Putin and Erdogan have agreed on a restricted road map in Syria: the Kurds and Nusra will be the main losers

 

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Article published here: ‪alrai.li/fsjps5z  via ‪@AlraiMediaGroup

Key words: Turkey, Russia, Syria, USA, Kurd, Nusra, ISIS.

 

By Elijah J. Magnier: ‪@EjmAlrai

During their meeting in St. Petersburg and following consecutive reunions later, plus an exchange of visits by high-ranking military officials, Russia and Turkey agreed on the role the Turkish forces could be offered in Syria, within specific parameters that will serve both sides interest, as long as there are limits and guarantees offered by both parties. Details of the Turkish forces’ presence and deployment on the ground were discussed, including what each side could offer to thwart the US plan to divide Syria, a plan that was helping the Kurds to establish a “state”, known as Rojava, from the north-east to the north-west of Syria, with a permanent US military presence. During five years of war Washington always rejected Ankara’s request to create a no-fly-zone on its borders with Syria, 40km long and 110 km wide.

But Turkey considered itself in a strong position to impose its will on the US, indirectly accused of supporting the failed coup-d’état last July that almost cost the life of President Reccep Tayyib Erdogan. The Turkish President chose to accuse his political opponent Fethullan Gulen, resident in the US, for plotting against him rather than explicitly accuse the US administration who, right up to now, have refused to handed over Gulen to Erdogan.

Putin’s talks with Erdogan ended the state of hostility between the two countries following the downing of the Su-24 last year on the Syrian – Turkish borders. It was the first necessary step allowing the forces of Turkey and its allies in Syria to enter Syrian territory without being attacked by the Russian Air Force based in Syria or by its S-400 missiles specifically deployed to defy and hunt down any Turkish jet offering support to the ground forces inside Syrian territory.

Russia acknowledged the Turkish intervention to stop the Kurdish forces known as YPG or “People’s Protection Units” which took control of Manbej after defeating the “Islamic State” group (acronym ISIS) and was at the gates of Jarablus, heading towards Azaz to reach Afrin.

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Ankara committed itself to hunting down “ISIS” along the Syrian border with Turkey, and to preventing the Kurds from establishing themselves along the borders. Russia has accepted a Turkish incursion into Syrian territory due to the Kurds’ declared hostility to the government in Damascus when YPG forces attacked and expelled the Syrian army from al-Hasakah city to the suburbs, with US backing, – a clear intention to initiate the partition of Syria. Russia stands against a Kurdish state ruled by the US in the new Kremlin Mediterranean base, Syria. The Kurds had been enjoying the support of Damascus for the five years of war, and believe that the rebellion was not in vain, rather part of a plan to divide Syria.

Russia understands that the US is reluctant to exert influence over its allies in the Middle East to instruct their proxies in Syria to stay away from the (ex) Nusra group (Al-Qaida in Sham, newly rebranded as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham). Turkey expressed its willingness to collaborate and instruct many rebel groups under its direct influence, to reject unification, avoid the merger proposed by Nusra, and keep its distance from the Jihadists, mainly in the northern city of Aleppo. Those groups receive their logistic, finance, military equipment, medical treatment, medicine, hospitalisation, free access to the country and intelligence information from their sponsors in the Middle East: all via Turkey.

In fact, many of the rebel groups responded to Ankara’ call to attack ISIS and Kurds-controlled land in the north of Syria, and they pulled out from around Aleppo to join the Turkish Army. Others expressed the “useless objective to continue fighting in Aleppo”. Groups like Nureddine Zinki, Faylaq al-Sham, Firqat Hamza, Sultan Murad and Istaqem kama Umert, all left the Aleppo front and rejected the union with (ex) Nusra, along with one of the biggest northern rebel Islamic groups, Ahrar al-Sham, whose leadership is divided on this particular topic. These groups spat out their promise given to (ex) Nusra to form one group if it broke its ties with Qaidat al-Jihad in Khorasan, which Nusra did at the end but, indeed, without obtaining the promised unity and desired merging.

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Moreover, Turkey showed its ability to change its long declared policy toward  Damascus: Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim declared, “Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could be a partner in this transitional phase”. The tactical disagreement over Assad’s future as the head of his country remains a suspended unsolved issue that Russia considers it is the right of the Syrian people to decide.

Turkey agreed to avoid any contact or clash with the Syrian army, mainly around Aleppo, in support of the Syrian rebels and jihadists. This is leaving (ex) Nusra almost alone with minor groups around Aleppo, Ramouseh and the academies, offering a perfect target to the Russian Air Force, and the US, if willing to act in partnership, since jihadists are left alone on that front.

Turkey succeeded in benefitting from Washington’s blessing to engage its forces in Syria after five years of objection and rejection of a most wished no-fly-zone. Erdogan was carrying a sharp knife, blackmailing a US concerned that the Turkish president may fall into the arms of Russia, which would represent a threat to the NATO alliance. Erdogan was due to be pleased by the US to divert attention from the role he is unwittingly claiming that the US played and was not far from orchestrating the failed coup last July.

Moscow informed Damascus of the Turkish plan, despite denial and contested positions through its Foreign Ministry expressed overtly against the intervention o the Turkish forces on its soil. Turkey was officially using its right to “go after the PKK Kurds according to the 1999 Adana agreement with Damascus”. Moreover, Turkey was chasing ISIS from the north of Syria, an area that neither Damascus nor its close allies on the ground were willing to engage at any time in the future. Russia is aware that the Syrian Army, Iran proxies (Afghan, Pakistani and Iraqi) and Hezbollah have no intention of pushing their forces toward Jarablus, al-Bab or even Raqqa itself, ISIS’s stronghold.

Russia made it clear to Turkey that it will not tolerate any infringement of the agreement or any clash with the Syrian Army drawing clear redlines, and threatening that its Air Force will hit the Turkish forces and its proxies in case of any similar violation.

Russia has advised Syria to avoid any official objection and condemnation deposited at the United Nations Security Council related to the presence of Turkish troops on its soil. Turkey is protecting its national interest, preventing the partition of Syria, a possible domestic Kurdish uprising and a Rojava state on its border, and eliminating a future permanent foothold of US forces in Syria.

Moscow told Damascus “Turkey is willing to cut the Kurds’ toenails, they who believed the US is carrying a magic wand and could offer them a state in Syria without any objection or reactions. The YPG have no previous experience with American forces that can abandon them when US interests with Turkey prevails, despite hundreds of Kurds being killed on the battlefield against ISIS”.

It is clear that no cease-fire is possible in Syria without direct intervention of the countries involved in the war for five years, imposing a solution upon everyone and gathering together forces against the jihadists and those who stand in the way, including ISIS. Turkey has been unable to achieve any significant gains on the battlefield through its proxies except the control of Idlib. That is why the presence on the ground of “the authentic” (Turkish) dismisses the role of the agent (Syrian opposition group known as “moderate rebels”); that any strategic significant achievement against ISIS or the Syrian Army could not be achieved without the direct intervention of the Turkish Army. Today, Ankara cannot hide any longer behind its groups since the main protagonists are exposed and known today on the Syrian arena.

For the Kurds, who have a role in Syria, they must be subject to a commensurate status without becoming a tool to divide the country. As the situation in Syria is changing continuously, any glitch in the Russian agreement will push the two superpowers directly involved in Syria – The US and Russia – to provide the necessary support for the Kurds so that they drag Turkey into the Syrian quagmire and for the complexities of the Syrian conflict to return to their starting point.

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What about ISIS ?

There is no doubt that the withdrawal of ISIS from the north of Syria, leaving the arena for Turkey and its proxies, will free a large number of fighters to be invested against the Syrian Army in other locations, like Kuweires or along the Syrian desert. However, these attacks are expected. ISIS has no other targets at the moment as it is shrinking from all sides in Syria and Iraq. At the end of the day, the question remains: Who is going to finish off the ISIS stronghold in Raqqah before its militants get dispersed?

Decisional sources told me “Damascus and its allies are not willing to lose one single man to regain control of Raqqah. If the US wants with all its proxies, the Kurds or even Turkey to knock at the gate of Raqqah, they are most welcome to do so. Aleppo, mid Syria and its north are far more important than sending forces to be drained against ISIS that is just waiting to show a last show of strength before being whipped.

Thus, ISIS is expected to stay for a while longer until it is clearer who will sit on the throne in Washington. This would postpone the decision regarding the fate of the land which will remain in the hands of the terrorist group until after February-March 2017.

Aleppo prepares for a major battle and the Kurds in Syria are attracting everybody’s animosity.

 

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Published here in Arabic:  v

Translated to French (see below)

 

Key words: Turkey, Syria, Kurds, Russia, Iran, Rojava, Aleppo, Hezbollah.

 

Aleppo by Elijah J. Magnier – @EjmAlrai

Thousands of Hezbollah, Iraqis and Iranians have gathered in what it seems to be the biggest northern battle so far against thousands of Jihadists and rebels. The aim is to re-close the circle around Aleppo and secure both the northern and the southern fronts. Main targets are thought to be the surrounding of apartments 1070, the various military Academies and Ramouseh. These are the principal objectives occupying the Jihadists and rebels at the moment.

According to commanders on the ground in Aleppo “the allies of Damascus have been assembling new forces for more than two weeks now, waiting for the final general assault on different fronts around Aleppo. These forces expect the Russian Air Force to destroy the Academies and discourage Jihadists and rebels from staying in the area or even demoralise these before any infantry assault”.

Jihadists and rebels have fortified the military Academies and their positions inside barricading themselves inside to avoid hundreds of bombs fired at them by air, artillery, and anti-tank guided missiles targeted on their spots, maintaining their entrenchments in the expectation of a counter-attack. Damascus’s allies, knowing that jihadists don’t surrender easily, refrained from starting the attack last week, waiting for the Russian Mediterranean live ammunition (sending bombers and launching long range missiles) enabling them to manoeuvre against the jihadist positions and to gather forces in order to reduce casualties and ensure a fast victory.

Jihadists and rebels were able, two weeks ago, to reopen the closed circle imposed by Damascus and its allies around Aleppo. Since that time, Russia is using its Air force power to dislodge them, but without major success. Jihadists and rebels confirm receiving “massive military support from Ankara”, who allowed these groups – mainly Ahrar al-Sham, Hizb al-Islami al-Turkistani, Nureddine Zinki with some others – to use its territory and inject military capability for their forces to break the siege around Aleppo.

But Turkey is taking a politically volatile stand toward Syria. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said “Syrian President Bashar al-Assad can remain temporarily during a transition period as he is one of the actors today whether we like it or not” and “Turkey will be more active in trying to stop the danger [situation in Syria] getting worse over the next six months”. Despite the differences between Turkey, Russia and Iran over Assad’s fate as a future President, that particular issue is irrelevant as far as serious collaboration between these three influential countries in Syria is concerned, and is not an obstacle.

But Ankara is seriously concerned about the expansion of the Syrian Kurd position on the Syrian – Turkish border. Kurds in al-Hasaka north-eastern Syrian region asked the Syrian National Defence Forces (NDF) to leave Hasaka and hand over their headquarters, triggering internecine strife between the allies of yesterday.

Fierce battles between NDF and Syrian regime forces on one side, and Kurdish forces on the other have continued for three days in the city. The Kurds have the upper hand, are superior in number, and are well armed in their own Kurdish area. Overwhelming Damascus forces won’t be a difficult task. The unexpected development was the use by Damascus of its Air Force for the first time against the Kurds in Hasaka, where US Special Forces are positioned in the city. The Americans ordered the Syrian Air Force to pull out of the area, but its warning was disregarded. The US has no jurisdiction to engage in a combat against Damascus despite its presence in Syria without a UN mandate or a request by the central government, since no direct threat was posed against its personnel.

The Syrian Air Force would never intervene without Russian consent in the north of Syria because of the joint military operation run by all main forces on the ground, that is Damascus, Tehran and the Kremlin. The strike coincides with mutual contacts of Turkey, Iran and Russian leaders to coordinate efforts over Syria and find common ground on the main issues. Damascus was pleased to send a message to Turkey that it is the only force capable of stopping the establishment of a “Rojavayê Kurdistanê” – west Kurdish state or federation on its border, encouraged and supported by the US and its European allies. These maintain elite forces and even businessmen on the ground to construct a federation similar to Kurdistan Iraq and build a strong military and economic presence and long term base.

The irony in Syria is the fact that the US forces use Turkish Incirlik military base to offer air protection to Kurds in their advances against the “ISIS” group, whilst simultaneously, gaining ground following a pattern which will ensure the creation of Rojava, a Kurdish independent state (strongly rejected by Turkey as we have said).

Ankara is looking for partners who share the same concern, i.e. Russia, Damascus and Iran, and is determined to prevent the birth of Rojava. Meanwhile, Turkey has armed and prepared hundreds of Syrian rebels to enter Syria to fight the “Islamic State” group, ISIS, in Jarablus, an essential city for the Kurds to link the northeast and the northwest in Afrin. The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the most powerful and influential player in the north of Syria among numerous groups of jihadists and rebels, but the oddity of this war in Syria is that it turns allies into enemies and enemies into allies on certain issues (and not on others), keeping alliance at a strategic level even as their proxies fight to death on the ground.

Syrian Kurds are not fighting alone in northern Syria. There are Kurds from Iraq and Turkey who joined them to materialise their dream and their independence. However, dangers lie in wait for them from different angles:

– Afrin Kurdish region, which lies north of Arab occupancy cities in Aleppo, and most importantly borders Shia cities Nubbl and Zahra. The Kurdish area of Sheikh Maqsoud, Aleppo, is even more surrounded than Afrin.

– Iran strongly rejects the independence of a Kurdish minority that divides Syria and offers a foothold for the United States in the heart of the “axis of resistance”.

– Turkey won’t allow the presence of a Kurdish state or Federation on its border, and is determined to fight it through its proxies in Syria.

– Russia refuses the presence of America through its proxy the Kurds in a country where it is expanding its air force and navy, and owns the only naval base in the Middle East.

– The expansion of the Kurds in the northern Kurdish and Arab areas will push the Syrian Kurds to displace local Arabs or to place them under federal rule. They will want to fight back and will be supported by the central government.

Damascus would not have sent its Air Force to bomb the Kurdish area of Hasaka without the consent of Russia. However, this didn’t prevent a Russian General, based in Hmaymeem, travelling to Hasaka, attempting to find a solution in the same city where the US forces are positioned. Kurds are in the middle of the storm, facing enemies all over the place and their task won’t be an easy one.. Hasaka Kurdish residents are already beginning to leave their homes. This is the beginning of the displacement of Kurds in Syria, even though they have the upper hand in Hasaka. Kurds are not confined to the northeast of Syria.

It is a race against time for the Kurds, from al-Malkiya, on the north-eastern Syrian border, through Hasaka, Kobani, Manbij and Jarablus, to reach the far north-western town of Afrin where they must achieve control in order to declare an independent state: a road full of dangers and battles.

Here is Turkey sending Syrian troops to al-Halouaniyah to be close to Jarablus – City (which is under “Islamic State” at the moment, the weakest force in Syria) to cut the road for the Kurds and prevent the completion of Rojava. Turkey that was pushing for a “safe zone” or “no-fly-zone” of 110 per 40 kilometres to secure a foothold in Syria, is now against it since the Kurds stepped in, and destroyed the dream of Erdogan who now finds that casting his lot with Assad is less painful than having a Kurdish state on his borders. If this indicates anything, it is that – if it were possible – the war in Syria is becoming increasingly complex. This requires an impossibly quick solution or indeed a preparation for a long war with alliances shifting from one camp to another and where in the future the allies of yesterday will fight among themselves.

ENDS

French version:

Alep se prépares à une bataille majeure et les Kurdes de Syrie attirent l’animosité de tous.

Aleppo by Elijah J. Magnier –

Des milliers de miliciens du Hezbollah, d’Irakiens et d’Iraniens sont réunis dans ce qui semble devoir être la plus grande bataille septentrionale jusqu’à maintenant contre des milliers de Djihadistes et de rebelles. L’objectif est de refermer le cercle autour d’Alep et de consolider les fronts nord et sud. La cible semble être les alentours de l’appartement 1070, les différentes académies militaires et Ramouseh. Ce sont les principaux objectifs sous le control des Djihadistes et des rebelles pour le moment.

Selon les officiers à Alep “les alliés de Damas ont concentré de nouvelles forces pendant plus de 2 semaines, attendant l’assaut final sur différents fronts autour d’Alep. Ces forces comptent sur les avions russes pour détruire les académies et décourager les Djihadistes et les rebelles de rester dans ce périmètre, et même pour les démoraliser avant l’assaut de l’infanterie ”.

Djihadistes et rebelles ont fortifié les académies militaires oú ils se sont barricadés pour échapper aux centaines de bombes qui leur sont envoyées depuis les airs, par l’artillerie, et les missiles antichars Kornet guidés, essayant de tenir dans l’attente d’une éventuelle contre-attaque. Les alliés de Damas, sachant que les djihadistes ne se rendent pas facilement, se sont retenus de lancer une attaque la semaine dernière, attendant que la force de frappe russe de la Méditerranée (envoyant des bombardiers et des missiles à longue portée) leur permette de manœuvrer contre les positions djihadistes et de réunir des forces pour réduire les pertes et assurer une possible victoire rapide.

Djihadistes et rebelles ont réussi il y a 2 semaines, à rouvrir le cercle imposé par Damas et ses alliés autour d’Alep. Depuis lors, la Russie tente de les déloger avec ses avions, mais sans grand succès. Djihadistes et rebelles affirment recevoir “une aide militaire massive de la part d’Ankara”, qui a permis à ces groupes – surtout Ahrar al-Sham, Hizb al-Islami al-Turkistani, Nureddine Zinki et autres – d’utiliser le territoire turque et injecter des moyens militaires importantes pour leurs forces afin de briser le siège d’Alep.

Mais la Turquie n’a pas une attitude politique claire à l’égard de la Syrie. Le premier ministre turque Binali Yildirim a dit : “Le président syrien Bashar al-Assad peut rester temporairement durant une période de transition car aujourd’hui il est un des acteurs, qu’on le veuille ou pas”, et que “La Turquie sera plus active en essayant d’empêcher [la situation en Syrie] d’empirer au cours des 6 prochains mois ”. La différence de conception de la Turquie, de la Russie et de l’Iran concernant l’avenir d’Assad en tant que Président, n’a aucun impact sur l’importante collaboration de ces 3 pays influents en Syrie, et ce n’est pas un obstacle.

Mais Ankara est très préoccupé par l’expansion des positions kurdes en Syrie, à la frontière turque-syrienne. Les Kurdes d’al-Hasaka dans le nord-est syrien ont demandé à la Défense Nationale Syrienne (DNF) de quitter Hasaka et transférer son quartier général, provoquant des tensions intestines entre alliés d’hier.

Des féroces batailles entre NDF et forces du régime Syrien d’un côté, et forces Kurdes de l’autre ont continué pendant trois jours dans cette ville. Les Kurdes ont la haute main, sont plus nombreux et bien armés dans leur territoire. Surmonter les forces de Damas ne leur sera pas difficile. Ce qui était inattendu est l’utilisation pour la première fois de l’aviation de Damas contre les Kurdes à Hasaka, là même où les Forces Spéciales US sont basées. Les Américains ont donné l’ordre à l’aviation syrienne de quitter cette zone, mais celle-ci l’a ignoré. Les EU n’ont aucune légitimité pour combattre Damas malgré la présence des leurs forces spéciales en Syrie, sans un mandat de l’ONU ou une requête du gouvernement central, puisqu’il n’y a aucune menace à l’encontre de leur personnel.

L’aviation syrienne n’interviendrait pas au nord de la Syrie sans l’accord de la Russie en raison de l’action militaire en cours impliquant les principales forces au sol de Damas, Téhéran et le Kremlin. Les frappes coïncident avec les contacts réciproques des dirigeants de la Turquie, de l’Iran et de la Russie qui coordonnent leurs efforts en Syrie et trouvent un terrain d’entente sur les principaux sujets. Damas était content de faire savoir à la Turquie qu’elle est la seule force capable d’empêcher l’installation d’un “Rojavayê Kurdistanê” – le Kurdistan de l’est ou d’une fédération à sa frontière, encouragé et soutenu par les EU et leurs alliés européens. Ceux-ci maintiennent des forces d’élite et même des hommes d’affaire au sol pour construire une fédération semblable au Kurdistan Irakien, et mettre en place une forte présence militaire et économique à long terme.

L’ironie en Syrie est le fait que les forces US utilisent la base militaire Turque Incirlik pour offrir une protection aérienne aux Kurdes dans leur avancée contre le groupe “ISIS”, et leur conquête du terrain qui assurera la création de Rojava, un état Kurde indépendant (vigoureusement rejeté par la Turquie comme nous l’avons dit).

Ankara regarde ses partenaires qui ont les mêmes préoccupations, c’est-à-dire la Russie, Damas et l’Iran, et est décidé à empêcher la naissance de Rojava. Pendant ce temps, la Turquie a armé et préparé des centaines de rebelles Syriens pour qu’ils entrent en Syrie combattre l’ “Etat islamique”, ISIS, à Jarablus, une ville essentielle aux Kurdes pour relier le nord-est au nord-ouest à Afrin. Le Président turque Recep Tayyip Erdogan est le plus puissant et le plus influent au nord de la Syrie parmi de nombreux groupes de jihadistes et de rebelles, mais ce qui est terrible dans cette guerre de Syrie est que des alliés deviennent ennemis et des ennemis deviennent alliés selon les objectifs (et pas d’autres), gardant des alliances au plan stratégique alors même que leurs combattants par contumace s’entretuent au sol.

Les Kurdes syriens ne sont pas les seuls à combattre au nord de la Syrie. Il y a des Kurdes d’Irak et de Turquie qui les ont rejoints pour matérialiser leur rêve et leur indépendance. Mais des dangers n’attendent qu’à bondir de plusieurs origines:

– la région Kurde Afrin, situées au nord des villes d’occupation, Alep, et surtout les villes chiites frontières de Nubbl et Zahra. La région Kurde Sheikh Maqsoud, Alep, est encore plus entourée qu’Afrin.

– l’Iran rejette vigoureusement l’indépendance de la minorité kurde qui divise la Syrie et offre un pied à terre aux EU au cœur de l’ “axe de la résistance”.

– la Turquie ne permettra pas la présence d’un état ou d’une fédération kurde à sa frontière, et est décidée à la combattre en Syrie par contumace.

– la Russie refuse la présence des EU par l’intermédiaire des Kurdes dans un pays où elle étend son aviation et sa flotte, et possède la seule base navale du Moyen Orient.

– L’expansion des Kurdes dans les régions kurde et arabe du nord va encourager les Kurdes de Syrie à déplacer les Arabes de la région ou à leur imposer une loi fédérale. Ceux-ci se battront pour revenir avec le soutien du gouvernement central.

 

Damas n’aurait pas envoyé son aviation bombarder la région kurde d’Hasaka sans l’assentiment de la Russie. Mais ceci n’a pas empêché un général Russe, situé à Hmaymeem, de rechercher, en négociant avec les kurdes, une solution dans la ville même où sont basées les forces américaines. Les Kurdes sont en pleine tempête, faisant face à des ennemis partout, et ce sera difficile pour eux. Les habitants kurdes de Hasaka commencent à quitter leurs maisons. C’est le début du déplacement des Kurdes en Syria, même s’ils ont la haute main sur Hasaka. Les Kurdes ne sont pas confinés au nord-est de la Syrie.

C’est une course contre la montre pour les Kurdes, depuis al-Malkiya, à la frontière nord-est de la Syrie, en passant par Hasaka, Kobani, Manbij et Jarablus, pour arrive à Afrin, la ville du nord-ouest, dont ils doivent prendre le contrôle pour déclarer un état indépendant: une route plein de dangers et de batailles.

Et voilà maintenant que la Turquie envoie des troupes syriennes à al-Halouaniyah pour être proche de la ville de Jarablus (qui est sous le contrôle de l’ “Etat islamique”, la force la plus faible de Syrie) pour couper la route aux Kurdes et empêcher de réaliser Rojava. La Turquie qui a plaidé pour une “zone sécurisée” ou “sans avions” de 110 kilomètres sur 40 pour s’assurer un pied-à-terre en Syrie, n’en veut plus maintenant que les Kurdes y ont pris pied, détruisant le rêve d’Erdogan qui trouve maintenant que jeter l’éponge avec Assad est moins douloureux qu’avoir un état Kurde à sa frontière. Si cela veut dire quelque chose, c’est que – si cela est possible – la guerre en Syrie devient de plus en plus complexe. Cela nécessite une solution extrêmement rapide, ce qui est quasi impossible, sans quoi on doit se préparer à une guerre longue avec des alliances mouvantes où à l’avenir les alliés d’hier finiront par se combattre.

Article traduit par: Professeur Olivier Dulac 

 

 

 

 

 

Obama a la haute main sur l’Iran et la Russie en Syrie et en Irak Et sans grandes forces terrestres

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Par Elijah J. Magnier : @EjmAlrai

Le courant médiatique dominant accuse le Président américain Barak Obama d’être “faible, indécis, hésitant et même poltron ” du fait de l’absence d’engagement militaire total, non seulement en Syrie contre le Président Bashar al-Assad, mais aussi en Irak. En fait, Obama est tout à fait l’inverse. La politique moyen-orientale du Président s’est montrée jusqu’à maintenant particulièrement subtile et efficace, dans le meilleur intérêt des EU.

Obama a refusé d’envoyer des troupes combattre au sol pour le compte d’autres pays de la région. Il a limité son implication à quelques milliers de conseillers, s’est servi de forces locales désireuses de se battre et mourir pour promouvoir les intérêts des EU et de ses alliés, et a trouvé moyen de vendre encore plus d’armes, particulièrement à l’Arabie Saoudite. En fait, il a d’une certaine façon imposé sa marque à la “guerre contre le terrorisme”.

Depuis l’intervention de son armée de l’air en 2015 en Syrie, Obama a créé une sorte d’équilibre militaire au Levant. Les EU ne sont intervenus dans le cadre d’une large coalition que quand le groupe autoproclamé “Etat islamique” connu sous les noms d’ISIL, ISIS ou Daesh s’est retourné contre les plus fidèles alliés des EU, le Kurdistan irakien et l’Arabie Saoudite. Pendant des années, Obama s’est comporté en observateur, observant sciemment comment ISI (l’Etat islamique en Irak) développait ses capacités militaires dans le but de former un “état” incluant la Syrie.

Tant que l’objectif de l’activité militaire et l’expansion d’ISIS était d’occuper une partie de l’Irak, gouverné par le premier ministre pro-Iranien Nuri al-Maliki (créant un état faible et beaucoup de confusion dans les relations Irak-Iran); tant qu’ISIS constituait un sérieux danger pour Assad en Syrie avec un soutien aveugle au groupe Palestinien Hamas et à l’ “axe de résistance”, la présence d’ISIS en Irak pouvait être tolérée, et ses opérations en Syrie (alors appelé Jabhat al-Nusra) même financées par les alliés des EU au Moyen Orient.

 

La Syrie :

L’intervention de l’armée de l’air américaine en Syrie, au début, avait pour but de contenir ISIS, pas d’éliminer le danger qu’il représentait. Son maintien était nécessaire pour épuiser l’Iran et ses alliés à la fois en Irak et en Syrie.

ISIS devait comprendre qu’attaquer les allies des EU n’était pas envisageable et que leurs fusils devaient retourner à l’endroit où tout avait commencé, l’Irak et la Syrie. En Irak, le principal objectif d’al-Maliki, répondant à une demande iranienne dont l’auteur a été témoin, était d’empêcher l’installation d’une base militaire américaine dans le pays, quelles que soient les difficultés rencontrées par le gouvernement al-Maliki, venant de la coalition des amis chiites, ou des ennemis.

Obama se contenta donc de regarder sans intervenir, comment la Syrie se décomposait et tombait entre les mains des djihadistes: il regardait surtout quel prix l’Iran devait payer pour tenter de sauver son allié Assad. L’Iran a envoyé en Syrie des troupes venant du Hezbollah Libanais, le plus féroce ennemi d’Israël et envoya d’autres militants Irakiens, Pakistanais et Afghans.

Obama a précisément choisi ses cibles sur le terrain d’ISIS: en effet, à plusieurs reprises ses pilotes ont exprimé leur frustration, ayant pour mission de survoler ISIS sans larguer de bombes.

Pendant plus d’un an, Obama n’a pas touché à la principale source de revenus d’ISIS, celle du pétrole, afin de pérenniser la capacité de l’organisation à combattre aussi longtemps que nécessaire pour épuiser les forces de l’Iran, du Hezbollah et de leurs milices en Syrie.

C’est seulement quand les avions russes ont frappé des centaines de camions citernes d’ISIS qu’Obama a décidé de se lancer dans la bataille pour éviter que le Kremlin en reçoive tout le crédit pour son aviation.

La diplomatie d’Obama s’est imposée d’elle-même, y compris auprès de son ennemi juré, al-Qaida (AQ). Les EU ont menacé d’allier leurs efforts militaires à ceux de la Russie pour bombarder la fraction d’AQ en Syrie, Jabhat al-Nusra, s’ils ne déclaraient pas ouvertement qu’ils rompaient les liens. Durant plusieurs mois, et encore maintenant, Obama n’a fourni à la Russie aucune information concernant la localisation des groupes syriens liés à la CIA. La Russie a demandé à plusieurs reprises cette information pour bombarder les djihadistes, mais en vain. En fait, Obama a fait preuve d’une politique flexible même envers son plus féroce ennemi.

De fait, par l’intermédiaire de leurs milices en Syrie, l’Arabie Saoudite, Qatar et la Turquie ont joué un rôle important en poussant Jabhat al-Nusra, à se désengager oralement d’AQ et réapparaître sous un nouveau nom: Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS).

Dès lors, Djihadistes et rebelles ont livré avec succès la bataille d’Alep ce mois d’août, côte à côte, s’emparant d’entrepôts entiers d’armes et de munitions. Combattant auprès des djihadistes il y avait de nombreux groupes rebelles promus, fiancés et armés par la CIA. Les EU étaient contents de les soutenir tant qu’ils contribuent à épuiser l’Iran et le Hezbollah, les 2 forces considérées comme hostiles ou ennemies des EU au Moyen Orient, l’Arabie Saoudite Israël, même s’ils se battent aux côtés des ennemis des EU. Les alliés de la Russie au sol se plaint du fait que l’armée syrienne abandonnait des positions stratégiques sans opposer de résistance significative. Ceci met la pression sur la Russie pour qu’elle intensifie les frappes aériennes, sans quoi son objectif consistant à apparaitre comme celle qui conduit le processus de paix et l’aide humanitaire pourraient capoter.

Sur un autre front syrien au nord-est du pays, les EU soutiennent les Kurdes syriens, le YPG, et deux autres groupes, la “nouvelle armée syrienne ” (NSA) et la “force démocratique syrienne ” (SDF ou QSD – une alliance de milices Kurde, Arabe, Assyrienne, Arménienne, Turkmène et Circassienne). Avec le soutien de l’armée de l’air US et de conseillers au sol ceux-ci combattent ISIS. Le grand espace que contrôle cette force de nos jours, après la chute de Manbij (65 km de la frontière turque) peut offrir un pied-à-terre américain en Syrie, un pays connu jusqu’en 2011, avant la guerre, pour être le soutien le plus féroce de l’“axe de résistance”.

Le bénéfice pour les EU ne s’arrête pas là: la Russie est convaincue que la fourniture par les EU de leurs plans de vol à la Turquie ont permis à celle-ci d’organiser une embuscade et d’abattre un Sokhoi Su-24 l’an passé. Les EU n’ont pas eu d’autre choix que d’accepter la présence de la Russie en Syrie. Par conséquent, elle fait tout ce qu’elle peut pour entrainer le Kremlin dans une longue guerre à laquelle elle ne peut échapper malgré un gros risque d’humiliation.

En outre, les EU ont réussi à interrompre le succès de la campagne militaire russe contre les djihadistes et les rebelles en proposant des pourparlers de paix après que les troupes de Damas et de ses alliés ont récupéré la vaste région rurale de Lattaquié et au sud d’Alep. L’arrêt des opérations militaires a permis aux djihadistes et aux rebelles de reprendre leur souffle, de se regrouper et d’organiser une contre-attaque qui a réussi. Ceci a contraint la Russie à augmenter sa présence militaire dans le ciel de Syrie, à intensifier ses bombardements pour empêcher les djihadistes de prendre le contrôle de toute la ville d’Alep.

Obama est en train de gagner sans avoir à envoyer d’importantes troupes de Marines US au sol comme l’ont fait les EU en Afghanistan et en Irak, tandis que la Russie est en train de combattre auprès des forces iraniennes et de leurs alliés et aux côtés de l’armée syrienne épuisée par 5 ans de guerre.

 

Irak :

En Irak, la guerre de 2003 a fait des milliers de morts et de blessés américains. La loi de dé-Baasification signée par l’ambassadeur américain Paul Bremer a démantelé l’armée irakienne, grossissant les rangs des Djihadistes: connue aujourd’hui sous le nom d’ISIS! L’armée américaine s’est retirée en 2011, après que le Premier Ministre al-Maliki ait refusé toute base militaire américaine en Mésopotamie. En 2014, Djihadistes et tribus Sunnites rebelles ont occupé Mossoul. Les EU ont observé l’événement sans bouger jusqu’à ce qu’al-Maliki soit destitué et qu’un nouveau Premier ministre soit nommé: Haidar al-Abadi. Comme ISIS a eu toute la gloire de la conquête de Mossoul et menaçait le reste du pays, le Chiite Marjaiya à Najaf a suscité une mobilisation populaire pour arrêter ISIS. Un nouvel organe militaire fut créé sous le nom de « Unités de Mobilisation Populaire ” (PMU). Le nouveau Premier Ministre voudrait remplacer le Brigadier General Qassem Soleimani à la tête de l’unité al-Quds de la garde révolutionnaire représentant l’Iran: il cherche à lui enlever le pouvoir. Le choix d’Abadi était de se rapprocher des EU, son cheval de Troie, prétextant qu’il avait besoin de leur soutien aérien pour battre ISIS, ce que l’Iran ne pouvait pas fournir. Ceci a ouvert la porte à Obama pour qu’il revienne en Irak, imposer ses conditions à Baghdad et proposer un soutien financier par l’intermédiaire du FMI (Fonds monétaire international). Le prix pour combattre ISIS est élevé.

En outre, Obama n’a pas réagi à la présence de personnel militaire turque à Ba’shiqah, à 50 km du bastion d’ISIS à Mossoul, malgré la requête répétée de Baghdad qu’ils se retirent. La présence turque pouvait aider à mettre la pression sur Baghdad après la chute d’ISIS, au bénéfice des EU, comme superpuissance capable d’imposer à la Turquie de se retirer.

Aujourd’hui, les EU suggèrent au premier ministre irakien Abadi d’intégrer le PMU dans les forces de sécurité officielles. Certaines de ces unités sont en effet plus loyales à l’Iran qu’à l’Irak. Leur intégration forcerait les militants soit à quitter le corps officiel soit à s’intégrer et recevoir les mêmes avantages que les autres forces armées. Ainsi, Abadi réduirait la menace sur son avenir politique que représentent certains chefs du PMU qui ont monté les échelons en combattant ISIS. En même temps, la dissolution du PMU permettrait à Abadi et Obama de réduire considérablement l’influence iranienne (représentée par Qassem Soleimani).

Obama a évité une quasi guerre mondiale en Syrie en ignorant la voix des faucons de son administration et d’une grande partie du courant médiatique dominant. Ceux-ci font manifestement plus confiance à leurs muscles et à leurs capacités militaires qu’à la matière grise et à l’art de la diplomatie. Quand Obama a cessé les bombardements en Syrie en 2015, il a évité une guerre totale au Moyen Orient (l’Iran et ses alliés étaient prêts à riposter contre Israël si Damas était frappé par les EU). Il est pourtant parvenu à désarmer Damas en termes d’armes biologiques et chimiques. Ceux-ci représentaient un réel danger pour Israël. Obama a réussi à mettre le pied en Syrie, à revenir en Irak, observe des dizaines de milliers de djihadistes se réunir en Syrie et en Irak, se battant à mort en impliquant les forces du Hezbollah et d’Iran. Cette position permet également d’observer au quotidien comment la Russie utilise ses forces aériennes dans une guerre bien loin de finir.

Finalement Obama a obligé le ci-devant Emir d’al-Qaida au Levant Abu Mohammed Joulani, connu sous le nom d’al-Fateh (“le conquérant”) à abandonner Khorasan et à rompre les liens avec al-Qaida. Est-ce que cela fait d’Obama “le conquérant du Levant et de la Mésopotamie?” Seule l’Histoire saura le dire.

 

Traduit par : Prof. Olivier DuLac

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Version Anglaise  https://elijahjm.wordpress.com/2016/08/17/obama-has-the-upper-hand-over-iran-and-russia-in-syria-and-iraq-and-without-major-ground-forces/

Obama has the upper hand over Iran and Russia in Syria and Iraq, And without major ground forces

 

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By Elijah J. Magnier: @EjmAlrai

Mainstream media accused the US President Barak Obama of being “weak, indecisive, hesitant and even cowardly” in relation to the lack of full military intervention, not only in Syria against President Bashar al-Assad, but also in Iraq. Actually, Obama is quite the opposite. The President’s Middle East policy has been the most thoughtful and successful so far, and in the best interests of the US. Obama has refused to send troops on the ground to fight on behalf of the countries in the region. He has limited his involvement to a few thousand advisors, he has used local forces willing to fight and die to further the interests of the US and its allies, and he has managed to sell more weapons especially to Saudi Arabia. In fact, one way or another, he has waged his own style “war on terror”.

Since the intervention of his Air Force in 2015 in Syria, Obama has been creating a form of military balance in the Levant. The US intervention within a broad coalition came only when the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” group – known as ISIS, ISIS or Daesh – turned its compass toward the US’s best established allies, Kurdistan–Iraq and Saudi Arabia. For years, Obama took the role of an observer, knowingly watching how ISI (Islamic State in Iraq) was developing its military capability in the line with its intention to form a “state” that included Syria.

As long as the aim of ISIS’s military activity and expansion was to occupy land in Iraq, governed by pro-Iranian Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (creating a weak state and much confusion in the Iraq-Iran relationship); as long as ISIS was headed towards creating a serious danger to Assad in Syria following his blind support to the Palestinian group Hamas and the “axis of the resistance”, the ISIS presence in Iraq could be tolerated, and its operations in Syria (the then Jabhat al-Nusra) even financed by US allies in the Middle East.

The US Air Force intervention in Syria, at the start, aimed to contain ISIS not to eliminate the danger it represented. Its continuing presence was needed so as to exhaust Iran and its allies in both Iraq and Syria.

ISIS needed to understand that attacking US allies was not an option and that their guns could return their aim to where they initially started, in Iraq and Syria. In Iraq, al-Maliki’s main objective, following an Iranian request witnessed by the author, was to prevent the establishment of any US military base in the country, regardless of how unsuitable for government al-Maliki might be, whether defined by friends, the Shia coalition and parties, or by enemies.

Obama therefore sat and watched how Syria was breaking down and falling into the hands of jihadists: above all, he was watching how much Iran needed to invest to attempt to save its ally, Assad. Iran pulled into Syria forces from the Lebanese Hezbollah, Israel’s fiercest enemy and took on other Iraqi, Pakistani and Afghan militants.

Obama was selective in choosing his targets in the land of ISIS: indeed, sometimes his air force fighters would express frustration, instructed to fly past ISIS targets without bombing.

For over a year, Obama did not touch ISIS’s main source of income, its oil revenue, maintaining the organisation’s continuing ability to fight for as long as necessary in the process depleting Iran, Hezbollah and its Iraqi proxies in Syria.

It was only when Russia’s air strikes hit hundreds of ISIS oil tankers that Obama decided to jump in to prevent the Kremlin from receiving all the credit for its Air Force.

Obama’s diplomacy imposed itself even on its sworn enemy, al-Qaida (AQ). The US threatened to join military efforts with Russia to bomb the AQ franchise, Jabhat al-Nusra, in Syria, unless it declared overtly that it was breaking ties. For many months, and still to date, Obama has not provided Russia with any information related to the location of the CIA-vetted Syrian groups. Russia asked repeatedly for this information to bomb jihadists, but without success. In fact, Obama demonstrated a flexible policy even with his fiercest enemy.

Consequently, through their proxies in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey played an important role in pushing Jabhat al-Nusra, to verbally disengage from AQ and rebrand with a new name: Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS).

Since then, Jihadists and rebels have fought the successful battle of Aleppo this month of August, side by side as one body, and in the process taking possession of whole warehouses of weapons and ammunitions. Fighting alongside the jihadists were many CIA vetted, financed and armed rebel groups. The US was happy to support these as long as they exhaust Iran and Hezbollah, the two forces considered hostile or enemies of the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel in the Middle East, even if they fight with the enemies of the United States. Russia’s allies on the ground are complaining about the Syrian army abandoning strategic positions without putting up significant resistance. This is putting pressure on Russia to intensify air strikes, otherwise its plans to be running the peace process and humanitarian aids would be seen to fail.

In another north-eastern Syrian front, the US is supporting local Kurds, YPG, and two other groups, the “New Syrian Army” (NSA) and the “Syrian Democratic Force” (SDF or QSD – an alliance of Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian, Armenian, Turkmen and Circassian militias). Supported by the US Air Force and advisors on the ground these are fighting on the ground against ISIS. The large area this force controls to-date, following the fall of Manbij (65 km from the Turkish borders) can offer the US a military foothold in Syria, a country known before the 2011 war as the fiercest supporter of the “axis of the resistance”.

The benefits for the US don’t stop here: Russia is convinced that the US provided Turkey with its flight schedule which enabled its army to ambush and shoot down a Sokhoi Su-24 jet last year. The US had no alternative but to accept the Russian presence in Syria. It is therefore using all means and all its allies to drag the Kremlin into a long war which it cannot resist despite obvious risk of humiliation.

In addition, the US managed to halt Russia’s successful military campaign against jihadists and rebels following the recovery of Damascus troops and its allies of vast land in Latakia rural area and the south of Aleppo, by proposing a peace negotiation. The halting of the military operation permitted the jihadists and rebels to catch their breath, regroup and mount a successful counter-attack. This has forced Russia today to increase its presence in the skies of Syria, to intensify its strikes and prevent the jihadists controlling the entire city of Aleppo.

Obama finds himself winning without sending large forces of US Marines on the ground as the US did in Afghanistan and Iraq, whereas Russia is fighting with Iranian forces and their allies and a Syrian Army exhausted by five years of war.

In Iraq, the 2003 war produced thousands of US forces killed and wounded. The de-Baathification law signed by US Ambassador Paul Bremer dismantled the Iraqi Army, fattening the ranks of Jihadists: known today as ISIS! The US Army pulled out, in 2011, following the rejection by Prime Minister al-Maliki of any military base in Mesopotamia. In 2014, Jihadists and Sunni rebel tribes occupied Mosul. The US watched the events unfolding until al-Maliki was removed and a new Premier was appointed: Haidar al-Abadi. As ISIS took all the glory for itself in Mosul and threatened the rest of the country, the Shia Marjaiya in Najaf called for a popular mobilisation to stop ISIS. A new military organ was formed under the name of “Popular Mobilisation Units” (PMU). The new Prime Minister would like to replace the head of al-Quds unit within the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Brigadier General Qassem Soleimani representing Iran: he was working to remove him from power. Abadi’s choice was to fully back to the US, his Trojan horse, using the excuse of the need of Air support to defeat ISIS, support Iran was not capable of providing. This has opened the road for Obama back into Iraq, to impose conditions on Baghdad and offer financial support through the IMF (International Monetary Fund). The price of fighting ISIS is high.

Moreover, Obama didn’t react to the presence of Turkish military personnel in Ba’shiqah, 50 km from the ISIS stronghold Mosul, despite repeated requests from Baghdad to withdraw. The Turkish presence could help put pressure on Baghdad after the fall of ISIS, to the benefit of the US, as a superpower capable of imposing on Turkey its withdrawal.

Today, the US suggested to Iraq Premier Abadi he should integrate the PMU into the official security forces. Some of these units are indeed more loyal to Iran than to Iraq. Their integration would force militants either to leave the official body or to integrate and receive the same benefits as all the armed forces. With this move, Abadi would reduce the threat to his political future by some of the PMU leaders raised during the war on ISIS. Simultaneously, by dissolving the PMU, both Abadi and Obama would see the Iranian influence (represented by Qassem Soleimani) dramatically reduced.

Obama has avoided a near World war in Syria by disregarding the Hawks’ voices in his administration and a big part of the mainstream media. These clearly believe more in their muscle and military capability than in brainpower and the art of diplomacy. When Obama withdrew from bombing Syria in 2013-2014, he avoided a global war in the Middle East (Iran and proxies were ready to retaliate against Israel if Damascus were to be hit by the US). He nevertheless managed to disarm Assad’s biological and chemical weapons. These were representing a serious threat to Israel. Obama found a foothold in Syria, returned to Iraq, watched tens of thousands of jihadists gathering in Syria and Iraq, killing each other by fighting to the death, engaging Hezbollah and Iran forces. The position also enables a daily watch to be kept on how Russia is using its Air power engaged in a war that is far from ending.

Finally Obama forced the former Emir of the al-Qaida franchise in the Levant Abu Mohammed Joulani, known as al-Fateh (“the conqueror”) to abandon Khorasan and break ties with al-Qaida. Does this make Obama “the conqueror of the Levant and Mesopotamia?” Only history will tell.

 

Original article published here:

Key words: USA, US, Obama, Russia, Iran, Iraq, ISIS, ISIL, al-Qaida, AQ.

Did Jabhat al-Nusra leave Qaidat al-Jihad or it is Qaidat al-Jihad that is part of Nusra now?

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Analysis of Abu Mohammed Joulani new front: From Nusra to Fath al-Sham

Key words: Nusra, Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaida, Qaidat al-Jihad, Syria.

By Elijah J. Magnier : 

Original article published    via 

 

The leader and Emir of Jabhat al-Nusra (JaN) Abu Mohammed al-Joulani introduced a new front with a new name “Jabhat Fath al-Sham” (JFS) – as published by this author on the 26th of this month – and the abolishment of the old JaN title. But did Joulani and his Mujahedeen break with Qaidat al-Jihad (AQ) in Khorasan, or is it the AQ core leadership and Mujahedeen (in Syria since the war began), who have merged into this new group JFS?

Just before Joulani’s video message showing his portrait for the first time, Al-Manara al-Bayda’ official outlet released an audio of Ahmed Hassan Abul-Khair, first deputy Emir of AQ Central (Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri) speaking about JaN, saying that it had become “a force to be reckoned with, excellently managing the liberated territories (Idlib/Syria) with legitimate courts that rule with the Law of Allah, and organising service institutions that guard and take care of what matters to people – a new generation brought up on the jurisprudence of honour, and on the Jihad as the means for protecting the region. The stage which the Ummah (Islamic nation) has now reached in terms of the spread of the Jihad and its penetration into the Muslim community (shifting from the understanding of an elitist jihad to the Jihad of a nation) should not be driven by group mentality or by a single organisation”.

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Within the same audio of Abul-Kheir, from Ayman al-Zawahiri, a short message will be found: ”The organisational links are transient-metamorphic (…) Your union and your association and the unity of your groups rises above any organisational affiliation (…).” Zawaheri was clearly blessing JaN’s widely coordinated and thoughtful move towards the other groups operating in the Levant.

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It is clear that neither JaN nor its Emir Abu Mohammed al Joulani have regressed by a single step on their Jihadist operational line, their ideology and their creed. These include the objectives and concept of the Islamic nation as understood by the Mujahedeen. Not only that, but JFS have raised, above AQ level, an organisation capable of providing moral and knowledge support, with its Emir acting as a father, but without the necessity to offer financial support or weapons.

Khorasan, the base of Qaidat al-Jihad, looks from afar toward its sons in Yemen, Somalia, Syria and other countries that host the same ideology but also have enough men fighting for their objectives. JaN’s move is not new to Qaidat al-Jihad. What used to be known as Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) had also changed name. Today it is known as “Ansar al-Sharia”, “Sons of Hadramout” or “sons of Abyan”. Therefore, the question arises, what is the need and the motivation for making so much fuss around a name changed from JaN to JFS: especially when the objectives and the ideology are both stable and robust?

Abu Mohammed al-Joulani was being honest when he said “Jabhat Fath al-Sham has no affiliation to any external entity”. The new JFS has all the right elements to receive and host the Mujahideen – Mujahideen from all over the world – because it is already, as Ahmed Hassan Abul-Khair said, established in “a liberated territory”, running an Islamic administration and courts, raising the banner of “there is only one God” and is promoting jihad “for God’s sake”.

Therefore, it cannot be overstated that the exit of JaN from under the mantle of AQ is not a change of creed but a step already requested, in fact, and promoted by the head of AQ Legal Council, the late Sheikh Atiyah Allah al-Libi. He said: “The declaration of the Mujahideen that they are al-Qaeda and that they have link to al Qaeda, even this link existed, should not be expressed now, since it lacks any operational interest. The only people to gain are the Americans, who wish it because it serves their political ends. Because in word public opinion the name of AQ is now distorted, it is appropriate to keep away from it and not manifest any link to it (AQ). Perhaps, through this new stage, God is expressing his will otherwise”.

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Joulani did not come out with his announcement (breaking ties with AQ, or stating that Jabhat Fath al-Sham has no affiliation to any external entity) to please the United States of America and Russia. His brief message with Abu Faraj al Masri on his right (real name Ahmad Salama Mabruk, who accompanied al-Zawahiri for many years until he reached the Levant and became a member of JaN Shura Council) is no coincidence. Joulani is relatively carefree about the attitude of stand of Russia and the US. His message in the first place is to the Mujahedeen of Nusra to say that the creed hasn’t changed, is sound and is well guarded. This is seen as a purely internal move directed towards the Syrian groups. Joulani is responding to insistent demands by all the local Syrian organisations expressing a readiness for unity, provided that Nusra disengage with the base of Qaidat al-Jihad (“the motherland”).

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Al-Zawahri and his deputy therefore agreed on any step that would lead to the connection of all groups in al-Sham, moving away from any narrow organisational link. All they want from Nusra is to expand towards a much larger global jihad to including al-Sham (the Levant). This must spread and consolidate the ideology and doctrine on the ground, to unite jihadi and non jihadi groups, and integrating the rest of the Syrian and other Muhajereen (foreign fighters). That way they all become one strong front prepared for when President Barack Obama leaves.

However, there is a difference between aiming at consolidation and managing to achieve real unification. There are secular groups and others related to and directly financed by the various countries of the region, including some supported by the US. A unification of all these groups seems far from reality. Joulani and the leadership around him are aware of the Syrian theatre and the multi-diversity of its conditions for belonging. Joualni, by announcing a new front, disarms all excuses previously presented as obstacles to the unification. This was a necessity, because if these were to remain active but hidden, faced with this very public move, it cannot be ruled out that JFS might in the future adopt a more aggressive and confrontational attitude against anyone who stands in the way of the jihad.

Joulani has appeared publicly with a warm smile stretching out his hand not to America or Russia to avoid being hit, but to the Sham theatre. Will the base respond to him? Achieving unity among different factions is a daunting, near impossible task weighing not only on Joulani, but also on al-Zawahiri himself. Even Osama bin Laden was struggling with the group Joulani was belonging to previously (Islamic State in Iraq) up to the day of the divorce: then followed the rivalry and animosity between Zawaheri and the Caliph of the “Islamic State” group, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

So far, Ahrar al-Sham (another Salafi jihadi group considered the largest in numbers in the north of Syria), Tajam’mo Ahl al-Elm Fil-sham , Ansar al-Din, Hizb al-Islami al-Turkistani, Fajr al-Sham and Ajnad al-Sham have welcomed Nusra’s step. The communiqué of Jund al-Aqsa, a salafi jihadist close to both al-Qaida and the “Islamic State” group (ISIS), is quite revealing, unwittingly stating that nothing has changed but the name. More groups may follow, but the overall enthusiasm to embrace a unity of all groups under one command is still shy.  If Ahrar accepts to merge into one group with Nusra in its new group JFS, this step will create confusion, forcing the US and Russia to rethink their attitude toward rebel groups. If not the change of name will have been tactical, merely mythical.

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There is no doubt that the Mujahideen of al-Qaeda had been absorbed in the Levant within JaN, and now today, within the new organisation JFS. Every step Joulani made was accurate, calibrated and indicates the presence of an entire team with broad experience in the jihad arena. These moves measure the consequences of every decision taken, seeking to minimise collateral and internal damage. Despite being core AQ, these moves have showed pragmatism in dealing with the various groups involved, and this includes secular ones and others connected, trained and paid for by the CIA.

There is therefore now little doubt that Qaidat al-Jihad has became part of Nusra, title “Jabhat Fatah al-Sham”.

 

 

From Jabhat al-Nusra to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham : Nusra breaks its ties with Qaidat al-Jihad

 

 

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By Elijah J. Magnier: 

Nusra Front (Al-Qaeda in the Levant) is no longer a branch of Qaidat al-Jihad (AQ), led by Ayman al-Zawahiri and his two deputies. The disengagement is official now, waiting for the public announcement. Nusra envoys were sent to various branches and to the Qaidat al-Jihad leadership to inform these about the decision: not to consult or to seek advice, because the decision had been taken.

The Shura Council had been meeting along with dozens of leaders of Nusra first and second level of command, and deliberating on the matter of breaking ties with AQ for some time now with scholars, before they reached a consensus. It was agreed “in the interests of the Islamic nation and Sham, the disengagement was approved to eliminate all excuses and pretexts from the infidels (the United States and Russia), to prevent the destruction of the Syrian opposition forces, and to avoid weakening Muslims. The ideology and doctrine remain untouchable even if the organisational belonging to AQ has ended. The AQ old guards were consulted and the official pronouncement will be delivered in due course once all administrative procedures have ended ”.

Is breaking allegiance with AQ considered a betrayal?

Nusra sources consider that the allegiance of Nusra Emir Abu Mohammed Joulani to his Qaidat al-Jihad Emir Ayman al-Zawahiri is “pledge of war and struggle in the cause of God” (bay’at Kital fi sabil Allah). It may certainly be revoked when important barriers are present, preventing its continuity, and to dismiss a greater danger for the Islamic nation (Ummah), prevailing on the interests of the individual and the organisation. This is an extraordinary pledge of allegiance, not a general pledge of allegiance. Therefore, it is not considered wrong-doing or betrayal. Nusra group is different from Qaidat al-Jihad. AQ has no army, nor the responsibility to rule and administrate a population, offer services, handling infighting among other groups, having to co-exist with secular groups and those from all walks of life and beliefs: it doesn’t have a front line facing an enemy and is not exposed to daily temptation as is the case of Jabhat al-Nusra. These are the daily challenges Nusra has had to confront daily in Syria. Nusra can be patient until Islam dominates, after repelling the greater danger, which is represented by the Syrian regime.

A new name circulates among Nusra fighters, Jabhat Fath al-Sham (JFS). Obviously, the leadership has instructed Nusra mujahedeen to be active on social media and prepare the ground so the big announcement (of breaking the ties with AQ) won’t come as a surprise, nor appear a wrong move. The choice of name is also thoughtful, indicating that the objective is still the “liberation of Syria”. After all, all foreign fighters came for that purpose, even if they came also to establish an Islamic Emirate. That last particular point has not been raised or tackled and it would be very difficult for the new “JFS” to hold its promises in this respect.

However, Nusra says the new name was chosen because it is believed the US and the UN will not include the new organisation on the list of terrorism, and therefore won’t target it. Nusra is convinced “Russia and the US will be confused about the next move and will hold their guns back. This will give Nusra and the other rebels an opportunity to unite, avoiding being weakened by air strikes and consolidating the internal front. The danger of the “crusaders” (US) is greater than the one of khawarij (ISIS). Therefore it was essential to break the ties and change the name”.

AQ lost one of its most important bases in the Middle East when, several months ago, Zawahiri asked all Mujahideen to migrate to the Levant and that became their new Kibla (Muslim direction of prayer), unless it is the same Zawaheri who approved the step, following intensive consultation between Sham and Khorasan. If Nusra believes that its new change won’t dilute its members with other groups or seduce many away from it in time of peace (the long cease-fire) it is certainly mistaken. An internal dispute among various different groups is a well-known behaviour when no battles are uniting men. The groups do indeed have sponsors, who have different agendas and plans for Syria.

Nusra has responded to the call of the countries of the region who were influenced by the US request. This means the US is enjoying its greatest victory over AQ (without firing a single bullet) by triggering a break of Nusra ties with its Emir in Khorasan. Nusra will certainly not return to AQ in a yo-yo movement, now that it is declared a Syrian group with around 2000 foreign fighters (ff), still, among its ranks. Will these remain and accept the new clothes Nusra is wearing? Are the Muhajereen (ff) going to leave Syria, split or join ISIS? Are the various opposition groups going to unite? Are the US and Russia going to accept this new theatre where a name change does not dictate a change of creed, doctrine and objectives?

These are questions no one can answer today, waiting for the new Leader (no longer Emir perhaps) of JFS Abu Mohammed Joulani, to officially declare the disengagement with AQ, soon. He has already sent his electronic social media army ahead to prepare the ground and leak information: Nusra are the most disciplined and controlled fighters, specially on social media, not leaking unwittingly any information unless instructed to do so.

There is no doubt that the coming days will be exciting and interesting in the Levant .

 

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Will Jabhat al-Nusra break its ties with Qaidat al-Jihad, so as to avoid being hit by USA and Russia?

 

 

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By Elijah J. Magnier: 

There is much talk about the US – Russia deal over in Syria and the decision to hit the “Islamic State” group (ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh) and Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaida in the Levant). In return the deal commits Washington will provide the Kremlin with coordinates for the Syrian opposition groups’ location on the ground, to avoid bombarding them, as they are considered “moderate”. On the other hand, the Russians operating in Syria will commit to implementing the cease-fire on the whole Syrian territory (excepting land controlled by ISIS and Nusra). They will maintain constant demarcation lines on all Syrian territory, freezing fronts and creating red lines. If implemented, this agreement would be considered a positive and significant achievement for both super power countries in the Middle East.

However, the completion of such an agreement requires consensus and commitment from both the sides involved (both the opposition and the regime forces) and from countries in the region offering logistic and financial support to the opposition groups. Therefore, voices have been raised calling for a stronger united opposition front, including Jabhat al-Nusra. For that, a disengagement from Qaidat al-Jihad (AQ Central) is needed to lift the legitimacy of bombing by both Russia and the US against its Mujahedeen. If Nusra becomes a target and therefore is weakened, the opposition groups will certainly become fragile and won’t be able to hold out against the regime forces and its allies. The situation could indeed become unstable during President Obama’s transition of power over the next few months, and with the arrival of a new President whose intentions toward the Middle east may be different and this could once again bring war to Syria.

The Syrian opposition groups have called upon Jabhat al-Nusra to disengage ties with Qaidat al-Jihad (AQ) so as to avoid repercussions, and so that the “unity among the various other groups could be reached”. That unity is impossible for the moment, so the various rebels believe as long as Nusra is on US and the UN list of terrorist groups. And the countries of the Middle East involved in Syria have informed their proxies about the adamant intention of both Russia and USA to start bombing all non-moderate groups starting from next month (August).

But what are the implications and possibilities of this move?

A long time ago Nusra demanded integration with Ahrar al-Sham, the largest Syrian (with a small number of foreigners) rebel group in the north of the country. The request was rejected. Had the project seen the light of day, the merger would have created the largest and strongest opposition group in the country, able to impose its will on all the other groups. Nusra’s courage and ideology would have slowly but surely swallowed Ahrar al-Sham. Instead, the various groups asked Nusra to disengage from Qaidat al-Jihad. The argument was as follows: is the fact that Nusra breaks ties with AQ is enough to unify all Syrian opposition groups? Changing the name -would it also change the ideology and creed? Would the opposition groups break ties with donors and financers? Questions which have remained unanswered to date.

Nusra is not only the strongest in Syria among the opposition but the most powerful jihadi organisation among all Qaidat al-Jihad franchises. It has an army that combines classical and guerrilla warfare, using of infantry, artillery and tanks, drones and various military arms never seen since Al-Qaida was born. Nusra has managed to earn “hearts and minds” of the Syrian population and the respect of all various opposition groups and enemies. It has offered suicidal bombers in every battle and inghimasi (the first wave of suicidal combatants in every frontal attack). Nusra was the only group who managed to defeat Hezbollah and Iranian forces in years of war, in two battles, Al-Eiss and al-Khalsa, north of Syria. In relation to recruitment, Saudi scholar Abdallah al-Moheisni supported a campaign called “Infir”, which drew hundreds of recruits but distributed these among various groups, not exclusively to Nusra.

A question arises: if the disengagement with Qaidat al-Jihad doesn’t happen, will Nusra become a target showered by bombs and lava from the sky? The answer is yes. The US showed its air capability by targeting the “Khorasan group” last year, painfully hitting Nusra. The beginning of a US-Russia air campaign against Nusra might split the group and reduce its power and capability. Locals who are part of Nusra are expected to leave the group in this case for fear of becoming targets even though Nusra doesn’t attract recruits with money (unlike ISIS). Other rebels wouldn’t be able to support or stand by Nusra, who would be left to be bombed.

And even if disengaged, its creed and doctrine is not expected to be altered.

Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi, a Takferee scholar known in the jihadi circle, said “disengagement does not change the faith”. A true comment even if al-Maqdisi is not a decision maker and, indeed, has retracted his view relating to Nusra’s disengagement. If Nusra is bombed, the reaction could go beyond the borders of the Levant and hit the US at home. AQ has greater influence and is more organised that ISIS in the US, that only if Nusra keeps its link to Qaidat al-Jihad.

On the other hand, it is clear to Nusra that the opposition is not trustworthy and may very well disengage from any future unity even if the disengagement is announced. Opposition groups support Nusra heartily but their swords are ready to be pulled against it if Nusra is weakened in Syria.

Nusra mujahedeen commented, “The clutch we have on religion is as painful as holding hot coals in one hands. We knew that the entire world would fight us. We keep our faith in God because disengagement from AQ is equal to the disengagement of Islam.”

It is not unlikely that the breaking of ties with Qaidat al-Jihad could shake Nusra and break it apart. A large number of foreign fighters came to the Sham and declared loyalty to Nusra Emir Abu Muhamad al-Joulani. These hold an ideology that doesn’t move with the US decisions, like Nusra is doing by breaking its ties with AQ. Nusra will be accused of being the “Jew of the Ummah (Islamic nation)”, its leadership members are “under-grown adolescents” (ahdath al-sinan) , only willing “to survive for the love of Duniya (Earth not paradise)”.

The Emir of Qaidat al-Jihad Ayman al-Zawaheri knowing the pressure Nusra is facing, called for all Mujahedeen to join the land of Sham to protect it and give it strength. Indeed, the decision is not up to one person, joulani, but to the Shura council and tens of scholars and commanders all together. These are affected neither by social media pressure nor by al-Maqdisi opinion. Nusra, therefore, will be facing a fateful decision: either hold on to its dogma, creed and face the future with patience or to be fragmented allowing groups to join ISIS and watching other groups go looking for another land of a more solid Jihad. But it seems Nusra has decided already to disengage with Qaidat al-Jihad. This is not the first time for Joulani to revoke his Bay’a (loyalty) to his Emir.

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