Tuesday, September 23, 2014

ISIS is the New VC

The redoubtable Loveday Morris of the Washington Post describes a catastrophic defeat of the Iraqi Army by ISIS, in which as many as 500 Iraqi soldiers were lost. The incident reminds one of the war in Vietnam, where enemy cadres displayed diabolical cunning and intense devotion, but allies appeared dazed and confused. Nor would recollections of a certain Trojan Horse be inappropriate. 

* * *

The lead-up to Sunday’s crisis began a week ago, when the last road to Camp Saqlawiyah, just north of insurgent-controlled Fallujah, was cut by Islamic State militants. One of two tanks that were among the vehicles guarding the road left to refuel, and the militants took the opportunity to attack those that remained, said a 9th Division soldier who was present and spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.

The fall of the units protecting the supply route meant that the five battalions inside the base were completely besieged.

“There were no reinforcements, no food supplies, no medicine, no water, and then our ammunition began to run out,” said 1st Lt. Haider Majid, 28. “We called our leaders so many times. We called our commanders, we called members of parliament, but they just left us there to die.” . . .

The major assault came Sunday. Soldiers interviewed said army commanders had sent word via walkie-talkie that a rescue mission was on its way and had taken control of a nearby bridge.

Shortly afterward, Iraqi army armored vehicles and military trucks arrived, and the men inside were dressed in the uniforms of Iraqi counterterrorism forces, the surviving soldiers said.

“We thought this was the support we were promised was on the way,” said Capt. Ahmed Hussein of the 8th Division. “The first three Humvees were ahead of the rest with some military trucks. We just let them in.”

One Humvee exploded in the middle of the camp. The two others drove to the perimeter and detonated. The rest of the Islamic State convoy was held back at the entrance, where the survivors said the militants carried out several more suicide bombings as they tried to break in.

“I gathered my soldiers and said: ‘We are going to die anyway. Let’s try to get out,’ ” Hussein said, adding that he and about 400 other soldiers escaped under heavy fire in a convoy. Others were left behind. . . .

The rescue mission that the soldiers had been told was coming “100 percent failed,” he said. On the bridge that they were told had been secured, they found the remnants of that mission: burned army vehicles. . . .

For some soldiers, the incident was the latest — and last — in a series of humiliations. Hussein, for his part, said he would leave the army to join a Shiite militia.

“We don’t have any leadership,” he said. But for the militias, “their leadership is with them in the field; they look after their soldiers.”

* * *


Loveday Morris, “Islamic State attack on Iraqi bases leaves hundreds missing, shows army weaknesses,” The Washington Post, September 22, 2014. This excerpt is about a third of the original. Oddly, when I accessed this story via the Washington Post website, it was missing the best details (included above), but a version accessed via twitter included them. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Iraqi Shia: ISIS a Creation of US & Israel

David D. Kirkpatrick, the New York Times bureau chief in Cairo, has ventured to Iraq of late to report on the thinking of our close allies, the Iraqi Shia. In their view, there’s a whole lot of double-dealing going on.

* * *

The United States has conducted an escalating campaign of deadly airstrikes against the extremists of the Islamic State for more than a month. But that appears to have done little to tamp down the conspiracy theories still circulating from the streets of Baghdad to the highest levels of Iraqi government that the C.I.A. is secretly behind the same extremists that it is now attacking.

“We know about who made Daesh,” said Bahaa al-Araji, a deputy prime minister, using an Arabic shorthand for the Islamic State on Saturday at a demonstration called by the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr to warn against the possible deployment of American ground troops. Mr. Sadr publicly blamed the C.I.A. for creating the Islamic State in a speech last week, and interviews suggested that most of the few thousand people at the demonstration, including dozens of members of Parliament, subscribed to the same theory. (Mr. Sadr is considered close to Iran, and the theory is popular there as well.)

When an American journalist asked Mr. Araji to clarify if he blamed the C.I.A. for the Islamic State, he retreated: “I don’t know. I am one of the poor people,” he said, speaking fluent English and quickly stepping back toward the open door of a chauffeur-driven SUV. “But we fear very much. Thank you!”

The prevalence of the theory in the streets underscored the deep suspicions of the American military’s return to Iraq more than a decade after its invasion, in 2003. The casual endorsement by a senior official, though, was also a pointed reminder that the new Iraqi government may be an awkward partner for the American-led campaign to drive out the extremists.

The Islamic State, also known by the acronym ISIS, has conquered many of the predominantly Sunni Muslim provinces in Iraq’s northeast, aided by the alienation of many residents to the Shiite-dominated government of the former prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. President Obama has insisted repeatedly that American military action against the Islamic State depended on the installation of a more inclusive government in Baghdad, but he moved ahead before it was complete.

The Parliament has not yet confirmed nominees for the crucial posts of interior or defense minister, in part because of discord between Sunni and Shiite factions, and the Iraqi news media has reported that it may be more than a month before the posts are filled.

The demonstration on Saturday was the latest in a series of signals from Shiite leaders or militias, especially those considered close to Iran, warning the United States not to put its soldiers back on the ground. Mr. Obama has pledged not to send combat troops, but he seems to have convinced few Iraqis. “We don’t trust him,” said Raad Hatem, 40.

Haidar al-Assadi, 40, agreed. “The Islamic State is a clear creation of the United States, and the United States is trying to intervene again using the excuse of the Islamic State,” he said.

Shiite militias and volunteers, he said, were already answering the call from religious leaders to defend Iraq from the Islamic State without American help. “This is how we do it,” he said, adding that the same forces would keep American troops out. “The main reason Obama is saying he will not invade again is because he knows the Islamic resistance” of the Shiite militias “and he does not want to lose a single soldier.”

The leader of the Islamic State, for his part, declared on Saturday that he defied the world to stop him.

“The conspiracies of Jews, Christians, Shiites and all the tyrannical regimes in the Muslim countries have been powerless to make the Islamic State deviate from its path,” the leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared in an audio recording released over the Internet, using derogatory terms from early Islamic history to refer to Christians and Shiites.

“The entire world saw the powerlessness of America and its allies before a group of believers,” he said. “People now realize that victory is from God, and it shall not be aborted by armies and their arsenals.”

Many at the rally in Baghdad said they welcomed airstrikes against Mr. Baghdadi’s Islamic State but not American ground forces, the position that Mr. Sadr has taken. Many of the 30 lawmakers backed by Mr. Sadr — out of a Parliament of 328 seats — attended the rally.

Mr. Sadr’s supporters opposed Mr. Maliki, the former prime minister, and many at the rally were quick to criticize the former government for mistakes like failing to build a more dependable army. “We had a good army, so where is this army now?” asked Waleed al-Hasnawi, 35. “Maliki gave them everything, but they just left the battlefield.”

But few if any blamed Mr. Maliki for alienating Sunnis, as American officials assert, by permitting sectarian abuses under the Shiite-dominated security forces.

Omar al-Jabouri, 31, a Sunni Muslim from a predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad who attended the rally and said he volunteers with a Shiite brigade, argued that Mr. Maliki had alienated most Iraqis, regardless of their sect.

“He did not just exclude and marginalize the Sunni people; he ignored the Shiite people, too,” Mr. Jabouri said. “He gave special help to his family, his friends, people close to him. He did not really help the Shiite people, as many people think.”

But the Islamic State was a different story, Mr. Jabouri said. “It is obvious to everyone that the Islamic State is a creation of the United States and Israel.”

* * *


David D. Kirkpatrick, “Suspicions Run Deep in Iraq That C.I.A and the Islamic State Are United,” New York Times, September 20, 2014

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Syrian Refugees: Don't Renew the War

Matthew R. Steven, a researcher at York University in Canada, has a report at Syria Comment detailing the views of Syrian refugees in Irbid, The city is the second largest in Jordan and now hosts 160,000 Syrian refugees. Stevens emphasizes the difficulty of knowing the “representativeness” of opinions he sampled, but conveys opposition on the part of those canvassed to a foreign intervention that would renew the war. The refugees see the Free Syrian Army as weak and divided, a minor player alongside Assad and ISIS. These excerpts are about a third of the original:

Opportunistic sampling of Syrians living in Irbid has revealed greater diversity in political leanings than initially expected. Few report being staunch supporters of either Asad or the FSA. Irrespective of previous political hopes for Syria, many seem to be playing a pragmatic game of reconciliation—re-obscuring political affiliations in a preparation for rehabilitation with the regime. . . . 

There is little enthusiasm for a reinvigorated FSA making a new bid for power: Syrians canvassed are simply not in favour of another long phase of civil war fueled by further foreign influence. Political dreams are seen as waning in importance in the face of overwhelming desire to cut losses and restart lives—people yearn for careers, home ownership, marriage, children, all of which are near impossible for displaced Syrians in the current political climate in Jordan. Many are actively considering return in the short term, despite the risks. This is especially so for those who originated from areas such as Suwayda, which have already been reclaimed by SAA forces. Others talk of restarting lives in Damascus, though they cite the dangers of a life riddled with government checkpoints while carrying identification which associates them with the rebellious province of Dar’a.

While these findings can not be assumed reflect the desires of all Syrians in Jordan—notably they do not include residents of Zaatari, who are reported to be more staunch FSA supporters—I suspect that a concrete offer of amnesty from Asad, backed up by safe and successful reintegration of those who first repatriate, could spark large numbers of urban-based Syrians to return. Exhausted by the refugee experience, repatriated Syrians may constitute a major influence on the conflict sooner rather than later.

* * *


Matthew R. Stevens, “Dreaming of Home: Syrian Refugees in Jordan’s Cities—Will They Be Repatriated?Syria Comment, September 16, 2014

Friday, September 19, 2014

Erdogan: Israel Just Like Hitler

During his election campaign for president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan compared Israel to Hitler. The speech, a video of which is available on MEMRI TV, was posted on the internet on August 3, 2014. The following excerpts from Erdogan's speech were translated by MEMRI:

* * *

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "100 years ago, we withdrew our soldiers from Shuj'aiyya [in the Gaza Strip], but we never withdrew our hearts. If half of our heart is in Istanbul, rest assured that the other half is still in Gaza. Theodor Herzl sent an emissary to the great sovereign, Sultan Abdulhamid. He offered great amounts of money and gold in return for land in Palestine."

"Sultan Abdulhamid replied as follows: 'My two regiments, coming from Palestine and Syria, lovingly gave their lives down to the last soldier in the defense of Pleven. Not a single one remained alive. They all fell lifeless to the ground. The Turkish Empire belongs to the people of Turkey, not to me. I will not give away even the tiniest piece of it. Let the Jews keep their millions… When the empire is split into pieces, maybe then they can get Palestine without paying a penny. But only – and this is of utmost importance – only our cadaver can be cut into pieces. As long as we are alive, we will never agree for our body to be cut into pieces and divided up."

"Everything happened exactly as Sultan Abdulhamid said: First they turned the Ottoman Empire into a cadaver and cut it into pieces, and then a terrible atrocity began for Palestine and the Palestinians. Step by step, inch by inch, they were driven out, killed, and oppressed. The Palestinians were stripped of the ability to live in their land." . . .

"Now I am going to say something that will upset many people in the world: Just like Hitler tried to create a pure Aryan race in Germany, the State of Israel is pursuing the same goals right now.

"The Turkish-U.S. Friendship group [of the U.S. Congress] sent me a letter. In their letter, they try to threaten me. They will be getting their appropriate response from me, of course."

"But from here, let me also say the following: This is really amazing. They kill the women so that they will not be able to give birth to Palestinian babies. They kill the babies so that they will not be able to grow up to be men. They kill the men so that they will not be able to defend their homeland. They are even afraid of babies in cribs. They are even afraid of children playing in parks or on beaches. They are even afraid of the wounded or the wheelchair-ridden in hospitals."

"Rest assured that the more they kill, the more they will be afraid. The more they shed blood, the more they will drown in the blood that they shed. No cruelty lasts forever. The day is sure to come when they will be held accountable for their atrocities. We impatiently await this day of reckoning. We believe, from the bottom of our hearts, that laws will be implemented and that justice will prevail. We know that these baby killers – this Israel – will sooner or later be held accountable for all their deeds in accordance with the law." . . .

Crowd: "Damn Israel! Down with Israel!

"Damn Israel! Down with Israel!

"Damn Israel! Down with Israel!

"Damn Israel! Down with Israel!

"Damn Israel! Down with Israel!"

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Brothers and sisters, Allah willing, we shall continue to be on the side of justice. Peace, Gaza, and Palestine – until our final breath." 

* * *


Sistani: No Foreign Decisions for Iraq

From the New York Times, a report of a Friday sermon by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani: 

* * *

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the influential Shiite cleric, on Friday urged vigilance against Western political interference in Iraqi affairs but stopped short of opposing the American-led military campaign against the extremists of the Islamic State.

“All political leaders of the country must be aware and awake to prevent the external assistance against the Islamic State from becoming an entrance to breach Iraq’s independence,” Ayatollah Sistani said. “Cooperation with the international effort shall not be taken as a pretext to impose foreign decisions on events in Iraq, especially military events.”

His carefully balanced comments, in a statement read by his spokesman at Friday Prayer in the Iraqi city of Karbala, underscored the challenge facing the United States and its allies in their efforts to push back the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, without bolstering or antagonizing rival Shiite factions. . . .

In recent days, a handful of other Iraqi Shiite leaders or militias with closer ties to Iran have made statements expressing more wariness or opposition to the American-led military efforts, and American officials have said the Iranian proxies may be seeking to remind the Western states that Tehran, too, should be taken into account. On Friday, the Iraqi cleric Moktada al-Sadr, another influential voice with ties to Iran, called for a demonstration in Baghdad on Saturday to protest a potential incursion by American ground forces.

But Ayatollah Sistani, considered both independent and uniquely popular here, was more judicious. While he warned Iraqis to guard against foreign interference, he also appeared to endorse the idea that foreign help may be required to successfully engage the Sunni extremists.

“Iraq may be in need of assistance from its friends and brothers to combat black terrorism,” Ayatollah Sistani said. But he insisted that for Iraq, “preserving its sovereignty and independence must be the most important thing and must be taken into consideration.”

He also appealed for intersectarian solidarity in the fight against the extremists by specifically urging support for Dhuluiya, a Sunni town that has held out for months against a siege by the Sunni extremists. “Our brave Iraqi forces should help and defend Dhuluiya,” he said, “because its people are our brothers and they are the sons of our country.” . . .

* * *

David D. Kirkpatrick and Dan Bilefsky, “Iraqi Cleric’s Speech Strikes a Balance,” New York Times, September 19, 2014

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Poroshenko to Congress: A Choice Between Two Ways of Life

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshekno delivered an address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on September 19, 2014. This text is from the Kyiv Post

* * *

Mr. Speaker,
Majority Leader,
Members of the House, Members of the Senate
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me thank you for your warmth and hospitality.
Addressing both houses of Congress is one of the highest political privileges.
Standing here, I am grateful – and fully aware that this honor goes not to me, but to the people of Ukraine – those brave men and women who are today on the forefront of the global fight for democracy!
Allow me speak to you on their behalf.
I will focus on one thing that is at the core of Ukraine’s existence today: freedom.
There are moments in history when freedom is more than just a political concept.
At those moments, freedom becomes the ultimate choice, which defines who you are – as a person and as a nation.
Ukraine has lived this moment over the last 10 months – and became the scene of the most heroic story of the last decade, a synonym for sacrifice, dedication and the unbreakable will to live free.
The people of Ukraine stood up to the corrupt regime of Yakukovych.
They stood their ground during this dramatic winter – and they are standing their ground right now!
The defenders of freedom were willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of a better future. What is even more amazing, they won. Armed with only sticks and shields, they attacked the special police and chased them away.
The victory gained on the Independence Square in Kyiv, now known to the whole world as Maidan was a victory against police brutality, harassment by the state-controlled media, violence, and intimidation.
There is nothing more impressive than seeing hundreds of thousands of peaceful people forcing out a violent dictator, and changing the course of history.
Day after day, week after week, month after month – thousands upon thousands streamed into the streets of Kyiv, simply because their dignity didn’t allow them to remain passive and silent, while their liberties were at stake.
The stand-off on the Maidan lasted three months.
It culminated on February 20th and 21st – when over 100 protesters were shot by snipers.
We call them the “Heavenly Hundred”. We revere them as true national heroes.
We applaud their heroism!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In February, when the world saw that no one could take away Ukraine’s freedom – an external aggressor decided to take away a part of Ukraine’s territory.
The annexation of Crimea became one of the most cynical acts of treachery in modern history.
Ukraine, which gave up the world’s third-largest nuclear potential in exchange for security assurances, was stabbed in the back by one of the countries who gave her those assurances.
Allow me to remind you: 20 years ago, in the Budapest Memorandum, Russia (along with the United States, the United Kingdom, France and China) vowed to provide for the inviolability of Ukraine’s state borders and territorial sovereignty.
In reality, what we got from Russia was annexation and a war that has brought Ukraine to the brink of its survival.
The Soviet Union had collapsed too quickly, creating the illusion that this chapter in history was closed, and that this story had come to the end.
But in the minds of the people, it has not ended. The imperialistic mindset is still there. Nostalgia for the Soviet Union and the dismissal of the settlement that ended the Cold War has been cultivating revisionist instincts.
In 2008, Russian troops occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Now they have invaded Ukraine.  The right to protect ethnic Russians, and even Russian speakers, can and already has become a reason to fan the flames of war. Besides Ukraine, the Russian speakers reside in Moldova, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Baltic States, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria.
Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine – what happens next?
Many things, including the effectiveness of the global non-proliferation system, will be put to a severe test and judged depending on the response of America, and the world, to that question.
Even NATO allies are at risk. As if to underline this point, two days after President Barack Obama’s visit to Estonia, the day the NATO summit ended, an Estonian intelligence officer was abducted and accused of espionage. 
The security assurances that were extended to Ukraine then have failed to work, proving that no agreements or treaties can secure world order.
So, what can bring peace and maintain it? - Common values, cooperation, and interdependence; leadership, and responsibility.   
Therefore, I urge you not to let Ukraine stand alone in the face of this aggression.
The United States made a commitment that it would stand behind Ukraine’s territorial integrity – and we hope that it will live up to that promise.
Democracies must support each other.
They must show solidarity in the face of aggression and adversity.
Otherwise, they will be eliminated – one by one.
The aggression against Ukraine has become one of the worst setbacks for the cause of democracy in the world in years.
With just one move, the world has been thrown back in time – to a reality of territorial claims, zones of influence, criminal aggression and annexations.
Within two weeks Crimea was invaded and annexed.
Ukraine was not prepared to face the enemy.
The consequences were devastating.
The post-war international system of checks and balances was effectively ruined.
The world was plunged into the worst security crisis since the US-USSR stand-off of 1962.
Today, we are witnessing another attempt at dividing the world, and Ukraine stands at the center of this attempt.
The outcome of today’s war will determine whether we will be forced to accept the reality of a dark, torn, and bitter Europe as part of a new world order.
These Ukrainian army, these young boys (underequipped, and often unappreciated by the world) are the only thing that now stands between the reality of peaceful coexistence and the nightmare of a full relapse into the previous century and a new cold war.
And should that happen, then this would neither be the end of it, nor the worst of it.
The war that these young men are fighting today is not only Ukraine’s war.
It is Europe’s, and it is America’s war, too. It is a war of the free world – and for a free world!
Today, aggression against Ukraine is a threat to global security everywhere. Hybrid proxy wars, terrorism, national radical and extremist movements, the erosion of international agreements, the blurring, and even erasing, of national identities: all of these threats now challenge Europe. If they are not stopped now, they will cross European borders and spread throughout the globe.
To prevent this, thousands of Ukrainian soldiers are in the line of fire right now.
Speaking in the United States Congress, from this high beacon of freedom, I want to thank them for their sacrifice!
I urge the world to recognize and endorse their fight!
They need more political support!
And they need more military equipment – both non-lethal and lethal.
Blankets and night-vision goggles are important.
But one cannot win a war with blankets!
I thank all those in America who realize and appreciate the historic importance of this fight.
Just like Israel, Ukraine has the right to defend her territory – and it will do so, with all the courage of her heart and dedication of her soul!
I urge America to help us and to rise and be equal to its natural and manifest role – I urge America to lead the way!
Ukraine has always had a special bond with the United States.
Today, Ukraine is taking shape as America’s natural and consequential partner in the region.
This partnership is not circumstantial.
It has not come about because we find ourselves “in the same boat”.
It came about because, in the moment of existential crisis, Ukraine’s choice was the same as America’s: freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.
In a time of Europe’s skepticism and Russia’s open, unprovoked hostility, Ukrainian citizens have been ready to give their lives to see Ukraine democratic and free.
Circumstantial “boats” can change. The nature of a people cannot.
It is in the nature of the Ukrainian people to tolerate no dictators and to strive for their freedom – no matter what.
Given today’s situation, Ukraine’s democracy will have to rely on a strong army.
In the upcoming years, building a strong military will be another existential test for Ukrainian democracy.
I see it as my utmost duty to rectify the damage done to the Ukrainian military and to give Ukraine a strong, modern army that we can be proud of.
With this in mind, I strongly encourage the United States to give Ukraine special, non-allied partner status.
I also ask that the United States be forceful and stand by its principles with respect to further sanctions against the aggressor.
Economic sanctions are important for many reasons.
They help to distinguish between good and evil.
They help us defend and stand the moral high ground and not to sink into indifference disguised as pragmatism.
I understand that the wars of the last decade have taken a heavy toll on the economy of the West.
I understand that American citizens and taxpayers want peace, not war.
So do Ukrainian citizens and taxpayers.
However, there are moments in history, whose importance cannot be measured solely in percentages of GDP growth.
Ukraine’s war is the only war of the last decade that is purely about values.
One nation decided to be free and democratic.
Another nation decided to punish her for this.
The world simply cannot allow this kind of behavior!
“Values come first” – this is the truth the West would remind Ukraine of over the last years.
Now it is Ukraine’s turn to remind the West of this truth!
Allow me to also say this: there is no way, at no price, and under no condition, that we will ever put up with Crimea’s occupation.
Ending the occupation and annulling the annexation is not only an integral precondition to a full normalization of relations between Ukraine and Russia.
It is also an integral precondition to Crimea’s prosperity and modernization!
Until this precondition is fulfilled, I urge America and the world to stand united in sending a signal to the aggressors of today and of the future, that the policy and practice of annexation will never be tolerated.
Clearly I am not talking about a military solution of the Crimean problem.
This will be a dilemma for many years; a choice between two ways of life and two political, economic, and social systems.
But I have no doubt that in the long run the system that offers the greater freedom will prevail.
It always does!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The last half-year has been a time of ultimate challenge for millions of Ukrainians.
It was a time of heroism and sacrifice.
To many – it became the ultimate sacrifice.
Let me share with you two human stories that illustrate my point.
On March 3rd, when the occupation of Crimea just started, there was one man in the Crimean city of Simferopol who did the unthinkable.
When millions felt paralyzed and stunned at what was unfolding before their eyes, Reshat Ametov, a 39-year-old father of three, decided not to be silent.
This brave son of the Crimean Tatar people went on a one-man protest in front of the occupied City Hall.
He did nothing more than hold a sheet of paper that said “NO to Occupation!”
A group of unknown people arrested him and transported him away – in the plain sight of dozens of witnesses and in front of TV cameras.
Two weeks later he was found tortured and executed – mafia-style.
Just the thought of this man’s final tormented minutes sends chills down my spine.
I ask myself – what made this hero do what he did?
And I can find no other answer than – he did it for freedom; so that his children would not face slavery like that of a neo-Stalinist dictatorship.
I am convinced that years from now, when Crimea’s occupation will belong to the past, the Crimean people will think about what he did and salute his braveness – just like I do now!
Ukraine will always stand together with the Crimean Tatar people, whose language, rights, and culture are being trampled upon right now – as they were many years ago under Soviet rule.
I urge America and the world not to be silent about these crimes.
It is Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars who are being oppressed in Crimea today.
And it is time for all people of good will to rephrase John Kennedy’s words from over 50 years ago: “I am a Crimean Tatar!” – and there is nothing that would make me give up my freedom!
Let me also commemorate Volodymyr Rybak, a 42-year-old father of two, and a member of the municipal parliament of East Ukrainian Horlivka.
On April 15, he confronted the separatists and Russian special-ops officers over a separatist flag that they were trying to hoist atop the local administration building.
Just like Reshat Ametov – he was abducted and tortured.
His last hours must have been unthinkable. His body was badly mutilated.
Today I stand here – in awe of this tragedy, and of the courage and sacrifice of this man, and of the courage and sacrifice of millions of Ukrainians.
From the bottom of my heart, I deeply believe that there will be a time (and very soon!), when Horlivka’s central square will be named after Volodymyr and when schoolchildren will bring flowers to his monument.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Make no mistake: Europe’s, and the world’s, choice right now is not a choice between a uni-polar and a multi-polar order.
Neither is it a choice between different kinds of civilizations.
It is a choice between civilization and barbarism.
And while standing at this juncture, before this great trial – the democratic world cannot shrink or hesitate!
We do not want to see all the democratic accomplishments of the last decades to be erased and to have been for nothing.
The free world must stand its ground. And with America’s help – it will!
We live in a world that is mutually reliant and interconnected.
In this world, the aggression on one democratic nation is aggression against all.
If anyone had doubts about this, if anyone was hoping “to sit it out” while Ukrainians and Russians continue killing each other – this ended on July 18th, when a Russian missile launched by a Russian mercenary shot down the civilian Boeing-777.
298 innocent, peaceful people, many of whom were flying on their vacations in the South, met their ultimate demise in the steppes of Ukraine.
Their cold-blooded killing (just like the barbaric treatment of their remains afterwards) showed that whoever floods Europe with uncontrolled weapons – puts millions of lives at risk. For years and decades to come.
This was an indisputable brutal act of terror. Unfortunately, it was this tragedy that gave a wake up call to many in the world about the situation in Ukraine.
Long after wars end – the fear and hate linger on.
How many more deaths will be caused by the handguns handed out, with absolutely no controls or accountability, in those regions?
How many innocent children will step on land mines so massively utilized by separatists?
How many lives will be ruined and souls poisoned by the propaganda machine?
The act of pumping the region full of uncontrolled arms  represents a policy of state-funded terrorism – and it needs to stop now!
The cynical downing of the Malaysian Boeing revealed one more important thing: we are now at the forefront of the fight against terrorism.
And we need to join our efforts to effectively respond to this challenge.
With this said, people throughout the world are asking the same questions.
“Are we on the eve of a new cold war?”
“Is the possibility of a new, terrible and unimaginable European war there?”
“Is what until recently seemed unthinkable now becoming a reality?”
Sadly, today, the answer to these questions is – “Yes.”
However, we cannot and must not accept this as an inevitability.
As recently as 2008, the then president of Russia ran his election campaign under the slogan “Freedom is better than non-freedom.”
I am sure that, despite the Crimean annexation and the ongoing aggression, millions of Russians still remember that slogan and take it seriously.
Let’s remind them of it!
Let’s show them that freedom is not a luxury (as some try to convince them), but a necessity – and a precondition for the true success of a nation!
I am convinced that the people of Ukraine and the people of Russia have enough goodwill to give peace one last chance and prevail against the spirit of hate.
That’s why my presidency began with a Peace Plan and a one-sided ceasefire.
That’s why we are holding our fire now.
That’s why two armies stand before each other – without massively shedding each other’s blood.
And if things work out right – they will not have to!
I am in daily contact with the leaders of the world, including the leader of Russia.
The dialogue is not easy. Over these last months, too much goodwill was destroyed.
Too much hate was generated – naturally and artificially.
Too many people have died.
Based on that, I feel there is a growing mutual recognition that enough is enough!
The bloodshed must stop! The pandemic of hate must be localized and contained!
As president, looking in the eyes of the mothers and wives of the dead soldiers and civilians has been my hardest duty.
No one can take it lightly. Today, it’s my burden – and the burden of President Putin.
As he lit a candle in a Moscow church to remember those who perished in this war last week – I did the same in Kyiv.
And from the bottom of heart, I deeply, profoundly wish that church candles would be the only things burned in Ukraine from now on.
Over the last months, Ukrainians have shown that they have the courage to stand up to the most powerful enemy.
We will never obey or bend to the aggressor. We are ready to fight.  But we are a people of peace.
I am ready to do my utmost to avoid a further escalation and casualties – even at this point, when the war has already started feeding on itself.
Sooner or later, peace will return to Ukrainian homes.
And despite the insanity of this war, I am convinced that peace can be achieved – sooner rather than later!
I am ready to offer those who live in Donbas more rights than any part of Ukraine has ever had in the history of the nation.
I am ready to discuss anything – accept one thing – Ukraine’s dismemberment.
And I am confident: if this war is about rights, and not about geopolitical ambitions – a solution must, and will be, found!
 Ladies and Gentlemen,
In 1991, independence came to Ukraine peacefully.
Yet, the more real this independence became – the higher grew its cost.
Today that cost is as high as it gets.
While fighting this war, we learn to value independence and to recognize true friends.
And at no point to we ever forget WHY we need independence.
We need it to have a country worthy of the dreams of our ancestors.
We need a state that would give its citizens a life of dignity, fairness and equal opportunity.
To reach this goal – we will have to root out the sins that drained Ukraine’s potential for such a long time and made the two decades of independence a time of lost opportunities.
We are painfully aware of these sins, largely inherited from the era of Soviet decay: corruption, bureaucracy and the self-preserving cynicism of political elites.
There is a saying that each people deserve the government it gets.
Ukraine’s two revolutions within a single decade show that Ukraine needs and deserves deep and profound modernization in all spheres – of the kind that brought economic success to our Western neighbors.
Given the current situation in and around Ukraine, the implementation of comprehensive reforms is not a matter of Ukraine succeeding, but of Ukraine surviving.
Deeply aware of that, I gave my voters this pledge – and I will stick to it!
With the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement signed and ratified this treaty simultaneously in the Ukrainian and the European Parliament – we have a clear path of reforms before us.
Never in the history of the European Union was there a document that was paid for so dearly – at such incredible human cost and sacrifice.
And this sacrifice, the memory of the hundreds dead and wounded, will be one more reason and incentive to hold to this unique chance to make Ukraine live up to its potential. 
Ukraine needs modern governance and non-corrupt public administration!
Ukraine needs to delegate more powers to local communities!
Ukraine needs to rely more on its strong, vibrant, and dynamic civil society!
Ukraine is building a new model of managing its state and economic affairs, where merit and hard work are duly rewarded!
Ukraine needs know-how, technology, and new start-ups to become better integrated with the global economy.
And for all that – we need America’s help!
In particular, I ask the Congress to create a special fund to support investments of American companies in Ukraine, and to help us with reforming our economy and our justice system!
I assure you that all aid received from the West will be utilized by non-corrupt institutions and that the new generation of officials will make sure the funds are distributed effectively.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We called our revolution the Revolution of Dignity.
Human dignity was the driving force that took people to the streets.
This revolution must result in an education of dignity, an economy of dignity, and a society of dignity.
Human dignity is what makes Ukraine’s heart beat and Ukraine’s mind look toward a new and better version of itself.
Human dignity is the one thing we have to oppose to the barbarism of those attacking us.
It is the one thing that we can set against the sea of lies in which the highly sophisticated and well-funded machine of Russian propaganda is trying to drown the truth about Ukrainian democracy.
In the coming years, too many things will depend on Ukraine’s success.
This success will be determined by Ukraine’s new leadership, by its new political generation and by the newly mobilized society of Ukraine.
Ukraine truly makes a difference.
By supporting Ukraine, you support a new future for Europe and the entire free world.
By supporting Ukraine, you support a nation that has chosen freedom in the most cynical of times.
In Ukraine, you don’t build a democracy – it already exists. You just defend it!
This is what makes Ukraine unique, and its struggle deeply and profoundly different from other conflicts on the world scene.
This is what makes Ukraine the ultimate test of adherence to the ideal of freedom!
“Live free or die!” – was one of the mottos of the American Revolutionary War.
“Live free or die!” – was the spirit on the revolutionary Maidan during the dramatic winter months of 2014.
“Live free or die!” are the words of Ukrainian soldiers standing on the line of freedom in this war.
“Live free!” – must be the answer, with which Ukraine comes out of this war.
“Live free!” – must be the message Ukraine and America send to the world, while standing together in this time of enormous challenge.
Thank you!

* * *

A few other items to put Poroshenko’s speech in Congress in context:

Jason Ditz of antiwar,com notes: “Poroshenko, and indeed other officials in the new Ukrainian government, have wildly varied their rhetoric in recent days, talking up peace and concessions when addressing eastern Ukraine, promising a great war to wipe them out when talking to hawkish ultranationalists in the west, and presenting a nigh-apocalyptic vision of a war on Russia when addressing potential donors.”

From the BBC:

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stressed that the legislation giving the special status to parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions for three-years would guarantee the "sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence" of Ukraine, while paving the way for decentralisation.
The amnesty affects the rebels, but does not cover the shooting down of the MH17 passenger plane in July.

Western leaders believe rebels shot down the Malaysia Airlines jet with a Russian missile - a charge the rebels and the Kremlin deny.

The legislation means that pro-Russian separatists taken prisoner in the fighting should now be released.

Separatists holding government buildings are now supposed to leave them, hand over captured Ukrainian soldiers and other prisoners and surrender their weapons.

Rebels accused of other "grave" crimes will not be covered by the new amnesty either.

But some Ukrainian lawmakers described the self-rule law as a sell-off of Ukraine in what they see as a war against Russia.

"A capitulation was announced today in this war," Oleh Tiagnybok, the leader of the nationalist Svoboda party, was quoted as saying by the Ukrainska Pravda website.

Andriy Shevchenko, an MP in the Batkivshchyna party led by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, said he was "ashamed of this parliament".

He said the law was voted in "a secret regime", violating normal parliamentary procedures.

Meanwhile, Andrei Purgin, a rebel leader in Donetsk, told AFP news agency that the eastern region "no longer has anything to do with Ukraine".

"Ukraine is free to adopt any law it wants. But we are not planning any federalism with Ukraine." . . .

* * *




Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Obama Issues Threat Against Assad

This excerpt is from a Peter Baker piece in the New York Times, September 13, reporting a conversation between Obama and various foreign policy experts. Obama expands on his administration’s role in the Syrian war and issues a threat against Assad:

* * *

If his thinking has evolved, Mr. Obama admitted no errors along the way. While some critics, and even his former secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, have faulted him for not arming moderate Syrian rebels years ago, Mr. Obama does not accept the premise that doing so would have forestalled the rise of ISIS.

“I have thought that through and tried to apply 20-20 hindsight,” he told some of his guests, as one recalled. “I’m perfectly willing to admit they were right, but even if they were right, I still can’t see how that would have changed the situation.”

He defended his decision to wait to approve airstrikes until last month in Iraq and last week in Syria, saying he wanted first to force Iraq to replace its government with a more inclusive coalition that could draw disaffected Sunnis away from supporting ISIS and take on the task of combating it.

But while Mr. Obama sees bolstering the new Iraqi government as his path to ultimate success on that side of the border, he struck his guests as less certain about the endgame on the Syrian side, where he has called for Mr. Assad to step down and must now rely on the same moderate Syrian rebels he refused to arm in the past.

Mr. Obama acknowledged it would be a long campaign, one complicated by a dearth of intelligence about possible targets on the Syrian side of the border and one that may not be immediately satisfying. “This isn’t going to be fireworks over Baghdad,” he said.

Asked by one of the columnists what he would do if his strategy did not work and he had to escalate further, Mr. Obama rejected the premise. “I’m not going to anticipate failure at this point,” he said.

He made clear the intricacy of the situation, though, as he contemplated the possibility that Mr. Assad might order his forces to fire at American planes entering Syrian airspace. If he dared to do that, Mr. Obama said he would order American forces to wipe out Syria’s air defense system, which he noted would be easier than striking ISIS because its locations are better known. He went on to say that such an action by Mr. Assad would lead to his overthrow, according to one account.

* * *

Peter Baker, “Paths to War, Then and Now, Haunt Obama,” New York Times, September 13, 2014