The war against Syria and the illusion of compromise

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The war against Syria and the illusion of compromise

Voltaire Net

By Ghaleb Kandil

Some politicians believe that Russia and the United States agreed on compromises in the region, and that everything that happens politically and militarily in Syria is part of a scenario to implement these arrangements.
In fact, international relations are going through a transitional period that will see the outlines of a new balance of power. These new equilibrium were able to emerge through the resistance of the Syrian state against the colonial aggression led by the United States. It is clear that the US unilateral post-domination era is under construction. The rules of the new Cold War are not yet definitively drawn. Recognition by the United States at the end of its unilateral hegemony is accompanied by continued attempts to influence the new equations that are emerging.
It is in this context that fit US and Western pressures and interference in the backyard of Russia. Ukraine crisis is the best example of this attitude, as well as the continuation of the partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia, to prolong the bloodshed in Syria, in the hope of changes for the benefit their agents of balance of power relations underlie all coming political compromise.
These are the realities emerging from the Geneva II Conference, where Americans have negotiated indirectly with the Syrian official delegation, through a delegation established by its ambassador in Damascus Robert Ford. It is in this same context that was taken the decision to exclude Iran from this conference, which was a message to Russia, worthy of the time of the unilateral hegemony through orders given to the Secretary General of the United Nations. The reform of this organization and the rebalancing of relations within it are also unavoidable conditions for establishing a multipolar world.
In this transitional period, the confrontation continues to develop new relations between international powers, and Syria is the mirror of the new international order. The belief in the existence of supposed international arrangements and a serious American will to fight against terrorism, is a pure illusion. Worse, it can distort the calculations and produce erroneous analyzes.
These are the United States, which exported to Syria qaïdiste terrorism in cooperation with the Saudi regime, Turkey and Qatar. It was Washington who hosted and hatched the Muslim Brotherhood, and it continues to do so even though it knows that the brotherhood promotes takfirist thought and terrorism in the Muslim world. The U.S. refusal to consider as a priority the fight against terrorism in Syria, as claimed by the Syrian official delegation, is an admission of Washington’s determination to use terrorism to bleed the Syrian state. The arguments presented by Barak Obama, in an interview at the New Yorker, to explain the reasons for its support to Islamic Front, illustrate perfectly this reality. He described as “jihadist” the fighters of this terrorist organization calling to make a distinction between them and Al-Qaeda. The Front is a pure Saudi-American product that is only active inside Syria and does not constitute a terrorist threat, as claimed by the Foreign Policy magazine in an article published few days ago.
The next step will be characterized by an upsurge in fighting on the ground and the pursuit of American, Saudi, Qatari, French et British support for extremist movements. Despite the last maneuver of Recep Tayyeb Erdogan during his visit to Tehran, which was not accompanied by any concrete measures on the ground, Turkey will also continue its support to terrorists.
The U.S. administration has acknowledged the failure of his bet to destroy the Syrian state. Its new strategy is to permanently install lines of demarcation between the Syrian Arab Army and the rebels, through a massive support in weapons, money, human reinforcements and technical advice. Certain circles in Washington openly mention the dismantlement of Syria by separating the provinces of Idleb, Aleppo, Raqqa, Deir Ezzor and Hasakah, from the central state . Other projects talk about the division of Syria into three regions: the first, under the control of the central state and its armed forces; the second under the hegemony of armed groups; and the third under the domination of the Kurds.
The Syrian Arab Army is therefore fighting for the unity of Syria and for its independence. Americans and their agents will discover that all their plans are only pure illusion, because when it is the unity and independence of their country which is at stake, the Syrian people and its army are willing to make all the sacrifices that are necessary.


Saudis and Friends Lose Interest In Funding Taliban Losers

The Taliban Goes Broke


Afghanistan’s insurgents have endured hard times before, but nothing quite like this. A look at the group’s crippling financial crisis

Mullah Yaseen is penniless. Wrapped in a heavy black coat, the 45-year-old Afghan insurgent huddles inside a heatless tea shop near the Pakistani-Afghan border and pours out his troubles. Over the past eight months, he and his 15 Taliban fighters have received no support from the group’s central command, Yaseen says. Not a bullet or a cent.

The winter snows were just melting last year when Yaseen traveled from his home village in eastern Afghanistan to the city of Quetta, in southwestern Pakistan. That’s where most of the Afghan insurgency’s top leadership is based, and Yaseen needed to requisition supplies and ammunition for the fighting season ahead.

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He had no luck. Instead, he was told that there were temporary cash-flow problems and he should ask his fellow villagers for a loan. He would be given the money to reimburse them within a month, he was promised. Back home, Yaseen scraped up roughly $2,000 to keep his men fighting. He has yet to be repaid, and his neighbors want the money.

An Afghan money changer displays a 100 US dollar bill at the currency exchange market in Kabul on December 30, 2013. The Afghanistan afghani (AFN) currently stands at 56.40 against the US dollar, and 0.534 against the Pakistani rupee .

(AFP/Getty Images)

Afghanistan’s insurgents have endured hard times before, but nothing quite like this. At first glance the war might seem to be turning in their favor. America’s combat forces are leaving by the end of the year, and every few days another insurgent bombing unnerves the inhabitants of Kabul, the country’s capital. Nevertheless, Mullah Yaseen and hundreds of Taliban foot soldiers like him—the heart and soul of the armed struggle against the U.S.-backed Kabul government—are running out of food, money and ammunition.

Their plight is unlikely to improve anytime soon. People familiar with the Taliban’s finances say the organization’s main sources of revenue have dried up. Wealthy Arab donors, Afghan businessmen and even Pakistan’s powerful and secretive spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, have all reduced or stopped funding, each for their own reasons.

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The Arabs’ departure is a crippling blow. Support from private Saudi donors has been crucial to Afghanistan’s insurgents ever since the war against the Soviets in the 1980s—many years before the rise of Mullah Mohammed Omar and his armed followers. But interest in Afghanistan has faded among hard-liners in the Gulf region. Osama bin Laden is dead; most of Al Qaeda’s surviving operatives have fled the constant threat of U.S. drone attacks, and the Taliban never really shared bin Laden’s desire to take his holy war worldwide. Now global jihad and its Arab backers have moved on to more promising arenas, like Iraq and Syria.

As the financial crisis continues, Afghan civilians say they aren’t merely disappointed with the Taliban—they’re fed up. The group’s fundraisers in Pakistan used to make regular collection rounds in places where conservative Afghan businessmen congregate. Those appearances have slowed or stopped. “Six months ago they visited our mosque to collect their usual donations,” says one mullah in Pakistan. “Everyone just walked away from them. They haven’t come back.”

Many former contributors no longer trust the insurgents. “We don’t regard the Taliban as soldiers of God anymore,” says a conservative Afghan businessman in Peshawar. “Their fundraisers used to come on foot to collect donations. Now they show up in luxury cars. It’s clear they’re stealing the money.” A 40-year-old former Taliban commander echoes the complaint: “Instead of going to jihad, the donations are cruising down the streets of Peshawar, Quetta and Karachi.”

But the thing that alienates many former supporters more than the blatant corruption is the Taliban’s wanton disregard for the lives and safety of ordinary Afghans. It’s evident in the Taliban’s indiscriminate suicide attacks, as bystanders are often the main victims. “The Taliban aren’t fighting Americans or NATO forces anymore,” the businessman says. “Instead they kill poor Afghans. Islam forbids us to give money that would encourage the murder of civilians.”

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The group isn’t totally destitute. According to an official with the Afghan National Security Council, the ISI continues to channel support to those insurgent leaders who reliably do Pakistan’s bidding. But everyone else is on his own, and there are few viable alternatives. Local Taliban units used to drive a lucrative trade in ransom kidnapping, but they finally ran out of potential victims. Although the group still imposes “taxes” on the country’s multibillion-dollar heroin industry, much of that money seems to end up filling private bank accounts, rather than helping fighters in the field. 

Afghan farmers work at a poppy field in Jalalabad province May 5, 2012.

Afghan farmers work at a poppy field. (Reuters)

The group’s military planners economize by focusing on splashy attacks in major cities. These strikes may not achieve any genuine military objectives, but the true aim appears to be breaking the public’s will to resist. Meanwhile, fighters like Mullah Yassen are left to fend for themselves in the countryside—“in B category,” as one former Taliban cabinet minister describes their status.

In the tea shop, Yaseen lingers in the cold air. Anything is better than going outside, where the weather is downright bitter. “We waited, but we never heard from the men in Quetta,” he says. “We were ashamed to face our creditors. It was ridiculous. While we went out hunting for Americans to fight, we were hiding from our neighbors.”

(FILES) In this picture taken on September 26, 2008, Fighters with Afghanistan's Taliban militia stand on a hillside at Maydan Shahr in Wardak province, west of Kabul.  Afghanistan's long years of unrest have produced a new generation of Islamic militants, many of them bent on holy war, who are reinforcing the "old Taliban" in their deadly insurgency, analysts say. When the Taliban regime was toppled in a US-led invasion in late 2001, the hardliners were considered a spent force. But in their safe havens across the border in Pakistan, they have been able to regroup, recruit and -- armed with new ideologies, funds and warfare from the Al-Qaeda terror network -- make a deadly comeback, analysts say.

Taliban fighters in Wardak Province, west of Kabul (AFP/Getty Images)

The Taliban’s finance department has a special office dedicated to resolving complaints, but it was no help. “They told me, ‘Sorry, we don’t have that much money right now.’”

He says he has left the front lines. As much as he wants to rejoin the jihad, he doesn’t dare go back until he repays the $2,000 he owes his neighbors. He’s not afraid to die, he says. What scares him is the idea that he might die with an outstanding loan. “Anytime I’m out there, I could be martyred,” he says. “And God does not forgive anyone—even a martyr—who dies without paying his just debts.”

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Remnants of “Al-Qaeda” Try To Disassociate From Remnants of “Al-Qaeda In Iraq”

[(Both Al-Nusra and ISIL are direct descendents of Zarqawi’s Al-Q In Iraq, which Mr. Ayman al-Zawahiri also tried to disassociate from, until the Iranian group became the only surviving functional branch of Al-Q (SEE: The Connection Between Hariri’s Murder and Al-Qaeda In Iraq Network ; Al-Nusra in Syria Remains True To Founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi)]

Al Qaeda breaks link with Syrian militant group ISIL


BEIRUT (Reuters) – Al Qaeda’s general command said on Monday it had no links with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), in an apparent attempt to reassert its authority over fragmented Islamist fighters in Syria’s civil war.

Fighters of al-Qaeda linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant carry their weapons during a parade at the Syrian town of Tel Abyad, near the border with Turkey January 2, 2014.

After a month of rebel infighting, al Qaeda disavowed the increasingly independent ISIL in a move likely to bolster a rival Islamist group, the Nusra Front, as al Qaeda’s official proxy in Syria.

The switch is seen as an attempt to redirect the Islamist effort towards unseating President Bashar al-Assad rather than waste resources in fighting other rebels, and could be intended to shift the strategic balance at a time when government forces are increasingly active on the battlefield. It could also embolden Nusra in its dispute with ISIL.

Overall, the three-year-old war however remains largely deadlocked, with Syria fragmented into areas controlled by the warring parties.

ISIL has fought battles with other Islamist insurgents and secular rebel groups, often triggered by disputes over authority and territory. Several secular and Islamist groups announced a campaign last month against ISIL.

The internecine fighting – some of the bloodiest in the war so far – has undermined the uprising against Assad and dismayed Western powers pushing for peace talks between the government and opposition.

Rebel-on-rebel violence in Syria has killed at least 2,300 this year alone, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

ISIL follows al Qaeda’s hard-line ideology and, until now, the two groups were officially linked. Many foreign fighters and ISIL observers, however, say that al Qaeda central and ISIL had in fact been effectively separated since before the group, which was originally the al Qaeda branch in Iraq, spread into Syria.

Hard-line Islamist rebels, including Nusra, have come to dominate the largely Sunni Muslim insurgency against Assad, who is supported by his minority Alawite sect – an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam – as well as Shi’ite fighters from Iraq and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

In a message on jihadi websites on Monday, the al Qaeda General Command said ISIL “is not a branch of the al Qaeda group.

“…(Al Qaeda) does not have an organizational relationship with it and is not the group responsible for their actions.”

In April, ISIL head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi tried to force a merger with the Nusra Front, defying orders from al Qaeda chief Ayman Zawahri and causing a rift.

A Nusra commander in northern Syria told Reuters that the statement meant that his group’s position was no longer one of neutrality.

“Now we are going to war with ISIL and will finish it off once and for all,” he said on condition of anonymity.


Charles Lister, visiting fellow at Brookings Doha Center, said the al Qaeda statement “represents an attempt by al Qaeda to definitively re-assert some level of authority over the jihad in Syria” following a month of fighting and ISIL disobedience.

“This represents a strong and forthright move by (al Qaeda) and will undoubtedly serve to further consolidate Jabhat al-Nusra’s role as al Qaeda’s official presence in Syria.”

But ISIL is proving a strong force. On Sunday, ISIL fighters freed more than 400 people from a prison in northern Syria who had been held by the rival Islamist Liwa al-Tawhid unit, the Syrian Observatory said.

It added that in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor, ISIL seized the Koniko gas field from the Nusra Front and other Islamist rebels who had controlled it for several weeks after wresting it from tribal gunmen. Koniko is one of the largest gas plants in Syria.

A fighter from a rebel group that has clashed with ISIL said the gas field was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars a week in output.

ISIL and its Iraqi predecessor have been a source of controversy among Islamists for many years.

The group alienated many in its strongholds in Iraq’s western Anbar province during its period of control there after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion by imposing harsh punishments based on its severe interpretation of Islamic law and staging attacks with heavy civilian death tolls.

ISIL has been using similar methods in Syria. On Sunday, an amateur video on the Internet showed ISIL fighters publicly decapitating a man in Syria believed to have been a pro-government Shi’ite fighter.

In Iraq, army troops and allied tribesmen killed 57 ISIL fighters in Anbar province on Monday, the Defence Ministry said, in advance of a possible assault on the Sunni rebel-held city of Falluja which has been under the control of militants, including ISIL, for a month.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had held off an all-out offensive to give local tribesmen a chance to expel the militants themselves.