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Posts Tagged ‘Jabhat al-Nusra

Israel’s exploitation of the Syrian war: Laid bare

Last summer in the occupied Golan Heights, an Israeli military ambulance ferrying wounded fighters from across the border in Syria came under attack by Druze.

Rebel fighters had been inadvertently straying into Israeli-held territory for years.

But these fighters in the ambulance were different: they were members of the Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat Al Nusra, which has been fighting Bashar Al Assad’s forces with varying degrees of success, and essentially funded by Saudi Arabia.

Andrew Bossone shared a link.
Israel’s influence in the Syrian war is becoming easier to detect on the ground, writes Joseph Dana
thenational.ae

As the chaos of the Syrian civil war deepened, Al Nusra and other extremist groups have taken advantage of the security vacuum to rally support from external governments, reportedly including Turkey and the United States. Israel’s role in aiding these fighters, however, had been shrouded in secrecy until the episode on the Golan Heights.

As the Israeli ambulance sped towards a field hospital with two wounded Al Nusra fighters, it encountered a large group of Druze blocking the road.

The Druze, a small Muslim sect who live in Syria, Israel and Lebanon, have been largely on the side-lines of the Syrian war but have remained loyal to Bashar Al Assad’s government. Recently there has been sporadic fighting between the Druze and extremist groups like Al Nusra inside Syria.

In June, Druze in Syria alerted their brethren on the other side of the border that the Israeli army was treating Al Nusra fighters who had been wounded fighting the Druze.

On the Golan Heights, Druze attacked the Israeli ambulance convoy with stones, eventually attacking the wounded fighters. When the dust settled, one Nusra fighter was killed and another was unconscious from the blows of the mob.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu then held a special meeting with Druze leaders to keep the situation under control. Despite the fact that this episode was reported extensively in local and foreign press, the Israeli army continues to deny its links to Al Nusra.

When Hezbollah operative Samir Kuntar was killed in an Israeli targeted assassination in Syria two weeks ago, Tel Aviv’s foothold in the conflict came under renewed inspection.

Hafez Al Assad, who ruled Syria before his son for 3 decades, often joked that the Syrian-Israeli border in the Golan Heights was the quietest in the Middle East, but since the outbreak of civil war in 2011, things have steadily heated up.

While Israel has tried to keep its involvement in the Syrian war under wraps, there are several things we know about its participation.

First, Israel has been carrying out air strikes against Hezbollah targets throughout Syria. Ostensibly, these air strikes are tailored to keep Hezbollah from obtaining Syrian chemical weapons.

In the 2006 Lebanon war, the Iranian-backed militia became the only Arab fighting force to unconditionally force Israel to retreat from Arab land occupied in the course of battle.

(In May 2000, Israel withdrew from south Lebanon unilaterally and in great hurry after its occupation presence was made untenable by Hezbollah resistance fighters)

Hezbollah has an extensive rockets cache that can reach any part of Israeli territory, as well as an elaborate network of underground bunkers in southern Lebanon that the Israeli military has never succeeded in fully destroying. It makes sense that Israel would want to keep Assad’s chemical weapons out of Hezbollah’s hands. (As if Hezbollah ever used chemical weapons that are easily manufactured)

In Syria, Hezbollah has endured heavy losses; it is operating outside its normal strongholds in a country where it doesn’t have the support it enjoys in Lebanon, and the war appears to be wearing the group’s resources thin.

In a sign of its dwindling human capital, the group has recently ratcheted up recruitment with promises of cash for new fighters.

For decades, Iran and its proxies have been Israel’s primary enemies. Now that those groups are fighting a draining war in Syria, Israel is taking the opportunity to hit them with air strikes.

An uneasy alliance between Israel and radical extremist groups fighting in the region – as last summer’s episode on the Golan seemed to confirm – is not beyond comprehension.

Note: Israel is purchasing cheap oil from ISIS through Turkey. The objective of Israel is to divide Syria into small cantons in order to impose its military dominion in the region.

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Extremist Jihadists freed from Syria prison at the onset of uprising in 2011

People in the Levant knew since 2011 that the regime of Bashar Assad freed over 1,000 Islamists from prisons, without any preconditions, in order for them to start the armed struggle.

Anyone who reads Arabic could find all these information from the dozens published books on the Syrian uprising and the brutality of the regime before and after the revolution.

Let’s hear what Phil Sands , Justin Vela and Suha Maayeh have to say, and possibly more details and other pieces of intelligence…

Phil Sands , Justin Vela and Suha Maayeh published this January 21, 2014

ISTANBUL / AMMAN // Syrian intelligence agencies released Islamist militants from prison to deliberately subvert a peaceful uprising and ignite a violent rebellion, according to a former regime security official.

The claim comes ahead of peace talks in Switzerland on Wednesday, which President Bashar Al Assad’s government said should “fight terrorism”, a term he uses to describe all armed opposition groups.

But according to the former security officer it was the regime that intentionally exacerbated radicalism shortly after the uprising began in March 2011 in order to make itself the least bad choice for the international community and Syrians alike.

“The regime did not just open the door to the prisons and let these extremists out, it facilitated them in their work, in their creation of armed brigades,” said the former member of Syria’s Military Intelligence Directorate, one of more than a dozen of Syria’s secretive intelligence agencies.

Assad regime set free extremists from prison to fire up trouble during peaceful uprising

The former officer said most of the releases happened over a period of four months up until October 2011 and that the project was overseen by the General Security Directorate, another of Syria’s widely feared security organisations and one of the most important.

Under pressure from opposition groups and the international community, the regime set free hundreds of detainees from jail in the first few months of the uprising as part of an amnesty.

But many political prisoners and protesters backing the peaceful uprising were kept in prison, while others, including known Islamist radicals and violent offenders, were quietly released.

Some former inmates of Saidnaya prison, a facility 50 km north of Damascus, went on to become prominent members of insurgent groups.

Zahran Aloush, commander of the Jaish Al Islam; Abdul Rahman Suweis of the Liwa al Haq; Hassan Aboud of Ahrar Al Sham; and Ahmad Aisa Al Sheikh, commander of Suqour Al Sham, were all held in regime jails prior to the uprising.

The commander of the powerful Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al Nusra, Abu Mohammad Al Jolani, is also rumoured to have been among those set free, although little is known about his true identity.

“Most of the important people in these extremist groups were in Saidnaya prison, not just Zahran Aloush. There were many of them and the regime let them go very deliberately,” the former intelligence officer said.

From the start of the uprising, the regime insisted it was facing an Islamist insurgency as a way of justifying its murderous response to overwhelmingly peaceful demands for political reforms.

To give that narrative credence and bolster support among the fearful religious minorities it depends on for support, as well as Syria’s moderate mainstream population, the regime sought to create instability inside Syria, including acts of violence by Sunni extremists, said the former intelligence officer. He spoke on condition of anonymity.

He is one of a small number of Alawite security officers who defected from the regime in protest at its tactics to break the uprising.

Although he left his position as head of a military intelligence unit in northern Syria in the summer of 2011, he remains in contact with some former colleagues and has not joined the opposition.

In fact, he believes Al Assad should remain in power as a preferable alternative to radical Islamist factions that have come to dominate the armed rebellion.

Groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) and Jabhat Al Nusra have been infiltrated by Syria’s security forces, the former intelligence officer said, with regime personnel helping them wage war against other Islamic groups and, in some cases, even against Syrian regime forces.

“This regime is clever, no one on the outside will ever understand what goes on inside,” he said, describing a shadowy system of intelligence branches spying on each other, betraying one another, sometimes promoting attacks by armed rebels on other security branches – all in the name of serving the president.

The officer, who served for 12 years in military intelligence, including a long stint in Aleppo, said Syria’s security agencies played a key role in sending Islamist insurgents to Iraq to fight US forces following the 2003 invasion, with President Al Assad fearful Syria would be America’s next target.

Aleppo, Syria’s commercial capital – now a ruined cityscape, smashed by artillery and airstrikes – was a key recruitment and transit hub for militants.

When the fighters returned to Syria, many were jailed or executed by the securty services, the former officer said, as the authorities sought to reign in extremists who, back on home turf, might pose a threat to the regime.

However, with the 2011 uprising against Bashar Al Assad refusing to die down after several months, the regime once again sought to exploit radical Islamists to make itself appear as a bastion of secular moderation.

“The regime wanted to tell the world it was fighting Al Qaeda but the revolution was peaceful in the beginning so it had to build an armed Islamic revolt. It was a specific, deliberate plan and it was easy to carry out.

“There were strong Islamic tendencies to the uprising so it just had to encourage them,” he said.

Another former regime official who has not joined the opposition agreed that there was a policy on the part of Mr Al Assad’s forces to create violence and terrorism to legitimise a crackdown on the opposition.

“You release a few people and you create the violence. It’s contagious,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Weapons were made available to radical elements of the opposition in key hotspots, including Deraa and Idlib, the former military intelligence officer said.

This is not something I heard rumours about, I actually heard the orders, I have seen it happening,” the officer said. “These orders came down from [Military Intelligence] headquarters Damascus.”

The officer remains angry about the strategy of stoking radicalism, saying it was a key reason why he left his post.

An incident in Jisr Al Shoughour, in northern Syria, in June 2011, proved decisive, after hearing higher ranked officers saying it was necessary to provoke sectarian bloodshed there, including the slaughter of fellow Alawite officers by Sunni rebels, in order to “serve the nation”.

“They [the regime] fed us nationalism but at the expense of our blood, they sold our blood to create Takfiris” he said, a reference to a radical Sunni ideology that regard Alawites as heretics who should be killed.

The claims of this officer could not be independently verified and he did not have documents supporting them.

Syria’s security branches have, overwhelmingly, remained fanatically loyal to the regime with each depending on the other for survival.

Some regime supporters admit former detainees have joined the insurgency, but say that was not the authorities’ intention and is, rather, the responsibility of international powers, which pushed Mr Al Assad to free all political prisoners, including Islamists.

In other cases, rebel fighters say they were radicalised by the routine torture practised in regime detention cells, with security service brutality boosting the appeal of extremist groups.

Islamic radicals are now a major participant on all sides of the Syrian conflict, with Sunni rebel groups battling one another as well as against Shiite militias fighting alongside the regime.

The increasingly sectarian proxy war, with Shiite Iran and the Sunni Arab Gulf states backing opposite sides, has killed in excess of 120,000 people, wounded hundreds of thousands more and forced upwards of 6 million Syrians to flee their homes.

It is a conflict that shows no sign of abating.

Opposition activists say about 1,500 inmates of Saidnaya, a major regime prison for Islamist militants, were freed by the Syrian government.

A former Saidnaya prisoner, jailed for three years but released before the uprising started, said many inmates went on to join armed rebel factions.

“Some of the important radical leaders [of armed groups] were in there including Jolani [the head of Jabhat Al Nusra], he said. “The Islamists were held in a separate wing of the prison but some of them like Aloush were famous. I didn’t see Jolani but people said he was in there,” the former detainee said.

Major General Fayez Dwairi, a former Jordanian military officer involved in Amman’s response to the growing crisis in Syria, said the Assad regime was directly involved in the growth of Islamic extremism.

“Many of the people who established Jabhat Al Nusra were captured by the regime in 2008 and were in prison. When the revolution started they were released on the advice of Syrian intelligence officers, who told Assad ‘they will do a good job for us. There are many disadvantages to letting them out, but there are more advantages because we will convince the world that we are facing Islamic terrorism’,” he said.

Maj Gen Dwairi said 46 leading members of Jabhat Al Nusra had been in Syrian regime custody, including its leader.

He also said Islamic groups had been infiltrated by Syrian intelligence agents.

A western security consultant, who has been involved in secret negotiations involving Jabhat Al Nusra, said senior figures involved with that group had been in Syrian prisons.

There have been other cases of the complex relationship between extremist militants and the regime. Some reports have said that after seizing oil fields in eastern Syria in 2012 Jabhat Al Nusra struck deals with the regime to transport the oil to the coast for export.

The former Syrian military intelligence officer said Mr Al Assad and his senior lieutenants had ruthlessly outmanoeuvred western and Arab states, dragging them into a regional sectarian war that, perversely, gave the regime better odds of survival than a peaceful uprising and gradual democratic change would have.

Western capitals now fear the Islamist-dominated opposition more than they do the regime, he said, making President Al Assad a potential ally rather than enemy.

“Syrian security opened the doors to the prisons, and they knew what would happen,” he said.

psands@thenational.ae

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(So far nothing new in this article, not even names of Syrian security officers)

Related

Former Saidnaya Islamist prisoners released in 2011: And in picture…

Former Saidnaya prisoners turned rebels:

January 21, 2014

1. Zahran Aloush, commander of the Jaish Al Islam – the most powerful single rebel group fighting around Damascus – and head of the military front in the Islamic Front coalition. His brigade claims to have carried out the attack on the Syrian government’s national security headquarters in Damascus on July 18, 2012 that killed Asef Shawkat, Daoud Rajha and Hassan Turkmani.  (There was no destruction in the meeting place: A high-tech operation executed by the US embassy across the building)

2. Abu Mus3ab Al Suri, a leading thinker among Islamic radicals and an opponent of the Assad dynasty, was reported as freed from Syrian regime custody in February 2012. He was initially captured in Pakistan and is believed to have been moved from there to Syria as part of the US secret rendition programme.

3. Ahmad Aisa Al Sheikh, commander of Suqour Al Sham and head of the Shura Council at the Jabha Islamiya, which was created on November 22, 2013.  One of the most influential rebel commanders in Idlib province, commanding a brigade known for discipline and deep resources, it runs 3 field hospitals, a Sharia court, and a prison.

4. Hassan Aboud, leader the Syrian Islamic Front, an independent coalition of hardline Islamist groups in which Ahrar Al Sham, the movement he leads, is the largest and dominant faction. Some reports suggest ex-inmates of Saidnaya prison formed Ahrar Al Sham, after they were freed in early 2011. It has been involved in recent fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

5. Abu Adnan al Zabadani, Syrian Islamic Front. He fought US forces in Iraqi in 2008, was subsequently arrested by Syrian intelligence on his return and then freed from Saidnaya prison in late 2010.

6. Abdul Rahman Suweis of the Liwa Al Haq, a 47 year old former paratrooper officer in the Syrian armed forces, arrested in 1999 for membership of Hezb Al Tahrir. Spent 11 years in prison, released in an amnesty at the start of the uprising in 2011.

7. Abu Suleiman Al Kordi, the general Amir of the Tajamo3 Saraya Al Ansar in the eastern area, a former Saidnaya prisoner.

8. Abu Mohammad Al Jolani, the commander of Jabhat Al Nusra, is rumoured to have been among those set free from Saidnaya prison, although little is publicly known about his true identity and background. Some reports suggest he was held and freed by US forces in Iraq.

Sources:

Institute For the Study of War, Assafir newspaper (Lebanon), Joshua Landis website ‘Syria Comment’ and Aron Lund’s research for the Swedish Institute of International Affairs.

Read more: http://www.thenational.ae/world/middle-east/in-pictures-former-saidnaya-prisoners-turned-rebels#ixzz2rarCi2Wq
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Malaise over Syria, again?

Sahar Mandour, columnist for Lebanon daily As-Safir and novelist, wrote this September 16, 2013:

Up to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, we took a clear position against [imperialist preemptive] war and against all kinds of dictatorships: “No to war (la li-al-harb), No to dictators  (la li-al-dictatoriyat)”.

Today, no such simple slogan is possible. That slogan is old. We need new positions, new slogans. We need to find our way out of the confusion of today.

 Vijay Prashad posted this Sept. 21, 2013 on Jadaliyya
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[A Syrian child sits, in a neighbouring village to Kafr Nabuda, in the Idlib province countryside, Syria, 19 September 2013. Image via Associated Press]
A Syrian child sits, in a neighboring village to Kafr Nabuda, in the Idlib province countryside, Syria, 19 September 2013. (Image via Associated Press)

Death and displacement has begun to define Syria.

The numbers are suffocating. One cannot keep up with them. For the displaced, now near 7 million, relief cannot come fast enough–and in fact does not seem to come at all for many.

Of the dead, little can be said. The UN team now confirms the use of sarin gas in the rocket attacks on Ghouta, east of Damascus. It was not in the team’s mandate to say who fired the rockets. Whether it was the Assad regime itself or rogue elements, or (an unlikely scenario) the rebels, it is devastating. The number of dead in that attack is around one thousand, a sizable fraction of the hundred thousand dead so far in this seemingly unending war.

The rebellion, which began in Dar‘a as a peaceful demonstration against an autocratic regime, morphed largely due to the intransigence and the violence of the Assad system into a fissiparous brutality encaging the democratic core that remains and shrinks.

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) crosses swords with Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) as much as it does against the regime.

Al-Nusra and ISIS fight each other, as both are fired upon by the Kurdish popular protection committees (the YPG).

Pockets of northern and eastern Syria are in the hands of al-Nusra and ISIS to the consternation of their local populations and of the less Islamist parts of the rebellion. In Eastern Ghouta, over the summer, on the other hand, sections of the Free Syrian Army united with a variety of groups including al-Farouq Omar Battalion, the Lions of Allah, the Islam Battalion, al-Bara‘ Battalion, Islam’s Monotheism Battalion–but most starkly Jabhat al-Nusra. Unity in some places, seemingly under the hegemony of the Islamists, but disunity elsewhere.

In other parts of Syria, the Free Syrian Army seems in charge, and yet in other parts matters remain in the hands of what Yasser Munif calls the “peaceful activists.”

During a 2-month trip to northern Syria, Munif went to Manbij, near Aleppo. What he saw there is that the people, under the leadership of the peaceful activists, fought off the attempt by the ISIS to take charge of the city. As he describes it:

Ahrar al-Sham and al-Nusra (which became the Islamic State later) entered the city and tried to control it. They tried to do so several times since then, but they failed. They try to intimidate the population by patrolling the city. They tried to take over the mills 3 times but failed. They were very much against the revolutionary court but were not able to close it.

The Ahrar al-Sham and al-Nusra also tried to close several newspapers but were not successful. They tried to take over mosques but the religious establishment in the city prevented them. Most recently, the revolutionary council sent a threatening message to the ISIS because they assassinated the imam of the grand mosque who did not want the ISIS to take over his mosque. The message was clear: either they (ISIS) leave the city or they will be expelled by force. They are almost not present in the city anymore.

Such reports are heartening, but not too common.

In Raqqa, Munif notes, the ISIS has established an emirate, although even here there are regular demonstrations against their rule. “Even in Jarablous where the entire revolutionary council was arrested and put in the ISIS prison,” Munif said, “a week ago there was an uprising in the city and people are becoming very critical of the practices of the the ISIS. They want them to leave the city.”

If what Munif reports were general across Syria, then the anxiety that one senses amongst friends would not be so grave.

The rebels are in disarray. The most recent thrust by the ISIS in northern Syria, given the name of “Expunging Filth,” has either expelled or absorbed the FSA units in Raqqa, with on-going fierce fighting in Tabqa.

The border town of A‘zaz is in ISIS hands, and the Turks have closed the border. The embers of the 2011 revolution seem to be smothered by the ISIS in large sections of northern Syria.

On the ground, Saudi Arabia and Gulf Arab money and personnel have redefined the nature of the rebellion.

In the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) matters are not good.

Over 3 years, the SNC has been unable to draft a clear and patriotic program for Syria. Its absence is not a sign of lack of imagination, but of the subordination of the SNC to the petty fights amongst their Gulf Arab benefactors.

The SNC stumbled when it essentially allowed a palace coup to remove Mo‘az al-Khatib from his post. After much infighting, the SNC finally appointed Ahmad Saleh Touma as its prime minister. Ghassan Hitto resigned because he was seen to be too close to the tarnished star of Qatar. The marks of Gulf Arab infighting are all over the Coalition, much to its discredit.

The rebels are in disarray, and despite Gilbert Achcar’s effusions that they must alone overthrow Assad, do not seem capable of it. The rebels are not a homogeneous force, and amongst them are sections of those whose ideology terrifies others amongst them.

This disunity, as Munif notes, is real, and it has no objective basis for reversal. If it is the case that sections of the ISIS are from outside Syria, then there is not even the cord of Syrian nationalism to unite them against Assad.

One section wants a more democratic Syria, while the other wants an emirate of Syria: the lines that divide them, if we are to be honest with the facts, are deeper than any subjective hatred of Asad can bridge.

It is from a realization of this impasse that perhaps we see this conclusion: if the rebels are stuck, then the tonic that might work is a US military strike.

No one person amongst us likes this, but if we assume that it is the only thing that can break the stalemate, then it seems to be a terrible necessity.

Either the US strikes to help oxygenate the rebellion or the rebellion will linger on in a wounded state, with the ISIS taking the upper hand as its own sense of its inevitable victory overshadows the despondency of the “peaceful activists.” That is the framework that seems to lead many friends and comrades into a hopeless support for a US military intervention.

But the West has no intention of intervention in a fashion great enough to topple or wound Asad. Obama said he would strike the Asad regime with Tomahawk missiles, which the US military said would have “limited tactical effect.”

On 10 September 2013, Obama said, “I don’t think we should remove another dictator with force.

What the United States would provide is a face-saving moral strike, even after the conclusive UN report from 16 September that establishes that sarin was used in Ghouta. This will not assist the rebels. The West is not going to act in the way imagined.

To say that the rebels are in disarray, with little capability to overthrow the Asad regime alone, to say that the United States is not interested (for reasons that have to do with Tel Aviv as well) in overthrowing Asad–to say all that is not to end up with nothing. It is not to end up with the status quo, giving the Asad regime free reign to crush the rebels and to end the hopes of a new Syria. This is not the way forward.

Other paths are open, if we allow ourselves to push for them. Other social forces need to be brought to bear on the Syrian catatonia.

During 2012, an unlikely group of regional players—Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey—formed the Syria Contact Group in order to provide muscle for a defanged UN Envoy Kofi Annan.

Before they could get going, the United States and Russia decided to side-line them, and moved the discussion to Spain for bilateral talks on Syria. The message was that only the United States and Russia has the authority to set the agenda for Syria. Not even the Syrians.

The Syria Contact Group folded not long after, suffocated by this Cold War attitude and by the internecine problems amongst the members. But new regional potential are available:

1. Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, and Jordan are weighted down by the refugee crisis.

The creation of a  Regional Syrian Refugee Crisis Team would allow these countries to create a common platform to deal with the humanitarian relief problems that bedevil them all. Recognizing the need for coordination, the United Nations has appointed Nigel Fisher as the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator.

Now Fisher and the 4 regional countries need to create a modus vivendi to deal with the severe crisis for each of these countries. But Fisher’s ambit is largely going to be on relief.

A four-country conference would allow these countries to move from coordination around relief to a consideration of the political root of the refugee crisis.

2. Lebanon, Algeria, Egypt, and Iraq voted against the Gulf Arab proposal at the Arab League meeting to give backing to the US strike. These countries need to now push for a regional solution based on their refusal to allow an armed strike. Pressure needs to come on them to involve themselves as a bloc to push the Asad regime and the rebels to recognize that there is no path for either toward total victory.

Negotiation is the only way.

3. Iran has a new leadership, which has reached out to its immediate neighbors seeking a new foundation for relations. The new head of government Hasan Rouhani has said that Iran would welcome any elected Syrian leader. This can, of course, mean anything. After all Bashar al-Asad is technically an elected leader. But it indicates that there is a sense in Iran that the legitimacy of Asad is deeply compromised and that if there were another election he might not want to put himself forward for the sake of Syria.

This is a productive gesture, and it could mean an Iranian feint to save Syria from destruction. In the Obama-Rouhani letters, there is apparently a sentiment that Iran might be brought to the table to build confidence for Geneva 2. Iran might want to insist that that table include Saudi Arabia, and the immediate neighbors of Syria. Only such a table would be able to exert genuine pressure on all sides in this dispute.

Progressives in the region need to try and strengthen these social forces to enter the Syrian dialogue.

The road to salvation in Syria does not only go through the Pentagon. It might have to wind its way through Beirut, Baghdad, Ankara, Amman, Algiers, Cairo, and Tehran–a circuit that has concrete stakes in the germination of a political process in Syria. The West could live with perpetual war.

It would weaken Hizbollah (the same boring wished for mantra of the west and Saudi Arabia), Israel’s main threat and it would bring disorder to what the West fears, the illusion of Iranianism.

Syria cannot survive perpetual war. It needs the strength of the region to recover from the dark night of the Ba‘th and the dark dawn of ISIS and al-Nusra.

Diplomacy has not been exhausted. No regional approach has been permitted to get off the ground.

This has to be the focus of energy.

On the Front Lines of Syria’s Civil War

With the U.S. poised to attack Syria, debate is raging over what that attack should look like, and what, if anything, the U.S. is capable of accomplishing.

Those questions can’t be answered without taking a very close look at the situation in Syria from ground level.

Since few journalists are reporting from inside the country, our understanding of the civil war is not only inadequate, but often dangerously inaccurate. Anyone who reads the paper or watches the news has been led to believe that a once peaceful, pro-democracy opposition has transformed over the past two years into a mob of violent extremists dominated by al Qaeda; that the forces of President Bashar Assad not only have the upper hand on the battlefield, but may be the only thing holding the country together; and that nowhere do U.S. interests align in Syria—not with the regime and not with the rebels.

Elizabeth O’Bagy, senior analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, published in the Wall Street Journal this August 30, 2013:

Note: The Wall Street Journal published this Sept. 13, 2013 that Elizabeth O’Bagy is working for an association linked to US and British intelligence services and working with Syrian insurgents in order to move politicians like McCain into Syria.  Fox News has fired O’Bagy for falsification on degrees and news. Nevertheless, the kind of insight might be worthwhile to read, keeping in mind the vast disinformation used by many States for their own interest in Syria conflict.
 
The word from many American politicians is that the best U.S. policy is to stay out.

As Sarah Palin put it: “Let Allah sort it out.”

image

ReutersFree Syrian Army members man a checkpoint in the Aleppo countryside in June.

In the past year, I have made numerous trips to Syria, traveling throughout the northern provinces of Latakia, Idlib and Aleppo.

I have spent hundreds of hours with Syrian opposition groups ranging from Free Syrian Army affiliates to the Ahrar al-Sham Brigade.

The conventional wisdom holds that the extremist elements are completely mixed in with the more moderate rebel groups. This isn’t the case.

Moderates and extremists wield control over distinct territory.

Although these areas are often close to one another, checkpoints demarcate control. On my last trip into Syria earlier this month, we traveled freely through parts of Aleppo controlled by the Free Syrian Army, following roads that kept us at safe distance from the checkpoints marked by the flag of the Islamic State of Iraq. Please see the nearby map for more detail.

Contrary to many media accounts, the war in Syria is not being waged entirely, or even predominantly, by dangerous Islamists and al Qaeda die-hards. The jihadists pouring into Syria from countries like Iraq and Lebanon are not flocking to the front lines. Instead they are concentrating their efforts on consolidating control in the northern, rebel-held areas of the country.

Groups like Jabhat al Nusra, an al Qaeda affiliate, are all too happy to take credit for successes on the battlefield, and are quick to lay claim to opposition victories on social media. This has often led to the impression that these are spearheading the fight against the Syrian government. They are not.

These groups care less about defeating Assad than they do about establishing and holding their Islamic emirate in the north of the country.

Many Jabhat al Nusra fighters left in the middle of ongoing rebel operations in Homs, Hama and Idlib to head for Raqqa province once the provincial capital fell in March 2013.

During the battle for Qusayr in late May, Jabhat al Nusra units were noticeably absent.

In early June, rebel reinforcements rallied to take the town of Talbiseh, north of Homs city, while Jabhat al Nusra fighters preferred to stay in the liberated areas to fill the vacuum that the Free Syrian Army affiliates had left behind.

Moderate opposition forces—a collection of groups known as the Free Syrian Army—continue to lead the fight against the Syrian regime.

While traveling with some of these Free Syrian Army battalions, I’ve watched them defend Alawi and Christian villages from government forces and extremist groups. They’ve demonstrated a willingness to submit to civilian authority, working closely with local administrative councils. And they have struggled to ensure that their fight against Assad will pave the way for a flourishing civil society.

One local council I visited in a part of Aleppo controlled by the Free Syrian Army was holding weekly forums in which citizens were able to speak freely, and have their concerns addressed directly by local authorities.

Moderate opposition groups make up the majority of actual fighting forces, and they have recently been empowered by the influx of arms and money from Saudi Arabia and other allied countries, such as Jordan and France.

This is especially true in the south, where weapons provided by the Saudis have made a significant difference on the battlefield, and have helped fuel a number of recent rebel advances in Damascus.

Thanks to geographic separation from extremist strongholds and reliable support networks in the south, even outdated arms sent by the Saudis, like Croatian rocket-launchers and recoilless rifles, have allowed moderate rebel groups to make significant inroads into areas that had previously been easily defended by the regime, and to withstand the pressure of government forces in the capital. In recent months, the opposition has achieved major victories in Aleppo, Idlib, Deraa and Damascus—nearly reaching the heart of the capital—despite the regime’s consolidation in Homs province.

At this stage in the conflict, barring a major bombing campaign by the U.S., sophisticated weaponry, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapon systems, may be the opposition’s best chance at sustaining its fight against Assad.

This is something only foreign governments, not jihadists, can offer. Right now, Saudi sources that are providing the rebels critical support tell me that they haven’t sent more effective weaponry because the U.S. has explicitly asked them not to.

There is no denying that groups like Jabhat al Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham have gained a foothold in the north of Syria, and that they have come to dominate local authorities there, including by imposing Shariah law.

Such developments are more the result of al Qaeda affiliates having better resources than an indicator of local support. Where they have won over the local population, they have done so through the distribution of humanitarian aid.

Yet Syrians have pushed back against the hard-line measures imposed on them by some of these extremists groups. While I was last in northern Syria in early August, I witnessed nearly daily protests by thousands of citizens against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham in areas of Aleppo.

Where does this leave the U.S. as the White House contemplates a possible strike?

The Obama administration has emphasized that regime change is not its goal. But a punitive measure undertaken just to send a message would likely produce more harm than good. If the Syrian government is not significantly degraded, a U.S. strike could very well bolster Assad’s position and highlight American weakness, paving the way for continued atrocities.

Instead, any U.S. action should be part of a larger, comprehensive strategy coordinated with our allies that has the ultimate goal of destroying Assad’s military capability while simultaneously empowering the moderate opposition with robust support, including providing them with anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapon systems. This should be combined with diplomatic and political efforts to first create an international coalition to put pressure on Assad and his supporters, and then working to encourage an intra-Syrian dialogue. Having such a strategy in place would help alleviate the concerns of key allies, like Britain, and ensure greater international support for U.S. action.

The U.S. must make a choice. It can address the problem now, while there is still a large moderate force with some shared U.S. interests, or wait until the conflict has engulfed the entire region. Iran and its proxies will be strengthened, as will al Qaeda and affiliated extremists. Neither of these outcomes serves U.S. strategic interests.

Note: This article may suggest that the US is better off striking the norther provinces held by the Nusra Front, and allow the Syrian insurgents to regain control of the northern parts..

 

A Christian village in Syria: Entirely massacred by rebel forces

On the Monday of  June 5, 2013, members of the Free Syrian Army attacked the predominently Christian village of al-Duvair, in the suburb of Homs and massacred the civilians, women, kids and babies…

This massacre coincided with the liberation of strategic supply route of the town of Qusayr.

The fall of Qusayr into the regime army has blocked the supply route through Lebanon to the suburbs of Damascus, where the rebels planned massive attacks.

Syria Christian Massacre 2 

Classé dans: L’Actualité dans le Monde,L’Islam  |   Publié le 3 Juin 2013 par:  Alyaexpress-News

FXAVIER posted on June 5, 2013 in the French Journal Mediapart: 

SYRIE; Un village chrétien entièrement massacré par les rebelles syriens

armée syrienne libre

Il y a deux semaines, les forces syriennes ont atteint le centre de la ville. Le massacre de ce lundi  a été favorable à Assad, car ce sont les groupes rebelles qui combattent le régime d’Assad composés de membres d’Al-Qaïda et les groupes affiliés à Al-Qaïda qui ont commis ces crimes de guerre et ces atrocités contre cette communauté.

Jabhat al-Nusra, la branche d’Al-Qaïda qui a combattu et tué des soldats américains et alliés en Irak, s’est positionnée en Syrie et contrôle le mouvement rebelle. Les États-Unis et d’autres gouvernements occidentaux ont reconnu la présence de djihadistes, mais disent qu’ils ne sont qu’une petite partie du mouvement rebelle.

En Avril, Abou Mohamad al-Joulani, le chef d’Al-Nusra, a fait allégeance à Ayman al-Zawahiri, le chef d’Al-Qaïda.
Les membres de la FSA ont admis que leur organisation respecte la charia, les rebelles ont maintenant une brigade nommée Oussama ben Laden.

Syria Christian Massacre 3

Malgré l’évidence des rapports sur al-Qaïda, le gouvernement américain continue à soutenir la FSA.La semaine dernière, Robert Menendez-Sens et Bob Corker ont rédigé un projet de loi qui, s’il est adopté, pourrait armer directement les rebelles syriens avec des armes létales. Le gouvernement américain n’a jusqu’à présent fourni que du matériel non létales et de l’aide humanitaire.

Lundi, le sénateur John McCain a fait une visite surprise en Syrie où il a rencontré le général Salem Idris, le chef du Conseil militaire suprême de la FSA. McCain a également appelé à armer les rebelles ainsi qu’à l’intervention militaire américaine directe dans la guerre.

Another village Maaloula suffering massacre

Crimes and Scandals of the Syrian Opposition and It’s Supporters‘s photo.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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