Al-Nusra Front is a terrorist group and the US will never provide it with any aid, said the State Department, reacting to revelations in a German newspaper – while admitting that unnamed US allies might be backing the jihadist militants in Syria.
On Monday, the German newspaper Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger published an interview with an Al-Nusra commander in Syria, identified only as “Abu Al-Ezz.” In the interview, conducted 10 days ago outside of Aleppo, Al-Ezz said that US allies were providing Al-Nusra with tanks and artillery.
“The Americans are on our side,” Al-Ezz reportedly said.
The US government has categorically denied providing any aid to Al-Nusra, while admitting awareness that its allies in the region may be arming the militants.
“That’s complete poppycock,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters at the press briefing Monday. “Whatever he’s saying, no.”
“We would never provide Nusra with any kind of assistance at all,” Toner continued, explaining that the group is a designated foreign terrorist organization.
Asked why the US has been unable to persuade the “moderate opposition” in Syria from separating itself from Al-Nusra, Toner replied it was the rebels’ responsibility, and that they would need a seven-day ceasefire to do so.
He blamed the Syrian government offensive against East Aleppo, which he said would drive “some of those forces, not all of them” into the arms of Al-Nusra. If the Syrian government continues to insist on the military solution, “there are those – not the US – who back various opposition groups in Syria, who might also seek to arm them,” and that would lead to escalation, Toner said.
Asked to clarify if that meant that US allies might be arming Al-Nusra, Toner replied that “countries that support the opposition may want to supply them with assistance.”
Al-Nusra has been receiving funding from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait, and has obtained tanks and artillery from Libya via Turkey, according to what the commander, Al-Ezz, told the German newspaper. The group especially appreciated the US-supplied TOW anti-tank missiles.
“The missiles were given directly to us,” he said. “They were delivered to a certain group.”
The issue of Al-Nusra receiving outside aid was brought up by Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, at the special session of the Security Council on Sunday.
“They are armed by tanks, APCs, field artillery, multiple rocket launchers… All of this has been received by them and is still being shipped to them by generous Western backers, with the US, presumably, turning a blind eye,” Churkin said.
“We have to see proof that there is a genuine desire to separate US-allied rebel groups from the Al-Nusra Front, then destroy the Al-Nusra Front and bring the opposition into a political process. Otherwise our suspicions that this was only meant to shield the Al-Nusra Front would only grow stronger,” the Russian envoy added, referring to the ceasefire agreed between Moscow and Washington that collapsed last week.
On Monday, however, the State Department talked about expecting “significant gestures” from Russia or the Syrian government to “restore their credibility” so the talks might continue, suggesting that the Syrian government should stand down its air force and cease the offensive on East Aleppo.
“The ball is somewhat in Russia’s court right now,” said Toner. However, he said the US was not ready to walk away from the talks. “If you’re asking about the legendary Plan B, we’re not there yet.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov shrugged off the US rhetoric about Aleppo, however, pointing out that it was the US airstrike against the Syrian Army position besieged by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) that ended the ceasefire.
“I would like to emphasize that the Americans and their Western allies, for one thing, want to distract public attention from what had happened in Deir ez-Zor,” Lavrov told NTV on Monday.
Czech Ambassador in Syria: What happened in Syria over the past five years has nothing to do with revolution
The Czech Ambassador in Damascus Eva Filipi has stressed that what happened in Syria over the past five years was not a “revolution”, rather, it was an attempt by some countries to implement their agendas which proved to be unachievable in Syria.
In her presentation during a debate on the current developments in the Middle East organized by the Czech Institute 2080, Filipi said “what is going on in Syria is a proxy regional and international war”. She added that “though many strategic experts in the West had realized what kind of situation will be created in Syria, western countries insisted to press ahead with their schemes to impose the changes they want.”
She went on to say that the Turkish and Qatari regimes wanted from the very beginning to coercively impose the “Muslim Brotherhood” as a major political player and partner in Syria, which is an issue that has been strongly rejected by Syria, therefore these two regimes stood against the Syrian government.”
She pointed out that the so-called Syrian “opposition” is still divided and it hasn’t been able to come to an agreement for more than five years, so there is no hope to reach a compromise with such an opposition. Besides, the opposition abroad is backed by some countries and it is used to defend the interests of these countries.
Filipi warned that Qatar and Saudi Arabia are using money to influence Western countries and lead them to adopt stances that support the Qatari and Saudi policies.
She wondered how western countries can make alliance with such a radical regime like Saudi Arabia.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) says the national oil companies (NOCs) will continue to dominate upstream oil and gas investments if oil prices remain at current low levels.
The IEA’s executive director Fatih Birol told Reuters in an interview that the dominance of NOCs in oil investment projects will create a new dynamic in the market.
Birol added that that independent players like Anglo-Dutch Shell, US heavyweight ExxonMobil and France’s Total have already scaled back their investments in upstream projects. He said this is due to falling profit margins caused by weak oil prices.
Birol further emphasized that NOCs like Saudi Aramco, China’s CNPC and Mexico’s Pemex have raised their share of upstream investments to a 40-year high of 44 percent.
On the same front, Reuters highlighted IEA figures as showing that more than $300 billion of upstream oil and gas money has been slashed in 2015 and 2016 – in what appears to be an unprecedented amount.
The largest cost cuts have been implemented by North American independent companies that include Apache, Murphy Oil, Devon Energy and Marathon. The IEA said the companies have all reduced spending by around 80 percent between 2014 and 2016.
The Agency further added, as Reuters reported, that NOCs in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar have increased their capital for fresh investments via government bond issues. This policy, it said, has allowed them to make up for lower oil revenue.
Birol also said that the oil market could soon enter a new dynamic in which production decisions are less driven by market fundamentals.
“There are some NOCs that take other factors into consideration when making decisions,” Birol said, referring to internal economic or political issues as well as defense of market share.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says projects by the Israeli and Saudi Arabian regimes to portray Iran as a threat to the world have been falling flat over the past years.
Speaking to a group of Iranian expatriates in the Ghanaian capital city of Accra on Monday evening, Zarif said Tel Aviv and Riyadh, “two like-minded regimes,” are investing heavily in Iranophobia to draw attention away from their crimes and their collaborations.
“It is obvious that the cooperation of the Zionist regime (Israel) and the Saudi regime, which are two like-minded and congruent regimes, has today become known and can no more be concealed,” Zarif said.
He said the two regimes are concerned about their collaboration having become publicly known and are thus “investing further in Iranophobia” as a means of distraction.
He said, however, that, “The world has today waken up to the fact that the danger of Wahhabism is the real threat.”
Wahhabism is an extreme ideological strand openly preached by Saudi Arabian clerics, who have the blessing of ruling Saudi authorities. It is the main ideological feature of Takfiri terrorist groups — particularly Daesh — which declare people of other faiths and beliefs as “infidels” and, based on “decrees” from clerics, rule that they should be killed.
Most Arab governments have no diplomatic relations with Israel. Egypt and Qatar are the only two Arab states to have open diplomatic ties with Israel.
Some Arab governments, however, while posing as Israel’s traditional adversaries, have been revealed to have secret ties with the Tel Aviv regime. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are two such countries.
Last week, a retired general in the Saudi military traveled to Israel at the head of a delegation, meeting with Israel’s foreign ministry director general Dore Gold Yoav Mordechai and a number of Knesset members.
Both Riyadh and Tel Aviv were and continue to be fiercely opposed to a nuclear deal between Iran and a group of six world powers.
In his Monday remarks, Foreign Minister Zarif said the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), succeeded in proving to the world the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program.
The JCPOA was struck between Iran and the US, the UK, France, Russia, China and Germany on July 14, 2015.
Zarif is in Ghana on the second leg of a four-nation African tour. He was in Nigeria before arriving in Ghana and will be traveling to Guinea-Conakry and Mali on the third and fourth legs of his tour.
Terrorist attacks, an unprecedented refugee influx and other problems with which Europe is struggling to cope are the result of wrong decisions made by European leaders, Syria’s president Bashar Assad told a European Parliament delegation.
“The situation in Syria and the whole region naturally affects Europe a lot due to its location and social ties. The problems Europe faces today of terrorism, extremism and waves of refugees are caused by some western leaders’ adoption of policies which do not serve their people,” Assad told the delegation headed by Javier Couso, Vice Chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the European Parliament, who had been visiting Damascus, Syrian state news agency SANA reported.
This is especially true “when those leaders give support and political cover to terrorist groups inside Syria,” the president added.
He stressed the role that the European Parliament should play in fixing the policies of some of European countries which had let terrorism evolve. Economic sanctions imposed against Damascus have impacted the Syrian people, who were forced to leave their homeland, Assad also said.
Couso noted that the delegation is planning to take steps that would help change western countries’ rhetoric and will call for the lifting of sanctions, which he described as “unfair”.
He promised to “inform the Europeans on the real state of affairs in Syria and on how people suffer from terrorism,” the report said.
Syria plunged into chaos in 2011, when public protests escalated into an armed uprising as foreign powers warned the Assad government against cracking down on the protest. As violence expanded, radical groups and criminal gangs hijacked the process, turning Syria into the bloodiest battle zone of the modern world.
Foreign nations opposing Damascus, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United States and the United Kingdom, have been providing various Syrian opposition groups with aid, saying that only by supporting armed groups trying to topple the Syrian government can the conflict be stopped.
The US and other western countries aided so-called ‘moderate rebels’ in Syria with weapons and training, saying this would help them defeat both the Syrian army and terrorist organizations, which capitalized on the turmoil in Syria. The effort led to some embarrassing moments, for instance when the initial training program for the moderates produced only a handful of fighters after months of recruiting.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar are among the key providers of Syrian rebel groups with military and financial assistance, including some powerful Islamist groups seeking to turn Syria into a country governed by the Sharia law.
Turkey, which was hit most among Syria’s neighbors by the refugee crisis, hosting almost two million asylum seekers, is among the vocal opponents of Damascus too. Critics accuse Ankara of turning a blind eye on rebel activities in its territory, including recruiting, arms shipments and getting medical assistance.
Jihadists from terrorist groups like Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front are among those benefiting from such policies. IS staged a number of bloody terrorist attacks in Turkey since its rise to power in Iraq and Syria, killing hundreds of people. The organization also claimed responsibility for several high-profile attacks in Europe and the US.
The European delegation arrived in Damascus on Saturday. The group visited refugee center in the Syrian capital and met soldiers undergoing treatment in the Hamish hospital.
It’s been quite a while since the treaty on cease-fire in Syria was signed. We can say February 27 became the new anchor for the people of Syria who are tired of war and havoc. However, the situation doesn’t suit the main sponsors of the “Syrian revolution”, i.e. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar which had already planned how the country would be divided between them.
Turkey is interested in Syria’s division most of all. The most attractive “piece” for Turkey is Northern Syria and its destroyed economic capital Aleppo.
Obviously, the seized Northern territories would be a step forward in Erdogan’s plan to resurrect the Ottoman Empire he is dreaming about. That is why the seizure of Aleppo is a strategic goal for Erdogan and his partners.
The Turkish government has been supporting Syrian terrorists from the very outset of the war in March 2011.
As the Egyptian news site El-Badil reports, in late 2015 the Turkish government was supplying the Syrian opposition with money and food. Also, it allowed them to cross the border between Turkey and Syria. The fact that militants from terrorist groups fighting in Syria can freely cross the border is also reported by the Kurdish news agency ANHA. According to it, militants go through Bab Al-Salama border crossing point to the North of Aleppo from the Turkish city Kilis towards the Syrian town Azaz. As a rule, militants visit Turkey for two reasons: to undergo a qualified medical treatment to heal their wounds or to attend a military training in a special camp where Turks and Saudis work.
Despite all the efforts of Turkish officials to conceal their support in favor of the terrorists, the (Turkish and Western) media has nonetheless acknowledged Ankara’s insidious role. Even the Syrian opposition’s leaders have never hidden such facts. For example, in last September, one of its leaders, Ahmed Tuma, told the British newspaper Al-Arabi that Turkey was supplying Syrian militants with fuel and food. Tuma is proud of his relations with Turkish leaders and highly appreciates the role of Turkey in forming the so-called “new Syrian state.” And it’s no wonder as the oppositional leader lives on money received from Turkey.
According to the activists of the media center Syria from Inside in Ankara, all the operations of sponsoring the Syrian opposition leaders and field commanders of armed groups are conducted through a number of accounts in a Turkish based bank. Moreover, through this bank, Turkey finances NGOs whose main purpose is to support the Syrian revolution.
Besides that, Turkey’s support for Syrian militants, i.e. financing and training, is included in the US secret program Timber Sycamore, according to a New York Times report in January, 2016. The NYT acknowledges that Turkey has been sponsoring Syrian terrorists since 2013.
It’s obvious that the cease-fire in Syria is not to the advantage of Ankara, whose political leaders seek to overthrow the government of Bashar al Assad.
Now, the most important point of the face-off is Aleppo province. As locals say, more than 1000 terrorists arrived there between April to mid-May. The fighters were accompanied by trucks with arms and ammunition and off-road vehicles with large-caliber machine guns. Notably, the vehicles’ deployment is covered by Turkish artillery, regularly shelling Syrian border regions from the Turkish side. It’s clear that all these actions are evidence of the fact that terrorists are preparing a large-scale offensive in Aleppo.
No doubt, the attack on Aleppo is a part of the “hybrid” war implemented by Turkey in Syria. The artillery shelling of Syrian territories and the support for Syrian terrorists – Turkish news agency Anadolu calls these “a fight against ISIS.” And the Turkish government justify Erdogan’s desire to seize Northern Syria by claiming that it is just an attempt to create the so-called “safety zone” for refugees.
While the world is trying to reach a peace treaty in Syria, Turkish leaders are planning large-scale operations involving “opposition” terrorists and radical groups.
However, we want to believe that their plans won’t be crowned with success as everyone in Syria understands who is behind the “opposition” and what the “revolutionists” want to achieve.
Copyright © Said Al-Khalaki, Global Research, 2016
As was reported following the assassination of prominent Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres in March, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton erased all references to the 2009 coup in Honduras in the paperback edition of her memoirs, “Hard Choices.” Her three-page account of the coup in the original hardcover edition, where she admitted to having sanctioned it, was one of several lengthy sections cut from the paperback, published in April 2015 shortly after she had launched her presidential campaign.
A short, inconspicuous statement on the copyright page is the only indication that “a limited number of sections” — amounting to roughly 96 pages — had been cut “to accommodate a shorter length for this edition.” Many of the abridgements consist of narrative and description and are largely trivial, but there are a number of sections that were deleted from the original that also deserve attention.
Clinton’s take on Plan Colombia, a U.S. program furnishing (predominantly military) aid to Colombia to combat both the FARC and ELN rebels as well as drug cartels, and introduced under her husband’s administration in 2000, adopts a much more favorable tone in the paperback compared to the original. She begins both versions by praising the initiative as a model for Mexico — a highly controversial claim given the sharp rise in extrajudicial killings and the proliferation of paramilitary death squads in Colombia since the program was launched.
The two versions then diverge considerably. In the original, she explains that the program was expanded by Colombian President Álvaro Uribe “with strong support from the Bush Administration” and acknowledges that “new concerns began to arise about human rights abuses, violence against labor organizers, targeted assassinations, and the atrocities of right-wing paramilitary groups.” Seeming to place the blame for these atrocities on the Uribe and Bush governments, she then claims to have “made the choice to continue America’s bipartisan support for Plan Colombia” regardless during her tenure as secretary of state, albeit with an increased emphasis on “governance, education and development.”
By contrast, the paperback makes no acknowledgment of these abuses or even of the fact that the program was widely expanded in the 2000s. Instead, it simply makes the case that the Obama administration decided to build on President Clinton’s efforts to help Colombia overcome its drug-related violence and the FARC insurgency — apparently leading to “an unprecedented measure of security and prosperity” by the time of her visit to Bogotá in 2010.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership
Also found in the original is a paragraph where Clinton discusses her efforts to encourage other countries in the Americas to join negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement during a regional conference in El Salvador in June 2009:
So we worked hard to improve and ratify trade agreements with Colombia and Panama and encouraged Canada and the group of countries that became known as the Pacific Alliance — Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Chile — all open-market democracies driving toward a more prosperous future to join negotiations with Asian nations on TPP, the trans-Pacific trade agreement.
Clinton praises Latin America for its high rate of economic growth, which she revealingly claims has produced “more than 50 million new middle-class consumers eager to buy U.S. goods and services.” She also admits that the region’s inequality is “still among the worst in the world” with much of its population “locked in persistent poverty” — even while the TPP that she has advocated strongly for threatens to exacerbate the region’s underdevelopment, just as NAFTA caused the Mexican economy to stagnate.
Last October, however, she publicly reversed her stance on the TPP under pressure from fellow Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley. Likewise, the entire two-page section on the conference in El Salvador where she expresses her support for the TPP is missing from the paperback.
In her original account of her efforts to prevent Cuba from being admitted to the Organization of American States (OAS) in June 2009, Clinton singles out Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as a potential mediator who could help “broker a compromise” between the U.S. and the left-leaning governments of Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua. Her assessment of Lula, removed from the paperback, is mixed:
As Brazil’s economy grew, so did Lula’s assertiveness in foreign policy. He envisioned Brazil becoming a major world power, and his actions led to both constructive cooperation and some frustrations. For example, in 2004 Lula sent troops to lead the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, where they did an excellent job of providing order and security under difficult conditions. On the other hand, he insisted on working with Turkey to cut a side deal with Iran on its nuclear program that did not meet the international community’s requirements.
It is notable that the “difficult conditions” in Haiti that Clinton refers to was a period of perhaps the worst human rights crisis in the hemisphere at the time, following the U.S.-backed coup d’etat against democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004. Researchers estimate that some 4,000 people were killed for political reasons, and some 35,000 women and girls sexually assaulted. As various human rights investigators, journalists and other eyewitnesses noted at the time, some of the most heinous of these atrocities were carried out by Haiti’s National Police, with U.N. troops often providing support — when they were not engaging in them directly. WikiLeaked State Department cables, however, reveal that the State Department saw the U.N. mission as strategically important, in part because it helped to isolate Venezuela from other countries in the region, and because it allowed the U.S. to “manage” Haiti on the cheap.
In contrast to Lula, Clinton heaps praise on Lula’s successor, Dilma Rousseff, who was recently suspended from office pending impeachment proceedings:
Later I would enjoy working with Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s protégée, Chief of Staff, and eventual successor as President. On January 1, 2011, I attended her inauguration on a rainy but festive day in Brasilia. Tens of thousands of people lined the streets as the country’s first woman President drove by in a 1952 Rolls-Royce. She took the oath of office and accepted the traditional green and gold Presidential sash from her mentor, Lula, pledging to continue his work on eradicating poverty and inequality. She also acknowledged the history she was making. “Today, all Brazilian women should feel proud and happy.” Dilma is a formidable leader whom I admire and like.
The paperback version deletes almost all references to Rousseff, mentioning her only once as an alleged target of NSA spying according to Edward Snowden.
The Arab Spring
By far the lengthiest deletion in Clinton’s memoirs consists of a ten-page section discussing the Arab Spring in Jordan, Libya and the Persian Gulf region — amounting to almost half of the chapter. Having detailed her administration’s response to the mass demonstrations that had started in Tunisia before spreading to Egypt, then Jordan, then Bahrain and Libya, Clinton openly recognizes the profound contradictions at the heart of the U.S.’ relationship with its Gulf allies:
The United States had developed deep economic and strategic ties to these wealthy, conservative monarchies, even as we made no secret of our concerns about human rights abuses, especially the treatment of women and minorities, and the export of extremist ideology. Every U.S. administration wrestled with the contradictions of our policy towards the Gulf.
And it was appalling that money from the Gulf continued funding extremist madrassas and propaganda all over the world. At the same time, these governments shared many of our top security concerns.
Thanks to these shared “security concerns,” particularly those surrounding al-Qaeda and Iran, her administration strengthened diplomatic ties and sold vast amounts of military equipment to these countries:
The United States sold large amounts of military equipment to the Gulf states, and stationed the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain, the Combined Air and Space Operations Center in Qatar, and maintained troops in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, as well as key bases in other countries. When I became Secretary I developed personal relationships with Gulf leaders both individually and as a group through the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Clinton continues to reveal that the U.S.’ common interests with its Gulf allies extended well beyond mere security issues and in fact included the objective of regime change in Libya — which led the Obama administration into a self-inflicted dilemma as it weighed the ramifications of condemning the violent repression of protests in Bahrain with the need to build an international coalition, involving a number of Gulf states, to help remove Libyan leader Muammar Gaddhafi from power:
Our values and conscience demanded that the United States condemn the violence against civilians we were seeing in Bahrain, full stop. After all, that was the very principle at play in Libya. But if we persisted, the carefully constructed international coalition to stop Qaddafi could collapse at the eleventh hour, and we might fail to prevent a much larger abuse — a full-fledged massacre.
Instead of delving into the complexities of the U.S.’ alliances in the Middle East, the entire discussion is simply deleted, replaced by a pensive reflection on prospects for democracy in Egypt, making no reference to the Gulf region at all. Having been uncharacteristically candid in assessing the U.S.’ response to the Arab Spring, Clinton chose to ignore these obvious inconsistencies — electing instead to proclaim the Obama administration as a champion of democracy and human rights across the Arab world.
There is a simple explanation why Washington refuses to proscribe the militant groups Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham as terrorist. Because Washington relies on them for regime change in Syria.
Therefore, Washington and its Western and Middle East allies cannot possibly designate Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham as terrorist; otherwise it would be a self-indicting admission that the war in Syria is a foreign state-sponsored terrorist assault on a sovereign country.
This criminal conspiracy is understood by many observers as an accurate description of the five-year Syrian conflict and how it originated. Syria fits into the mold of US-led regime change wars in the Middle East and elsewhere. However, Washington and its allies, assisted by the Western corporate news media, have maintained a fictitious alternative narrative on Syria, claiming the war is an insurgency by a pro-democracy rebel movement.
That narrative has strained credulity over the years as the putative “secular rebels” have either vanished or turned out to be indistinguishable from extremist groups like al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra and so-called Islamic State (also known as Daesh).
Washington asserts that it only supports “moderate, secular rebels” of the Free Syrian Army. British Prime Minister David Cameron has claimed that there are 70,000 such “moderate rebels” fighting in Syria against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. But no-one can locate these supposed pro-democracy warriors.
All that can be seen is that the fight against the Syrian government is being waged by self-professed extremist jihadists who have no intention of establishing “democracy”. Instead, they explicitly want to carve out an Islamic state dominated by draconian Sharia law.
In addition to Jabhat al-Nusra and Daesh, the two other major militant groups, Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham, are vehemently committed to forming a Caliphate based on Salafi or Wahhabi ideology. That ideology views all other religious faiths, including moderate Sunni Muslims, as well as Shia and Alawites, as “infidels” fit to be persecuted until death.
Leaders of both Jaysh and Ahrar have publicly declared their repudiation of democracy.
Yet these two groups are nominated as the Syrian “opposition” in the Geneva talks, as part of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC). The HNC was cobbled together at a summit held in the Saudi capital Riyadh in December ahead of the anticipated negotiations to find a Syrian political settlement.
The HNC is endorsed by Washington as official representatives of the Syrian opposition. It is supported by Saudi Arabia, or indeed more accurately, orchestrated by the Saudi rulers since the main components of the HNC are Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham. Other major sponsors of the militant groups are Qatar and Turkey.
Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy to Syria, also plays an important part in the charade of furnishing an opposition composed of extremists who demand the Syrian government must stand down as a precondition for talks. This maximalist position is one of the main reasons why the negotiations have come unstuck, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Another basic reason is that the HNC members have been involved in breaching the cessation of violence the US and Russia brokered on February 27, as a confidence-building measure to assist the talks process in Geneva.
That Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham have not observed the shaky ceasefire is a corollary of the fact that both groups are integrated with al-Qaeda-affiliated terror organizations, al Nusra and Daesh, which are internationally designated terrorist organizations.
The UN excluded al-Qaeda franchises from the ceasefire when it passed Security Council Resolution 2254 in December to mandate the purported Syrian peace talks. In that way, Syria and its foreign allies, Russia, Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, have been legally entitled to continue offensive operations against the extremists in parallel to the Geneva process.
The offensive on the terror groups should include HNC members Jaysh and Ahrar. Both groups have publicly admitted to fighting alongside both Nusra and Daesh in their campaign against the Syrian army. All of these organizations have been involved at various times in bloody feuds and turf wars. Nevertheless, they are at other times self-declared collaborators.
Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham are also well-documented to having engaged in massacres and barbarities as vile as the other higher profile terror outfits.
Only last week, Ahrar al-Sham was responsible for the massacre of women and children in the village of Al-Zahraa, near Aleppo, according to survivors. The group has carried out countless no-warning car bombings in civilians neighborhoods. It claimed responsibility for a bombing outside the Russian base at Idlib earlier this year, which killed dozens.
Jaysh al-Islam has publicly admitted using chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians in recent weeks, also near Aleppo, Syria’s second city after the capital Damascus, and currently the key battleground in the whole conflict.
The same jihadist militia is allegedly linked to the chemical weapon atrocity in August 2013 in the Damascus suburb of East Ghouta, when hundreds of civilians, including children, were apparently killed from exposure to Sarin gas. That attack was initially blamed on Syrian government forces and it nearly prompted the Obama administration to order direct military intervention on the pretext that a “red line” was crossed. Until that is, Moscow steered a ground-breaking deal to decommission chemical weapons held by the Syrian state. It later transpired that the more likely culprit for the East Ghouta atrocity was the Jaysh al-Islam militants.
A former commander of the group, Zahran Alloush, once declared that he would “cleanse” all Shia, Alawites and other infidels from the Levant. Many Syrian civilians later rejoiced when the “terrorist boss” – their words – was killed in a Syrian air force strike on December 25. Notably, Saudi Arabia and Turkey vehemently protested over Alloush’s death.
It is irrefutable from both their actions and self-declarations that Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham are by any definition terrorist groups. Certainly, Russia and Iran have officially listed both as such.
But not so Washington and its allies. Earlier this month, a Russian proposal at the UN Security Council to proscribe Jaysh and Ahrar was blocked by the US, Britain and France. An American spokesperson told the AFP news agency that it rejected the Russian motion because it feared the tentative Syrian ceasefire would collapse entirely. This is an unwitting US admission about who the main fighting forces in the Syrian “rebellion” are.
This week US Secretary of State John Kerry made an extraordinary claim which, as usual, went unnoticed in the Western media. Kerry said the US “still has leverage in Syria” because if the Syrian government does not accept Washington’s demands for political transition then the country would face years of more war.
Kerry’s confidence in threatening a war of attrition on Syria is based on the fact that the main terror groups are directly or indirectly controlled by Washington and its regional allies in Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham are essential to the terror front that gives Washington its leverage in Syria. But the charade must be kept covered with the preposterous denial that these groups are not terrorists.
On March 23, 2011, at the very start of what we now call the ‘Syrian conflict,’ two young men – Sa’er Yahya Merhej and Habeel Anis Dayoub – were gunned down in the southern Syrian city of Daraa.
Merhej and Dayoub were neither civilians, nor were they in opposition to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. They were two regular soldiers in the ranks of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA).
Shot by unknown gunmen, Merhej and Dayoub were the first of eighty-eight soldiers killed throughout Syria in the first month of this conflict– in Daraa, Latakia, Douma, Banyas, Homs, Moadamiyah, Idlib, Harasta, Suweida, Talkalakh and the suburbs of Damascus.
According to the UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, the combined death toll for Syrian government forces was 2,569 by March 2012, the first year of the conflict. At that time, the UN’s total casualty count for all victims of political violence in Syria was 5,000.
These numbers paint an entirely different picture of events in Syria. This was decidedly not the conflict we were reading about in our headlines – if anything, the ‘parity’ in deaths on both sides even suggests that the government used ‘proportionate’ force in thwarting the violence.
But Merhej and Dayoub’s deaths were ignored. Not a single Western media headline told their story – or that of the other dead soldiers. These deaths simply didn’t line up with the Western ‘narrative’ of the Arab uprisings and did not conform to the policy objectives of Western governments.
For American policymakers, the “Arab Spring” provided a unique opportunity to unseat the governments of adversary states in the Middle East. Syria, the most important Arab member of the Iran-led ‘Resistance Axis,’ was target number one.
To create regime-change in Syria, the themes of the “Arab Spring” needed to be employed opportunistically – and so Syrians needed to die.
The “dictator” simply had to “kill his own people” – and the rest would follow.
How words kill
Four key narratives were spun ad nauseam in every mainstream Western media outlet, beginning in March 2011 and gaining steam in the coming months.
– The Dictator is killing his “own people.”
– The protests are “peaceful.”
– The opposition is “unarmed.”
– This is a “popular revolution.”
Pro-Western governments in Tunisia and Egypt had just been ousted in rapid succession in the previous two months – and so the ‘framework’ of Arab Spring-style, grass roots-powered regime-change existed in the regional psyche. These four carefully framed ‘narratives’ that had gained meaning in Tunisia and Egypt, were now prepped and loaded to delegitimize and undermine any government at which they were lobbed.
But to employ them to their full potential in Syria, Syrians had to take to the streets in significant numbers and civilians had to die at the hands of brutal security forces. The rest could be spun into a “revolution” via the vast array of foreign and regional media outlets committed to this “Arab Spring” discourse.
Protests, however, did not kick off in Syria the way they had in Tunisia and Egypt. In those first few months, we saw gatherings that mostly numbered in the hundreds – sometimes in the thousands – to express varied degrees of political discontent. Most of these gatherings followed a pattern of incitement from Wahhabi-influenced mosques during Friday’s prayers, or after local killings that would move angry crowds to congregate at public funerals.
A member of a prominent Daraa family explained to me that there was some confusion over who was killing people in his city – the government or “hidden parties.” He explains that, at the time, Daraa’s citizens were of two minds: “One was that the regime is shooting more people to stop them and warn them to finish their protests and stop gathering. The other opinion was that hidden militias want this to continue, because if there are no funerals, there is no reason for people to gather.”
With the benefit of hindsight, let’s look at these Syria narratives five years into the conflict:
We know now that several thousand Syrian security forces were killed in the first year, beginning March 23, 2011. We therefore also know that the opposition was “armed” from the start of the conflict. We have visual evidence of gunmen entering Syria across the Lebanese border in April and May 2011. We know from the testimonies of impartial observers that gunmen were targeting civilians in acts of terrorism and that “protests” were not all “peaceful”.
The Arab League mission conducted a month-long investigation inside Syria in late 2011 and reported:
“In Homs, Idlib and Hama, the observer mission witnessed acts of violence being committed against government forces and civilians that resulted in several deaths and injuries. Examples of those acts include the bombing of a civilian bus, killing eight persons and injuring others, including women and children, and the bombing of a train carrying diesel oil. In another incident in Homs, a police bus was blown up, killing two police officers. A fuel pipeline and some small bridges were also bombed.”
Longtime Syrian resident and Dutch priest Father Frans van der Lugt, who was killed in Homs in April 2014, wrote in January 2012:
“From the start the protest movements were not purely peaceful. From the start I saw armed demonstrators marching along in the protests, who began to shoot at the police first. Very often the violence of the security forces has been a reaction to the brutal violence of the armed rebels.”
A few months earlier, in September 2011, he had observed:
“From the start there has been the problem of the armed groups, which are also part of the opposition… The opposition on the street is much stronger than any other opposition. And this opposition is armed and frequently employs brutality and violence, only in order then to blame the government.”
Furthermore, we also now know that whatever Syria was, it was no “popular revolution.” The Syrian army has remained intact, even after blanket media coverage of mass defections. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians continued to march in unreported demonstrations in support of the president. The state’s institutions and government and business elite have largely remained loyal to Assad. Minority groups – Alawites, Christians, Kurds, Druze, Shia, and the Baath Party, which is majority Sunni – did not join the opposition against the government. And the major urban areas and population centers remain under the state’s umbrella, with few exceptions.
A genuine “revolution,” after all, does not have operation rooms in Jordan and Turkey. Nor is a “popular” revolution financed, armed and assisted by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the US, UK and France.
Sowing “Narratives” for geopolitical gain
The 2010 US military’s Special Forces Unconventional Warfare manual states:
“The intent of US [Unconventional Warfare] UW efforts is to exploit a hostile power’s political, military, economic, and psychological vulnerabilities by developing and sustaining resistance forces to accomplish US strategic objectives… For the foreseeable future, US forces will predominantly engage in irregular warfare (IW) operations.”
A secret 2006 US State Department cable reveals that Assad’s government was in a stronger position domestically and regionally than in recent years, and suggests ways to weaken it: “The following provides our summary of potential vulnerabilities and possible means to exploit them…” This is followed by a list of “vulnerabilities” – political, economic, ethnic, sectarian, military, psychological – and recommended “actions” on how to “exploit” them.
This is important. US unconventional warfare doctrine posits that populations of adversary states usually have active minorities that respectively oppose and support their government, but for a “resistance movement” to succeed, it must sway the perceptions of the large “uncommitted middle population” to turn on their leaders. Says the manual (and I borrow liberally here from a previous article of mine):
To turn the “uncommitted middle population” into supporting insurgency, UW recommends the “creation of atmosphere of wider discontent through propaganda and political and psychological efforts to discredit the government.”
As conflict escalates, so should the “intensification of propaganda; psychological preparation of the population for rebellion.”
First, there should be local and national “agitation” – the organization of boycotts, strikes, and other efforts to suggest public discontent. Then, the “infiltration of foreign organizers and advisors and foreign propaganda, material, money, weapons and equipment.”
The next level of operations would be to establish “national front organizations [i.e. the Syrian National Council] and liberation movements [i.e. the Free Syrian Army]” that would move larger segments of the population toward accepting “increased political violence and sabotage” – and encourage the mentoring of “individuals or groups that conduct acts of sabotage in urban centers.”
I wrote about foreign-backed irregular warfare strategies being employed in Syria one year into the crisis – when the overwhelming media narratives were still all about the “dictator killing his own people,” protests being “peaceful,” the opposition mostly “unarmed,” the “revolution wildly “popular,” and thousands of “civilians” being targeted exclusively by state security forces.
A man rides a bicycle near a building damaged during the Syrian conflict between government forces and rebels in Homs, Syria May 13, 2014 © Omar Sanadiki
Were these narratives all manufactured? Were the images we saw all staged? Or was it only necessary to fabricate some things – because the “perception” of the vast middle population, once shaped, would create its own natural momentum toward regime change?
And what do we, in the region, do with this startling new information about how wars are conducted against us – using our own populations as foot soldiers for foreign agendas?
Create our own “game”
Two can play at this narratives game.
The first lesson learned is that ideas and objectives can be crafted, framed finessed and employed to great efficacy.
The second take-away is that we need to establish more independent media and information distribution channels to disseminate our own value propositions far and wide.
Western governments can rely on a ridiculously sycophantic army of Western and regional journalists to blast us with their propaganda day and night. We don’t need to match them in numbers or outlets – we can also employ strategies to deter their disinformation campaigns. Western journalists who repeatedly publish false, inaccurate and harmful information that endanger lives must be barred from the region.
These are not journalists – I prefer to call them media combatants – and they do not deserve the liberties accorded to actual media professionals. If these Western journalists had, in the first year of the Syrian conflict, questioned the premises of any of the four narratives listed above, would 250,000-plus Syrians be dead today? Would Syria be destroyed and 12 million Syrians made homeless? Would ISIS even exist?
Free speech? No thank you – not if we have to die for someone else’s national security objectives.
Syria changed the world. It brought the Russians and Chinese (BRICS) into the fray and changed the global order from a unipolar one to a multilateral one – overnight. And it created common cause between a group of key states in the region that now form the backbone of a rising ‘Security Arc’ from the Levant to the Persian Gulf. We now have immense opportunities to re-craft the world and the Middle East in our own vision. New borders? We will draw them from inside the region. Terrorists? We will defeat them ourselves. NGOs? We will create our own, with our own nationals and our own agendas. Pipelines? We will decide where they are laid.
But let’s start building those new narratives before the ‘Other’ comes in to fill the void.
A word of caution. The worst thing we can do is to waste our time rejecting foreign narratives. That just makes us the ‘rejectionists’ in their game. And it gives their game life. What we need to do is create our own game – a rich vocabulary of homegrown narratives – one that defines ourselves, our history and aspirations, based on our own political, economic and social realities. Let the ‘Other’ reject our version, let them become the ‘rejectionists’ in our game… and give it life.
Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She is a former senior associate at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University and has a master’s degree in International Relations from Columbia University. You can follow her on Twitter at @snarwani
The Gulf monarchies are the main facilitators of Britain’s support for sectarian death squads in the Middle East. This should be no surprise because Britain brought them to power precisely because of their sectarianism.
“What we want is not a united Arabia: but a weak and disunited Arabia split up into little principalities so far as possible under our suzerainty, but incapable of coordinated action against us” – so claimed a memorandum written by the Foreign Department of the British Government of India in 1915.
A more succinct summary of British policy towards the Arab world – both then and now – would be hard to find.
As we outlined in the first piece in this series, Britain’s weapon of choice in its attempt to destroy the independent regional powers of West Asia and North Africa in recent years has been its sponsorship of violent sectarianism. Its support for racist death squads in Libya not only achieved the destruction of the Libyan state, but also brought terrorism to every country in the region from Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria to Chad, Nigeria and Cameroon; whilst its training and equipping of death squads in Syria has been directly responsible for the rise of ISIS.
These forces, by setting Sunni against Shia, Muslim against Christian, and Arab against Black, are helping to bring about precisely that “weak and disunited Arabia” that the British officials in India dreamed of one hundred years ago.
Alongside the direct support and recruitment provided by British intelligence and the British government, one of the main conduits for arms and fighters has been the gulf monarchies: Qatar and Saudi Arabia in particular. That the Gulf States should play this role should, of course, be no surprise – as they were very largely the creations of the same British Government of India that wrote that memo in the first place.
In 1857, British colonial rule of India was challenged as never before, as what started as a mutiny rapidly spread across the country to become a mass insurgency, the first war of Indian independence. One of the reasons it was so potent is that Hindus and Muslims had joined forces – leading to what became the biggest anti-colonial uprising of the nineteenth century. Britain learned the lessons – and began to cultivate sectarian divisions more assiduously than ever before.
As Mark Curtis notes in Secret Affairs: “After 1857 the British promoted communalism, creating separate electorates and job and educational reservations for Muslims. ‘Divide et imperia [divide and rule]’ was the old Roman motto, declared William Elphinstone, the early nineteenth-century governor of Bombay, ‘and it should be ours’. This view pervaded and became a cornerstone of British rule in India”.
Curtis quotes one document after another to demonstrate just how pervasive this view became: one Secretary of State advising the governor general that “we have maintained our power in India by playing off one part against the other and we must continue to do so. Do all you can, therefore, to prevent all having a common feeling”; another informing the Viceroy that “this division of religious feeling is greatly to our advantage”; a senior civil servant writing that “the truth plainly is that the existence side by side of these hostile creeds is one of the strong points in our political position in India. The better clashes of Mohammedans are already a source to us of strength and not of weakness”, and so on, ad nauseam. Yet, Curtis notes, it was not in India but in the Middle East that this divide and rule strategy “reached its apogee”.
The British Government of India began cultivating alliances with family clans in the Arabian peninsula from around the late eighteenth century, formalizing these relationships through official treaties over the course of the next hundred and fifty years. Even before the discovery of oil, the region was deemed strategically important as part of the land route from India, as well for its surrounding sea routes, and the Indian government took steps to ensure that it be placed firmly under British control.
By the nineteenth century, Britain was already the pre-eminent naval power in the region, and had become powerful enough to make or break the fortunes of those to whom it lent (or withdrew) its ‘protection’. So it is interesting to note that those families which Britain did choose to turn into ruling classes of the new states that were being carved out – the Al Saud, the Al Thani, the Al Khalifa and others – all seemed to have two things in common: a history of regular warring with their neighbours; and an, at best, shaky control of the territories they claimed to rule. These factors were not coincidental – for what they produced was a dependence on British protection that effectively turned them into little more than vassals of Empire.
The al-Khalifa clan, for example, today’s rulers of Bahrain, originally hailed from Umm Qasr in Iraq, from where they were expelled by the Ottomans due to their regular attacks on trade caravans. They first seized control of Bahrain in 1783 after Persian rule began to crumble, but lost control two decades later falling out with the Wahhabis with whom they were briefly allied. It was only after signing a treaty with the British in 1820 that their rule was consolidated. This treaty, and the others that followed, effectively placed foreign policy in the hands of the British in exchange for Britain propping up the al Khalifa’s rule of the country – an arrangement that has continued, to all intents and purposes, right up to the present day.
Being effectively an alien force in the country, the al Khalifa were permanently at risk from the population they sought to rule, especially given their persecution of the Shia majority. This made British protection that much more important, and increased British leverage accordingly; whenever any particular Khalifa emir began to act too independently, the British would simply replace them.
Lieutenant Colonel Trevor, the Deputy Political Agent in Bahrain after the First World War, put it bluntly when, after receiving a series of demands from the new crown prince he noted that “The Shaikh forgets that he and his father were made Shaikhs by the British government.” Shortly afterwards, the British sent warships to the gulf to force the Shaikh to sign an agreement ceding all powers to his other son – a British protégé.
Formal independence was granted in 1971, but given that power was being handed over to the same family that had ruled Bahrain on Britain’s behalf for the past century and a half, this changed little. The most notable difference was perhaps the flags on the foreign warships at the country’s naval base, which changed from British to US.
Fast forward to the present day, and it is clear that the essence of the 1820 treaty – al Khalifa rule propped up by Western armaments, with foreign policy in the hands of the West – is still very much in place. Whilst David Cameron was proclaiming democracy (a euphemism for state collapse) for Libya and Syria, he was in Bahrain selling weapons to the Khalifas to suppress their own ‘Arab Spring’; whilst three years later the US fifth fleet would be firing hellfire missiles into Syria from its Bahraini base.
But British support for the al Khalifas has never been absolute; rather they built up the al-Thani clan as a ‘counterweight’ to the Khalifa in order to guarantee their continued dependence on the British. Up until 1867, Qatar had been essentially a semi-autonomous province of Bahrain, its government effectively ‘sub-contracted’ to the Al Thanis. In that year, however, a war between the Al Thanis and the Al Khalifas broke out; Britain intervened on the side of the Al Thanis, carving out Qatar out as a separate political entity and recognising the Al Thanis as its rulers. The border between the two countries was left devilishly ambiguous, and remained a running sore in Qatari-Bahraini relations right up until 2001; a “weak and disunited Arabia” indeed.
Further agreements were signed with the Al Thanis in 1935, offering them protection against internal and external threats in exchange for oil concessions. Qatar too gained formal independence in 1971, but the deep links forged during the period of the protectorate remain; indeed both the Emirs that have ruled since then were educated at Sandhurst Military Academy, with the current Sheikh educated at elite English private school Sherborne before that.
The relationship between Britain and the ruling families of Bahrain and Qatar continues to follow that same basic principle forged centuries ago, and now also extended to the US: whilst the ruling families act as regional agents of Western imperial policy, their rule is maintained by Western weaponry. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than the events of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’. The protests breaking out across the Arab world in early 2011 soon spread to Bahrain, where angry crowds demanded an end to the monarchy’s policies of discrimination and exclusion against the Shia majority. Cameron’s immediate response was to head to the region to sell the embattled regime the weapons it needed to crush the movement. The following year, the country’s interior minister, Rashid bin Abdulla al-Khalifa, visited the Foreign Office to gather “lessons learnt from our experience in Northern Ireland”, according to a British government statement. This experience was particularly relevant; the problem faced by the British in the North of Ireland was, after all, broadly analogous to that faced by the Bahraini monarchy: how to maintain an oppressive sectarian rule and crush movements calling for equality. The sight of British APCs in the street shooting down demonstrators, now common in the Bahraini capital, will be familiar to Belfast’s nationalist communities; and so too will the latest human rights reports coming out of Bahrain describing “detainees being beaten, deprived of sleep, burned with cigarettes, sexually assaulted, subjected to electric shocks and burnt with an iron”, all common practices in British army barracks in 1970s Ireland. Britain’s Bahraini students are quick learners. The US Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain and used to fire missiles into Syria and Libya, is in safe hands.
Qatar, meanwhile, was a lynchpin in not only the militarization of the ‘Arab Spring’ and its capture by violent sectarian forces, but also its ideological whitewashing. The Al Jazeera TV channel was established by the Qatari government in 1996, effecting to what amounted to a ‘brown-facing’ of the BBC Arabic channel, which was closed down the same year before transferring a large chunk of its staff to the ‘new’ station. Al Jazeera built its credibility across the region – and, indeed, the world – with its critical coverage of Western and Israeli attacks on Iraq and Gaza. But in 2011 it would use this credibility to serve as NATO’s propagandist-in-chief, amplifying and disseminating every lie it could get its hands on – from African mercenaries, to mass rape, to ‘bombing his own people’, to ‘impending massacre’ – in order to demonize Gaddafi and sell the case for war. It would be a war in which Qatar would play a major role.
In the early days of the West’s attack on Libya, anti-Gaddafi rebel forces (led by the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, Al Qaeda’s Libyan franchise), even with NATO air support, proved spectacularly ineffective at capturing and holding territory from the Libyan government. For the first few months, most of the towns they ‘captured’ thanks to NATO incineration of government soldiers would simply be retaken by the Libyan army days later. But NATO countries were wary of risking a domestic political backlash by openly committing too many of their own troops or resources to tip the balance. The solution found was to let Qatar and the Gulf states carry out its dirty work. They played a leading role in training and equipping rebel fighters, allowing NATO to be pretending to observe the arms embargo to which UN resolutions committed them. As the Royal United Services Institute noted, “the UAE established a Special Forces presences in the Zawiyah district and started to supply rebel forces in that area with equipment and provisions by air. Qatar also assumed a very large role; it established training facilities in both Benghazi, and, particularly the Nafusa Mountains on May 9 and acted as a supply route and conduit for French weapons and ammunition supplies to the rebels (notably in June), including by establishing an airstrip at Zintan.” They added that, “Western special forces could have confidence in the training roles undertaken by Qatar and the UAE, because the special forces in those countries have in turn been trained by the UK and France over many years”.
In addition to this major training and arming role, Qatari jets also joined NATO in pounding Libya, and the country issued $100million of loans to the rebel groups. But most important was the Qatari ground invasion of Tripoli.
As Horace Campbell has documented in his book ‘Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya’, by the summer of 2011, NATO were nearing a crisis-point: the 60-day period in which the US president could engage in hostilities without Congressional support was over, and the UN mandate for military intervention was to expire in September. Calls were growing within the AU and the UN for a negotiated settlement, and rivalry between militias continued to dog the rebels’ progress. NATO needed to take Tripoli quickly if their regime change operation was not to be stalled in its tracks.
So in mid-August, NATO massively stepped up its bombing of Tripoli. Checkpoints, manned by citizens pledged to defend the capital were repeatedly targeted, and Obama sent the last two training drones left in the US to the Libyan front-line. That paved the way for what Campbell called “NATO’s triple assault – by air, land and sea”; not a ‘people’s uprising’ but rather a ground invasion to crush the people who had risen to defend their city. Troops were shipped in and disguised as ‘rebel fighters’, with, according to Le Figaro, five thousand Qatari troops chief amongst them. It was they who, finally, captured Tripoli for NATO, installing Abdul Hakim Bel Haj, now suspected leader of ISIS in Libya, as the new military chief of the conquered city.
Bahrain and Qatar are just two examples of the enduring alliances that the British government has cultivated over centuries as it groomed handpicked ruling families for their anointed role as agents of imperial policy. In exchange for a British guarantee of their absolute power domestically, they have provided military bases and have acted as willing agents for those tasks their patron was either unwilling or unable to carry out itself. Today, that means acting as an ‘arms-length’ distributor of both BBC propaganda and British violence, in far more ways than have been possible to articulate here (Qatar’s role in managing the various Muslim Brotherhood offshoots that have been destabilizing Syria, Egypt and elsewhere, for example, would need a full article in its own right). But even more significant than the British alliance with the al Khalifas and al Thanis is that which was established with the al-Saud family, the subject of our next piece. For it is this relationship, forged during the slow decline of the Ottoman Empire, that ultimately created a new multinational fighting force of fighters in the 1980s – the ‘database’ – that has been doing Britain’s bidding in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria ever since.
This is Part Two of Sukant Chandan and Dan Glazebrook’s series on British collusion with sectarian violence.
Read Part One here.
Dan Glazebrook is a freelance political writer. His first book “Divide and Ruin: The West’s Imperial Strategy in an Age of Crisis” was published by Liberation Media in October 2013. It featured a collection of articles written from 2009 onwards examining the links between economic collapse, the rise of the BRICS, war on Libya and Syria and ‘austerity’. He is currently researching a book on US-British use of sectarian death squads against independent states and movements from Northern Ireland and Central America in the 1970s and 80s to the Middle East and Africa today.
Syria on Thursday lashed out at Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, stressing that the regimes are defying international law over their backing of terrorists organizations operating in Syria.
In a letter sent to the UN Secretary-General and head of the UN Security Council, the Syrian foreign ministry said violations of the truce in Aleppo and attacking safe residential neighborhoods prove once again that the regimes of Riyadh, Ankara and Doha keep defying UN Security Council resolutions.
“Armed terrorist groups breached a truce in Aleppo that culminated tough efforts to which the Syrian Arab Army has fully committed since Thursday morning May 5 2016 as agreed,” SANA news agency cited the Syrian letter.
The ministry explained that a few hours after the truce took effect early on Thursday, the armed terrorist groups shelled the safe residential neighborhoods in Aleppo city including al-Khalediya, al-Zahraa, al-Suleimaniyeh, Sallahu-Eddin , al-Azeeziya and al-Midan with heavy barrage of rocket shells, explosive gas cylinders (Hell cannon) and mortar shells.
The terrorist attacks on the residential neighborhoods and Dar al-Farah school resulted in killing three civilians, injuring others and causing massive devastation to private and public properties, the Syrian foreign ministry said.
The ministry confirmed that the crime of violating the truce in Aleppo reveals the real face of the terrorist armed groups, adding that these terrorist groups which are backed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other countries have no other aim but to kill Syrians and destroy their country, yet some insist on calling them ‘moderate opposition.’
“On Thursday morning, May 5 2016, ISIL terrorist organization detonated a car and motorcycle bombs in the main square of al-Mukaram al-Fouqani city in Homs province, killing 12 civilians and injuring 40 others including children, women and elders,” added the ministry, referring to the Takfiri group.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Turkey exercises a “decisive influence” on the so-called opposition group High Negotiations Committee (HNC) which is in peace talks with the Damascus government.
Lavrov made the remarks on Monday while commenting on the progress of the latest round of negotiations between the Syrian government and HNC, which began in Geneva on April 13.
Syria peace talks are going on despite the absence of the Saudi-backed opposition as the group’s leaders left the talks on April 19 to protest at what they called escalating violence and restrictions on humanitarian access in Syria.
A ceasefire, brokered by Russia and the US, went into effect on February 27 across Syria. Fighting, however, picked up and left the truce in tatters. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council has agreed on a six-month deadline for drafting a new constitution for the Arab country in line with the proposal of the International Syria Support Group.
“In order to come to terms over six months it is necessary not to slam the door and dig in heels, as several delegates of the so-called Riyadh group have done, Lavrov said, adding that “it’s no secret” that Turkey has a “decisive influence” on them.
“So one should not come for talks with ultimatums but should sit down at the negotiating table and reach an agreement,” Lavrov added, noting that the situation at the UN-brokered talks could have been better if HNC had not left Geneva.
The top Russian diplomat also said that Moscow was preparing a report for the UN Security Council to extend the list of terrorist groups in Syria.
“We are currently collecting information that Jebhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front) subjugates groups that seemed to have declared truce and readiness to join ceasefire,” Lavrov said, adding, “We will summarize facts and present them to [the] UN Security Council to adjust terrorist lists.”
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. Damascus says Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar are the main supporters of the militants fighting the government forces.
According to UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, some 400,000 people have lost their lives as a result of over five years of conflict in Syria.