Kerry Joins with Hypocrite Saudis To Denounce Assad for Being Too Much Like King Saud

Abu al-Taib, the leader of Ahbab Al-Mustafa Battalion, demonstrates to female members as he holds a gun during a military training in a mosque in the Seif El Dawla neighbourhood in Aleppo June 24, 2013. REUTERS-Muzaffar Salman

. Abu al-Taib, the leader of Ahbab Al-Mustafa Battalion, demonstrates to female members as he holds a gun during a military training in a mosque in the Seif El Dawla neighbourhood in AleppoCredit: REUTERS/Muzaffar Salman

BEIRUT

(Reuters) – Syria’s military pounded rebel bastions in Damascus on Tuesday and Saudi Arabia demanded an arms embargo on what it called President Bashar al-Assad’s genocidal and illegitimate regime.

Attacking Iran, Russia and Lebanon’s Hezbollah for supporting Assad, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said the kingdom could not be silent and called for arms to be supplied to Syrian rebels, now militarily on the back foot.

Syria is facing a double-edged attack, it is facing genocide by the government and  an [a Saudi] invasion from outside the government, and … a massive [Saudi/Qatari] flow of weapons to aid and abet that invasion and that genocide. This must end,” he told a news conference with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Jeddah.

“The kingdom calls for issuing an unequivocal international resolution to halt the provision of arms to the Syrian regime and states the illegitimacy of the regime,” Prince Saud said.  [Et tu, Saudi prick]

In Damascus, Assad’s gunners fired mortars and artillery at Zamalka and Irbin, just east of the government-held city centre, in an assault backed by air strikes, opposition activists said.

Mostly Sunni Muslim rebels who grabbed footholds in Damascus nearly a year ago now say they face a grinding advance by the Syrian military, buoyed by support from Assad’s regional Shi’ite allies, notably Iranian-backed Hezbollah fighters on the ground.

If the insurgents are driven from the capital’s eastern suburbs, they would lose arms supply routes and suffer a severe blow in their drive to end four decades of Assad family rule.

The Saudi minister’s strongly worded remarks reinforced signs that the Syrian war is entangling much of the Middle East.

Security in neighboring Iraq and Lebanon, where the conflict has aggravated Sunni-Shi’ite tensions, has crumbled.

Suicide bombers killed eight people north of Baghdad on Tuesday, a day after 39 people died when 10 car bombs exploded in the capital. Violence has spiraled in Iraq since April.

“GETTING OUT OF HAND”

In Lebanon, clashes between the Lebanese army and gunmen led by a fiercely anti-Hezbollah Sunni cleric engulfed the southern port of Sidon on Sunday. At least 40 people were killed, including 18 soldiers, security sources said.

Sectarian hatred has even flared in Sunni-majority Egypt, where a crowd attacked and killed five Shi’ites on Sunday.

Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N.-Arab League mediator, urged the United States and Russia to help “contain this situation that is getting out of hand, not only in Syria but also in the region”.

Speaking in Geneva before preparatory talks with U.S. and Russian officials, he said he doubted that a Syria peace conference proposed by Moscow and Washington could take place next month, citing disarray among Assad’s political opponents.

More than 93,000 people have been killed in Syria since peaceful protests erupted in March 2011. Assad’s violent response helped generate what is now a civil war that has driven nearly 1.7 million refugees into neighboring countries.

Outgunned rebels are looking to Western and Arab nations to help them to reverse Assad’s battlefield gains of the last few weeks. But although the United States announced unspecified military aid this month, it is unclear whether this can shift the balance against the Syrian leader and his allies.

Kerry wants to ensure that aid to the rebels is properly coordinated, in part out of concern that weapons could end up in the hands of Islamist militants who are prominent in their ranks.

“Our goal is very clear, we cannot let this be a wider war, we cannot let this contribute to more bloodshed and prolongation of the agony of the people of Syria,” [Kerry claimed as he made preparations for escalating and expanding the Syrian war]

Saudi Arabia, a Sunni state which views Shi’ite Iran as its arch-rival, has increased aid to Syrian rebels in recent months, supplying anti-aircraft missiles among other weapons.

Prince Saud denounced foreign involvement in Syria “by Hezbollah and other militias supported by the forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard”, and also took a swipe at Moscow.

“There is no logic that allows Russia to publicly arm the Syrian regime and the foreign forces that support it.”  [The Saudi king is obviously an illogical blind old fart who would rather kill fellow Arabs and Muslims than defend anyone’s human rights.]

(Additional reporting by Mahmoud Habboush in Dubai and Lesley Wroughton in Jeddah; Writing by Alistair Lyon, editing by Peter Millership)

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Brzezinski Warns the American People About the Dangers of the Regional War Obama Is Steering Us Into

[The old sage of Washington dares to speak the truth that he helped to keep hidden from the American public for so many years.  Being Grandpa to Mika’s kids has probably softened him up a little. 

mika  In this interview, Zbig is at a loss to explain the illogical foreign policy mess that Obama has apparently intentionally created.  It seems that the he is blowing the whistle now before things real fall apart simply out of a fondness for the undereducated American people and our overriding desire to see goodness prevail in our unshakeable naivete.  He doesn’t recommend any changes that could help things, just sending-out his own “heads up,” America.]

Brzezinski on the Syria Crisis

  Editor’s Note: Following is a TNI interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski, former White House national-security adviser under Jimmy Carter and now a counselor and trustee at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a senior research professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. The interview was conducted by Jacob Heilbrunn, TNI senior editor.

Heilbrunn: Here we are five years into the Obama administration, and you’re stating that the West is engaging in “mass propaganda.” Is Obama being drawn into Syria because he’s too weak to resist the status quo? What happened to President Obama that brought us here?

Brzezinski: I can’t engage either in psychoanalysis or any kind of historical revisionism. He obviously has a difficult problem on his hands, and there is a mysterious aspect to all of this. Just consider the timing. In late 2011 there are outbreaks in Syria produced by a drought and abetted by two well-known autocracies in the Middle East: Qatar and Saudi Arabia. He all of a sudden announces that Assad has to go—without, apparently, any real preparation for making that happen. Then in the spring of 2012, the election year here, the CIA under General Petraeus, according to The New York Times of March 24th of this year, a very revealing article, mounts a large-scale effort to assist the Qataris and the Saudis and link them somehow with the Turks in that effort. Was this a strategic position? Why did we all of a sudden decide that Syria had to be destabilized and its government overthrown? Had it ever been explained to the American people? Then in the latter part of 2012, especially after the elections, the tide of conflict turns somewhat against the rebels. And it becomes clear that not all of those rebels are all that “democratic.” And so the whole policy begins to be reconsidered. I think these things need to be clarified so that one can have a more insightful understanding of what exactly U.S. policy was aiming at.

Heilbrunn: Historically, we often have aided rebel movements—Nicaragua, Afghanistan and Angola, for example. If you’re a neocon or a liberal hawk, you’re going to say that this is actually aiding forces that are toppling a dictator. So what’s wrong with intervening on humanitarian grounds?

Brzezinski: In principle there’s nothing wrong with that as motive. But I do think that one has to assess, in advance of the action, the risks involved. In Nicaragua the risks were relatively little given America’s dominant position in Central America and no significant rival’s access to it from the outside. In Afghanistan I think we knew that Pakistan might be a problem, but we had to do it because of 9/11. But speaking purely for myself, I did advise [then defense secretary Donald] Rumsfeld, when together with some others we were consulted about the decision to go into Afghanistan. My advice was: go in, knock out the Taliban and then leave. I think the problem with Syria is its potentially destabilizing and contagious effect—namely, the vulnerability of Jordan, of Lebanon, the possibility that Iraq will really become part of a larger Sunni-Shiite sectarian conflict, and that there could be a grand collision between us and the Iranians. I think the stakes are larger and the situation is far less predictable and certainly not very susceptible to effective containment just to Syria by American power.

Heilbrunn: Are we, in fact, witnessing a delayed chain reaction? The dream of the neoconservatives, when they entered Iraq, was to create a domino effect in the Middle East, in which we would topple one regime after the other. Is this, in fact, a macabre realization of that aspiration?

Brzezinski: True, that might be the case. They hope that in a sense Syria would redeem what happened originally in Iraq. But I think what we have to bear in mind is that in this particular case the regional situation as a whole is more volatile than it was when they invaded Iraq, and perhaps their views are also infected by the notion, shared by some Israeli right-wingers, that Israel’s strategic prospects are best served if all of its adjoining neighbors are destabilized. I happen to think that is a long-term formula for disaster for Israel, because its byproduct, if it happens, is the elimination of American influence in the region, with Israel left ultimately on its own. I don’t think that’s good for Israel, and, to me, more importantly, because I look at the problems from the vantage point of American national interest, it’s not very good for us.

Heilbrunn: You mentioned in an interview, I believe on MSNBC, the prospect of an international conference. Do you think that’s still a viable approach, that America should be pushing much more urgently to draw in China, Russia and other powers to reach some kind of peaceful end to this civil war?

Brzezinski: I think if we tackle the issue alone with the Russians, which I think has to be done because they’re involved partially, and if we do it relying primarily on the former colonial powers in the region—France and Great Britain, who are really hated in the region—the chances of success are not as high as if we do engage in it, somehow, with China, India and Japan, which have a stake in a more stable Middle East. That relates in a way to the previous point you raised. Those countries perhaps can then cumulatively help to create a compromise in which, on the surface at least, no one will be a winner, but which might entail something that I’ve been proposing in different words for more than a year—namely, that there should be some sort of internationally sponsored elections in Syria, in which anyone who wishes to run can run, which in a way saves face for Assad but which might result in an arrangement, de facto, in which he serves out his term next year but doesn’t run again.

Heilbrunn: How slippery is the slope? Obama was clearly not enthusiastic about sending the arms to the Syrian rebels—he handed the announcement off to Ben Rhodes. How slippery do you think this slope is? Do you think that we are headed towards greater American intervention?

Brzezinski: I’m afraid that we’re headed toward an ineffective American intervention, which is even worse. There are circumstances in which intervention is not the best but also not the worst of all outcomes. But what you are talking about means increasing our aid to the least effective of the forces opposing Assad. So at best, it’s simply damaging to our credibility. At worst, it hastens the victory of groups that are much more hostile to us than Assad ever was. I still do not understand why—and that refers to my first answer—why we concluded somewhere back in 2011 or 2012—an election year, incidentally—that Assad should go.

Heilbrunn: Your response earlier about Israel was quite fascinating. Do you think that if the region were to go up into greater upheaval, with a diminution of American influence, Israel would see an opportunity to consolidate its gains, or even make more radical ones if Jordan were to go up in flames?

Brzezinski: Yes, I know what you’re driving at. I think in the short run, it would probably create a larger Fortress Israel, because there would be no one in the way, so to speak. But it would be, first of all, a bloodbath (in different ways for different people), with some significant casualties for Israel as well. But the right-wingers will feel that’s a necessity of survival.

But in the long run, a hostile region like that cannot be policed, even by a nuclear-armed Israel. It will simply do to Israel what some of the wars have done to us on a smaller scale. Attrite it, tire it, fatigue it, demoralize it, cause emigration of the best and the first, and then some sort of cataclysm at the end which cannot be predicted at this stage because we don’t know who will have what by when. And after all, Iran is next door. It might have some nuclear capability. Suppose the Israelis knock it off. What about Pakistan and others? The notion that one can control a region from a very strong and motivated country, but of only six million people, is simply a wild dream.

Heilbrunn: I guess my final question, if you think you can get into this subject, is . . . you’re sort of on the opposition bank right now. The dominant voice among intellectuals and in the media seems to be a liberal hawk/neoconservative groundswell, a moralistic call for action in Syria based on emotion. Why do you think, even after the debacle of the Iraq War, that the foreign-policy debate remains quite skewed in America?

Brzezinski: (laughs) I think you know the answer to that better than I, but if I may offer a perspective: this is a highly motivated, good country. It is driven by good motives. But it is also a country with an extremely simplistic understanding of world affairs, and with still a high confidence in America’s capacity to prevail, by force if necessary. I think in a complex situation, simplistic solutions offered by people who are either demagogues, or are smart enough to offer their advice piecemeal; it’s something that people can bite into. Assuming that a few more arms of this or that kind will achieve what they really desire, which is a victory for a good cause, without fully understanding that the hidden complexities are going to suck us in more and more, we’re going to be involved in a large regional war eventually, with a region even more hostile to us than many Arabs are currently, it could be a disaster for us. But that is not a perspective that the average American, who doesn’t really read much about world affairs, can quite grasp. This is a country of good emotions, but poor knowledge and little sophistication about the world.

Heilbrunn: Well, thank you. I couldn’t agree more.

Al-Qaida In Iraq Leader Ignores Zawahiri, Absorbs Saudi al-Nusra Group

Al-Qaida’s Syria rift may lead to open conflict among jihadis

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By REUTERS

By Mariam Karouny

(Reuters) – A rift between Syrian jihadis and their fellow fighters from al Qaeda’s Iraqi wing may lead to internecine war among some of the most effective rebel groups in combatting President Bashar al-Assad.

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The leader of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, said his group and Syria’s al-Nusra Front would now jointly go under the name of the “Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant”

 

Trouble has been brewing since April over what Syria’s Nusra Front regards as a power grab by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq. Now, Baghdadi’s insistence that he will keep fighting as head of a united jihadi brigade in Syria, defying orders from al-Qaida chief Ayman Zawahri, has brought the two groups close to turning on each other.

“Tension is increasing, it is about to reach boiling point. Both sides are saying they are right. A clash between them could occur soon and if it happens, it will be ugly,” said a senior rebel commander in Damascus who is following the dispute.

The two-year uprising against Assad has drawn fighters from many foreign countries to both sides, in what is increasingly a sectarian struggle between the main denominations of Islam. Some Iraqi Shi’ites are fighting for Assad, whose Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shia Islam, while Iraqi Sunni radicals who once took on US-led forces at home have joined the Syrian rebels.

Baghdadi’s attempt to unite the Syrian and Iraqi wings of al-Qaida has provoked the dispute at a sensitive time when some Western governments are considering arming more moderate rebels, but fear the weapons might fall into the radicals’ hands.

In April Baghdadi announced his Islamic State of Iraq was merging with the Nusra Front, which has staged some of the deadliest attacks on Assad’s forces.

This apparently unilateral move opened up bitter and public rifts with the Nusra Front leadership – which resisted what it saw as his bid for overall power – and with Zawahri, the global al-Qaida leader who instructed him to put the merger on hold in an apparent attempt to settle the row.

Baghdadi dismissed the demand from Zawahri, who has headed al-Qaida since U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden in 2011. The merged Islamic state of Iraq and Levant “is staying as long as we have a pulse and an eye that blinks… We will not compromise over its existence,” Baghdadi responded earlier this month.

“After consultation I decided to (follow) the order from God over the order that opposes it,” he added in an audio message.

Nusra fighters, other rebels and Islamic sources reacted by saying Baghdadi had effectively severed his al-Qaida links.

“He rejected the ruling of Sheikh Zawahri and therefore he is no longer a brother of al- Qaida,” said a senior Nusra commander. “After Sheikh Zawahri ruled in our favour, the State (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) is illegitimate.”

PUSHING BAGHDADI OUT

A source close to Nusra leader Abu Mohammad Golani described Baghdadi’s defiance as dangerous. “We have no choice but to confront them, or Zawahri himself has to deal with these people,” he said.

Nusra was ready to fight Baghdadi’s forces and kick them out of Syria, but “Golani does not want bloodshed among brothers in Islam, he added. “Right now there is a decision to avoid them… but if he acts in a way that goes against Syria’s interest he will be pushed out by force, him and his people.”

Beneath the bluster, Nusra fighters appear to be in no position for now to challenge Baghdadi’s forces, and would need time to regroup and find allies among Syria’s other rebels.

A senior commander from a hardline Islamist rebel brigade in the northern province of Idlib said Baghdadi’s men would probably win a direct clash.

“Nusra was weakened by (Baghdadi’s) takeover and weakened even more by the split that happened,” he said. “It will be very difficult for Golani or anybody to bring it back from ashes.”

With powerful, mostly foreign, fighters on his side, Baghdadi forced Golani and some of his men to go underground, confiscating some Nusra weapons. Many other Nusra fighters went home or joined other Islamist brigades.

But the source close to Golani said the fact that most of Baghdadi’s fighters were non-Syrians meant they could end up isolated, even among the jihadis, because they were more concerned with imposing an Islamist agenda than toppling Assad.

Resentment about Baghdadi’s agenda in Syria echoes the way that al-Qaida fighters alienated many Sunni fighters during the Iraqi insurgency against the U.S. occupation forces and the Shi’ite-led government in Baghdad. This could encourage other rebel brigades to join a Nusra backlash against Baghdadi.

“Baghdadi and those who believe in his extreme thinking, they are mostly foreigners and they are on their own,” the source said. “Nusra is back to work,” he added, saying Golani had ordered his commanders to prepare to resume operations.

Despite losing ground to Baghdadi’s men in the north, particularly in Aleppo and Raqqa provinces, rebels say the Nusra Front remains active and prominent in operations in the southern province of Deraa, near the border with Jordan.

Any resurgence of the Nusra Front, which fights alongside other rebel brigades against Syrian government forces, would further complicate Western efforts to support Assad’s opponents.

The United States has been reluctant to arm the rebels because of fears that weapons could end up in the hands of anti-Western jihadis such as the Nusra fighters. However, after a string of Assad gains around Damascus and near the Lebanese border, backed by Lebanon’s Shi’ite militia Hezbollah, President Barack Obama said Washington would increase military aid.