Syria: Viral Photo of Man Listening to Music Amid Rubble

It looks like a film set. The disheveled bed, the rubble on the floor, the tattered yellow window coverings—everything so perfectly and terribly broken. And then there is the man and his pipe, listening to his record player. This is Aleppo.

The man, identified as Mohammed Mohiedin Anis, and also known as Abu Omar, is a collector of vintage cars. This photograph from March 9 has since gone viral, widely shared as a haunting counterpart to the typical images of children bearing the brunt of this war, about to enter its seventh year.

This is not the first time we’ve met Abu Omar. In early 2016 Karam al-Masri of Agence France-Presse filed a moving story about him, when he lived in the rebel-held neighborhood of al-Shaar and had 30 cars to his name. But as the war devolved, shifting control last year from the rebels to the government after a brutal battle, so did the collection.

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The graffiti kids: How an act of teenage rebellion sparked the Syrian war

At the start of it all, before the uprising and the civil war – and the refugee exodus and the terror and the hatred that have sprung from it – a 14-year-old boy stood giggling with a can of black spray paint, pointing it at the wall of his school in southern Syria.

Naief Abazid had no inkling that he was about to launch a revolution, or anything else that has followed. He was just doing what the bigger kids told him to. Trying to make them laugh. “It’s your turn, Doctor Bashar al-Assad, ” he painted, just under the window of the principal’s office of the all-boys al-Banin school in his hometown of Daraa. The date was Feb. 16, 2011.

It was an incendiary political idea – suggesting that Syria’s Baathist dictatorship would be the next to fall after the Arab Spring revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, written by an apolitical teenage prankster. Painted on a cool and dry winter evening, it would improbably set in motion a chain reaction of events that continue to rock the Middle East – and the world.

“It was something silly,” Naief told me as we sat in a McDonald’s at the train station in Vienna, more than 3,000 kilometres away from where it all began. It was his first retelling (other than his interview with Austrian immigration authorities) of what happened that day in Daraa, and his life in the five harrowing years since. “I was a kid. I didn’t know what I was doing.”

A neighbour who came to the school that night to see the graffiti calls those words – combined with the regime’s violent reaction – “an explosion.” The fallout is still landing all around us.

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Syria and the Failure of the Multicultural American Left

Among the countless heartbreaking images that came out of the earthly inferno of Aleppo, one remains particularly haunting: that of a grief-stricken mother cradling the lifeless body of her child emerging out of the rubble and raising her face to the heavens in a deafening cry of despair. The human tragedy in the war-ravaged Syrian city mercilessly bombarded by Russian jets operating in the service of Bashar Assad was so disturbing because it was so familiar. Invoking nearly identical scenes of anguish from Picasso’s Guernica, the iconic painting that commemorates a similar aerial evisceration of the Basque town by Hitler’s Condor Legion in 1937, the indiscriminate and methodic targeting of civilian populations by the Assad-Putin-Hezbollah axis was ominously reminiscent of the horror’s perpetrated by Francisco Franco’s Nationalist forces and their fascist allies during the Spanish Civil War.

The similarities between Spain 80 years ago and Syria today are too eerie to ignore: Historically tempered, long-brewing ethnic-religious tensions erupted into brutal civil wars that tore apart fragile states and saw acts of unimaginable barbarity committed on both sides. In Syria, an Alawite-Shiite minority is fighting against loose bands of Sunni and Kurd opposition groups—like the Free Syrian Army, Kurdish militias, and Jihadists such as ISIS and Al-Nusra—who are deeply divided among themselves and often at each other’s throats. Better-armed, better-trained and actively supported by foreign powers like Russia and Iran, the dictator in Damascus enjoys the apathy of Western democracies that insist their failure to intervene on the side of the victims is actually a higher form of realism or the product of their principled rejection of war. Substitute Assad for Franco, opposition groups for the motley crew of rival communist, anarchist, and Marxist militias that made up the Spanish Popular Front and were marred by similarly deep ideological, religious, ethnic, and geographic fault lines, and the story begins to sound the same. Add to that the devastating intervention of Germany and Italy on Franco’s side and subsequent, albeit reluctant, embrace of the Soviet Union by a desperate republican government ignored by timid Western powers, and you witness history repeating itself, in the worst of ways.

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Aleppo’s Fall Signals Rise of Emboldened Radical Shi’ite Axis

Recent sweeping gains by the pro-Assad alliance in Aleppo signal the rise of an emboldened Iranian-led radical Shi’ite axis. The more this axis gains strength, territory, weapons, and influence, the more likely it is to threaten regional and global security.

Ideologues in Iran have formulated a Shi’ite jihadist vision which holds that the Iranian Islamic revolution must take control of the entire Muslim world. Losing the Assad regime to Sunni rebels, many of them backed by Tehran’s Gulf Arab state archenemies, would have represented a major setback to Iran’s agenda.

This same ideological agenda also calls for the eventual annihilation of Israel, the toppling of Sunni governments, and intimidating the West into complying with Iran’s schemes.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and Tehran’s military elites, in the form of the Islamic Republican Guards Corps (IRGC), use the current regional chaos to promote these goals.

In Syria, Iran has mobilized tens of thousands of Shi’ite militia fighters from all over the Middle East, as well as those from Hizballah in Lebanon, and sent them to do battle with Sunni rebel organizations to help save the Assad regime.

As the Shi’ite axis wages a sectarian war against Sunnis moderate groups and jihadists, it mobilizes and arms its proxies, and moves military assets into Syria, gaining a growing influence that can be used for bellicose purposes in the not too distant future.

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Legacies . . .His and Ours


Yes, Aleppo is Part of Obama’s Legacy

* * *

So now, maybe, it’s time to think about OUR legacy. Yours and mine.

As you know, my Dry Bones cartoons fight against antisemitism and BDS. I distribute these Dry Bones cartoons through many channels, at no charge to you and to my other readers, but the operation costs me an annual $100,000. So how, I wondered, can I find this annual $100,000? I then thought of “the 36”. The Lamed Vavnikim.

Let me explain. Medieval Jewish mystics wrestled with a baffling question; “Given the wickedness of humanity and the cruelty of the world, why doesn’t an angry Creator simply destroy his creation?” Pouring over both Biblical and “hidden” texts they deduced that in every generation there are 36 people, hidden from view, whose righteousness prevents the divine destruction of our world. In the Hebrew numerological system, the two Hebrew letters Lamed and Vav, written as a word, represents the number 36. And so the hidden righteous “thirty-sixers” who save the world are called the Lamed Vavnikim.

So how will I raise our annual budget of $100,000?

The answer is simple. But the search is difficult. I need to find my Thirty Sixers. . . . my “Lamed Vavnikim”. Thirty Six righteous people who would each give $3,000 a year to help turn this often wicked world into “a better place” (Tikun Olam).

It’ll be YOUR legacy.

If you can and will become one of my Dry Bones 36 (Lamed Vavnikim) by joining this special group, just click on this Link.

If you are unable to join the 36, please give what you can.

Dry Bones- Israel’s Political Comic Strip Since 1973

‘We Are About to Die’: The End Comes for Aleppo

The fate of tens of thousands of civilians and rebel fighters is at stake as forces supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad stand poised to retake the last neighborhoods of the city of Aleppo.

Both the ordinary people and the gunmen trapped in the rebel-section of the city are all that stands between the Assad regime and what would be one of its most important victories in more than five and a half years of revolution and war. Aleppo was Syria’s largest city before the war emerged from the uprising that began in 2011. Since 2012 Aleppo has been a key battleground in the fight between the regime and armed opposition groups. The recapture of the city would signal a potentially decisive shift in the conflict, cementing the government’s hold on a strategic swath of the country and rousting the opposition from its signature stronghold.

People living in the shrinking rebel sector of the city face an impossible choice: stay and face death or capture, or attempt to flee. Those who run risk their lives traversing a war zone, and face an uncertain fate if they manage to reach a government-controlled section of the city. East Aleppo residents fear they could be detained, tortured or disappeared by the security forces over their support, real or perceived, for the rebels. Hundreds of men aged 30 to 50 have already gone missing after entering government-held areas, according to reports gathered by the United Nations.

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Making Sense of the Mess in Syria

On July 30, 1970 a squadron of Israeli air force F-4E Phantoms and Mirages laden with bombs and missiles took off from their airbase in Sinai and flew westward toward Egypt. Their target was an Egyptian radar station.

The action occurred during the height of the War of Attrition between Israel and Egypt. The Egyptians were faring badly and their armed forces had suffered a series of public humiliations at the hands of the Israel Defense Forces. As a consequence, the Soviets stepped into the fray to save their client state and deployed 10,000 military personal and technical experts to the theater. The Soviets also assumed full control of Egypt’s air defenses. Surface-to-air missile batteries were manned by Soviet personnel and Soviet piloted MiG 21Js – the Soviet Union’s latest MiG-21 variant – patrolled Egyptian airspace. A direct clash between the Soviet Union and Israel was inevitable.

As the Israeli fighters zeroed in on their target, 16 Soviet MiGs moved in to intercept. In the melee that followed, five MiGs were shot down for no Israeli losses. The remaining 11 MiGs beat a hasty retreat. The Soviets were simply no match for the seasoned Israeli pilots.

The clash brought regional tensions – already heightened after one year of near constant border clashes – to a boiling point but neither side wanted an escalation. A ceasefire was eventually brokered by the superpowers and tensions deescalated.

Russia’s present military deployment in Syria is not dissimilar to its deployment in Egypt 46 years ago but the chances of an Israeli-Russian aerial clash today is virtually nil. There are some salient differences between the two circumstances. Israel and Russia are no longer bitter enemies and currently maintain cordial relations. Lines of communications between the two nations are good. Potential misunderstandings – to the extent that any exist – are channeled through liaisons to prevent accidental confrontations.

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