With the situation in the Middle East seemingly spinning out of control, many political observers are left wondering what it all means. The war in Syria has been at the forefront of the news since 2011, and rightly so, as Syria has become the epicenter of a larger regional conflict, particularly with the ascendance of ISIS in the last year.
Undoubtedly, the mainstream acceptance of the ISIS threat has changed the strategic calculus vis-à-vis Syria, as the US prepares to launch yet another open-ended war, ostensibly to defeat it. And, while many in the West are willing to buy the ISIS narrative and pretext for war, they do so with little understanding or recognition of the larger geopolitical contours of this conflict. Essentially, almost everyone ignores the fact that ISIS and Syria-Iraq is only one theater of conflict in the broader regional war being waged by the US-NATO-GCC-Israel axis. Also of vital importance is an understanding of the proxy war against Iran (and all Shia in the region), being fomented by the very same terror and finance networks that have spread the ISIS disease in Syria.
In attempting to unravel the complex web of relations between the terror groups operating throughout the region, important commonalities begin to emerge. Not only are many of these groups directly or tangentially related to each other, their shadowy connections to western intelligence bring into stark relief an intricate mosaic of terror that is part of a broader strategy of sectarianism designed to destroy the “Axis of Resistance” which unites Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah. In so doing, these terror groups and their patrons hope to internationalize the war in Syria, and its destructive consequences.
Terrorism as a Weapon in Syria and Iraq
In order to understand how these seemingly disparate groups fit into the regional destabilization, one must first recognize how they are connected both in terms of ideology and shared relationships. On the one hand you have the well known terror outfits operating in the Syria-Iraq theater of this conflict. These would include the ubiquitous ISIS, along with its Al Qaeda-affiliated ally Jabhat Al-Nusra.
However, often left out of the western narrative is the fact that the so called “moderate rebels,” such as the Al Farouq Brigade and other similar groups affiliated with the “Free Syrian Army,” are also linked through various associations with a number of jihadi organizations in Syria and beyond. These alleged “moderates” have been documented as having committed a number of egregious war crimes including mutilation of their victims, and cross-border indiscriminate shelling. And these are the same “moderates” that the Obama Administration spent the last three years touting as allies, as groups worthy of US weapons, to say nothing of the recent revelations of cooperation with US air power. But of course US cooperation with these extremist elements is only the tip of the iceberg.
A recent UN report further corroborated the allegations that Israeli military and/or Mossad is cooperating with, and likely helping to organize, the Jabhat al-Nusra organization in and around the Golan Heights. Such claims of course dovetail with the reports from Israeli media that militant extremists fighting the Syrian government have been treated in Israeli medical facilities. Naturally, these clandestine activities carried out by Israel should be combined with the overt attacks on Syria carried out by Tel Aviv, including recent airstrikes, which despite the inaction of the UN and international community, undeniably constitute a war crime.
Beyond the US and Israel however, other key regional actors have taken part in the destabilization and war on Syria. Turkey has provided safe haven for terrorists streaming into Syria to wage war against the legally recognized government of President Assad. In cooperation with the CIA and other agencies, Turkey has worked diligently to foment civil war in Syria in hopes of toppling the Assad government, thereby allowing Ankara to elevate itself to a regional hegemon, or so the thinking of Erdogan and Davutoglu goes. Likewise, Jordan has provided training facilities for terrorists under the guidance and tutelage of “instructors” from the US, UK, and France.
But why rehash all these well-documented aspects of the destabilization and war on Syria? Simple. In order to fully grasp the regional dimension and global implications of this conflict, one must place the Syria war in its broader geopolitical context, and understand it as one part of a broader war on the “Axis of Resistance.” For, while Hezbollah and certain Iranian elements have been involved in the fighting and logistical support in Syria, another insidious threat has emerged – a renewed terror war against Iran in its Sistan and Baluchestan province in the east.
Rekindling the Proxy War against Iran
As the world’s attention has been understandably fixed upon the horrors of Syria, Iraq, and Libya, a new theater in the regional conflict has come to the forefront – Iran; specifically, Iran’s eastern Sistan and Baluchestan province, long a hotbed of separatism and anti-Shia terror, where a variety of terror groups have operated with the covert, and often overt, backing of western and Israeli intelligence agencies.
Just in the last year, there have been numerous attacks on Iranian military and non-military targets in the Sistan and Baluchestan region, attacks carried out by a variety of groups. Perhaps the most well known instance occurred in March 2014 when five Iranian border guards were kidnapped – one was later executed – by Jaish al-Adl which, according to the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium is:
an extremist Salafi group that has since its foundation claimed responsibility for a series of operations against Iran’s domestic security forces and Revolutionary Guards operating in Sistan and Balochistan province, including the detonation of mines [link added] against Revolutionary Guards vehicles and convoys, kidnapping of Iranian border guards and attacks against military bases… Jaish al-Adl is also opposed to the Iranian Government’s active support of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which they regard as an attack on Sunni muslims… Jaish ul-Adl executes cross border operations between the border of Iran and Pakistan and is based in the Baluchistan province in Pakistan.
It is important to note the centrality of Iran’s support for Syria and the Syrian Arab Army (and of course Hezbollah) in the ideological framework of a group like Jaish al-Adl. Essentially, this terror group sees their war against the Iranian government as an adjunct of the war against Assad and Syria – a new front in a larger war. Of course, the sectarian aspect should not be diminished as this group, like its many terrorist cousins, makes no distinction between political and religious/sectarian divisions. A war on Iran is a war on Shia, and both are just, both are legitimate.
Similarly, the last 18 months have seen the establishment of yet another terror group known as Ansar al-Furqan – a fusion of the Balochi Harakat Ansar and Pashto Hizb al-Furqan, both of which had been operating along Iran’s eastern border with Pakistan. According to the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium:
They characterize themselves as Mujahideen aginst [sic] the Shia government in Iran and are linked to Katibat al Asad Al ‘Ilamiya; Al-Farooq activists; al Nursra Front (JN), Nosrat Deen Allah, Jaysh Muhammad, Jaysh al ‘Adal; and though it was denied for some time, appears to have at least personal relationships with Jundallah… The stated mission of Ansar al Furqan is “to topple the Iranian regime…”
Like its terrorist cousin Jaish al-Adl, Ansar al-Furqan has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks against the Iranian Government, including a May 2014 IED attack on a freight train belonging to government forces. While such attacks may not make a major splash in terms of international attention, they undoubtedly send a message heard loud and clear in Tehran: these terrorists and their sponsors will stop at nothing to destroy the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Two inescapable facts immediately come to the fore when examining these groups. On the one hand, they are Sunni extremists whose ultimate goal is the destruction of the Iranian state and all vestiges of Shia dominance, political, military or otherwise. On the other hand, these groups see their war against Iran as part and parcel of the terror wars on Syria and Iraq.
And then of course there’s Jundallah, the notorious terror organization lead for decades by the Rigi family. Anyone with even cursory knowledge of the group is undoubtedly aware of its long-standing ties to both US and Israeli intelligence. As Foreign Policy magazine reported in 2012, Israeli Mossad and US CIA operatives essentially competed with one another for control of the Jundallah network for years. This information of course directly links these agencies with the covert war against Iran going back years, to say nothing of the now well-known role of Israeli intelligence in everything from assassinations of Iranian scientists to the use of cyberweapons such as Stuxnet and Flame. These and other attacks by Israel and the US against Iranian interests constitute a major part of the dirty war against Iran – a war in which terror groups figure prominently.
It should be noted that a number of other terror outfits have been used through the decades in the ongoing “low-intensity” war against Iran, including the infamous Mujahideen-e-Khalq, a terrorist group hailed as heroes by the US neocon establishment. Thanks to Wikileaks, it is also now documented fact that Israel has long since attempted to use Kurdish groups such as PJAK (Iraqi Kurdish terror group) to wage continued terror war against Iran for the purposes of destabilization of the government. Additionally, there was a decades-long campaign of Arab separatism in Iran’s western Khuzestan region spearheaded by British intelligence. As Dr. Kaveh Farrokh and Mahan Abedin wrote in 2005, “there is a mass of evidence that connects the British secret state to Arab separatism in Iran.”
These and other groups, too numerous to name here, represent a part of the voluminous history of subversion against Iran. But why now? What is the ultimate strategy behind these seemingly disparate geopolitical machinations?
Encircling the Resistance in Order to Break It
To see the obvious strategic gambit by the US-NATO-GCC-Israel axis, one need only look at a map of the major conflicts mentioned above. Syria has been infiltrated by countless terrorist groups that have waged a brutal war against the Syrian government and people. They have used Turkey in the North, Jordan in the South, and to a lesser degree Lebanon and, indirectly, Israel in the West. Working in tandem with the ISIS forces originating in Iraq, Syria has been squeezed from all sides in hopes that military defeat and/or the internal collapse of the Syrian government would be enough to destroy the country.
Naturally, this strategy has necessarily drawn Hezbollah into the war as it is allied with Syria and, for more practical reasons, cannot allow a defeated and broken Syria to come to fruition as Hezbollah would then be cut off from their allies in Iran. And so, Hezbollah and Syria have been forced to fight on no less than two fronts, fighting for the survival of the Resistance in the Levant.
Simultaneously, the regional power Iran has made itself into a central player in the war in Syria, recognizing correctly that the war could prove disastrous to its own security and regional ambitions. However, Tehran cannot simply put all its energy into supporting and defending Syria and Hezbollah as it faces its own terror threat in the East. The groups seeking to topple the Iranian government may not be able to compete militarily with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, but they can certainly create enough destabilization through terrorism to make it more difficult for Tehran to effectively aid in the fight in Syria.
The US-NATO-GCC-Israel alliance has not needed to put its own boots on the ground to achieve its strategic objectives. Instead, it is relying on irregular warfare, proxy terror wars, and small-scale destabilizations to achieve by stealth what it cannot achieve with military might alone.
But it remains paramount for all those interested in peace to make these connections, to understand the broad outlines of this vast covert war taking place. To see a war in Syria in isolation is to misunderstand its very nature. To see ISIS alone as the problem is to completely misread the essence of the conflict. This is a battle for regional hegemony, and in order to attain it, the Empire is employing every tool in the imperial toolkit, with terrorism being one of the most effective.
An Islamic State commander injured in a bomb attack in northern Syria is being treated in a Turkish hospital in the border province of Antakya.
Emrah C., a Turkish national, was admitted to Pamukkale University Hospital on Feb. 28, according to a statement released by Denizli province Governor’s office.
The statement also confirmed the Turkish ISIL commander has full rights to health services benefits in the country.
“Judicial procedures regarding his injury were carried out when he crossed into Turkey from Syria. His treatment is still underway in Denizli in accordance with the right to receive medical attention, just like a normal citizen,” the statement said.
Turkey has been heavily criticized for allowing foreign fighters to pass through its territory to neighboring Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State. It has also been facing backlash for its reluctance to join US-led coalition efforts to fight the militant group, indicating an ideological link between some Turkish officials and the ISIL.
Last September, Turkish daily Aydinlik reported that the AKP (Justice and Development Party) government opened a 75 bed-capacity hospital in the southeastern Turkish province Gaziantep to treat jihadists injured while fighting in Syria.
What’s really terrifying about this threat
By John Chuckman | Aletho News | March 1, 2015
ISIS certainly is not what a great many people think that it is, if you judge what they think by what our corporate press proclaims incessantly.
Judging by what ISIS actually does and whom its acts benefit, its clandestine associates, and the testimony of some witnesses, ISIS is a complex intelligence operation. Its complexity reflects at least in part the fact that it serves the interests of several countries and that it has more than one objective. Its complexity reflects also the large effort to reinforce a false image with disinformation and staged events such as a video of a beheading which could not have been a beheading unless they’ve discovered a bloodless method until now unknown to science.
The subject of ISIS is not without brief glimmers of humor. The image of bands of men, swathed in Arabic robes and bumping their way around the desert in Japanese pick-up trucks with Kalashnikovs raised in the air for every picture has elements of Monty Python. The idea of modern, trained and well-armed military units turning and running from them resembles a war scene in a Laurel and Hardy comedy such as the one with Hardy stuck upside down in a WWI tank turret kicking his legs the whole time Laurel drives towards the German positions managing accidentally to round-up a whole trench-full of prisoners with some wire fencing that becomes snagged on the tank.
Despite the tiresome stupidities we see and hear about it, ISIS unquestionably does kill people and destroy things, that being its purpose, and there is no humor in that.
ISIS appears to have served several tasks so far. First, it frightened Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, out of office in Iraq, a man America and Israel grew very much to dislike owing simply to his good relations with Iran, one of the unintended consequences of America’s invasion of Iraq being expanded Iranian influence in the region. No doubt al-Maliki was terrified not so much by ISIS approaching in their pick-up trucks as he was by his own military’s tendency, as if on cue, to turn and run from ISIS, often leaving weapons behind. The message was clear: you won’t be protected.
Second, America’s highly selective “air war” against ISIS somehow manages to attack infrastructure targets inside Syria with the feeble excuse that they are facilities helping ISIS. We’ve seen what American bombing can do when it’s undertaken seriously, and somehow I have a hard time imaging the men in Japanese pick-ups lasting long when faced with what hit the Taleban in Afghanistan or Gadhafi’s forces in Libya. The air strikes are partly a show for the world – after all, how can America be seen not to be fighting such extremely well-advertised, super-violent terrorists, guys putting out videos regularly from a studio trailer they must haul around with one of their pick-up trucks? The air strikes’ main purpose appears to be a way of hurting Assad and assisting those fighting Syria’s army without coming into conflict with Russia, as they would with a large, direct campaign. They likely also punish elements of ISIS which have exceeded their brief and serve as a reminder to the rest of what could happen to them if they stray too far from their subsidized purpose once the war comes to an end.
Three, in some of the ground fighting in Iraq where we’ve read of Iraqi units fighting ISIS, the units are often Kurdish, and sometimes the press uses expressions like “Iraqi and Kurdish troops.” But the Kurdish region is still part of Iraq legally, although it has been given a good deal of autonomy by the central government. The Kurdish region of Iraq is the country’s prime oil-producing area, and in the estimation of many observers, an area both the United States and Israel would very much like to see severed from Iraq in the way Kosovo was severed from Serbia after America’s devastating air war there. This would not only permanently assure Iraq’s weakness, it would create a rather grateful and more willing oil supplier.
Where does ISIS get its technical equipment and the know-how to produce videos and run Internet sites? These are not qualities commonly found among fanatical fundamentalists anywhere; indeed most true radical fundamentalists tend to eschew technology. A supply of advice, technical assistance, and equipment comes from somewhere. Where does ISIS get the money for food, gasoline, clothes, ammunition, and Japanese pick-up trucks? And I wonder, did one of those wild-looking jihadi types just show up one day at an Iraqi car dealership and order a fleet of Japanese pick-ups? Were they delivered out on the desert or did a gang of jihadists march in, waving their Kalashnikovs, to drive them away?
The effort to destroy the Syrian government, whether by means of ISIS or anyone else, is warmly and generously supported by Saudi Arabia and its buddy Qatar – another oil-rich, absolute monarchy where political parties are banned – both these countries’ primary interest being the defence of their immensely privileged situations against creeping threats of all progressive developments such as equal human rights or democracy or indeed against revolt led by external forces. The payments we now know the Saudi royal family long made to Osama bin Laden before 9/11 were simply bribes to keep him and his anti-establishment work out of the country. They really didn’t care a lot about what the money bought elsewhere, but since 9/11 and its many Saudi connections – 15 of the perpetrators plus the past financing plus the many members of the royal family and bin Laden family secretly flown out by American officials at the time – the Saudi authorities were genuinely fearful of how America might respond and have become far more responsive to what America wants in the Middle East and now apply their money to such projects. What America wants in the Middle East is, invariably, what Israel wants, so there is now extensive, secret cooperation where once there was complete official hostility.
We have reports from plane-spotters in the region of daily flights of mysterious planes from Israel to Qatar. We have several eye-witness reports and photographs of supply bundles dropped from unknown planes into ISIS territory. Maybe ISIS has its own air force now? We know Turkey has served both as an entry point for countless terrorists into Syria and as a place of retreat and refuge when fighting with the Syrian army becomes too hot for them, the volumes of such activity having been too great to keep secret. We have reports of Turkish supply flights. A Jordanian official recently told a reporter that ISIS members were trained in 2012 by American instructors working at a secret base in Jordan.
If ISIS is what our corporate news pretends that it is – a fanatical Muslim extremist group that sprang suddenly from the desert sands much like Jack’s bean stalk – one blindingly obvious question is, why does it not attack Israel or Israeli interest? Isn’t that what one would expect from such a cast of characters? But it has not done so, undoubtedly because Israel is an important covert benefactor and supplier.
We might equally ask why ISIS has not attacked Saudi Arabia or its interests, for although the Saudi royal family officially professes a strict and conservative form of Islam, Wahhabism, in fact many of them are very worldly people who spend a good deal of time and money at the world’s great pleasure palaces. Perhaps even more damning for a genuine fanatical fundamentalist, the Saudis now often secretly cooperate and make plans with Israel where mutual interests exist.
No, there is something highly suspicious about Islamic fundamentalist terrorists who avoid such interests while managing to brutally kill poor Syrian soldiers just doing their jobs along with the odd foreign journalist or aid worker who may just have seen something they shouldn’t have seen. Of course, we have Edward Snowden himself having described ISIS as an operation intended to protect Israel. Despite the fact that some news sources have said the interview in which this was revealed never took place, my instincts tell me it likely did. Snowden has never refuted it, and the news sources saying it did not are highly suspect on such a subject.
The way ISIS serves Israeli and American interests is by providing a focus point for extremists, attracting them from various parts of the world so that they can be recorded and kept track of. Also the tracks back to the various countries from which they come provide security services with leads to places where there might be some festering problems. In the meantime, ISIS serves the interest of helping to bring down President Assad, a goal dear to the hearts of Israelis. Please remember that black operations, even the ones about which we know, show little consideration for lives or property. Just think of Israel’s attack on an American spy ship in the Mediterranean during the Six Day War, its pilots knowingly shooting up and bombing for two hours the well-marked ship of its ally and benefactor, no explanation worth hearing ever having been offered.
Just read conservative mainline sources (pretty much a redundant pair of adjectives) about the harm Snowden has done: claims of everything from his revelations about American intelligence having served to help ISIS avoid detection (!) to his revelations having set up the United States for another 9/11! You might think intelligent people would be ashamed of making such asinine public statements, but, no, there are almost no limits to trying to discredit those revealing murderous, dark operations.
We’ve had many reports of officials in various countries, including Canada as I write, concerned about the odd individual or small group running off to join ISIS. Now why should that be a concern? A few flaky people going abroad just removes them from your country, something I should have thought was a complete gain from a security point of view. Even if they were ever to return in future, you would know exactly who they are. Where is the basis for serious concern? But the psychological advantages of noise and hype to scare people about obscure dangers and “lone wolves” and “home-grown terrorists” outweigh completely good sense and intelligence.
Finally, there are numerous reports that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (a nom de guerre, not his real name), the leader of ISIS, is a Western intelligence asset. What little we can learn about him makes that entirely plausible. The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, has said that the man is a Mossad agent, a claim supported supposedly by documents revealed by Edward Snowden. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is by all accounts a secretive man who speaks directly with few people, and even his birth place, given as Samarra, Iraq, is not sure. Records of his past, as those from his period of American captivity (always a great opportunity to “turn” someone to serving two interests), are not available. He was once reported killed but is still alive. He is said to have received intensive training from Mossad and the CIA, and some sources give his real name as Simon Elliot (or, Elliot Shimon), but few details can ever be certain in such dark operations.
The truly terrifying aspect of ISIS and other forces fighting with it in Syria is that the United States and Israel have approved and supported such wanton destruction in so beautiful and formerly-peaceful a place as Syria. Millions of lives destroyed and countless historic places damaged as though they were all nothing more than a few pieces moved on a geopolitical chessboard. I think it fair to describe that as the work of psychopaths.
With some recent, high-profile crimes committed by people purporting to follow the religion of Islam, the image of Muslims around the globe has largely been manipulated to project extremism, violence and intolerance. This manufactured image was long in the making, beginning as early as the 1980s, and reached epic proportions following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, irrespective of whether or not Muslim individuals, either by faith or birth, were behind it as executors or plotters. The negative propaganda which Muslims found themselves subjected to was done with the intention and precise objective, as the days following 9/11 have proven, to justify war against two predominantly Muslim countries. If the negative portrayal of Muslims was for reasons related to Islam, and not for other motives, then it would be difficult to explain the protective and shielded media coverage of several Middle Eastern monarchies with histories of violence and intolerance not only towards non-Muslims but also Muslims and those monarchies own citizens. Many Muslims throughout the world found themselves defending an unjust campaign portraying Muslims in negative stereotypes and associating Islam with violence and savagery. Mysterious groups alleged to be part of a global Islamic movement emerged with no objective but beheading Westerners and Christians, and distributing the gruesome savagery on YouTube and other media for the world to see.
While it cannot be ascertained who is the mastermind behind the illusive, ghostly and mercurial global al-Qaida organization (if it qualifies for such designation), it is highly likely that it has roots in Saudi and US intelligence establishments. ‘Islamic’ extremism was perceived favorably by Western media during the fight against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and during the Chechen wars of independence. Nevertheless, evidence points to a concerted campaign initiated and financed by the West (including think-tanks and media corporations) to portray Muslims as extremists and terrorists. The motives are abundant, most prominent of which are justification for the ill-conceived invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and, by extension, further legitimization of Israel’s anti-Palestinian policies and occupation of Palestinian territories that fall within dominantly Muslim-populated geographical areas.
The West found in al-Qaeda, and its self-replicating derivatives, individuals who can be used to further the West’s geo-political interests. But what made the West cultivate and harbor a group with a highly controversial and extremist doctrine that views the world with a binary lens: right vs. wrong. Halal (sanctioned by Islam) vs. haram (not sanctioned by Islam), Sharia (Islamic legislation) vs. Kufr (disbelieving), dar al-Islam (the house of Islam) vs. dar al-Harb (the house of disbelievers)? Solid evidence is not yet available to prove the link between al-Qaeda and Western and Saudi intelligence, at least in the public domain; however, a preponderance of evidence shows that al-Qaeda morphed out of direct Saudi government patronage. The conflict in Syria that started in 2011 indicates complicity between a host of governments, NATO member countries and al-Qaida. With the massive worldwide manhunt for al-Qaida, one would expect that any alleged al-Qaeda operative would be under heavy surveillance and most likely would not be able to cross international borders, at least with ease; such border crossing would be clandestine and rare. Yet a large influx of al-Qaeda operatives took place from the Horn of Africa, Northern Africa, Afghanistan, and the Arabian Peninsula into Syria through neighboring Turkey. That such movement of high-grade radicals could take place without the knowledge of Turkey, a NATO member country, seems highly unlikely. A recent German documentary produced by DW television uncovered the movement of goods from Turkey to ISIS territory with full knowledge of Turkish authorities.
In the pursuit of global geo-political plans, the West found in the religious doctrine of the Wahhabi-Salafi sect a highly extremist and exclusionist philosophy to advance its objectives. ‘’Philosophy’’ may be too grand a word to describe it; perhaps ‘outlook’ is more appropriate. The Wahhabi-Salafi sect is highly susceptible to manipulation because of its fundamental unspoken doctrine of imitation and largely succumbing to the wishes of the Amir (English: leader).
Wahhabism is attributed to Muhammad Ibn AbdulWahaab (1703–1792), a religious figure who was a staunch follower of Ibn Taymiyah (1263–1328). Salafism, derived from Salaf (English: forefathers) refers to the doctrine of imitating the companions of Prophet Mohammed in practically everything that is known about them. These two unlikely philosophies merge and bring about the violence that is wrongly attributed to Islam today.
Wahhabism is a dangerous sect (or cult) that interprets Islam primarily from narrations attributed to Prophet Muhammad, irrespective of their authenticity and their contextual time-space applicability. Wahhabis believe that everything the Salaf (English: companions of the prophet and their successors and the successors of the successors) did was perfect, and that the emulation of the Salaf is a religious duty, and their edicts are binding on all Muslims. In their understanding of Islam, the Wahhabis consider the Qur’an to be supplementary to alleged prophetic narrations rather than the primary source of guidance and legislation. The Wahhabis believe that wars waged by Arabs under the banner of the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties were religiously mandated and thus were fundamentally Islamic. Amongst their beliefs is to invade non-Muslims’ land and force non-Muslims to convert, pay tax, or face execution. They do not believe that non-Muslims should have places of worship on Muslim land (surprisingly, they don’t provide a definition for ‘Muslim land’). Most alarming and dangerous of their doctrines is the ease by which a person can be killed. Their religious doctrine is replete with stories of people executed for offenses such as adultery, insulting Prophet Muhammad, interpreting the Qur’an in a way different from theirs, drug smuggling, theft, abandoning the daily prayer rituals, leaving Islam and converting to a different religion among others. The threshold for killing in their doctrine is exceptionally low; this reflects their disdain for human life. Their dress code is binary: black for women and white for men. In the narratives of their doctrine, the black color resembles evil and darkness while white is associated with goodness; thus their dress code for women reflects their opinion of women. Their interpretation of the Qur’an groups women with animals and material objects.
For Western governments with heavy interests in the Middle East, violence in the name of Islam justifies their geopolitical penetration into the region. The higher the level of violence by the ‘Islamic’ extremists, the higher the justification for intervention; the more objectives achieved, the higher the violence, and so on. The feedback loop, self-serving to both ‘terrorists’ and the governments that ostensibly oppose them, but in reality need them to further their geo-political goals, goes on until the objectives change. This is followed by new instructions to the Salafi leaders to focus on a new ‘jihad’. In looking at the history of the Arabian Peninsula over the past century, one finds al-Qaeda and the seemingly modern jihadi movements to be nothing but repackaging of older ones.
The founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia brilliantly and effectively used the same Wahhabi-Salafi doctrine to unify most of the Arabian Peninsula under his command. But his conquest could have never been possible without the British financial and intelligence support and, most critically, Orientalists’ understanding of the Salafi doctrine. The British directed the shots since they were the financiers of the then exiled and fragmented clan of Ibn Saud. The British financial support for Ibn Saud was not a charitable or benevolent gesture. The British Empire was at work chiseling the remains of the Ottoman Empire. The transformation from coal to oil to fuel the fleets of the British Empire, needed access to the Persian Gulf and its abundant fuel reserves. Ibn Saud found in the diehard Wahhabi-Salafis marauders, known then as the Ikhwan (English: brothers), zeal and fervor that could conquer mountains in the name of Islam, or more accurately in the name of the rewards promised by concocted Prophetic sayings for those who achieve ‘martyrdom’ during such allegedly God-sanctioned campaigns. The Wahhabi-Salafi brand of violence could have been known to the British from the time of their occupation of Egypt. It was Mohammad Ali of the Ottoman Empire who first had to deal with the Wahhabis and the first Saudi Kingdom. Ali suppressed the revolt of Mohammad Ibn Saud against the Ottomans and in the process, destroyed Der’eya, the seat of the government of the first Saudi dynasty, in 1818.
Abdulaziz Ibn Saud (the father of Salman, the present king of Saudi Arabia) struck a strategic alliance with the Wahhabis, who were led by the AlSheikh clan to divide the influence and booty of his conquest. The AlSheikh would control religious affairs and supply Ibn Saud with a new generation of Ikhwan fighters, whereas the control of everything else would belong to Ibn Saud. Whether it was Ibn Saud or the British behind this brilliant scheme remains unclear. Most likely the British were aware of the fervor of the Wahhabis; and both, Ibn Saud and the British used them with high efficiency and devastating effectiveness. The British grand plans were at work and Ibn Saud was given financial rewards and rule over vast tracts of land. The Hijaz had no strategic interest to the British who considered it a liability had they occupied it (potentially raising the wrath of millions of already agitated Muslim subjects under their colonial domain), so it was strategically given as a reward with consequent enormous financial benefits to Ibn Saud. The financial benefits of Hijaz come from the tax and economic activities associated with the annual Muslim pilgrimage to the cities of Medina and Mecca. Most interestingly, Ibn Saud with his extremist and fanatic fighters could have wiped clean all the scattered fishing Arab villages dotting the western side of the Persian Gulf cost. In fact, he could have sent a small crowd, not even a battalion, to spread the domain of his nascent kingdom, but the British had to draw a line in the sand, figuratively and literally. The British global strategic scheming was in full execution. The tiny remote fishing villages, in the British grand geo-political framework, had to be reinvented as little kingdoms and sheikdoms (the latest reinvention was the Kingdom of Bahrain with an area of only 305 square miles). The First and Second Gulf wars of 1991 and 2003 were the fruits of the British Empire’s machinations in those early days.
Fast forward to 2011. A global coalition started to unseat the Assad regime under the guise of the Arab Spring. The start of the insurrection in Syria can be traced to Der’aa, a small town close to the southern Syrian border with Jordan. The insurrection in Der’aa was met with severe repression by the Assad regime; a response that the regime later deeply regretted. Who was behind that Der’aa insurrection is engulfed in mystery. The partnership between the Jordanian and US intelligence dates back to the 1950s and surfaced very prominently when a Jordanian intelligence agent, Humam al-Balawi went on a rampage, killing 6 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agents and a high-ranking Jordanian intelligence officer in Afghanistan in 2009. Jordan is highly valuable to US intelligence for several reasons:
1) The entire country, the army and the king are all underwritten by US money. Jordan has been a perfect model of a US satellite country since the transition from British to American control in the early 1950.
2) Jordan has a very diverse mixture of Arabs from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and even Saudi Arabia; therefore, recruiting agent provocateurs is easy, especially considering the perpetual dire economic conditions of Jordan.
3) Jordan has a strong presence of Wahhabism that had been well tolerated by the regime (Abu-Musa’b al-Zarqawi, the mysterious al-Qaida figure that was killed by US forces in Iraq, was a product of the Jordanian flavor of Wahhabism). Using Jordan as a spring board to foment insurrection in Syria was highly probable considering that the Syrian regime was practically the last nuisance to Israeli’s efforts to neutralize the Arabs and force them to acquiesce to its own ‘peace’ terms which include the annexation of the West Bank and tracts of Lebanon and Syria. Of course, Syria is the strongest and strategic link between Lebanon and Hezbollah.
The insurrection in Syria that started in Der’aa was suppressed ruthlessly by the Assad regime, but the transformation into an armed insurrection was in sharp contrast to all other expressions of the Arab Spring, excluding Libya, which had a NATO intervention rather than a peaceful one. One cannot find armed components to any of the uprisings that occurred in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain, or even Yemen. The armed insurrection in Syria needed money and men. The intelligence services who understood well how the Saudi regime came to power used the same process: direct appeal to the culture of extremism amongst the Wahhabis and much more broadly to the Salafis across the globe. The Saudi regime opened the door to many clergy under their tutelage and direct patronage to articulate the virtues of Jihad, especially on Syrian land. The Jihad sermons reached pitch fever in 2013 when the Saudi clergy even started reinterpreting alleged Prophetic Sayings (attributed to Prophet Muhammad), putting the Jihad in Syria as the pinnacle of all Jihads, even eclipsing any Jihad needed to liberate occupied religious sanctuaries such as the Dome of the Rock and the Aqsa Mosque in Israeli-occupied Jerusalem. Many of the Syrian Jihad sermons by Saudi clergy are available on YouTube. One notable example is Mohammad Al-Arifi, who used to be a darling of the Saudi regime until recently; his inexcusable sin of mere criticism of the inefficiency of a recently-installed train service in Mecca netted him a short jail term. The result of these passionate, highly-charged sermons was a huge influx of fighters from Saudi Arabia, the Horn of Africa, North Africa, Afghanistan, even Europe. Considering the regional governments’ paranoia with security and especially for the slightest form of dissent, facilitating such a massive influx must have occurred under the full view of all governments in the region, most prominently, Jordan and Turkey. Financing of fighters, whether through the governments or individuals or organizations, came from Qatar and Saudi Arabia, since money laundering in those countries is easy. The US committed to providing logistics but the term ‘logistics’ can be interpreted broadly and expansively as America’s many imperial adventures around the world have proven.
During the early days of the present Saudi Kingdom, Wahhabis wanted to go beyond the Arabian Peninsula to spread their Wahhabism and zeal to the north (Trans-Jordan and Basra regions). They believed that Ibn Saud was a true Islamic Caliph. The British had to bomb the advancing Ikhwan, while at the same time bankrolling their king to the tune of 5,000 Sterling pounds per month (this could easily classify Ibn Saud as a former agent of the British Empire).
While ISIS is now the target of international outrage, and U.S. bombs, it is possible that this will not always be the case; history does tend to repeat itself, and if so, the change could be dramatic.
ISIS recruits believed in the Khilafa (an Arabic term used historically to describe an Islamically-sanctioned state) and expanding the domain of Islam as much as the Ikhwan did in the early years of the 20th century. ISIS expansion, however, had to curbed by the US and NATO. The similarity between the history of the Ikhwan and ISIS is truly striking. Based on these similarities, it is probable that ISIS will establish a new country over oil-rich swaths of lands taken from Syria and Iraq. The new ISIS nation will eventually soften its Jihadi zeal and receive international recognition. International corporate-controlled media can whitewash the new ISIS state as it has done most effectively for many other nations-states.
The top leadership of ISIS is shrouded in mystery. ISIS leader, al-Baghdadi, who was also declared, by ISIS of course, an Islamic (if not the only) Caliph, was jailed by the Americans during their occupation of Iraq then mysteriously released (a practice perfected by Israelis where ghost heroes are manufactured through short periods of imprisonment). The vast majority of ISIS members are thrilled at the thought of Caliphate being resurrected from the ashes and mayhem that has defined the Middle east since the British and French set foot there immediately after the end of WWI.
A very troubling doctrine of Wahhabism is the emphasis on allegiance to the Islamic Amir (English: leader), even if he were a tyrant, as long as the Amir allows people to perform the daily prayers. This doctrine, which has no foundation in either the Qur’an or Islam, helped Ibn Saud conquer Arabia as much as it helped al-Baghdadi conquer parts of Syria and Iraq. This very doctrine of allegiance to the Amir helps ISIS, Al-Qaida, or other offshoots to recruit individuals willing to execute orders of the Amir such as killings, bombings, etc. The executor of the Amir’s orders believes that he is executing God’s will. In summary, their doctrine is a carefully selected collection of narratives by controversial religious scholars who advocated extreme violence and land theft in the name of Islam.
The religious doctrine of the Wahhabis is so vast that one can always find in it alleged Prophetic narratives that justify and advocate for what is politically most expedient. The West, starting with the British Empire down to the American Empire, knew too well the Wahhabi extremist ideology and used it then and now, with high effectiveness and devastating consequences, to advance their geopolitical interests. The Wahhabis extreme violence at the beginning of the 20th century, most infamous of which was the Ta’if massacre , where between 300 and 400 Sunni Muslims were bludgeoned to death at the hands of the Ikhwan in 1924, is no different from their extreme violence that we are witnessing today. ISIS not only targeted non-Muslims such as Christians and Yazidi for killing, rape and forced conversion to Islam, but also savagely attacked Kurds. What the mainstream media failed to highlight was that Kurds are staunch Sunnis, neither ‘infidels’ nor Shias.
Justification for killing a cartoonist who depicts Prophet Mohammad disfavorably, along with any bystander who comes in between, can be found in Wahhabi doctrine as easily as killing 132 children in a school in Pakistan for no fault but being children of military personnel. It is the same doctrine that justifies blowing up 37 innocent Yemani men lining up to apply for a police job in one of the poorest countries in the world . The extremist and violent doctrine of the Wahhabi sect makes it easy for intelligence agencies to recruit suicide bombers. It is not possible at this time to confirm the identity of the plotters of grand-scale terrorist attacks such as 9/11 and the massacre in Charlie Hebdo; however, many indications point to Western intelligence. Acts of major terrorism amongst Muslims, such as the brutality of ISIS against so many Muslims, are heavily influenced by the doctrine of violence in the Wahhabi sect. Muslims can help in so many ways by taking a deep look at their religion and having the courage, mandated by Islam itself, to reject what is foreign and contradictory to their religion, such as the Wahhabi sect that fosters and breeds extreme violence, and embracing Islam from its undisputed sources. The stakes have never been higher for Muslims.
Copyright © 2015 · The Independent International Political Research Center
The US and Turkey have come to an agreement under which US military personnel will begin training so-called moderate rebels to fight in Syria. The announcement was made Tuesday. This is not just a foolish move; it is the equivalent of pouring gasoline on a fire.
There are no moderate rebels. The moderate people in Syria support their government. If Obama is really serious about fighting ISIS he should join forces with the Syrian government and with Hezbollah–because they are the “boots on the ground” who are taking the fight to the terrorists.
How will the US know the “moderates” it trains aren’t really ISIS secret agents? That may sound funny, but I’m serious. In a report here we are told that the US has so far “screened” about 1,200 rebel fighters said to have been drawn from “several moderate groups in Syria.”
According to the report, the “screening” process is being headed up by Maj. Gen. Michael Nagata. The plans are to train about 5,000 “moderates” per year, but the process is going slowly because each applicant is supposedly being thoroughly checked. Some 100 US personnel are already in the area setting up three training camps–in Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia–and eventually about 1,000 US troops are expected to be involved in the program.
Question: how does Nagata know that at least some of the “moderates” being recruited for this effort aren’t in reality deep-cover ISIS operatives? Answer: he doesn’t. And even if they are moderates now, what’s to stop them from going over to the other side once they get their American training and equipment?
We saw an instance, late last year, in which two “moderate” rebel groups who had received US training–Harakat Hazm and the Syrian Revolutionary Front–laid down their weapons and surrendered after coming into military conflict with Al-Nusra. The two groups had been supplied with GRAD rockets and TOW anti-tank missiles. All of this equipment ended up in Al-Nusra’s possession. It is said that Harakat Hazm gave up “without firing a shot,” and that some of its members even defected over to the takfiri militants. These events took place in early November of 2014, and they proved somewhat embarrassing for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, or WINEP.
In April of 2014, WINEP fellow Jeffrey White published an article in which he referred to Harakat Hazm as “rebels worth supporting.” I discussed White’s piece in a post entitled The Myth of the ‘Moderate’ Rebels, which I put up on October 15 last year. At that time, Harakat Hazm had not yet surrendered to Al-Nusra, but the post included a video about the organization that placed its supposed “moderation” into considerable doubt. Below is that video. Starting at about 1:04 in you will see footage showing five men seated at a table. The one in the center is Salim Idris, former chief of staff of the Free Syrian Army–another supposed “moderate.”
In my article I noted that the best way for the US to defeat ISIS, perhaps the only way, is to join forces with the Syrian government. But this will not happen, I also mentioned, because it runs counter to the wishes of the Zionist lobby in America, which wants to see regime change in Syria.
Now, just months later, one has to wonder: was it Maj. Gen. Michael Nagata who made the decision to give GRAD rockets and TOW missiles to Harakat Hazm? Nagata was already on the job training Syrian rebels in October of last year, and you can go here to see a report filed at that time that offers a little bit of insight into his background. The report doesn’t leave you with a great deal of confidence in him.
Once the initial 1,200 “moderates” have undergone their training, what happens then? Will they simply be wished the best of luck, sent off into Syria, at which point that’s the end of it? Hardly. According to a report here, once they are in Syria, the “moderate” rebels will be given the power to call in US airstrikes, which opens up a host of possibilities, including a scenario in which US air power is manipulated by those on the ground for purpose of attacking rival rebel groups. And this, too, has happened before–in Afghanistan.
How much of our tax dollars are being wasted on this enterprise? How much is being wasted now–and how much will be wasted in the years to come? Another consideration is the chance that all this will escalate. Those who remember history will recall that the Vietnam war started out with just a small number of US “advisers” in the country to train South Vietnamese troops. In 1959, a total of just 760 US personnel were in South Vietnam; in 1960, the number grew to 900. By 1968, America had more than a half million troops stationed in the country.
As mentioned above, one of the US training camps being set up is in Saudi Arabia. The Wahhabist ideology was born in Saudia Arabia, and the kingdom today remains its epicenter. Exactly what sort of persons do you suppose Nagata will be providing training for in his camp there? Perhaps they will include the enlightened followers of a Saudi cleric who recently explained why, in his view, the earth doesn’t rotate. The cleric has been identified as Sheikh Bandar al-Khaibari:
The above video surfaced earlier this week. The following video, below, was posted three months ago and shows Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah discussing, in a somewhat bemused manner, the beliefs of clerics like al-Khaibari:
Not only is the “moderate rebel” a myth, but the notion that Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar are sincere partners in fighting ISIS is also a myth. All three countries have been heavily implicated in providing assistance to the very terrorists the Obama administration claims to be fighting. Due to the low price of oil, filling up gasoline cans is cheap these days.
The only people who attempt to put out fires with gasoline are either, a) the very stupid; or, b) those who only pretend to want to see the fire put out but who in reality are seeking to create a bigger fire.
In a speech given on Thursday, February 19, Obama asserted that the world is “united against the scourge of violent extremism and terrorism.” This is a fairly accurate statement as far as it goes; the vast majority of the world’s people are indeed united on that point. The question, of course, becomes: does Obama really not know who his friends are in this fight?
The Middle East is really not that hard to figure out. The best, the brightest, the most patriotic of the region–these people already know what side they are on; they have joined the ranks of Hezbollah, the Syrian and Lebanese Armies, and the Syrian National Defense Force. They will fight and they will defeat America’s trained proxies, and then when nothing is left but for America to send in its own ground forces, they will fight America as well.
This is the course our leaders are presently headed on–all for Israel.
The takfiris’ destruction of Syria’s heritage—indeed of all humanity’s—is extremely serious. The world’s including the UN’s turning a blind eye to this horrendous crime against humanity is shocking.
Much has been written about the destruction and looting of Syria’s heritage sites. Syria’s Directorate-General of Antiquities & Museums (DGAM), as well as UNESCO have documented the vast damage and looting as extensively as possible in this time of proxy-war-manufactured crisis. In July 2014, the DGAM issued a statement and plea regarding the critical situation of Syria’s heritage under attack.
“A year has passed since we last sent an international call out to all those concerned with defending Syria’s heritage. At the time, we warned against a possible cultural disaster that might be inflicted on an invaluable part of the human heritage existing in Syria,” the DGAM statement read. It noted, “Much of what we had feared happened… vast regions extending along the geography of Syria are now classified as ‘distressed cultural areas’ due to the exacerbation of the clandestine excavation crimes and deliberate damage to our historic monuments and cultural landmarks in those regions…”
As for UNESCO, it noted, “Syria’s exceptional archaeological, urban and architectural heritage has been considerably damaged during the conflict, and has affected all six World Heritage Sites in Syria and eleven sites inscribed on UNESCO’s Tentative List.”
The six UNESCO-recognized sites are: The Ancient City of Damascus; Palmyra; The Ancient City of Aleppo; Crac des Chevaliers and Qal‘at Salah al-Din; and The Ancient villages of Northern Syria, many of which have suffered intense digging and looting, as well as various acts of intentional destruction.
Yet, in spite of DGAM warnings and UNESCO confirmations, as we near the start of year five of the war on sovereign Syria, the Axis-of-Interventionalists continue to arm terrorists within Syria, and train and funnel still more terrorists into Syria — terrorists who are not only murdering Syrians and Palestinians, but destroying Syria’s heritage, as they have been doing since the beginning.
The “moderate” heritage-wreckers
Over the years, many corporate news pieces either outright blame the Syrian government and Syrian Army (SAA), or pin the blame almost solely on Da‘ish (ISIS/ISIL/IS), obfuscating and/or justifying the crimes of the other militia factions who have plundered and destroyed Syrian heritage for the last four years.
Reports noting the thieving of the so-called “moderates” often follow with claims that it is out of desperate want of funding that they pillage. One such piece, a September 2012 Time Magazine article, both inserts the standard MSM talking points about an “uprising,” a “civil war,” etc. and also notably promotes the line of cash-strapped “rebels” giving in to necessity and looting the country to fund a “revolution” against a “dictator.” Time Magazine inserts a sectarian flourish at the end, “Still, says the Sunni Muslim, who has committed to helping his co-religionists across the border, ‘sometimes you have to make a sacrifice. How else will we overthrow Bashar?’”
As with numerous other reports, conveniently overlooked is the amply-documented role of the NATO-Gulf-Zionist-Turkey alliance arming (and training and enabling the transit of) terrorists, from the so-called “FSA” to the Nusra Front to the Islamic Front to Da‘ish themselves, including by air-dropping weapons on more than one occasion.
Rick Sterling’s “U.S. Alliance with FSA and ISIL in Six Photographs” notes the US alliance with Da‘ish. In just six photos, the link between so-called “moderate rebel” leader ‘Abd al-Jabbar al-Okaidi and Da‘ish and US politicians, is clear. The fourth photo, a still from a November 2013 video interview with al-Okaidi, quotes the “moderate” terrorist saying, “My relationship with the brothers of ISIL is good.” The US politicians include Former US Ambassador to Syria and Coordinator of the “Friends of Syria”, Robert Ford — shown in May 2013 with al-Okaidi — and US Congress members—including the repeatedly-illegally-sneaking-into-Syria, John McCain — shown meeting with al-Okaidi. [see also “Who is Ambassador Robert Stephen Ford? The Architect of US Sponsored Terrorism in Syria” and “Washington Admits: FSA Equals Fictitious Syrian Army” and “FSA Leader Defects to ISIL and Exposes FSA as a Saudi-Israeli Run Project”].
Maram Susli’s (the “Syrian Girl”) December 27, 2014 article in the New Eastern Outlook, “US Armed Rebels Gave TOW missiles to al-Qaeda,” notes, “US supplied TOW anti-tank missiles have ended up in the hands of Jabhat al-Nusra, Syria’s branch of al-Qaeda. The US provided the missiles to CIA-vetted Syrian rebel faction Harakat al-Hazm in May. A video posted by al-Nusra shows the weapons being used to take over Syrian military bases, Wadi Deif and Hamidiyeh in Idlib province… Currently Harakat al-Hazm is united with Jabhat al-Nusra, in Handarat Aleppo, and are jointly fighting the Syrian Army. The militant employing the TOW missile in the video, shows clear proficiency in its use, indicating that he has directly or indirectly benefited from US training. In spite of this revelation, there is evidence to suggest the US is still arming the FSA with TOW missiles.”
The article goes on to explain these new revelations are only the latest in years of documented alliances between Western-sponsored “moderates” and Da‘ish. “In 2012 the Free Syrian Army (FSA), referred to as the ‘moderate rebels’ by the US State Department, fought alongside ‘Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham’ (ISIS) in Aleppo against the Syrian military for control over Menagh Airbase. The FSA head of Aleppo Military Council ‘Abd al-Jabbar al-Oqaidi, who has met with US Ambassador Robert Ford, was filmed with ISIS Amir Abu Jandal praising ISIS for helping take the base using a suicide car bomb. As late as September 2014, FSA commander Bassel Idriss said that they had joined forces with ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra in Qalamoun Mountain.”
Anthony Cartalucci’s November 28, 2014 artilce, “Germany’s DW Reports ISIS Supply Lines Originate in NATO’s Turkey,” further exposes Turkey’s blatant role in supplying arms to terrorists in Syria. “Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) published a video report of immense implications — possibly the first national broadcaster in the West to admit that the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS) is supplied not by “black market oil” or “hostage ransoms” but billions of dollars worth of supplies carried into Syria across NATO member Turkey’s borders via hundreds of trucks a day. The report titled, “‘IS’ supply channels through Turkey,” confirms what has been reported by geopolitical analysts since at least as early as 2011: that NATO member Turkey has allowed a torrent in supplies, fighters, and weapons to cross its borders unopposed to resupply ISIS positions inside of Syria.”
Before she was killed in a highly-suspect car crash (days after stating the Turkish intelligence had threatened her), journalist Serena Shim had reported on World Food Organization trucks ferrying Da‘ish terrorists via Turkey into Syria. With the clearly-documented ties between the US (and its Axis-of-Destruction allies) and the numerous terrorist groups destroying Syria, the hollow concern that US figures and media sometimes voice is blatantly hypocritical.
In September 2014, the US Department of State urged “all parties in Iraq, Syria, and the international community to respect and protect archaeological, historic, religious, and cultural sites, including museums and archives. All those who destroy important cultural property must be held accountable.” American Secretary of State John Kerry topped this hypocrisy with his statement at a white-washing event in New York City, “Threats to Cultural Heritage in Iraq and Syria,” in September, 2014 that, “… no one group has done more to put our shared cultural heritage in the gun sights than ISIL. How shocking and historically shameful it would be if we did nothing while the forces of chaos rob the very cradle of our civilization. We are determined instead to help Iraqis and Syrians protect and preserve their heritage in peace.”
The sting of these hypocritical words is that Syrian patriots are trying to protect their heritage (in many cases giving their lives while doing so), and that Da‘ish’s recruiters, trainers, and enablers continue to supply weapons and open borders while crying crocodile tears over Syria’s destroyed and pillaged heritage. Had the Western-Zionist-Gulf alliance not cooked up this plan to attempt to destroy Syria, Syria’s heritage would not be in peril — period (see Seymour Hersh’s 2007 investigative report, “The Redirection” in The New Yorker ).
In January, 2015, the US Defense Department said that “as many as 1,000 American troops and trainers would be sent to Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to assist in the training of Syrian opposition groups,” Sputnik News reported. According to the same report, crocodile-tears Kerry stated that in addition to so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels, “other nationals will also undergo special training to join the coalition in their fight against IS militants.” You can bet the newest batch of terrorists will be just as respectful of Syria’s heritage as all the terrorists before them.
Gleefully destroying the cradle of civilization
When terrorists — no, not Da‘ish, but al-Nusra and the so-called “FSA” — terrorized the ancient village of Ma‘loula for eight months, they meted out considerable destruction and damage on this heritage site, as well as looted and burned the town’s monasteries and historic buildings. They burned the shrine containing the remains of St. Thekla, stole her bones. They vandalized icons and frescoes in the church in the Convent of St. Thekla, and burned parts of the church itself. They shelled and looted icons from the Monastery of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus (see video report, “Syrian historical treasures and archeological artifacts destroyed or stolen by terrorist gangs”).
In Homs, it was likewise not Da‘ish but al-Nusra and the so-called “FSA” who not only stole the food and valuables of residents in the Old City, but also vandalized, blew up, and set afire historic buildings, like the torched Church of Um al-Zenar (St. Mary’s Church), “built upon an ancient crypt cave with signs of Christian worship dating back to 59ce.”
In both cases, it was the SAA, local volunteers in the National Defense Forces (NDF) and empowered residents who struggled to preserve and minimize damage to their heritage sites. And in both cases, once under control of the SAA and government, plans for restorations were immediately started.
Damascus, which UNESCO describes as “founded in the 3rd millennium BCE, … one of the oldest cities in the Middle East,” has also suffered damage to its heritage sites. Terrorists’ car bombs and mortars, which have terrorized residents of the city, have also hit historic places. The 11th-century Citadel, the 8th-century Umayyad Masjid, the 13th-century Great Madrasah, al-Adliya, the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch in Bab Touma, and the Armenian Orthodox Church in Bab Sharqi, have all suffered, according to UNESCO’s report. But some of the worst destruction and damage to cultural heritage thus far documented is in Aleppo, which UNESCO describes as “one of the (if not the) oldest, continuously occupied cities in the world with some 7,000 years of known settlement history.”
The Aleppo section of UNESCO’s latest “Damage Assessment Overview” is lengthy. Some of the assessment includes:
• “At least 121 historical buildings have been damaged or destroyed — equal to 30–40% of the World Heritage property area — in addition to the destruction of more than 1,500 shops of the Suq.
• “The 11th century Minaret, the prayer hall, and the main gate of the Omayyad Masjid have been destroyed. The masjid’s courtyard and all of its decorative elements have also suffered severe damage, as did the surrounding neighbourhood.
• “The wooden minbar has been dismantled and transferred to an unknown location.
• “Damage to the gates of the city wall has occurred…
to some of the most important Islamic architecture buildings… and to most historic houses of the Jdeideh quarter…
• “The Waqifiyya Library has been damaged due to a fire.”
YouTube videos and online images showed terrorists from the Islamic Front (Robert Ford’s “moderates”) gleefully exploding the 150-year-old Carlton Citadel Hotel in Aleppo’s Old City in May 2014, the destruction and damage extending to the 13th-century Citadel facing the hotel. A report in the Independent cited the Islamic Front’s Twitter account as claiming responsibility for destroying the Carlton. A video posted online shows the takfiris in a tunnel beneath the Old City, repeatedly stating their intent to blow up the hotel. Clearly, with over 23 tons of explosives, these Western-sponsored terrorists knew the detonation would mean extensive destruction to Aleppo’s historic sites surrounding the hotel.
Yet, the corporate media noted the destruction with little-to-no condemnation. The Los Angeles Times reported blithely, “The explosion ripped through the Carlton Citadel Hotel, near the landmark medieval Citadel and Aleppo’s walled Old City, both deemed United Nations World Heritage sites,” carefully choosing their words to abstain from condemnation of the terrorist act. The Los Angeles Times additionally took the opportunity to plug the so-called “revolution,” “‘The attack came as a way to raise the morale of the people after the deal that happened yesterday,’ said the pro-opposition activist…” Other headlines justified, rather than condemned, the calculated destruction. Reuters reported, “Syrian rebels blow up Aleppo hotel used by army.” The Guardian said, “Syria rebels blow up Aleppo hotel used as barracks by government forces.”
Conversely, the DGAM stated, “This criminal act is part of a series of similar acts targeting historic and unique buildings and landmarks in Aleppo, such as the incidents of the Police Headquarters and the Justice Court… This targeting has resulted in great loss in the components of Syria’s archaeological heritage, which can be added to a long list of painful losses that cannot be replaced.”
In early December, Islamic Front militants bombed a historic masjid in Aleppo’s Old City. Al-Masdar News noted, “The militants from the Islamic Front (Jabhat al-Islamiyah) bombarded multiple historical sites in the Old City of Aleppo this weekend, destroying residential buildings and the 900-year old al-Sultaniyah Masjid. According to a military source in Aleppo, the Islamic Front has destroyed numerous sites in the Old City, including the outer walls of the Aleppo Citadel.” Video footage shows terrorists bombing the Citadel area at the end of November.
On December 30, the DGAM reported further tunnel explosions in the Old City near the Citadel. “The Armed groups have detonated bombs in tunnels under the Aleppo old city, the bombs were reportedly placed in two tunnels running under historic parts of the city. The explosions caused severe damage to the market and the historical buildings in the area…” Other examples of the terrorists’ deliberate destruction of Syrian heritage include:
• March, 2013: al-Nusra terrorists destroyed a Muslim shrine in Raqqa. PressTV reported, “Videos posted online show foreign-backed militants blew up the tomb of ‘Ammar ibn Yasir, who was one of the companions of Islam’s Prophet Mohammad (pbuh)… Anti-government militants have attacked and destroyed several holy sites, including Shia mosques, since the beginning of unrest in Syria.”
• May 2, 2013: Syria News reported, “[Terrorists] destroyed one more grave in Syria, the Prophet’s (pbuh) companion Hijr ibn ‘Adi al-Kindi in Adra, Damascus Countryside. They took out his dead body, he died some 1,400 years ago and buried it in an unmarked place…”
• November, 2014: The Independent reported that al-Nusra blew up an Armenian church in Deir al-Zor dating to 1846. “All of the church archives, dating back to 1841 and containing thousands of documents on the Armenian Holocaust, were burned to ashes, while the bones of hundreds of genocide victims, packed into the church’s crypt in memory of the mass killings 99 years ago, were thrown into the street beside the ruins,” the report noted.
• January 8, 2015: Business Insider reported that al-Nusra blew up a 13th-century tomb near the Jordanian border.
• January 17, 2015: DGAM reported that terrorists destroyed “the shrine of Shaykh Muhammad Nabhan in The Kiltawiye Masjid at Bab al-Hadid, the historical gates of the Ancient City of Aleppo, despite the appeals from residents and dignitaries of the region.”
Brother, can you spare a relic?
The talking-point that the pillaging of militants in Syria is due solely for want of financing and weapons is a lie and a diversion from the truth. It is true that some terrorists are selling relics for money to purchase weapons, but the terrorists’ looting of Syria’s relics stems more from opportunism than from being the main source of funds for their war on Syria. Turkey’s role in allowing terrorists’ transit with stolen relics must be noted. Turkey has, additionally, already plundered factories in Syria.
According to UNESCO, in the Aleppo region, “The site of Tell Qaramel is at the centre of what can only be qualified as looting on an industrial level, as heavy machinery has been deployed to accelerate the excavation of the site.”
In Deir al-Zor, the heritage site Mari (Tell Hariri) has been “extensively looted causing irreparable damage to some of the temples and part of the Royal Palace.” The list goes on:
• Daraa region: “The sites in Yarmouk valley, notably Tell al-Ash‘ari, have been plundered by hundreds of people hired by gangs, intent on trafficking Syrian cultural property.”
• Palmyra (“the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world”): “The Necropolis has been attacked by looters who broke into a tomb and stole 22 funeral busts and the headstone of a child; illegal excavations are occurring in the Valley of the Tombs, in the Camp of Diocletian, some undertaken by heavy machinery.”
• Dura-Europos, Ebla, Raqqa: a December 2014 report by AAAS notes, “have been heavily looted and damaged,” based on satellite imagery.
Syrian patriots protecting heritage
In a June 2014 interview with Dr. Maamoun Abdulkarim, General Director of the DGAM, he told me of the efforts Syrian civilians and the government are making to protect and preserve Syria’s heritage. Early on, the DGAM made the decision to move artifacts from Syria’s 34 museums.
“After the US invasion of Iraq, you know what happened in Baghdad museums, they lost about 70,000 pieces… The majority of the artifacts in the museums were evacuated and put in a safe place.” According to Abdulkarim, the DGAM employs 2,500. “In each region we have DGAM employees responsible for the area’s antiquities. The people that work there are local, not from Damascus. This is good because they, being local, can mediate.”
Additionally, according to UNESCO, Syria launched a national campaign, “Save Syria’s History,” to inform and educate Syrians about looting, in hopes of preventing such acts, and increasing security at heritage sites, where possible. The DGAM has been digitally archiving information on Syria’s heritage sites and relics, and coordinating with international organizations concerned with heritage preservation, as well as with INTERPOL.
Following the May 2014 exploding of the Carlton Citadel Hotel, the Syria Times reported that Syria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates sent letters to the UN Secretary General and President of the UNSC calling for “the inclusion of the so-called ‘Islamic Front’ on the terrorism list, as the methodology of this terrorist operation complies with terrorist tactics espoused by al-Qaeda terrorist organization.” It also called for the UNSC to “take immediate action against states sponsoring these terrorist groups to stop providing them with financial and logistical support.”
Further, the DGAM and Syrian government have called on neighboring countries to be vigilant in preventing Syrian artifacts from being smuggled and sold, and returning smuggled relics to Syria. In areas which the Syrian government has under control, rebuilding and restoration efforts of destroyed or damaged heritage sites are either underway or have been planned. Homs is one such example. Also, Ma‘loula, Krak des Chevaliers, and damage to the Umayyad Masjid in Damascus, are among others.
However, some sites and relics are lost forever at the hands of NATO’s terrorists. Would the corporate media fairly report on the proxy war on Syria, and the true culprits of Syria’s heritage loss, and would the Axis-of-Destruction stop funding, training and enabling terrorists’ entry into Syria, the question of Syria’s heritage under attack would cease to be a question. As DGAM’s Dr. Abdulkarim said in June, “The destruction of antiquities is a problem for all 23 million Syrians. If we are Syrian, we need to work together to protect our history.”
So after “headlining” that anti-terrorism joke of a parade last week and basking in the Parisian sun of selective humanitarianism and international solidarity with freedom of speech; the first order of (shoddy) business for Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu was lambasting the International Criminal Court, for merely entertaining the (anti-Semitic?) notion of investigating “possible” Israeli war crimes in Gaza (how dare they?), going as far as threatening to lobby member-states and allies to cut off funding for the tribunal and practically pull a repeat of the UNESCO farce when the Obama Administration, at the behest and for the benefit of its darling Israel, froze funding for the cultural organization, after granting the Palestinians full membership into the agency, plunging the UN body into the worst financial dire strait in its history.
It is more than likely that Netanyahu will get his way this time too.
The second order of business, however, was sending a military helicopter gunship over to Syrian territory and bombing a convoy belonging to the Lebanese Resistance Movement Hezbollah, killing six operatives including the son of assassinated leader Imad Mughnyyieh and field commander Mohammad Issa in addition to one Iranian General, in the Syrian village of Quneitra close to the border area with Lebanon in the Golan heights.
Business as usual for humanitarian extraordinaire Bibi and Co.
Of course this was no terrorist attack, at least not according to the mainstream media; so you won’t be seeing #jesuishizbollah anywhere on social media and no solidarity marches in real life, just another daily recount of internationally tolerable Israeli shenanigans in the region.
Evidently, unless it involves scraggy young men with weird, unpronounceable Middle Eastern names, wearing Keffiyehs, wielding shabby Kalashnikovs and storming the streets of a western city then it’s not terrorism, and in the case of the latest Israel airstrike in the Syrian Golan heights; it was just a military operation, clean and surgical, according to the BBC at least; not forgetting of course to tail the news with the little tidbit that this is not the first time Israel has conducted air strikes inside Syria, to “prevent the transfer of stockpiles of weapons from Syria to Hezbollah”. So, all should be fine and dandy then.
You see it’s completely acceptable for the BBC to venture justifications on behalf of the Israeli army for its various terrorist operations and transgressions in the region, we’ve seen it before in Palestine, Syria and Lebanon; covering Israeli crimes in the complacent mainstream media usually comes with peppered excuses and rationalizations that supposedly give some sort of subtle credence to any act of aggression committed by the Zionist entity, wrapping it with the usual, tattered caveat of “self-defense”; the AP’s report on the latest attack, for instance, highlighted the fact that Hezbollah had recently boasted of its “ability to hit any part of the Jewish state” with rockets, in reference to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s recent interview. Imagine the outrage!
Whereas if one so much as dared to attempt a mildly rational and lucid reading of the Charlie Hebdo massacre; he’d be immediately castigated at best and lumped into the same category as the Kouachi brothers as an Al Qaida sympathizer at worst; that’s the freedom of speech they were marching for in Paris I guess.
Speaking of Al Qaida; do you know who were rubbing their hands with ecstatic glee over the Israeli airstrike against Hezbollah? None other than Al Qaida’s very own Al Nusra Front (or the moderate Syrian opposition force worthy of caches of weapons and funding, according to the west) and other rag-tag, ideologically like-minded militant groups whose evident ironclad alliance with Israel has transcended the widely reported medical assistance and treatment of the injured in Israeli hospitals into providing direct military backing and air cover when needed especially in areas where the Syrian opposition’s tenuous grab is slipping in favor of the Syrian Army along with Hezbollah forces. Areas such as Al Quneitra.
In a sense this latest Israeli attack against a Hezbollah target in Syria serves as a perfect cliff note for the uninitiated to disentangle this seemingly complicated cobweb of alliances in the Syrian war. On the one side you have the Syrian Government of Bashar Al Assad backed by Hezbollah and Iran, while on the other you have a who’s who of the region’s nastiest terrorists; from the mismatched posses of Islamic extremists fighting under the Islamic Army moniker, to ISIS and Al Nusra Front, backed by the deep-pocketed Gulf monarchies along with Erdogan’s Turkey and the U.S., with Netanyahu’s Israel added to the mix for good measure. Talk about a true rogues gallery.
A cursory glance over GCC media and social networks is more than enough to note a certain air of unabashed exuberance over the Israeli airstrike; Syrian “revolutionaries” along with their GCC sponsors could not contain their jubilation as soon as news of the bombing broke; gloating over the assassination and mocking Hezbollah’s rhetoric of vowing vengeance for its slain operatives “at the time and place of its choosing”.
The rotten logic of the “lesser of two evils”, in reference to the Zionist regime, has become such a stable in the armory of the anti-Hezbollah/anti-Iran crowd in the Arab World, invoked every time the Israeli terrorist army commits a new atrocity to soften the impact of its crimes and desensitize the public to Israel’s parasitic existence on Arab lands. And this time was no different; with many reveling in the claim that Hezbollah “had it coming” for backing the government of Bashar Al Assad.
In an article confessedly titled “How Did We End up Applauding for Israel”, published in the Saudi-financed, crude Arabic daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, which by the way, itself exhibited an unmistakable celebratory tone while covering the latest Israel strike especially over the slain Iranian General, Saudi writer Abdel Rahman al-Rashed actually “laments” the fact that there are growing cheerleading voices in the Arab world for Israel and that (some) Arabs have become increasingly more vocal in their support for the Zionist entity just out of sheer “spite” for Hezbollah and Iran, especially on social media websites and even among supporters of Islamic Jihadi groups.
Nonetheless, al-Rashed places the brunt of the blame on… yes you guessed it… Hezbollah, Israel’s arch enemy, for ostensibly transforming poor, gullible Arabs en masse into hordes of hardcore Israel-enthusiasts, through its alleged role in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Al Hariri (according to a sham international tribunal anyway), and the Lebanese party’s military involvement in the Syrian civil war. Talk about connecting all the wrong dots.
Never mind that the Lebanese movement has been the subject of an unrelenting smear campaign steeped in vile sectarianism, all manner of character assassination and outright fabrications targeting its leaders, and discrediting its military achievements against Israel ever since 2005, courtesy of Saudi Arabia along with the rest of the GCC club (aka Al Rashed’s sole meal tickets) and their labyrinthine network of media outlets including Al Sharq Al Awsat newspaper where anti-Shiite sentiments run amok and distinct pro-Israel bias reigns supreme.
Never mind the fact that the Arab public has been bombarded with a nonstop barrage of demonization and vilification sprees directed not only at Hezbollah, but also at any movement, party or political group which just so happens to adopt an anti-Israel stance and/or rhetoric, including the Palestinian movements of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, only with the sole endgame of reshuffling the public’s priorities to accommodate the West’s political agenda in our region where Israel gets to sit snugly and comfortably in our midst all the while Iran is being touted and over-hyped as the biggest threat to the stability of the Arab world.
It’s true; we do applaud for Israel. Its transgressions and air strikes on Arab soil no longer provoke a sense of outrage or even the merest of condemnations, but we only have the GCC to thank for that.
We Aren’t Charlie
Much has already been said about the hypocrisy of world leaders, all of whom oppose free speech and freedom of the press to one degree or another, jumping on the ‘I am Charlie’ bandwagon and marching in Paris. Reminiscent of the massive demonstrations in support of the U.S. after 9/11, this rally was just another ‘feel good’ moment, full of photo opportunities for politicians masquerading as statesmen to use in future campaigns.
Let’s look for a minute at just some members of the Rogues Gallery that were on display in Paris.
French President Francois Hollande: As president of the country that, to hear the media and world leaders describe it, is now the front line of some war at which civilization is at stake, Mr. Hollande, of course, had to be there. So what if France banned pro-Palestine demonstrations last summer, when Israel was slaughtering thousands of defenseless men, women and children? Who cares if France assisted in the training of Muslim radicals to fight in Syria? They should have known that their victims were only to be other Muslims, not good, respectable non-Muslims who make a career out of mocking Islam. France taught them how to kill, but perhaps didn’t specify that it was only to be in Syria. But what is any of that? When Muslims, trained and armed by France, shoot up a magazine office in Paris, killing several people, and then go to a market to do the same, somehow we all become Charlie.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu: According to a recent report, Turkey has the distinction of currently imprisoning forty journalists, more than any other country in the world. But, what are facts, when a good photo op beckons?
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov: Siberian journalist and blogger Dmitry Shipilov was jailed in Russia for three months in 2014, for the crime of “insulting a government servant in the course of his work.” Free speech isn’t quite as free in some places as it might be.
Tunisian Prime Minister Medhi Jomaa: Mr. Yasine Ayan is currently imprisoned for ‘defaming the army’. Mr Ayan, a civilian, was convicted by a military court and sentenced to three years imprisonment, due to Facebook posts he created in August and September of 2014.
Israeli Prime Murderer Benjamin Netanyahu: Perhaps this writer saved the best for last. The word ‘hypocrite’ simply isn’t strong enough here, but unfortunately, a better one doesn’t exist. Israel, under Mr. Netanyahu’s leadership, arrests and jails people for Facebook posts critical of Israel. During last summer’s genocidal bombing of the Gaza Strip, press vehicles were not ‘collateral damage’; they were successfully targeted, killing the journalists riding in them. Israel pays university students to write blogs and other articles favorable to Israel. It prevents United Nations personnel from visiting the Gaza Strip to see firsthand the damage wreaked there by Israel.
Absent from this Paris love fest was a top representative from the United States. Is it possible that U.S. President Barack Obama knew that for the U.S. to go to France to show support for free speech would simply be too ludicrous? Perhaps he thinks of recent police assaults on reporters in Ferguson, Missouri. Or possibly Edward Snowden, living in asylum in Russia after having revealed the extent to which the U.S. monitors the actions of its own citizens, citizens around the world, and world leaders, comes to mind. Or could he have thought of Chelsea Manning, serving a thirty-five-year sentence for releasing the largest set of government-classified documents ever released to the public, information that was more than a little embarrassing to the government? Or maybe his thoughts were not quite so specific. Knowing that profit-making corporations control most of the ‘mainstream’ press in the U.S., Mr. Obama must surely be aware that, while many people may have the right to speak freely, there is no opportunity for them to do so. The airwaves only broadcast what their corporate masters demand. For example, Occupy Wall Street demonstrators in the thousands were occurring for weeks before any major news stations deemed them worthy of reporting.
Well, what is any of that, if people have a brand new hashtag (#jesuisCharlie), and get to feel a sense of shared outrage? And, to add icing to the rather stale and poorly-made cake, those perpetrating the crime were Muslims, a foreign-looking, foreign-sounding people who wear such things a hijabs and kufiyahs. ‘Different’, of course, must be bad. Just because nearly 25% of the world’s population is Muslim is no reason for people to learn anything about them or, heaven forbid, accept them as fellow human beings. If the media says they are terrorists, hating western society for its freedoms, then it must be so. One wonders why the nearly constant bombing of mainly Muslim nations hasn’t proven to them yet the benefits of western society.
Following the 9/11 attacks, flag lapel pins, and flag decals on car windows were all the rage. They enabled people far removed from the reality of suffering to feel that they were ‘doing their part’ and ‘supporting the troops’. It was never necessary to look at any motivations that might have been behind those attacks; after all, when politicians like New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani were telling the public that ‘they hate us for our freedoms’, well, what else is there to say? Just because the U.S. supports the most repressive Middle Eastern regimes, bombs citizens of the nations it doesn’t support, kidnaps and tortures suspected ‘terrorists’ and generally causes untold suffering, is no reason, a true, flag-waving patriot would say, for them to hate us. No, it is our cherished freedoms (similar to those enjoyed by Canada, Australia, most of Europe, much of South America, etc.), that motivates their hatred.
And now we are all supposed to be Charlie, whatever that means. But a clever phrase, an attractive sign, and the mistaken belief that by waving it one is doing ‘something’, is sufficient for many people. Tomorrow we all go back to our own little worlds, while the same heads of state that piously marched in Paris throw bread and water into the cells of imprisoned journalists, control through wealthy corporations which events become public knowledge and which don’t, and continue to repress their own citizens and press. And then come together again, in a pseudo show of solidarity the next time some event occurs that the governments and media choose to exploit. That it will most likely be at the expense of Muslims is an additional tragedy.
Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).
Defense officials of the United States said on Thursday the US will deploy about 400 troops in countries neighboring Syria to train “moderate” opposition fighters.
The US military has not yet identified where it will draw its forces from for the training mission, expected to begin in the spring. Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have offered to host the training.
The training program is a part of the US’ plan to field local forces in Syria. The Pentagon has estimated that it can train more than 5,000 recruits in the first year and that up to 15,000 will be needed to retake areas of eastern Syria controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Since the start of the Syrian civil war, Western powers, and some regional countries have supported rebels by arming, financing and politically empowering militant groups in the country.
On January 5, a senior Turkish foreign ministry official said that Turkey and the US aim to finalize an agreement on equipping and training “moderate” Syrian rebels until the end of January. However, this support has backfired as many of the weapons provided have ended in the hands of ISIS fighters, who have been targeted by a US-led coalition in an air raid campaign since August.
“Around 1,500 to 2,000 people are expected to be trained in Turkey (in the first year),” the official said, adding that a “limited number” of US soldiers would come to Turkey to help carry out the training jointly with Turkish colleagues.
The US decision to train and equip rebel groups in Syria was criticized by several renowned officials who warned of dire consequences.
Former US Congressman Ron Paul denounced in an interview with Russia Today the plans, noting that these Western-backed forces have been helpful to ISIS, which since August has captured swathes of lands in Iraq and Syria.
“The Free Syrian Army (FSA) turned over the weapons, that we (the US) sent them, to ISIS,” Paul said. “It is pretty well recorded that for $50,000 the FSA turned over one of the two American journalists to ISIS.”
Meanwhile, Gulf state Qatar, with the help of the US, has already been covertly training “moderate” Syrian rebels to fight the Syrian army and ISIS, as well as other extremist groups for over a year, sources claimed in November.
The camp, south of Doha between Saudi Arabia’s border and Udeid area, the largest US air base in the Middle East, is being used to train the FSA militants and other rebels, the sources said.
In September a report by the London-based small-arms research organization Conflict Armament Research revealed that ISIS jihadists in Syria as well appear to be using US military-issued arms and weapons supplied to rebels by Saudi Arabia.
The report said the jihadists disposed of “significant quantities” of US-made small arms including M-16 assault rifles and included photos showing the markings “Property of US Govt.”
It also found that anti-tank rockets used by ISIS in Syria were “identical to M79 rockets transferred by Saudi Arabia to forces operating under the Free Syrian Army umbrella in 2013.”
Turkey and the United States aim to finalize an agreement on equipping and training the so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels this month, a senior Turkish foreign ministry official said Monday.
Meanwhile, Syria’s Turkey-based opposition, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), ruled out taking part in a Russian-led bid for new talks to end the Syrian conflict.
The training is expected to start in March, simultaneously with similar programs in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, the Turkish official said.
The aim is to train 15,000 Syrian rebels over three years.
“Around 1,500 to 2,000 people are expected to be trained in Turkey (in the first year),” the official said, adding that a “limited number” of US soldiers would come to Turkey to help carry out the training jointly with Turkish colleagues.
The training, which the US says is part of its campaign to battle the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants, is planned to take place at a base in the central Turkish city of Kirsehir.
In October of last year, John Allen, a senior US official, said that his country does not expect the Free Syrian Army (FSA) it trains to fight ISIS militants to also take on Syrian Arab Army forces, but sees them as a crucial part of a political solution to end the war.
“There is not going to be a military solution here,” he added.
The FSA is a term used to describe dozens of armed groups fighting the Syrian army to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad but with little or no central command. They have been widely outgunned by Islamist insurgents such as ISIS.
The plans gained momentum in November 2014 when Britain announced it would also make “a significant contribution” to equip and train the so-called “moderate” Syrian opposition to defeat the ISIS group as well as the Syrian army.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said that “the UK is helping the opposition establish security and governance, and to deliver essential services. This includes life-saving search and rescue training, helping Syrians whose homes have been reduced to rubble by the regime’s bombs.
“We are providing non-lethal equipment and the UK expects to make a significant contribution to the US-led Train and Equip program,” Hammond said in the statement, adding that “Assad can play no future role in Syria.”
Meanwhile, Gulf state Qatar, with the help of the US, has already been covertly training the so-called “moderate” Syria rebels to fight the Syrian army and ISIS group as well as other extremist groups for over a year, sources claimed in November.
The camp, south of the capital between Saudi Arabia’s border and Udeid area, the largest US air base in the Middle East, is being used to train the Free Syrian Army (FSA) militants and other so-called “moderate” rebels, the sources said.
Reuters could not independently identify the participants in the program or witness activity inside the base, which lies in a military zone guarded by Qatari special forces and marked on signposts as a restricted area.
But Syrian rebel sources said training in Qatar has included rebels affiliated to the FSA from northern Syria.
The sources said the effort had been running for nearly a year, although it was too small to have a significant impact on the battlefield, and some rebels complained of not being taught advanced techniques.
The training is in line with Qatar’s constant meddling in regional affairs.
Small groups of 12 to 20 militants are identified in Syria and screened by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the sources said.
Once cleared of links with jihadist factions, they travel to Turkey and are then flown to Doha and driven to the base, though it wasn’t clear how the militants are ‘cleared’ of jihadist links.
Rebel fighters have voiced frustration with the US-led approach to fighting ISIS. They say Washington and its Arab allies are too focused on quashing the militant group at the expense of confronting Syrian army, which many rebels still see as the ultimate “enemy.”
ISIS militants have seized large swathes of territory in Syria and around one third of Iraq. They seized Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in June last year.
Turkey has been a reluctant partner in the US-led coalition against the insurgents, refusing a frontline military role despite its 1,200 km (750-mile) border with Iraq and Syria.
But it agreed in principle to train and equip Syrian rebels and is already training Kurdish peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq. Ankara has signalled that it is ready to extend similar assistance to the Iraqi army and send arms.
The US decision to train and equip rebel groups in Syria was criticized by several renowned officials who warned of dire consequences.
Former US Congressman Ron Paul, an outspoken anti-interventionist, denounced in an interview with Russia Today the plans, noting that these Western-backed forces have been “helpful to ISIS.”
“The FSA turned over the weapons, that we (the US) sent them, to ISIS,” Paul said. “It is pretty well recorded that for $50,000 the FSA turned over one of the two American journalists to ISIS.”
In an article, Dennis Kucinich quoted historian Alastair Crooke who described “moderate” rebels in Syria as being “rarer than a mythical unicorn,” and warned that “funding Syrian rebels will precipitate a new and wider war in the Middle East.”
“Saudi Arabia, which, with Qatar funded the jihadists in Syria, is now offering to ‘train’ the rebels,” which means that “the sponsors of radical jihadists are going to train ‘moderate’ jihadists,” Kucinich added.
Kucinich also described the US Treasury as becoming the “piggy bank” of ISIS.
“The US has supplied weapons to the Iraqi government and to Syrian rebels which have ended up in the hands of ISIS,” he explained. “As a result, the US Air Force has been bombing Humvees and armored troop carriers purchased with US taxpayer money.”
SNC refuses to take part in Moscow talks
Khaled Khoja, who was elected early on Monday to head the SNC opposition grouping, said Moscow’s proposal was impossible.
“The dialogue with the regime that Moscow is calling for is out of the question,” he said at a news conference in Istanbul, where the Coalition is based.
“We can’t sit at the same table as the regime… except in a negotiating framework intended to achieve a peaceful transition of power and the formation of a transitional body with full powers,” he said.
Russia, a key ally of Assad, has been trying to relaunch peace talks that would include meetings between delegates of the regime and the fractured opposition.
It has invited 28 opposition figures, including members of the tolerated domestic opposition as well as individual coalition members, to Moscow later this month.
Among them are Hadi al-Bahra, whom Khoja succeeded on Monday, and two other previous Coalition chiefs, Moaz al-Khatib and Abdel Basset Sida.
It remains unclear whether the coalition will prohibit its members, who have been invited by Moscow, from attending the talks.
After the United States abandoned the idea of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stepping down and enhanced security coordination with the Syrian army against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), it appears the Europeans began some time ago a series of meetings to change their policy on Syria. According to information obtained by Al-Akhbar, some senior European officials did not hesitate to say at the last Council of European Union Foreign Ministers meeting that “this policy was wrong.” It is necessary, therefore, to change it and let the United Nations envoy Staffan de Mistura’s initiative lead the way. Does that mean we will soon see favorable signs towards the Syrian regime and further disregard for the external opposition?
Geneva – A European official told Al-Akhbar about the proceedings of an important meeting between United Nations (UN) envoy Staffan de Mistura and European Union (EU) foreign affairs ministers on December 11, confirming that there is a change in the European position towards Syria. He said the meeting was closed like all meetings during which Europeans discuss sensitive matters. De Mistura began to explain the situation in Syria and the regional and international framework surrounding his plan that is supposed to be implemented in three months “otherwise it loses its ability to be implemented.”
This, in short, is what de Mistura said and the Europeans’ position towards it.
- The plan to freeze the fighting in Aleppo is the only one currently available. There is no hope for another plan. Therefore, the EU should support it practically and not just verbally. It is the only plan capable of freezing the fighting, securing people’s needs and returning the displaced people who are burdening neighboring areas and states. It will also allow for the eventual process of reconstruction.
- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who showed readiness to ensure the success of the international plan in Aleppo, convinced Russian President Vladimir Putin of the plan and played a major role in convincing his Iranian allies as well. This was necessary because Moscow was reluctant, thinking that no US-Atlantic effort can be trusted and the plan might lead to dire consequences for Russia and its allies.
- Although the Americans expressed reservations and doubt about the plan at the beginning, they have become more flexible, tying their approval with that of some of their regional allies, meaning of course Saudi Arabia primarily. In any case, I am going to Riyadh to convince Saudi officials of the plan’s feasibility. If we obtain preliminary approval from them, I will subsequently continue my efforts in Damascus so we can start as soon as possible because time is running out.
Here, we should remember that Brahimi had told the Europeans once what he said on more than one occasion and in more than one place, namely, that his resignation will “relieve two people, Assad and Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister Saud al-Faisal” because his personal relationship with both men was quite bad. He was probably speaking about “Saud al-Faisal’s personal hatred towards Assad being a hindrance to finding a solution.” It is also known that the Syrian president, from his very first meeting with Brahimi, questioned his intentions especially when the Algerian UN envoy suggested that Assad should step down and intended to meet Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa before Assad prevented him from doing so, arguing that this is improper on an official visit. Brahimi at the time had to make do with a phone call. After a while, Sharaa was removed from power.
- Turkey remains a real problem for the Europeans. Some officials say it is impossible to predict what Ankara could do next. Others believe that Turkey is pretty much the only country still facilitating the passage of foreign fighters to Syria, it has not made up its mind about fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and is trying to blackmail the international community with its position. Here, the Europeans make two suggestions. Either put pressure on Turkey, including perhaps issuing a warning – which some believe is pointless because it might make the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s position more intransigent and push him further into Russia and Iran’s arms – or try to cajole and get closer to Turkey, prompting it to commit to the international decision to fight ISIS and stop the flow of foreign fighters. Either way, the Turkish position remains worrisome for Europe.
- Iran has become a central player in both the Syrian and Iraqi crises. It is necessary to deal with this reality regardless of the reservations that some might have. There is nothing to prevent engaging with Iran in a serious dialogue about Syria, even before signing a nuclear agreement. This is useful because it could lead to political concessions from the Syrian regime and it could strengthen the presence of European companies in Iran. Perhaps this has become a European need despite French reservations, which are understandable, given French-Saudi relations and France’s concern not to upset Israel.
- It is impossible to think of serious solution or temporary solutions in Syria without Saudi Arabia, which has extensive relations with a number of Anti-Assad parties. It is important to reassure Riyadh that the European efforts do not intend to buoy up the regime. De Mistura said that Saudi Arabia implicitly welcomes his initiative. The Spanish foreign affairs minister was clearer, saying that Riyadh accepts the plan and it is in France’s interest to tone down its critique otherwise it will appear more extremist than Saudi Arabia, which is not an understandable position. The Spanish minister went as far as suggesting that an international conference for Syria be held in his country given that the idea might be accepted by everybody.
- Russia remains the main obstacle to any solution that does not satisfy the Kremlin and the Syrian regime. Since its relationship with the US and Europe is currently strained because of Ukraine, it is necessary to look for ways to separate any discussion with Russia about Syria from the position regarding Ukraine. Some European officials intend to strengthen the dialogue with Moscow because “it is unacceptable to return to the logic of the cold war.” Perhaps the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini will visit Moscow soon. Besides, Russia is active and serious about finding a political solution. The Europeans keeping their distance from Moscow might mean distancing the US and Russia.
The Europeans with and against Assad
First, everyone agrees to de Mistura’s plan, but they want to support it because it is the only plan currently available while awaiting the results of Russian efforts to bring the opposition and the Syrian regime delegation together in Russia. However, France, which currently enjoys strong trade relations with Saudi Arabia and Britain, is ahead of other Europeans in its contacts with Iran and insists that the plan should not support the Syrian army against the moderate opposition in Aleppo. In other words, the issue should not be portrayed as standing with the army against ISIS because in Aleppo and its surroundings there are fighters affiliated with the moderate opposition and they should be taken into consideration and supported “so we won’t appear as though we are drawing a parallel between the regime and the opposition and that we view both sides equally.”
The French foreign affairs minister was the most intransigent even though some within the current French administration point out the need to take a new position towards Syria, especially after the terrorist attacks that took place on French soil. Laurent Fabius said, “We don’t want what happened to Homs to happen in Aleppo,” where suspending the fighting benefited the regime only and was not balanced. The fighters left after they turned in their weapons to the state and were transported in government buses to the areas they come from.
A European official with ties to the Syrian opposition said “the departure of the fighters then was a farce for them. Imagine that the Grand Mufti, Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, who is a regime loyalist showed up in the buses transporting the fighters joking with them and asking them isn’t it better to marry while they are young instead of getting killed on battlefronts? They were given cell phones to talk with their families and undermine their morale. In the end, the media image and the reality on the ground were in the interest of the regime.”
The French minister was insistent that “the regime should not benefit from this plan in terms of relieving it at the Aleppo front so it can focus on other fronts in other areas.” That is what Fabius was saying when the EU received information about the possibility of the Syrian and Iraqi armies engaging in a wide joint military operation in Deir Ezzor.
Second, the European relationship with Assad is possible, but it becomes evident during the discussions of the foreign affairs ministers and commissioners of the EU that they are at a loss on how to deal with Syria. For example, a European official in Geneva says that a number of his European colleagues have begun to talk about the failure of the policy adopted so far and about the “uncalculated mistake” of suggesting early on that Assad step down.
Some Europeans argue that their assessment of the situation was erroneous while others believe that trusting the US from the beginning was a mistake because Washington, as usual, places its interests ahead of all its alliances, often putting the Europeans in an awkward position. Still others argue that underestimating the capabilities of the Syrian army and its allies was their biggest mistake.
As such, EU officials are currently discussing how to “modify” the political position that has been adopted for more than three years in Syria. One sign of this change is abandoning the mantra of “Assad stepping down” and finding more realistic statements that have been repeated now and then, such as “Assad is not a final solution to the crisis” or “Assad will not stay at the end of the political solution” or “it is only natural that a political solution will eventually lead to transferring powers from the presidency and not all powers” according to Geneva I. Another sign of a change in position is abandoning the phrase “proceeding with a transitional process now” and replacing it with one accepted by all, namely, “calling for the start of a transitional process.”
It appears that Mogherini succeeded, to some extent, in promoting the point of view that “we agree on the end result but political realism and the developments of the situation require us to adjust our course and use new phrases.” In other words, even if everyone in Europe wanted Assad to step down, political realism suggests that this is not possible at this point and encouraging a political solution might eventually lead to this end, meaning this is no longer a European priority.
The security council in Aleppo?
In light of these discussions about modifying the European position towards the Syrian regime, the most important question in the EU is how to ensure the success of the Aleppo plan and how to implement it without portraying Assad as the winner, especially given that the Syrian army advanced in a noticeable way in Aleppo recently?
The dominant trend is to find a monitoring mechanism by the UN Security Council. However, the Europeans realize that this is impossible due to the dual Sino-Russian veto that is always ready to protect Syria. Therefore, unlike the French and British positions which insist on an international force from the UNSC, the EU is more inclined towards finding a diplomatic formula that talks about “a monitoring mechanism linked to the UNSC.”
All of this will be released soon in what is now called “the EU strategy on Syria, Iraq and fighting ISIS.”
Despair with the Syrian opposition, particularly, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, which for a long time monopolized, with international support, the representation of the opposition has infiltrated EU states after the US. The Europeans too are now more inclined towards expanding the scope of the opposition to include forces that were previously not accepted and undermine the Muslim Brotherhood.
It is remarkable for instance that when the head of the Coalition, Hadi al-Bahra, visited the EU in Brussels few days ago, representatives from the Coalition were calling the Europeans to say that Bahra no longer represents them. A European official says jokingly: “Everytime we begin to talk with an official from the Coalition, we discover that this Coalition held new elections and changed the official. So we start all over again. And every time we meet with a Coalition official, he repeats the same question, how are you going to prevent the regime from benefiting from the plan you are proposing? But we have noticed for some time now that some parties within the Coalition have come to accept the idea of negotiating with the regime and reaching a political agreement with it even if their ultimate goal is for Assad to step down. This is the case with Moaz al-Khatib and his team for instance. The problem of the Coalition is that it does not know the meaning of political realism and continues in its fragmentation as it is tossed around by conflicting foreign alliances.”
In light of all the above, is the EU starting to change its position towards Assad? Perhaps all its members still support the departure of the Syrian president. But political realism requires a change in behavior and approach and not insisting on Assad’s departure as a priority. This will become more evident in the future as terrorist attacks inside Europe have increased. The only solution left is to cooperate with Syrian security forces, the Syrian army and Iran in the context of fighting terrorism.
As for de Mistur’as plan in Aleppo, it is currently in a feverish race between a military solution and security arrangements that cannot be undertaken without the regime’s approval and that might be to its advantage.
Once again, history repeats the same old maxim, “international interests are more important than principles and people’s tragedies.”
While political factions are distracted with the upcoming dialogue between Hezbollah and the Future Movement, and the Lebanese government is struggling to resolve the issue of the kidnapped soldiers and counter the threat of terrorist groups on the Syrian border, Israel is stealing Lebanese gas from the deep sea off the Lebanese southern coast, Al-Akhbar reported on Monday.
Parliament speaker Nabih Berri told Al-Akhbar that he received information a few days ago confirming that Israel has started stealing Lebanese gas, expressing his surprise over the government’s lack of interest in the matter.
Berri said “he will personally push the pressing issue early next year,” adding that the Israeli move will force Lebanon to sign two designated decrees that would allow it to start digging for gas and ensure new revenues for the Lebanese economy.
Lebanon is located in the heart of the Levant basin, where seismic surveys indicate the presence of huge oil and gas reserves, but has so far failed to impose itself as a regional player in this area, as neighboring states greedily fight for its resources.
In July 2013, an Israeli company found Karish, a gas field 75 kilometers from the coast of Haifa. The new field is sufficiently close to Lebanon’s maritime borders to allow Israel access to Lebanon’s own reserves. It is evident that Israel is pressing ahead with exploration and production while Lebanon’s own energy plans falter.
At the time, then-Energy and Water Minister Gebran Bassil addressed these concerns in a press conference. “Theoretically…Israel is now able to reach Lebanese gas and that is a very grave situation,” he said.
“We cannot yet say that a disaster has happened, but the new Israeli discovery may indeed lead to one, especially if Lebanon’s efforts continue to be plagued by delays.”
“If Israel drills horizontally in Karish – made possible thanks to US technology – it may be able to reach up to 10 kilometers north into Lebanon’s reservoirs. If Israel drills vertically, it would still be possible for Israel to syphon off Lebanese oil and gas, if the Israeli and Lebanese fields overlap,” Bassil added.
After the discovery of large deposits of oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean, the main struggle for Lebanon remains with both Cyprus and Israel to prevent encroachment on its maritime boundaries.
Cyprus breached its agreement with Lebanon and signed a deal in 2010 with the Zionist state, which attempted to gobble up 860 square kilometers of Lebanon’s maritime zone.
This incident revealed the need for Lebanon to assert the integrity of its maritime boundaries and to recover all of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – currently being disputed by Israel following its agreement with Cyprus.
In theory, there was no dispute over maritime boundaries between Israel and Cyprus. But when the opportunity arose, Israel encroached on Lebanon’s zones as a result of the latter’s failure to quickly ratify its agreement with Cyprus.
The Cypriot-Israeli agreement enabled Israel to foray into Lebanon’s EEZ, although Israel had so far observed the same boundaries adopted by Lebanon in all its operations.
Reports indicate that Israel found a loophole in the agreement between Lebanon and Cyprus which stipulates that the triple point can only be determined through trilateral negotiations.
Since there are no contacts between Lebanon and Israel, the determination of this point is pending negotiations.
Israel’s interpretation of this, however, is that Lebanon has lost 860 square kilometers.
Lebanon managed to recover 500 out of 860 square kilometers of its EEZ according to international community laws, while 360 square kilometers remain effectively under Israeli control.
In November 2013, Israel rejected a proposal for a settlement made by the US administration to resolve the “dispute” between the Zionist state and Lebanon over the boundaries of each side’s EEZ. The proposal concerned the disputed area of Block 9 in the Mediterranean, which Israel claims sovereignty over.
Israel claims that this block – one of the richest areas in terms of commercial gas deposits recently discovered in the Mediterranean – extends into its EEZ.
In September, Director of the Research and Strategic Studies Center General Khaled Hamada said “the expected quantities (of oil and gas) are relatively small, compared to those discovered in the Arabian Gulf, Russia, and the Caspian Sea, but they are enough to make a significant impact on the energy security of Mediterranean countries, and contribute to a lesser extent to Europe’s energy security.”
Hamada pointed out that Israel had already begun commercial gas production, while Cyprus had started exploration in more than one location.
In a conversation with Al-Akhbar, Hamada warned that any further delays in Lebanon’s efforts to implement gas projects would force it to deal with these projects and security arrangements as a fait accompli down the road.
While Lebanon is busy with endless debates, Israel is rushing to put the final touches on its bid to export gas to Europe.
Four years ago, Al-Akhbar published a statement by Israeli Minister Yossi Peled on September 25, 2010 that highlighted the Israeli stance on Lebanon becoming a gas producer country.
Peled, appearing before the Knesset Economic Committee at a special hearing on the oil and gas sector, said that Lebanon had large gas fields similar to the ones Israel had discovered. He cautioned that the Europeans, who were looking for alternatives to Russian gas, had initiated negotiations with Lebanon, saying, “Imagine what it would mean if this country became a gas producer,” something he claimed had equally alarming economic and security implications.
Although Israel managed to pinpoint the challenges it faced, it did predict at the time – and wager on – Lebanon’s complacency. In response to Peled’s warnings in the Knesset, Israeli daily Globes, in a front-page editorial on October 5, 2010, stated:
“Israeli sources who follow events in Lebanon are convinced that, at the current rate of progress, the Lebanese will award the first licenses this year , and will start exploratory drilling within a year. The same sources believe that Lebanon will quickly be able to close the gap between it and Israel, and become a real competitor.
“Past experience shows that Israel has no immediate reason for fear. Lebanon’s natural resources will arouse internal (and external) conflicts no less severe than Israel’s natural resources have provoked here …
“The oil giants will not rush to invest billions in a country where it is not clear who is in control, and where so many other countries openly interfere.”
Israel was proven right. Nothing in Lebanon is exempt from being the object of division and polarization, and thus, obstruction, including the oil and gas sector.
Meanwhile, Turkey is also trying to expand in the eastern basin through northern Cyprus, with a view to reduce its dependence on oil imports from Iran and gas imports from Russia.
Ankara is seeking to build a network of onshore and offshore gas pipelines, to act as an energy transit hub between East and West.