New Center Occasional Paper Documents how the Kremlin Fosters Destabilizing Refugee Flows into Europe

For Immediate Release

Contact: Clare M. Lopez 202-719-2423

Center for Security Policy, May 29, 2018:

Refugees the world over fleeing economic hardship, natural disaster, and warfare have long looked to Europe as a prime destination.  The impact of their mass migration there has, predictably, been deeply traumatizing for the host nations and their citizens.  That is especially true of the hijra – the Islamic practice of migrating Muslim populations to spread the faith and its supremacist doctrine known as Sharia – that followed the outbreak of the so-called “Arab Spring” across the Middle East in 2011-2012.  What ensued in much of the European Union was a tidal wave of predominantly single, military-age young men, in numbers unseen there since the invasions of the Ottoman Empire.

It is an open secret that Vladimir Putin has sought to rebuild and exercise Russia’s influence for the purpose of exacting revenge against those he holds responsible for the “greatest catastrophe of the 20th Century” – i.e., the fall of the Soviet Union.  Preeminent among them is Western Europe and the NATO alliance.

Putin’s desire to get even can only have intensified with Europe’s imposition of sanctions against Russia for its seizure of Crimea and ongoing intervention elsewhere in Ukraine.

In a new Occasional Paper issued by the Center for Security Policy entitled “Vladimir Putin’s Revenge: Russia as a Catalyst for the Refugee Crisis that is Destabilizing Europe,” co-authors Jeff Nyquist and Dr. Anca-Maria Cernea offer evidence that suggests that the Russian government is deliberately contributing to the world’s worst refugee crisis and exploiting its geostrategic effects.

For example, the impact of the Russian offensive in Syria – much of it delivered by massively destructive air strikes – was felt quickly in the targeted areas and greatly exacerbated the human suffering experienced by those who lived there.  As would have been expected by the Kremlin and its allies in Damascus and Iran, a sizeable proportion of them would flee and for most the destination of choice would be Europe.

Nyquist and Cernea argue that, in some measure at least, the massive flows of refugees out of areas as far-flung as Afghanistan, the Middle East, and North Africa are actually managed flows, either precipitated or encouraged by Russia – together with its increasingly aligned strategic partner, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey – with a view to destabilizing Europe.

As could have been reliably expected, the incessant influx of predominantly Sharia-adherent Muslims not only burdened European economic and social capacities. It has also served to exacerbate tensions between the EU nations’ political left (that has generally supported open borders and an unchecked refugee flows) and their political right (whose opposition to that immigration sometimes propelled it to closer ties with Russia).

Nyquist and Cernea quote the former Romanian Minister for Communications and Information, Marius Bostan, who said that the interlinked global refugee crises “should be regarded as a hybrid war operation against the West.”  Its principal perpetrator is Vladimir Putin.

The concerns raised in this paper demand serious review by the U.S. and allied governments as they assess – and determine how to respond to – a variety of other Russian threats to the West across a strategic span of warfare techniques that is only sometimes kinetic.

Upon the release of this newest of the Center’s Occasional Paper series, its President, Frank J. Gaffney observed:

There is a growing sense that, as a result of the unassimable masses that have effectively invaded the European Union in recent years, much of the region – especially the nations in its west – are approaching a tipping point.  Some may actually have been so severely destabilized that they are actually beyond the point of no return.

While there are, of course, multiple factors that have contributed to this dire situation, not least the policies of many of the affected countries themselves, it is important to examine Russia’s role and the degree to which it is, at least in the near term, a principal beneficiary of the mayhem now unfolding in Europe.  The evidence in this regard presented by Jeff Nyquist and Dr. Anca-Maria Cernea is compelling.  It demands careful consideration by the Trump administration and our NATO allies – apart, of course, from another of the wellsprings of Europe’s destabilization: Turkey. If validated, appropriate countermeasures must be developed and implemented with the utmost urgency.

“Vladimir Putin’s Revenge: Russia as a Catalyst for the Refugee Crisis that is Destabilizing Europe” is available for purchase in Kindle and paperback.  It can also be viewed and downloaded for free in PDF format below:

Russia_Refugee_05-28-18

Israel Retaliates after 30-Rocket Barrage with 4-Hour Attack on Dozens of Iranian Military Targets in Syria

Extensive IDF attack against Iranian targets overnight Thursday

Jewish Press, by David Israel, May 10, 2018:

Retaliating against the Iranian attack on Israel from Syrian territory, the IDF carried out one of its biggest air operations in the last few decades, attacking dozens of military targets belonging to the Iranian Al Quds Force in Syria overnight Thursday, the IDF Spokesperson reported.

As part of the large-scale attack, the IDF attacked:

  • Iranian intelligence sites operated by the Al Qods Force;
  • logistics commands of the Al Qods Force;
  • a military compound and logistics complex of the Al Qods Force in Kiswah;
  • an Iranian military camp north of Damascus;
  • weapons storage sites belonging to the Al Qods Force at Damascus International Airport;
  • intelligence systems and installations associated with theAl Qods Force;
  • and an observation post, military posts and weapons in the buffer zone in the Syrian Golan heights.

In addition, the Iranian launcher from which Iranian missiles were fired at Israel was destroyed overnight.

Israel’s Iron Dome system intercepted and shot down four of those 30 missiles, the rest landed in Syrian territory.

The Israeli Air Force attacked Syrian air defense batteries, which fired despite an Israeli warning. In retaliation, the IDF attacked a number of interception systems (SA5, SA2, SA22, SA17) belonging to the Syrian army.

All of Israel’s planes returned to base safely.

The IDF made it a point to say that the attack last night was done by Iranian Al Quds forces, and not by proxies.

The overnight attacks were carried out following the rocket fire launched by the Iranian Qods Force towards the IDF’s front line in the Golan Heights. There were no casualties on Israel’s side from the Iranian attack, no damage was caused, and no hits were identified in Israeli territory.

The Iranian attack on Israel tonight was yet another clear proof of the intention behind the Iranian forces’ entrenchment in Syria and the danger they pose to Israel and regional stability, the IDF Spokesperson stated, noting that the Israeli home front maintains its civilian routine, that the schools and agricultural work will function as usual on Thursday, and public gatherings of up to 1,000 persons in an open area are permitted in the Golan Heights and Katzrin only.

“The IDF will continue to act decisively against the Iranian military efforts in Syria, views the Syrian regime as being responsible for whatever is happening in its territory, and warns it against acting against Israeli forces,” the report concluded, noting that “the IDF is highly prepared for a variety of scenarios and will continue to act as necessary for the safety of Israeli citizens.”

The IDF pointed out that not a single Iranian rocket managed to hit Israel. Last night Syrian TV falsely claimed that the Iranian missiles hit a dozen IDF bases, and listed the sites they claimed to have hit.

In a response to Hezbollah’s threats that they would hit harder and deeper into Israel if Israel responds to the first strike, first of all, Israel hit back harder and deeper against Iranian forces in Syria, and then sent out a message that if there any more attacks from Syria, the IDF will hit back even harder.

Contrary to the rumors, Russian forces did not get involved in any way in defending Syria or Iran.

Also see:

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Assad distances himself from Iran’s actions:

IDF: Iranian Forces Fire Rockets at Israel

AP/Tsafrir Abayov

The events mark the first time the IDF has accused Iran of directly firing rockets into Israel, and could represent a more direct confrontation between Israel and Iran. Israel has been alarmed at Iran’s massive military buildup in Syria, where the Iranians are said to control numerous military bases.

Breitbart, by Aaron Klein, May 9, 2018:

TEL AVIV — Iranian forces operating from Syria fired about 20 rockets at Israeli army positions in the Golan Heights, the Israel Defense Forces said on Tuesday night.

Some of the missiles were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome system, and there were no reports of injuries, the IDF stated.

A video posted on social media in Syria purports to show a volley of rockets from a launcher being fired into Israel.

The IDF is blaming the attack on the Quds Force, the unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards that is responsible for operations outside Iran.

The Times of Israel reports on immediate Israeli retaliation:

Syrian state media reported that Israeli artillery fire targeted a military post near the city of Baath in the Quneitra border region, where Syrian regime forces were stationed.

The Israel Defense Forces spokesperson confirmed that the army had retaliated to the alleged Iranian attack, but would not comments on the specific details.

It was not immediately clear if this artillery barrage would constitute Israel’s full response to the rocket attack or if additional retaliations by the IDF against Iranian forces in Syria were to come.

 

The events mark the first time the IDF has accused Iran of directly firing rockets into Israel, and could represent a more direct confrontation between Israel and Iran. Israel has been alarmed at Iran’s massive military buildup in Syria, where the Iranians are said to control numerous military bases.

The reported Iranian missile attacks follow a series of strikes in Syria attributed to Israel targeting Iran-run bases.

Only yesterday, Syria’s state-run SANA news agency reported an Israeli attack targeting a military base south of Damascus about two hours after President Trump announced a decision to withdraw from the international nuclear agreement with Iran. Fox News citedsources saying the target of the strike was an Iranian base in Syria.

The reports of explosions also come after the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Tuesday placed Israel’s northern communities on high alert with the IDF detecting “irregular Iranian activity” and “abnormal movements of Iranian forces in Syria.”

Just before the explosion reports, Haaretz reported the IDF believes Iran is “making efforts to carry out an imminent retaliation against Israel,” according to the newspaper’s characterization.

Threats of Iranian retaliation follow numerous airstrikes against Iranian military targets in Syria that have been attributed to Israel.

Besides yesterday’s strike, ten days ago, Syrian state television reported that “enemy” rocket attacks struck military bases in Hama province and in the Aleppo countryside, with reports of 26 or more pro-regime fighters, mostly Iranians, killed in the blasts.

On April 14, there were reports of a “violent explosion” in the southern section of Aleppo province in Syria in an area where Iranian forces were present. Hezbollah-affiliated media outlets at the time claimed the incident involved a controlled explosion.

On April 9, strikes blamed on Israel hit the Iran-run T-4 military base that was reportedly used to operate Iran’s advanced drone fleet. The strikes came after the base was brazenly used by Iran to send an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) into Israeli territory in February before it was quickly shot down by the Israeli military. The IDF revealed its investigation concluded the Iranian drone sent from T-4 was carrying explosives and seemingly deployed to attack an Israeli target.

Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.

Trump’s Grand Strategy: Get the United States out of the Middle East, Now

Our troops in Syria are hostages to Obama’s deal with Iran, which mandates a state of perpetual war between America and the region’s Sunni majority. Donald Trump wants to withdraw from both.

Tablet Magazine, by Lee Smith, April 23, 2018:

“Mission Accomplished,” Donald Trump tweeted triumphantly after the recent limited strikes on Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons facilities. Critics were quick to portray the President’s boast as hot air, and pontificate about the need for a comprehensive White House strategy to deal with Syria and other long-term regional issues.

But Trump does have a strategy, which the strikes and the President’s tweets have made plain—a U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria and a U.S. withdrawal from the Iran deal. Washington has plenty of allies to work with and through in the Middle East, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia. Both share an American interest in rolling back Iran. Further, the White House can work against Iran and its partners in Syria through proxy forces on the ground.

The peculiar fact is that neither the Iran deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, nor the U.S. troop presence in Syria was designed to push back on the clerical regime. Quite the opposite—they are part of a strategy purposed, perhaps unintentionally, to relieve Tehran. But now Trump intends to get out of both—while reserving the prerogative to use force, as the strikes made plain.

There is little evidence to suggest that Trump is a grand strategist in the classical mode, but his instincts are right. Contrary to the horror and scorn with which both ideas have been greeted by the Beltway foreign-policy consensus, Trump’s grand Middle Eastern strategy makes sense.

The irony is that Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, sought to accomplish the same goal of withdrawing the United States from the mire of what Trump rightly describes as a “troubled” region. The difference is that Obama’s mechanism for extricating America from the Middle East was the nuclear deal with Iran, which has paradoxically entailed not only more bloodshed but also continuing U.S. military engagement on the ground. Obama’s big mistake was his naïve belief in Iranian PR, which transformed a militarily weak, economically backwards, and politically unstable country into a technological powerhouse fronted by the dashing revolutionary fashion-plate, Qassem Suleimani.

Obama’s grand strategy was to “balance” traditional U.S. allies against Iran to create a kind of stasis while the U.S. snuck out the back door. The problem with that strategy was that Iran was simply unable to fill the stabilizing role Obama had in mind. It’s too weak, and there are many, many more Sunnis in the Middle East than Shiites. Not even Vladimir Putin’s military escalation in September 2015 followed by massive infusions of U.S. cash to Iran and its clients could win a decisive victory for the Assad regime, which Russia and Iran support.

Why is this glaringly obvious failure in judgment still so difficult for D.C. pundits and think-tankers to understand? In part, because it would acknowledge that Obama wasn’t so smart, which means they aren’t so smart, either. It would also force the chattering classes to acknowledge years of U.S. complicity in the Syrian genocide. Americans, especially those on both the left and the right who see demonstrating American virtue as a main goal of U.S. foreign policy, still cannot bring themselves to acknowledge that Obama didn’t simply stand idly by while the Iranians and their allies slaughtered and gassed Syrians, although that prospect would certainly be bad enough. Rather, America actively assisted in the slaughter.

The money that the Obama White House provided Iran—tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief, the $1.7 billion ransom for American hostages—helped fund Iran’s Syrian campaign. The weapons and the soldiers who committed genocide inside Syria were partly paid for with U.S. dollars. American aid to the Iraqi army and Lebanese Armed Forces helped stabilized Iranian holdings while the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its partners like Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite militias slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians, nearly all of whom were Sunnis, many of whose villages were then subjected to sectarian cleansing and replaced with Shia loyal to Iran. While D.C. partisans of “fighting ISIS” point to the prevention of a future terror attack on U.S. soil as the main rationale for their mission, it doesn’t take a genius to see how helping kill 500,000 Sunnis in Syria is more likely to produce future terror attacks than to prevent them.

Trump’s strategy is simple: Pull the plug. The Middle East is a “troubled place,” Trump said after the strikes. “We will try to make it better, but it is a troubled place. The United States will be a partner and a friend, but the fate of the region lies in the hands of its own people.”

What this means in practice is that the President is almost certain to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear agreement next month. He’s given Secretary of Defense James Mattis six months to beat ISIS and then we’re out.

Read more

Is There a Double Standard Favoring Jihadis?

Understanding the Threat, by Stephanie Ameiss, April 19, 2018:

On Saturday April 14th, less than two years after 49 people were killed by muslim Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and the Aisha Cultural Center hosted a “Positive Parenting Skills” conference at the Greenwood Lakes Middle School in Orlando, featuring Islamic scholar Dr. M. Rateb Al-Nabulsi.

Al-Nabulsi is a Syrian Sheikh who calls for the killing of gays and Jews.

ICNA (Islamic Circle of North America) was identified by evidence in the largest terrorism financing trial ever successfully prosecuted in American history – US v Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, Northern District of Texas, 2008 – as being a part of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamic Movement with the stated objective of waging “Civilization Jihad” to overthrow the U.S. government and establishing an Islamic State under sharia (Islamic law).

Why did the local government approve this event and why did local police/sheriff’s offices provide security for this event?

When a local camera crew opposed to the event showed up, the police were quick to threaten arrest for trespassing.  Why?

Local elected officials and police swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution against seditious threats like this.

Will Greenwood Lakes Middle School in Orlando invite Understanding the Threat (UTT) to teach a session on American’s Founding Principles?   How about classes on the Muslim Brotherhood network in Florida, sharia, and the threat these pose to local Florida communities?

UTT is still waiting for a response to our call.

AppleMark

Khaled Bahgat, a muslim from Egypt, is the liaison officer between the Columbus (OH) Police Department and the city’s muslims, particularly Somali refugees.  Does the Columbus Police Department have a designated Catholic officer to outreach to the Christian community?

 

Middletown (PA) Patrol Officer Mark Hovan was suspended  for 10 days for attending Catholic Mass at the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church during his patrol shift.  Yet, would the Middletown Police Chief have an issue if muslim officers when to prayers at a mosque?

The photo above shows two Los Angeles police officers praying at the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamic Center of Southern California.

Has the LAPD suspended them and launched an investigation as to why their officers are associating themselves with a jihadi mosque?

Is it unprofessional for police departments to have different standards for Christian officers and muslim officers?

Is it legal for police departments to have different standards for Christian officers and muslim officers?

Muslim Brother/Hamas leader Ahmed Bedier speaks inside the Florida State House at Muslim Capitol Day hosted by Hamas (CAIR)

Texas Hamas leader Mustafa Carroll (far right) at the Texas Capitol Day hosted by Hamas (CAIR)

Muslim Capitol Day occurs all over the United States every year, and local/state police protect the participants despite the fact the events are hosted by Hamas doing business as CAIR and advance the jihadi agenda of Civilization Jihad.

What should police officers do when they are given an unlawful order to support a designated terrorist organization and it’s events?

Being the leader of Hamas in Arizona (dba CAIR) did not prevent Mohamed El-Sharkawy from being employed with American Airlines and training employees at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport.  As a matter of fact American Airlines gave El-Sharkawy an award and defended him when UTT questioned them about employing a Hamas leader.

Nor did his terrorist affiliation prevent El-Sharkawy from founding and serving on the Arizona Police Muslim Advisory Board.  In fact, El-Sharkawy currently serves as a board member on Hamas’ (CAIR-Arizona) Board of Advisors.

Do police departments in Tempe, Arizona and elsewhere have Christian Advisory Boards?

Citizens where are you?  Why are you putting up with these double standards?

1. Evidence in the US v HLF trial reveals CAIR is Hamas.

2. Two weeks ago the seditious and terrorist-supporting Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) gave its marching orders to the terrorists from Antifa to threaten venues which resulted in those venues canceling programs involving Understanding the Threat (UTT).

3. When UTT conducts it’s 3-day “Understanding and Investigating the Jihadi Network” program for police, the unanimous response from attendees , including FBI counter-terrorism agents, is shock because they admit they were not aware of the information presented.  Yet, they also state the information UTT presents is “critical” to protecting their communities.

Local police sometimes act in inappropriate and unlawful/unconstitutional ways in these matters because they do not understand this threat nor are they trained on how to respond.

The FBI has not informed them.

No police chief wants to deal with a riot or threats of violence.  The easy route is often to support the shutting down of events instead of dealing with the consequences of the event.  However, police chiefs, sheriffs and the men and women in those departments swear an Oath to protect and defend against “all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

This is where we fight this war – by standing firm, even when it is very difficult.  But this means citizens must encourage and stand with the police when these tough decisions come down the line.

Citizens – don’t stand around and watch!

Question your local officials why they allow local facilities and state houses to be used to advance the jihad by designated terrorists (Hamas/CAIR) and known subversive groups, and tolerate a double standard when it comes to the muslim community, even among police.

Citizens get involved – Tell your local police leaders you want those sworn to protect you to be trained about this threat and support them when they have to deal with the heat from sedition/Marxist organizations and their jihadi task-masters like Hamas doing business as CAIR.

Assad’s Horror, and Those Who Enable It

hoto credit: Muhammed es Sami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.
Demonstrators draw picture on a wall to describe the poisonous gas attack and protest against the Assad regime’s alleged gas attack on Douma in Syria on April 08, 2018

Russia, Iran, and North Korea all play a role in the Syrian regime’s chemical attacks on its own people.

The Weekly Standard, by Thomas Joscelyn, April 8, 2018:

Horrific images from the aftermath of a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria are once again circulating online. The scene of this gassing is the eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus. Both the location and the timing of this apparent war crime are symbolically important. And while the immediate focus will be on Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and his willingness to gas his own people, any long-term solution will require understanding the role of the rogue states that enable and support him.

It was one year ago, on the morning of April 7, 2017, that the Trump administration launched punitive airstrikes against Assad’s regime at the Shayrat Airfield in response to a Sarin gas attack days earlier. Those targeted bombings were intended to send a message to Assad: Stop using banned weapons of war against your own people. Assad was undeterred.

He had failed to adhere to a previous deal, negotiated by the Obama administration and Russia, that was intended to end his chemical weapons capability. The concord was struck in the aftermath of the August 21, 2013, nerve agent attack on eastern Ghouta–the same suburb hit in the last 24 hours. The U.S. government determined that the Assad regime was responsible and “that 1,429 people were killed … including at least 426 children.”

Just a few weeks later, in September 2013, the U.S. and Russia agreed to “special procedures” for the “expeditious destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons program and stringent verification thereof.” Secretary of State John Kerry claimed in 2014 that the agreement had worked, saying “we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out” of Syria. That obviously wasn’t true, or at least highly misleading, as Assad retained the capability to regenerate and use certain weapons.

And now—one year after the U.S. attempted to punish Assad with airstrikes, and in the same neighborhood that was terrorized in 2013— the Syrian regime has seemingly struck again.

Many details concerning this most recent attack remain to be confirmed. But the world has already learned some valuable lessons regarding the behavior of rogue actors when it comes their pursuit and use of banned weapons.

There is no real question that Assad has continued to use chemical weapons even after he agreed to give them up. As the State Department was quick to note yesterday, the U.S. has concluded that he was responsible for the April 4, 2017, Sarin gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun—the same incident which prompted the Trump administration’s bombing. And both the U.S. government and the UN have found that Assad’s goons used other chemical weapons, namely crude chlorine bombs, more than once. While some of these bombs struck areas held by jihadi rebels, they have also indiscriminately killed civilians.

Assad’s principal international backer, Vladimir Putin, hasn’t stopped him from using of them. Nor has Iran, which is deeply embedded in Syria alongside Assad’s forces. In fact, the Assad-Putin-Khamenei axis has a legion of online apologists who argue that the high-profile chemical weapons assaults aren’t really the work of the Syrian “president” at all. This noxious advocacy on behalf of mass murderers is readily available on social media.

It gets even worse, as another rogue state has reportedly facilitated Assad’s acquisition of chemical weapons: North Korea. This facilitation is especially worrisome in light of the two nations’ previous cooperation on a nuclear reactor that was destroyed by the Israelis in 2007.

In March, the U.N. issued a report on North Korea’s active “prohibited military cooperation projects…stretching from Africa to the Asia-Pacific region, including ongoing ballistic missile cooperation with the Syrian Arab Republic and Myanmar, widespread conventional arms deals and cyberoperations to steal military secrets.”

The U.N. traced a number of visits by North Korean officials to Syrian soil, finding that “multiple groups of ballistic missile technicians” have been inside Syria. Citing intelligence received from a “Member State,” the U.N. explained that these “technicians … continued to operate at chemical weapons and missile facilities at Barzah, Adra and Hama.” The Assad regime tried to deflect this accusation by claiming the North Koreans were in town simply for “training athletics and gymnastics.”

But the U.N. documented additional suspicious details, including previously unknown illicit shipments and transfers. The U.N. investigative body’s “investigations into several cases of hitherto unreported arms shipments and cooperation with front companies of designated entities between 2010 and 2017 showed further evidence of arms embargo and other violations, including through the transfer of items with utility in ballistic missile and chemical weapons” programs.

In one such transfer, the North Koreans provided the Assad regime with “special resistance valves and thermometers known for use in chemical weapons” programs. U.N. member states also interdicted suspicious shipments, including bricks and tiles that may be used as part of a chemical weapons program. Although the U.N. found these specific materials weren’t banned, a member state noted that they “can be used to build bricks for the interior walls of [a] chemical factory.”

The U.N. found it especially suspicious that North Korean front companies were doing business with the Syrian government’s Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), which oversees Assad’s chemical weapons development.

The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned 271 SSRC staffers in the aftermath of the April 2017 Sarin gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun. Treasury explained that the SSRC is “the Syrian government agency responsible for developing and producing non-conventional weapons and the means to deliver them.” And the sanctioned SSRC employees “have expertise in chemistry and related disciplines and/or have worked in support of SSRC’s chemical weapons program since at least 2012.”

Therefore, the U.N.’s conclusion that North Korea has been working with the SSRC is especially noteworthy.

The U.S. and its allies will continue to face daunting challenges when it comes to restraining rogue nations and their pursuit of banned weapons. As Syria’s ongoing work on chemical weapons shows, such proliferation concerns often involve multiple rogue states. Assad’s chemical weapons attacks inside Syria are principally his own doing, but not solely. He has friends outside of Syria who are willing to help.

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Also see:

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Hayward: Free Syrian Army, Once the Great ‘Moderate’ Hope, Joins Turkey to Attack Kurds

Huseyin Nasir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Breitbart, by John Hayward, Feb. 6, 2018:

Turkey has conducted its “Operation Olive Branch” military incursion into Syria in concert with the Free Syrian Army, which has helped Turkish forces take control of several villages in the Afrin region.

This is an uncomfortable development for U.S. policymakers because both the Kurds and Free Syrian Army were considered battlefield allies of the United States in the war against the Islamic State, and the FSA was seen as the model white-hat rebel group when the Obama administration and intervention-minded Republicans were desperately seeing “moderate” forces in the Syrian rebellion to support.

In fact, as recently as last spring, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) strongly urged increased support for the Free Syrian Army as part of the U.S. strategy for stabilizing Syria while holding the regime of dictator Bashar Assad at bay.

McCain has long been prominent among those convinced the Free Syrian Army was America’s best bet for a terrorist-free moderate rebel group to arm and support, a step he felt the Obama administration was much too reluctant to take while Russia was busy shipping arms to the Syrian regime.

He made a surprise visit to the Turkey-Syria border in 2013 to meet with FSA leaders who wanted American heavy weapons, up to and including anti-aircraft weapons, and American air support against FSA adversaries such as Hezbollah. At the time, the FSA claimed to be running perilously low on munitions, which does not seem to be a problem now that they are fighting on Turkey’s behalf against the Kurds.

McCain has not responded well to contrary arguments about the FSA, as when he reportedly stormed out of the room during a 2014 presentation by Syrian Christians who said there were Islamist fighters among the FSA’s ranks.

There was a good deal of confusion surrounding support for the Free Syrian Army in the Obama administration, which occasionally seemed uncertain about what kind of support it was sending them. Critics complained effective support for moderate rebel groups was announced too late, after too much dithering, and was delivered too long after it was finally announced. The aid program that eventually materialized was an unserious disaster.

Whether reluctantly as with Obama, or eagerly as with McCain, plans for zero-footprint Syrian intervention kept circling back around to the Free Syrian Army, despite persistent warnings it contained some unlovely people and outright terrorists. One reason for this default support is that many of the other options for American support were Kurdish groups or members of Kurdish-dominated umbrella organizations, which was problematic because U.S. policymakers wanted to avoid conflict with the Turkish and Iraqi governments. Going all-in on the Kurds would inevitably bring accusations that America was supporting Kurdish nationalists, separatists, or terrorists (as Turkey would have it).

To this very day, Turkey denounces American support for the Kurds as direct support for terrorists, no different in principle from shipping arms to the Islamic State, which is something the Turks also charge America with doing when they are especially upset. It may come as some small consolation to know that everyone involved in the Syrian quagmire accuses everyone else of supporting terrorism, and they quite frequently have a point, since even the better rebel groups have been known to cooperate with powerful terrorist forces like al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front from time to time. It is difficult for outside powers to be certain that a weapon given to a white-hat moderate rebel today will not be handed over, voluntarily or involuntarily, to a terrorist or war criminal tomorrow.

In a 2013 profile of the Free Syrian Army, the BBC noted it was a “loose network of brigades rather than a unified fighting force,” with very little operational control exercised by appealing and high-minded spokesmen like Brigadier General Salim Idris.

Brigades aligned with the Free Syrian Army and its spinoff organizations retained “separate identities, agendas and commands.” The BBC noted that some of them “work with hardline Islamist groups that alarm the West, such as Ahrar al-Sham, and al-Qaeda-linked jihadists.”

Deutsche Welle recalls that, a few weeks ago, a delegation from the Free Syrian Army came to Washington and argued that if the CIA did not resume military aid frozen by the Trump administration, its “moderate” forces would have no choice but to look elsewhere for support. Virtually overnight, the FSA signed up with Turkey to work as mercenaries in its war against the Syrian Kurds, which DW notes is difficult to square with the FSA’s nominal mission of battling the tyranny of Bashar Assad on behalf of the Syrian people. It also argues against viewing the FSA as the kind of staunch moderate ally who can be entrusted with American weapons as they fight a noble battle to liberate Syria from cruel dictatorship.

“The Free Syrian Army practically doesn’t exist,” DW quotes Mideast expert Kamal Sido telling a German broadcaster. “The Free Syrian Army is a smokescreen hiding various names, and if you look at the names, at these groups’ videos, you’ll find they are radical Islamist, Jihadist groups.”

Charles Lister of the Brookings Institution contributed the observation that nearly 80 distinct factions now identify themselves with the FSA brand, and while some are moderate in outlook, others are hardline Islamist radicals. The group as a whole is moving inexorably into the orbit of radicals, and Islamist patrons like Turkey’s Erdogan, simply because they tend to be better-armed and more ruthlessly effective on the battlefield.

If such groups ever succeeded in overthrowing Assad, they would likely either replace him with an Islamist tyranny or turn their guns against their erstwhile moderate allies – which is essentially what the FSA is doing to the Syrian Kurds right now. At this point, with Russian and Iranian support firmly behind Assad, his ouster seems unlikely, so the “rebels” are largely fighting for concessions at the negotiating table and perhaps a degree of autonomy to run their own little fiefdoms within postwar Syria. Every proposal to arm Syrian groups must carefully consider what those groups actually intend to fight for.

It should also consider how they fight. Syrian Kurds are protesting the brutality of the Turkey-FSA invasion of Afrin, which threatens to push even further into Syria, as President Erdogan has openly called for American troops to get out of his way.

Over the weekend, video footage surfaced that appears to show Free Syrian Army fighters fondling and abusing the corpse of a female Kurdish fighter killed in the Afrin operation. One of them described the woman’s body as “the spoils of war from the female pigs of the PKK,” which is the violent Kurdish separatist organization in Turkey. The Turks insist that all Syrian Kurdish militia forces are allied with the PKK, including those directly supported by the United States.

The Free Syrian Army high command promised to investigate the incident and hold those involved accountable, “if it is verified in accordance with Sharia law and our principles.” The use of Islamic law to decide whether clearly heinous activity constitutes a war crime is not what the Western world should be looking for in a “moderate” ally.

Conversely, the Turks and their allies accuse the Kurds of fighting dirty and allying themselves with the brutal Assad regime, and Kurdish forces have been blamed for civilian deaths from a rocket barrage that struck a refugee camp near the Turkish border on Monday.

Syria is a bloody mess, and white hats are hard to find, but the hellish conundrum is that failure to intervene unleashed a refugee wave that threatens to drown Europe, not to mention a humanitarian disaster within Syria that should be utterly intolerable to the civilized world. The Free Syrian Army clearly is not the easy answer that so many people have so desperately wanted it to be for the past five years. They proved it by joining a Turkish operation that may soon put the lives of American troops at risk and threaten the future of NATO.

Also see:

Civilians in Northern Syria Flee to Caves as Turkish Invasion Barrels On

Russian-Turkish axis in Syria faces meltdown

Syrian Kurds: Russia Pressured Us to Give Afrin to Assad ‘One Day’ Before Turkish Attack