Friday, April 29, 2011
U.S. Funding of Syrian Opposition, "Poorly thought out", "stunt"
Fri, April 29, 2011 | link
Syrian opposition leaders harshly criticized a sudden U.S. Government public announcement that it would fund them to the tune
of $5 million dollars according to a confidential diplomatic cable from February 21, 2006 released by Wikileaks. The opposition had already been secretly funded for years they said.
The leaders were clearly dumbfounded as to why the Bush administration felt a need to make a public announcement that would
subject them to scrutiny, arrest, and weaken them.
They said that the U.S. didn't really care about them, no opposition leader would accept the money now and they they
were forced to publicly denounced the U.S. and its funding as a meddling in Syrian internal affairs. Only one opposition leader
offered praise, but said it was a paltry offering, when the U.S. was spending $75 million funding Iranian opposition.
The opposition contacts said that they
felt they were being used as a bargaining "chip in the game." They were clearly were not consulted and called the
announcement "harmful" and "nave." Not only that, they said the Syrian government could hijack the funds
and drain them further weakening the opposition. Another called it a "stunt," "poorly thought out," one
that will weaken the opposition in Syria and also weaken any U.S. strategy for shaking the regime.
name in the confidential cable is redacted. While it clearly shows that opposition leaders were not consulted, they
were willing to continuing to work with the U.S. secretly.
But, the public face of those Syrian opposition leaders changed dramatically as a result of the announcement which
was made on February 17, 2006. That announcement likely had the extreme opposite of its intended effect and the impact was
felt the very next day.
related that at a February 18 meeting of about twenty Damascus Declaration participants, those assembled had decided to publicly
denounce the MEPI (State Department) project because they felt they had to, in order to avoid even more SARG (Syrian intelligence) scrutiny.
XXXXXXXXXXXX, said that the general consensus among XXXXXXXXXXXX civil society and opposition colleagues had been that the
USG (U.S. Government) is "not serious about us" and that the public announcement was "just to put pressure
on the regime with no regard for the opposition."
So then, in the eyes of the Syrian people, the U.S. Government funding was opposed by the Syrian opposition.
Of the dozens of redacted names in the cable,
only "one embassy contact, XXXXXXXXXXXX, offered qualified praise for the initiative, saying that XXXXXXXXXXXX was happy
about the funding, but critical of the public way that it was offered. XXXXXXXXXXXX also noted that the USG’s pledge
of $75 million to the Iranian opposition largely overshadowed the $5 million for Syrian efforts and raised questions about
the US’s commitment to the Syrian opposition cause. XXXXXXXXXXXX was also quick to point out that most activists were
afraid to say anything positive about the announcement."
It was clearly a learning experience for the Bush administration. Despite the public denouncement
of the U.S. funding, the oppositions leader's fears did become reality. Syrian intelligence more intensely interrogated the
opposition leaders about U.S. funding sources (see blog below on secret cable: U.S. "Illegally" Funded Syrian Opposition). What is clear, is that the publicity put added pressure on all sides.
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Syrian Protestors Face Chemical Weapons
Sat, April 23, 2011 | link
-- As we watch the Syrian government ruthlessly attack its own people with live ammunition, we wonder how
far the violence could go and if the Syrian people could face the governments stockpile of chemical weapons. According to The Syrian Spring, CIA sources say that the government is in possession of numerous chemical weapons that would have to be neutralized. The
Syrian arsenal includes large amounts of Sarin in addition to tabun, mustard gas and is reportedly 'producing and weaponizing
VX. Exact volumes of weapons in the Syrian stockpile are difficult to know. The CIA estimates the Syrian government has
several hundred liters of chemical weapons with hundreds of tons of agents produced annually," according to the site.
Despite the known accumulation
of chemical weapons, the United States and other countries have not taken the dramatic steps necessary to eliminate that threat.
Israel did step in to eliminate a serious threat
by destroying a Syrian nuclear weapons facility on September 7, 2007. Syria was trying to build it with the help of
North Korea. Luckily, the site was built away from population centers, making it easy to destroy. After that incident, the U.S State Department put together a long list of reasons for Israels action and sent the list to every diplomatic post in the world.
That was an unclassified cable. What did remain a secret was the U.S. monitoring
of Syrias amassing of chemical weapons.
In an urgent secret diplomatic cable sent from the State Department's Office of Chemical and Biological Weapons Threat Reduction program, released by Wikileaks, Director Robert Mikulak requested immediate action based on information it "has obtained."
"The U.S. has obtained information
indicating that a Syrian institution with connections to the country’s chemical and biological weapons programs is attempting
to acquire Australia Group-controlled glass-lined reactors, heat exchangers and pumps from the Indian firms XXXXXXXXXXXX
and XXXXXXXXXXXX," Mlkulak wrote on background. "Both firms are believed to have received visits from the Syria
institution in the past 3 months and may be close to concluding their respective deals."
It is clear that the U.S. obtained this information
through spying in Syria. Following that short background, Director Mikulak gives clear instructions for how to approach the
issue with the Indian government. The spying details were deep, including the companies, what they planned to buy, when and
light of its chemical weapons and other programs of proliferation concern, support to terrorist organizations, and efforts
to destabilize other countries in the region, we believe Syria is an unreliable destination for dual-use exports, and Syrian
end-user statements or other assurances are neither credible nor trustworthy."
And there was a threat for in-action: "Under INKSNA, sanctions also may be imposed against persons identified in such reports."
The action-request ended with very little
room for leeway: "We look forward to the Indian government sharing with us the results of its investigation into this
matter. End talking points."
Friday, April 22, 2011
U.S. Government 'Illegally' Funded Syrian Opposition
Fri, April 22, 2011 | link
IRIS--As protests are closing in
around Damascus, the roots of the demands for democracy were secretly and "illegally" funded by the U.S. Government
according to a secret diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks.
The cables's subject line is "Show us the
money! SARG suspects "illega" US Government funding, and their suspicions were correct. "It
is unclear to what extent SARG intelligence services understand how USG (U.S. Government) money enters Syria and through which
proxy organizations," wrote Charles Hunter from the American Embassy in Damascus in September 2009.
In the heavily redacted and unusually short cable he wrote that Syrian intelligence were catching on though, detaining
civil society and human rights activists and alleging "Illegal" United States Government funding.
"Security agents are increasingly focused on this issue when they interrogate human rights
and civil society activists. The information agents are able to frame their questions with more and more specific information
and names. XXXXXXXXXXXX suggest the SARG has keyed in on MEPI operations in particular," Hunter wrote.
MEPI is the Middle East Partnership Initiative, a U.S. State Department program that primarily operates in north Africa (including Egypt and Tunisia) where recent protests
and toppling of the government has taken place. Now it is focusing on spreading technology with assistance of Microsoft, a
powerful ally to be sure.
"interrogators asked specifically about their
connections to the U.S. Embassy and the State Department. XXXXXXXXXXXX was questioned about MEPI-funded Democracy Council
activities as well as visiting State Department officials."
To say the least,
Syrian intelligence was worried, and now those fears are becoming reality.