Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
I argue why Obama is right to proscribe Jabhat al-Nusra even though it hurts the rebels militarily.
Elias Critiques my argument in an email, December 12,
I have to disagree with your theory that Syria will end in a Lebanese model. [Elias is referring to this interview] Syria is not Lebanon; in Lebanon, all factions were equally responsible for the violence and none lived under the brutal regime of the other (like Sunnis under Assad’s) for 42 years. In Lebanon no faction could roll the other back.
The Alawite hand is too bloody to shake and they are now on the defensive with no foreign help in sight! Assad’s militia cannot hold out in the Alawite mountains!–no economy or infrastructure there, plus the sanctions will cripple them in 2 months max.! Assad’s militia depends on planes and helicopters and infrastructure and offensive tactics to fight; Even with all those things Assad’s militia is getting beaten!–No FSA is going to let shabiha run around along the coast unpunished, drinking coffee and tea in some cafe! The shabiha are not accustomed to rebel fighting and are already dead tired!
Even if it takes 50 years the Alawites are going to have to kiss the hand and the butt and shine the shoes and clean the toilet of the Sunnis for decades to have an even small chance of survival in Syria! Too much has happened for the Alawites to escape this round! Alawites will only have control over if whether to use chemical weapons and if that happens, are bets are off and their complete annihilation will be certain! Syria is not going to have militias because Syria is 75% Sunni Arab and they have a common goal!
Turkey is going to deal with the PKK in the Syrian Kurdish area and the KDP of Barzani is going to help turkey because they fear an alliance between Maliki and Erdogan over the Kurdish issue in Syria and then in Iraq! Christians and Druze and Ismaelis have learned to kiss the hand on who ever rules in Damascus!
—You are also wrong about Israel being stronger now! Arabs are no longer going to sit and watch Gaza bombed like they used to do! their governments have to deliver now, not just keep the lid on for the USA! Israel can only survive by continuing to deport Palestinians. that wont happen anymore and the demographics are changing as long as al jazeera and world media and the Arabs oppose these deportations, Israel is creating its own demographic time-bomb. Without a peace agreement, Israel in 25 years will have to choose to adopt Assad tactics or get out of the 67 borders.
Palestinians are going nowhere and are getting stronger every day. Israel has new fronts to deal with now. Arabs are now more likely to work together and get more support from china and Russia. before the cooperation was a fake one, based on photo gatherings of presidents only.
you are also wrong about Arab monarchies (morocco and Jordan) being more stable than republics. Morocco and Jordan have always prided themselves on being more democratic/modern than the Arab republics. that is no longer true when both morocco and Jordan see Tunisia and Libya pass them by. the Moroccans and Jordanians wont accept anything less than a little bit more than what the Tunisians and Libyans already have! Morocco is dealing with a huge crisis as they have a large population in Europe who are westernized and bring in western influences into the country. Jordan’s king Abdullah is playing a game similar to Assad in fooling his people; this is also not working anymore; the people want bread, not Rania and Abdullah lecturing the west on the middle east and vacationing along the french riviera. There is going to be a cross-border development of democracy whereby one population is going to influence the other in their demand of democracy and freedom and jobs etc.
Three hospitals in Aleppo were put out of service in November.
It started with the rebels blowing up the French Hospital located in the Syrian Army zone in a suicide attack (a private hospital at the edge of the Christian area) in the north half of Aleppo and ended with the Syrian Air Force bombing a public hospital in al-Shaar in the south half of Aleppo. In between, the Free Syrian Army took over a public hospital near Bustan al-Basha and the Syrian Army attacked leaving it in complete ruins.
Several bomb explosions reported in Damascus: Car bomb and two explosions at main gate of Interior Ministry, after earlier blast at Palace of Justice, state TV says.
….fired from the Damascus area at targets in northern Syria. “The total is number is probably north of six now,” said another American official, adding that the targets were in areas controlled by the Free Syrian Army, the main armed insurgent group.
It is not clear how many casualties resulted from the attacks by the Scuds — a class of Soviet-era missiles made famous by Saddam Hussein of Iraq during the first Persian Gulf war. But it appeared to be the first time that the Assad government had fired the missiles at targets inside Syria.
American officials did not say how they had monitored the missile firings, but American intelligence has been closely following developments in Syria through aerial surveillance and other methods, partly out of concern that Mr. Assad may resort to the use of chemical weapons in the conflict.
The Obama administration views the Assad government’s use of Scud missiles as a “significant escalation” of the conflict, said a senior official. ….Military experts said that move might reflect the Assad government’s worries that its aircraft have been vulnerable to rebel air defenses. In recent weeks, rebel forces have captured Syrian military bases, seized air-defense weapons and used some of them to fire at Syria warplanes. But one expert said that the government may have decided to use large missiles in order to wipe out military bases — and the arsenals they hold — that had been taken over by the opposition.
The “Friends of Syria” also formally recognized the opposition council and called for President Bashar al-Assad’s resignation. The group will create a relief fund “to support the Syrian people” but there was no commitment for supplying arms to the opposition fighters, although that was not ruled out for the future. The National Council said recognition is nice, but called for “real support” including humanitarian assistance and military equipment. Meanwhile, between 125 and 300 people were killed in bombings and gunfire in Hama province in the predominantly Alawite village of Aqrab, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. According to opposition activists, the civilians were being held hostage by Shabiha, pro-government militiamen, in a building that was bombed by government warplanes. Activists said the Free Syria Army was making a siege on the building. These accounts cannot be verified as there have been conflicting reports, and the Syrian government has not made any statements on the incident.
Two years into Syria’s civil war, and the tables have turned – the Syrian government is collapsing, and President Bashar al Assad has been reduced to a warlord. The rebels continue to make substantial gains, but they are having a hard time unifying.
Even though al Assad’s forces still control a sizable portion of the country, they probably will not retake the country entirely. More likely, Syria will face a similar fate as Lebanon – where various factions struggle to govern the country – after an eventual rebel victory.
Find out how the U.S., Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia will vie to become the next major international influence in the new Syria:…
The decision to blacklist al-Nusra, an important fighting force in the uprising, has already triggered criticism from the powerful Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. A senior Brotherhood official said it was wrong and hasty.
“They are seen as (a group that) can be relied on to defend the country and the civilians against the regular army and Assad’s gangs,” Brotherhood deputy leader Farouq Tayfour told Reuters on Tuesday.
Alkhatib said it was “no shame” if Syrian rebels were driven by religious motives to topple Assad. “Religion that does not liberate its people, and does not eliminate repression, is not authentic religion,” he said.
“The fact that the military movement is Islamic in its color is generally positive. Jihad in the path of God, has long been a fundamental motivator for human rights.”….
Syrian opposition urges U.S. review of al-Nusra blacklisting
By Samia Nakhoul and Khaled Yacoub Oweis
MARRAKECH, Morocco | Wed Dec 12, 2012
(Reuters) – The leader of Syria’s opposition coalition urged the United States on Wednesday to review its decision to designate the militant Islamist Jabhat al-Nusra as a terrorist group, saying religion was a legitimate motive for Syrian rebels.
“The decision to consider a party that is fighting the regime as a terrorist party needs to be reviewed,” Mouaz Alkhatib told a “Friends of Syria” meeting in Morocco, where Western and Arab states granted full recognition to the coalition seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad.
“We might disagree with some parties and their ideas and their political and ideological vision. But we affirm that all the guns of the rebels are aimed at overthrowing the tyrannical criminal regime.
Khatib also called on Syria’s Alawite minority on Wednesday to launch a campaign of civil disobedience against Assad, an Alawite facing a mainly Sunni Muslim uprising against his rule…..
….l’inscription de Jabhat al-Nusra sur la liste des organisations terroristes internationales est un merveilleux cadeau fait à Assad, qui a qualifié ses opposants de terroristes islamistes dès les premiers jours de la révolution…. l’inscription de Jabhat al-Nusra sur la liste des organisations terroristes est perçue comme une ultime trahison par une grande partie des Syriens. Il faut bien comprendre que ces derniers ne perçoivent pas le groupe jihadiste du point de vue de la guerre américaine contre le terrorisme, dont ils n’ont que faire dans les circonstances actuelles, mais plutôt sur la base de leurs réalités quotidiennes. Dans cette perspective, Jabhat al-Nusra est perçue comme un groupe défendant la population contre les forces d’Assad et cela en raison de son efficacité redoutable sur le plan militaire. …
The Assad regime’s brutality has created an environment inside Syria that al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) is working hard to exploit. In an effort to establish a long-term presence in Syria, AQI is trying to rebrand itself under the guise of a group called al-Nusrah Front. By fighting alongside armed Syrian opposition groups, al-Nusrah Front members are seeking to hijack the Syrian struggle for their own extremist ends. Today, the United States announced that it will list al-Nusrah Front as another alias used by the Foreign Terrorist Organization AQI, and will designate it under Executive Order 13224. These actions against al-Nusrah Front underscore its connection to AQI so that everyone, especially the Syrian people, can distinguish between armed opposition groups that are fighting for a more unified, just, and pluralistic Syria and terrorist elements whose extremism has no place in a post-Asad Syria….We call on all responsible actors to speak out against and distance themselves from al-Nusrah Front, Shabiha, Jaysh Al-Shaib, and other violent extremists who seek and intend to hijack this Syrian struggle. Assad must go – but the new government that replaces him should not be a new group of tyrants who reject the tolerance that made Syria the unique and remarkable country that it was and can be again…..The American people and our international partners stand with you during this struggle. This is your revolution, your country, and your future – not al-Qa’ida’s.
Syrian opposition sees Jabhat al-Nusra as stronger asset than the U.S.
Lindsey Hilsum, 12 Dec 2012
They’re happy, but they’re not happy. Pleased that President Obama announced last night that the US recognises the new Syrian opposition coalition as the “legitimate representative of the Syrian people.” Unhappy that one of the fiercest fighting forces on the ground, Jabhat al-Nusra, has been designated by the USA as a terrorist [...]
ANKARA, Turkey — American diplomats are struggling to prevent a seismic shift in Turkey’s policy toward Iraq, a change that U.S. officials fear could split the foundations of that fractious state.
The most volatile fault line in Iraq divides the semiautonomous Kurdistan region in the north from the Arab-majority central government in Baghdad. As the two sides fight for power over territory and oil rights, Turkey is increasingly siding with the Kurds.
Israel Envoy Favors Assad Ouster Even If Sunni Radicals May Gain
2012-12-12 By Indira A.R. Lakshmanan
Dec. 12 (Bloomberg) — Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren said the fall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would be a boon to Israel and the Mideast, even if radical Islamists try to fill the vacuum left by his departure. “There’s the possibility that you’ll have Sunni extremist elements who will try to come to the fore,” Oren said yesterday in Washington. “Our opinion is that any situation would be better than the current situation” in which the Syrian regime has a strategic alliance with Iran and the Lebanese Shiite Muslim terrorist group Hezbollah, he said.
BRISTOL, UK DECEMBER 13th, 2012: Games have been growing in force as a medium but still tend to be seen as pure entertainment. That perception is being challenged by a new release that explores the war in Syria in an interactive form, titled ‘Endgame Syria’. Developed as part of the new project GameTheNews.net, creators Auroch Digital are using rapid-game development methods to build games quickly in response to real-world events. Created in a development time of two weeks, the game allows users to explore the options open to the rebels as they push the conflict to its endgame……
The game free to download for Android via Google Play and is available to play on the GameTheNews.net website as a HTML5 game and also due out on iPhone, iPad and iPad Touch imminently. Full details can be found athttp://bit.ly/endgamesyria.
In Syria, the Challenges of Sanctioning a Rebel Group
Dec 12, 2012 | Stratfor
The United States’ Dec. 11 decision to recognize the Syrian opposition coalition will likely lead to increased involvement with the opposition, but Washington’s announcement earlier in the day that it would blacklist Islamist extremist opposition group Jabhat al-Nusra will make it difficult to overtly fund and supply Syria’s other rebel forces in the future. By designating Jabhat al-Nusra as a foreign terrorist organization, Washington has made it illegal for a person in the United States or under the jurisdiction of the United States to knowingly provide material support or resources to the group. However, it is unclear how the United States would go about distinguishing Jabhat al-Nusra from other rebel units.
Jabhat al-Nusra officially formed in January 2012 when it began to claim responsibility for large vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attacks against Syrian security and intelligence facilities in Damascus and Aleppo. Since that time, the group has claimed hundreds of attacks against regime forces and infrastructure.
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There is still a great deal about the group — its size, leadership, organization, foreign supporters and the nationalities of its members — that is unknown. Stratfor has received indications that Saudi Arabia is one of the group’s foreign backers. However, one thing that is evident is that Jabhat al-Nusra has grown considerably since its inception, with some estimates of its current membership between 6,000 and 10,000 fighters. This growth occurred in part because the group has demonstrated that it has the organization, funding and expertise to execute large attacks on the Syrian regime. These qualities allowed the group to quickly supplement its forces with members from other rebel units.
However, not all rebel factions agree with Jabhat al-Nusra’s tactics. The group has shown indifference to collateral damage so long as security forces are killed. In addition, some rebels are religiously and ideologically opposed to the group, which wants to establish a government based on Sharia law once President Bashar al Assad is removed. Nonetheless, the group has unmistakably emerged as one of the major players on the Syrian battlefield.
Challenges of Enforcement
Now that the United States has designated Jabhat al-Nusra as a foreign terrorist organization, the question is what capabilities Washington has to distinguish the group from other rebel factions. Since the United States is not presently providing support to the group, the addition of the group to the U.S. blacklist does not have any direct ramifications for Jabhat al Nusra’s operations at the moment.
However, the designation would play a role if Western countries decided to begin overtly funding and supplying the Syrian opposition. U.S. President Barack Obama’s announcement Dec. 11 recognizing the Syrian opposition coalition as the representative of the Syrian people — the first Syrian group to receive such a recognition from the United States — paves the way for an eventual provision of arms to the rebels. Should the United States become more involved in supporting rebels inside Syria, it would face the difficult task of distinguishing more secular rebel fighters from groups like Jabhat al-Nusra and other Islamist extremists. Members of Jabhat al-Nusra do not look or sound different from other rebels, many of whom are themselves Islamist.
Even if the United States were able to determine each rebel’s affiliation, there is no reason to believe it would be able to assure that weapons or funds would remain in the hands of the intended. Considering these challenges, the United States will probably continue to work covertly through countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Jordan to supply the rebels in the short term.
Realities on the Ground
In addition to the difficulties of enforcing the blacklist, the United States can expect to see a backlash to the announcement within Syria. Already rebels have criticized the move, recognizing that Jabhat al-Nusra’s contribution is needed in the fight against al Assad’s forces. Twenty-nine Islamist and Salafist groups stood in solidarity with the group after the U.S. decision was made.
The designation also highlights the looming reality that when al Assad is no longer in power, even if some of the rebels are brought in to negotiate a transition, an insurgency by Islamist extremist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra will continue, since their overarching objective is to set up an Islamic state in Syria. Even if an Islamist government comes to power, there is a significant difference between Islamist representation in parliament and an Islamic state. Any Islamist presence in government would likely come from Muslim Brotherhood-style Islamists, who are at odds with strict jihadist doctrine. Therefore, even if the al Assad regime is removed and replaced, additional unrest and insurgency can be expected.