January 2, 2014

Updates On Syria [1.2]: MV Cape Ray To Destroy Syria's CW In The Mediterranean Within Weeks, Calls For A Ceasefire Grow, Health Crisis In Syria Reveals WHO's Lack Of Authority

1. An excerpt from, "Here's The Massive Ship Tasked With 'Unprecedented Mission' To Destroy Syria's Chemical Weapons" by Mathieu Rabechault, Agence France Presse, Business Insider, January 2:
With special machinery installed in the hold of this American cargo ship, the MV Cape Ray is poised to embark on an unprecedented mission to destroy Syria's lethal chemical agents at sea.

At a shipyard in Virginia, the 650-foot (197.5-meter) ship from the Maritime Administration's reserve fleet has been outfitted with two portable hydrolysis systems designed to neutralize the most dangerous chemicals in Syria's arsenal.

"I'm waiting for my sailing orders," said Captain Rick Jordan, clad in overalls and a construction helmet.
The US officer told reporters he expects to get the green light to set off "within about two weeks."

Under a deal brokered by Russia and the United States, Syria was supposed to remove its key chemical weapons components by the end of 2013.

But the country's raging civil war, logistical problems and bad weather have held up plans to move chemical agents out of Syria to the port of Latakia, according to the joint UN-Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) mission overseeing the effort.
The most dangerous elements used for mustard gas and the nerve agent sarin are supposed to be loaded soon onto cargo ships and escorted to Italy by Danish and Norwegian naval vessels.
In waters off Italy, about 700 tonnes of chemical agents will then be loaded onto the Cape Ray, according to Frank Kendall, Pentagon undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

The US ship will then head out to an undisclosed location in the Mediterranean to begin the task of neutralizing the chemical agents.
2. An excerpt from, "'Ceasefire' Is the Syria Word We Need to Hear" by Dr. Marc Gopin, Huffington Post, January 2:
The Western powers are now hearing respected men like Ryan Crocker suggest that they have to get used to the reality that Assad may have to stay. But that is not the way to stop the killing or end the stalemate. The opposition and the Gulf states, not to mention American leadership, can never accept the status quo ante. By contrast, the Russians and Iranians cannot accept the forcible removal of their ally and the rise of a Sunni jihadi state that will surely plunge Lebanon into war and the Shi'ites of Lebanon into desperation, not to mention the destruction of non-Muslim minorities.

"Ceasefire" must be socialized into the mindset of every party to this conflict. Each for its own reasons will see this as a "win" if it is framed properly. Assad will see it as a win because he will have survived a war and a global effort to remove him from power. The opposition, excluding the radical jihadis, will see it as a win because the will control much of the country. If they are smart they will realize that a ceasefire will give them control over much more, and with time, the whole country -- this because the people are mostly with them, and where they are not, in deep Alewite country, they were never going to control that anyway. Obama will see it as a win because he will have staked his legacy on diplomacy and negotiations over war, and Russia and Iran will see it as a win because they will have stuck by their ally in the face of Western forces. The people will see it as a win because they will have stopped dying and starving, but what's more, their voices will have gained more and more of an upper hand, to a degree at which extremists, shabiha and mukhabarat, are forced back into the shadows by international presence, verifications of safety, and eventually internationally observed governance and elections.

The big losers will be those who fantasize about the continuation of an endless Assad dynasty. That is DOA, and everyone knows it. Another big loser is the radical jihadis, but they are being used by everyone, from Assad himself to Qatar, for tactical ends only. These young criminals, abused and abusing the Muslim world, will be herded out of the country for Burma or the Central African Republic, by both the FSA and Assad. They will move on until the Muslim world tires of the Gulf funders bleeding their youth and terrorizing Islamic lands by brainwashing these young criminals. My bet is that Saudi Arabia is already done with this abuse, and Qatar will have to be called out and humiliated if they persist in funding war in Syria after everyone else presses for ceasefire. Assad will cheat and abuse, but the more international presence there is throughout Syria, the harder this will become. This is why the UN will become crucial, which will only happen with greater Russian/American consensus and more American/Iranian normalization, which may be coming.

We need to hear the word "ceasefire" from the lips of major diplomats and strategists. The people of Syria will die without it, and everyone will gain something from ceasefire.
A ceasefire is all well and nice, but there is a country called Israel, maybe you've heard of it, that does not want the fighting to cease in Syria and seeks the destruction of the country, its infrastructure, its economy, and its army. And it has a lot of pull in Washington and the media, so to completely ignore its role in this three-year long conflict as well as in the media's representation of it is delusional and/or deceptive. But, yeah, a ceasefire by all sides is the best short-term scenario that eventually could lead to a real political and comprehensive solution that will satisfy all Syrians, regional actors, and international powers.

Here is a quote by Dr. Thomas Daffern,  director of the UK-based International Institute of Peace Studies and Global Philosophy, on a ceasefire in Syria:
"What I'm calling for is a ceasefire, a unilateral, universal ceasefire in Syria by all parties. But it's a mental or spiritual ceasefire I'm calling for first. We're not going to get the guns put down until the minds are changed, until the hearts are changed. What I'm talking about in this brief little presentation is the metaphysical and psychological preconditions for a physical ceasefire. Let politicians and military people work out that. I'm calling for everyone with a conscience, and with a functioning mind and heart, and brain, to work on that mental ceasefire." - Dr. Thomas Daffern [Source].
3. An excerpt from, "Syria's Raging Health Crisis" by Adam P. Coutts and Fouad M. Fouad, New York Times, January 1:
The collapse of the health system and a lack of basic sanitation in opposition-held areas have created prime conditions for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. Syria eradicated polio 14 years ago; the fact that it has returned represents more than a breakdown of health care during civil war. It is symptomatic of how the international community, in its response to the crisis, has neglected public health. 

Immunization coverage in what are now mainly opposition areas was already below accepted standards in 2011, but the situation has deteriorated. Data on routine immunization from the World Health Organization reveal that over the past two years a large proportion of the Syrian population has gone without vaccination. 

Across Syria, coverage went down to 60 percent in 2012, and was as low as 50 percent in the embattled eastern city of Deir al-Zour, a front line between government and rebel forces. The latest W.H.O. figures from 2013 show that the level is now down to 36 percent in largely rebel-held Deir al-Zour Province, although it has remained at 100 percent in government-controlled areas such as the western stronghold of Tartus. 

Given these conditions, it was no surprise to medical practitioners that a polio outbreak occurred. The question is why the international community did not prepare better for this eventuality. A disturbing part of the answer is that the United Nations itself has aggravated the situation. 

Like other United Nations agencies, the World Health Organization works directly with the Syrian government. The W.H.O.’s Syria office is in the Ministry of Health building in Damascus; many of its staff members are former ministry employees. A recent Reuters report on how the Assad government uses red tape and threats to prevent the provision of aid in opposition areas has raised doubts about the ability of the W.H.O. to act with impartiality.