United States Federal Courts have issued a series of rulings related to the support the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad has given to the Islamic State (IS) movement. The rulings relate to the murder of Americans by IS, which could only be accomplished because of the Assad regime’s assistance. Continue reading
The Syrian media activist Hadi al-Abdullah interviewed Ahrar al-Sham’s leader, Ali al-Umar (Abu Ammar al-Umar), in a video released on 11 January 2017. The focus was the ongoing negotiations with Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS), al-Qaeda’s rebranded Syrian branch, to create an insurgent merger. The question has caused intense turmoil within Ahrar. Continue reading
In the course of al-Qaeda’s rebranding operation in Syria two weeks ago—the full implications of which are discussed here—the organization showed the face of its leader, Abu Muhammad al-Jolani, for the first time. Soon afterward it was revealed that al-Jolani’s real name was Ahmad al-Shara, originally from Deraa in southern Syria, who had lived in Damascus. A report in Al-Monitor has now added details that purportedly show the hand of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in al-Shara’s path to joining the predecessor organization of the Islamic State (IS), from which he eventually split, and underlines the role the Assad regime has played in fostering the terrorism it now claims to be defending the Syrian population and the world from. Continue reading
Published at NOW Lebanon.
So the Syrian opposition can unite. Foreign powers have been the major cause of rebel discord. Previous rebel unity initiatives like the Joint Command were pulled apart by the competition between the insurgency’s sponsors—Saudi Arabia and Qatar primarily—and the last rebel umbrella group, the Supreme Military Council, which was identified with Western power, collapsed after President Barack Obama decided not to punish Bashar al-Assad for the massive chemical weapons attack on the population of Ghouta. But under Saudi auspices, an opposition “team” was announced on December 10 after a three-day conference in Riyadh, which includes the political and military opposition and groups with varying ideologies and patrons. This is an achievement. Unfortunately, this team’s task is an impossible one: intended to partake in the Vienna process begun in October, ostensibly to negotiate an end to the war, Syria is not, at present, in a condition where a political agreement can be made and implemented, not least because the Assad regime and its supporters in Iran and Russia have doubled down, and the opposition continues to receive insufficient support to pressure the regime enough to force an agreement. Continue reading
Yesterday, Reuters had an article by Isabel Coles and Ned Parker entitled, “How Saddam’s men help Islamic State rule“. The article had a number of interesting points, but in its presentation of the movement of former (Saddam) regime elements (FREs) into the leadership structure of the Islamic State (IS) as a phenomenon of the last few years, it was a step backward: the press had seemed to be recognizing that the Salafization of the FREs within IS dates back to the Islamization of Saddam Hussein’s regime in its last fifteen years, notably in the 1990s after the onset of the Faith Campaign. Continue reading
The Islamic Republic of Iran released five senior al-Qaeda terrorists in March, ostensibly as part of a prisoner exchange for an Iranian diplomat kidnapped in Yemen by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). But the murky circumstances in which al-Qaeda’s leaders were “held” in Iran and other inconsistencies cast some doubt on this version of events, and draw attention to some old questions about Iran’s support for al-Qaeda and its affiliates and offshoots. Continue reading
In early August, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) arrested Abu Ahmad Jumaa, the leader of Liwa Fajr al-Islam (Islamic Dawn Brigade), which had been loyal to al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch, Jabhat an-Nusra but which had then-recently defected to the Islamic State (I.S.). In response, Nusra and I.S. fighters poured across the border into Arsal, Lebanon, where Jumaa was being held, and after five days of clashes the Salafi jihadists withdrew, taking with them thirty Lebanese security personnel. Five of the thirty are now dead: one from his injuries, the other four murdered—at least two of them beheaded. Continue reading
In the last few days I’ve been asked a lot about my longstanding view that the beginning of a Western strategy in Syria is the removal of Bashar al-Assad. The question has come from various angles and been phrased in various ways but it always boils down to: “What comes next?”
The best response I have seen to this comes from Thomas Nichols: “When someone says ‘tell me how it ends,’ it’s another way of saying: ‘I just don’t happen to like this particular case for intervention,’ for whatever reason.” Continue reading
I’ve set out the evidence at length that President Obama’s apparently haphazard and hesitant policy in the Middle East is in fact driven by one, conscious, overriding intention: rapprochement with Clerical Iran. Yesterday, I pointed out that the Syrian rebellion was being left to fight alone in its struggle with al-Qaeda because the administration never had any intention of seriously supporting a moderate opposition that could be a credible alternative to the Assad regime (Iran) and the Salafi-jihadists; in Obama’s New Middle East, Syria would be an Iranian sphere of influence.
Those points rather sharpened a few hours after yesterday’s post went up. Continue reading
Last Thursday, in Akrama, an Alawi section of Homs City, there was the most extraordinary scene: Alawite anti-Assad protests. A twin bombing at a local school—reported as a suicide bombing by the regime, though there is no evidence for this—had massacred fifty Alawi civilians, most of them pupils. Annexing the slogans of the revolution, the Alawis took to the streets to demand the removal of Homs Governor Talal al-Barazi. “The people want to topple the governor,” people shouted, a conscious echo of the “Arab Spring” chant, a-shab yurid izkat an-nizam (the people want to topple the regime). Continue reading