Friday, 11 July 2014

Israel plays Assad and Khamenei’s game in Gaza

This link will serve, a news story from The Globe and Mail yesterday, on how Hamas is armed by Iran with Syrian and Iranian-made rockets, particularly the Syrian-made M-302 Khaibar and Iranian Fajr-5 missiles. It cites Colonel Richard Kemp an analyst with London’s Royal United Services Institute, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
“Iran is … sending deadly weapons to terrorist organizations – via an elaborate network of secret operations around that world that aim to funnel rockets, missiles and other deadly weapons to be used to harm innocent civilians,” Mr. Netanyahu said, adding: “Hamas will pay a heavy price for firing toward Israeli citizens.”
In other words, Mr. Netanyahu makes clear that Gazans are pawns of Khamenei and Assad, but despite knowing this his retaliation will be limited to the pawns, with all the killing of civilians that comes with carrying out such an operation in Gaza.

This is a repeat of the stubborn stupidity of Israel’s conduct of war in Lebanon in 2006, where it targeted civilian infrastructure and held a fragile Lebanese government responsible for the actions of Hezbollah, rather than attacking Hezbollah’s actual backers, the tyrant rulers of Syria and Iran.

The foolishness of this was highlighted at the time by the strategically smartest American president of the 21st Century (not a big claim) GW Bush:
You see the irony is what they need to do is get Syria, to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it’s all over…
When Israel’s government declares the Iranian and Syrian regimes responsible for arming Hamas, and when it accuses Hamas of deliberately putting civilians in harm’s way, they make it clear that when they then go on to hit only targets in Gaza, and continue to contain Gaza’s population together with a Hamas regime that by the Israel government’s own account is happy to see them bleed, then Israel is playing Assad and Khamenei’s game in Gaza.

Assad and Khamenei are blessed to have an enemy like Israel, an enemy who will draw the world’s outrage while Assad’s helicopters and Khamenei’s militias get on with slaughtering Syrians across the border. And though Israel has repeatedly demonstrated that they have the ability to hit inside Syria, they’ll let Assad’s helicopters and Khamenei’s supply planes carry on flying.

Syria still needs a No-Fly Zone. It would serve the Israelis’ interests too, but they don’t seem to have the wit to see it.

At +972, Nobody should be a number: Names of those killed in Gaza, via Peter Beaumont.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Comfort For Kids, with illustrations by Lina Safar

Cross-posted from Alternative Syria.

Art by Lina Safar

Comfort For Kids is a project by Mercy Corps to help children recover from psychological trauma following major disasters. The methodology has previously been used by them following the September 11 attacks in 2001, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, wars in Gaza and Libya, and earthquakes in Peru, China, Haiti, Chile and Japan. Now that Mercy Corps are working with Syrian refugee children in Jordan and Lebanon, they’ve worked with illustrator Lina Safar to produce tailor-made children’s workbooks, as well as illustrated manuals for adults working with the children.

Read what Lina Safar has to say about the project on her website. There’s also a version on the Mercy Corps site.

AP has a story on the project, Syrian-born artist now helps child war refugees, by Tamara Lush. Below is a video to go with the story.

Mercy Corps was recently forced to close its aid operation in Damascus when the Assad regime demanded it stop cross-border aid shipments to areas outside regime control.

From The Guardian: Aid group Mercy Corps forced to close Damascus operations, by Martin Chulov and Emma Beals.

Mercy Corps statement: Closure of Mercy Corps’ humanitarian aid operations in Damascus.

See also this story at Syria Deeply: Underfunded Aid Organizations Battle Donor Fatigue, Revise Delivery Plans.
Katarina Montgomery and Karen Leigh talk to Cassandra Nelson, a director at Mercy Corps; Andy Baker, regional program manager, Syria Crisis at Oxfam; and Juliette Touma, regional spokeswoman at Unicef.

More at Mercy Corps, and Mercy Corps UK.
Mercy Corps Facebook page.
Mercy Corps on Twitter: @mercycorps and @mercycorps_uk.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Donald Duck’s 80th Anniversary

I’m not sure, but I think Donald Duck’s birthday is a national holiday in Denmark. Here to celebrate the 80th Anniversary of Don’s public debut is a series of tweets from Danish comics scholar, animation expert, and all-round good egg Jakob Stegelmann.

Happy 80th Birthday, Donald Duck. No wiser but still going strong. Thanks to Walt, Ducky, Ben, Jack, Carl etc
– Jakob Stegelmann (@JakobStegelmann) June 9, 2014

The first one: Wise Little Hen, premiered June 9th, 1934
– Jakob Stegelmann (@JakobStegelmann) June 9, 2014

… and his breakthrough moment, The Band Concert, 1935
– Jakob Stegelmann (@JakobStegelmann) June 9, 2014

Jack Hannah was Don’s director in the ’40s. One of his best: Three for Breakfast
– Jakob Stegelmann (@JakobStegelmann) June 9, 2014

… but one of Dons best films is this one by Ben Sharpsteen, 1936. Beware! Flying knives!
– Jakob Stegelmann (@JakobStegelmann) June 9, 2014

… and Carl Barks wrote and storyboarded this 1941-Classic
– Jakob Stegelmann (@JakobStegelmann) June 9, 2014

Donald Duck 80: great comic book cover. Barks took Don to the next level.
– Jakob Stegelmann (@JakobStegelmann) June 9, 2014

Donald Duck 80: This 1945 Jack Kinney-directed short is the strangest Don-cartoon ever made: Duck Pimples
– Jakob Stegelmann (@JakobStegelmann) June 9, 2014

… and Barks did some weird things to Donald in the comics too, like Bombie the Zombie 1949
– Jakob Stegelmann (@JakobStegelmann) June 9, 2014

Donald Duck 80: Let's not forget the first great comic artist to take Donald from screen to print: Al Taliaferro.
– Jakob Stegelmann (@JakobStegelmann) June 9, 2014

Donald Duck 80: Academy Award-anti-nazi Duck: Der Fuehrer's Face
– Jakob Stegelmann (@JakobStegelmann) June 9, 2014

Donald Duck 80: the one and only film appearance of Cousin Gus (fætter Guf) for @catobagger
– Jakob Stegelmann (@JakobStegelmann) June 9, 2014

Why not end Donald's 80th celebration with a hot number? Mr.Duck Steps Out. Long live the King of Ducks…
– Jakob Stegelmann (@JakobStegelmann) June 9, 2014

Sunday, 8 June 2014

ELCAF signings on Saturday

The East London Comics and Arts Festival ELCAF is on this Saturday 14th of June at Oval Space, 29-32 The Oval, London E2. There’s a map here. I’ll be joining a horde of artists at publisher Nobrow’s table for a series of signings through the day.

Jim Stoten:
Luke Pearson:
Kellie Strom:
Jesse Moynihan:
Kyle Platts:
Anne Simon:
Andrew Rae:
Nicolas André:
Bianca Bagnarelli:


Nobrow will also be launching some new books, including; Moonhead and the Music Machine by Andrew Rae, Beyond the Surface by Nicholas André, Mr Tweed’s Good Deeds by Jim Stoten and Fish by Bianca Bagnarelli (due out August). Read more on Nobrow’s blog.

Monday, 2 June 2014

A pair of Danish sea serpents

Here’s a painting just finished for Danish publisher Arvids, a cover for an upcoming book. It was my first acrylic painting after a very long break from the medium – over three years I think. I found it an uncomfortable struggle to begin with, but by the end I was enjoying painting again, and sea monsters are always a pleasure!

Thursday, 29 May 2014

A letter to Ed Miliband

Cross-posted from

Rt Hon Edward Miliband MP
House of Commons
London, SW1A 0AA

29 May 2014

Dear Mr Miliband,

as you will be aware, last week Russia and China vetoed a proposed UN Security Council resolution on Syria, the fourth time this has happened.

You may also be aware that since the House of Commons debate of 29 August 2013, the Violations Documentation Center in Syria has recorded a further 24,674 individuals killed, of which 15,670 were civilians, of which 4,939 were civilians killed by air strikes. As counts of verified deaths only, these are necessarily undercounts of the true totals.

You may be aware of how comparatively low the risk to civilians would be in an intervention against the Syrian Air Force, of how in the Libyan intervention, NATO strikes against air force, army, and navy targets, caused the deaths of between 40 and 115 civilians according to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty, too high a number, but a fraction of the number of civilians killed weekly in Syria.

You may remember that the intervention to protect civilians in Libya lasted just 222 days before major hostilities ceased, and note that it is now 273 days since the House of Commons turned away from further consideration of intervention in Syria.

I have been re-reading your remarks from last August’s House of Commons debate following the Ghouta chemical weapons attack, and considering what you said then in the light of last week’s UNSC veto and other recent developments.

In proposing Labour’s amendment in that debate, you set out a series of conditions for military intervention in Syria:

(1) That the UN weapons inspectors be given the opportunity to make a report to the Security Council to confirm that chemical weapons had been used in Syria –

The weapons inspectors’ report was subsequently delivered, and it confirmed in detail the use of chemical weapons in the Ghouta attack.

(2) That compelling evidence be produced that the Syrian regime was responsible –

Evidence has since been published showing  the attack was carried out with ‘Volcano’ rockets used only by the forces of the Syrian Government, that the volume of Sarin used was such as to require a large scale CW programme out of the reach of any party to the conflict other than the Syrian Government, and that the attack left residue of hexamine, an unusual chemical in a CW context, but one included in the Syrian Government’s declared CW stockpile.

(3) That the UN Security Council should consider and vote on the matter –

Subsequently the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2118, following the Russia-US deal on eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons and Syria’s accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Since then, Syria has repeatedly missed deadlines for the surrender of its stockpile and for the destruction of its CW facilities. While it now retains only about 7% of its declared stockpile, according to Reuters last week this is still “enough highly toxic material to carry out a large-scale attack.”

As well as delaying disposal of its declared CW programme, the Syrian Government has reportedly carried out several more chemical weapons attacks in the past couple of months, using chlorine rather than Sarin; these attacks breach Resolution 2118, they breach the Chemical Weapons Convention, and in common with all bombing of civilian areas by the regime they breach February’s Resolution 2139, and they breach international humanitarian law.

(4) That there must be a clear legal basis in international law for taking military action to protect the Syrian people on humanitarian grounds –

Having now seen Russia and China exercise their UNSC veto four times over Syria, it is no longer possible to imagine passage of a Chapter VII resolution. You made clear in August that you agree with the UK Government position on the legality under certain circumstances of military intervention without a Chapter VII resolution, the criteria being: convincing evidence of extreme humanitarian distress; no practicable alternative to force; and that the proposed use of force is necessary and proportionate to the aim (relief of the humanitarian need) and is strictly limited in time and scope to this aim.

Regarding evidence of extreme humanitarian distress, this is overwhelming.

Regarding whether there exists a practicable alternative, I refer back to the failure of the Syrian Government to abide by UNSC Resolution 2118, its failure to abide by the Chemical Weapons Convention, its failure to abide by UNSC Resolution 2139, and I refer back to the four times Syria’s allies in the UNSC have used their veto power, and I note the collapse of Geneva II talks and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s comment that “especially the government” had proven “reluctant to take advantage of that opportunity.”

Regarding the requirement that the use of force be necessary, proportionate, and limited in time and scope, this properly limits the action that may be taken, however I believe the demand in the proposed Labour amendment to define a time limit in advance went beyond the requirement in the Government legal advice. The legal advice does not imply that a strict timetable be set out in advance, but only that action must not continue longer than is necessary to achieve the aim. In a complex military conflict this is rarely if ever something that can be predicted to the day, and the better path for political leaders is to clearly limit the aim rather than to try and predetermine and publicise a date for its completion before action is even begun.

(5) That action must be designed solely to deter the future use of prohibited chemical weapons in Syria –

As grounds for this you referred to the requirement that for action to be justified under the Responsibility To Protect, or as a humanitarian intervention, it must have “a reasonable prospect of success in improving the plight of the Syrian people.”

This argument is fatally flawed. Its flaw is the same glaring flaw that runs through the entire debate on chemical weapons use in Syria, namely that only a fraction of the victims of the conflict are victims of chemical weapons attacks.

Elsewhere in your remarks you argued that Britain should not follow “an artificial timetable or a political timetable set elsewhere.” In limiting the debate on intervention to the issue of chemical weapons, British political leaders on all sides have allowed themselves to be constrained not by an artificial timetable but by an artificial agenda, a political agenda set not by any British leader but by the US President.

It is much overdue for Britain’s political leaders on all sides to publicly recognise that the debate on intervention in Syria must not be limited to the issue of chemical weapons.

It is also well past time to publicly recognise that the legal conditions for military action have been met, that the Syrian Government has turned its back on a diplomatic solution and is daily in deliberate breach of UNSCR resolutions, the CWC, and international humanitarian law.

It is well past time to publicly recognise that the risks in taking action are overwhelmingly outweighed by the scale of humanitarian distress, and that the scale of killing and maiming of civilians by the Syrian Air Force alone has long justified intervention to degrade and destroy their military capacity.

It is well past time to recognise that allowing the current situation to continue undermines the credibility of international law, undermines the credibility of the UN, and undermines the credibility of the UK as a permanent member of the UNSC. It also undermines the credibility of the Labour Party as one of the authors of the current situation through the August vote.

It is well past time to live up to your own words that the Syrian humanitarian issue “transcends party politics,” words that demand you work for cross-party unity in countering the Syrian Government’s campaign of mass-slaughter in defiance of international law.

Yours sincerely,

Mr Kellie Strøm

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Philip Moss and Paki Smith paintings on show in Dublin

My friend Philip Moss (above) is having a joint exhibition with Paki Smith (below) at the Taylor Galleries, Dublin, from the 6th to the 21st of June.

Here’s an earlier post with a film about Philip’s paintings.