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As Qaeda-Backed Group Makes Gains, Rift Grows Among Rebels in Syria

And the US airstrikes are targeting most of the rebel factions” in Syria.” Even France has changed policy and doesn’t believe anymore in moderate factions could make any difference and resume the fight.

Photo

Fighters with the Qaeda-backed Syrian rebel group Al Nusra Front stood among destroyed buildings south of Damascus in September. The group has been making inroads in Idlib Province. Credit Rami Al-Sayed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

BAGHDAD — The Nusra Front, a Syrian rebel group affiliated with Al Qaeda, has been expanding its control in the northern province of Idlib, seizing territory from two Western-supported rebel organizations and potentially threatening a critical border crossing with Turkey, according to rebels and monitoring groups.

Groups in Idlib have been a focus of the Obama administration’s plan to train and equip some Syrian rebels to fight Islamic State, the jihadist group that has occupied territory further east in Syria and Iraq.

And though the province represents just a small part of the sprawling conflict in Syria, it has been an important center of international attempts to organize and supply the resistance to President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

Two groups that the Nusra Front has seized bases from in recent days, the Syrian Revolutionaries Front and the Hazm Movement, are considered moderates and have received limited arms support from the West.

Despite that, they have been unable to hold their ground against the extremists in this latest outbreak of rebel infighting, commanders say.

The trouble began last week when the Nusra Front began moving against the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, headed by Jamal Maarouf, a former construction worker-turned rebel leader who has been widely accused by other rebels of war profiteering. (As if no leaders ever profited from war)

As the Nusra Front pushed him and his fighters from the area, Maarouf spoke out in videos posted online. In one, he walked over rocky ground, saying his men were defending Syria.

After the Nusra Front took over  last week his home village, Deir Sunbul, he acknowledged in another video that he had fled and vowed to come back and liberate the area, “village by village.” (Street by street as Gadhafi vowed to recapture Benghazi)

Activists linked to the Nusra Front struck back, posting videos of their fighters gathering weapons from Maarouf’s storehouses and of more than a dozen decomposed bodies of people they accused Mr. Maarouf’s men of killing and dumping in a well.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said he considered the videos genuine. His group, which tracks the conflict from Britain through contacts on the ground, reported earlier this year that Mr. Maarouf’s fighters had executed more than 90 Islamist rivals and dumped them in wells.

“These are some of those bodies,”  Abdul Rahman said.

Mr. Maarouf could not be reached for comment on the bodies.

It remains unclear how much support Mr. Maarouf’s group had received from the West, and some say the West does not give him aid.

But the other affected group, the Hazm Movement, has been a key recipient of military aid from a covert program run by the United States and other countries from across the border in Turkey. According to members of the group, this aid has included salaries, light ammunition and a limited number of anti-tank missiles.

Activists in Idlib Province said that tensions there had intensified when the Nusra Front chased off Mr. Maarouf. Both groups have fighters from the village of Khan al-Subul, where the Hazm base is, so they sought a deal to avoid bloodshed, with the Hazm fighters withdrawing over the weekend.

Activist reports conflicted on what arms the Nusra Front had seized from the base, with some saying they included anti-tank missiles sent by the West and others denying it. Other activists said that dozens of fighters had switched sides, joining the Nusra Front.

In an audio interview released online on Tuesday, the head of the Nusra Front, Abu Mohammed al-Jolani, attacked Mr. Maarouf, saying his group contained “thieves and bandits” and that other rebel groups had urged the Nusra Front to oust him.

While Mr. Jolani did not mention the Hazm Movement, he criticized Western aid for the rebels, saying it represented an effort to kill the “mujahedeen” and impose Western policy.

After years of refraining from intervening in Syria’s civil war, the Obama administration recently announced plans to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State. But that program, meant to train 5,000 fighters a year at a base in Saudi Arabia, has yet to begin, and many in Syria’s opposition have criticized the plan, saying their priority is to fight Mr. Assad.

Emile Hokayyem, a Middle East analyst with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said that American policy toward the so-called moderate rebels had put them in a hard position. Some had aligned with the West in hopes that it would give them arms to fight Mr. Assad, he said. But now the United States wants to use them only to fight the Islamic State, damaging their credibility among Syrians who see Mr. Assad as the greater enemy.

“This is the worst of all worlds,” Mr. Hokayem said. “These guys get blamed for being American lackeys even when they get nothing.”

The infighting has angered residents of rebel-held areas, many of whom accuse rebel leaders of looking out only for themselves.

In a video posted this weekend, an unnamed man held up pieces of munitions dropped by Mr. Assad’s army and accused Mr. Maarouf, the Nusra Front and other rebel factions of doing little to protect civilians.

“We Sunni Muslims, why can’t we unify?” the man said. “Because we have people with big heads: Me! I want the chair!”

Correction: November 4, 2014
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article referred incorrectly, in one instance, to the rebel group that Jamal Maarouf leads. It is the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, not the Hazm Movement.

US report: Foreign fighters (358,000 in total) from 92 countries were engaged in Syria…

Hala Fouaad Mahfoud posted this link:

A US report by a center for strategic research dedicated to the Middle East and Arabic region on the status of Syria stated that out of 358,000 foreign fighters (from 92 nationalities) in Syria, less than 100,000 are still around on the ground.

Since April 2011 till Dec. 31, 2013, over 358,000 foreign fighters were engaged in Syria at some point in the struggle.

About 98,000 were killed, 182,000 disengaged and left, 12,000 are missing.

Some 66,000 are still fighting with the two major Al Qaeda factions of Al Nusra Front and Daesh.

The largest number of incoming fighters was registered in October 2013 at 143,000 fighters.

12,760 “warriors” were from the US and Western Europe: 2085 returned “home” and about 874 of the returnees found their citizenship revoked.

Saudi Arabia ranked first in number of Islamist Jihadist with over 70,000, of which 28,000 were killed.

Tunisia sent the most of women, followed by Saudi Arabia, with a total of 900 women who were used for sex and entertainment. About 208 were killed.

374 Turkish soldiers and officers were killed and accounted as falling during engagement with Kurdish separatist factions.

More than $100 bn were spent on this war: Saudi Arabia spent $21 bn and Qatar $13 bn, followed by Kuwait and the Gulf Emirates.

The Chechen fighters were the most trained, and the Saudis the least. The Lebanese were ever ready to flee at the first serious engagement.

The Turkish clinical centers benefited most from the trade of body parts.

Lately, France confirmed that 800 French citizens fought in Syria.

تقرير أمريكي : عن سوريا
مهم جدا إقراه جيدا
من احد مراكز البحوث اﻻستراتيجية المتخصصة في الشؤون العربية والشرق الاوسط
ربع مليون مقاتل أجنبي في سوريا بقي منهم أقل من مئة ألفأكبر تجمع لمقاتلين أجانب حصل في التاريخ
في دراسة بحثية لمركز أمريكي عن عدد المقاتلين الأجانب الذين شاركوا في القتال في سوريا منذ بداية الأحداث وحتى 31/12/2013.

بلغ عدد المقاتلين الأجانب الذين قاتلوا في سوريا ضد الجيش العربي السوري منذ نيسان 2011 وحتى 31 كانون الأول2013 بلغ 358 ألف مقاتل أجنبي,
قتل منهم98ألف و غادر مهنم182 ألف و هناك12 ألف مفقود بينما لازال66 ألف مقاتل أجنبي يقاتلون مع النصرة و داعش وغيرها من الفصائل المسلحة في سوريا.

– أكبر تجمع للمقاتلين الأجانب حصل في التاريخ حصل بسوريا بواقع 97 جنسية عالمية.

– أعلى رقم للمقاتلين الأجانب الذين تواجدوا في سوريا بوقت واحد كان في تشرين الأول 2013 حيث بلغ عددهم 143 ألف مقاتل بدأ بعدها هذا الرقم بالتناقص السريع.

– عدد المقاتلين الذين يحملون جنسيات أجنبية ( أوربية و أمريكية ) بلغ 12760 عاد منهم 2083 وتم سحب الجنسية من 874.

– السعودية تحتل المركز الأول بعدد المقاتلين الأجانب بعدد 30700 مقاتل قتل منهم حوالي 28000.

– تونس هي الأولى تليها السعودية بعدد النساء المشاركات في الجهاد بسوريا بواقع 900 فتاة وامرأة تونسية قتل منهم 208 وانحصر دورهم بالجنس و الترفيه.

– 34 مليار دولار دفعتها بعض دول الخليج لتمويل المسلحين في سوريا بواقع :
قطر 13 مليار دولار
السعودية 21 مليار دولار
والباقي من دول خليجية أخرى

– المقاتلون الشيشان هم الأكثر تدريبا

– المقاتلون السعوديون هم الأقل تدريبا و خبرة

– المقاتلون اللبنانيون هم الأكثر هروبا

– الجيش التركي خسر 347 جندي وضابط شاركوا بالقتال مع المسلحين لم يتم التصريح بسبب وفاتهم وسجلوا بأنهم ضحايا لهجمات حزب العمال الكردستاني أو أثناء عمليات تدريبية.

– أول عمل مسلح شارك فيه مقاتل أجنبي في سوريا كان بتاريخ 10.04.2011 وشارك فيه مقاتل لبناني من عكار في الهجوم على اوتستراد مدينة بانياس.

– المشافي التركية هي الأولى في سرقة و التجارة بأعضاء البشر نتيجة القتال في سوريا.

متى سيفهم وقود تلك المعارك انهم اما ادوات غرر بهم، او ان الدولار اعماهم

The US friends: the Saudis funding Mass Murder in the Middle East

Donors in Saudi Arabia have notoriously played a pivotal role in creating and maintaining Sunni jihadist groups over the past 30 years. Donors in Kuwait are as generous for these extremist factions.

But, for all the supposed determination of the United States and its allies since 9/11 to fight “the war on terror“, they have showed astonishing restraint when it comes to pressuring Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies to turn off the financial tap that keeps the jihadists in business.

PATRICK COCKBURN published this Sunday 8 December 8, 2013 in The Independent:

Mass murder in the Middle East is funded by our friends the Saudis

World View: Everyone knows where al-Qa’ida gets its money, but while the violence is sectarian, the West does nothing. (In addition to Saudi Arabia donors, who else funds al Qaeda? Do governments fund al Qaeda? In which ways the CIA support al Qaeda?)

Compare two US pronouncements stressing the significance of these donations and basing their conclusions on the best intelligence available to the US government.

The first is in the 9/11 Commission Report which found that Osama bin Laden did not fund al-Qa’ida because from 1994 he had little money of his own but relied on his ties to wealthy Saudi individuals established during the Afghan war in the 1980s. Quoting, among other sources, a CIA analytic report dated 14 November 2002, the commission concluded that “al-Qa’ida appears to have relied on a core group of financial facilitators who raised money from a variety of donors and other fund-raisers primarily in the Gulf countries and particularly in Saudi Arabia”.

Seven years pass after the CIA report was written during which the US invades Iraq fighting, among others, the newly established Iraq franchise of al-Qa’ida, and becomes engaged in a bloody war in Afghanistan with the resurgent Taliban. American drones are fired at supposed al-Qa’ida-linked targets located everywhere from Waziristan in north-west Pakistan to the hill villages of Yemen.

During this time, Washington can manage no more than a few gentle reproofs to Saudi Arabia on its promotion of fanatical and sectarian Sunni militancy outside its own borders.

Evidence for this is a fascinating telegram on “terrorist finance” from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to US embassies, dated 30 December 2009 and released by WikiLeaks the following year.

Hillary Clinton says firmly that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide”.

Eight years after 9/11, when 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, Mrs Clinton reiterates in the same message that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support for al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan] and other terrorist groups”.

Saudi Arabia was most important in sustaining these groups, but it was not quite alone since “al-Qa’ida and other groups continue to exploit Kuwait both as a source of funds and as a key transit point“.

Why did the US and its European allies treat Saudi Arabia with such restraint when the kingdom was so central to al-Qa’ida and other even more sectarian Sunni jihadist organisations?

An obvious explanation is that the US, Britain and others did not want to offend a close ally and that the Saudi royal family had judiciously used its money to buy its way into the international ruling class.

Unconvincing attempts were made to link Iran and Iraq to al-Qa’ida when the real culprits were in plain sight.

But there is another compelling reason why the Western powers have been so laggard in denouncing Saudi Arabia and the Sunni rulers of the Gulf for spreading bigotry and religious hate.

Al-Qa’ida members or al-Qa’ida-influenced groups have always held two very different views about who is their main opponent.

For Osama bin Laden the chief enemy was the Americans, but for the great majority of Sunni jihadists, including the al-Qa’ida franchises in Iraq and Syria, the target is the Shia.

It is the Shia who have been dying in their thousands in Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and even in countries where there are few of them to kill, such as Egypt. (Not convincing assertion: More sunnis than shia were the target of these Islamic factions, except maybe in Iraq due to car bombs)

Pakistani papers no longer pay much attention to hundreds of Shia butchered from Quetta to Lahore.

In Iraq, most of the 7,000 or more people killed this year are Shia civilians killed by the bombs of al-Qa’ida in Iraq, part of an umbrella organisation called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), which also encompasses Syria.

In overwhelmingly Sunni Libya, militants in the eastern town of Derna killed an Iraqi professor who admitted on video to being a Shia before being executed by his captors.

Suppose a hundredth part of this merciless onslaught had been directed against Western targets rather than against Shia Muslims, would the Americans and the British be so accommodating to the Saudis, Kuwaitis and Emiratis?

It is this that gives a sense of phoniness to boasts by the vastly expanded security bureaucracies in Washington and London about their success in combating terror justifying vast budgets for themselves and restricted civil liberties for everybody else.

All the drones in the world fired into Pashtun villages in Pakistan or their counterparts in Yemen or Somalia are not going to make much difference if the Sunni jihadists in Iraq and Syria ever decide – as Osama bin Laden did before them – that their main enemies are to be found not among the Shia but in the United States and Britain.

Instead of the fumbling amateur efforts of the shoe and underpants bombers, security services would have to face jihadist movements in Iraq, Syria and Libya fielding hundreds of bomb-makers and suicide bombers.

Only gradually this year, videos from Syria of non-Sunnis being decapitated for sectarian motives alone have begun to shake the basic indifference of the Western powers to Sunni jihadism so long as it is not directed against themselves. (The decapitated are mostly sunnis of different factions)

Saudi Arabia as a government for a long time took a back seat to Qatar in funding rebels in Syria, and it is only since this summer that they have taken over the file. They wish to marginalise the al-Qa’ida franchisees such as Isil and the al-Nusra Front while buying up and arming enough Sunni war-bands to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

The directors of Saudi policy in Syria – the Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, the head of the Saudi intelligence agency Prince Bandar bin Sultan and the Deputy Defence Minister Prince Salman bin Sultan – plan to spend billions raising a militant Sunni army some 40,000 to 50,000 strong.

Already local warlords are uniting to share in Saudi largess for which their enthusiasm is probably greater than their willingness to fight.

The Saudi initiative is partly fueled by rage in Riyadh at President Obama’s decision not to go to war with Syria after Assad used chemical weapons on 21 August.

Nothing but an all-out air attack by the US similar to that of Nato in Libya in 2011 would overthrow Assad, so the US has essentially decided he will stay for the moment.

Saudi anger has been further exacerbated by the successful US-led negotiations on an interim deal with Iran over its nuclear programme.

By stepping out of the shadows in Syria, the Saudis are probably making a mistake.

Their money will only buy them so much. The artificial unity of rebel groups with their hands out for Saudi money is not going to last. They will be discredited in the eyes of more fanatical jihadis as well as Syrians in general as pawns of Saudi and other intelligence services.

A divided opposition will be even more fragmented: Jordan may accommodate the Saudis and a multitude of foreign intelligence services, but it will not want to be the rallying point for an anti-Assad army.

The Saudi plan looks doomed from the start, though it could get a lot more Syrians killed before it fails.

Yazid Sayegh of the Carnegie Middle East Centre highlights succinctly the risks involved in the venture: “Saudi Arabia could find itself replicating its experience in Afghanistan, where it built up disparate mujahedin groups that lacked a unifying political framework. The forces were left unable to govern Kabul once they took it, paving the way for the Taliban to take over. Al-Qa’ida followed, and the blowback subsequently reached Saudi Arabia.”

Plea for Caution From  PUTIN of Russia: No preemptive war on Syria…

What Putin Has to Say to Americans About Syria

VLADIMIR V. PUTIN Published in the New York Times this September 11, 2013:

MOSCOW — RECENT events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies. (what’s wrong with the communication facilities? Or it is an ego trip by leaders to avoid frequent connection opportunities?)

Relations between us have passed through different stages.
We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together.
The universal international organization — the United Nations — was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.
(The UN didn’t stop the US from occupying Iraq for 8 years, and Israel from occupying south Lebanon for 23 years, and the Golan Heights since 1967…)

The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America’s consent the veto (power by 5 superpowers having nuclear arsenal) by Security Council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.

No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorization.

The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders.

A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism.

It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.

Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country.

There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government. The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations.

This internal conflict, fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition, is one of the bloodiest in the world.

Mercenaries from Arab countries fighting there, and hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia, are an issue of our deep concern. Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria?

(Fact is the Al Qaeda membership expanded because the mother nations refused to welcome these fighters back home after the Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan)

After all, after fighting in Libya, extremists moved on to Mali. This threatens us all.

From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future.

We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law.

We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos.

The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not. Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression.

(And why Hezbollah is classified as terrorist when its engaging in self-defense against recurring Israel preemptive wars in Lebanon?)

No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists. Reports that militants are preparing another attack — this time against Israel — cannot be ignored.

It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States.

Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it.

Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”

But force has proved ineffective and pointless. Afghanistan is reeling, and no one can say what will happen after international forces withdraw.

Libya is divided into tribes and clans.

In Iraq the civil war continues, with dozens killed each day.

In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes.

No matter how targeted the strikes or how sophisticated the weapons, civilian casualties are inevitable, including the elderly and children, whom the strikes are meant to protect.

The world reacts by asking: if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security.

Thus, a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you. We are left with talk of the need to strengthen nonproliferation, when in reality this is being eroded.

We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.

A new opportunity to avoid military action has emerged in the past few days.

The United States, Russia and all members of the international community must take advantage of the Syrian government’s willingness to place its chemical arsenal under international control for subsequent destruction.

Judging by the statements of President Obama, the United States sees this as an alternative to military action.

I welcome the president’s interest in continuing the dialogue with Russia on Syria. We must work together to keep this hope alive, as we agreed to at the Group of 8 meeting in Lough Erne in Northern Ireland in June, and steer the discussion back toward negotiations.

If we can avoid force against Syria, this will improve the atmosphere in international affairs and strengthen mutual trust. It will be our shared success and open the door to cooperation on other critical issues.

My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this.

I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American “exceptionalism“, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.”

It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.

There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on September 12, 2013, on page A31 of the New York edition with the headline: A Plea for Caution From Russia.

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