Sunday, December 23, 2012

Is Delhi’s Brutal Gang Rape Outrage the Tunisian Moment!

Is Delhi's Brutal Gang Rape Outrage the Tunisian Moment!

India Gate becomes Cairo's Tehrir Square


The judicial system in India did not deliver justice but has become a tool for litigation by the rich and powerful to thwart and delay justice; Supreme Court Justice Singhvi


"Indian police has become the armed militia of the political party in power," a retired Delhi police chief 

Rule of law is a Semitic contribution to human civilization. The 'Eye for an eye 'custom was codified as part of the Hammurabi Code, which formed the basis of law in Semite lands. If an eye is not taken for an eye aka guilty not punished then lawlessness will take over .This Semite tribal thesis later became the core of Judaic, Christian and Islamic civilizations .In Europe it was further refined. 

Rule of Law or equality of all before the law evolved further in Europe following the Reformation and the Renaissance.


In India, caste based Dharma rules .The political class are now the high castes and above the Rule of law. 

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: Indeed it is the only thing that ever has." ~ Margaret Meade

 "The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed" -Steve Biko

 Tunisian Moment;

Tarek al-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26 year old Tunisian street fruit vendor, set himself on fire on 17 December, 2010, in protest at the confiscation of his wares and the harassment and humiliation he was inflicted on by a woman municipal official and her aides. This act of helplessness against arbitrary power became a catalyst for the Tunisian Revolution and led to wider  uprisings in the Arab world with continuous demonstrations , sit ins and riots first throughout Tunisia ,in protest against social and political ills in the country and then in other Arab states like Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria ,.


Of course US led West has tried to manipulate peoples' uprising against Washington supported dictator -puppets in the Middle East to their advantage with huge funds from rich oil oligarchies of Saudi Arabia and Qatar , afraid of the fire of revolts reaching and igniting at home .NATO and GCC have openly intervened in Libya ,against UNSC resolution , creating havoc and destruction as the West did in Iraq , destroying Libya's loosely knit tribal domains .Short of direct intervention they are doing the same in Syria but have been fiercely opposed by Iran and Russia. Over 40,000 Syrians have died in the continuing civil war.


Further breakup of the historic state of Syria will lead to change of borders in West Asia and the region, arbitrarily carved by Britain and France after WWI.


Massive demonstrations in Delhi


Can the spontaneous people's massive demonstrations , especially in Delhi in front of the President's Residence after  the rape of the 23 year old Delhi girl , who is in critical condition in a New Delhi hospital ignite a peoples revolt in India .There is little doubt that barring exceptions the ruling political elite, as many activists like Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal have said, is very corrupt , brazen and full of men charged with serious cases of murders, rapine and corruption sitting in legislatures , ministries and other centres of power .


Since half a century they have dillydallied without enacting an Ombudsman in spite of Parliament's solemn promise to Activist Anna Hazare in 2011. The politicians have sat through fasts and agitations by Anna Hazare, Kejriwal and Baba Ramdeo, who have run out of steam, as the politicians thought they would.


But the demonstrations mostly by young people of capital Delhi which have assumed massive proportions since Saturday morning are quite different.


By Sunday ,23 December, the demonstrators had been joined by Baba Ramdeo , Kejriwal supporters and Gen VK Singh .


On 22 December, the assurances given by Home Minister Shinde at a media conference and meetings by some students with Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have not singed the anger and the frustrations of the suffering public.


A news reports;


Delhi rape: People on the streets, and netas in hiding

by Akshaya Mishra



"There's anger on the streets. A 23-year-old has been brutally attacked and raped. She is fighting for her life in a hospital. India's young are asking one simple question: why? They are demanding a clear answer and they want promises that will convince them that they will be safe in the country. It's a protest not loaded political motives; it's an expression of overwhelming frustration. Yet, no political leader has the courage to come out and face them. ---


--Leaders are incapable of finding any solution to the problem. They are either incompetent or indifferent. There are three policemen for every VIP in Delhi and one for more than 700 hundred of ordinary people. The ratio of policemen to one lakh population in India stands at roughly 130. In other countries the people-police ratio is much higher. According to United Nations guidelines, it should be at least 220. The country is thus short of six lakh policemen.


But that is only part of the story. The available policemen are mostly busy protecting VIPs, mostly politicians, making passport verifications, managing rallies and helping other government authorities do their job. There is only a handful left to serve the ordinary people. The police are understaffed, overworked and demoralized. But they also represent the might of the state, and thus make for easy targets for public wrath whenever there's trouble. Any call for better law and order should start at reforming the police force.


In the entire discourse so far, the emphasis on punishment is disportionately heavy. 'Hang them', 'castrate them', 'put them in jail quickly' have been the rough and ready remedies on offer. These go with the current public mood. No one is in disagreement that rapists should get the toughest of punishments but it hardly qualifies as any solution to the original problem. Any action makes little sense when physical and psychological damage is already done to the victim. Moreover, people committing the heinous act of this kind hardly think of the consequences at that very moment.

The best idea is to shift attention to prevention. And when it is about prevention, it has to be mostly about efficient policing. It requires quality, which is not possible without adequate manpower and proper training. Why hasn't one heard any expert talking about new recruitment to the police force? Why is the government not being challenged for sitting on reform proposals? Why are our police so weak at investigating cases?


The anger at the police might look justified in the heat of the moment but in the final analysis it makes little sense. The protesters must demand that the politicians start reforming the police first.


They can present Rahul Gandhi and other leaders with a charter of actionable demands. The call for harsher punishment to victims can wait.


The collective frustration must yield something that is beneficial to it."


Lack of respect and equality for women begins from male political leadership, which refused to pass a law to reserve even third seats in the parliament for women.


There are innumerable examples of political leaders, even ministers committing rape. Because of their power most escape punishment.


Political Leaders Attitude to women


Cong MP and Reality TV participant Sanjay Nirupam's disgraceful attack on Smriti Irani


If Smriti is a thumkewali, what does this make him?


He joins illustrious Parliamentarians in the misogynists' hall of shame. So, dear neta, as you outrage over crimes against women, reflect on how you treat them


'Some women wearing lipstick and powder have taken to the streets
in Mumbai and are abusing politicians and spreading dissatisfaction
- Muqtar Abbas Naqvi, BJP, over the outrage after 26/11.

'Wah kya girlfriend hai! Have you ever seen a Rs 50-crore girlfriend?
- Narendra Modi, BJP, on Shashi Tharoor'S wife

'Listen carefully sister, this is a serious matter, not a filmy subject
- Sushil Kumar Shinde, Congress, to Jaya Bachchan who was debating on Assam

'Only women from affluent classes can get ahead, but remember you rural women will never get a chance because you are not that attractive.
- Mulayam Singh Yadav, SP, at a public rally opposing women's reservation

Rule of Law in India!


Revolutions of the people by the people and for the people are not and cannot be planned in details. They happen when its time has come .It needs a spark, say a suicide in Tunisia .It can take unexpected turns and twists .It may not succeed and can be even aborted .It can be high jacked as happened in Romania, when in 1989 it was taken over by old sidelined communists and finally, mafias owing loyalty to the West are now ruling .A poll 5 years ago showed the much maligned by the West Nicolai Ceausescu as the most important leader in Romanian history. Globalization and neo liberalism has heaped misery on the masses .As it has all over the world including India.


In Iran, Mullahs hijacked the revolution in 1979 in spite of Ayatollah Khomeini and remains incomplete .In Algiers, the freedom fighters after seven years of bloody struggle for independence in 1962 just ended up replacing the ruling French elite. The usurping elite were and remain challenged by the angry masses with religious moorings under young radical leadership. As a student of history of revolutions around the world, it is my firm belief that to avoid massive bloodshed which will put the fear of God in the heart of the totally corrupt, insensitive and brazen ruling elite across the whole political spectrum, a lasting and fundamental change must come about quickly whether it is Lokpal Bill or electoral, educational and other reforms. 

Look at the Egyptian revolution ,still underway  but the old ruling elite of military fat cats minus a few prominent exploiters like Mubarak family and close cronies ,remains in place .Muslim Brotherhood , an exclusive power group is taking over power much against the aspirations of secular and other groups who had led the revolution against President Hosni Mubarak .

 This I had written when the Egyptian revolt began in February, 2011.

 "Egypt might join France, Russia, Turkey, China and Iran, and emerge as a modern nation from the crucible of a bloody revolution. The people of Hindustan, are unlikely to do so, where the regime is no less corrupt, but where corruption is decentralized and almost 'legitimized '. Seventy percent of the poor who live on less than a dollar have been conditioned by Brahmanical dharma that it is their Karma for sins in past lives.

 "The political architecture after Mubarak is not easy to predict but democracy as defined and not as practiced say even in USA and India might not come about any time soon .The Egyptian armed forces are well entrenched since 1952 and remain powerful as in Iran, Turkey, Pakistan , China and military-industry complex in USA.

Evolution of the Equality before Law or the Rule of law

An eye for an eye – Hammurabi

Rule of law is a Semitic contribution to human civilization. The 'Eye for an eye 'custom was codified as part of the Hammurabi Code, which formed the basis of law in Semite lands. If eye is not taken for an eye aka guilty not punished then lawlessness will take over .This Semite tribal thesis later became the core of Judaic, Christian and Islamic civilizations .In Europe it was further refined.

 Rule of Law or equality of all before the law evolved further in Europe following the Reformation and the Renaissance.

 Thus the current rule of law as acknowledged and accepted is basically a European construct on Hammurabi Code ,which evolved over a long period through revolutions and evolutions, along with the concept of a modern state and the nation .It emerged after centuries of wars among the Popes ,Holy Emperors and kings and other religious leaders and barons .And finally ; common people rose and fought for equality for all citizens and rule of law .A King was guillotined in France , Czar assassinated in Russia ,Ottoman Caliph fled Turkey , as did Chiang Kai Sheik in China and the Shah-in-Shah  from Iran and some others  elsewhere too.


During modern era the concept of duties of a citizen and of the ruler was further evolved and was codified in Europe helped by development of political, economic, social and ethical thought .It is only then that the concept of a nation and equality before law emerged and slowly took hold. These were then transmitted to colonies in America, Asia and Africa and implemented and accepted with different levels of success


India has not gone through any such metamorphosis yet. Nor is it likely any time soon .So do not hold your breath .Yes, there are revolts and rebellions in north East ,in Kashmir and in increasingly large swathes of areas where rights of tribals have been usurped ,reducing them to misery .So they are now coming under Maoist influence and sway.

 Hindu outlook and Rule of law & Removal of Corruption in India.

 Just passing a strong Lokpal Act will not solve the problem of corruption or inequality in India .The problems are deep rooted, religious and civilisational.

 Poet AK Ramanujam said that Indians don't seem to have a sense of absolute .They place everything in some context or the other. And, depending on the context, what the rest of the world would regard as being wrong in the absolute sense becomes quite all right in India.

 All this is supported even by our epics , Ramayana and Mahabharata .Like the trickery by the great  noble and transparent  warrior of Ramayana , Lord Rama in killing his opponent Bali while hiding behind a tree or in the Mahabharata war ,the apostle of truth Pandava Yudhister  proclaiming the death of Aswathama (elephant) for military gains are all lauded , accepted and readily employed in daily life , specially by the new political leadership which has emerged from the grass roots from the villages and small towns and are not versed in western concept of  the rule of law . 

Thus Indians in general have little sense or respect for rule of law. Their concept is very flexible. Show me the man and I will show you the law depending on the situation. There is almost total unanimity in applying rules and laws contextually for personal gains and advantage. 

Thus India/Hindustan is not a nation in the European sense and even in many other ways .Identity is still caste based not only in India but to quite some extent even in Pakistan and Bangladesh too . Among the followers of Islam, supposedly an egalitarian religion, the caste has been replaced by Ashraffs (migrants from Arabia, central Asia, Iran and Afghanistan) and high caste converts, mostly Rajputs and Jats, who are considered superior to converts from lower castes and untouchables .The caste malady exists among Sikhs too as manifested by recurrent resistance by low caste Sikhs against Jat Sikh domination in religious and political institutions. Christians in Kerala have separate caste based churches. Even in the most highly educated state in India, politics remains caste and religion based. Thus education is no panacea.


Let me give a few examples .When I made my first call in Cairo in 1962 on my first ambassador Azim Hussien ICS , on my telling him that I am a Rajput , he could not contain himself and smiled and blurted  ,'You know ,I am a Rathore Rajput' .Son of Fazli Hussein , pre-partition chief minister of  Punjab , who ruled the state in coalition with Jat leader Chhotu Ram , Azim Hussein was otherwise very reserved ,taciturn and aloof. While posted in Ankara (1992-96) I visited Bucharest and was invited for dinner by Ambassador Julio Ribeiro, a former police chief of Maharashtra and Punjab. Even before I had a few sips of the whisky, he said,'you know I am a Chitpavan Brahmin'.


A retired Indian Ambassador Surrender Kumar wrote a piece for  Tribune, Chandigarh about the antics of Indian parliamentarians of all castes and parties about caste based census  .He then narrated from personal experience how Indians were not satisfied unless they found out his caste , when he encountered them. These included high caste top civil servants, diplomats and politicians, who were or rose to become vice-presidents and presidents of India. 

Upward movement in India's caste system? 

Eminent Indian sociologist M.N.Srinivas, propounded the theory of Sanskritisation as the process by which castes placed lower in the caste hierarchy seek upward mobility, based on an ethnographical study of the Coorg Community of south Karnataka, India.

Srinivas defined Sanskritisation as a process by which "a 'low' Hindu caste, or tribal or other group, changes its customs, ritual ideology, and way of life in the direction of a high and frequently 'twice-born' caste. Generally such changes are followed by a claim to a higher position in the caste hierarchy than that traditionally conceded to the claimant class by the local community..."

One clear example of Sanskritisation is the acceptance, imitating the practice of twice-born castes, of vegetarianism by people belonging to the so-called low castes, who are traditionally not averse to non-vegetarian food.

Looked from another angle , Sanskritisation is but (cultural) 'colonization' of society that entails the imposition of a set of beliefs, social structures and practices (Brahmanism) upon the Hindu society, allowing it to take root progressively and in a top-down (NOT bottom-up) manner by first inducting the upper / ruling classes of the native population.

The British colonialism could be called Anglicization, defining it as a process by which the natives of India sought upward mobility by emulating the ways and manners of the British lords who chose to spend some time in India as part of their global mission to 'spread civilization' (and, incidentally, economic restructuring aka looting their subjects )

We will not discuss Hindu beliefs and relevance or importance of the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas and all that goes by the name of Hindu scriptures, and therefore in avatars and rebirth, the varnashram dharma or varna-vyavastha either in the sense in which it is explained in Hindu dharma shastras like Manusmriti or in the so-called Vedic sense and the Hindu taboo of not eating beef or the idol-worship and other such controversial matters.

High caste Imperialism

Thus we can also say that while imperialists divided the subject races to rule over them, Brahmins, since time immemorial have divided the Hindu society, to rule over them as the highest rule making caste. They gave religious sanction and fear of hell and uncounted births as non humans and other untold tortures and miseries, if the non Brahmins wavered from the caste based Dharma and obligations, mostly for the benefit of the higher castes at the cost of those lower down.

In this Brahmin ordained apartheid like systemic cancer since millennia there has not been much weakening since 1947 or even in the equality of the sexes guaranteed by the Constitution. The women in real life remain relegated to the bottom by the religiously enforced grading led by Brahmin fraternity, warriors and nominally ruling caste of Kshatriyas, the trading and agriculture community of Vaishyas and even the Dalits (who in the countryside still remain untouchables). While for political reasons the reservations in Assemblies and for jobs have distributed benefits unevenly to Dalits and Tribes the Muslims have now ended as the new untouchables as brought out in the prevailing discriminations against them by various studies and reports. Even rich and respectable Muslims are refused flats by Hindu dominated building societies.

Female is the last on the rung of ladder in Indian society.


But the situation of women in India remains unenviable .A girl child is still given food the last in the family , so it is with her education ,with female foetusicide ,bride burning for dowry or maltreatment of widows and rapes galore with little or too late punishment . A few years ago, Shankaracharya of Puri declared that women have no right to learn Sanskrit the language of Hindu Shashtras or read Vedas. A Shankaracharya , mostly a Brahmin ,tries to be like an Ayatollah Khomeini ,a jurist –consult in Shia Iran, to maintain Brahminical control over Hindu society and has been used to deny education to non-Brahmins and women. Brahmins, about five percent of India's population including obscurantist cranks and charlatans continue to rule the spiritual life and flourish all over India, with many of them named Ananda (bliss) spreading swamis, preachers and priests on religious TV channels. Some have been charged with, molestation, rapes and other crimes somewhat like Catholic priests all over the world. 

 K.Gajendra Singh ,23 December 2012 .Mayur Vihar, Delhi






Monday, December 17, 2012

Is West Asia Facing its Mayan Moment?

Is West Asia Facing its Mayan Moment?
Modern doomsayers are predicting Friday, Dec. 21, 2012 as the end of the world as we know it, because the Maya calendar says so. The Maya calendar abruptly ends on Friday, Dec. 21, 2012.
Peter Dunham, an archaeologist in the department of anthropology at Cleveland State University who teaches "Ancient Mysteries" says "It just means it's time to make a new calendar." He adds "a major cycle ends on Dec. 21, but again, it's a cycle. When one cycle ends, a new one begins. The Maya only mentioned the year 2012 twice and in neither case do they mention the end of the world."
With the latest change of stand taken by Russia on its solid support to Syrian President Bashar Assad (later somewhat retracted), it appears like the Mayan moment for him.
But the situation in West Asia and North Africa and elsewhere will not unfold as US led NATO and Riyadh and Doha financed GCC countries hope and wish. The fires of resistance and for freedom from authoritarian rulers in the Gulf oligarchies, the main financiers earlier of the 1980s Jihad in Afghanistan, which has destroyed south west Asia and now the greater Middle East, will blowback. Shia majority  Bahrainis want freedom from its Sunni ruler .There is unrest not only in oil rich Shia regions of the Saudi Kingdom, but growing general resentment among young unemployed and under employed Sunni citizens of Saudi Arabia against the absolute rule of Saudi princes oligarchy..
A new calendar has begun, as it had after the rebuff of the Ottoman arms from the Gates of Vienna in end 16 century .Following Ottoman Empire's decline and withdrawal from Maghreb, European powers colonized Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt beginning in 19 century.
The borders of West Asia, part of Ottoman Sultan Caliph's domains, were drawn by the victorious Western European powers England and France after the defeat of the Ottoman armies in WWI. Known as greater Syria, that historical entity became divided into Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Occupied West bank territories and Gaza. It seems that whatever remains of the historical Syria, will be further divided into Sunni, Alawite, Christian and Kurdish and other zones of conflict. The Shia Sunni conflicts and even wars ignited and encouraged by the West could rage and engulf most people in the region
The borders in West Asia perhaps including Turkey which has 20% Kurdish population and 15% Alevi (Shia) population  will be redrawn .Already in Iraq following the US led illegal invasion and occupation since 2003 and de facto creation of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan after the 1991 war against Saddam Hussain's occupation of Kuwait ( which gave oxygen to Kurdish resistance in south east Turkey) , the state is now divided into 3 parts .The US has been  caught in a quagmire by the resistances in Iraq, where in the words of US Col Murtha the US army has been broken .Hence  the reluctance to place GI boots in Libya ( the virus of terrorism and Islamic obscurantism has now spread south of Libya) elsewhere . In the ultimate Western retreat from Eastern lands, the Iraqi sacrifice will compare with that of the Soviet Union's resistance in WWII, which destroyed 80% of the Nazi military machine. The Yanks and the Brits just took the credit with propaganda films.
US led Western retreat and downsizing is becoming apparent, once with its military lillipods extending even into central Asia right up to China's borders, after the collapse of USSR. Let us see how US withdraws its heavy military hardware from Afghanistan and even Iraq. Remember the sorry state of Soviet bases and its troops and citizens in it's near abroad after the collapse of USSR.
While it is not easy to predict when it will take place but it might be matter of year or so or even less .Who had predicted the collapse of USSR so quickly. Now because of its obsession of wars and military expenditure ,US is bankrupt as are most EU nations .Many centuries long warfare between Roman/Byzantine empires and the Persian empires had exhausted them both making the new power of Islam conquer territories from Morocco to the borders of China .
As and when West declines and withdraws, the main beneficiaries will be Islamic regimes and certainly not in love with the West for all their colonization, exploitation and crimes of centuries of Western domination.
I have written and circulated articles on Syria and West Asia with my comments .It should be admitted that the way the situation evolves and explodes in Syria is of prime importance for the future of the region and the world.
Below are a number of recent write ups on the evolving situation Syria.
K Gajendra Singh, 16 December, 2012.Mayur Vihar, Delhi.

A Nation of Pain and Suffering: Syria 


Vijay Prashad is the George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and Professor of International Studies at Trinity College in HartfordConnecticutUSA. He is the author of fourteen books, including Arab Spring, Libyan Winter (AK Press) and Uncle Swami: South Asians in America Today & The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World(2007. In 2013, he will publish The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South [1]


[Vijay Prashad's three-part series "A Nation of Pain and Suffering: Syria." See Part 1: Refugees here and Part 2 : Neighbors Part 3. Western Plans.]
Our enemies did not cross our borders
they crept through our weakness like ants.
  -- Nizar Qabbani, "Footnotes to the Book of Setback"                                                   
    (Hawamesh 'ala Daftar al-Naksah), 1967. 

I. Refugees. 
News comes from a team sent by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to Homs, Syria. They returned to Damascus in late November, reporting that thousands of displaced people in Homs now live in unheated communal shelters. Half the city's hospitals no longer function, and severe shortages wrack the civilian population. As winter approaches, a lack of blankets, children's shoes, and warm clothing will become a serious problem -- according to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) at least 75,000 children required blankets and warm clothes as of 11 November. The team found that UNHCR plastic sheets are used to cover open doorways and windows, blown out in the fighting. "Many children have not been in school for the last eighteen months. Some city hospitals have been converted into communal shelters and sixty percent of Homs doctors have left, along with other medical personnel." Agencies like the UNHCR work on a shoestring budget. Their Syria operation is run with 350 staff members. Given the scale of the problem, this is miniscule. With winter approaching and news reports already of children suffering in the camps in Jordan from the cold, the UN has its work cut out for it.
There are, startlingly, areas of Homs where the situation seems almost normal. "Half of Homs exists as it did before," reported Janine di Giovanni in late October. This is the half, largely Alawite with some pockets of Christians, that the regime has started to protect. The tendency appears to be that if pockets of these communities are isolated from the fighting, sectarian fissures will open up and guarantee the Assad regime with a loyal constituency. In other words, security has become a sectarian matter. If one half "exists as it did before," di Giovanni notes, "The other half is rubble." The UNHCR went to the second half.
The OCHA now reports that by its conservative calculations close to 2.5 million people inside Syria are affected by the violence (the dead, who number over 40,000 are in addition to this figure). The UNHCR has registered close to half a million refugees in the neighboring countries of Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq. But, as UNHCR's Chief Communications officer Sybella Wilkes Moumtzis told me, there are "tens of thousands more thought to be in neighboring countries" who are being taken care of by national and non-governmental relief agencies. 
The UNHCR reports that refugees fleeing to Jordan have faced "generalized violence" during their transit. I asked Wilkes Moumtzis to define what the agency means by "generalized violence." She notes simply that "there are daily arrivals of injured people who have to be treated in hospital." UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Erika Feller visited the Za'atri refugee camp in Jordan, which has the highest number of Syrian refugees. She found that "insecurity has extended to the country's borders in some areas, making flight into neighboring countries particularly dangerous." This is the reason why the UN has called for safe passage out of Syria. There is also talk among some relief agencies in Jordan that the treatment of the refugees by Jordanian authorities has not been exemplary.
Given the political paralysis on Syria, it is astounding that there is so little attention paid to the simple facts of human suffering. Qatar Charity, the Turkish Humanitarian Relief (which sponsored the Mavi Marmara ship to Gaza), the Algerian Reform and Guidance Charitable Association, Lebanon's Bible Society, the Norwegian Refugee Council, the Danish Refugee Council, Doctors Without Borders, and other charities have been raising money and sending aid to the refugee camps. Turkey's Humanitarian Relief warns that about ten million Syrians are liable to starve this winter. The World Food Program reports that Syrians have been cutting back on their household consumption, skipping meals, eating less or eating lower quality food, sending children out to work, cutting back on education and healthcare, and, most dangerously, selling their limited assets for immediate relief. The aid money is simply not enough, and some of it, aid workers tell me, has been misused through strictures of tied aid.
During the worst of the sectarian conflict in Iraq at the time of the US occupation, Syria took in half a million Iraqi refugees. The number has now swelled to a million Iraqis under UNHCR protection. Many of them remained in their Syrian camps, afraid to return home to what they saw as dangerous instability. This year, as Syria tore at the seams, the Iraqis began their transit home (particularly middle-class Iraqis, who had been in the Damascus suburbs such as Seida Zeinab). But hundreds of thousand remain, afraid for what they will find at home, and fearful that they will be discriminated in the emergent Syria. The Iraqi government has opened its borders to fleeing Syrians. The ironies of disruption and social division are too terrible to bear for families who have lost so much of their sense of place.
The West, which is otherwise vocal about this or that outrage, is sparing with its financial support for the agency. The financially weak Lebanese government has gone the extra mile with very little international support, a point made by the World Food Program's Ertharin Cousins in early November as she toured the camps in the Bekaa Valley. The small (voluntary) tranches from the US government, for example, add up to the low millions (the most current contribution is $9.6 million).
Meanwhile, the USS Eisenhower, whose annual cost of operation is $200 million, has appeared off the coast of Syria – it has other motives than humanitarian assistance.
II. Neighbors.
As the refugees pour into Syria's neighbors, tensions come with them. The most thorough report on these tensions was written by the International Crisis Group, whose A Precarious Balancing Act: Lebanon and the Syrian Conflict(November 22, 2012) is probably being scrutinized very closely not only in Beirut, but also in Amman, Ankara, and Baghdad. The "combination of heightened insecurity and continued state impotence" in Lebanon, says the ICG, has led to non-state action – abductions, assassinations, and the creation of beltways to send arms into Syria. ICG exaggerates the arms deliveries. Credible reports show that these are tiny and often without impact.
These deliveries are mainly of small arms, not the kind of heavy artillery that only a state can provide to the rebels. There is certainly the scandal of former journalist, Hariri chevalier, and Saudi courier 'Uqab Saqr. Caught on tape (released by al-Akhbar), Saqr said he was involved in funneling arms, including rockets, into northern Syria from Lebanon and Turkey. (He denies this, saying that he is actually sending in blankets and milk for babies). The rebels begged him, implored him to fill their arsenal; he was aloof and nasty. It was a window into the kind of operation that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia runs.
The arms pipelines from northern Lebanon and the entry of terrified refugees have agitated the country. In Tripoli armed clashes across the Syrian divides continue, most recently on 9 December when at least six died in the gunfire. 
The ICG's exaggerations and omissions can be set aside for a moment. What the ICG report reveals is the atmosphere of fear that has begun to pervade the policy community. 
The "stakes are too grave for Lebanon – the most vulnerable of Syria's neighbors," says the ICG, but they are no less grave for Turkey and Jordan. With a flare-up of the conflict between Ankara and the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), and with the fragile authority of the Jordanian monarch tested by the recent protests, there is little comfort in Erdogan's cabinet and in Abdullah II's Privy Council. For Jordan, there are few pleasant memories of the uprisings in its substantial camps that ring Amman. The revolts of early November over inflation came from these areas, where suffering and protest has become a way of life for the Palestinians, whose new Syrian neighbors might learn their customs. 
Turkey took the most advanced policy in favor of the rebellion. Ankara hoped that the Assad regime would crumble, but as the military phase of the rebellion went over a year with limited impact, the Erdogan cabinet balked. Assad, who had in 1998 thrown out the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan at the behest of Turkey, now pivoted in the other direction. He cleverly ceded northeastern Syria to various Kurdish groups, who are not averse to the PKK. Assad set a grave chess problem for Erdogan – increased PKK activity in Turkey derived from confidence about the new safe zone in Syria and threatened Erdogan with mayhem (violence broke in Hakkari province, with the PKK seizing control of Semdinli, and in Gaziantep province, where a bomb blast in the main city in August rattled the government). 
Turkey's standoff against Syria over the mortar attacks in October was a final gasp. Ankara turned quickly to Brussels. NATO headquarters had signaled no interest in the conflict, but the Turks wanted some kind of assurance. A promise of defensive batteries was the best that could come. Six Patriot batteries, two from each of the agreeable NATO states (German, Netherlands and the US), will take several weeks to set up and will not come anywhere near being sufficient to defend Turkey's 560-mile border with Syria. It is an utterly symbolic gesture.
Turkey had gone ahead of the West in its call for the removal of Assad, and found, to its surprise that no Western power was willing to follow it. The geopolitical dynamics are not clear-cut. The Europeans and the US would like to manage a transition from Assad to another strongman and to maintain Syria's role as the security guard for Israel's northern border (since 1973). The West is not averse to political Islam in power, just as long as the new rulers properly manage the situation to the West's advantage. The US and the Europeans were quick to come to terms with the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Nahda. What they fear are the less manageable Islamists, the brigands who drive rough across the Libyan countryside, or who might emerge out of the bowels of the Syrian resistance. This latter option has led policy makers in Washington and Brussels to be circumspect about the opposition in Syria.
The US has affirmed its intention to ban the Jabhat al-Nusra (Front for the Aid of the People of the Levant), which seems to have a very small number of members. Al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham (Free Men of Syria) appeared in early 2012, conducting massive bombing campaigns against military targets in Aleppo and elsewhere, which is what inflated their influence. The State department let squeak that the banning of al-Nusra should send a signal that the US would like to set aside the Islamists in the Syrian opposition and bring the liberals to the forefront. Such a policy was followed in Libya as well, where the Islamists were used to fight the Qaddafi regime and then attempted to be corralled after his fall.
Word comes from Aleppo that al-Nusra and its partners have put into place an ambitious plan to set up a jihadisocial order. The International Crisis Group released a report in mid-October, Tentative Jihad: Syria's Fundamentalist Opposition, which provides a clear-cut assessment of the reasons for their growth. "Conditions were favorable," writes the ICG, with Salafi preachers reaching out to the dislocated rural underclass, and as the violence escalated and hope for a resolution receded, "many flocked to Salafi alternatives." As the Western bombers did not appear to pulverize Assad's army, these groups found material support amongst the private money from the Gulf Arabs who "bolstered both the Salafis' coffers and their narrative, in which Europe and the US figure as passive accomplices in the regime's crimes."
Small outfits such as al-Nusra shrink before the much more influential and largely unreported Syria Liberation Front (SLF). The SLF, unlike the Syrian National Army, is a platform for the various jihadi currents, funded by the Gulf Arabs and the Muslim Brotherhood, whose own vehicle, Liwaa al-Tawhid, has steadily built up its networks from its exile bases after being devastated in the 1980s. Aron Lund, author of Drömmen om Damaskus (The Dream of Damascus, SILC Förlag 2010) and regular contributor to SyriaComment, notes that these platforms have "an outsized political role, by pushing the parameters of the conflict towards sectarian violence and coloring international perspectives on the uprising." This latter point is significant. Such news rattles Washington, where there is little appetite for the kind of blowback that all but a handful of Senators (McCain is the main doubter) fear might come from too generous support to such groups. Even if there is scaremongering from defenders of the Assad revolution or exaggerations from minorities who fear the next social order, the upshot is a skittish bureaucracy on both sides of the Atlantic.
Gone from all this is talk of the Syrian Contact Group, the regional platform pushed by Egypt and including Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Turmoil in Egypt matched by rumbles in the Kurdish region of Turkey and the death agony around the Saudi monarch as well as an increased isolation of Iran has put the SCG into mothballs. It is perhaps the reason why UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi met in Dublin on 6 December with Lavrov (Russia) and Clinton (US), with no regional actor in the room. Brahimi left the meeting saying that the situation in Syria is "very, very bad," and that Russia, the US, and the UN would "continue to work together to see how we can find creative ways of bringing this problem under control and hopefully starting to solve it." The word creative might upend all the moves afoot, but that is too optimistic a reading of the Dublin meeting. The most significant message was that despite Turkey going out on a limb, despite Lebanon and Jordan bearing the immense cost of the refugee crisis, and despite Egypt bringing Iran and Saudi Arabia to the same table, these regional actors have no role in the Brahimi process. The Contact Group remained in Cairo, with its tail between its legs.
III. Western Plans.  
On 12 December, the Friends of Syria (FoS) met for their fourth conference in Marrakech, Morocco. Hilary Clinton could not go because she contracted a stomach virus. The FoS gave full political recognition to the Syrian National Coalition (SNC). They stopped short of calling it the government in exile and naming a cabinet to take charge when the Assad regime falls. Two reasons prevented this from happening: firstly, the Russians would not countenance a new government that does not have parts of the Assad regime in place; secondly, the Syrian National Coalition itself is rife with disagreements, with more secular sections nervous about the increased power of political Islam in its combine. The declaration reiterated the integrity of Syria, called for an immediate ceasefire, and also recognized "the legitimate need for the Syrian people to defend themselves against the violent and brutal campaign of al-Assad regime."
Based on her reading of western intelligence reports, Hilary Clinton had said a week ago, "It appears as though the opposition in Syria is now capable of holding ground, that they are able to bring the fight to the government forces." The recognition of the right of the Syrian people to "defend themselves" comes somewhat late in the game. Syrians have already been in the thick of an uneven military battle since at least September 2011. Massive casualties amongst the poorly armed and untrained fighters did not deter the resistance, which remarkably continued to take on a regime that was willing to use considerable force – having already demonstrated its cruelty with the arrest and torture of children in Banyas, Daraa, Damascus, Douma, Homs, and al-Tal, including the brutal torture and murder of Hamza Ali al-Khateeb on 29 April, 2011. The state security,Amn al-Dawla, the political security, Amn al-Siyasi, and the military security, Amn al-Askari, had no compunction about age or culpability; a young boy at a peaceful demonstration had to be crushed before the rebellion went into its armed phase. Such painful incidents hardened the opposition, whose resilience against the regime now seems to have turned the tide. 
The US has decided to put its snout more deliberately into the process because, the New York Times notes, "it appeared the opposition fighters were beginning to gain momentum – and were becoming dominated by radical Islamists." While the Eminencies gathered in Morocco, in Turkey, the rebel commanders formed the Supreme Military Council. Reports suggest that the Qataris and the Saudis had pushed for this formation to better canalize their military assistance. Radical Islamists who have been very effective in the Syrian battlefield are unwilling to be shut out of this Council even though the recently banned al-Nusra Front was not invited.
As a sign that al-Nusra might not be as marginal as the White House hopes, senior Brotherhood leader Mohammed Farouk Tayfour said that this decision was "too hasty." Tayfour, who is the deputy comptroller general of the Brotherhood and on the executive board of the Council, is from Hama, bombed to oblivion in 1982 by the senior Assad, but not after Tayfour's Combatant Vanguard, Attali'a el-Moukatillah, had itself taken the armed struggle to the regime. His group conducted the infamous Aleppo Artillery School massacre in 1979 against Alawite officers, so he has some sympathy for the means deployed by al-Nusra, and probably has an acute understanding that the West wishes to weaken the political Islamists in the future Syria.
Washington is in two minds about the harder edge of the Islamists, and their capability. New details of the Qatari arms pipeline in Libya have challenged the US on whether arming the Syrians rebels is a good idea. The Qataris, a US Defense Department official told The New York Times, were giving out weaponry to groups in Libya that are "more antidemocratic, more hard-line… closer to an extreme version of Islam." One US arms dealer says that the Qataris had no method to their disbursement, "They just handed [weapons] out like candy." Reports of rebel groups beheading children and massacring civilians (such as on 11 December in the 'Alawite village of Aqrab in Hamah – several hundred reported dead or injured) bring an air of complexity to the Syrian conflict. The attack on the US consulate in Benghazi (Libya) sits between the lines of such stories.
The West is in a bind. There is reticence to arm fully the Syrian rebellion. This creates the potential for those who have been doing the arming (the Qataris and other Gulf Arabs) to influence the kinds of groups on the ground, which lean more to the side of extremism. If the West does not begin to send in more sophisticated weaponry, there is no guarantee that these would not go to the extremists anyway – since they, unlike the liberals, have a presence on the ground alongside the resistance committees, which are neither extremist nor run by the liberals. The Western backed liberals, in other words, will not be able to control or have purchase over the groups that get the arms. Such fears are not Washington's alone. As the US signaled it would recognize the Coalition, Doctor Kamal Labwani, one of the most prominent liberals, said on 11 December from Turkey, "If the Americans want to recognize this Coalition then they take the responsibility of putting the Muslim Brotherhood in power and all the consequences that entails." 
A third theory is that the West covertly approves the support to the hardline groups, hoping that once the game is up for Assad, these irritants will be a worry to the liberals who will be weak and beholden to the West. This third theory suggests that there is less of a gap between the maneuvering of Qatar and the supposed reticence of the US government. My conversations with US policy makers suggests that things are not so clear to them, and that there is indeed a divide in the Obama White House, with one part of the apparatus very cautious about any on-the-ground action, and another part raring to go. 
Alerts from Tel Aviv over fears of an Islamist take-over of Syria play well amongst the Washington elite who does not want to extend the US into Syria. They prefer the bloodbath to continue, Syria be bled to death, and then the Opposition's liberals miraculously show up in Damascus as the new leadership. Washington does not want a repeat of the Libyan Model for Syria. It prefers the Yemen Model, although with few options left in the inner circle around Assad, it will be left to one of the suits in the Coalition to take charge. Washington and Tel Aviv want Assadism without Assad, what is known as "authoritarian moderation," (a term coined by Anthony Cordesman and Ahmed Hashim in 1997 regarding regime change in Iraq). 
The Brotherhood holds forty seats of the Council's one hundred twenty seats. This does not bother the US, which has had a long relationship with the Syrian Brotherhood, including using them as "surrogates" (in the words of former CIA officer Robert Baer) against the Assad regime since the 1980s. But the Israelis are allergic to the titular head of the Coalition, Mouaz al-Khatib. Last year, al-Khatib wrote an essay in which he called Zionism "a cancerous movement," insulting Israel's governing ideology. There was no care that he differentiated this movement from "Jews as followers of a religion greatly respected in Islam." It was enough that he is anti-Zionist to alert Tel Aviv to make the case against him, despite the fact that al-Khatib has moderated his views since his elevation in early November. The Israelis are nervous about the end of Assad. They liked their ambivalent dictator – he allowed them to brag about being "the only democracy in the Middle East," and he defended their border since 1973. Israel's strategic defeat in Gaza must open a period of rethinking in Tel Aviv over whether it wants to risk one more hostile government on its borders.
The USS Eisenhower has now sailed into the Eastern Mediterranean. It would only have been allowed to approach the area around the Russian base of Tartus (Syria) if Moscow had given it permission to do so. Russia's Prime Minister Putin was in Ankara, where he kissed the Pasha's hand in the hope of increasing Russian-Turkish trade. There was bold talk about tripling the economic ties to warm up the frosty relations between these old Cold War adversaries. In Paris, Putin shrugged off the ties between Moscow and Damascus, "Russia has no special relations with President Assad. Such relations existed between the Soviet Union and his father, but they do not exist between our country and the incumbent Syrian President." Russia's Foreign Minister Lavrov told Argumenty & Fakty that his country was not prepared to back Assad to the very end, and that they were seeking to open direct talks between Ankara and Damascus to restart the stalled regional dialogue. It has become reasonably clear to Moscow that the Sultan of Damascus is fighting for his survival, and that this has left him with no options: there is no flexibility for Assad, so there is no influence for the Russians. They are seeking other avenues for their own national interest.
Russia's fear is the expansion of NATO's influence, and so Lavrov is worried about the NATO defensive batteries that will be set in place in southern Turkey. NATO has indicated on several occasions that it does not want to enter the conflict in Syria. The batteries are, NATO's General Secretary Anders Fog Rasmussen indicated, the maximum position for the alliance. It comes alongside talk of Weapons of Mass Destruction, which is a legitimate fear given the casualness with which the Assad regime has used violence against the population. It is because of this casualness that Washington might wish to learn a lesson that Moscow has already digested: Assad is fighting to the very end, he feels that the lack of international action thus far (despite the forty thousand dead) gives him impunity to act, and the idea that he will go into exile in Latin America is a cruel joke against his overblown sense of his own patrimony.
The recognition of the Council by the US, the NATO batteries, the ships in the eastern Mediterranean, the familiar talk of WMDs – none of this will pressure Assad to negotiations. As the writer and dissident Yassin al-Haj Saleh put it in a recent interview from Damascus, the pressure on Assad, absent a change in the balance of forces on the ground, will only push him to more extreme steps of self-defense. "Whoever wants a serious negotiation with the regime must be stronger than the regime," he notes. If the Russians begin to dry up their supply lines to the Syrian army, this will certainly further isolate and weaken it. Syrians who oppose Assad call the regime a "gang" or an "occupation force," an indication that their fear of the regime has evaporated. All that remains for it is superiority in arms. When that will eventually cease, Assad will have to sue for peace. "This is a painful reality for our country," says Saleh, "which makes it a playground for a very violent and large scale battle. But this is our situation, and we need to acknowledge it with a very clear mind. Illusions about the Assad regime may be more costly and more painful than anything that's happened today." The emphasis on the words our situation is very important. Syrians have this in hand, at great cost of life. If the West decides to enter on a White Horse now, it will be simply to take charge of the post-Assad situation. It will not be on humanitarian grounds. 
A fragile hope rests on the revitalization of Syrian or Arab nationalism as a cord that binds the people across the widening sectarian divides. But, in the dungeons of the Ba'ath, Syrian nationalism was asphyxiated. Perhaps it is too much to hope for its revival in the midst of this tortured struggle. The politics are bewildering, the human suffering, intolerable.
Russia changes tack on Syria 
By M K Bhadrakumar    
Asia Times 15 December, 2012
Extracts ;
Russia is throwing in the towel on Syria after an almost two-year long blaze of Cold War-era rhetoric. It dug in tenaciously at the United Nations Security Council holding its veto card to block a Western intervention in Syria but has been outmaneuvered on the ground and is being presented with a fait accompli that the regime it supported in Damascus is fast becoming a thing of the past. 

The Kremlin's special envoy for Syria, Mikhail Bogdanov, admitted for the first time on Thursday that the rebels are on a winning spree and the momentum may coast them to outright victory over the government's forces. Bogdanov contemplated a rebel victory. Without mincing words, he said, "One must look facts in the face. Unfortunately, the victory of the Syrian opposition cannot be ruled out." 


What does Russia do now? Moscow is pretty much isolated on the Syrian question and has virtually painted itself into a corner. The point is, over a hundred countries voiced their recognition of the newly formed Syrian opposition alliance at the meeting of the "Friends of Syria" in Morocco on Wednesday. 

The only way out for Moscow now will be to seek to strike a deal with the United States, and Russian diplomats are certainly adept at this. To Russia's comfort, the US also happens to be grappling with a complex situation. 

Bogdanov may have done some shrewd kite-flying on Thursday when he openly began speculating publicly on this explosive issue, which is on everyone's mind. "Everyone is afraid of that, including our American partners," he said, adding that militants were already gaining control of Syrian military arsenals on the ground, including anti-aircraft missiles. 

Russia can hope to play on the Manichean fears in Washington. The US decision to brand the Nusra Front as an al-Qaeda group underscores that the Obama administration keeps one eye on Libya. --

From the US viewpoint, the best outcome in Syria would have been a military takeover, which would leave the state structures intact - as in Egypt - and open the door to expansion of American influence in Damascus to steer the country toward an agreeable democratic outcome. Russia wields big influence over the Syrian military. 

In any case, Turkey also wants Russia out of the Eastern Mediterranean. Thus, regime change in Syria becomes a serious strategic setback for Russia. No doubt, Moscow's ability to influence the historic transformation of the Middle East has been seriously impaired. 

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey. 
The Endgame in Syria
9 Dec2012
Reports of progress by the Free Syrian Army and that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may be readying his chemical weapons gave grist to the media mill this week that Assad's final days may once again be imminent. The meetings between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and among UN Special Envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov renewed expectations that there may be a diplomatic plan afoot.
As the "post-Assad era" has been predicted for nearly 20 months, it is worth carefully examining four trends that might signal if and when there is an endgame in Syria — and what that endgame would be.
The first trend is the role of the Alawites. As reported in this column last week, "President Assad is the leader of the Alawites, until the armed Alawites decide otherwise. Simply put, until the Syrian Alawites themselves make a change, they will back Assad. Any initiative that therefore leaves out these same Alawites of Syria, and overlooks the sectarian, local and regional dimensions of the Syrian conflict, is a recipe for diplomatic failure and more deaths among all Syrians… Discussion of a "post-Assad" future for Syria solely among the Syrian National Coalition in Istanbul or Doha, absent a role for the Alawites inside Syria — who are presently represented and defended by Assad — will come to naught."
CNN picked up this trend, first reported by Al-Monitor. "In the end," Jamie Crawford blogs, "Assad is still seen as having the vast support of his Alawite sect, that of the Iranian government, and with it, a ruthless ability to stay and fight to the end. Whether his inner core of support will ultimately see that as the best option, remains to be seen."
Also picking up this trend was US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, who spoke this week about the role of the Alawite community in Syria and fears expressed in some quarters that they could be victims of a 'genocide' in a post-Assad scenario. Ford said the Syrian opposition needs "to work with the Alawis and to help them understand that they do have a place in the future Syria, and a place where, as I said, they can live with safety and to enjoy the rights all other Syrians."
These statements reflect a positive and overdue step in recognizing that the battle for Syria is not just the "Assad regime" against "the opposition," as it has been often and misleadingly portrayed. It is also a sectarian war playing out in Syria and throughout the region.
There are approximately 2.6 million Alawites in Syria out of a population of about 21 million. The Alawites, an offshoot of Shia Islam, are primarily located along Syria's coast, in Tartous and Latakia, and in the plains surrounding Homs and Hama, as well as scattered throughout the country. They are a minority at war with Sunni Muslim majority, with Christians and other groups as victims caught in the crossfire.
The Alawites happen to be the community of the Assads and therefore have enjoyed the good graces of the regime in power. There should be no guilt by association, but there is. The Sunni and Alawite communities, backed by their regional patrons, are in a killing mood. Hundreds of thousands of Alawites are armed to bear, and will stay so, thanks to Russia and Iran, just as Qatar Turkey, and Saudi Arabia militarily support the Free Syrian Army and other armed opposition groups, including an increasing number of hard-core Salafi fighters linked to jihadists in Iraq and North Africa. 
The need for reconciliation between the Sunni and Alawite communities is essential whatever Assad's fate. Absent a lucky hit, that fate will be decided by the Alawites themselves, those Alawites in Syria that is, not those in the hotels of Doha or Marrakesh, at least for now.
The second trend is the role of Russia. The question is not, as is often reported, whether Russia is now ready to ditch Assad. It is fantasy to think Moscow would simply demarche Assad to take a hike and that he would do so. Such speculation defies analysis of what is the extent, and what are limits, of Russia's influence in Syria. The best Russia might be able to do is help broker an agreement with Assad and those around him to allow early elections (presently scheduled for 2014).
Moscow seems focused on a fresh diplomatic approach to Syria. The Putin-Erdogan meeting last week appeared to move Turkish policy, if only slightly. As senior Turkish journalist Semih Idiz wrote in Al-Monitor, "Turkey appears to be reconciled to the idea — which it previously rejected — that key elements of the present regime in Damascus will probably have to be retained after Assad goes." Those "key elements" include the Syrian Army, which might number at least 200,000 loyalists and regime supporters, still a formidable force, and a sign that a "post-Assad" era may not be in the cards even if he is forced from the presidential palace but remains in Syria. 
The third and related trend is the potential for increased tensions and further skirmishes between Turkey and Syria, which also brings us back to Syria's chemical weapons.
Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said on Saturday that chemical and biological weapons will not be used "inside Syria." In July, Makdisi had said that "chemical weapon's won't be used unless in case of external aggression." If Assad has given the order to prepare his chemical weapons arsenal, the target could well be Turkey. The Turkish border is the lifeline for those fighting Assad's government. Turkey's very public request for patriot surface-to-air missiles should be considered in this context. Putin's ability to get Erdogan to recognize the need for a unified Syria and Syrian army may have been an urgent signal to those around Assad to help defuse this crisis. 
The fourth trend is the role of Iran, whose influence in Syria surpasses that of Russia. There is no closer relationship, and no country with more vital interests in Syria. Syria is Iran's strategic depth and its supply line to Hezbollah and other affiliated groups. Iran can be the key either to a diplomatic solution, which has been reported extensively in Al-Monitor, or to conflict on other fronts, including Gaza, Lebanon, and the Arab-Kurdish fault line in Iraq. 
The emphasis on Syria's chemical weapons may also be linked to the Iran file. Syria's chemical weapons program has reportedly been assisted by Iran. In the regional context, the program could be considered an Iranian strategic asset, especially in the event of an Iranian-Israeli confrontation. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, in a speech on Oct. 11, 2012, about the Iranian-built Hezbollah drone shot down over Israel, opaquely referenced other capabilities, saying "the Resistance is able to hide its capacities as well as revealing them or some of them at the appropriate time to send the appropriate message in the appropriate time." 
Iran also may worry about the principle of allowing the West to take out Syria's chemical weapons at a time when its nuclear program is under threat. Iran might therefore declare its own "red line" as a statement against foreign intervention. Acquiescing in an attack on Syria could be seen as sending the wrong signal about its strategic assets in Iran and throughout the region.
As negotiations continue on the date for the next round of talks between the P5+1 and Iran about its nuclear program, the utility of such a negotiation and forum is open to question. The strategic issues are already very much in play in Syria and throughout the Middle East. This is, in the end, a local issue and the prospects for either resolution or escalation will be determined by what happens in the region.
The endgame in Syria will be elections, which can only take place after a cease-fire. The cease-fire, if it is to happen, will need to be negotiated with Assad or whoever he designates. And if there are elections, whether early or not, who would run on behalf of the Alawite community, if not Assad himself, or perhaps another Alawite, a "Syrian Medvedev?"
One cannot look at Syria without thinking about Egypt and Libya. There is what should by now be the obvious point about how the Arab Spring has become an Islamic winter in the context of fragile if not failing states. Syria is no different, and could be worse.
In what might be a best-case scenario, one could envision Syria's Muslim Brotherhood, with increasing Salafist influence, running as a reconstituted party on the model of Morsi's "Freedom and Justice Party" against the party of the Alawite regime or its inheritor, perhaps backed by Christians and secular Sunnis, who would claim to uphold Syria's modern and secular trend. The election would pivot on the attraction of the party of the Brotherhood to those secular or moderate Sunni Syrians who might be wary of the Brothers and their allies, the imposition of Shariah Law and a power grab that would return Syria to dictatorship, this time in Islamic guise. The role of the secular Sunni community in Syria also depends on how events in Egypt unfold, and what model Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood can provide to comfort secular Sunnis. In contemplating this and any other scenario about Syria, the "final days" may be more illusion than reality.