observed between the account of the mainstream media about this UNGA, and reality. Those media reports essentially told us that the resolution passed with flying colours; only 12 badies (Russia, China, Cuba, Venezuela, and the other "usual suspects") disliked it; they were soundly defeated and "isolated". Well, dear readers, this is not exactly the case. The respected Indian daily THE HINDU tells another story:
In a sign of how quickly the situation can change, the resolution that began to circulate on Monday reaffirmed its support for Mr. Annan, though he had resigned as special envoy on Thursday. The original draft had called for Mr. Assad to resign (…) That naked call for regime change appalled many U.N. members (...) Russia and China opposed the draft, as expected. (…) the Saudi sponsors of the draft resolution were taken aback when General Assembly nations including Brazil, India, Pakistan, South Africa and Argentina choked on the regime change and sanctions paragraphs in the draft. (...) With the tougher language, the Saudi resolution was in danger of falling below 100 votes in the 193-member Assembly, and would be seen as weak and lacking moral authority.(…) The draft was quickly pulled back and the regime change and sanctions provisions were stricken out by Wednesday (…) But the rhetoric was evidence of the frustration within the United Nations, and around it.

“U.N. General Assembly set to condemn Syrian crackdown”, The Hindu, 3-8-12.

You might ask "with whom is The Paragraph's heart regarding Syria? You told us about the outsiders, the opinion-makers, the propagandists - what about the Syrians?" Indeed friends, our hearts are first and foremost with the Syrian people, and especially with the souls among them who are dedicated to resolving their problems in the most peacefull posible manner. This is why we included in our dossier four articles (one from AlAkhbar, one from Al-Jazeera, and two from RIA-Novosti) about Michel Kilo, a Syrian writer and veteran of the opposition scene. Michel Kilo was in un-armed opposition of the Assad regime for decades, even when the Americans were chums with the Assads, and when Bush Jr was rotinely sending captured Al-Qaeda Jihadists -the same they send now to tople Assad- to be tortured in Syria ...

Our gut feeling -we are no Syria experts - tells that Michel Kilo and the people in the umbrella opposition organization he leads - the Syrian Democratic Forum - represent hope for Syria; they are independent of foreign influences and genuinely care for avoiding civil war. In Greece we have heard of another opposition umbrella organization dependant on outsiders -Syrian National Council - but we have never been told that a Syrian Democratic Forum even exists! It is obiously not an insignificant quantity since both Al-Jazeera and Novosti give extensive accounts of Michel Kilo. Check the articles and pray for the peacemakers in Syria, not the angry ones. Anger might be justified, but angry actions are fuelling the fire...

A cynical friend remarked when we refered to Michel Kilo and his people "Ah! A Dr. Rugova of Syria. I do not think he is strong enough ... I am a pessimist!" We replied using Stephen Walts' favourite motto - the one he has in his blog:

So friends, we might all be worried, and justifiably so, by the escalation in Syria; but we must "adjust the sails"! Our anger for the blood spilled is one more reason NOT to give up efforts to search for upright people to support in Syria even when simply talking with our friends, Or to insist on clear information on the situation by our press. Doing anything we can, even on the most elementary level, i.e. to refuse to give-up hope that the flames may be quenched, is essential. It blocks the path to war. This is all. In order for outside military intervention to occur the public must be persuaded first ...

Our "Syria Dossier" took much time to come out (two weeks since we promised it) exactly because we wanted to search in depth, and select only a few (20...) key items among the hundreds of interesting ones -or thousands of trash- that are floating around in the internet. We are certain that a "list of contents" might be helpful to you regarding this dossier, so we compiled one. We know that 20 articles are a big chunk of reading except if one is an IR specialist, but there will be ample time until the next Paragraph arrives. Tommorrow we will temporarily stop our publication. We have to visit our "home waters" in the North --ericred, etc -- for a few weeks in order to get away from the heat, and deal with... fisheries.

But before leaving you we want to share some HAPPY NEWS too! The issue of The Spokesman 5* now in circulation (#117) contains a review of Zbigniew Bzrezinski's book Strategic Vision we wrote. We requested the permission of The Spokesman to distribute a pdf copy to The Paragraph readership; our friends kindly sent us one - attached! We thank The Spokesman for giving us the particular task. It was not only an intellectual pleasure and challenge but, most of all, the task of carefully reading this particular book during many a morning (on the train back and forth to school) of a rather bleak winter gave a sence of belonging; belonging to a worldwide community of human beings trying, each one in his/her own way, to do their best in the Hope of a better future for our wide -yes, and suffering- but still wonderful world.

Strengh and Honour - and a bientot!
The Paragraph

NOTES - and gossip

* We allude to the omnipresent FICLE, where FICLE, a.k.a FIC-LE = "Frivolous Intervention Cheerleaders - Left Echelon".

** Women politicians making careers in a man-dominated field, always face presure to demonstrate "extra strength". This pressure is frequently internalised into impulse to adopt belligerent attitudes in the face of the minutest opposition.

The experience of powerful Japanese females (Japan is a extremely male-dominated society even nowadays) shows that the product of this pressure to "prove" oneself frequently generates pretty scary ogurs. With exceptions; Sagato Ogata (UNHCR High Comissioner 91-01) was one. "If we ignore the plight of the refugees or the burden of the countries which have received them, I fear we will pay a heavy toll in renewed violence. Conditions must be created urgently to allow the refugees to go back and live in peace and tolerance in their own country." Liberty Medal acceptance speech, 1995. By the way, The Paragraph has a question here: Does the "conditions must be created urgently to allow the refugees to go back and live in peace and tolerance in their own country" line apply to Afgan refugees in Greece today, or to say this would be intolerant of other cultures, or even mildly... rasist? (And thus no Liberty Medal?) But this is another -huge- subject ...

At any rate, we feel that Mrs Hillary Rodham-Clinton, a Scorpio by sign (joking...), has an intence personality by birth; the outside pressure to prove herself formidable has been met, we fear, by little inner resistance. She proved her "gut" by adopting very belligerent positions since the Bush Jr "war on terror". Althought Mrs Clinton is a smart person, smart enough to make a 180 degree pirouette after being chased by the Israel Lobby for making a pro-Palestinian remark, she seems hellbent to snatch the "Iron Lady" title from Maggie Thacher (an ambitious but balanced Libra - joking), Falklands war and TINA nonwithstanding. And our prediction is that, alas, she is achieving this with warp speed via the Syria affair.

*** She is a semi-Libra (still joking...): "Power is considered to be the key figure within the Obama administration in persuading the president to intervene militarily in Libya."  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samantha_Power) In case you wonder dear readers: Non, we have NOTHING against "women in politics". On the contrary, we believe that you all feel The Paragraph's war-averse stand has something inherently "feminine" in its nature; however we have A LOT against the "politically correct" but shallow ideological mottos of the type "women in power"; here we are not joking at all. We are firm believers in the motto "Capable upright persons in power. Period." (Exotic note: Before you call us "antifeminist", jentle reader, imagine functioning professionally even for a week under a Japanese "strong woman". It is hell if you are a free-minded man, absolute hell if you are a free-minded woman; in this case "she" -it- will try to crush you! No rival is to be tolerated! Our conviction is due to Japanese sources, but politeness prohibits us from futher delving on that matter.)

*4 There were still somber Greek people surprised when Con-Bendit -in a recent panel with Simitis, and while supporting presumably the cause of the suffering Greeks- suddenly erupts and scolds us collectively for "supporting the Serbs, 80% of Greek public" demanding rependence. Is this type of compromised people the stock on which we put hope not to repeat mistakes of the past? As far as The Paragraph's esteem is concerned, we exchange 100 Con-Bendits for each Lavrov at any given time and 80 Con-Bendits for each Bzrezinski. We would go as far as 20 Con-Bendits and 70 "philosophers at large" for change for a Hillary. (Alas, Blair's exchange rate would still be 1:1; he was pretending to be "on the Left". We loved Zbig's comment on Blair.) This is why we are coming down hard on some -not all- actors of civil society:

First, they are supposed to be talking/acting "in our name" -presumably even more than our states- while in reality they are paid to influence/shape our opinion. Second, we know that great powers exersise hypocricy since time immemorial; however, champions of this sport are not to be found among the states today: pampered NGOs, "advocacy journalists", "opinion makers" hold the world records. Yes, we are dissappointed: Remember the silence during the Rwanda genocide?

It was because "the spotlight" was to be directed to Bosnia, with it's 30.000 dead in 5 years. So no reports on Rwanda passed the mass media gatekeepers, while 800.000 were slaughtered in weeks. What did Medicins Sans Frontiers do? Well, basically nothing... What did Red Danny do? They were all "doing Bosnia". Later on they discover Rwanda again, in order to put the foundations of the R2P ("Responcibility To Protect") doctrine. And what do they do with R2P now? They pick and choose who is worth their "protection"! Fast forward 17 years after Rwanda: What did they do for the Bahrain uprising? The same: Basically... nothing! Why not? The Saudi interests, plus they were "doing Libya" then. Outrageous!

5* The respected bi-monthly publication of The Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, based in Nottingham, England, UK.

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