Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Biggest Lie About Syria - II


Neither an army nor free



The “Free Syrian Army”, acting as an umbrella organization for the rebels, is composed of dozens of factions, each of which is distinct from the other and is independent of a central leadership. Being infamous for their war crimes, these groups act upon the interests of the countries that fund them.
One of the most widespread fallacies in the war, which is about to leave behind 30 months now in Syria, is to comprehend the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) as a homogenous formation. In fact, the FSA is composed of different factions, which act under the leadership of their own commanders and determine their priorities according to the interests of the countries that back them. Moreover, this organization consists of a wide range of commanders competing with each other, who have become the voice of their financier countries.
It seems that the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have recently agreed on a single name. It is none other than Salim Idris, who is the leader of the Supreme Military Council (SMC) that was formed last December in Antalya with the aim of turning it to the general staff of the FSA. Idris, former member of the Syrian Army, has no effect in the field even though he is the key to the arm flow to Syria.

Who comprises the FSA?
The first armed groups emerged towards the end of March in 2011 when the events in Syria had just begun. Armed militants, particularly backed by Salafist movement in Lebanon, began attacking Syrian security forces in Tel Kelah in Homs and in Banyas in Tartus. However, the greatest attack came in Jisr al-Shughur in Idlib in 6 June 2011, which became the turning point of the conflict in Syria. This attack, in which 120 troops and policemen were killed, was initially reported as a “massacre by the Syrian Army in rebel towns”. Yet, the journalists in the region reported that the townsfolk were blaming the militants infiltrated Syria from the Turkish border.
As the attacks increased in June, so did the defectors from the Syrian Army. While a part of these figures was close to the Muslim Brotherhood undertaking underground activities, the other part was taking the advantage of “generous” donations of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. On the 29th of June, Riad Al-Assad, former member of the Syrian Army, escaped to Hatay and announced that he had also defected. Along with other defectors, he declared the formation of the Free Syrian Army in Hatay in July 2011.
The first militants of the Free Syrian Army consisted Salafi groups in Lebanon, the Muslim Brotherhood and various tribes affiliated with trafficking along the border with Turkey and Lebanon.
Upon the Syrian Army’s victory in the summer of 2012, resulting in the removal of the FSA from its stronghold in Bab Amr in the province of Homs, the flow of mercenary fighters began with the help of financial aids by the countries that backed these groups.
Jihadists pouring in from Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and even Afghanistan quickly strengthened the groups united under the FSA. However, these mercenaries soon began joining the fighting forces linked with Al Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups.

So-called titles
The swift growth of the FSA resulted in insufficient leadership of Riad Al-Assad. Hundreds of brigades consisting of a handful of militants had been formed by the end of 2012. These groups usually declared that they were affiliated with the FSA in order to guarantee the flow of money and weapons. In most cases, however, they continued to operate independently. It was this time during which the FSA’s commandership in Turkey began falling apart and the higher ranks of the FSA, which had aligned itself to various financior countries, ended up in a power struggle.
Today, the FSA’s Riad Al-Essad, Ahmad Al-Hijazi and Malik Al-Kurdi group do not recognize Salim Idris. Apart from this group, which is close to the Muslim Brotherhood, Mustafa Al-Sheikh, commander of Suqoor al-Sham, one of the biggest brigades in the battlefield, stays distant from both Riad Al Assad and Salim Idris.
Also, there is another force formed under Salafi Sheikh Adnan Al-Aroor from Saudi Arabia, which calls itself the Joint Command of the Revolutionary Military Council.

Different Strategies
The power struggle between these factions on the command-level usually reflects itself in the field with deadly internal competition among these groups. Because of lack of coordination, the FSA-affiliated brigades receive major losses at the hand of the Syrian Army. Speaking of the the FSA’s presence totally becomes impossible particularly in northern Syria. In this region, there are various big brigades mostly operating independently, although they claim that they act under the FSA. Most of these brigades cooperate with Al Qaeda-linked groups and with other radical Islamist brigades. Al Tawhid and Suqoor al-Sham with 15.000 militants participated in attacks particularly against Kurds and Alawites in cooperation with Al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS).
Moreover, these groups can remain neutral in violences of ISIS and other FSA brigades. When the FSA-affiliated Northern Storm Brigade, consisting former traffickers, was attacked by the ISIS in September in Azaz-Aleppo, the Tawhid Brigade, the strongest fighting force in the region, declared its “neutrality” and acted as a mediator for ceasefire between the two groups. The Northern Storm, identified as “moderate” due to the attack it exposed, later joined the Islamic coalition, which was formed at the end of September and also consisted Al Nusra Front, another Al Qaeda-linked group. Declaring that it will fight for Islam, this new coalition does not recognize the Syrian National Coalition and involves the largest brigades of the FSA. This fact contradicts with the claim that the FSA has a contrary line to Al Qaeda.
In South Syria, in Daraa, hundreds of militants from the brigades affiliated with the Supreme Military Council, which was formed through vigorous efforts of the US, have joined Al Nusra Front because it is equipped with high quality weapons and a better financial structure. Yet, it was claimed that these groups trained by CIA in Jordan were composed of the “tribes distant to Al Qaeda”.

Ali Ă–rnek - soL

International Network for Justice

Nuclear talks with Iran reach point of no return



Sergey Strokan is a journalist, essayist and a poet
Published time: November 12, 2013 12:19 by Russia Today
http://rt.com/op-edge/geneva-talks-iran-nuclear-590/
The Geneva talks on a landmark nuclear deal with Iran, between Tehran and the six world powers, are in the final stage, with most parties signaling that agreement is no longer a phantom but a reality realizable within months, if not weeks.
As the day of the crucial negotiating round slated for Nov 20 nears, both diplomats and media are overwhelmed with a feeling of history being made in the walls of the Geneva Intercontinental hotel. 
Is the process really irreversible, as some believe it to be? And if the deal is reached, what will it mean for Tehran and the whole world – an end of a decades-long Iranian crisis, or a new disaster, a “bad deal”, to quote Israeli Prime-Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? 
To spell out Israeli concerns, can it be a deal which would only trigger a nuclear arms race in the vast Middle East region and finally force the Jewish state into a desperate move – to act unilaterally against Iran?
A cup of coffee in the Intercontinental hotel costs $9, but what the real price and the outcome of the enigmatic nuclear deal presumably made on its premises will be is as yet unknown. What is clear is that the moment for such a deal today is the most appropriate since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, with all sides playing high stakes for diplomacy, not war.
To start with, what gives the diplomacy a unique chance is the phenomena of the two leaders in Washington and Tehran.  As for Barack Obama, it is an open secret that he has developed the reputation of “the most anti-Israeli president in US history” (this is how he is seen in Tel-Aviv). While the Israeli leadership was very unhappy with President Obama’s Middle East initiatives from the very start, Obama turned a blind eye on most of Israel’s concerns. Obama made it clear that despite strong bonds of strategic alliance, the US and Israel see different ‘red lines’ in the Iranian crisis. Obama signaled that he can put up with some limited Iranian nuclear program, the scale of which is currently being negotiated in Geneva. However, Netanyahu denies the very idea of Iran enriching uranium and keeping its centrifuges working. According to Netanyahu, the deal with Iran would backlash and America would also find itself vulnerable to future Iranian nuclear strike

During the 2012 US presidential race it was not Barack Obama, but Republican presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney, who Netanyahu put his hopes on – and Obama is probably paying him back today. Moreover, the 2009 Noble Peace Prize granted to Mr. Obama as an advance for something not yet achieved is probably forcing him to prove that the decision of the Noble committee was something not to be mocked or ridiculed, as is happening today, but a prophetic move. 
However, it is not only “the most anti-Israeli American president” in Washington, but also “the most pro-Western president” sitting in Tehran who are giving diplomacy a golden opportunity and making all sides reinforce their efforts to reach compromise. The landslide victory of the Islamic reformist cleric, Hassan Rowhani, in June’s presidential election in Iran has revitalized nuclear talks between Tehran and the big six world powers, which had degenerated into a pointless, torturous process and lost its steam under the former Iranian president, Mahmud Ahmadinejad. 
Mr. Rowhani has to produce something tangible for Islamist hardliners at home who are warning him of betraying national interests. His trump card could be an end to the nuclear standoff and the era of isolation and suffocating sanctions.  The same way Mr.Obama has to outwit US neocons and the army of his critics abroad by telling them that his stick-and-carrot policy did work, while the war scenario with Iran proved irrelevant. 

All in all, as both Presidents Obama and Rowhani have invested heavily in the present day’s big nuclear gamble; they find themselves in the same boat and should stick together. Their domestic political considerations and their international standing mean they can’t allow themselves a last-minute failure of the much-anticipated deal.  
And finally, what we also see today in Geneva is an unprecedented unanimity within the ranks of the big six world powers, with US and Russian diplomats not trading jabs or making grim statements, as it used to be, but praising each other’s roles regarding Iran. This week, Russia’s Foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, went as far as acknowledging the leading role of the American delegation during the latest round of talks in Geneva, headed by State Secretary Kerry.  I can hardly recall a similar moment of harmony in US-Russian relations and it was only this September when President Putin called Mr.Kerry “a liar”.  
As for France, which is somehow standing aside and playing bad cop in Geneva, it alone can surely not go as far as putting the brakes on a nuclear deal with Iran. It may sound like gossip, but one of the political Cassandras here this week whispered into my ear that in Geneva the “French are working for Saudi money”, hinting at lucrative contacts and other business interests.
So, it looks like the negotiating process with Iran has already crossed the point of no return and the question of the historic nuclear deal is a matter of not “if”, but “when”. There is no doubt that in the days and weeks to come we will witness desperate attempts by Israel to step on the brakes and press all the alarm buttons, but it looks like it is too late now.  
A nuclear Iran is a fast-growing reality, so the task of the day for the world community is not to deny, but to harness the Iranian atom – to put it under well-calculated international scrutiny, free of any prejudice and paranoia.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.