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Qatar’s Free Syrian Mercenaries

Mystery Sponsor Of Weapons And Money To Syrian Mercenary “Rebels” Revealed

 zero hedge
Tyler Durden's picture

Previously, when looking at the real underlying national interests responsible for the deteriorating situation in Syria, which eventually may and/or will devolve into all out war with hundreds of thousands killed, we made it very clear that it was always and only about the gas, or gas pipelines to be exact, and specifically those involving the tiny but uber-wealthy state of Qatar.

Needless to say, the official spin on events has no mention of this ulterior motive, and the popular, propaganda machine, especially from those powers supporting the Syrian “rebels” which include Israel, the US and the Arabian states tries to generate public and democratic support by portraying Assad as a brutal, chemical weapons-using dictator, in line with the tried and true script used once already in Iraq.

On the other hand, there is Russia (and to a lesser extent China: for China’s strategic interests in mid-east pipelines, read here), which has been portrayed as the main supporter of the “evil” Assad regime, and thus eager to preserve the status quo without a military intervention. Such attempts may be for naught especially with the earlier noted arrival of US marines in Israel, and the imminent arrival of the Russian Pacific fleet in Cyprus (which is a stone throw away from Syria) which may catalyze a military outcome sooner than we had expected.

However, one question that has so far remained unanswered, and a very sensitive one now that the US is on the verge of voting to arm the Syrian rebels, is who was arming said group of Al-Qaeda supported militants up until now. Now, finally, courtesy of the FT we have the (less than surprising) answer, which goes back to our original thesis, and proves that, as so often happens in the middle east, it is once again all about the natural resources.

From the FT:

The tiny gas-rich state of Qatar has spent as much as $3bn over the past two years supporting the rebellion in Syria, far exceeding any other government, but is now being nudged aside by Saudi Arabia as the prime source of arms to rebels.

 

The cost of Qatar’s intervention, its latest push to back an Arab revolt, amounts to a fraction of its international investment portfolio. But its financial support for the revolution that has turned into a vicious civil war dramatically overshadows western backing for the opposition.

 

In dozens of interviews with the FT conducted in recent weeks, rebel leaders both abroad and within Syria as well as regional and western officials detailed Qatar’s role in the Syrian conflict, a source of mounting controversy.

Just as Egypt and Libya had their CIA Western-funded mercenaries fighting the regime, so Qatar is paying for its own mercenary force.

The small state with a gargantuan appetite is the biggest donor to the political opposition, providing generous refugee packages to defectors (one estimate puts it at $50,000 a year for a defector and his family) and has provided vast amounts of humanitarian support.

 

In September, many rebels in Syria’s Aleppo province received a one off monthly salary of $150 courtesy of Qatar. Sources close to the Qatari government say total spending has reached as much as $3bn, while rebel and diplomatic sources put the figure at $1bn at most.

 

For Qatar, owner of the world’s third-largest gas reserves, its intervention in Syria is part of an aggressive quest for global recognition and is merely the latest chapter in its attempt to establish itself as a major player in the region, following its backing of Libya’s rebels who overthrew Muammer Gaddafi in 2011.

That, sadly, is not even close to half the story. Recall from Qatar: Oil Rich and Dangerous, posted nearly a year ago, which predicted all of this:

Why would Qatar want to become involved in Syria where they have little invested?  A map reveals that the kingdom is a geographic prisoner in a small enclave on the Persian Gulf coast.

 

It relies upon the export of LNG, because it is restricted by Saudi Arabia from building pipelines to distant markets.  In 2009, the proposal of a pipeline to Europe through Saudi Arabia and Turkey to the Nabucco pipeline was considered, but Saudi Arabia that is angered by its smaller and much louder brother has blocked any overland expansion.

 

Already the largest LNG producer, Qatar will not increase the production of LNG.  The market is becoming glutted with eight new facilities in Australia coming online between 2014 and 2020.

 

A saturated North American gas market and a far more competitive Asian market leaves only Europe.  The discovery in 2009 of a new gas field near Israel, Lebanon, Cyprus, and Syria opened new possibilities to bypass the Saudi Barrier and to secure a new source of income.  Pipelines are in place already in Turkey to receive the gas.  Only Al-Assad is in the way.

 

Qatar along with the Turks would like to remove Al-Assad and install the Syrian chapter of the Moslem Brotherhood.  It is the best organized political movement in the chaotic society and can block Saudi Arabia’s efforts to install a more fanatical Wahhabi based regime.  Once the Brotherhood is in power, the Emir’s broad connections with Brotherhood groups throughout the region should make it easy for him to find a friendly ear and an open hand in Damascus.

 

A control centre has been established in the Turkish city of Adana near the Syrian border to direct the rebels against Al-Assad.  Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Saud asked to have the Turks establish a joint Turkish, Saudi, Qatari operations center.  “The Turks liked the idea of having the base in Adana so that they could supervise its operations” a source in the Gulf told Reuters.

 

The fighting is likely to continue for many more months, but Qatar is in for the long term.  At the end, there will be contracts for the massive reconstruction and there will be the development of the gas fields.  In any case, Al-Assad must go.  There is nothing personal; it is strictly business to preserve the future tranquility and well-being of Qatar.

Some more on the strategic importance of this key feeder component to the Nabucco pipeline, and why Syria is so problematic to so many powers. From 2009:

Qatar has proposed a gas pipeline from the Gulf to Turkey in a sign the emirate is considering a further expansion of exports from the world’s biggest gasfield after it finishes an ambitious programme to more than double its capacity to produce liquefied natural gas (LNG).

 

“We are eager to have a gas pipeline from Qatar to Turkey,” Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the ruler of Qatar, said last week, following talks with the Turkish president Abdullah Gul and the prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the western Turkish resort town of Bodrum. “We discussed this matter in the framework of co-operation in the field of energy. In this regard, a working group will be set up that will come up with concrete results in the shortest possible time,” he said, according to Turkey’s Anatolia news agency.

 

Other reports in the Turkish press said the two states were exploring the possibility of Qatar supplying gas to the strategic Nabucco pipeline project, which would transport Central Asian and Middle Eastern gas to Europe, bypassing Russia. A Qatar-to-Turkey pipeline might hook up with Nabucco at its proposed starting point in eastern Turkey. Last month, Mr Erdogan and the prime ministers of four European countries signed a transit agreement for Nabucco, clearing the way for a final investment decision next year on the EU-backed project to reduce European dependence on Russian gas.

 

“For this aim, I think a gas pipeline between Turkey and Qatar would solve the issue once and for all,” Mr Erdogan added, according to reports in several newspapers. The reports said two different routes for such a pipeline were possible. One would lead from Qatar through Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq to Turkey. The other would go through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey. It was not clear whether the second option would be connected to the Pan-Arab pipeline, carrying Egyptian gas through Jordan to Syria. That pipeline, which is due to be extended to Turkey, has also been proposed as a source of gas for Nabucco.

Based on production from the massive North Field in the Gulf, Qatar has established a commanding position as the world’s leading LNG exporter. It is consolidating that through a construction programme aimed at increasing its annual LNG production capacity to 77 million tonnes by the end of next year, from 31 million tonnes last year. However, in 2005, the emirate placed a moratorium on plans for further development of the North Field in order to conduct a reservoir study. It recently extended the ban for two years to 2013.

Specifically, the issue at hand is the green part of the proposed pipeline: as explained above, it simply can’t happen as long as Russia is alligned with Assad.

So there you have it: Qatar doing everything it can to promote bloodshed, death and destruction by using not Syrian rebels, but mercenaries: professional citizens who are paid handsomely to fight and kill members of the elected regime (unpopular as it may be), for what? So that the unimaginably rich emirs of Qatar can get even richer. Although it is not as if Russia is blameless: all it wants is to preserve its own strategic leverage over Europe by being the biggest external provider of natgas to the continent through its own pipelines. Should Nabucco come into existence, Gazpromia would be very, very angry and make far less money!

As for the Syrian “rebels”, who else is helping them? Why the US and Israel of course. And with the Muslim Brotherhood “takeover” paradigm already tested out in Egypt, it is only a matter of time.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which tracks arms transfers, Qatar has sent the most weapons deliveries to Syria, with more than 70 military cargo flights into neighbouring Turkey between April 2012 and March this year.

Perhaps it is Putin’s turn to tell John Kerry he prefer if Qatar was not “supplying assistance to Syrian mercenaries”?

What is worse, and what is already known is that implicitly the US – that ever-vigilant crusader against Al Qaeda – is effectively also supporting the terrorist organization:

The relegation of Qatar to second place in providing weapons follows increasing concern in the West and among other Arab states that weapons it supplies could fall into the hands of an al-Qaeda-linked group, Jabhat al-Nusrah.

Yet Qatar may have bitten off more than it can chew, even with the explicit military Israeli support, and implicit from the US. Because the closer Qatar gets to establishing its own puppet state in Syria, the closer Saudi Arabia is to getting marginalized:

But though its approach is driven more by pragmatism and opportunism, than ideology, Qatar has become entangled in the polarised politics of the region, setting off a wave of scathing criticism. “You can’t buy a revolution,” says an opposition businessman.

 

Qatar’s support for Islamist groups in the Arab world, which puts it at odds with its peers in the Gulf states, has fuelled rivalry with Saudi Arabia. Qatar’s ruling emir, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, “wants to be the Arab world’s Islamist (Gamal) Abdelnasser,” said an Arab politician, referring to Egypt’s fiery late president and devoted pan-Arab leader.

 

Qatar’s intervention is coming under mounting scrutiny. Regional rivals contend it is using its financial firepower simply to buy future influence and that it has ended up splintering Syria’s opposition. Against this backdrop Saudi Arabia, which until now has been a more deliberate backer of Syria’s rebels, has stepped up its involvement.

 

Recent tensions over the opposition’s election of an interim prime minister who won the support of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood has also driven Saudi Arabia to tighten its relationship to the political opposition, a job it had largely left in the hands of Qatar.

What Saudi Arabia wants is not to leave the Syrian people alone, but to install its own puppet regime so it has full liberty to dictate LNG terms to Qatar, and subsequently to Europe.

Khalid al-Attiyah, Qatar’s state minister for foreign affairs, who handles its Syrian policy, dismissed talk of rivalry with the Saudis and denied allegations that Qatar’s support for the rebels has splintered Syria’s opposition and weakened nascent institutions.

 

In an interview with the Financial Times, he said every move Qatar has made, has been in conjunction with the Friends of Syria group of Arab and western nations, not alone. “Our problem in Qatar is that we don’t have a hidden agenda so people start fixing you one,” he says.

Sadly, when it comes to the US (and of course Israel), it does have a very hidden agenda: one that involves lying to its people about what any future intervention is all about, and the fabrication of narrative about chemical weapons and a bloody regime hell bent on massacring every man, woman and child from the “brave resistance.” What they all fail to mention is that all such “rebels” are merely paid for mercenaries of the Qatari emir, whose sole interest is to accrue even more wealth even if it means the deaths of thousands of Syrians in the process.

A bigger read through of the events in Syria reveals an even more complicated web: one that has Qatar facing off against Syria, with both using Syria as a pawn in a great natural resource chess game, and with Israel and the US both on the side of the petrodollars, while Russia and to a lesser extent China, form the counterbalancing axis and refuse to permit a wholesale overthrow of the local government which would unlock even more geopolitical leverage for the gulf states.

Up until today, we would have thought that when push comes to shove, Russia would relent. However, with the arrival of a whole lot of submarines in Cyprus, the games just got very serious. After all the vital interests of Gazprom – perhaps the most important “company” in the world – are suddenly at stake.

Finally, one wonders just what President Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan were really talking about behind the scenes.

Will IDF Join USAF In Illegal Air War Over Syria?

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US-Israel Accord to Support Coordinated Air Ops in Syria

 OSNet

 

Defense News

A US-Israel defense agreement will support coordinated air power in Syria if and when the Israel Air Force (IAF) is tasked to operate in close proximity to American-led coalition air forces.

The bilateral accord was signed more than a year ago, sources here said, as part of Pentagon planning for prospective air strikes against chemical weapon-related sites then serving the Syrian regime.

In interviews here, defense sources said the agreement codified coordination procedures for scenarios where US and Israeli aircraft may need to operate simultaneously in Syrian airspace.

It was put on the “shelf,” an Israeli official here said, after the Russian-led effort to remove, destroy and otherwise deny Syrian President Bashar el-Assad’s illegal use of mass destruction weaponry.

But in the run-up to US President Barack Obama’s air power-based strategy to degrade and deny terrorist hegemony of the militant group Islamic State (IS), the official said the accord provides “a relevant mechanism” for potential operations in Syria.

The official underscored that while Israel principally supports Obama’s call for a united front against IS and all forms of radical terror, Israel’s primary concern is preventing Assad’s strategic arsenal from reaching the hands of Hezbollah allies fighting on behalf of the Syrian regime.

Israel has not publicly acknowledged at least three attacks in the past 18 months on Syrian soil or directly across its border with Lebanon with a strike targeting suspected strategic missile cargo en-route to Hezbollah.

“We needed a mechanism for situations where we could find ourselves operating in the same domain as other international interests,” an Israeli general officer told Defense News.

“It’s not for joint planning or coordinated air operations in the classical sense… but it will help enormously with deconfliction,” the officer added.

In an address to the Herzliya-based International Institute for Counter-Terrorism’s annual conference on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel “was playing our part” in responding to Obama’s calls to confront IS.

“Israel fully supports President Obama’s call for united actions against ISIS…. Some of the things are known; some things are less known.”

Netanyahu claimed the shared threat from the radical Sunni IS and Iranian-led radical Shiite groups has prompted Sunni states in the region to “reevaluate their relationship with Israel.”

“They understand that Israel is not their enemy but their ally in the fight against this common enemy. And I believe this presents an opportunity for cooperation and perhaps an opportunity for peace,” Netanyahu said.

But Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog assailed Netanyahu’s claims of regional unity in the face of common threats as disingenuous due to his government’s unwillingness or inability to pursue a Palestinian peace deal.

Israel is “definitely out there behind the scenes” working to contain ISIS, but it should be taking a prominent and public role in the planned US-led coalition, Herzog told Voice of Israel radio Sept. 14.

“Israel should be a pillar in the coalition operating against ISIS,” Herzog said. But this can’t happen until the Israeli government seizes its “unique opportunity to change circumstances of the region.”

“Especially after the Gaza war, we saw a convergence of interests with Egypt, Jordan, the Gulf States and the Palestine Authority,” said the leader of Israel’s opposition Labor Party.

“I criticize the prime minister for lacking imagination and for not deciding to be proactive in initiating a chance for peace,” he said.

House OKs Creation of “AL-QAIDA 3,” In Saudi

House Gives Obama Authority to Arm and Train Syrian Rebels in Fight with the Islamic State

In a crucial vote of support for the White House’s declared war on Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, the House of Representatives voted to give President Barack Obama authority to arm and train Syrian rebels in the war-torn country.

The plan passed 273-156 despite concerns by House Democrats about a new U.S. military commitment in the Middle East and Republican concerns that the president’s proposal is far too limited.

The administration’s request was an amendment to a must-pass, stopgap measure to keep the government running through mid-December. Although the amendment had the early support of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi D-Calif., a number of lawmakers in both parties began defecting, prompting a last-minute push by party leaders to build support.

New York’s Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said a range of top Democrats worked to the last minute to gather votes for the president’s plan, which would train some 5,000 Syrian rebels in the first year at facilities in Saudi Arabia.

Israel specifically cited Maryland’s Dutch Ruppersberger, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, New York’s Nita Lowey, the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, New York’s Eliot Engel, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Pelosi, as key backers of the plan. “It cuts across a broad range of members,” he said.

Publicly, Pelosi downplayed her role in lobbying support for the war effort. “We just don’t whip war votes,” she told reporters, calling the decision a “vote of conscience” for her colleagues.

Having secured approval in the House, the bill now moves to the Senate, where it may receive a skeptical reception. In testimony Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State John Kerry came under intense questioning about the White House’s plan to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels.

Tennessee’s Bob Corker, the ranking Republican on the committee, called the strategy “unserious” and a “political answer” to widespread outrage among the American public fueled by the barbaric tactics used by the Sunni-militant group.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, the Illinois Democrat, was deeply skeptical that the legal rationale articulated by the White House, which relies on the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force, grants the White House power to carry out military action against Islamic State in Syria. Calling the three-year Syrian civil war a “dog’s breakfast” of violence, carnage, and deceit, Durbin questioned how efforts to undermine the group also known as ISIS and ISIL would not inadvertently end up strengthening the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

In an effort to reassure war-weary Americans, Obama spoke at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida on Wednesday and ruled out deploying ground combat forces. “I want to be clear: The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission,” he said.

Many lawmakers’ misgivings about arming the rebels stem from the lack of guarantees that the United States is working with and handing heavy weaponry to people that it can trust.

“There’s still a lot of questions on who the opposition is,” said Oudai Shahbandar, a senior advisor to the Syrian opposition, who has been meeting with lawmakers and their staff about arming the rebels. For years now, that uncertainty has stalled efforts to train and equip the rebels, long before the Islamic State took over vast chunks of Iraq and drew the U.S. military back into engagement there.

The CIA is in charge of vetting the rebels, as part of a training program the agency runs at a base in Jordan. That vetting has gone painfully slow, say sources with direct knowledge of the process. Now, though, the White House says it’s starting to bear fruit.

“The president has been deliberate about vetting the elements of the Syrian opposition. And over the course of the last three years, the United States has gotten much greater clarity about which individuals in the region we can rely on and count on and work with, and which individuals, frankly, that we can’t,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said last week. In the past year, the U.S. has provided direct military assistance to the rebels, primarily in the form of heavy weapons.

Shahbandar argued that the rebels have demonstrated that they can be trusted not to let powerful weapons slip out of their control. “Not a single TOW missile has fallen into the wrong hands,” he said. Last April, a YouTube video surfaced showing what appeared to be the first public confirmation that the rebels had obtained the TOW anti-tank missile. Such videos, which the rebels produce, are meant to build a public case that they know how to use the weapons and can be trusted with them.

That strategy sees to be working. “[The rebels'] capacity is expanding and improving,” Earnest said last week, adding there’s “no doubt” that U.S. airstrikes “will significantly enhance their capability on the battlefield.”

But sources working with the Syrian rebels say the program hasn’t produced a large enough group of soldiers to fight the Islamic State. That could fundamentally undermine the Obama administration’s strategy of fighting the militant group, which relies on the rebels to be the “boots on the ground” while the U.S. provides airstrikes.

“What the president has said he wants to do, he said more out of theory. You can’t fight someone with no one,” said one person working with the Syrian opposition.

There’s also no plan to ensure that the U.S.-armed and trained rebel fighters stay focused on the administration’s main enemy. Testifying before Congress on Tuesday, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. has “no agreement at all” with Syrian rebels to attack only Islamic State fighters instead of the Assad regime.

The White House might not want one. Officials have made no secret that they’d also like to use the rebels to weaken Assad. “We need to bolster the Syrian moderate opposition to enable it to be able to take and hold ground, pushing out both ISIL and the Assad regime,” a senior administration official said last week shortly before Obama laid out his plan for fighting the militant group. “That is going to be essential to our strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy the organization.”

How quickly the rebel-training program will get off the ground remains an open question. Sources working with the Syrian opposition said that crucial operational procedures have yet to be worked out. It’s not clear whether fighters in Syria would be removed from the battlefield, trained in Saudi Arabia, and then brought back to Syria, or if the Americans and their partners would recruit a new force from people outside the country. There are, for example, defected Syrian military officers in Turkey who could be brought into the fight.

Kerry and Saudi Prince Faizal Laughing Their Asses Off After ISIS Hearing

Foreign Minister Saud Al Faisal says help should be extended to the Syrian opposition

  • Gulf News

 

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia wants the war on the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) and other militant groups to continue for ten years, Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal has said.

Addressing world leaders during the International Conference on Peace and Security in Iraq, Prince Saud on Monday cautioned that the threat posed by Isil has transcended the boundaries of Iraq and Syria, Saudi media reported.

“We see that the planned structure to fight [Isil} should continue for at least ten years to eradicate this hateful phenomenon.”

“It has become a danger, threatening everybody, and as such, should be jointly confronted.”

He emphasised the need to attack Isil strongholds in Syria, where the group received military training. “We should also extend every means of support to the Syrian opposition to confront Isil militants.”

WV Sen. Joe Manchin Takes A Principled Stand Against Collective ISIS Insanity

Sen Joe Manchin Alone In the Senate

Manchin: I will not support training Syrian rebels

the hill

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he doesn’t trust Syrian rebels and will not support President Obama’s plan to train them in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“I cannot and will not support arming and training Syrian rebels,” Manchin said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “The first principle of war is to know your enemy. … It is equally important to know our allies and I am not confident that we know who our allies are.

“How do we know they won’t join forces with ISIS if it would help them defeat [Syrian President Bashar] Assad.”

Manchin said he supports Obama’s airstrike efforts but that he’d prefer that Middle Eastern countries, such as Turkey, use their military to present a ground front rather than arming moderate Syrian rebels.

“We have been at war in that part of the world for that last 13 years,” Manchin said. “If money and military might could make a difference it would have by now.”

The House is expected to pass a continued spending resolution (CR) to keep the government funded through Dec. 11 on Wednesday and attach an amendment to train Syrian rebels at the president’s request. Lawmakers are trying to get out of town by the end of the week so some can head home to campaign for the midterm election.

“I do not believe we should have to fund our government and arm Syrian rebels in the same vote,” Manchin said. “But if it that is the decision I am forced to make, it is one I am committed to making. … I believe these issues should be separate and debated.”

OWWWW!–Obama Smackdown of Gen. Dempsey

[SEE: Gen. Dempsey Rates Iraq Army–Half Incompetent, Half Incapable of Working With US Army]

Obama insists no ‘combat mission’ for US troops in Iraq, despite Dempsey comment

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In this Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014 photo, President Barack Obama speaks at US Central Command (CentCom) at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. (AP)

President Obama insisted Wednesday that he will not send U.S. troops into a “combat mission” on the ground in Iraq, a day after his top military adviser opened the door to that possibility during a Capitol Hill hearing.

The comments from Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stirred confusion about the administration’s policy and pointed to possible daylight between Obama’s long-term view of the fight against the Islamic State and that of his military team. It triggered complaints from the Iraqi government as well as Obama’s Democratic allies on the Hill.

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