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The Libyan War Crime

May 6, 2011

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced on Thursday that he would soon stand before the United Nations and report on alleged Libyan war crimes. We can only hope that his brief will include the latest war crime, the murder of Qaddafi’s family, his son and three grandchildren, and the assassination attempt on the life of the Libyan leader on May Day, 2011. Cameron, Sarkozy, the NATO field commanders and the Danish air crew should all be indicted for this crime.

UNSC Resolution 1970 is not a licence to commit mass murder. The resolution simply established a no-fly zone; it was designed to stem the violence, not turn Tripoli into a killing field. This is a clear case of coldly calculated targeted murder, as ruthless and brutal as any other form of political assassination. The date of the operation was known well beforehand, and had already been openly discussed in late April by the Russian Secret Service SVR (External Intelligence Service). On April 29th, a Russian netzine published an article by Kirill Svetitsky who quoted an anonymous source within SVR:

There will be an attempt to kill Muammar Qaddafi on or before May 2. The governments of France, Britain and the US decided on it for the warfare in Libya does not proceed well for the anti-Libyan alliance: the regular army has substantial gains; Bedouin tribes entered the fight on the government’s side; in Benghazi, a “second front” was opened by the armed local militias who are tired of rebels’ presence, their incessant fights and robberies.

But the main reason for the timing is that the Italian parliament plans to discuss Italy’s involvement in Libyan campaign on May 3. Until now, decisions were taken by Berlusconi, but there are strong differences of opinion within the government coalition regarding the Libyan war, and they will probably bring the government down on May 3, and Italy will effectively leave the anti-Libyan alliance. It is likely to have a domino effect. For this reason leaders of the UK, the US and France decided to eliminate Qaddafi not later than May 2d, before the session of the Italian parliament on May 3d.

Unlike many Internet predictions, this one turned out to be timely and exact. On May 1st, the US, France and the UK made a failed attempt on the life of Muammar Qaddafi, although they did succeed in killing his son and three grandchildren. Such unusual operative foreknowledge implies that Western leaders had advised the Russians of the planned attack, and that the SVR had then leaked the plans.

The attack itself imitated the Israeli technique of “targeted killings”. The Israeli Air Force is famous for dropping a one-ton (1800 pounds) bomb on a Gazan house in an attempt to liquidate Salah Shehadeh, a Hamas leader, in 2002. As “collateral damage” 13 civilians, mostly women and children, were killed and many others injured. Among the dead were Shehadeh’s wife Layla and his 15-year-old daughter Iman, who happened to be with him in the house at the time. This act of mass murder was publicly described as “a war crime”, and Israeli military personnel were later indicted in Spain and the UK.

If God does not punish Las Vegas then he owes an apology to Sodom, quipped Jay Leno. Likewise, if the initiators of the Qaddafi assassination attempt are not called to justice, then Europe owes an apology to the Israeli military.

This brutal assassination attempt should open the eyes of those in Europe and the US who still believe that this war is ‘just’, or at least ‘justifiable’. The true reasons behind Western neocolonial interventions in the Middle East now stand revealed to all. One small example: the same source in Russian Intelligence also leaked a document, a letter from Libyan rebel leaders promising France 35% of all Libyan oil. So much for humanitarian reasons!

It appears more and more that the whole Libyan affair was done up with smoke and mirrors. Initially the Benghazi Uprising was nothing more than a small local riot; the rebellion was unknown in other cities. Soon, however, the government was destabilized by Al-Jazeera, as the popular Arab network broadcast the “news” that Muammar Qaddafi and his sons had fled the country for Venezuela and that his black mercenaries were about to unleash another holocaust on hapless Libyans. Al-Jazeera’s lies have proven to be more damaging even than NATO’s bombs; they have fought Qaddafi tooth and nail, from the first rebel yell to the last foul scene of murder. Even today, while the bodies of Qaddafi’s family were spread before Libyan churchmen, al-Jazeera continued to broadcast denials from Benghazi. Stephen Lendmancorrectly notes that “Jazeera has become a more efficient propaganda machine against the Arab minds than the BBC ever was”. The uprising was led by Guantanamo detainees like Abu Sufian Hamuda bin Kumu. Perhaps they should be put onto the next flight back to the USA: thanks, but no thanks.

The Libyan campaign deserves to end like its predecessor the Suez campaign – with the embarrassing withdrawal of NATO forces, and the sooner the better. Enough is enough! Let the Libyans solve their differences themselves.

Syria après Libya?

Even as Libya settles into the typical intervention quagmire, developments in Syria are starting to heat up. While Russian President Medvedev did manage to override his own Foreign Office and Putin’s government, pulling off an abstention during the UNSC vote on the Libyan intervention, there is not the slightest chance for a similar trick regarding Syria. Syria has a Russian naval base in Tartus, practically the only base Russia has managed to keep out of the many Soviet bases lost, from Cuba to Vietnam. Moreover, Syria has a large Orthodox Christian community that openly supports President Bashar el Assad and is plainly nervous about the possible success of the Dera’a uprising. They believe the rebels are Salafist anti-Christian fanatics armed by the Saudis. Russia has always been the traditional protector of the Christian Orthodox in the Middle East, and is not likely to renege on its responsibilities towards these communities.

The Syrian Christian view of the protesters was expressed by the Latin Patriarch of Antioch: “… some groups whose main objective is to provoke a violent response from the government are infiltrating the protests that originally grew from social and economic problems. Tension is stoked to the point of gaining the international community’s condemnation. There are criminals involved in the protest; there is a massive introduction of weapons in the country to provoke a confrontation… Sure, there are young, frustrated people, but many say that among them are criminals and even fundamentalist Muslims who cry for jihad. I think the tactics of a phony war are being used against Syria.”

It’s likely that Russia will defend Syria even if its government decides to crush the rioters with an iron fist, just as Hafez el Assad quelled the 1982 Hama revolt. There is a realpolitik basis for this unconditional support: Bahrain is the base of the US Fifth fleet, and that’s why Bahrain’s rulers were allowed to suppress their “freedom seekers”; Syria is the main base for the Russian Mediterranean fleet and Russia intends to keep it that way. But there is an additional reason as well: the Syrians and their Russian friends believe that the riots are instigated by foreign agencies: Saudis, Americans, Israelis. They point out that the border town of Dera’a (besides being the place where Lawrence of Arabia was flogged and abused, by his own account in the Seven Pillars of Wisdom) is a hotbed for militant Islamic radicalism of the al Qaeda variety, and is located close to the Jordanian city of Ramtha, another safe-house for Muslim radicals heavily infiltrated by the Israeli secret services.

A conspiracy theory? Perhaps, but it is a theory confirmed by the conspirators themselves. President Bashar el Assad was offered a deal by the US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy:break your ties with Hezbullah and Iran, and we will end the riots. Mostafa Zein of the knowledgeable Dar al Hayyat summed it up like this:

The United States has drafted a roadmap for the Syrian regime, so that it may emerge from its worsening crisis, suggesting that it holds the magic key to make the protesters leave the streets. Flournoy said: “Syria must distance itself from Iran and join the Gulf states, as well as move forward in the peace process with Israel”… The Syrian regime considers such a roadmap to be a “conspiracy” targeting it from within, after the failure of pressure on it from abroad.

As in the case of Qaddafi, the Syrian leader is not totally blameless. But, like Qaddafi, Bashar el Assad can make things better by trusting in the Syrian people, namely:

  • By giving more freedom to the Syrian people and less to his Mukhabarat, the Internal Secret Service;
  • By correcting an unjust distribution of wealth and government positions between the religious and ethnic communities of Syria (the minorities – Jews, Alawites, and Christians – have it too good at the expense of the Sunni majority);
  • By allowing political activity beyond the moribund Baath party;
  • By making peace with Muslim believers;
  • By permitting economic and social mobility and allowing elites to fail.

These goals can be obtained without catastrophic cataclysms and so they should. Granted, the Syrians have become bored with their staple diet of rice and beans; they want more variety. However, this desire must be achieved without destroying the country.

Syria is needed for the Middle East: it is the centerpiece of Mashreq, the Fertile Crescent, the only state in the region not subdued by the US and Israel. It is the defender of Hezbullah and an important partner of Iran. Syria is the home of Hamas émigrés, home to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian and Iraqi refugees. Syria is the last refuge for the non-American Arab world. It is precious, and should be saved.

In Israel, there are two schools regarding Syria development: the conservatives and the adventurers. The conservatives say: we lived for a long time alongside the Assads, and it was safe; let us keep it this way. The adventurers say: let us undo Syria, break it to pieces, destroy Hezbollah, eliminate Iran’s forward base and make the world safe for a generation. Alarmingly, Netanyahu is developing more and more connections to adventurers. He may even try to attack Lebanon, thinking that Assad has his hands too full to get involved. However, such an attack might tempt Bashar el Assad to externalize his political problem by meeting their challenge. He may decide it is better to die a martyr in a war with the Zionist enemy than suffer the fate of Saddam and Qaddafi. David Hirst, the best British expert on the Middle East, prophesied about this war in his recent (2010) book Beware of Small States. This war may become a turning point for the Middle East, with far-reaching repercussions, including destruction of Israel.

There is a way out: let Turkey don the Ottoman mantle and guide the Middle East to safety. With Russian, Iranian and Chinese support, Turkey will be able to reassert its influence over its former provinces torn away by French and British armies in 1917. Regional problems should be solved regionally, without Western interference.


A native of Novosibirsk, Siberia, a grandson of a professor of mathematics and a descendant of a Rabbi from Tiberias, Palestine, he studied at the prestigious School of the Academy of Sciences, and read Math and Law at Novosibirsk University. In 1969, he moved to Israel, served as paratrooper in the army and fought in the 1973 war.

After his military service he resumed his study of Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, but abandoned the legal profession in pursuit of a career as a journalist and writer. He got his first taste of journalism with Israel Radio, and later went freelance. His varied assignments included covering Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the last stages of the war in South East Asia.

In 1975, Shamir joined the BBC and moved to London. In 1977-79 he wrote for the Israeli daily Maariv and other papers from Japan. While in Tokyo, he wrote Travels with My Son, his first book, and translated a number of Japanese classics.

Email at: info@israelshamir.net

Israel Shamir is a regular columnist for Novakeo.com


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