Victory for the Syrian ‘Revolutionaries’ in Idlib

Syrian rebels have been celebrating, having a few days ago captured the city of Idlib after days of intense fighting – causing the government’s forces to withdraw completely in the face of collapse.

A statue of Syrian national hero Ibrahim Hanano.
A statue of Syrian national hero Ibrahim Hanano.
Hanano fought for Syrian independence and was imprisoned by the French.
Hanano fought for Syrian independence and was imprisoned by the French.
His statue was pulled down and destroyed when the militants took the city.
His statue was pulled down and destroyed when the militants took the city.

The operation was undertaken by the “Fattah Army” coalition of rebel groups, which included al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate,  the al-Nusra Front. Other factions within the Fattah Army umbrella included  Ajnad al-Sham, Jund al-Aqsa, Jaish al-Sunna, Liwa al-Haqq,  and Faynad al-Sham. I can’t say I know much about any of these groups apart from al-Nusra, but having just Googled them, I see they’re all Islamist groups.

A source from within the Syrian military alleges that both Turkey and Jordan helped the militants capture the city, accusing both of planning the operation and supplying the insurgents with advanced communication apparatus. This information is likely to be accurate, as it was recently reported in some Arab media that Turkey was now directly helping the rebels. In February, the Turkish military violated Syrian sovereignty by leading an army convoy into northern Syria to evacuate a historic tomb, and the soldiers who were guarding it. However despite the media stating in their reporting of this incident that ISIS had earlier threatened to destroy the tomb, there had actually been no negative interactions between the two groups, and ISIS and Turkish soldiers had lived side-by-side peacefully for months. In fact Turkey has also allowed ISIS to use its territory to stage attacks, including on Kobane, and there is currently a black flag flying atop a Turkish village along the Turkish-Syrian border. Thus it is most likely that at least Turkey helped with the taking of Idlib.

The al-Nusra Front declared their conquest by tweeting: “Thanks be to God, the city of Idlib has been liberated,” in response to their new victory.

The head of the Free Syrian Army – General Salim Idriss – also seemed to endorse the outcome of Fattah Army’s campaign, as can be seen below.

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In a later tweet he then stated that the Nusra Front are only “al-Qaeda affiliated”, and must “defect,” in order to become good little moderates like himself.

Due to the source of amusement and ridicule these comments were to Syria supporters – with Idriss having previously aligned himself and the FSA with the goals of a liberal democracy – the Western-backed opposition, the Syrian National Coalition, ended up releasing a statement announcing that the Twitter account was a hoax, and that Idriss does not use social media in an official capacity. The Idriss account now states that it’s a parody profile.

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However it is interesting that the SNC or the “Secretary of Defense in the interim Syrian government” felt the need to distance  Idriss from al-Nusra and “extremism and terrorism,” when they themselves hailed the taking of the city, saying that it was an “important victory on the road to the full liberation of Syrian soil from the Assad regime and its allies.” They also made fresh pleas for more assistance from the West.

The statement is also a bit odd because many high-figures within the FSA have openly collaborated with ISIS and al-Nusra, and have been filmed doing so and talking about it. The SNC and their US, British, French and Gulf backers don’t really care about who’s “moderate,” they’re happy for anyone – no matter how ideologically insane – to get the job of removing the Assad government done. All this stuff about moderates is just PR for the domestic audiences.

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As for these supposed 5000 “moderates” that the US are going to be sending into Syria each year…anyone who is willing to take up arms against both ISIS and the Syrian Arab Army five years into a civil war has to be a complete nut-job. I’m also pretty sure that whoever’s doing the vetting process isn’t being too strict. Currently it seems like they (the US army) is having trouble finding recruits, having a total of 300 men at last count. However let’s face it, these guys probably aren’t going to fight ISIS at all. Just as the FSA told Theo Padnos – the American journalist who was kidnapped and handed over to al-Nusra by the FSA – they lied to the Americans about working and sharing weapons with al-Nusra, there’s nothing to stop this new group doing the same.

What does need to be said about these fresh recruits is that they could be a Trojan horse for the West to directly wage war on the Syrian government. The Obama administration is currently thinking up legislation that will protect these forces should they come under attack from the SAA, and this may include some US forces working alongside the ‘rebels’. It could also possibly include even more US soldiers being sent in as a result of such an attack. This all seems like laying a trap for Assad, as it essentially means America’s mercenaries are free to attack the Syrian army, but if they attack in retaliation, this will allow the US and its allies to intervene. And obviously, if these guys are causing bloody havoc in their country, the SAA will need to do something about it.

To return to Idlib…

It seems that some ‘revolutionaries’ are no longer satisfied with the way things are now being run there. For example:

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Isn’t this to be expected from a city taken over by Islamists? In the government half of Aleppo, nightclubs have started to reopen every night, and there are always people to be found there at 3am. On the rebel-held half of the city, restaurants and cafes are split into male only and family sections – just like in Saudi Arabia. I suspect things are about to get a lot worse in Idlib.

The video below was posted on May 30th:

(It shows Islamists engaging in Takbeers before being interrupted by SAA warplanes overhead, and is quite amusing – in fact it couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of guys!)

I assume the barrel bombs have just begun to fall on Idlib.

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Idlib after government bombing
Taken on 3rd April 2015.
Taken on 3rd April 2015.

Video: State Department Spokesman Jen Psaki Announces New “Long-standing” Policy Against Backing Coups

Video description from Democracy Now!:

 After Venezuela accused the United States of plotting another coup, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki rejected the claim as “ludicrous.” She said, “As a matter of long-standing policy, the United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means.” The response from reporters may surprise you.

Democracy Now!, is an independent global news hour that airs weekdays on 1,300+ TV and radio stations Monday through Friday. Watch our livestream 8-9am ET at http://democracynow.org.

Whose arms have the Obama Administration been twisting?

In an interview with Vox last month Barack Obama said: ‘We occasionally have to twist the arms of countries that wouldn’t do what we need them to do.’ He elaborated, stating that “if it weren’t for the various economic or diplomatic or, in some cases, military leverage that we had — if we didn’t have that dose of realism, we wouldn’t get anything done, either.”

Thanks to a cache of intelligence cables that were leaked to the Guardian, we now have an example of one such occasion. The leaked documents revealed that Barack Obama once “threatened” Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas. This was in relation to the 2012 bid by the Palestinian Authority to seek ‘non-member observer status’ at the United Nations. The article states:

A South African state security agency report from November 2012 records a Palestinian intelligence officer handing over a memo detailing a phone call made by the US president to the Palestinian leader “where President Obama threatened President Abbas if he goes ahead with the UN bid”.

Abbas pressed ahead with the application to the UN, and a fortnight later the general assembly backed the bid, which smoothed the way for the Palestinians to attempt to bring cases against Israel at the international criminal court.

The nature of Obama’s threat isn’t expanded upon in the cables, however that the administration sought to punish Abbas and the Palestinians for seeking to use the appropriate and legal international bodies as a means of establishing their state says a lot about the White House’s disregard for democracy and human rights – despite the constant invoking of such principles by the administration as a reason for bombing non-compliant nations, or applying sanctions etc.

Surely this proves once and for all that the U.S. is not a neutral mediator between Israel and the Palestinians. If anyone needs to be threatened, Obama should be telling Netanyahu that he will no longer be receiving $3 billion of aid every year until Israel proves itself willing to return to the pre-1967 borders, and commit to a meaningful resolution to the conflict.

* * * * * *

When I first heard Obama actually admitting to twisting arms, I immediately thought of the US’s insistence that the EU impose sanctions on Russia following the downing of MH17 last summer. Despite – almost a year later – no investigation apportioning blame having been published, within hours of the crash Obama had proclaimed Vladimir Putin to be personally responsible. New sanctions were implemented, and the EU soon followed suit. This definitely seemed like a case of arm-twisting; Joe Biden even said that the White House had had to “embarrass” European leaders into imposing the sanctions.

For months now the behaviour of Angela Merkel and others has been so at odds with reality, that blackmail seems like the only credible reason for this. It seems like the NSA certainly picked up some good dirt on Merkel while bugging her phone. When she and Hollande flew to Moscow to meet with Putin in January, the lack of an American or British presence was telling. So was the fact that the three leaders spoke for hours without aides. Then, when Merkel visited the White House the week after, some incriminating photographs of her with a group of skinhead/neo-Nazi types were published only hours before she and Obama met. Anonymous took credit for this, however due to the decentralized nature of the group, it would be possible for anyone with an agenda to have published these photos on behalf of the hacker collective.

* * * * * *

Obviously this is all just speculation, but as Obama has admitted to using coercive means to achieve his objectives – as is evidenced by his threatening of Mahmoud Abbas – it seems likely that he and his administration have issued threats to the EU.

Thus the lofty statements made by the White House, State Department etc alluding to the importance of democratic principles, self-determination, human rights, freedom of speech and so on become rather meaningless when these are not backed up by actions to support them.

Sadly there is another parallel to be drawn from the current situations in Palestine and Ukraine. While Russia receives sanctions for its so-called “annexation” of Crimea – despite the peninsula voting overwhelmingly to rejoin its homeland – Israel receives billions of dollars in aid every year to maintain their occupation of Palestine, when it can be guaranteed that given the choice, no Palestinian would choose to live under Israeli rule.

Oh the irony!

 

References:

CIA attempted to contact Hamas despite official US ban, spy cables reveal
http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/feb/23/spy-cables-leak-cia-contact-hamas-us-ban?CMP=share_btn_tw

Obama: ‘We have to twist arms when countries don’t do what we need them to’
http://rt.com/news/231279-obama-foreign-policy-power/

Response from my MP regarding the government’s plan to send military “advisers” to Ukraine

Below is the response I received to the email I sent to my MP – David Hamilton, Labour –  regarding David Cameron’s decision to send 75 military “advisers” to Ukraine, despite a new ceasefire having just been negotiated in the Normandy Four format (ie. between France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine). The text from my email can be found here. I have heard that France has distanced itself from Cameron’s plan, and that Hollande’s administration is still committed to reaching a diplomatic settlement. Yesterday President Putin met with Gérard Larcher – the President of the French Senate – in Moscow, further highlighting the conciliatory tone between the two nations. Read details from their meeting here.

 

Dear Ms Stephenson

Thank you for your email with your concerns on David Cameron’s position on Ukraine.

I am aware that David Cameron announced that UK military trainers are to be deployed to help Ukraine forces stave off further Russian backed incursions into its sovereign territory.

This decision has been under consideration by the UK national security council since late last year and it would be the first deployment of British troops to the country since the near civil war in eastern Ukraine began more than a year ago.

This is part of a training mission providing advice on medical training, logistics, intelligence analysis and infantry training.  I understand that this is an action meant to alert the Russians that Britain does not approve of further large scale occupations of towns in Ukraine

David Cameron has also argued for tougher sanctions against Moscow if Russia backed militias in eastern Ukraine and failed to observe the provisions of a ceasefire agreement.

This is indeed a worrying situation and it may of course fuel Russia’s wrath with the EU and needs to be handled delicately.

I like you, agree it is not as black and white as it seems.  We need to take a more even handed approach to what is happening.  I was extremely disappointed that we were not there along with the Germans and the French at the summit that was held with Russia and the Ukraine.

I am also deeply concerned about the state of the other countries in the region.  However for my part and my Party  I will be keeping a very close eye on the situation.

Thank you for sharing your views.

Regards

DAVID HAMILTON MP
Member of Parliament for Midlothian

 

I was disappointed that Hamilton did not address my concerns regarding the contradiction between sending British soldiers and supporting the Minsk agreement, which requires all foreign troops to leave the country. It is also discouraging to see references to ‘Russian backed incursions’ and ‘Russia’s wrath with the EU’, but no mention of the will of the people of Eastern Ukraine, who have been living under constant shelling for almost a year now. It seems like there is little difference between Hamilton’s view of the situation and that of the PM. However, another member of the Labour Party – I’ve forgotten who – said in an interview to RT this week that there was a great deal of disapproval to Cameron’s maneuver in Parliament. This was due to its inflammatory nature, and because the announcement was made having only been decided by a few members of  Cameron’s Cabinet – rather than following a debate in the House of Commons and with widespread support.

While John Kerry and Joe Biden insist that there’s been no split within the US/EU/NATO countries on how to approach the situation and ‘deal with’ Russia, it seems like this honeymoon phase of the coalition may truly be at an end now. While most of Europe seems to favour a rapprochement with Russia; the US, UK, Canada, Poland and the Baltic states are clamoring for more sanctions and won’t rule out sending weapons. Since Cameron’s announcement, Poland has declared that it will now send 100 trainers, with Canada likely to follow. At this rate Putin doesn’t need to do anything in retaliation, he can merely sit back and watch as the EU caves in on itself once and for all.

Co-conspirators in the Propaganda War on Syria: Liz O’Bagy and the Syrian Emergency Task Force

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The Syrian war has raged on for years now, and I doubt that anyone observing from the outside would have expected the country’s leader -Bashar al-Assad – and his Syrian Arab Army to still be fighting on today. Isn’t he meant to terrorise his people? That’s what Obama and the western media would like us to think – that he’s an evil dictator, the ‘new Hitler’ (before Putin was again), who slaughters peaceful protesters and gasses babies just for the hell of it. Sure there are some extremist elements in the opposition…Assad clearly took advantage of the chaos by stamping out the “moderate” rebels and allowing ISIS to flourish, thus sending the grateful Syrian citizenry running back into his open arms. However some quick research reveals a different narrative: one in which the UK media is guilty of not just providing a biased account, but has been actively collaborating in the fabrication of ‘evidence’, used to frame the Syrian government for abhorrent crimes against humanity. Here is the first in a long list of some of the dubious people involved in selling this story to the West:

Elizabeth O’Bagy

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Elizabeth O’Bagy is a former senior analyst at American think tank the Institute for the Study of War, who was fired from this role for committing job fraud. In August 2013 the Wall Street Journal published an impassioned editorial by O’Bagy, that described her numerous trips to Syria, and hours spent with the “moderate” rebels battling Assad’s army. An extracts read:

Moderate opposition groups make up the majority of actual fighting forces, and they have recently been empowered by the influx of arms and money from Saudi Arabia and other allied countries, such as Jordan and France. This is especially true in the south, where weapons provided by the Saudis have made a significant difference on the battlefield, and have helped fuel a number of recent rebel advances in Damascus.

Thanks to geographic separation from extremist strongholds and reliable support networks in the south, even outdated arms sent by the Saudis, like Croatian rocket-launchers and recoilless rifles, have allowed moderate rebel groups to make significant inroads into areas that had previously been easily defended by the regime, and to withstand the pressure of government forces in the capital. In recent months, the opposition has achieved major victories in Aleppo, Idlib, Deraa and Damascus—nearly reaching the heart of the capital—despite the regime’s consolidation in Homs province.

At this stage in the conflict, barring a major bombing campaign by the U.S., sophisticated weaponry, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapon systems, may be the opposition’s best chance at sustaining its fight against Assad. This is something only foreign governments, not jihadists, can offer. Right now, Saudi sources that are providing the rebels critical support tell me that they haven’t sent more effective weaponry because the U.S. has explicitly asked them not to.

There is no denying that groups like Jabhat al Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham have gained a foothold in the north of Syria, and that they have come to dominate local authorities there, including by imposing Shariah law. Such developments are more the result of al Qaeda affiliates having better resources than an indicator of local support. Where they have won over the local population, they have done so through the distribution of humanitarian aid.

Yet Syrians have pushed back against the hard-line measures imposed on them by some of these extremists groups. While I was last in northern Syria in early August, I witnessed nearly daily protests by thousands of citizens against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham in areas of Aleppo.

Clearly we can see that O’Bagy was calling for the US government to – if not intervene directly – send advanced weaponry to these moderate groups in order to raise their chances against both the Assad regime and jihadist forces. Her knowledge of the political landscape inside Syria was then used as evidence by John Kerry and John McCain during a Senate hearing that discussed the possibility of US military intervention in the war-torn country. Not long after this, O’Bagy was dismissed from her position at the nonpartisan Institute for the Study of War – due to having lied about possessing a PhD, and for her undisclosed affiliation with the Syrian Emergency Task Force – a State Department funded lobbying group that’s sole purpose is to advocate for regime change in Syria.

Syrian Emergency Task Force

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The SETF’s wikipedia page states:

The Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF) is a United States based organization that advocates for the armed overthrow of the government of Syria.

The group’s primary activity is advocating for U.S. military involvement in the Syrian Civil War through congressional office visits, media awareness campaigns, and organizing junkets for key U.S. foreign policy decisionmakers.

The group’s website states that it recently organised a trip to Syria for Senator McCain (who also hired O’Bagy as an assistant) to meet commanders of the “moderate” Free Syrian Army, and posted this incriminating photograph:

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The man standing in the doorway is Mohammad Nour, a spokesman for the Northern Storm Brigade – a faction of al-Nusra Front, ie. al-Qaeda in Syria. It has been claimed that standing behind McCain is ISIS Caliph al-Baghdadi (though I believe this to be false). To the right is Mouaz Moustafa, the SETF’s executive director. Another photo shows these same individuals holding a meeting with Brigadier General Idriss Salem, head of the Free Syrian Army:

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These images highlight the lack of credibility in O’Bagy’s WSJ lamentations that there are truly moderate rebel factions inside Syria. Instead, all these various groups – FSA, al-Nusra, ISIS – are one and the same: made up of the same individuals and going under different guises at any given moment, existing only to destroy an independent and secular society.

A look at Moustafa’s profile tells us all we need to know about his desire to “help” the Syrian people:

Mr. Moustafa was born and raised in Damascus, Syria before moving to the US as a teenager. He is the current Executive Director for SETF, Political Director for UFS (United For a Free Syria), as well as a board member of the Coalition for a Democratic Syria (CDS). As former staffer for Congressman Vic Snyder and Senator Blanche Lincoln, Mr. Moustafa spent four and a half years working in Congress before leaving to work briefly with Egyptian opposition. Mr. Moustafa also worked with the Libyan Revolution. During this period, Mr. Moustafa was the Executive Director of the Libyan Council of North America (LCNA), Political Director of the Libyan Emergency Task Force (LETF), and worked closely with top officials within the Transitional National Council (TNC). Mr. Moustafa joined SETF in the fall of 2011 to help advocate on behalf of the pro-democracy movement in his native Syria. Moustafa boasts an extensive network of Syrian activists, opposition figures, and FSA commanders with whom he is in regular contact.

These connections highlight not only that Moustafa is a serial lobbyist for regime change, but that he is inextricably linked to jihadist causes such as the Muslim Brotherhood. We all know how western funded regime change worked out for Libya. Additionally, other staff members of SETF include Toby Cadman, a British-based lawyer who previously served as defense attorney to members of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, a Bangladesh militant group whose leaders were recently convicted of war crimes, including genocide and rape, by the country’s International Crimes Tribunal. Does not sound promising.

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On a somewhat contradictory note however, the Syrian Emergency Task Force has also been accused of being a front for Israeli interests (reblogged below); sectarian chaos in Syria has certainly been good for the Jewish state, most recently diverting attention away from Israel’s actions in Gaza.

What all this extremely confusing and contradictory information seems to suggest is that DC/Wall Street interests and Islamic jihad are colluding in a scheme that is mutually beneficial…the ousting of the Assad regime would leave Syria free to be carved up by the west for financial exploitation, whilst al-Qaeda extremists implement their new society based on Sharia law. It will also provide America with their long-desired ‘path to Persia’; all the while disguised to the public as a humanitarian operation.

Sources:

Elizabeth O’Bagy: On the Front Lines of Syria’s Civil War:
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324463604579044642794711158

The Inside Story Of How A Fake PhD Hijacked The Syria Debate
http://thinkprogress.org/security/2013/09/11/2601151/exclusive-mccain-kerry-cited-syria-analyst-false-credentials/

Syrian Emergency Task Force:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syrian_Emergency_Task_Force

SETF: Meet the Staff:
http://syriantaskforce.org/index.php/about-us/washington-dc-staff

Did an Israel lobby front group organize McCain’s trip to Syria?:
http://thepassionateattachment.com/2013/06/04/did-an-israel-lobby-front-group-organize-mccains-trip-to-syria/

John McCain, Conductor of the “Arab Spring” and the Caliph:
http://www.voltairenet.org/article185085.html

Meet the Syrian Islamist Organization Controlling Senator McCain’s Agenda:
http://www.frontpagemag.com/2013/dgreenfield/meet-the-syrian-islamist-organization-controlling-senator-mccains-agenda/

Syria: As the bombs fall, the people of Damascus rally round Bashar al-Assad:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10770311/Syria-As-the-bombs-fall-the-people-of-Damascus-rally-round-Bashar-al-Assad.html

Brookings’ “Which Path to Persia?”:
http://landdestroyer.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/brookings-which-path-to-persia.html

The Truth Behind Syria:
http://truthbehindsyria.tumblr.com/

Friends of Syria:
http://friendsofsyria.co/