By Bill Van Auken
May 30, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – In the wake of the European Union’s vote late Monday to lift a ban on directly arming Western-backed “rebels,” there is a mounting danger of wider war. Growing military tensions in the region are likewise threatening to turn a Syrian peace conference, ostensibly backed by both Washington and Moscow, into a dead letter. Dubbed “Geneva II,” the conference is tentatively set to convene in mid-June.
On Tuesday, the Russian government condemned the EU for “throwing fuel on the fire” of Syria’s sectarian civil war and announced that it is going ahead with the delivery of S-300 air defense systems to Syria.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told a press conference in Moscow that the deployment of the advanced air defense batteries would serve as a “stabilizing factor” in the Syrian crisis by dissuading Western powers from launching direct military intervention.
The mobile, surface-to-air missile systems have been compared to the US Patriot and are capable of bringing down rockets as well as planes.
“We consider that such steps will restrain some hotheads from the possibility of giving this conflict, or from considering a scenario that would give this conflict, an international character with the participation of external forces,” he said.
While the deployment of the missiles would complicate any imposition of a “no-fly zone,” the action that began the US-NATO war for regime change in Libya, it is also directed against Israel, which has repeatedly carried out air strikes against Syria in the course of the two-year-old crisis. The latest of three known air strikes took place earlier this month and provoked an angry denunciation from Moscow, which is Syria’s long-standing ally and biggest arms supplier.
Syrian Rebel Alliance Openly Threatens Ethnic Cleansing
By Alex Newman
May 30, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – A spokesman for the primary rebel alliance in Syria, known as the “Free Syrian Army,” threatened that opposition forces could start implementing a broad ethnic-cleansing program aimed at Shia Muslims and especially the Islamic Alawite sect to which dictator Bashar al-Assad belongs. As Obama administration-led Western powers and a coalition of Sunni Arab dictators continue to fuel the increasingly ruthless conflict, the rebel FSA spokesperson said in a TV interview that minority communities would be “wiped off the map” if the regime’s forces managed to capture the city of Al-Qusair.
The genocide announcement came shortly after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blasted his Senate Foreign Relations Committee colleagues for voting to arm the rebels, many of whom openly fight under the banner of al-Qaeda. “This is an important moment,” Sen. Paul said about the vote. “You will be funding, today, the allies of al Qaeda.” While the U.S. government has been supporting the opposition since before open warfare began, Obama has ramped up that support to unprecedented levels. And now, a Senate committee has expressed its backing for arming groups that openly threaten to exterminate minorities.
According to a report in Bloomberg, rebel Free Syrian Army “Colonel” Abdel-Hamid Zakaria made the threat to exterminate minority-denomination Muslims in Syria during an interview from Turkey last week with Al-Arabiya television. “We don’t want this to happen, but it will be a reality imposed on everyone,” Zakaria said during the interview, referring to his alliance wiping certain minority communities off the map if regime forces succeeded in taking Al-Qusair. “It’s going to be an open, sectarian, bloody war to the end.”
The city in question, located in central Syria’s Homs province, is seen as crucial due to its strategic location along a major highway connecting the capital Damascus to the coast. It is considered extremely important by rebel forces, which rely on it to obtain weapons and supplies from neighboring Lebanon. For the regime, the city’s value is obvious as it continues to wage war on foreign-backed Islamists described by officials as “armed terrorist groups.” more