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Syrian opposition provided intel to target terrorists around besieged key airbase

Syrian opposition provided intel to target terrorists around besieged key airbase – Russia

Russia-Today

 

© Rodi Said
Syrian government forces received intelligence on terrorist positions around the besieged Kweires airbase from opposition sources, which helped them lift the two-year blockade, the Russian Defense Ministry has revealed.

This airfield had been surrounded by ISIS [the former name of the Islamic State terrorist group] for two years,” Major General Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Russian defense ministry, said in a daily briefing. “Intelligence on the locations of the terrorist fire positions and support points around Kweires was provided by the Syrian opposition and cleared by the communication center in Baghdad.

Lifting the siege on the airbase in Aleppo provinces has been one of the biggest victories for Damascus since Russia started providing air support for Syrian government forces.

The opposition also provided data to help target a big weapons depot of the Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda, near the village Mheen in the Homs province, Konashenkov revealed.

Russia has been calling on moderate opposition forces in Syria to strike a truce with the government and fight together with it against the common terrorist threat.

Konashenkov reported that over the past two days Russian airplanes have conducted 85 combat sorties and attacked 277 targets in Syria. The airstrikes were conducted in the provinces Aleppo, Damascus, Latakia, Hama, Homs and Idlib, he said.

The general said intelligence from the opposition also helped the Russian air force to deliver a series of strikes around the city of Hama and prevented a planned offensive operation of the enemy.

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International Civil War Fought In Syria

Chronicle of a war foretold

Redefining the “Syrian” conflict

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The war waging in Syria, hijacked by opposing ideologies just months after it began, has had an irrevocable impact on the Syrian people. Although not much is heard of Syrians outside the refugee camps, Americans, Europeans, Russians, Turks, Iranians, and Arabs hold meeting after meeting to agree and disagree, coalesce and collide, in an attempt to halt the ″Syrian conflict″. By Hakim Khatib

After five years of the Syrian war, we can recognise ″four″ conflicting parties on the ground – Assad, IS, the rebels and the Kurds. Each one of these conflicting parties has regional and international backers, who ironically do not agree with each other about whom they are fighting for or against.

The Syrian regime is backed by Iran, Russia, Hezbollah and Iraqi militias. IS is backed by a flood of global jihadists from all over the world. The rebels are backed by the Gulf States, Turkey, Jordan and the US. The Kurds are supported by the US.

Despite consistent media references to ″the Syrian conflict, crisis or war″, this surely begs the question, ″What makes this war so Syrian?″ It is in fact a war being waged on Syrian territory, in which more than 50% of Syria′s population have been displaced, over 220 thousand killed, and many more injured or imprisoned. According to Amnesty International, more than 12.8 million Syrian people are in ″urgent need of humanitarian assistance″. Besides this humanitarian catastrophe, most of the country of Syria and its infrastructure have been destroyed.

In March 2011, when people engaged in peaceful protests against the regime, regime forces confronted them with brutality and killed hundreds of civilians in the first few weeks, igniting the beginning of an increasingly bloody death toll. The initial activists were neither ideological nor religious, but rather common people standing up for their rights against political oppression, economic hardship, human rights violations, unemployment, poverty and corruption.

Regime shells hit Douma, east of Damascus on 30 October (photo: Getty Images/AFP/S. Al-Doumy)

Shoring up the Assad regime: “since the end of 2012, Iran has been flying in troops and supplies to Syria on an almost daily basis. Iran has also provided Assad with significant logistical, technical, financial and military support”, writes Khatib

As the Syrian intelligence apparatus, police and the army notoriously became involved in the crackdown on peaceful demonstrations, a series of defections followed to form the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) to confront the regime′s brutality. The FSA began to take all those who were willing to fight against regime forces under their command. What had begun as an uprising had now become civil war.

The magnetism of war

Prompted by ideological mobilisation in 2012, jihadists from around the world started travelling to Syria to join the rebels. Assad encouraged this activity by releasing jihadists from jail to vilify rebel groups, especially after the regime had lost control of the northern borders.

In the same year in January, al-Qaida formed a branch in Syria called the Nusra Front to fight against the regime. Around that time, Kurdish groups took up arms to defect from Assad′s rule in a search for autonomy. This year marked the beginning of the proxy war in Syria.

Iran, Assad′s strongest ally, intervened to help Assad. Since the end of 2012, Iran has been flying in troops and supplies to Syria on an almost daily basis. Iran has also provided Assad with significant logistical, technical, financial and military support.

It is estimated that by December 2013, Iran was fielding approximately 10,000 operatives in Syria, including thousands of Iranian paramilitary Basij fighters, Arabic-speaking Shia volunteers and Iraqi combatants. In mid 2012, the Lebanese Hezbollah joined the war against the rebels in Syria. Hezbollah took an active role in battlefields such as Al-Qusair (19 May – 5 July 2013) between rebels and troops loyal to the Assad regime.

In return, Gulf states – namely Saudi Arabia and Qatar – were sending money and weapons to rebel groups, mainly through Turkey and Jordan. Saudi Arabia supports Salafist insurgent groups such as ″The Army of Islam″ under the command of Zahran Aloush.

Treating a survivor of an IS mustard gas attack on Damascus, September 2015 (photo: picture-alliance/AA/M.Omer)

A mobilising of ideologies: many factions – the Assad regime, IS, the rebels and the Kurds – not to mention superpower involvement and foreign financial support have turned the “Syrian civil war” into a war of proxies. The only thing the Syrian population could potentially gain from the conflict would be the toppling of Assad

Unlike Saudi Arabia, Qatar has exerted enormous efforts to support the Muslim Brotherhood and more radical rebels with al-Qaida ties. In order to counterbalance the Saudi influence in Syria, Qatar along with Turkey backed the ultra-conservative Ahrar Al-Sham (10,000 -12,000 fighters) under the command of Hassan Aboud. Paradoxically, the Gulf States have offered no resettlement places to Syrian refugees.

This division between Sunni-majority powers supporting the opposition on the one hand and Shia powers supporting the Assad regime on the other serves to emphasise the sectarian dimension of the conflict.

US involvement

Allegedly horrified by Assad′s atrocities against his own people in 2013, the US authorised the CIA to train and equip Syrian rebels to fight against Assad, thus entering the war on the ground. Controversial figures provided by the Congressional Research Service reveal that Saudi Arabia bought more than $90 billion worth of arms from the US between 2010 and 2015, at a time when the US was urging Gulf States to stop supporting extremists in Syria.

In the same year, Assad used chemical weapons against civilians in rebel-held areas. The OPCW reported to the UN that ″chlorine has been used repeatedly and systematically as a weapon″ in Syria. In September 2013, Obama remarked, ″It is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime′s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike.″

A response to the Assad regime dropped off the agenda when Russia, Assad′s long-standing ally, proposed that he surrender control over his chemical weapons to the international community for eventual dismantling. A move that aptly demonstrated the extent of the power struggle between Russia – Assad′s ally – and the US – in opposition to the Assad regime.

Refugees lands on the Greek island of Kos, 7 November 2015 (photo: Reuters/A. Konstantinidis)

At what cost: more than 50% of Syria′s population have been displaced, over 220 thousand killed, and many more injured or imprisoned. According to Amnesty International, more than 12.8 million Syrian people are in ″urgent need of humanitarian assistance″

In February 2014, IS took control of large areas in Iraq and Syria, attracting foreign fighters from all over the world and ironically becoming al-Qaida′s enemy. Indeed, IS isn′t fighting Assad, but the Kurds and other rebel groups. By 2014, as many as 10,000 and 12,000 foreign jihadists were estimated to be in Syria, more than 3,000 of them originating from Western countries. Consequently, thousands of foreign fighters flood into Syria for jihad every year, accompanied by constant appeals from mainly non-Syrian, Sunni clergymen to support the Syrian rebels.

Move against IS

In September 2014, a coalition under the leadership of the US launched airstrikes against IS on Syrian soil. Once again, the CIA became involved in sponsoring the training of Syrian fighters, specifically intended to take on IS.

While the US and other Western countries made it very clear that they oppose IS more than Assad, Turkey started bombing Kurdish groups, although the Kurds have been fighting against IS since its formation. Owing to existing tensions between Turkey and the US as to who is the primary enemy in Syria, Turkey has not bombed IS to date.

While Assad has been losing ground to IS and the rebels, Russia has intervened on his behalf to bomb IS. On the ground, Russia has been bombing anti-Assad rebels, including those backed by the US.

While Syrians are not much heard outside the refugee camps, Americans, Europeans, Russians, Turks, Iranians, and Arabs are holding meetings to agree and disagree and coalesce and collide to solve the ″Syrian conflict″. According to the US Department of Defence, coalition airstrikes alone conducted in Syria reached 2,680 in 2015, of which 2,540 were by the US and 140 by the rest of the coalition (Australia, Bahrain, Canada, France, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and UAE). The fact remains that almost no single Syrian citizen has been left unaffected by the crisis, leaving Syria in a bloody war with no prospects of reconciliation in sight. What′s so Syrian about the Syrian war? Perhaps it is just the humanitarian catastrophe.

Hakim Khatib

© Qantara.de 2015

The Custodian of the Two Mosques Enlists Islam In Service To His Zionist Masters

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by Thierry Meyssan

The reponse by Tel-Aviv and Riyadh to the US-Iran negotiations can be found in the extension of Saudi financing of the war against Gaza in 2008 – the alliance between a colonial state and an obscurantist monarchy. While the Near East is preparing for a ten-year change in the rules of the game, Thierry Meyssan reveals here the contents of the secret negotiations between Tel-Aviv and Riyadh.

No-one in the Middle East seems to be aware that the secret agreements which should be signed on the 30th June 2015 by Washington and Teheran – on the fringe of the multilateral agreements concerning nuclear power – will probably set the rules of the game for the next ten years.

These agreements arrive at a moment when the United States have become the world’s first producers of petrol, ahead of Saudi Arabia and Russia. Consequently they do not need Middle-Eastern petrol for themselves, and are only interested in it as a means of maintaining the world market in dollars.

Besides this, Washington has begun to reposition the troops it has stationed in Western Europe and the Middle East to the Far East. This does not mean that it is abandoning these regions, but that it wishes to find another way of ensuring their security.

Israël

According to our information, for the last 17 months (in other words, since the announcement of the negotiations between Washington and Teheran, which have in fact been proceeding for the last 27 months), Tel-Aviv has been engaged in secret negotiations with Saudi Arabia. Extremely high-level delegations have met five times – in India, Italy and the Czech Republic.

The cooperation between Tel-Aviv and Riyadh is part of the US plan to create a « Common Arab Defence Force », under the auspices of the Arab League, but under Israeli command. This « Force » is already effective in Yemen, where Israeli pilots fly Saudi bombers within the framework of an Arab Coalition whose headquarters have been installed by the Israelis in Somaliland, a non-recognised state situated on the other side of the the Bab el-Mandeb straits [1].

However, Riyadh does not intend to officialise this cooperation as long as Tel-Aviv refuses the Arab Peace Initiative, presented to the Arab League in 2002 by Prince Abdullah before he became king [2].

Israël and Saudi Arabia have reached agreement on several objectives.

On the political level :

- To « democratise » the Gulf States, in other words, to associate the people in the management of their countries, while affirming the intangibility of the the monarchy and the Wahhabite way of life ; To change the political system in Iran (and no longer wage war on Iran) ;

- To create an independent Kurdistan in such a way as to weaken Iran, Turkey (despite the fact that it is a long-standing ally of Israël), and Iraq (but not Syria, which is already seriously weakened).

On the economic level :

- To exploit the Rub’al-Khali oil-fields and organise a federation between Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and perhaps Oman and the United Arab Emirates ;

- To exploit the Ogaden oil-fields, under Ethiopian control, secure the Yemeni port of Aden, and build a bridge linking Djibouti and Yemen.

In other words, while Tel-Aviv and Riyadh are making the best of a bad deal, and accepting that two thirds of Iraq, Syria, and half of Lebanon will be controlled by Iran, they intend :

- To ensure that Iran gives up on the exportation of its revolution ;

- To control the rest of the region by excluding Turkey, which took over from Saudi Arabia in the supervision of international terrorism, and has just lost in Syria.

Palestine

The international recognition of a Palestinian state, in conformity with the Oslo agreements and according to the Arab Peace Initiative, will be the affair of only a few moths once the US-Iran agreements have been signed.

The Palestinian Unity Government, which has never really functioned, suddenly resigned. It seems certain that Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah will be largely supported by its people as soon as the Palestinian state enters the United Nations.

Hamas, which since 2008 has represented the Resistance, has suddenly discredited itself by officialising its membership of the Muslim Brotherhood (while the Brotherhood has attempted several coups d’etat in Saudi Arabia) and also by taking arms against the only state in the region which is effectively pro-Palestinian, the Syrian Arab Republic. Consequently, in order to clean up its image, it has decided to act with greater discretion and only support non-violent actions.

The recognition of the Palestinian state will put an end to the right of return of the Palestinians who were chased off their land, but will open a new status for them. The United States and Saudi Arabia will invest massively to develop the economy of the new state.

Already, several candidates are readying themselves to replace Mahmoud Abbas (who is 80 years old, and whose mandate expired in 2009). Among them is Mohammed Dahlan, the ex-head of security who is suspected of organising the poisoning of Yasser Arafat, and was obliged to leave the country in 2007. After having worked for the United Arab Emirates, he then obtained Montenegrin nationality – like the ex-Prime Minister of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra – and also Serbian nationality. He returned to Palestine in February with the help of his old adversaries from Hamas. Having become a billionaire, he bought combattants and election voices hand over fist. A more serious candidate could be Marouane Barghouti, who is presently purging five life sentences in an Israëli prison, and who could be freed within the framework of the peace agreement. He is in fact the only uncorrupted Palestinian personnality to have so far escaped the Mossad killers.

Saudi Arabia

In this context, the journey to Russia by Prince Mohamad bin Salman, son of King Salman of Saudi Arabia, caused general consternation and a Press campaign suggesting that he hoped to negotiate the end of Russian aid to Syria. The visit came a week after the trip by the Director of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Iyad bin Amin Madani. He was accompanied by several ministers and about thirty businessmen. The Saudi delegation participated in the Economic Forum in Saint Petersburg, where the Prince was received by President Vladimir Putin.

Since its creation, the Wahhabite kingdom has maintained privileged relations with the United States, and considered the Soviet Union, and then Russia, as adversaries. It seems that this is changing.

The considerable importance of the economic agreements and cooperation, which have been signed, initiate a new form of politics. Saudi Arabia has bought 19 nuclear power plants, agreed to participate in the Russian programme for space research, and also negotiated petrol agreements whose details have not yet been published.

To avoid any ambiguity about this reconciliation, President Putin said that Russia will make no modification to its support for Syria, and would assist any political solution which conforms to the wishes of the Syrian people. In previous statements, he has indicated that this implies the maintenance of President el-Assad until the end of the seven-year mandate for which he has been democratically elected.

The losers in this redistribution

Everything indicates that once the US-Iran agreements have been signed [3], the losers will be :

- The Palestinian people, who will be deprived of their inalienable right of return, for which three generations have been fighting ;

- Turkey, which may pay a high price for its hegemonic dream, its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, and its defeat in Syria [4] ;

- France, which, for the last four years has been struggling to re-establish its colonial interests in the region, and now finds itself, finally, as a simple supplier for Israël and Saudi Arabia [5].

Translation
Pete Kimberley

[1] “The « Arab » Common Defence Force”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Pete Kimberley, Voltaire Network, 14 May 2015.

[2] “The Arab Peace Initiative on Recognition of Israel in Return for Israeli-Palestinian Peace”, Voltaire Network, 28 March 2002.

[3] “What will become of the Near East after the agreement between Washington and Teheran ?”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Pete Kimberley, Voltaire Network, 23 May 2015.

[4] “Nearing the end of the Erdoğan system”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Pete Kimberley, Voltaire Network, 15 June 2015.

[5] “Middle East: The predictable defeat of France”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Pete Kimberley, Voltaire Network, 8 June 2015.

Cutting Deals with Serpents, the Superpowers Rearrange the Middle East

The days of the « Arab Spring » are almost over. As of now, the White House and the Kremlin are redesigning the contours of the « Greater Middle East ». However, their agreement, which was concluded before the Russian military intervention in Syria, could still be modified by the changes in the balance of power. There is no proof that Moscow will accept the stabilisation of Syria or ignore the partition of Turkey and Saudi Arabia which are soon to begin. In any event, the coming upheaval will modify the status quo which has been in place for the last five years. Most of the powers implicated are therefore scrambling to change sides before the other players.

 

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Whatever its home country, the Press is currently too occupied with analysing the position of its own State in the Near East conflict to take any note of the ongoing global negotiations between the White House and the Kremlin [1]. As a result, it is misinterpreting certain secondary events. In order to clarify the current diplomatic agitation, we have to revisit the USA-Russian agreement of last September.

The public part of this agreement was formulated by Russia in a document distributed on the 29th September at the UN Security Council [2]. It indicates that in order to re-establish peace and stability in North Africa and the Near East, it is essential – and sufficient –
(1) to apply the resolutions of the Security Council – which notably implies the retreat of Israël to its 1967 borders – and
(2) to combat terrorist ideology – in other words, to fight the Muslim Brotherhood, created by the United Kingdom and supported by Turkey, and the Wahhabism propagated by Saudi Arabia.

It had originally been planned that Russia should call for the adoption of a resolution to this end during the Security Council meeting of the 30th September. However, the United States opposed this initiative less than one hour beforehand [3]. Sergey Lavrov therefore presided over the talks without mentioning his project. This major event can only be interpreted as a tactical disagreement which must not block a strategic agreement.

On the 20th October, at the Kremlin, President Vladimir Putin received his Syrian counterpart, Bachar el-Assad, in the presence of his Ministers for Defence and Foreign Affairs, the General Secretary of the Russian Council for National Security and the head of the secret services. The meeting concerned the application of the Russia-US plan, including the agreement of the Geneva Communiqué of 30th June 2012 [4]. President el-Assad pointed out that he was following the instructions of this Communiqué, and in particular, that he had integrated into his government the opposition parties who had requested participation, as required by the description in the Communiqué of a Transitional Governing Body.

Having verified that they both had the same understanding of the Geneva Communiqué, Russia and the United States decided to bring the dissident states into line, meaning France, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Since they understood that the French position was not based on any realistic interests, and could only be explained by a colonial fantasy and the corruption of the French government by Turkish and Saudi money [5], the White House and the Kremlin decided to act only upon the source of the problem, in other words, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. On the 23rd October, John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov therefore received their Turkish and Saudi counterparts in Vienna. No final text was published. However, it seems that Russia threatened the two guests without the United States coming to their defence.

Frightened by the idea of a possible agreement between Russia and the United Sates against Turkey and Saudi Arabia, France convened a « working dînner » (rather than a « diplomatic summit ») in Paris. Germany, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, the United Kingdom and Turkey « evoked » (rather than « decided») the fate of Syria. The format of this meeting corresponded to the meeting of the « Core Group » of the « Friends of Syria », with the exception of Egypt, who had already secretly joined with Syria. The fact of having been obliged to invite the United States polluted the atmosphere of the meeting, and once again, no final text was published.

Finally, on the 30th October, the United States and Russia gathered a wider learned assembly which included all the participants of the two previous meetings, plus Egypt, China, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Oman, the European Union and the United Nations. While the Press revelled in the presence of Iran, which had been refused participation in any discussion on settlement since the beginning of the conflict, it said nothing about the return of al-Sissi’s Egypt, which had originally been excluded by France, but which is now entering the international stage thanks to the discovery of its new petrol reserves. The Press also said nothing about the persistent absence of the major regional power, Israël. This last point can only be explained in the case that the Hebrew state had previously obtained a guarantee that it would be able to realise one of its war objectives, the creation of a colonial state in Northern Syria.

The participants were all required to sign a final declaration which only Russia and Iran saw fit to publish [6]. There’s a good reason for this oversight – it signals the defeat of the US hawks. Indeed, in point 8 of the text, it is stated that the « political process » – (and not the « transition phase ») will be led by the Syrians, owned by the Syrians, and that the Syrian people will decide the future of Syria. This weighty formulation invalidates Feltman’s document, which, for more than three years, had constituted the objective of several US hawks, the Frençh, the Turks and the Saudis – in other words, the total and unconditional capitulation of the Syrian Arab Republic [7].

The US project continues, despite the agreement with Russia

The next logical step should therefore be the reigning in of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and France, which should be feasible while the original US objectives are pursued.

As for Turkey, whatever the result of the general elections of the 1st November, and especially in the case of a victory for the AKP – the Justice and Development Party [8], the civil war will probably continue and spread [9] until the country is split in two, followed by the fusion of Turkish Kurdistan, Iraqi Kurdistan and a Syrian Arab territory occupied by the Syrian Kurds and the United States. Already, the YPG (People’s Protection Units) and the United States are working together to conquer an Arab territory in Northern Syria. The YPG, who, until last month, was receiving its weapons and pay from Damascus, has now turned against the Syrian Arab Republic. Its militia are invading the conquered villages, expelling teachers, and enforcing the ’Kurdisation’ of schools. Kurdish, which had previously been spoken and taught in schools, has now become the unique and obligatory language. The militia of the Syrian Arab Republic, particularly the Assyrians, are now reduced to the weaponised defence of their schools against their Kurdish compatriots [10].

As for King Salman of Saudi Arabia, he will have to swallow his defeat in Yemen – a neighbour which, officially, he had invaded in support of its absent President, but in reality, in order to exploit, with Israel, the petrol of the « Empty Quarter » [11]. One after the other, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have left the Coalition, the former after having suffered heavy losses amongst their officers, and the latter more discretely, leaving the military operations entirely in the hands of the Israelis. The Houthis, pushed northward by the bombing, have made several incursions into Saudi Arabia where they destroyed military air bases and equipment. The Saudi soldiers, almost all of whom are foreigners fighting under the Saudi flag, have deserted en masse, obliging the King to issue a statutory order against desertion. In order to avoid a military disaster, Saudi Arabia therefore solicited the help of new allies. In exchange for money, Senegal sent 6,000 men, and Sudan 2,000. Mauritania is hesitating to send a contingent. It’s rumoured that the King has also contacted the private army Academi (ex-Blackwater/Xe) which is currently recruiting mercenaries in Columbia. This fiasco is directly imputable to Prince Mohammed ben Salmane, who lays claim to the initiative for this war. In this way, he is weakening the authority of his father, King Salman, and causing discontent among the two clans which are excluded from power, those of ex-King Abdallah and Prince Bandar. Logically, the conflict should lead to a sharing of the inheritance between the three clans, and consequently the separation of the Kingdom into three different States.

It is only after these new conflicts that peace can come to the region, except for the Arab part which is colonised by the new Kurdistan, destined to become the focal point for the expression of regional antagonism in place of Palestine.

But even if it is already written, the future remains uncertain. The reversal of the balance of power between Washington and Moscow [12] will have modified their agreement./

The rats are leaving the ship

While bad losers announce without blinking that the military intervention in Syria is not producing the results hoped for by Moscow, the fleeing jihadists are gathering in Iraq and Turkey. The US Chief of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, admitted during a Senate hearing on the 27th October that the war was evolving in favour of the Syrian Arab Republic [13]. And NATO Supreme Commander General Philip Breedlove declared during a Pentagon Press conference on the 30th October, that it is an understatement to say that the situation is evolving from day to day and is now threatening the security of Europe [14].

We are obliged to note that the alliance between the partisans of chaos and the partisans of recolonisation will not only lose in Syria, but that the Atlantic Alliance itself can no longer pretend to excercise global domination. As a result, a sudden storm of agitation is blowing through the chancelleries, many of whom are now declaring that it is time to reach a peaceful solution – which suggests that until now, they thought differently.

The primary consequences of the forthcoming « U-turns » concerning Syria will be the consecration of the international rôle of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Federation of Russia – two actors that the Western Press were presenting, only four months ago, as being totally isolated and in danger of suffering terrible economic difficulties. These two powers are now major military forces – regional for Iran and global for Russia. The second consequence will be President el-Assad remaining in power – the man whom, for the last five years, everyone has been clamouring that « he had to go. »

In this context, war propaganda continues unchecked, with the affirmation that either the Russian or Syrian bombing is killing civilians. These charges are upheld by the central organisation of terrorist groups, the Muslim Brotherhood, by way of their Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Or else it is claimed that Russia is anxious to negociate rapidly because its intervention is costing a lot of money – as if they had somehow overlooked budget issues during the long preparation phase. Never short of a bright idea, the Director of the CIA, John Brennan, pretends that Russia is preparing to drop President el-Assad, even though President Putin himself had mocked this attempt at auto-persuasion a few days earlier, at the Valdai International Discussion Club.

In France, the revolt is gaining the political class. The four principal right-wing leaders, Dominique de Villepin, François Fillon, Alain Juppé and Nicolas Sarkozy have each declared that it is absurd to alienate Russia and refuse to admit defeat in Syria. However, Alain Juppé, who played a central rôle at the beginning of the war, particularly by signing a secret treaty with Turkey, persists in conserving the objective of overthrowing the Syrian Arab Republic later on. On the left, several leaders are planning trips to Damascus for the near future.

The panic at these evident changes is, in fact, general. Nicolas Sarkozy rushed to President Putin’s side, as did German Vice-Chancellor Sigmard Gabriel [15]. He pleaded the case for closing the book on the disputes and bitterness of the past, and renewing dialogue with Russia. It’s about time.

Keep in mind :
- The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action of the 30th October 2015 modifies the Geneva Communiqué of the 30th June 2012. There will be no « transition phase » in Syria because the Syrian Arab Republic has won the war, but there will be a « political process » which will be determined by the people’s vote.
- The war in Syria should end within the next few months, except for the North, where the United States and Israël are attempting to create an independent colonial state dominated by the Kurds.
- New wars are in preparation – first of all around a pseudo-Kurdistan imposed on colonised non-Kurdish populations, then in Turkey and Saudi Arabia, in order to divide these large states into several smaller states, in conformity with the 2001 plan for the « remodelling of the Wider Middle East ». Washington will not hesitate to destroy her own disobedient allies, while Moscow wants to finish with the Muslim Brotherhood and Wahhabism.
- The opposition in France, and all of the ruling class in Germany, have taken note of the rise of Russian and Iranian power and the coming fall of Turkey and Saudi Arabia. As a result, they are seeking to modify their politics.

Translation
Pete Kimberley

[1] “Moscow and Washington work together to restructure international relations”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Pete Kimberley, Voltaire Network, 5 October 2015.

[2] “Russian proposal of a debate at the Security Council dealing with terrorism”, Voltaire Network, 1 October 2015.

[3] “Lavrov to chair Security Council’s meeting on fighting terrorism”, Tass, September 30, 2015.

[4] “Action Group for Syria Final Communiqué”, Voltaire Network, 30 June 2012.

[5] “Why does France want to overthrow the Syrian Arab Republic ?”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Pete Kimberley, Voltaire Network, 12 October 2015.

[6] “Joint Statement on the outcome of the multilateral talks on Syria”, Voltaire Network, 30 October 2015.

[7] “Two thorns in Obama’s side”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Pete Kimberley, Voltaire Network, 1 September 2015.

[8] “Nearing the end of the Erdoğan system”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Pete Kimberley, Voltaire Network, 15 June 2015.

[9] “Turkey in danger”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Pete Kimberley, Voltaire Network, 30 July 2015.

[10] “The United States and Israël begin the colonisation of Northern Syria”, Translation Pete Kimberley, Voltaire Network, 2 November 2015.

[11] “The secret projects of Israël and Saudi Arabia”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Pete Kimberley. “Why is the West So Silent About The Yemeni War?”, by Martha Mundy, Counterpunch, Voltaire Network, 27 June and 4 October 2015.

[12] “The Russian army asserts its superiority in conventional warfare”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Pete Kimberley, Voltaire Network, 19 October 2015.

[13] “Dunford Tells Senate Now is Time to Reinforce Iraqi Success Against ISIL”, Jim Garamone, DoD News, October 27, 2015.

[14] “Department of Defense Press Briefing by General Breedlove in the Pentagon Briefing Room”, October 30, 2015.

[15] “Germany seeks to extract itself from the Syrian conflict”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Pete Kimberley, Voltaire Network, 30 October 2015.

Thierry Meyssan

Thierry Meyssan French intellectual, founder and chairman of Voltaire Network and the Axis for Peace Conference. His columns specializing in international relations feature in daily newspapers and weekly magazines in Arabic, Spanish and Russian. His last two books published in English : 9/11 the Big Lie and Pentagate.

Turkey and Qatar Checked By Russia, Continue To Sponsor Islamist Terrorists

Turkey and Qatar: Close Allies, Sharing a Doomed Syria Policy

the national interest

The two strongest powers fighting against Assad are unlikely to succeed on this path, despite resources and collaboration.

In recent years, Turkey and Qatar have found much common ground on a host of foreign policy issues. Both Ankara and Doha have sponsored a variety of Sunni Islamist groups, seen as conduits for their geopolitical influence in the fluid Middle East. However, both countries have experienced setbacks from their engagement in some of the region’s conflicts, most notably in Syria.

Last month, the Turkish and Qatari representatives left the Vienna talks on Syria maintaining their conviction that Bashar al-Assad must relinquish power as a precondition for peace. Although Turkey’s shared border with Syria and Qatar’s deep pockets provide the two nations much potential to prolong insurgencies against the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies, it appears unrealistic to imagine Ankara and Doha achieving their objective of toppling the Syrian regime through their current strategies, especially in light of Russia’s military intervention in the country.

Throughout the 2000s, both Turkey and Qatar pursued efforts to expand strategic clout at a time when Washington’s relative power was declining in the aftermath of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Since taking power in 2002, the AK Party’s leader ramped up Turkey’s role and image on the Arab street through the ideological lure of the party’s brand of “democratic Islamism,” as well as through trade and investment opportunities that the Turks offered the Arabs.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s anti-Israel rhetoric in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead (2008–2009) and the Mavi Marmara incident of May 2010 improved the Turkish leader’s popularity in the region in the years leading up to the Arab Awakening. Similarly, Qatar relied on its ownership of Al Jazeera and its reputation as a “fair broker” in regional conflicts to enhance the nation’s own soft-power influence far beyond the Gulf. Indeed, Al Jazeera’s coverage of the U.S.-led war against Iraq in 2003, its focus on the Palestinians’ plight and its role as a platform for Arab regime critics to voice their opinions sat well with many Arabs, whose previous media selections were heavily censored and slanted in favor of the ruling regimes.

However, the Syrian crisis and 2011’s other Arab uprisings and “revolutions” elicited reactions from Turkey and Qatar that severely damaged their reputations. By sponsoring Sunni Islamist causes in Egypt, Gaza, Libya, Syria and Tunisia, Ankara and Doha came under harsh condemnation from other powers in the region. Many quickly accused Turkey and Qatar of stoking sectarian unrest and promoting extremism.

In Egypt, both states opposed the rise of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in July 2013. In Libya, Ankara and Doha both supported the Islamist-dominated “Libya Dawn Coalition”. Both Turkey and Qatar prevented Hamas from becoming internationally isolated through their shared support for the Palestinian group, which the U.S. State Department and EU designate a “terrorist organization”. Qatar’s willingness to break political ranks with its fellow Arab states was underscored in August, when Doha strongly distanced itself from an Arab League resolution condemning Turkey’s bombing of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) targets in northern Iraq. Qatar expressed its “full solidarity” with Turkey as it seeks “to protect its borders and preservation of its security and stability.”

Yet it is in Syria where both countries have invested the most in their common cause. Despite their efforts to topple Assad, the regime’s resilience has highlighted the limitations of Turkey and Qatar’s means to project power beyond their borders. In 2011, the Turks and Qataris bet on Assad following the fate of Mubarak, Ben Ali and Qaddafi, and sought to be on the “right side of history.” Their miscalculations about the regime’s future were rooted in a misread of domestic issues within Syria and the dynamics of the regional forces that would ultimately come to have a profound impact on the course of events.

Unquestionably, the regime’s resilience is partially due to its brutality, but it is imperative to note that Assad has a wide network of support in Syria from groups who share common fears of the takfiris’ agenda. Given that the two most powerful factions fighting the Syrian regime are ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra—both takfiri groups—many Syrians see the secular Ba’athist regime as the only realistic bulwark against Islamist extremism in Syria. Many analysts have largely attributed the strength of hardline jihadist forces not only in Syria, but also in Libya, to Ankara and Doha’s sponsorship of Islamist networks across the region, associating Turkey and Qatar’s influence with sectarianism and extremism.

Ankara and Doha also underestimated the extent to which Assad’s foreign backers would come to his side. Indeed, Ankara and Doha’s roles in the conflict have been dwarfed by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah’s military intervention against the regime’s enemies. Despite the efforts of Ankara and Doha to topple Assad, the SAA remains by the far most powerful force on the ground and the regime is not about to disappear. Syria’s most important strategic ally in the Middle East is Iran, which has a played a pivotal role as a military, political and economic supporter of the Assad regime throughout this conflict. That Washington and Moscow invited Tehran to join last month’s Vienna talks on Syria marked a reversal in U.S. foreign policy, given that Washington previously refused to talk directly to Iranian officials about the Syrian crisis. In the larger picture, Iran’s participation in the talks underscored not only Tehran’s important role in the Syrian conflict but that yet another ally of Assad was brought to the negotiating table.

It is important to note that despite the ideological dimensions of Turkey and Qatar’s role as sponsors of the anti-Assad rebellion, the geopolitics of natural gas have factored into Ankara and Doha’s alignment vis-à-vis Syria. In 2009, Assad rejected a Qatari offer to run a pipeline from the Gulf emirate’s North Field (which is contiguous with the South Pars field, owned by Iran) to Turkey and beyond via Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria. As a strategic ally of Moscow, Damascus’ refusal to sign the Qatari proposal was said to be driven in part by Syria’s interest in protecting Russia’s position as the EU’s number top natural gas supplier (which has tended to be overlooked as a factor in the analyses of Russia’s role in the Syrian crisis).

To the ire of officials in Doha, in 2010 Assad began negotiations for the alternative $10 billion “Islamic pipeline” with Tehran, with the objective of transiting natural gas to Syria’s Mediterranean coast via Iran and Iraq. Sixteen months after the Syrian crisis erupted, Assad signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Iran. Syria has often been written off from a geostrategic perspective because it does not have much oil and gas compared to other Middle Eastern states. However, the country’s potential as a regional energy corridor has itself been a significant factor influencing the ongoing Syrian conflict—one that has received little attention in Western reporting about the conflict.

Turkey, Qatar and the Sunni Arab World:

Since Saudi Arabia’s King Salman inherited the throne in January, Riyadh has softened its opposition to Sunni Islamist groups. In contrast to his predecessor, King Abdullah, who aggressively countered these groups both domestically and regionally, King Salman has sought to pursue a strategy of uniting the Sunni world against Iranian influence in the region, which he views as a graver threat than grassroots Sunni Islamist movements which represent social justice causes and embrace democratic institutions. In practice, this has entailed deeper collaboration with Turkey and Qatar in Syria, as well as diplomatic overtures to Muslim Brotherhood branches in Egypt, Gaza and Yemen.

The territorial defeats that the SAA endured earlier this year are believed to be largely attributable to Riyadh, Ankara and Doha’s stepped-up support for the “Army of Conquest” (a coalition of militias dominated by Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham fighters). By pursuing deeper cooperation with Turkey and Qatar in Syria, Saudi Arabia has created a degree of tension with its two strategic allies: the UAE and Egypt, which both staunchly oppose nearly all forms of political Islam in the region. Although Egypt, Jordan and the UAE have not openly sided with Assad, their reactions to Moscow’s military campaign in Syria are indicative of their view of Russia as an important player in the regional struggle against terrorism, as well as the greater Middle East’s shifting geopolitical order, despite their Sunni Arab identities and alliances with Washington.

Although the full implications of Moscow’s strikes against Assad’s enemies in Syria have yet to be realized, Russia’s military campaign has enabled the SAA to reconquer territory in the provinces of Homs, Hama and Aleppo. As Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar remain committed to their position that any transition in Syria cannot include Assad, and all three governments have condemned Moscow’s backing of the Assad regime, it remains to be seen what Riyadh, Ankara and Doha may do to change facts on the ground in Syria.

Last year Ankara and Doha signed an agreement permitting the joint deployment of troops in either country. The return of Turkish troops to the Gulf emirate 100 years after Ottoman forces withdrew from modern-day Qatar is a symbolic development. It is a huge leap, however, to imagine that the next logical step in their evolving military cooperation is a joint force in Syria. In fact, last month Qatar’s Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiyah ruled out the possibility of deploying Qatari forces to Syria, instead vowing to continue financially sponsoring groups fighting the Ba’athist regime. Similarly, with Riyadh bogged down in Yemen, it is hard to imagine that Saudi Arabia will be committing ground forces to Syria.

Conclusion:

On the surface, Turkish and Qatari officials have gone to great lengths to express support for the other. In December the Emir of Qatar visited the presidential palace in Ankara. Speaking next to the Qatari monarch, Erdoğan asserted that “together with Qatar, we [the Turks] always side with oppressed people around the world.”

It is worth asking, however, if shared geopolitical interests in Arab civil wars and a common ideology are enough to serve as the basis for a long-term strategic alliance between Turkey and Qatar. Analysts have questioned the extent to which such a development is even possible, given that the two nations lack substantial economic ties. In fact, aside from Bahrain, Qatar is Turkey’s smallest trade partner in the Gulf Cooperation Council. Last year, Turkey and the UAE’s bilateral trade volume was ten times greater than Turkey and Qatar’s total trade.

In spite of this, both nations appear determined to strengthen their military ties, seeing more upside potential. Turkey and Qatar’s common cause on the battlefields of Syria and elsewhere have brought Ankara and Doha closer than ever. On paper, at least, Doha and Ankara have the potential to contribute to Syria’s outcome, given that Turkey has a powerful military and a lengthy border with Syria, while Qatar has the deep pockets to sponsor the training and arming of rebel groups.

In practice, however, Turkey and Qatar’s strategy of regime change in Syria has obviously failed, while the two governments’ support for Assad’s Islamist enemies has also complicated their ties with their own strategic allies, trade partners and neighbors. Despite these costs and recent developments resulting from Moscow and Tehran’s deepening military involvement in Syria, Turkey and Qatar remain firmly committed to their political objective of toppling Assad.

Last month in Vienna, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu reiterated Ankara’s position that “peace is not possible with Bashar al-Assad,” and his Qatari counterpart emphasized Doha’s continued commitment to financially supporting Syrians who seek to “liberate their country”. Given their common stakes, we should expect Ankara and Doha to continue devoting resources to their growing political relationship. However, it is doubtful that their combined efforts will have any kind of meaningful effect on the ground in Syria. Russia and Iran’s stepped-up military role in Syria comes at the expense of Ankara and Doha’s relevance in the conflict.

It would serve the Turks and Qataris well to swallow their pride, reconsider their strategy for Syria and adopt a more realistic approach to a jointly executed foreign policy. Rather than devoting such substantial resources to arming jihadist militias in Syria, the region could benefit a great deal from Ankara and Doha channeling their resources toward humanitarian efforts aimed at meeting the basic needs of the conflict’s innocent victims, while working with the international community to pursue a diplomatic settlement to the conflict and enhancing their own soft power in the process.

Giorgio Cafiero is the Co-Founder of Gulf State Analytics. Daniel Wagner is the CEO of Country Risk Solutions.

Image: Wikimedia Commons/Christiaan Triebert

Brit Foreign Sec. Hammond Wants Investigation of Saudi Use of British Arms In Yemen and Elsewhere

Philip Hammond urges probe into Saudi Arabia arms exports

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There must be “proper investigations” that arms sold to Saudi Arabia have not been used in breach of international law in Yemen, Philip Hammond said.

Philip Hammond said exported British arms were being deployed by the Saudis in Yemen (AP)

  • There must be “proper investigations” that arms sold to Saudi Arabia have not been used in breach of international law in Yemen, Philip Hammond said.

    The Foreign Secretary said reassurances by Riyadh were not sufficient alone to prevent the possible suspension of future exports if it was shown the terms of the licences had been defied.

    Amnesty International has called for a suspension of all sales of weaponry to the Gulf State because of a mounting civilian death toll in a Saudi-led coalition’s assault against Iran-backed Houthi rebels who overthrew Yemen’s government.

    It says the UK could be “party to terrible war crimes”.

    Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has singled out the use of UK weapons in the Yemen campaign as a consequence of “fawning and uncritical support to regimes … who abuse their own citizens and repress democratic rights”.

    Mr Hammond confirmed that exported British arms were being deployed by the Saudis but said that could be legitimate.

    “Those weapons, some of them, are being used in Yemen. The important thing is that they are being used legally in an international armed conflict,” he told BBC2’s Newsnight.

    “There have been accusations of breaches of international humanitarian law. We regularly intervene with the Saudis to encourage them to be transparent with us.

    “I was in Saudi Arabia a couple of weeks ago and we discussed precisely this issue. The Saudis deny that there have been any breaches of international humanitarian law.

    “Obviously that denial alone is not enough; we need to see proper investigations and we need to work with the Saudis to establish that international humanitarian law has been complied with.

    “We have an export licensing system that responds if we find that it is not. We will then find that we cannot license additional shipments of weapons.”

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