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American Resistance To Empire

U.S. Support for Al Qaeda-Linked Rebels Undermines Syrian Ceasefire

Michael Hughes Foreign Policy Analyst

The United States needs to do more than wag its finger at Syrian rebel groups for “comingling” with Al Qaeda-affiliated Salafist jihadists or else an already tenuous ceasefire accord between government and opposition forces is destined to collapse.

 

Earlier this week, the International Syrian Support Group (ISSG) co-chaired by the U.S. and Russia agreed to render persistent violators of the ceasefire as “fair game” on the battlefield, relegating them to the same status as the Islamic State and Jabhat-al Nusra, or the Nusra Front, which is Al Qaeda’s franchisee in Syria.

On Tuesday, State Department spokesperson John Kirby expressed concerns that U.S.-backed Syrian opposition factions such as Ahrar al-Sham have been cohabitating with the Nusra Front. However, Washington has doggedly resisted calls to add the Al Qaeda collaborators to the UN terrorist list – claiming it would damage the ceasefire – which journalist Finian Cunningham sees as an “unwitting U.S. admission” about who is really leading the Syrian “rebellion.”

Ahrar al-Sham along with Jaysh al-Islam, another Western-sponsored faction, not only have zero inclination to respect the ceasefire, they have aspirations that completely contradict the U.S. stated goal of ushering in a Jeffersonian democracy to replace Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Both organizations, according to University of Ottawa extremism specialist Kamran Bokhari, share the common goal of instituting an Islamic state governed by sharia law. Further, Bokhari argues, the real reason the U.S. opposes designating them as terrorists is because they are proxy groups supported by American allies Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Hence, it has nothing to do with concerns about the ceasefire.

Moreover, on May 12, according to the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Ahrar al-Sham collaborated with the Nusra Front in an assault on the Alawite-majority village of al-Zara, killing at least 19 civilians, including women and children. Point being, the attack provided clear evidence that Ahrar al-Sham is doing more than intermingling with Al Qaeda’s Syria branch.

Three days later, The New York Times reported that Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri plans to create an alternate headquarters in Syria to “lay the groundwork for possibly establishing an emirate through Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front,” which some experts claim complicates Washington’s support for the rebels even further.

“The United States has placed itself in a very difficult situation because many of the rebel groups that it wants to become principal holders of state power in Syria work hand and glove with Al Qaeda,” University of Oklahoma Center for Middle East Studies Director Joshua Landis told Sputnik on Monday.

Islamists are not only leading the Syrian opposition’s charge on the military front, they are dominating its role in the peace talks in Geneva as well. The rebel political delegation is being led by Jaysh al-Islam and other Islamist parties while the secular Syrian Kurds have been excluded, a surreal development fully sponsored by the United States.

During the early stages of the intra-Syrian talks in January, Washington Kurdish Institute Director of Media and Policy Yousuf Ismael said without the Kurds the creation of an Islamic system of government in Syria was inevitable based on the current constitution of the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC).

Even more disconcerting is the lack of outrage or any major objections to U.S. policy emanating from either Congress, the media or the public at large. American media outlets, including CNN, the Associated Press and the Washington Post, among others, have consistently propagated the fictional narrative that the United States is supporting “moderate opposition forces” on the battlefield and in the peace talks in Geneva. Not to mention the media’s primary focus has been on Syrian government ceasefire violations with little attention paid to opposition transgressions.

Secretary of State John Kerry has long claimed that the United States is committed to seeing a “whole, unified, pluralistic, nonsectarian Syria,” which is hard to believe given the State Department’s objection to classifying these two organizations as what they truly are: jihadist terrorist groups that should be excluded from any cessation of hostilities.

Which prompts a fair question that goes beyond simply upholding a fragile ceasefire: How in the world does the U.S. government believe for a second that a post-Assad regime in Syria will be secular to any degree based on the current makeup of the opposition’s negotiating team, whose members by and large have openly proclaimed that they want to establish an Islamist state?

The unfortunate answer is that the U.S. government has never absorbed the lessons of previous policies based on the credo, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Washington is following the exact same playbook employed during the jihad against the Soviets in the 1980s, in just one example, wherein we supported the most radical and virulently anti-Western factions within the mujahideen to achieve geopolitical ends at all costs, leading to the well-documented blowback known as Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

Despite all this, Washington’s love for jihadists has apparently not waned. As a result, the tragic irony is we are now facilitating the resurgence of these very same elements – in some cases literally the same figures – all in the name of a secular and unified Syria.

Terrorist bombings in Tartous and Jableh constitute serious escalation by Riyadh, Ankara, and Doha

Syria: Terrorist bombings in Tartous and Jableh constitute serious escalation by Riyadh, Ankara, and Doha

syrian-radio-and-tv

The Syrian Foreign and Expatriates Ministry sent two identical letters to the UN Secretary-General and the head of the Security Council regarding the terrorist bombings that took place in the cities of Tartous and Jableh on Monday.
In the letters, the Ministry said that terrorists targeted the cities of Tartous and Jableh with 4 car bombs and 3 suicide bombers wearing explosive belts, with terrorists detonating one car bomb at the main bus station in Tartous, followed by two suicide bombers with explosive belts carrying out attacks, one inside the bus station and the other in a nearby residential neighborhood. “Ahrar al-Cham” terror organization claimed responsibility for these attacks.
The letters went on to say that at the same time, terrorists detonated three car bombs in Jableh city; two targeted the main bus station in the city at the same time, while the third attacked the Electricity Directorate, and after that a suicide bomber with an explosive belt carried out an attack at the entrance of the ER at Jableh National Hospital, exploiting the crowds there as the hospital was receiving injured victims of the car bomb attacks.
The Ministry said that these seven bombings claimed the lives of dozens of civilians and injured dozens more, most of them sustaining severe injuries, adding that most of the victims are women and children, and that the attacks also caused massive damage to properties, infrastructure, and nearby houses.
The Ministry asserted that these terrorist bombings constitute a serious escalation by the extremist and malicious regimes of Riyadh, Ankara, and Doha, and that they seek to undermine the efforts that aim at stopping the shedding of Syrian blood, and they also seek to derail the Geneva talks and the cessation of hostilities and truce arrangements, as well as turning attention away from the Syrian Arab Army’s achievements in the war against terrorism.
The Ministry stressed that certain states’ persistence in imposing a policy of silence on the Security Council regarding the heinous crimes committed by terrorist groups across Syria, and the refusal of those same states to have the Security Council take deterring, immediate, and punitive measures against the states and regimes and that support terrorism – particularly the regimes in Riyadh, Ankara, and Doha – inspires these regimes to continue directing their terrorist pawns in Syria to commit massacres against the Syrian people.
The Ministry added that this conduct also leads to destabilizing peace and security in the region and the world as terrorism is used as a tool for political extortion and pressure.
The letters noted that the refusal by the representatives of the US, France, Britain, and Ukraine at the Security Council to approve listing “Jaish al-Islam” and “Ahrar al-Cham among the Council’s list of terrorist organizations and entities, and their insistence on referring to these two terror organizations as “moderate armed opposition” confirms that these states and others are still adopting a policy of overlooking these terrorist organizations’ crimes, as well as showcasing these states’ lack of seriousness in combating terrorism.
The Ministry asserted that the Syrian government will not allow such terrorist crimes and massacres to dissuade it from fulfilling its duties in combating terrorism and working towards a political solution for the crisis in Syria through an intra-Syrian dialogue led by the Syrians themselves.
The letters concluded by demanding that the Security Council and the UN Secretary-General condemn these terrorist bombings immediately and sternly, in addition to demanding that the Security Council take deterring, immediate, and punitive measures against the states and regimes and that support terrorism, particularly the regimes in Riyadh, Ankara, and Doha, stop said states from supporting terrorism and tampering with international peace and security, and force them to comply with relevant Security Council resolutions.

Brit Press Claims Taliban Succession Meeting Underway

Afghan Taliban meet on succession as Obama confirms leader’s death

Senior Afghan Taliban figures met on Monday to agree on a successor to Mullah Akhtar Mansour, the leader of the militant movement who U.S. President Barack Obama confirmed had been killed in an American air strike at the weekend.

The Taliban have so far made no official statement on the fate of Mansour, who assumed the leadership only last year.

But senior members have confirmed that their main shura, or leadership council, has been meeting to discuss the succession in a bid to prevent factional splits from fragmenting the movement.

Obama, on a three-day visit to Vietnam, reiterated support for the Western-backed government in Kabul and Afghan security forces, and called on the Taliban to join stalled peace talks.

The president authorized the drone strike that killed Mansour in a remote region just on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan on Saturday.

Pakistani authorities have said the drone strike was a violation of the country’s sovereignty and an official from the foreign ministry told the U.S. ambassador in Islamabad that the attack could “adversely impact” peace talks.

But reaction from Islamabad has otherwise been relatively muted and a number of questions remain over what exactly happened.

An undamaged Pakistani passport in the name of Wali Muhammad, which Pakistani authorities said contained a visa for Iran, was recovered next to the burned-out car at the scene of the attack and is believed to have belonged to Mansour.

But it is unclear what he may have been doing in Iran and why he was apparently travelling in Pakistan without a security detail.

A spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry was quoted on state media denying that such an individual had crossed the border from Iran to Pakistan at the time in question.

“MILESTONE”

Calling the death “an important milestone”, Obama said Mansour had rejected peace talks and had “continued to plot against and unleash attacks on American and Coalition forces”.

“The Taliban should seize the opportunity to pursue the only real path for ending this long conflict – joining the Afghan government in a reconciliation process that leads to lasting peace and stability,” he said.

However, he stressed that the operation against Mansour did not represent a shift in U.S. strategy in Afghanistan or a return to active engagement in fighting, following the end of the international coalition’s main combat mission in 2014.

The U.S. currently has 9,800 troops in Afghanistan, divided between a NATO-led mission to train and advise local forces and a separate counter terrorism mission fighting militant groups such as Islamic State and al Qaeda.

A decision is expected later this year on whether to stick with a timetable that would see the number of troops cut to 5,500 by the start of 2017.

CAN TALIBAN UNITE?

The Taliban, which have previously rejected overtures to join talks with President Ashraf Ghani’s government, have been pushing Afghan security forces hard since the launch of their spring offensive in April.

The attack on Mansour has thrown the movement into disarray at least temporarily, but Afghan authorities have braced for an upsurge in violence as rival candidates position themselves to succeed him.

Although some individual Taliban members have been quoted in media reports saying that Mansour was killed, the group’s leadership, keenly aware of the need to limit splits, has not issued its own confirmation.

“The leadership is being very careful because one wrong step could divide the group into many parties like former mujahideen,” one Taliban official from the eastern province of Nangarhar said, referring to guerrilla leaders who fought the Soviets in the 1980s before splitting into warring factions.

Serious divisions emerged last year when it was confirmed that Mullah Mohammad Omar, the group’s founder, had been dead for two years, leaving his deputy Mansour in effective charge of the movement and open to accusations he deceived his commanders.

One senior member of the shura, which is based in the western Pakistani city of Quetta, said that the choice for the next leader appeared to be shaping around Mansour’s deputy, Sirajuddin Haqqani, or a member of the family of Mullah Omar, such as his son, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob.

Haqqani, leader of an affiliated network blamed for a series of high-profile suicide attacks in Kabul, had the backing of Pakistan, while Yaqoob had support among members of the Afghan Taliban, the shura member said.

“We prefer someone from Omar’s family to put an end to all internal problems,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Samihullah Paiwand in Gardez, Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar, Rafiq Shezar in Jalalabad, Drazen Jorgic in Islamabad, Gul Yousafzai in Quetta and Syed Rasa Hassan in Karachi, Babak Dehghanpisheh in Beirut; writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

Was Muhammad Wali “Mullah Mansour”?

Muhammad Wali’s NIC had cost him heavy bribe: Sources

dunya news DUNYA

Wali MuhammadMullah-Mansour MULLAH MANSOUR
Law enforcement agencies have started investigation about the matter

QUETTA (Dunya News) – Sources indicate that Muhammad Wali, who died yesterday (Sunday) as the result of an American drone strike on his car while he was travelling from Nushki to Quetta, had his name in the voter list of Chaman. However the locals claim that no one by the exact name resides in the area, reported Dunya News on Monday.

Muhammad Wali s name is present in the final voter list of the Chaman municipal committee next to serial number 38. His full name, Muhammad Wali son of Shah Muhammad, is present in the list along with his identification card number and residential address of Jadeed Abadi, Chaman, district Killa Abdullah. But his residence in Jadeed Abadi has yet not been traced as the locals state that no one by this name resides in the area.

Meanwhile, security agencies have initiated investigation regarding Muhammad Wali s National Identification Card and passport.

Wali s identification card has raised multiple questions over the performance of National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA). Sources have indicated that the identity card has been made after paying a heavy amount of bribe. Law enforcement agencies have started investigation about the matter.

Swarm of Suicide-Bombers Kill 100+ In Tartous and Jableh—Russian Navy Base Is In Tartous

Monitor says at least five suicide attacks and two car bombs hit Jableh and Tartous, which until now have escaped worst of conflict

Explosions in the Syrian city of Tartous.
Explosions in the Syrian city of Tartous. Photograph: SANA/Reuters

Bomb blasts have killed more than 100 people in the Syrian coastal cities of Jableh and Tartous, monitors said, in a government-controlled area that hosts Russian forces.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks in the Mediterranean cities, which have up to now escaped the worst of the conflict, saying it was targeting supporters of President Bashar al-Assad.

Scores were wounded in at least five suicide attacks and two car bombs, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said – the first assaults of their kind in Tartous, where government ally Russia maintains a naval facility, and Jableh.

State media confirmed the attacks but gave a lower death toll.

Fighting has increased in other parts of Syria in recent weeks as world powers struggle to revive a threadbare ceasefire in western Syria and after peace talks in Geneva this year broke down.

State media reported that a car bomb and two suicide bombers attacked a petrol station in Tartous. In Jableh, one of the four blasts hit near a hospital, state media and the Observatory reported.

Syria map

Footage broadcast by the state-run Ikhbariya news channel of what it said were scenes of the blasts in Jableh showed several twisted and incinerated cars and minivans. Pictures circulated by pro-Damascus social media users showed dead bodies in the back of pick-up vans and charred body parts on the ground.

The Syrian Observatory said at least 53 people were killed in Jableh, and 48 in Tartous.

The interior ministry said in a statement more than 20 people had been killed, and one state media outlet put the death toll at 45 people.

Bombings in the capital Damascus and western city Homs earlier this year killed scores and were claimed by Isis, which is fighting against government forces and their allies in some areas, and separately against its jihadi rival al-Qaida and other insurgent groups.

Russia, which intervened in the Syrian war in support of Assad last September, operates an air base at Hmeymim in Latakia and a naval facility at Tartous.

Latakia city, which is north of Jableh and capital of the province that is Assad’s heartland, has been targeted on a number of occasions by bombings and insurgent rocket attacks.

Pak Press Publishes Photos of Vehicle Struck By US Drones In Balochistan

Two charred bodies found in Balochistan near Pak-Afghan border

express tribune

People stand near a vehicle which came under attack by a US drone near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border on May 22, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

People stand near a vehicle which came under attack by a US drone near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border on May 22, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

QUETTA: Two charred bodies and remains of a car were found late on Saturday night from a remote area near Noshki district of Balochistan, which is close to the border with Afghanistan.

“One of the bodies was identified as Azam (driver) while the other was identified as Muhammad Wali, both Pakistani residents as per the documents recovered from them,” deputy commissioner Chaghi told The Express Tribune on Sunday.

The official further said residents of the area claim they heard the sound of a blast and gunfire late on Saturday night and later found the bodies in a vehicle which was travelling on the Quetta-Taftan highway near Noshki.

Earlier, the United States claimed to have targeted Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour and another militant in a drone strike near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region, which reportedly killed them.

Afghanistan’s spy agency said  Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed in a US bombing raid, the first confirmation from regional officials of his death, which marks a potential blow to the resurgent militant movement.

“Mansour was being closely monitored for a while… until he was targeted along with other fighters aboard a vehicle,” Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security said in a statement.

American officials on Saturday said Mansour was “likely killed” in the remote Pakistani town of Ahmad Wal in Balochistan province by multiple unmanned aircraft operated by US special forces.

Two Pakistani intelligence officials told AFP the drones struck a Toyota Corolla near the city of Quetta, killing two people whose bodies were burned beyond recognition.

They did not confirm whether Mansour was among them but said the bodies had been moved to a hospital in Quetta.

A member of the Quetta Shura, the Taliban’s leadership council, told AFP that Mansour had been unreachable on his mobile phone since Saturday night.

“We are not sure if something is really wrong or he purposely switched off his phone fearing an attack,” he told AFP on condition of anonymity.

In December, Mansour was reportedly wounded and possibly killed in a shootout at the house of another insurgent leader near Quetta. The Taliban eventually released an audio recording, purportedly from Mansour, to dispel the reports.

A US intelligence analyst said Mansour had been in a power struggle with Mullah Mohammad Rasoul, whose deputy, Mullah Dadullah, was killed late last year in what officials think was a fight with Mansour’s more hard-line faction.

US CENTCOM Chief Visits Syria Before Impending Invasion of Raqqa

Senior US commander secretly visits Syria to ‘prepare push to Raqqa’

Russia-Today

 

U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votell. ©  Win McNamee / Getty Images / AFP
General Joseph Votel, head of US Centcom, talked over cooperation with Kurdish and Arab militant groups while on a secretive trip to Syria on Friday. The talks were said to involve coordinating the US-led coalition and rebels plans on recapturing Raqqa from Islamic State.
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© Stringer

The news on the highly secretive visit to Syria broke only after Votel had returned to the US. During his 11-hour stay in the country he met with American advisers at a camp, located some 50 miles from the battleground, as well as with representatives of the Syrian groups who are being trained by the American military experts. Votel also talked to commanders of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

In the aftermath of the visit, Brett McGurk, the US special envoy to the coalition against Islamic State (IS, ISIS/ISIL), tweeted that one of the purposes of the clandestine trip was to prepare an offensive on Raqqa, IS terrorists’ stronghold in Syria since 2013.

Commenting on the current positions of the US-backed forces in Syria, Vogel stated that he “left with increased confidence in their capabilities and our ability to support them,” in an interview, cited by AP.

The existing model of cooperation between US and armed rebels fighting terrorists “is working and working well,” claimed the general.

Speaking about his primary motives behind the sudden visit, Vogel, however, did not specify any details that might explain its timing, while saying that it felt like an “imperative” to him to “see what they’re dealing with – to share the risk they are dealing with.”

AP cited Qarhaman Hasan, deputy commander of the SDF, as saying that the talks focused on the issues of US military support to rebel groups in the form of weaponry and equipment supplies.

“You can’t run an army on smuggling,” he said, adding that the they are “creating an army” and the necessity to smuggle the munitions severely hampers its operational capabilities.

General Vogel became the first military official of such a rank to appear in Syria since the onset of the US military operation against IS in 2014.
Vogel reportedly flew to Syria from Iraq on Friday in daylight. Although the circumstances surrounding the flight are not disclosed due to security concerns, it is believed to be the first time US forces’ representatives flew to Syria not under the cover of night.

Earlier, it is was reported the SDF is preparing to launch a decisive attack on Raqqa in the coming days. The operation is supposedly going to be backed by US-led coalition forces from air.

SDF representative Tackir Kobani said in an interview on Friday that Brett McGurk had visited Syria last week to discuss the “strategy to battle Daesh, in particular, for the liberation of Raqqa, Manbij and Jarabulus.” That makes Votel a second senior American official visiting Syria in the last two weeks.

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© Amer Almohibany  

Army Gen. Joseph Votel was appointed the head of the US Central Command (Centcom) in March. The area of Centcom’s responsibility covers Northeast Africa as well as the Middle East and Central and South Asia.

Reports of an imminent siege of Raqqa come as Moscow has suggested that the US-led coalition joined forces with the Russian Air Force to strike militant groups that did not adhere to ceasefire plan. In particular, Al-Nusra Front terrorists and convoys of arms and militants crossing the Syrian-Turkish border were mentioned.

While the White House has already denied it would even consider a joint Russian-US air campaign, such move would at least partly legitimize the US presence in the country, as the proposal is said to have been agreed with Damascus in advance. The Syrian government has never given permission for any US-led military campaign in the country, making its airstrikes illegal by international law.

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