ThereAreNoSunglasses

American Resistance To Empire

The Black Hole of Doha

[Al-Thani is just another spoiled, bloated medieval tyrant.  And this is the guy that Obama chose to conduct American covert policies in the Africa/Middle East region for him.  Such a terrible decision on his part is obvious proof of his incompetence to act as American Commander-In-Chief.  In giving the Pig authority to conduct US foreign policy, Obama has established solid grounds for his own impeachment for the Benghazi affair, as well as for the terrorist takeover of the Western-sponsored Syrian resistance, because of his own bureaucratic laziness.   By allowing the Pig to handle American Islamist policies, he inadvertently brought Western connections to all radical “Islamists” out into the open, helping to confirm the validity of “conspiracy theories” which have exposed the long-term US/Saudi sponsorship of “Al-Qaeda.”]

Qatar’s World Cup ‘slaves’

guardian

Exclusive: Abuse and exploitation of migrant workers preparing emirate for 2022

World Cup construction ‘will leave 4,000 migrant workers dead’
Analysis: Qatar 2022 puts Fifa’s reputation on the line

Link to video: Qatar: the migrant workers forced to work for no pay in World Cup host country Dozens of Nepalese migrant labourers have died in Qatar in recent weeks and thousands more are enduring appalling labour abuses, a Guardian investigation has found, raising serious questions about Qatar’s preparations to host the 2022 World Cup.

This summer, Nepalese workers died at a rate of almost one a day in Qatar, many of them young men who had sudden heart attacks. The investigation found evidence to suggest that thousands of Nepalese, who make up the single largest group of labourers in Qatar, face exploitation and abuses that amount to modern-day slavery, as defined by the International Labour Organisation, during a building binge paving the way for 2022.

According to documents obtained from the Nepalese embassy in Doha, at least 44 workers died between 4 June and 8 August. More than half died of heart attacks, heart failure or workplace accidents.

The investigation also reveals:

Evidence of forced labour on a huge World Cup infrastructure project.

• Some Nepalese men have alleged that they have not been paid for months and have had their salaries retained to stop them running away.

• Some workers on other sites say employers routinely confiscate passports and refuse to issue ID cards, in effect reducing them to the status of illegal aliens.

• Some labourers say they have been denied access to free drinking water in the desert heat.

• About 30 Nepalese sought refuge at their embassy in Doha to escape the brutal conditions of their employment.

The allegations suggest a chain of exploitation leading from poor Nepalese villages to Qatari leaders. The overall picture is of one of the richest nations exploiting one of the poorest to get ready for the world’s most popular sporting tournament.

“We’d like to leave, but the company won’t let us,” said one Nepalese migrant employed at Lusail City development, a $45bn (£28bn) city being built from scratch which will include the 90,000-seater stadium that will host the World Cup final. “I’m angry about how this company is treating us, but we’re helpless. I regret coming here, but what to do? We were compelled to come just to make a living, but we’ve had no luck.”

The body tasked with organising the World Cup, the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, told the Guardian that work had yet to begin on projects directly related to the World Cup. However, it said it was “deeply concerned with the allegations that have been made against certain contractors/sub-contractors working on Lusail City’s construction site and considers this issue to be of the utmost seriousness”. It added: “We have been informed that the relevant government authorities are conducting an investigation into the allegations.”

The Guardian’s investigation also found men throughout the wider Qatari construction industry sleeping 12 to a room in places and getting sick through repulsive conditions in filthy hostels. Some say they have been forced to work without pay and left begging for food.

“We were working on an empty stomach for 24 hours; 12 hours’ work and then no food all night,” said Ram Kumar Mahara, 27. “When I complained, my manager assaulted me, kicked me out of the labour camp I lived in and refused to pay me anything. I had to beg for food from other workers.”

Almost all migrant workers have huge debts from Nepal, accrued in order to pay recruitment agents for their jobs. The obligation to repay these debts, combined with the non-payment of wages, confiscation of documents and inability of workers to leave their place of work, constitute forced labour, a form of modern-day slavery estimated to affect up to 21 million people across the globe. So entrenched is this exploitation that the Nepalese ambassador to Qatar, Maya Kumari Sharma, recently described the emirate as an “open jail”.

Nepal embassy record Record of deaths in July 2013, from all causes, held by the Nepalese embassy in Doha. Photograph: /guardian.co.uk “The evidence uncovered by the Guardian is clear proof of the use of systematic forced labour in Qatar,” said Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International, which was founded in 1839. “In fact, these working conditions and the astonishing number of deaths of vulnerable workers go beyond forced labour to the slavery of old where human beings were treated as objects. There is no longer a risk that the World Cup might be built on forced labour. It is already happening.”

Qatar has the highest ratio of migrant workers to domestic population in the world: more than 90% of the workforce are immigrants and the country is expected to recruit up to 1.5 million more labourers to build the stadiums, roads, ports and hotels needed for the tournament. Nepalese account for about 40% of migrant labourers in Qatar. More than 100,000 Nepalese left for the emirate last year.

The murky system of recruitment brokers in Asia and labour contractors in Qatar leaves them vulnerable to exploitation. The supreme committee has insisted that decent labour standards will be set for all World Cup contracts, but underneath it a complex web of project managers, construction firms and labour suppliers, employment contractors and recruitment agents operate.

According to some estimates, Qatar will spend $100bn on infrastructure projects to support the World Cup. As well as nine state-of-the-art stadiums, the country has committed to $20bn worth of new roads, $4bn for a causeway connecting Qatar to Bahrain, $24bn for a high-speed rail network, and 55,000 hotel rooms to accommodate visiting fans and has almost completed a new airport.

The World Cup is part of an even bigger programme of construction in Qatar designed to remake the tiny desert kingdom over the next two decades. Qatar has yet to start building stadiums for 2022, but has embarked on the big infrastructure projects likesuch as Lusail City that, according to the US project managers, Parsons, “will play a major role during the 2022 Fifa World Cup”. The British engineering company Halcrow, part of the CH2M Hill group, is a lead consultant on the Lusail project responsible for “infrastructure design and construction supervision”. CH2M Hill was recently appointed the official programme management consultant to the supreme committee. It says it has a “zero tolerance policy for the use of forced labour and other human trafficking practices”.

Halcrow said: “Our supervision role of specific construction packages ensures adherence to site contract regulation for health, safety and environment. The terms of employment of a contractor’s labour force is not under our direct purview.”

Some Nepalese working at Lusail City tell desperate stories. They are saddled with huge debts they are paying back at interest rates of up to 36%, yet say they are forced to work without pay.

“The company has kept two months’ salary from each of us to stop us running away,” said one man who gave his name as SBD and who works at the Lusail City marina. SBD said he was employed by a subcontractor that supplies labourers for the project. Some workers say their subcontrator has confiscated their passports and refused to issue the ID cards they are entitled to under Qatari law. “Our manager always promises he’ll issue [our cards] ‘next week’,” added a scaffolder who said he had worked in Qatar for two years without being given an ID card.

Without official documentation, migrant workers are in effect reduced to the status of illegal aliens, often unable to leave their place of work without fear of arrest and not entitled to any legal protection. Under the state-run kafala sponsorship system, workers are also unable to change jobs or leave the country without their sponsor company’s permission.

A third worker, who was equally reluctant to give his name for fear of reprisal, added: “We’d like to leave, but the company won’t let us. If we run away, we become illegal and that makes it hard to find another job. The police could catch us at any time and send us back home. We can’t get a resident permit if we leave.”

Other workers said they were forced to work long hours in temperatures of up to 50C (122F) without access to drinking water.

grieving parents Nepal Dalli Kahtri and her husband, Lil Man, hold photos of their sons, both of whom died while working as migrants in Malaysia and Qatar. Their younger son (foreground photo) died in Qatar from a heart attack, aged 20. Photograph: Peter Pattison/guardian.co.uk The Qatari labour ministry said it had strict rules governing working in the heat, the provision of labour and the prompt payment of salaries.

“The ministry enforces this law through periodic inspections to ensure that workers have in fact received their wages in time. If a company does not comply with the law, the ministry applies penalties and refers the case to the judicial authorities.”

Lusail Real Estate Company said: “Lusail City will not tolerate breaches of labour or health and safety law. We continually instruct our contractors and their subcontractors of our expectations and their contractual obligations to both us and individual employees. The Guardian have highlighted potentially illegal activities employed by one subcontractor. We take these allegations very seriously and have referred the allegations to the appropriate authorities for investigation. Based on this investigation, we will take appropriate action against any individual or company who has found to have broken the law or contract with us.”

The workers’ plight makes a mockery of concerns for the 2022 footballers.

“Everyone is talking about the effect of Qatar’s extreme heat on a few hundred footballers,” said Umesh Upadhyaya, general secretary of the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions. “But they are ignoring the hardships, blood and sweat of thousands of migrant workers, who will be building the World Cup stadiums in shifts that can last eight times the length of a football match.”

• Read the official response to this story

• The Guardian’s investigation into modern-day slavery is supported by Humanity United. Click here for more information

In Syria, All of the Terrorists Are Becoming “Al-Qaeda”

Syria Islamist Rebel Groups Reject West-Backed Opposition

business insider

Syria rebel groups reject Western-backed opposition; UN team returns to probe chemical arms

BEIRUT (AP) — Several Syrian rebel groups, including a powerful al-Qaida-linked faction, said Wednesday they reject the authority of the Western-backed opposition coalition, as U.N. inspectors returned to the country to continue their probe into chemical weapons attacks.

In a joint statement, 13 rebel groups led by the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front slammed the Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition, saying it no longer represents their interests.

The statement reflects the lack of unity between the political opposition, based in exile, and the disparate rebel groups fighting President Bashar Assad’s regime. Syria’s civil war has killed over 100,000 people so far.

The statement also called on all those trying to topple Assad’s government to unite under a “clear Islamic framework” — an apparent reference to the al-Qaida faction’s aspirations to create an Islamic state in Syria.

It said the rebels do “not recognize” any future government formed outside Syria, insisting that forces fighting on the ground should be represented by “those who suffered and took part in the sacrifices.”

Meanwhile, a team of U.N. chemical weapons arrived in Damascus on Wednesday to continue investigating what officials from the world organization have described as “pending credible allegations” of the use of chemical weapons in Syria’s civil war.

The visit of the six-member team, led by Swedish expert Ake Sellstrom, follows a report by the inspectors after their previous trip in September, which said nerve agent sarin was used in an Aug. 21, attack near the capital, Damascus.

The U.S. and its allies say Assad’s regime was behind the attack, and Washington said it killed 1,400 people. Syrian activist groups gave significantly lower death tolls, but still in the hundreds.

Damascus blames the rebels for the attack, and Russia, a close ally of Assad, said the U.N. report did not provide enough evidence to blame the Syrian government. It has also demanded that U.N. inspectors probe other attacks that allegedly included chemical agents.

The United States and Russia brokered an agreement for Syria to give up its chemical weapons but U.N. diplomats say they are at odds on details of a Security Council resolution spelling out how it should be done and the possible consequences if Syria doesn’t comply.

In a speech at the U.N. on Tuesday, President Barack Obama challenged the Security Council to hold Syria accountable if it fails to live up to its pledges.

“If we cannot agree even on this,” Obama said, “then it will show that the United Nations is incapable of enforcing the most basic of international laws.”

A statement by the U.N. on Tuesday said the inspectors will use their new visit to gather evidence from the alleged chemical weapons attack on March 19 on the village of Khan al Assal outside the city of Aleppo, which was captured by the rebels in July.

Wednesday’s rebel announcement, carried by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, came almost two weeks after the SNC, the main Western-backed opposition coalition, in Turkey elected Ahmad Saleh Touma as the opposition’s interim prime minister.

Syrian rebels have been deeply divided and clashes between rival groups over the past months left hundreds of people dead, mostly in northern and eastern Syria. Al-Qaida gunmen have been on the offensive against members of the more mainstream Free Syrian Army, though some of the groups that signed on to Wednesday’s statement also belong to the FSA umbrella.

Syria’s conflict has taken on increasingly sectarian tones in the past year, pitting predominantly Sunni Muslim rebels against members of Assad’s minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

When the Militant Islamists Come Marching Home

[French govt. awakens to the dangers of returning Islamists, because of the Imperial games it has been playing.  When these wild-eyed radicals come marching home as veterans of a vicious war, they will have acquired a wide array of new criminal skills.  They will be like “yeast” in breadmaking when they start teaching city gangs how to construct IEDs (improvised explosive devices), or spread their skills and criminal ideology to their criminal friends back home.  If you only worry about 300 veterans returning, then you should multiply that danger factor by ten or one hundred, considering how rapidly the disease of terrorism will spread among the disgruntled masses.  These guys should have known that playing with “Islamist” crazies is like playing with nitroglycerin, its something that sane people just don’t do.  This danger, as well as the greater danger of disaster on a grand scale in the Syrian refugee camps, should have been easily anticipated problems, which would obviously arise from the Imperial strategy.]

France fears backlash from militants fighting in Syria

  • photo_1379609695149-1-HD.jpg

France’s interior minister revealed Thursday that hundreds of homegrown Islamist militants were signing up to fight in Syria and warned they could pose a security threat when they come back.

More than 300 French nationals or residents are either currently fighting in Syria’s civil war, planning to go and fight or have recently returned from there, the minister, Manuel Valls, told France Inter radio.

Most of them were young men, often with a delinquent past, who had become radicalised, he said.

“This is a phenomenon which worries me because they represent a potential danger when they return to our soil,” Valls said. “We have to be extremely attentive.”

France, which has the largest Muslim population in western Europe, has increased its monitoring of Islamic radicals since Al-Qaeda-inspired gunman Mohamed Merah killed seven people in and around the southwestern city of Toulouse last year.

It subsequently emerged that Merah had spent time in Pakistan and Afghanistan and that French intelligence had been aware of his contacts with militants in those two countries.

On Tuesday, intelligence officers arrested the French webmaster of a jihadist site on charges of “provoking” terrorism, Paris prosecutors said, adding that the 26-year-old convert to Islam had also played a part in translating magazines published by militant group Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

According to British defence consultancy IHS Jane’s, there are up to 10,000 jihadists from all over the world currently fighting in Syria on the side of rebels trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, whose regime they want to replace with an Islamic state.

Experts in counter-terrorism fear that a chemical weapons attack near Damascus on August 21 could inspire more radicals to embark on jihad, or holy war, in Syria, increasing the numbers of a new generation of battle-hardened militants capable of wreaking havoc when they return to their home countries.

“If they are not able to set up an Islamic state in Syria, they’ll come back disappointed,” Marc Trevidic, France’s top anti-terrorism judge, was quoted as saying earlier this week.

At least one French national has died fighting in Syria — a 22-year-old white convert to Islam from Toulouse only identified as Jean-Daniel, who was killed in a clash with government forces in August.

Valls has previously warned that there are “several dozen, perhaps several hundred, potential Merahs in our country” and described their presence as a ticking time bomb.

In October 2012, police shot dead the alleged ringleader of an Islamist cell suspected of carrying out a grenade attack on a Jewish grocery store in a Paris suburb the previous month.

A prosecutor branded that homegrown group of Islamist extremists as the biggest terror threat the country had faced since the Algerian-based GIA carried out a string of deadly bombings in the 1990s.

Islamist groups threatened to stage attacks in France as well as on French targets after Paris intervened in Mali early this year in reaction to advances made by Islamist groups who had seized control of the north of the country.

Citing intelligence reports, Valls said there were more than 130 French nationals or residents currently fighting in Syria, about 50 who had returned home, some 40 who were in transit areas and around a 100 who were likely to travel to Syria.

Another Guantanamo Alumni Killed While Leading Islamist Killers, Fighting FOR the United States

[When America’s war against the rest of the human race finally comes to an end, our war crimes and crimes will be easily proved by circumstantial evidence such as this.  It is NOT A COINCIDENCE, that every major terrorist fighting unit that has been encountered over the duration of the American terror war has been led by graduates of the American brain-raping program at Guantanamo.  This is even true for the Afghan Taliban.  These guys, like this Moroccan fellow, Mohammed al Alami, a.k.a., “Abu Hamza al-Maghrebi,” were released onto their home turfs, back around 2006, in order to spearhead the American “jihad” in their homelands.]

Untitled41

Photo of the deceased Abu Hamza al-Maghrebi.

Former Guantanamo prisoner killed in Syria after joining Islamist brigade

 

Reuters

 

 

(Reuters) – A former prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. naval base died fighting for anti-government rebels in Syria, according to an Islamist opposition group which posted a video of his funeral on YouTube.

Moroccan-born Mohammed al Alami, who was released in 2006, is the first former Guantanamo detainee to die in battle in the Syrian civil war, analysts say.

The video, first reported by The Miami Herald, was posted by Harakat Sham al-Islam, one of the Islamist brigades fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It showed the August 5 funeral in which Alami is praised by a rebel leader for enduring “the prison of the Americans in Guantanamo for five years … where he did not reform or change.”

U.S. Defense Department officials had no comment.

Aaron Zelin, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who monitors jihadi activities at the website Jihadology.net, said the video appeared to confirm rumors that had been circulating for several weeks about a former Guantanamo prisoner being killed in Syria.

“The sources seem to be legitimate,” he said, adding that the video was posted on a known jihadi website.

Alami fought in Afghanistan and was captured in Pakistan after the September 11 attacks.

He was sent to the U.S. detention facility in Cuba on February 2, 2002 “because of his knowledge of Taliban recruitment, training and tactics as well as his possible affiliation with Al-Qaida,” according to Pentagon records made public by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

He was repatriated to Morocco on February 7, 2006, the records show.

After being imprisoned in Morocco for an unknown period of time, he was released and made his way to Syria, said Zelin.

Alami’s death was likely to feed concerns about the risks of releasing detainees from Guantanamo, even though many have not been formerly charged.

“It has implications for the debate about what the United States does with the individuals still in Guantanamo and what might happen if they return home, or are released,” said Zelin.

There are a number of rebel brigades made up entirely of non-Syrians, the United Nations says, underlining how the 2-1/2-year-old conflict has pulled in neighboring countries and widened sectarian fault lines across the region.

The growing involvement of foreign, Islamist fighters has added to Western reluctance to step in or arm the rebels. Reuters correspondents have met British, Libya and Tunisian militants in Syria who say they fight against Assad.

Lebanon’s Shi’ite Muslim Hezbollah militia has been fighting alongside Syrian government forces.

“Former Guantanamo detainees are held in very high light,” said Zelin. “They were imprisoned by Americans and they still kept faith in God and the cause of Jihad. They are viewed as heroes.”

Last month the U.S. repatriated two Guantanamo detainees to Algeria as part of its ongoing effort to close the prison.

So far, the U.S. has released 606 detainees. There are currently 164 prisoners at Guantanamo, including 84 cleared for release years ago.

Obama promised to do away with the facility during his 2008 presidential campaign, citing its damage to the U.S. reputation around the world, but Congress put tough restrictions on detainee transfers in January 2011.

A second Moroccan ex-Guantanamo detainee, Ibrahim bin Shakaran, the leader of Harakat Sham al-Islam, is seen in the video giving the funeral eulogy for Alami. He was described as an al-Qaeda recruiter in Iraq, according to a 2008 Defense Intelligence Agency list of 37 Guantanamo detainees “confirmed or suspected” of having returned to terrorism.

The number of former Guantanamo recidivists was estimated by the DIA in 2008 to be “about 7 percent of those transferred from U.S. custody.”

Alami, was the second known former Guantanamo detainee to be killed this year, Zelin added. A Saudi second-in-command of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was killed in a U.S. drone attack in Yemen in July.

Said al-Shehri was described by U.S. officials as one of the most important al Qaeda-linked militants to be released from Guantanamo, where he was taken in January 2002 after Pakistan handed him to U.S. authorities.

(Writing by David Adams. Additional reporting by Oliver Holmes in Beirut and Jane Sutton in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; editing by Jackie Frank)

Barbaric Islamist Ghouls Slice Syrian Helicopter Pilot’s Head-Off, After Turkey Shoots It Down for Them

Horrific footage shows Syrian helicopter pilot who was ‘shot down by Turkish forces and then beheaded by rebels’

daily mail

  • Footage apparently shows helicopter pilot shot down by Turkish forces
  • Body can be seen with head removed and surrounded by a group of men
  • Videos also show ‘rebels shooting at pilot’ as he parachutes from craft
  • Turkey confirmed yesterday it did shoot down Syrian helicopter

By Daily Mail Reporter

 

A Syrian helicopter pilot who was shot down by the Turkish military was beheaded by rebels, it was claimed today.

Horrific footage which purports to show a man’s headless corpse dressed in military-style helicopter flight suit and dumped in a ditch has been circulating online since last night, just a few hours after the aircraft crashed.

The film also zooms in on a bloody head lying a few yards from the corpse.

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

Shocking footage apparently shows a Syrian helicopter pilot beheaded by rebels after he was shot down by Turkish forcesShocking footage apparently shows a Syrian helicopter pilot beheaded by rebels after he was shot down by Turkish forces

 

The film shows a bloody head lying a few yards from the corpseThe film shows a bloody head lying a few yards from the corpse

The footage shows one a group of men surrounding the body search through the man's clothesThe footage shows one a group of men surrounding the body search through the man’s clothes

It has been impossible to establish if the disturbing images do indeed show the chopper pilot or if it is rebel propaganda.

According to website Weasel Zippers, the pilot was beheaded by Syrian rebels after the helicopter was shot down by Turkish warplanes.

The video, which has been released on LiveLeak, shows one of the men searching through the pilot’s pockets.

 

Cable Reveals US Plot To Overthrow Syrian Govt. Began In 2006, After Hezbollah Kicks IDF Ass

Cable reference id: #06DAMASCUS5399

Influencing The Sarg In The End Of 2006

wikileaks1

Origin Embassy Damascus (Syria)
Cable time Wed, 13 Dec 2006 16:03 UTC
Classification SECRET
Source http://wikileaks.org/cable/2006/12/06DAMASCUS5399.html

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 DAMASCUS 005399 SIPDIS SIPDIS NEA/ELA NSC FOR MARCHESE TREASURY FOR GLASER/LEBENSON E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/30/2016 TAGS: PGOV [Internal Governmental Affairs], PREL [External Political Relations], PTER [Terrorists and Terrorism], SY [Syria] SUBJECT: INFLUENCING THE SARG IN THE END OF 2006 Classified By: CDA William Roebuck, for reasons 1.5 b/d ¶1. (S) Summary. The SARG ends 2006 in a much stronger position domestically and internationally than it did 2005. While there may be additional bilateral or multilateral pressure that can impact Syria, the regime is based on a small clique that is largely immune to such pressure. However, Bashar Asad’s growing self-confidence )- and reliance on this small clique — could lead him to make mistakes and ill-judged policy decisions through trademark emotional reactions to challenges, providing us with new opportunities. For example, Bashar,s reaction to the prospect of Hariri tribunal and to publicity for Khaddam and the National Salvation Front borders on the irrational. Additionally, Bashar,s reported preoccupation with his image and how he is perceived internationally is a potential liability in his decision making process. We believe Bashar,s weaknesses are in how he chooses to react to looming issues, both perceived and real, such as a the conflict between economic reform steps (however limited) and entrenched, corrupt forces, the Kurdish question, and the potential threat to the regime from the increasing presence of transiting Islamist extremists. This cable summarizes our assessment of these vulnerabilities and suggests that there may be actions, statements, and signals that the USG can send that will improve the likelihood of such opportunities arising. These proposals will need to be fleshed out and converted into real actions and we need to be ready to move quickly to take advantage of such opportunities. Many of our suggestions underline using Public Diplomacy and more indirect means to send messages that influence the inner circle. End Summary. ¶2. (S) As the end of 2006 approaches, Bashar appears in some ways stronger than he has in two years. The country is economically stable (at least for the short term), internal opposition the regime faces is weak and intimidated, and regional issues seem to be going Syria,s way, from Damascus, perspective. Nonetheless, there are some long-standing vulnerabilities and looming issues that may provide opportunities to up the pressure on Bashar and his inner circle. Regime decision-making is limited to Bashar and an inner circle that often produces poorly thought-out tactical decisions and sometimes emotional approaches, such as Bashar,s universally derided August 15 speech. Some of these vulnerabilities, such as the regime,s near-irrational views on Lebanon, can be exploited to put pressure on the regime. Actions that cause Bashar to lose balance and increase his insecurity are in our interest because his inexperience and his regime,s extremely small decision-making circle make him prone to diplomatic stumbles that can weaken him domestically and regionally. While the consequences of his mistakes are hard to predict and the benefits may vary, if we are prepared to move quickly to take advantage of the opportunities that may open up, we may directly impact regime behavior where it matters–Bashar and his inner circle. ¶3. (S) The following provides our summary of potential vulnerabilities and possible means to exploit them: — Vulnerability: — THE HARIRI INVESTIGATION AND THE TRIBUNAL: The Hariri investigation ) and the prospect of a Lebanon Tribunal — has provoked powerful SARG reactions, primarily because of the embarrassment the investigation causes. Rationally, the regime should calculate that it can deal with any summons of Syrian officials by refusing to turn any suspects over, or, in extreme cases by engineering “suicides.8 But it seems the real issue for Bashar is that Syria,s dignity and its international reputation are put in question. Fiercely-held sentiments that Syria should continue to exercise dominant control in Lebanon play into these sensitivities. We should seek to exploit this raw nerve, without waiting for formation of the tribunal. — Possible action: — PUBLICITY: Publicly highlighting the consequences of the ongoing investigation a la Mehlis causes Bashar personal DAMASCUS 00005399 002 OF 004 angst and may lead him to act irrationally. The regime has deep-seated fears about the international scrutiny that a tribunal — or Brammertz accusations even against lower-echelon figures — would prompt. The Mehlis accusations of October 2005 caused the most serious strains in Bashar’s inner circle. While the family got back together, these splits may lie just below the surface. — Vulnerability: — THE ALLIANCE WITH TEHRAN: Bashar is walking a fine line in his increasingly strong relations with Iran, seeking necessary support while not completely alienating Syria,s moderate Sunni Arab neighbors by being perceived as aiding Persian and fundamentalist Shia interests. Bashar’s decision to not attend the Talabani ) Ahmadinejad summit in Tehran following FM Moallem,s trip to Iraq can be seen as a manifestation of Bashar’s sensitivity to the Arab optic on his Iranian alliance. — Possible action: — PLAY ON SUNNI FEARS OF IRANIAN INFLUENCE: There are fears in Syria that the Iranians are active in both Shia proselytizing and conversion of, mostly poor, Sunnis. Though often exaggerated, such fears reflect an element of the Sunni community in Syria that is increasingly upset by and focused on the spread of Iranian influence in their country through activities ranging from mosque construction to business. Both the local Egyptian and Saudi missions here, (as well as prominent Syrian Sunni religious leaders), are giving increasing attention to the matter and we should coordinate more closely with their governments on ways to better publicize and focus regional attention on the issue. — Vulnerability: — THE INNER CIRCLE: At the end of the day, the regime is dominated by the Asad family and to a lesser degree by Bashar Asad,s maternal family, the Makhlufs, with many family members believe to be increasingly corrupt. The family, and hangers on, as well as the larger Alawite sect, are not immune to feuds and anti-regime conspiracies, as was evident last year when intimates of various regime pillars (including the Makhloufs) approached us about post-Bashar possibilities. Corruption is a great divider and Bashar’s inner circle is subject to the usual feuds and squabbles related to graft and corruption. For example, it is generally known that Maher Asad is particularly corrupt and incorrigible. He has no scruples in his feuds with family members or others. There is also tremendous fear in the Alawite community about retribution if the Sunni majority ever regains power. — Possible Action: — ADDITIONAL DESIGNATIONS: Targeted sanctions against regime members and their intimates are generally welcomed by most elements of Syrian society. But the way designations are applied must exploit fissures and render the inner circle weaker rather than drive its members closer together. The designation of Shawkat caused him some personal irritation and was the subject of considerable discussion in the business community here. While the public reaction to corruption tends to be muted, continued reminders of corruption in the inner circle have resonance. We should look for ways to remind the public of our previous designations. — Vulnerability: — THE KHADDAM FACTOR: Khaddam knows where the regime skeletons are hidden, which provokes enormous irritation from Bashar, vastly disproportionate to any support Khaddam has within Syria. Bashar Asad personally, and his regime in general, follow every news item involving Khaddam with tremendous emotional interest. The regime reacts with self-defeating anger whenever another Arab country hosts Khaddam or allows him to make a public statement through any of its media outlets. — Possible Action: DAMASCUS 00005399 003 OF 004 — We should continue to encourage the Saudis and others to allow Khaddam access to their media outlets, providing him with venues for airing the SARG,s dirty laundry. We should anticipate an overreaction by the regime that will add to its isolation and alienation from its Arab neighbors. Vulnerability: — DIVISIONS IN THE MILITARY-SECURITY SERVICES: Bashar constantly guards against challenges from those with ties inside the military and security services. He is also nervous about any loyalties senior officers (or former senior officers) feel toward disaffected former regime elements like Rif,at Asad and Khaddam. The inner circle focuses continuously on who gets what piece of the corruption action. Some moves by Bashar in narrowing the circle of those who benefit from high-level graft has increased those with ties to the security services who have axes to grind. — Possible Action: — ENCOURAGE RUMORS AND SIGNALS OF EXTERNAL PLOTTING: The regime is intensely sensitive to rumors about coup-plotting and restlessness in the security services and military. Regional allies like Egypt and Saudi Arabia should be encouraged to meet with figures like Khaddam and Rif,at Asad as a way of sending such signals, with appropriate leaking of the meetings afterwards. This again touches on this insular regime,s paranoia and increases the possibility of a self-defeating over-reaction. Vulnerability: — REFORM FORCES VERSUS BAATHISTS-OTHER CORRUPT ELITES: Bashar keeps unveiling a steady stream of initiatives on economic reform and it is certainly possible he believes this issue is his legacy to Syria. While limited and ineffectual, these steps have brought back Syrian expats to invest and have created at least the illusion of increasing openness. Finding ways to publicly call into question Bashar,s reform efforts )- pointing, for example to the use of reform to disguise cronyism — would embarrass Bashar and undercut these efforts to shore up his legitimacy. Revealing Asad family/inner circle corruption would have a similar effect. — Possible Action: — HIGHLIGHTING FAILURES OF REFORM: Highlighting failures of reform, especially in the run-up to the 2007 Presidential elections, is a move that Bashar would find highly embarrassing and de-legitimizing. Comparing and contrasting puny Syrian reform efforts with the rest of the Middle East would also embarrass and irritate Bashar. — Vulnerability: — THE ECONOMY: Perpetually under-performing, the Syrian economy creates jobs for less than 50 percent of the country,s university graduates. Oil accounts for 70 percent of exports and 30 percent of government revenue, but production is in steady decline. By 2010 Syria is expected to become a net importer of oil. Few experts believe the SARG is capable of managing successfully the expected economic dislocations. — DISCOURAGE FDI, ESPECIALLY FROM THE GULF: Syria has enjoyed a considerable up-tick in foreign direct investment (FDI) in the last two years that appears to be picking up steam. The most important new FDI is undoubtedly from the Gulf. — Vulnerability: — THE KURDS: The most organized and daring political opposition and civil society groups are among the ethnic minority Kurds, concentrated in Syria,s northeast, as well as in communities in Damascus and Aleppo. This group has been willing to protest violently in its home territory when others would dare not. There are few threats that loom larger in Bashar,s mind than unrest with the Kurds. In what DAMASCUS 00005399 004 OF 004 is a rare occurrence, our DATT was convoked by Syrian Military Intelligence in May of 2006 to protest what the Syrians believed were US efforts to provide military training and equipment to the Kurds in Syria. — Possible Action: — HIGHLIGHT KURDISH COMPLAINTS: Highlighting Kurdish complaints in public statements, including publicizing human rights abuses will exacerbate regime,s concerns about the Kurdish population. Focus on economic hardship in Kurdish areas and the SARG,s long-standing refusal to offer citizenship to some 200,000 stateless Kurds. This issue would need to be handled carefully, since giving the wrong kind of prominence to Kurdish issues in Syria could be a liability for our efforts at uniting the opposition, given Syrian (mostly Arab) civil society,s skepticism of Kurdish objectives. — Vulnerability: — Extremist elements increasingly use Syria as a base, while the SARG has taken some actions against groups stating links to Al-Qaeda. With the killing of the al-Qaida leader on the border with Lebanon in early December and the increasing terrorist attacks inside Syria culminating in the September 12 attack against the US embassy, the SARG,s policies in Iraq and support for terrorists elsewhere as well can be seen to be coming home to roost. — Possible Actions: — Publicize presence of transiting (or externally focused) extremist groups in Syria, not limited to mention of Hamas and PIJ. Publicize Syrian efforts against extremist groups in a way that suggests weakness, signs of instability, and uncontrolled blowback. The SARG,s argument (usually used after terror attacks in Syria) that it too is a victim of terrorism should be used against it to give greater prominence to increasing signs of instability within Syria. ¶4. (S) CONCLUSION: This analysis leaves out the anti-regime Syrian Islamists because it is difficult to get an accurate picture of the threat within Syria that such groups pose. They are certainly a long-term threat. While it alludes to the vulnerabilities that Syria faces because of its alliance with Iran, it does not elaborate fully on this topic. The bottom line is that Bashar is entering the new year in a stronger position than he has been in several years, but those strengths also carry with them — or sometimes mask ) vulnerabilities. If we are ready to capitalize, they will offer us opportunities to disrupt his decision-making, keep him off-balance, and make him pay a premium for his mistakes. ROEBUCK

“That night I saw armed people getting out a caravan of buses… Islamists on the road to Paradise,”

Al Qaeda’s Turkish base?

dw

The target of stray bullets and shells coming from Syria, the small Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar has also turned into a hub for Islamist militants – allegedly backed by Ankara.

Ceylanpinar

From Nevroz Algiç’s restaurant one can taste the spicy local food while enjoying the best views over the front line, literally across the street. The fighting is so close that gunfire can still be heard over the arabesque music blaring out of the loudspeakers.

 

Located 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) southeast of Ankara, Ceylanpinar was once known for its gigantic agricultural complex. However, this city with a population of 40,000 is now yet another victim of the Syrian war. Since October 2012, four residents have been killed and dozens have been wounded by stray bullets, mortars and rockets.

“Before the new teachers would eat here and stay in this guesthouse but none of them wants to come here now. No one knows when the shooting will start or when will it finish,” Algiç tells DW. The bullet holes on these walls are a stark reminder of what’s happening round the corner. Still, material losses are not that important.

“My husband was wounded by shrapnel, my 10-year-old son is traumatized by the explosions and the older one quit university,” adds Algiç, sitting next to one of the broken windows. Behind her, a cargo train slowly moves across the no-man’s land between Turkey and Syria.

It was actually the Orient Express railway, built in 1911, that would help draw the borders of Syria and Turkey 10 years later. Berlin and Baghdad were finally connected but the Kurdish town of Serekaniye was cut in two: the one in Turkey was called Ceylanpinar, its Syrian counterpart was named Ras al Ayn.

On the road to Paradise

Like most others here, Mehmet also has cross-border family ties. The civil servant, who prefers not to disclose his full name, claims that the situation started worsening on a particular night last October.

“That night I saw armed people getting out a caravan of buses. I immediately called the police but they told me not to worry and said that everything was under control,” he told DW. Other residents also spotted armed men crossing the border into Syria. Apparently, they all got the same answer from the local security forces: ‘everything is under control.'”

“We often see buses around with all their curtains drawn. I have no doubt that their passengers are says Mehmet with a sad smile. He criticizes the “silence of the Turkish media on Ankara’s dark moves,” as he puts it.

“Here it’s not about rebels fighting [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad, it’s Jabhat al-Nusraan armed group close to al Qaeda – and Syrian Kurdish fighters engaging in brutal clashes.”

Many believe that Turkey is providing a haven to al- Qaeda-affiliated fighters

From the beginning of the uprising in March 2011, Syria’s Kurds vowed a “third way” – neither with Assad, nor with the insurgents. Theirs is a neutral position that has led to clashes with both sides, but in July 2012 they took over their stronghold areas, in the north of the country.

The YPG – the main Kurdish militia group – and the Free Syrian Army signed a ceasefire on July 12 in Ras al Ayn but Jabhat al-Nusra distanced iself from the truce.

Many local residents told DW that Ankara is hosting Jabhat al-Nusra fighters in a camp near an unchecked border crossing west of Ceylanpinar.

Ibrahim Polat, a local journalist for the Dicle News Agency, says the allegations are true and adds that Ankara’s alleged backing of Islamists goes even further:

“During the last months hundreds of fighters have been taken by Turkish ambulances from Syria to Ceylanpinar hospital and those with more serious injuries were taken to Balikdigol hospital in Sanliurfa, the provincial capital. Kurdish militiaman are systematically rejected in the local hospitals so they are taken to Qamishlo, Syria’s main Kurdish city,” he told DW.

Anonymous sources from both medical centers told DW that there are no wounded fighters in Ceylanpinar, but that several of them are still being treated in Sanliurfa.

“Dirty War”

From his office, Musa Çeri, District Governor and member of the AKP, the ruling party in Turkey, dismisses such claims as “false rumors.”

“It is ridiculous to believe that Turkey could possibly back terrorist groups of any kind. My government would never do such a thing,” he told DW, adding that the government of Ankara is “only” struggling to address the ever-growing number of Syrian refugees on Turkish soil – over 200,000 according to UN figures. “Our religion, Islam, compels us to meet the people’s needs,” he says.

Nonetheless, he doesn’t hide his concern for what he considers to be Turkey’s “most pressing terrorist threat.”

“The Syrian Kurdish fighters are nothing but a branch of the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers Party. If they finally get strong in their areas, they can easily conduct terrorists attacks against us across the border,” he explains. One of Ankara’s biggest fears, he says, is a Kurdish autonomous region similar to that in northern Iraq on Syrian soil.

Meanwhile, Ismail Arslan, Ceylanpinar’s mayor, says his town is paying a high price for the war.

“There have been dead and wounded but people also move elsewhere, shops and business fold, property prices collapse.” And there is another price to pay, he says. “In Ceylanpinar, 60 percent are Kurds and 30 percent Arabs while Assyrians, Turks and members of other nationalities comprise the remaining 10 percent. The nature of the conflict is fuelling mistrust among us and causing a split between our people.”

Arslan says he prefers not to comment on the alleged camp nearby, but denounces Ankara’s role in the area.

“Turkey claims to be a democratic country but it is involved in a very dirty war,” he says. “I’m afraid our problems won’t end until Ankara stops supporting al-Qaeda-affiliated groups inside Syria.”

DW.DE

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