Adonis Diaries

Archive for December 19th, 2012

After Bashar Assad falls, what then for the Syrians?

The alliance between foreign jihadists and some Syrians shows the fight for Syria will not end with the fall of the regime.

It is no secret that the entry of the armed opposition into the city of Aleppo was co-ordinated by  the jihadist wahhabi movements of al-Nusra, an al Qaeda front of foreign jihadists at the command of foreign leaders. The al-Tawhid brigade is also Islamist but of Syrian fighters

Smoke rises in the Hanano and Bustan al-Basha districts in the northern city of Aleppo

 City of Aleppo in flame and ruin. Photograph: Javier Manzano/AFP/Getty Images

The Guardian on Dec. 18, 2012 under: Syria: after Assad falls, what then?

“It was not the supposed imminent collapse of the Syrian regime that dominated the recent meeting of the Friends of Syria in Marrakech but the thorny subject of al-Nusra, one of the armed resistance groups operating in the country, which the US has just classified as a “foreign terrorist organisation”.

The chairman of the Syrian National Coalition called for the US to reconsider its decision; the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamad Tayfur condemned it as wrong and hastily made. Many other statements of support for al-Nusra followed, most notably from non-Islamist members of the coalition.

It is no secret that the entry of the armed opposition into the city of Aleppo was co-ordinated by al-Nusra and the al-Tawhid brigade, part of the Syrian Free Army, and that al-Nusra remains an effective fighting force.

But who are they?

Though the al-Tawhid brigade is Islamist, its members are exclusively Syrian. Al-Nusra’s fighters, on the other hand, are mainly foreign, and its emir (leader) is appointed from outside Syria.

What accounts for the support by so many of those attending the Friends of Syria conference for an organisation the US believes to be an al-Qaida front?

From the moment al-Nusra issued its first statement in December 2011, after a suicide bombing in Damascus, both Syria’s armed opposition and the opposition in exile expressed concern about this mysterious new organisation.

The Syrian National Council claimed al-Nusra had been formed by Syrian intelligence to tarnish the image of the Free Army. Syrian human rights defenders spoke out, too, warning of al-Qaida links. Many feared the organization was fast becoming the most attractive group for foreign jihadists in a sectarian war against Alawites, Shias and secular Syrians.

In January, the National Co-ordination Committee asked Turkey to stop letting foreign fighters enter Syria.

In February, the Syrian National Council issued a statement rejecting “all attempts to exploit the uprising by foreign jihadi and sectarian fighters”. Why the apparent shift of opinion within Syria’s opposition groups?

Al-Nusra has indiscriminately targeted non-Sunni people, and in all parts of the state. In this military strategy one can see a point of convergence between the Muslim Brotherhood, the salafists, and al-Nusra: all three groups reject the idea that Assad’s regime and the apparatus of the state are distinct.

The reasons are historical:

Since a 1980 decree sentencing any member of the Muslim Brotherhood to death, there has been no Brotherhood presence in the state. Because of this, the Syrian Islamist movement has long considered the state as inherently alien. This view is not held by all Syrians, however, almost eight million of whom work for the state in various capacities.

The Muslim Brotherhood targeted the military institutions as if they were Assad’s own army. Similarly, al-Nusra considers them to be the Alawite army. This intersection of views explains the lack of support shown by minorities and secular Syrians for the armed opposition groups, which were dominated by Sunni Islamists. The role of secular democrats was marginalised, and the emphasis placed on funding armed action.

Various interested parties have supported the armed opposition.

The Gulf states consider Islamisation as a protection against genuine democracy in Syria, which would pose a threat to their own regimes.

The Turkish government considers Islamisation necessary for the isolation of the Syrian Kurds.

The west, meanwhile, was happy to simply monitor the scene, hoping armed opposition would result in the overthrow of the Syrian regime.

The Syrian National Council, too, co-operated both financially and militarily with al-Nusra, as did the leaders of various armed groups in northern Syria. Despite all the promises made to the US delegation in Tunisia to break with them, co-ordination continued on the ground.

This is why the US deputy secretary of state found himself isolated in Marrakech when he classified al-Nusra as a terrorist organisation.

The British and French remained silent, as did the EU, this year’s Nobel peace prize winner.

This was met with horror by many Syrians, the vast majority of whom reject al-Nusra. When the Syrian army attacks al-Nusra it is not as the suppressor of the popular movement, but the guarantor of the unity of Syria’s diverse society.

It is the alliance between foreign jihadists and some Syrians that risks tearing the country apart, leading to religious extremism, long-term sectarian war, and the persecution of minorities and various civilian groups.

Support for al-Nusra can be seen as both a symptom of the drunkenness of anticipated military victory, prematurely proclaimed, and an attempt to further undermine the political solution the UN still seeks.

What happens as a result will not be decided by a conference in Marrakech, but on the ground.

One thing is certain: the fight for Syria will last a long time, and will not end with the fall of the regime.

Note 1: https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/war-of-lies-and-hypocrisies-in-syria-robert-fisk/

Note 2: https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2012/09/30/syria-fundamental-and-pragmatic-discussions-during-and-after-the-assad-

“Don’t take it personal Tony Blair: You are totally useless in the Quartet of Palestinian peace process”

Palestinian officials say Tony Blair (former Labor British PM) shouldn’t take it personally, but he should pack up his desk at the Office of the Quartet Representative in Jerusalem and go home.

They say his job, and the body he represents, are “useless, useless, useless”.

Mr Blair became the representative of the Middle East Quartet – the UN, EU, US and Russia – a few weeks after leaving Downing Street.

Last week, he visited the region for what he said was the 90th time since being appointed in June 2007.

He spends one week a month based in Jerusalem or globetrotting on behalf of the Quartet. His office is funded by the Quartet members and his 24-hour security detail is on secondment from Scotland Yard but he receives no direct salary.

MATTHEW KALMAN published in The Independent on Dec. 16, 2012 under

‘Useless, useless, useless’: the Palestinian verdict on Tony Blair

“After four years of renting 15 rooms at the American Colony Hotel for his full-time staff, Mr Blair put down more permanent roots in 2011 by renting the penthouse of a new office building in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem.

Senior Palestinian officials and analysts told The Independent the move was unnecessary – his sojourn in the region should be cut short.

Mohammed Shtayyeh, an aide to the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said last week:

“The Quartet has been useless, useless, useless. Always the statement of the Quartet really means nothing because it was always full of what they call constructive ambiguity that really took us to nowhere…” and he suggested that its constant need to reach internal consensus among its warring participants had rendered it ineffective.

Mr Shtayyeh, who had just ended a meeting with Mr Blair and said: “You need a mediator who is ready to engage and who is ready to say to the party who is destroying the peace process ‘You are responsible for it'”

Mr Shtayyeh is not alone (in finding Blair’s role totally useless).

Last February, the Saban Centre for Middle East Policy at The Brookings Institution pronounced the body already dead in a report bluntly entitled The Middle East Quartet: A Post-Mortem report:

“The Quartet has little to show for its decade-long involvement in the peace process. Israelis and Palestinians are no closer to resolving the conflict, and in the few instances in which political negotiations did take place, the Quartet’s role was usually relegated to that of a political bystander. Having spent most of the last 3 years in a state of near paralysis, and having failed to dissuade the Palestinians from seeking UN membership and recognition in September 2011, the Quartet has finally reached the limits of its utility.

“The current mechanism is too outdated, dysfunctional, and discredited to be reformed. Instead of undertaking another vain attempt to ‘reactivate’ the Quartet, the United States, the European Union, United Nations, and Russia should simply allow the existing mechanism to go quietly into the night,” the report concluded.

Mr Blair rarely travels to Gaza, citing security reasons.

The Quartet website features a number of achievements in the West Bank, including the removal of Israeli army checkpoints and upgraded facilities for exports. Palestinian and Israeli officials told The Independent that the Quartet appeared to be taking credit for other people’s work.

“I think in general, Palestinians are disappointed by the performance of the Quartet,” said Ghassan Khatib, vice-president of Birzeit University near Ramallah and a former Palestinian Authority cabinet minister. “I cannot think of any serious thing that the Quartet succeeded to help us in.

“Sometimes Tony Blair speaks about removing checkpoints, but I think Israel was going to remove these checkpoints with or without the Quartet”. Dr Khatib said the Quartet’s announcements about assisting the Palestinian economy were as hollow as their political achievements, but he stressed that his attitude wasn’t personal. “It has nothing to do with Tony Blair … I think it’s the Quartet that failed to deliver.”

Mr Blair’s Jerusalem office did not respond to a request for a comment.

Timeline: Blair’s peace-making

June 2007

Tony Blair appointed Middle East envoy on behalf of the EU, US, UN and Russia.

May 2008

Launches peace plan for Israel-Palestinian conflict based on improving economic co-operation.

March 2009

On a visit to Gaza, Mr Blair calls on Israel to ease its blockade.

September 2011

Mr Blair warns that a bid for statehood at the United Nations by the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would be “deeply confrontational“.

October 2011

Nabil Shaath, one of the senior aides to President Abbas, has harsh words for Tony Blair and accusing him of talking “like an Israeli diplomat”.

 

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