Obama once said Assad had to go. Now can they work together to defeat a common enemy? Does Assad even want to stamp out the Islamic State? (Pt. 2 of 3)
An alliance between U.S. forces and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to eliminate Islamic militants would play right into the hands of the brutal authoritarian leader, experts say.
Reports indicate that Assad helped facilitate the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), the jihadist group that now controls large swaths of Iraq and Syria and recently beheaded American journalist James Foley.
The International Business Times reported over the weekend that U.S. intelligence agencies have provided Assad’s forces with information—using the German intelligence service as an intermediary—that would help them target ISIL leaders in airstrikes. Agence France Presse (AFP) then reportedon Tuesday that the United States was offering intelligence to Syria through Iraqi and Russian agents.
Foreign drones conducted surveillance over eastern Syria on Monday, according to a Syrian human rights group, while Syrian warplanes targeted ISIL in the same region on Tuesday.
Both White House and State Department officials have vigorously denied the reports.
“As a matter of U.S. policy, we have not recognized” Assad as the leader of Syria, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One. “There are no plans to change that policy and there are no plans to coordinate with the Assad regime.”
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf also tweeted: “Claim in this story that US is sharing intel with the Assad regime is false.”
While U.S. officials publicly deny that they are partnering with Assad against ISIL, some foreign policy experts are pushing the Obama administration to do so. The terrorist group has attracted thousands of foreign fighters who could return to Europe or the United States and launch attacks, U.S. intelligence officials say.
Other experts warn that allying with Assad would preserve his grip on power despite the administration’s long-stated goal of urging him to step down.
Frederic Hof, a resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and former adviser on Syria for the Obama administration, wrote recently that Assad appears to have formed a tacit alliance with ISIL to defeat more moderate rebels also battling his government.
“By reportedly conducting airstrikes on ISIS positions in eastern Syria, the Assad regime is begging for readmission to polite society by attacking the very forces whose existence it has facilitated over the years,” Hof said. “Yet it is doing so in a selective way that preserves its de facto collaboration with ISIS in western Syria against the nationalist Syrian opposition.”
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels say their opposition movement is now on the verge of collapseas both Assad’s forces and ISIL militants converge on one of their last strongholds in the northwestern city of Aleppo.
That appears to have been Assad’s strategy all along, according to a recent report by the Wall Street Journal.
Syrian intelligence assisted militants in al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)—the precursor to ISIL—with travel across the Syrian border into Iraq as long as they pledged to only attack U.S. troops during the Iraq War, according to the Journal. Assad’s regime also released several high-level terrorist detainees in May 2011 that would later lead to jihadist groups, including ISIL.
Additionally, ISIL sold crude to Assad’s government as militants seized oil-rich provinces in northern and eastern Syria, according to a January report in the New York Times. Both Syrian forces and ISIL have also cooperated in the fight against nationalist rebels in Aleppo.
“When the Syrian army is not fighting the Islamic State, this makes the group stronger,” Izzat Shahbandar, a former Iraqi lawmaker and ally of Assad who met with him in Damascus, told the Journal. “And sometimes, the army gives them a safe path to allow the Islamic State to attack the FSA and seize their weapons.”
“It’s a strategy to eliminate the FSA and have the two main players face each other in Syria: Assad and the Islamic State,” Shahbandar added. “And now [Damascus] is asking the world to help, and the world can’t say no.”
read more at Washington Free Beacon
- Allying with Assad to Stop ISIS is 7 Different Kinds of Stupid (frontpagemag.com)
Experts: Alliance with Syria’s Assad an “Ambush” for U.S. (washingtonfreebeacon.com)
By Bill Gertz:
Syrian and Iraqi terrorist forces obtained significant numbers of tanks, trucks, and U.S.-origin Humvees in recent military operations in Iraq and those arms are being shipped to al Qaeda rebels in Syria, according to U.S. officials.
U.S. intelligence agencies reported this week that photos of the equipment transfers were posted online by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as ISIS, the ultra-violent terror group that broke away from al Qaeda but shares its goals and philosophy.
Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Bill Speaks confirmed the weapons transfers and expressed concerns about the captured arms.
“We’re aware of reports of some equipment—namely Humvees—and the pictures that have been posted online,” Speaks said in an email. “We are certainly concerned about these reports and are consulting with the Iraqi government to obtain solid confirmation on what assets may have fallen into ISIL’s hands.”
Speaks added that the loss of the equipment to the terrorist group is “really a matter for the Iraqi government to speak to publicly” because “it is their equipment.”
Exact numbers of captured arms and equipment are not known. The insurgents raided all the arms depots and vehicles belonging to Iraq’s Second Division, based in Mosul, which included a motorized brigade and several infantry brigades.
A defense official warned that ISIL claims that they have captured advanced weaponry, such as Blackhawk helicopters, are suspect.
“We do know that they made false claims last week, particularly with Blackhawk helicopters, which have never been sold to Iraq,” the official said.
The seized weapons are said to include Russian-made T-55 tanks and one report said U.S. M-1 Abrams tanks were taken. Numerous Humvees were shown on flatbed trucks being transported from the Nineveh province, in northwestern Iraq, to ISIL-controlled areas of Syria, including the Al Shadadi area and the town of Tall Hamis.
The ISIL notified people in the region where the tanks were seen to be alert for possible U.S. airstrikes, presumably against the captured weaponry.
One online posting by ISIL fighters showed a captured Iraqi T-55 tank reportedly in Deir ez-Zor, Syria.
Other online photos of captured Iraqi military equipment showed towed artillery, trucks, and troop transports being transferred to Syria from Iraq.
The weaponry is expected to provide ISIL with a major advantage over other rebel groups in Syria in their civil war with the forces of the Bashar al Assad regime in Damascus, as well as against other rival rebel groups, including the official al Qaeda affiliate, Al Nusra Front.
In a statement posted through its Twitter account, ISIL on June 12 provided a “field report” with photos of its capture of Iraqi weapons and conquests of Iraqi military outposts.
The weapons were taken from military bases on the border with Syria and moved to areas in Syria controlled by ISIL that the group is calling its “caliphate.”
One photo carried a caption in Arabic that read “Transferring the spoils to the Islamic State’s headquarters in Wilayah [territory under the Islamic caliphate] Al-Barakah” in the Al Hasakah province in northeastern Syria.
A U.S. official familiar with intelligence assessment of the ongoing conflict in Iraq said the ISIL has seized key cities, including Mosul and Tikrit, but is not expected to attempt a further drive to the capital of Baghdad, which is more heavily defended.
Read more at Free Beacon
Published June 17, 2014 by Right Sightings:
On the road to Baghdad, ISIS had commandeered a vast array of weapons that now must be added to the list of deep concerns for those attempting to defend the city. Jessie Jane Duff, Gunnery Sergeant USMC (Ret.) joins FNC’s Harris Faulkner to define what the defenders must contend against in the days ahead.
The single most important fact to understand about Hizballah is that its chain of command goes directly to the Iranian Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, by way of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Qods Force. That Iranian connection, as well as Hizballah’s close and long-standing relationship with al-Qa’eda, the global reach of this Shi’ite jihadist group, and above all, its extensive presence and criminal activities in the Western Hemisphere, including inside the United States, all merit a closer look. With U.S. national security directly in Hizballah’s cross-hairs, it’s more important than ever to understand what this group is, who leads it, what has motivated them along a bloody 30-year trail of terrorism, and what damage this group is capable of inflicting on American interests.
For even as Hizballah is an Islamic terror organization, an Iranian proxy for power projection, a Transnational Criminal Organization, and a Lebanese military, political, and social domestic entity, it is above all a direct threat to U.S. national security. After all, and despite a complete media blackout on the topic that prevails to this day, on Iranian orders and working together with al-Qa’eda, Hizballah participated in the worst strike ever against the American homeland: the attacks of 9/11. There is no threshold, ideological or otherwise, that Hizballah has not already crossed or would not cross again, given a direct order from Tehran.
Word out of London in late 2013 is that the U.S. is engaged in secret, indirect negotiations with Hizballah, with British diplomats acting as intermediaries. Those talks followed closely on the U.S. capitulation to Iran over its nuclear weapons program during November 2013 discussions in Geneva and reflect a White House policy of seeking to normalize relations with the regime designated by the Department of State as the number one global state sponsor of terror. Hizballah remains a designated terror organization on the Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) list. And while the story about the U.S.-Hizballah talks in London made the Israeli and U.K. media, not one major U.S. media outlet thought it significant to report that the U.S. administration is reaching out to mend relations with what many describe as the most dangerous Islamic terror organization in the world.
Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage called Hizballah the “A Team” and al-Qa’eda the “B Team.” Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said that Hizballah makes “al-Qa’eda look like a minor league team.” And former CIA Director George Tenet testified in 2003 that Hizballah was every bit al-Qa’eda’s “equal, if not a far more capable organization.”
And yet, since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the biggest share of counterterrorism bandwidth among national security agencies and the media alike has been devoted to al-Qa’eda “and its affiliates,” as they’re often called. Current internecine civil war in Syria aside, for many years Hizballah happens to have been one of those affiliates, but many would never know that from either the media coverage or official government attention paid to this Shi’ite jihadist group that works mostly for the Iranian mullahs. So, when it’s discussed at all, as on each year’s remembrance of the October 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, Hizballah continues to be thought of primarily as a Lebanese terror outfit. However, as Tony Badran pointed out in an important historical look back in his November 25, 2013 Weekly Standard essay, “The Secret History of Hezbollah,” a critical Iranian connection has been there from the beginning.
Media coverage of the Syrian civil war that broke out in 2011 often cites Hizballah as somehow mixed up in supporting the Ba’athist regime of Bashar al-Assad against a conglomeration of al-Qa’eda- and Muslim Brotherhood-dominated militias. But what that coverage often ignores is that Hizballah’s contribution of thousands of fighters to the survival of the Assad regime is not necessarily in the best interests (or any interests) of Hizballah’s supposed home team, the Lebanese Shi’ites. The reason Hizballah fights on, even after its Syrian adventures have drawn probable Sunni al-Qa’eda retaliation deep into the very heart of its Beirut stronghold in the Dahiyeh, is because Iran wants it to.
Read more: Family Security Matters
by IPT News • Dec 27, 2013 at 12:05 pm
Many Lebanese officials aren’t buying Hizballah’s denial that it is responsible for Friday’s car-bombing that killed Mohammad Chatah, the country’s former finance minister and ambassador to the United States.
The bombing, which killed at least five others and wounded dozens, took place near the site of the 2005 bombing that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. A United Nations Special Tribunal charged five Hizballah officials in that attack. They are scheduled to be tried in absentia Jan. 16.
Chatah, once a close aide to Hariri, reportedly was en route to a meeting with the anti-Hizballah March 14 coalition at Hariri’s son’s house when the bombing took place. Chatah was a strong critic of both Hizballah and Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Less than an hour before the bombing, Chatah criticized Hizballah in a Twitter posting. The Shiite terrorist group, which is underwritten by Iran, “is pressing hard to be granted similar powers in security & foreign policy matters that Syria exercised in Lebanon for 15 yrs,” Chatah wrote.
Hizballah issued a statement calling the attack “heinous” and something that “only benefits the enemies of Lebanon.” But that hasn’t proved very persuasive.
“Those who assassinated Mohammad Chatah are the ones who assassinated Rafik Hariri; they are the ones who want to assassinate Lebanon,” Saad Hariri said in a statement Friday.
“The suspects are those who are running away from international justice and refuse to appear in the Special Tribunal for Lebanon; they are the ones opening the window of evil and chaos to Lebanon and the Lebanese and are drawing regional fires,” Hariri said.
Hizballah fighters have played a key role in helping Assad fend off a rebel uprising. That, in turn, has sparked retaliatory strikes against Hizballah targets in neighboring Lebanon, increasing sectarian tensions between Sunni and Shia Muslims. Last month, 25 people were killed in a double suicide bombing at the Iranian embassy in Lebanon.
The al-Qaida linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed credit for that attack, calling on Iran to withdraw its forces from Syria. But the Christian Science Monitor reports that Friday’s bombing “appeared more in line with a wave of assassinations of anti-Syrian political figures” dating back to Rafik Hariri’s 2005 murder than as part of the new cycle of violence over Syria.
American Islamist groups and their supporters have hailed Hizballah as a “resistance group” when its violence struck Israeli and Jewish targets throughout the world. While many sympathize with the Syrian opposition, criticism of Iran and Hizballah remains muted.
The recent Arab revolts in the Middle East and the concomitant “Islamic Awakening” have not merely shaken up the order of an already violent and unstable region. They have reanimated the bloodiest and longest-running dispute in Muslim politics: which branch of Islam, Sunni or Shia, is to rule the Muslim polity. This rivalry dates back some 1,300 years to the death of Muhammad, and while it has occasionally been set aside for reasons of expedience, it has never been resolved. The continuing conflagrations following the mislabeled Arab Spring, increasingly shaped by this ancient Sunni–Shia tension, are set to rage on indefinitely. Affairs in the Middle East are accelerating back to the old normal: a state of hot holy war.
The seemingly internal conflict in Syria has become the war’s central front. Sunni and Shia alike have been drawn into the conflict as the Syrian tragedy has unfolded. Inspired by the revolts in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt, in March 2011 Syrians—a predominantly Sunni population—mounted initially peaceful protests against the rule of the Shia-offshoot Alawite regime headed by Bashar al-Assad. Secure in his support from the extremist Iranian regime, Assad responded with great brutality. His opponents responded in kind, fueled by money and arms from their Sunni patrons in the Gulf Arab states and by Sunni Islamists from both the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda. They fear what they have taken to calling, with alarm, the “Shia crescent.” The term connotes a swath of Iranian Shiite influence across the Arab world and, via Syria, to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Syria functions as Iran’s direct operational link to its terrorist arm Hezbollah and to the Shiite plurality in Lebanon. It borders Iraq, whose Shiite majority may be radicalized, and Turkey, whose Sunni leadership can be monitored and checked.
As the Syrian revolt proceeded, sectarian elements came to the fore. The momentum frequently shifted back and forth between the Iranian-backed Assad and the Sunni rebels. But this past spring, when Assad’s fortunes waned, Iran doubled down. It arranged for Shiite Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite “volunteers” to join the fray directly and massively, tipping the battle for Syria into Shiite hands. Iran is now winning what one Iranian officer has described as “an epic battle for Shiite Islam.”
As this has gone on, the willful retraction of American influence in the region has fanned both Iranian ambitions and Sunni fears. The Middle East is well versed in the posturings and weaknesses of foreign sovereigns. In Shiite and Sunni eyes alike, President Barack Obama’s proposed deals relating to Syrian chemical weapons and Iran’s nuclear program translate into large gains for radical Shiism.
It is tempting, naturally, for Americans to stay out of a fight between two holy armies who oppose the United States and its allies. To put it very mildly, neither radical Shiite nor radical Sunni groups share our values or serve our interests. Still, as a practical matter, this does not mean that one of our enemies is not a more potent threat than the other. Of all the distasteful regimes in the region, only Iran’s has defined itself from its foundation as our mortal enemy and acted accordingly ever since. Moreover, Iran’s capacity to pursue hostile action toward America is currently growing. Thus, Iran presents the more serious threat to our well-being. If it emerges the victor in the fight for the future of political Islam and regional dominance, American interests will probably be endangered to an extent not seen since the Cold War. This is especially true if an Iranian victory is coupled with the regime’s attainment of a nuclear weapon. Not only will America’s ally Israel be under constant threat of annihilation, but American influence in the Middle East will be made hostage to credible Iranian policy blackmail. And yet, given the current status of the Sunni–Shia conflict, this is where we’re headed. “Iran grows more powerful day by day,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently gloated. It’s hard to disagree.
There are several reasons for thinking that radical Shiism, as manifested in the Iranian regime, might continue to dominate and ultimately win this holy war. First, the Shiite camp enjoys the advantage of the more-or-less unitary leadership of Iran. Perhaps in time internal Iranian opposition could challenge the regime in Tehran, but for now the ayatollahs seem to have stifled any such efforts. Outside Iran, some Shiite clerics in Iraq reject the Khomeinist doctrine of the “Rule of the Jurisprudent,” but this “quietist” school of Shiism is not interested in governing its Persian neighbors and, in any case, is frequently undermined by other clerics working in Iraq on Iran’s behalf. So the concentrated center of Shiite power remains in Iran and is, moreover, strengthened by the support of outside non-Muslim powers—principally Russia and China.
By contrast, the Sunni camp is profoundly divided, and therefore weak. This weakness is manifest in the split among the Sunni Islamist forces fighting Assad in Syria. The result is increasingly frequent military fights between sides, to say nothing of the ongoing fights with more secular Sunni militias.
Beyond Syria, things are scarcely more cohesive for Sunnis. The Sunni nations of Arabia and the Gulf lack the size and reach of Iran. They have provided money and arms to the Sunni rebels fighting Assad, but as they themselves support different Islamist groups inside Syria, they’ve also contributed to the infighting. What’s more, the broader conflicts among these countries have derailed joint efforts.
The unsettled condition of Sunni-majority Egypt, the world’s largest Arab country, has had a demoralizing and divisive effect as well. While ousted Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi had suggested that Egypt might provide greater support for the Syrian opposition, that proposal proved so unpopular it might very well have been a contributing factor in his removal by the Egyptian military. The new regime has made clear that it wants no part of the Syrian civil war.
Read more at Commentary Magazine
Iraqi Shiite Militia Leader Watheq Al-Battat: I Would Support Iran in a War against Iraq
by ALAN KORNMAN:
Vladimir Putin is projecting Russian power across the world stage exactly as the former KGB operative was trained to do. The Cold War never ended, just the tactics and technology have changed as we roll into 2014 and beyond.
The United States military led by President Ronald Reagan won round 1 of the U.S. / Russian cold war. Today, Communist Russian President Vladimir Putin has recently had six significant victories every American must be aware of.
This is the sad story of the KGB Operative chess player versus our ill equipped community organizer — and the chickens are coming home to roost.
Communist Russia’s Objective
The Russians are expanding their presence in the high seas and upgrading their naval nuclear capabilities with the objective of controlling naval bases outside of their shorelines. Russia currently has naval bases in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopal in the Black Sea. According to Russia Today, June 26, 2013, the Syrian port of Tartus in the Mediterranean Sea is still an active Russian naval facility. There are recent intelligence reports the Russians have vacated the Port of Tartus but is by no means a permanent situation.
“The future overseas naval bases, like the one is Sevastopal, are not being referred to as “naval bases” by Russian officials, but by other terms. Moscow is calling them “supply points” or “bases for naval logistics” to make them sound far less threatening. The nomenclature does not really matter. The functions of these naval facilities, however, are for Putin’s strategic military purposes.
Vladimir Putin is shifting the Russian naval fleet into a nuclear capable offensive attack force which should be fully operational by 2020. The commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces of the Russian Federation, Colonel-General Karakayev, said that Russia’s inter-continental ballistic missiles would become “invisible” in the near future. ‘Invisible’ means submarines with nuclear warhead delivery capabilities.
Russian President Putin’s Victories
President Obama made a historical tactical error ordering the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in favor of the International terrorist group, The Muslim Brotherhood, and its leader Mohammad Morsi as ordered by Hillary Clinton.
On October 6, 1981, Gamaa al-Islamiyya, a franchise of The Muslim Brotherhood, assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Hosni Mubarak, a declared and proven friend of America went after The Muslim Brotherhood terrorists with an iron fist.
President Obama backed the same Muslim Brotherhood terrorists who murdered Anwar Sadat back in 1981. Putin has not forgotten that Anwar Sadat was the Egyptian leader who canceled the Soviet’s Navy right to use Egyptian ports over 50 years ago in favor of the USA.
As a result of President Obama’s foreign policy blunders in Egypt, the Russian Navy will likely again have a ‘supply station’ in Egypt’s warm water ports. The current Egyptian government is very public against President Obama and running to the side of Vladimir Putin.
The President of Syria, Bashar Assad, had been an important partner of the United States for decades. President Obama’s sparked a Sunni / Shia Muslim civil war and publicly called for Bashar Assad to step down or face the consequences if he overstepped his famous red line.
Bashar Assad dismissed Mr. Obama’s empty threats and chose to fight Al-Qaeda, Ansar al-Shariah, and the Muslim Brotherhood rebels who had Obama’s support.
President Obama laid down the red line saying American forces will attack Assad if he used chemical weapons. Chemical weapons were used, Mr. Obama starts the countdown to attack and embroiling the US into another Middle East Conflict. President Obama put himself into a position where his words of war caught up with him and he desperately needed a way out and not have to bomb Damascus.
In comes KGB statecraft expert Vladimir Putin to save our community organizer President Obama at his weakest moment. Putin packaged a deal to defuse the situation and broker a chemical weapon free zone deal between the United States and Syria. Mr. Obama hands Putin a unprecedented public relations victory as peacemaker. Putin’s regional influence grows as President Obama again shames America with another failure of world diplomacy that may well take decades to recover from, if ever.
The view from 30,000 feet is that Putin established Russia’s foreign policy influence on the world stage for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union. President Obama has woken up a hungry Russian sleeping bear that is feeding on his failures and missteps. Analysts have described this situation as Vladimir Putin playing chess while Mr. Obama plays checkers.
Read more: Family Security Matters
IPT, by John Rossomando:
The killing of a top Free Syrian Army (FSA) commander over the weekend by al-Qaida linked jihadists underscores the declining fortunes of the Western-backed faction.
Jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) executed FSA Secretary General Ammar al-Wawi after he entered Syria from Turkey. Al-Wawi had been an intelligence officer with the Syrian army and an important liaison between the FSA and the Western press.
Al-Wawi’s execution follows the seizure of warehouses containing non-lethal aid from the West by forces loyal to the newly-formed Islamic Front last week. The Front is a coalition of seven Islamist militias, many of which have al-Qaida ties. Its fighters also seized the headquarters of FSA Chief of Staff Salim Idris in northern Syria. Idris fled to Qatar as a result.
The seizure led the United States and the United Kingdom to cutoff the non-lethal aid it had promised to the FSA.
At least two of the Islamic Front’s leaders were members of the FSA’s military council while simultaneously fighting alongside Jabhat al-Nusra, Syria’s other al-Qaida linked faction. The rise of the jihadists has already prompted some FSA commanders to defect and join them.
Saddam al-Jamal, the FSA’s top commander for the eastern region of Syria, announced his defection to the ISIL on Dec. 1. Jihadists previously tried assassinating him in late September. He charged in his defection video that the FSA was controlled by foreign intelligence agencies such as those of the Saudis, Qataris, French, Americans and British.
These developments have taken a toll on Idris’s credibility with the Syrian National Council, which nominally oversees the FSA.
“Salim Idris has failed to make an institution,” Asa’ad Mustafa, the SNC’s defense minister told The Telegraph. “I don’t think everything can continue in the same way.”
Jabhat al-Nusra and the ISIL have been gaining strength as a direct result of this and other defections from the FSA, which renamed itself the Syrian Rebel Front (SRF) last week.
A September study by IHS Jane’s found that nearly half of the 100,000 rebel fighters seeking to oust dictator Bashar al-Assad were either jihadists or hardline Islamists who have a similar worldview. An estimated 10,000 fighters belong to Jabhat al-Nusra, and another30-35,000 fighters belonged to hardline Islamist factions.
By contrast the Western-backed Free Syrian Army has an estimated 45,000 fighters under its command.
These events could have an effect on the planned Geneva II peace talks that are scheduled for next month because the jihadists have rejected peace talks and the FSA cum SRF’s credibility has been severely damaged.
Syrian rebel leader was bin Laden’s courier, now Zawahiri’s representative (longwarjournal.org)
by IPT News:
Saudi Arabia is believed to be making it easy for Sunni jihadists to make it to Syria to join the jihad against dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Nearly 1,000 Saudis have gone to Syria to fight with groups tied to al-Qaida, western officials say, “and they suspect that number will exponentially grow in the coming months,” Jamie Dettmer reported Monday for the Daily Beast. This is raising fears about a terrorist blowback similar to what happened after Saudis flocked to Afghanistan to fight the Soviet Union during the 1980s.
It also is ratcheting up the sectarian divisions driving much of the violence. Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah took the unusual step of naming Saudi Arabia as complicit in the Nov. 19 suicide bombing at the Iranian embassy in Beirut. The blast killed 25 people, including the Iranian cultural attache. Saudi Arabia’s intelligence services financed the attack, Nasrallah claimed in the Dec. 3 interview,Al-Monitor reports.
Iran blames Israel for the attack.
Saudi Arabia is reacting to Iran’s involvement in the Syrian civil war, especially the use of Hizballah – its terrorist proxy – to fight alongside Assad’s forces, Al-Monitorreports. Hizballah fighters won back the strategic city Qusair in June after rebel forces had taken control. This was considered a turning point giving Assad’s forces the upper hand in the conflict.
Hizballah officials believe Saudi involvement goes as high as Prince Bandar bin Sultan and is driven by a desire to exact a price for Hizballah’s intervention in Syria. American officials say Saudi Arabia is looking the other way as an increasing number of jihadists and radical clerics make their way to Syria.
Prince Bandar tells American officials that he shares concerns about letting al-Qaida affiliates in Syria grow in strength, but Dettmer reports, Saudi arms and supplies easily wind up in the hands of the Al-Nusrah Front and other jihadists.
While the long-term threats remain to be seen, the maneuvers are seen as prolonging a conflict that already has claimed 120,000 lives.
by John Rossomando and Ravi Kumar:
A Syrian Sunni sheik who raised at least $3.6 million during a U.S. fundraising tour last April has blessed a new coalition of Syrian jihadist groups aiming to replace the Assad regime with an Islamic state.
Sheik Osama al-Rifai, who raised the money for the Franklin, Mich.-based Syrian Sunrise Foundation, endorsed the creation of the Islamic Front in a Nov. 22 YouTube video. The front represents a merger of seven jihadist groups fighting Bashar al-Assad’s forces. Many of them have ties to al-Qaida.
“The unification of these great Islamist and jihadist groups is not a normal piece of news, but is a great event that brings the happiness and thrill to every Muslim, not only in Syria but in the whole Islamic world,” al-Rifai said in remarks translated by the Investigative Project on Terrorism. “I congratulate this brilliant news; I congratulate the brothers who formed it. I cannot say that we bless this group because it is they who should be blessed by them.”
Al-Rifai visited mosques and Islamic community centers in cities across America. He spoke at fundraising dinners on Sunrise Foundation’s behalf in Tampa, Miami, the Chicago area, Dallas, Crown Point, Ind., Los Angeles, a Detroit suburb called Novi and Meadowlands, N.J.
In Dallas, he said that anyone who works to raise awareness about what is happening in Syria was “a jihadist for Allah.”
“Those who are subjecting themselves to martyrdom for the sake of god and who defend themselves and their families, not only them who are performing the jihad, but every single Muslim, Arab, and Syrian who has sympathy toward what happens in Syria,” Al-Rifai said. “Every single one of you who give any kind of effort to help his brothers in Syria is a jihadist for Allah, every single one of you who spread the word to raise the awareness among the others about what’s happening in Syria is a jihadist for Allah.
“I would love to address my brothers who are in charge of the organizations here like Shaam Relief, and Syrian Sunrise Foundation, you must be very aware that you are too performing jihad just like your brothers in Syria.”
Calls seeking comment from the Investigative Project to the Syrian Sunrise Foundation and its President Ahmad Alabas were not returned.
The United States and United Kingdom suspended all non-lethal aid to rebels in northern Syria Wednesday, after the Islamic Front took over bases that had belonged to the western-backed Free Syrian Army. Officials fear the existing supplies could fall into the jihadists’ hands. That assistance could include items such as radios, body armor, transportation and night-vision goggles.
The Syrian Sunrise Foundation’s Facebook page states that al-Rifai helped raise $1.5 million in Tampa, $280,000 in Miami, $320,000 in Indiana, and $1.5 million in the Detroit area.
He spoke April 5 at the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, Ill. Two mosque leaders, Kifa Mustapha and Jamal Said, were implicated in a previous terror-support investigation. Said appears on a telephone list for the “Palestine Committee,” a Muslim Brotherhood umbrella group charged with supporting Hamas politically and financially. Mustapha was a paid fundraiser for one of the committee’s branches, raising more than $300,000 for the Holy Land Foundation. Five foundation officials were convicted in 2008 of providing material support for Hamas.
The Syrian Sunrise Foundation likely brought al-Rifai to the U.S. due to his reputation inside Syria as the head of a movement with a large charitable operation.
Its website says that it aims “to send aid to families, orphans, and widows affected by the conflict.” The group claims to have a “well-established humanitarian network of hundreds of workers” and denies having any sort of “any political, religious, or any other agenda.”
In June, al-Rifai participated in a conference in Cairo in June that supported overthrowing Assad.
The conference was also attended by radical Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi and former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. The conference closed with a statement by an Egyptian cleric, Sheikh Mohamed Hassan, saying, “We’re obliged to jihad in order to assist our brothers in Syria, with fighters, funding and arms.”
And al-Rifai made vicious anti-Semitic statements in a 2010 speech, blaming Jews as “absolute evil” for corrupting society.
Read more at IPT
- U.S. Suspends Nonlethal Aid to Syrian Rebels in North (nytimes.com)
- Britain and US suspend non-lethal aid to Syrian rebels (telegraph.co.uk)
- Recent Syrian Victories Bring Al-Qaeda One Step Closer to Goal (counterjihadreport.com)
- Islamic Front brigade launches joint raid with al Qaeda’s Syrian branches (longwarjournal.org)
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 4, 2013
The gunning down of Hajj Hassan Hollo al-Laqqis, a high-ranking Hizballah commander and close crony of Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, raised the stakes of the clandestine war running between Saudi Arabia and Iran, two weeks after two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the Iranian embassy in Beirut.
The Hizballah officer was killed by five shots to the head and throat in the underground parking lot of his home in the Hadath neighborhood southwest of Beirut, when he returned home from work after midnight Tuesday, Dec. 3. The Hizballah statement, which said: “Israel is automatically held responsible for the crime,” described al Laqqis as an elite member of the organization’s military wing who for many years served as its technology and arms chief.
A photo published by the Lebanese state news agency shows a man in his mid-40s in military clothing.
DEBKAfile’s counterterrorism sources report: It seems obvious that the al-Laqqis hit was timed to take place shortly after the Hizballah leader went on the air for an extraordinarily arrogant television interview, during which he made a point of sneering after every reference to the US, Saudi Arabia or Israel. He also appeared to glorify in the big power status conferred on the Islamic Republic (and himself) by the Obama administration after the signing of the Geneva nuclear accord.
Nasrallah praised that accord as signaling “the end of the US monopoly on power” and preventing war in the region. He said Israel couldn’t bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities without a green light from the US. But, he said, America is tired of war. The Saudi war against Iran, he said, has never stopped. He accused a “Saudi-backed group” of being behind the Iranian embassy bombing in Beirut.
The killing of a high-placed Nasrallah insider was intended to illustrate to Hizballah members and the rest of the region that the Hizballah leader’s outburst of hubris was hollow, that his own innermost command elite is deeply penetrated, and that whoever sent the assassins could at any time sow mayhem within the pro-Iranian organization’s ranks.
It also carried a wider message for Tehran and Gen. al-Soleimani: Your own Hizballah holds wide sway over Lebanon and its capital. If you can’t nonetheless keep the symbols of Iranian power in Lebanon and your proxy’s commanders safe, neither can you guarantee the security of Syrian president Bashar Assad in Damascus.
Accusing Israel of the deed and threatening revenge apparently made more sense to Hizballah that accusing Riyadh, which is out of its reach for punishment. Its leaders were even willing to allow people to deduce that Israeli intelligence had penetrated Hizballah’s top ranks and center of government in Beirut deeply enough to pick off its commanders.
There is little doubt in Tehran or Beirut that Riyadh’s hand was behind the slaying of the Hizballah commander, or that Saudi and Israeli intelligence agencies are working hand in hand against Tehran in Iran, Syria and Lebanon.
The “Joint Plan of Action” signed with Iran by the so-called P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.K., and the U.S.) on Nov. 24 in Geneva caused Shiite Arabs to celebrate, Sunni Arabs to worry, and Saudis to panic. The Saudi response will have far-reaching and unpredictable consequences.
Jubilant crowds welcomed the Iranian negotiator home from Geneva.
As Iran’s chief negotiator, Mohammad Javad Zarif, brought home a deal worth about US$23 billion to Iran, Arab Shiites fell into step with Tehran. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq expressed his “full support for this step.” President Bashar al-Assad of Syria welcomed the agreement as “the best path for securing peace and stability.” Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berriof Lebanon called it the “deal of the century.” And Hezbollah considered the agreement a “great victory for Iran.”
Syria’s Assad, here scratched out, praised the Geneva deal.
Among Sunni Arabic-speakers, in contrast, responses ranged from politely supportive to displeased to alarmed. Perhaps most enthusiastic was the Egyptian governmental newspaper Al-Ahram, which called the deal “historic.” Most states stayed mum. Saudis expressed the most worry. Yes, the government cabinet officially stated that “If there is goodwill, then this agreement could be an initial step toward reaching a comprehensive solution to Iran’s nuclear program,” but note the skepticism conveyed in the first four words.
If that was the mildest response, perhaps the most unbuttoned comment came from Alwaleed bin Talal, a Saudi prince who occasionally sends up trial balloons for the royal family: He called Iran “a huge threat” and noted that, historically speaking, “The Persian empire was always against the Muslim Arab empire, especially against the Sunnis. The threat is from Persia, not from Israel,” a ground-breaking and memorable public statement.
Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal on his airplane throne, sitting under the logo of his company.
Alwaleed then detailed how the Iranians are “in Bahrain, they are in Iraq, they are in Syria, they are with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas, which is Sunni, in Gaza.” As this listing suggests, Saudis are fixated on the danger of being surrounded by Iran’s agents and are more scared by the non-nuclear implications of the joint plan than the nuclear ones. Gregory Gause of the University of Vermont sees Saudis worrying that the accord opens the way “without any obstacles” for Iran to achieve regional dominance. (This contrasts with the Israeli and Western position, which focuses on the nuclear danger.)
Abdullah al-Askar, foreign affairs committee chairman of the kingdom’s appointed Shura Council, elaborates: he worries “about giving Iran more space or a freer hand in the region. The government of Iran, month after month, has proven that it has an ugly agenda in the region, and in this regard no one in the region will sleep and assume things are going smoothly. … The people of the region … know that Iran will interfere in the politics of many countries.”
Saudi media reiterated this line of analysis. Al-Watan, a government newspaper, warned that the Iran regime, “which sends its tentacles into other regional countries, or tries to do so by all means necessary,” will not be fettered by the accord. Another daily, Al-Sharq, editorialized about the fear that “Iran made concessions in the nuclear dossier in return for more freedom of action in the region.”
Some analysts, especially in the smaller Persian Gulf states, went further. Jaber Mohammad, a Bahraini analyst, predicted that “Iran and the West will now reach an accord on how to divide their influence in the Gulf.” The Qatari government-owned Al-Quds Al-Arabi worried about “a U.S.-Iran alliance with Russian backing.” Rumors of Obama wanting to visit Tehran only confirm these suspicions.
The Saudi ambassador in London, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz, drew the most overt public conclusion, threatening that “We are not going to sit idly by and receive a threat there and not think seriously how we can best defend our country and our region.” To put it mildly, this is not how Saudi diplomats normally speak about fellow Muslims.
What does this unwonted rhetoric amount to? Iranian bellicosity and the Obama administration’spro-Iran policies have combined to end many decades of Saudi strategic reliance on Washington and to begin thinking how to protect themselves. This matters, because as Alwaleed rightly boasts, his country is leader of the Arabs, enjoying the most international, regional, cultural, and religious clout. The results of this new-found assertiveness – fighting against fellow Islamists, allying tacitly with Israel, perhaps acquiring Pakistani-made nuclear weapons, and even reaching out to Tehran – marks yet another consequence of Barack Obama’s imploding foreign policy.
Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2013 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.
by Jonathan Spyer
The Jerusalem Post
November 30, 2013
A report by respected Washington-based journalist Hussein Abdul Hussein in the Kuwaiti Al-Rai newspaper this week revealed details of an indirect US channel with Hezbollah.
The report comes, of course, close on the heels of the interim agreement concluded in Geneva between the P5 + 1 world powers and Iran, allowing the latter to continue to enrich uranium.
News items are also surfacing suggesting a stark split between the US and Saudi Arabia over regional policy in general, and policy toward Syria in particular. Saudi officials are going on the record expressing their alarm at the direction of American policy.
Happily stirring the pot, some Iran-associated outlets have suggested that Washington is actively seeking to rein in Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who favors a hardline against Iranian interference in the region.
Meanwhile, agreement has now been reached over the long-postponed “Geneva 2″ conference, to discuss the war in Syria.
The conference will go ahead because US-backed Syrian opposition representatives abandoned their demand that President Bashar Assad could have no part in any transitional phase of government in the country.
What does all this add up to? There are an increasing number of voices which perceive a shape behind all these details: Namely, an effort by the current US administration to turn the Iranian regime from an adversary into a partner. The method: Acceding, in part or whole, to key Iranian demands.
Let’s take a look at each item in more detail.
The usually reliable Abdul Hussein’s report details the mechanism by which the US is speaking to Hezbollah, in spite of that organization being a US-designated terrorist group. British diplomats are the ones doing the talking.
The channel of communication between UK officials and the “political wing” of the movement was recently revived, in tune with the improving relations between London and Tehran.
It is now serving to transfer messages between Washington and Tehran.
An unnamed diplomatic source quoted by Abdul Hussein explained that this dialogue is “designed to keep pace with the changes in the region and the world, and the potential return of Iran to the international community.”
The official went on to explain that because the US does not concur with the (British, entirely fictitious) division of Hezbollah into “political” and “military” wings, direct dialogue is currently not possible.
The report goes on to outline moments in recent months when the US has found itself on the same page as Hezbollah. One of these, very notably, was the occasion in June when the Lebanese Army, together with Hezbollah fighters, fought against the partisans of the pro al-Qaida Salafi preacher Ahmad al-Assir in the Lebanese town of Sidon. The US backed the army, without reference to the key role played by Hezbollah fighters in the action, which resulted in al-Assir’s defeat.
The other was the US condemnation of the recent al-Qaida-linked bombing at the Iranian Embassy in Beirut. The condemnation, well-noted in Lebanon, did not contain any reference to the presence of Iranian and Hezbollah fighters in Syria.
The Abdul Hussein report also tells us the US “outreach” to Iran has not been on the nuclear file alone. Rather, even before any comprehensive agreement was reached, Washington appears to have begun to dismantle the carefully assembled diplomatic structure seeking to contain Iranian regional ambitions.
Even Tehran’s proxy Hezbollah, which killed 241 US Marines in Beirut in 1983, is evidently now a fit subject for communication, as part of Iran’s return to the international community.
Reports suggesting American efforts to contain Bandar are somewhat less reliable, coming as they do from pro-Iran and pro-Hezbollah media outlets (al-Manar and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards-associated Fars News Agency). But certainly, the deep Saudi frustrations with the direction of US policy are not an invention of pro-Iran propagandists.
Nawaf Obaid, a senior adviser to the Saudi royal family, this week accused Washington of deceiving Riyadh over the Iran nuclear deal. “We were lied to, things were hidden from us,” Obaid told an audience in London, as quoted in The Daily Telegraph. He went on to vow continued Saudi resistance to Iranian machinations across the region. In particular, he expressed Saudi determination to turn back the Iranians in Syria.
“We cannot accept Revolutionary Guards running around Homs,” the adviser said. But this defiant tone appears in stark contrast to the developing US position.
The Geneva 2 conference is now scheduled to take place on January 22. It is a US-sponsored affair. It is not yet clear if Iran itself will be there. But what is clear is that the conference will take place entirely according to the agenda of the Assad regime and its backers.
That is – the US-backed Syrian National Coalition will directly face the regime, while the regime now flatly rejects any notion of its stepping down.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, humming with the old Ba’athist rhetoric, the Syrian Foreign Ministry said, “The official Syrian delegation is not going to Geneva to surrender power… The age of colonialism, with the installation and toppling of governments, is over. They must wake from their dreams.”
The armed rebels will not be sending representatives to the conference.
They, financed and armed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have formed a new “Islamic Front” that is battling the regime around Damascus, in Aleppo and in the border region of Qalamoun this week. The military advantage continues to ebb and flow.
But the stark contrast between the US-led diplomacy and the events on the ground is another clear reminder of the extent to which Washington’s position has moved away from confrontation, away from Riyadh – and toward Tehran.
Assad has revived his fortunes in the course of 2013, mainly because of the massive Iranian assistance he has received. Washington, which officially backs the opposition, appears to be sponsoring a conference which will crown this achievement.
So is the US in fact changing sides in the contest between Iran and those regional forces seeking to contain and turn back its advance?
Michael Doran of the Brookings Institute suggested this week that Washington is in the first phase of seeking a “strategic partnership” with Iran, an “entente cordiale” which would see a US-Iranian alliance forming a lynchpin of regional stability.
If this is truly what the welter of evidence detailed above portends, then the Middle East is headed into a dangerous period indeed. As Doran also notes, there is no reason at all to think that Iranian designs for regional hegemony have been abandoned.
The effect of US overtures to Tehran and undermining of allies will be to build the Iranians’ appetite. This will serve to intensify their continued efforts at expansion.
The corresponding efforts by other regional powers, Israel and Saudi Arabia chief among them, to resist this process will also increase.
That, in turn, is likely to mean greater instability across the region – and an eventual direct collision could result.
Exclusive video showing British Muslims fighting in Syria alongside Al Qaeda jihadi militias. Head of MI5: This is reason for concern.
There is growing concern in the British intelligence agency, MI5, that radicalized citizens who have fought alongside Al Qaeda militias in Syria will return to Britain to carry out terror attacks.
Channel 4 prepared the following video report which examines the process of radicalization of these young Muslims, usually recruited through extremist websites and social media networks which glorify the idea of becoming a martyr, promising paradise to anyone dying fighting against Assad’s regime in Syria. Shiraz Maher, a senior fellow at the Int’l Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, shows the pictures used to entice the young men to join the Islamist militants.
via The Blaze: ‘WE WILL BLEED YOU TO DEATH’: BRITISH JIHADIS DESCRIBE THEIR AIMS FOR AMERICA AFTER SYRIA FIGHT
British men fighting alongside Al Qaeda-linked groups in Syria have said that after Syria, they aim to take the battle to the United States and Britain.
Vice News posted video with interviews of British men who traveled to the combat zone to pair up with the jihadi groups Jabhat al-Nusra (Nusra Front) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“I say to United States that your time will come and we will bleed you to death and, inshallah [Allah willing], will raise the flag in the White House,” a 26-year-old Briton told the Vice News interviewer.
“My feeling is great, hamdullallah (thank Allah), I’m happy I’m here. And I’m here to please Allah… and I’m not here to please anyone else but Allah,” he added, describing his aim as contributing to jihad on behalf of Muslims.
During the entire video, all of the men were masked, revealing only their eyes, and none provided their names.
A second British citizen blamed his government and prime minister for perpetrating “crimes” against Muslims. He tied his objectives with those of the killers of Lee Rigby, the British soldier who was hacked to death in the London neighborhood of Woolwich in May. The perpetrators – both Muslim converts – described their motives as revenge for the killing of Muslims by British forces serving in the Middle East.
“Like the guy in Woolwich, he explained that [Prime Minister] David Cameron would never walk on the street, and he’ll never get shot in the face, whereas you guys who are soldiers, or just normal folk, will take the blame for the crimes that are committed worldwide by Britain itself so we have to fight. It’s part of our obligation…to protect our honor, to protect our women,” the Syrian rebel from the UK said.
After Syria, the aim is “to bring back the honor of Islam from Filastine [Palestine] to Al Aqsa to all over the Muslim world, and Britain will be next,” said one of the British jihadis.
“From this land we will march toward the Al Aqsa mosque [in Jerusalem] in the name of Allah. Allahu Akbar! [Allah is the greatest],” said another.
According to a Daily Beast report last month, U.S. intelligence estimates vary about the number of Americans who have gone on jihad in Syria, ranging from 10 to 60.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers has called the Syrian civil war a “jihadist magnet.” He told the Daily Beast in September, “At some point all of these people from Europe are going home. All the folks there from all over the world, including the United States, will be coming home if they do not meet their end on the battlefield.”
Two back-to-back suicide bombings on November 19th in the vicinity of the embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Beirut, Lebanon killed at least 23 people and wounded more than 140. Iranian cultural attaché, Ebrahim Ansari, reportedly died from his wounds. An al-Qaida-linked Sunni group known as the Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack. It threatened more attacks unless Iran withdraws its forces from Syria where Iran and its proxy Hezbollah have been providing military support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
The Iranian embassy appears to have been the main target of the attacks. One blast occurred near the main entrance of the Iranian embassy. The other went off in front of the Iranian ambassador’s residence.
The United Nations Security Council issued a press statement strongly condemning the terrorist attacks, reaffirming its view “that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.”
Iran and Syria were quick to point the finger at Israel as bearing the primary responsibility for the suicide bombings. They both believe that Israel has taken sides with Sunni Arab states against the Shiites in the proxy war raging in Syria and extending into Lebanon. Iran and Hezbollah are Shiite. Assad’s Alawite sect derives from Shiite Islam. The jihadist rebels, along with their state sponsors Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf nations, are Sunnis.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah previewed the theme of Israeli complicity with the Sunnis against the Shiites last week: “It is regrettable that (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu is the spokesman for some Arab countries. These countries reject any political solution that would stop the bloodbath and destruction in Syria. They also strongly oppose any accord between Iran and the countries of the world,” alluding to Israel’s and Saudi Arabia’s strong opposition to a nuclear deal they see as unduly favorable to Iran.
The suicide bombings in the vicinity of the Iranian embassy fit into this same Israeli-Sunni anti-Shiite conspiracy theory. As explained in a November 19, 2013Foreign Policy article, the Syrian government, Iran and Hezbollah all see Israel’s guiding hand “behind the scenes” while the Gulf petrol-funded Sunni terrorists do the dirty work.
Read more at Front Page
- Beirut bombing sees Iran drawn deeper into Lebanon quagmire (warsclerotic.wordpress.com)
Iran Blames Israel for Beirut Embassy Bombing (freebeacon.com)
- Incredible! Beirut bombings killing 25 people were self-inflicted by Iran and Hizballah as a diversionary tactic (debka.com)