Thursday, February 27, 2014

The U.S. and Terrorism in Syria

Nikolai BOBKIN | 27.02.2014 | 00:04

The Obama administration is accusing the Russian authorities of not wanting to support U.S. peace initiatives on Syria. According to Secretary of State John Kerry, Moscow is refusing to help Western countries seek a political solution, by which the Americans mean the removal of President al-Asad from power. Washington, despite rumors of a new White House strategy with regard to Syria, still does not want to resolve the conflict as long as al-Asad is still in power. 

The Americans are irritated by Moscow's intractability(hartnackigkeit, widerspenstigkeit) in the UN Security Council. Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria in March 2011, Russia has used its veto power in the Security Council three times when it found the position of the U.S. and its allies unacceptable. The Kremlin will not help the West to «legalize» intervention against Syria using the UN Security Council. Moscow opposes the mention of possible sanctions in UN resolutions, which the White House insists on. Russia has offered its alternative draft of these resolutions, and Moscow is preparing to present a document on fighting terrorism in Syria. For now Russia has supported a recently passed resolution demanding that government forces and opposition troops cease «indiscriminate attacks» on civilians, lift sieges on towns and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to war-affected regions. Furthermore, at the initiative of the Russian Federation a strong anti-terrorism section was included which refers to the declaration of the G8 heads of state at Lough Erne in June 2013.

The resolution «calls on the Syrian authorities and opposition groups to commit to combating and defeating organizations and individuals associated with Al-Qaeda, its affiliates and other terrorist groups». It was at Russia’s insistence that this clause was included in the resolution. America continues to assert in the teeth of the facts that the scale of al-Qaeda participation in the war in Syria is exaggerated. Recently Mohammed al-Golani, the leader of one of the largest Syrian Islamist groups, the al-Nusra Front, swore allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) was quick to distance itself from the al-Nusra Front, but the Obama administration is in no hurry, although the U.S. has included this group in its list of terrorist organizations. 

It is first and foremost Americans who question this Obama administration policy. In Afghanistan the U.S. spent over a trillion dollars and lost over 2,000 of its citizens in the longest war of the past hundred years in order to kill one terrorist, bin Laden, and now the U.S. president is trying to repeat all this one more time in Syria. Obama's logic is impossible to understand; through his efforts, international terrorism is finding a new haven in Syria to replace Afghanistan. 

A conflict which began with anti-government demonstrations three years ago has turned into a war between militant groups. Furthermore, an entire army of foreign mercenaries who have no relation to Syria are operating in the country. The majority of the mercenaries (around 70 percent) are from Middle Eastern countries [1], mainly from Jordan (up to 2089 people), Saudi Arabia (1016), Tunisia (970), Lebanon (890) and Libya (556). However, over the past year the number of citizens of Western Europe who have joined the ranks of international terrorism has been growing at a frightening pace; in 2013 their number increased from 600 in April to 1900 by the end of the year. Western Europeans now comprise up to 20 percent of foreign mercenaries in Syria; the majority of new recruits are from France (412), Great Britain (366), Germany (240), Belgium (296) and the Netherlands (152). Over 200 Americans and Canadians are fighting in the ranks of the al-Nusra Front. There is no doubt that when they return, the European and American fighters for international terrorism will take up the same activities in their home countries. But for now they are fighting for the creation of an Islamic state in Syria as the foundation for a future caliphate. 

And here the Americans could ask their president: why does America want to replace al-Asad's regime with the Syrian equivalent of Taliban-era Afghanistan? Washington has implied many times that it could get the Syrian opposition to the negotiating table any time it needed to. However, it couldn't. Or else it wouldn't. Recently a real war has begun between the various rebel groups over the division of the territories under their control. Al-Qaeda's troops are fighting more successfully than others, while the FSA is losing ground. Chaos and disorder reign in the ranks of al-Asad's adversaries; since early January in the north and east of Syria there have been fierce battles between various rebel forces, and alliances between them form and disintegrate almost every day. 

Of course, John Kerry maintains that soon we can expect demilitarization of the situation and the opening of corridors for humanitarian aid, as well as an end to attacks against the civilian population. If he is talking about the Syrian authorities, there will not be any problems on their end. The Syrian government is prepared to cooperate with regard to the UN Security Council resolution, granting access for humanitarian cargos as long as the state's sovereignty is respected. But the discord in the rebel camp and their lack of a united coordinating center makes it impossible for them to implement the resolution. According to the Security Council document, a report on the situation in Syria is to be presented to the Council every 30 days, which means that before that time runs out the international community will not be able to react quickly to the rebels' noncompliance with the resolution's demands. It is difficult to believe that the U.S. State Department does not understand that. Kerry is once again demonstrating classic American disregard for the fate of other nations.

For America, the use of force is the priority course of action in Syria. Here the Americans will balk at nothing. The Free Syrian Army, as anyone can see, has not been capable of fighting without al-Qaeda for a long time, but Washington prefers to overthrow Bashar al-Asad by the hands of «moderates». The White House understands that the American public will not accept al-Qaeda coming to power in Damascus, but cannot refuse to make use of it. The Obama administration has gotten stuck in this impasse. It is in Washington's interests to remain ostensibly on the sidelines while allowing the rebels to continue to commit outrages in Syria and preventing al-Asad from ending the terrorist war which is exhausting the country...

(1) ICSR. King’s College London. ICSR Insight: Up to 11,000 foreign fighters in Syria; steep rise among Western Europeans.

Tags: Al Qaeda UN Middle East Syria

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