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THE WEIRS TIMES & THE COCHECO TIMES, Thursday, April 5, 2012


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DEAL IN DAMASCUS? UNITED NATIONS


by John J. Metzler Syndicated Columnist


- Kofi Annan seems to have clinched a dip- lomatic deal in Damascus whi ch ma y stop or at least decompress the debilitat- ing year-long c onf l i c t in


Syria which has taken 9,000 lives, mostly civilians. The former UN Secretary General in a bout of shuttle diplomacy has received approval from the Bashar Al-Assad regime which appears to endorse a six point plan to stop the violence and start a slow process of political reconciliation. But whether the Assad regime


is playing for time and hoping the deal will defuse tensions, or is really willing to take a chance for peace remains highly debat- able. Western countries, especially


the United States and Britain have reacted skeptically to the proposed agreement. Neighbor- ing Turkey nervously questions Assad’s true intentions. Kofi Annan’s plan is particu-


larly focused on getting govern- ment military units to withdraw from major towns as well as opening humanitarian aid cor- ridors inside Syria. Though the six point plan was endorsed by the Security Coun- cil, the deal does not address the issue of President Assad stepping down, a key demand of the opposition. It does how- ever carve out a humanitarian space of a two hour daily pause in the fighting for relief opera- tions, calls on the government to “release arbitrarily detained persons,” allow for freedom of movement for journalists, and freedom of association and the right to protest for citizens. The breakthrough came in


Beijing, one of Syria’s allies, after Annan was trying to ca- jole the Chinese on board with the peace plan. Earlier Annan visited Moscow meeting with Russian officials in a bid to get some flexibility on Syria, an old Kremlin client state. “Mr. Annan views this as an


important initial step that could bring an end to the violence


and the bloodshed,” stated his spokesman. Equally the ac- cord would allow for political dialogue among many warring factions. Yet Annan, an expe- rienced diplomat, was quick to stress “that implementation will be the key.” Until now at least, both Mos-


cow and Beijing have provided the Damascus rulers diplomatic cover fire in the UN Security Council where double Russian/ Mainland Chinese vetoes were used twice to stop Western- backed draft resolutions. Now in a decidedly watered down deal, Syria’s two key political al- lies acquiesced to an amorphous arrangement which, as men- tioned, does not call upon Assad to step down as ruler. In the meantime fighting con-


tinues between splintered op- position groups and the Syrian military. Significantly violence has spilled over into neighbor- ing Lebanon. Moreover the UN Human Rights chief has charged that the Syrian government is deliberately “targeting children” in its crackdown on opposition. Although the Arab League


has censured Syria, the Islamic Republic of Iran has remained politically and military steadfast with the Assad family. Iranian Revolutionary Guards sniper teams and shock troops have been fighting inside Syria against regime opponents. The Islamic Republic Revolutionary Guards Corps has also supplied weap- ons to the Damascus regime as has Russia. Interestingly now Iran backs


the Annan peace plan too. For- eign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that the “Syria issue should be dealt with patiently” and “any hasty approach to the Syria issue and the creation of a power vacuum in that country could have very damaging con- sequences for the region.” True, but Tehran is clearly playing for time for its only Arab ally, save for a gaggle of terrorist groups. Addressing the road ahead,


Robert Serry, the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East advised the Security Council delegates, “Immediate steps are needed now from the Syrian government to act on their com- mitment and demonstrate to the Syrian people that they are ready


for a cessation of violence.” That’s easier said than done,


given that the devil is in the de- tails of the six point plan. Sadly, the crisis in Syria is probably not over. Nor is Kofi


Annan’s shuttle diplomacy. John J. Metzler is a United Na-


tions correspondent covering dip- lomatic and defense issues.


BACK TO THE FUTURE? When a 1942


by Thomas Sowell Syndicated Columnist


Supreme Court decision that most people never heard of makes the front page of the New York Times in 2012, you know that some- thing unusual is going on. What makes


that 1942 case -- Wickard v. Fil- burn -- important today is that it stretched the federal govern- ment’s power so far that the Obama administration is using it as an argument to claim before today’s Supreme Court that it has the legal authority to impose ObamaCare mandates on indi- viduals. Roscoe Filburn was an Ohio


farmer who grew some wheat to feed his family and some farm an- imals. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture fined him for growing more wheat than he was allowed to grow under the Agricultural Ad- justment Act of 1938, which was passed under Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce.


Filburn pointed out that his


wheat wasn’t sold, so that it didn’t enter any commerce, interstate or otherwise. Therefore the federal government had no right to tell him how much wheat he grew on his own farm, and which never left his farm. The Tenth Amendment to the


Constitution says that all powers not explicitly given to the federal government belong to the states or to the people. So you might think that Filburn was right. But the Supreme Court said


otherwise. Even though the wheat on Filburn’s farm never entered the market, just the fact that “it supplies a need of the man who grew it which would otherwise be reflected by purchases in the open market” meant that it affected in- terstate commerce. So did the fact that the home-grown wheat could potentially enter the market. The implications of this kind


of reasoning reached far beyond farmers and wheat. Once it was established that the federal gov- ernment could regulate not only interstate commerce itself, but anything with any potential effect See SOWELL on 20


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