Egypt: Divide and Conquer?

Since the onset of the recent turmoil that is once again enveloping Egypt, (read: military coup) a long-standing current within political discourse has surrounded, and inevitably started to dominate the debate. False dichotomies attached to regional and national disputes in the Middle East by commentators and media organs have provided an unending  “analysis” of specific events based on the opinions of predominantly either of two “sides” within any given conflict; regardless of the disparity of, and number of belligerents.

This almost-religious concentration on false dichotomies within media occurs regardless of whether either of the two predominant “sides” enjoys a popular or distinct amount of support within respective communities or populations, while also ignoring, or actively marginalizing certain factions within conflicts whose opinions or doctrines do not coincide with either of the dominant narratives emanating from the media; which in turn are controlled by corporate and ruling class entities who determine editorial restrictions.

In the case of Egypt, post-military coup, the media narrative seems to be transforming into a conflict between “Secularist Liberals” and “Islamists”. Yet contrary to this simplistic, and overtly sectarian narrative, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia – a Wahhabi Monarchy that many would describe as “Islamist” – was the first party to congratulate the Egyptian military’s’ “wisdom and moderation” for overthrowing a democratically elected and supposedly Islamist President. Media reports have also quickly forgotten that the Salafist Nour Party – who could also be described as “Islamist” – initially supported the military overthrow of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Nuance and conflicting opinions such as those above are omitted within media to uphold the dominant simplistic narratives of warring factions of society – as opposed to the reality of warring factions of Elites manipulating larger factions of society’s legitimate dissent for their own ends. Manufacturing conflict and division is a long-standing policy of any modern government or dominant structure. Divide and Rule social policies have provided the ideal tool for Elites to keep the masses downtrodden and reliant for centuries on end.

Within Western dominant structures the false two-party masquerade of corporate politics that has engulfed the United States, the UK, and increasingly Europe are testament to the lengths the ruling class will go – and indeed the apathetic masses are willing to accept –  to create the illusion of democracy and political pluralism. Furthermore, within modern societies – including those in the supposed “enlightened world” – ethnic and sectarian division is possibly the most successful tool in any bourgeois state’s repertoire. Dominant structures go to great lengths to build social divisions in which enslaved and impoverished masses find solace in the knowledge they belong to a “side” that continually provide them false hope and ineffective leadership. But a “side” nonetheless, and with many “sides” there are always “others” to blame and deflect the ruling class’ failures. Accordingly, large swathes of populations become consumed and subverted by identity politics – whilst simultaneously being drawn further and further away from what exactly “the masses” are yearning for: self-determination, an end to oppression, economic impoverishment, elite corruption, and unrepresentative governments/dominant structures.

Although the Muslim Brotherhood have been illegally overthrown, and were indeed “democratically elected”; the Brotherhood itself does not represent a democratic political entity. Evidently, the Brotherhood does not represent massive parts of Egyptian society either, including “Islamists”. The Brotherhood have a long and documented history of sedition, violence and an intolerant, misogynistic ideology verging on Salafism. The Brotherhoods short reign of power was mired in controversy, incompetence, attempted power-grabs and a tendency toward sectarianism, including the incitement of Egyptian youth to Holy War in Syria. On the other hand, General Sisi and the Egyptian military – who also have a long and very recent history of violence, corruption and oppression – are not a democratic entity in any sense of the word either. They are a military leadership funded in part, and trained by the United States, who have upheld a domestically unpopular peace treaty with Israel for decades to empower themselves economically, whilst helping to oppress the Palestinians (which has also taken on a dramatic increase since Sisi’s “revolution”), and have just engaged in an unlawful coup of a democratically elected President. Yet in turn, these actors have fraudulently become the representatives of the whole of a supposed “Islamist” branch of Egyptian society on the one hand, and the opposition “Secularist Liberal” movement on the other; predominantly as a result of various branches of media portraying them to be so. There is no room left in the debate for any other public opinion or political party: “you’re either with us or against us”.

As a result of this media control and manipulation, any working class grass-roots movement or actual collective public voice outside of the two dominant belligerents is marginalised, whilst civil movements that do become effective in relaying the desired messages and popular sentiments are quickly hijacked or oppressed by dominant power, ie: powerful religious/social organisations or the military/political/corporate elite. Accordingly, the political doctrines and demands – and indeed the actual political and civil courses of action taken – are manipulated and led in directions that meet the dominant structures needs to survive or increase its relative power. In this type of bourgeois structured media debate, the “people” can only be represented by a particular “side” of a very limited amount of parties – often portrayed from extreme ends of the respective ideological spectrum. These “sides” are predominantly made-up of corporate relics of regimes and power-structures of the past; (the Mubarak feloul and the Brotherhood in Egypt’s case) who in turn control the levers to mainstream political discourse.

In Egypt’s current and ongoing crisis since the fall of the Mubarak regime, it was initially the Muslim Brotherhood, with the aid of the Qatari Monarchy and its mouthpiece Al Jazeera, that usurped the Egyptian publics oppression and subsequent dissent; (while the Ikhwan and its supporters have also suffered much oppression of their own) eventually riding an anti-Mubarakist/Military sentiment to power in a low turn-out election. Merely a year later it appears the Mubarak bourgeoisie, behind the cover of the massive popular dissent directed at the Brotherhood’s inability or unwillingness to change policies and rule effectively, have inserted themselves to the throne of representation; primarily due to their respective ability to manipulate the debate and its ensuing political consequences, along with those that dominate it (corporate media) propagating them to such positions.

Whether you agree with the coup or not, the publics voice, and in turn its civil actions and political consequences have been hijacked, and replaced by that of dominant Elitists that claim to represent them, in this case the military. The media vehicles that propagate that unending dynamic enable dominant parties to hold on to power by promoting figureheads and political actors that suit their owners needs, (both foreign and domestic) before the needs and collective demands of the public. The longer the dominant power structures are able to control and manipulate the media and mainstream political discourse to create illusory, and real, divisions within any impoverished and subservient society (including “the West”); the longer those power structures will remain dominant; be they the Muslim Brotherhood, or the Egyptian military.

 

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Martin Chulov and the Guardian: at the forefront of Balkanising Syria.

Since the onset of the Syrian crisis, Martin Chulov of the Guardian has continuously been one of the most prominent “journalists” whose coverage, to put kindly, has been skewed beyond any recognition of objective journalism. His narratives have systematically relied on sectarian overtones and cherry picked “activist” quotes from such bastions of objectivity as the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Chulov has gone to great to lengths to portray the conflict in simplistic and sectarian terms: “Assad the Alawite, versus the Sunni majority.”

The large part of Syrian society that ardently support their president has gone largely unmentioned in his coverage. The larger still part of Syrian society that simply want the war to end, and the militants to leave their towns and villages so they can attempt to rebuild their lives have been callously brushed aside by war-profiteers such as Chulov; who willingly ignore the much larger sections of Syrian society that don’t abide his bias narrative. Chulov perniciously attempts to lead the reader to believe the whole Syrian public is fighting against a regime and its security infrastructure. The simple fact that the majority of men fighting the Salafi/Jihadi dominated rebels within the Syrian Army itself are Sunni Syrians belies his whole false sectarian narrative.

Chulov’s latest article is no exception. The sectarian melodrama is set in the title: “Sunnis fear Assad wants to ethnically cleanse Alawhite heartland”, in usual fashion, Chulov plays on manufactured sectarian fear and a growing western narrative that Assad is planning on building an “Alawite enclave” in the western provinces of Syria reaching to the Mediterranean coast, the heartland of Assad’s Alawite sect.

The sub-title, illuminates Chulovs simplistic rendering and the basis for his “Alawite enclave” theory:

“Homs land registry fire and handing out of arms to villagers fuel concerns that an Alawite-Shia enclave is being formed in Syria.”

Chulov lays the foundations of his theory with these basic facts, Assad is arming “farmers and villagers”, ie: Syrian men of military age, that are willing to fight the extremist dominated insurgency Chulov has propagated and promoted for the best part of two years. Yet Chulov is eager to portray these farmers and villagers (Syrians) as “evil Shabiha” intent on sectarian cleansing.

And, lo and behold, the land registry in Homs has burnt down! It seems Chulov has forgotten Homs has been a conflict zone for quite some time, constantly under bombardment from either rebels, or the SAA attempting to remove them. This includes a massive air and artillery campaign on the SAA’s part. Again, it is beyond Chulov’s wildest imaginations that this particular building may well be under government auspices, therefore a prime target for his beloved rebels. Indeed, since the very first week of the crisis in Daraa, militants attacked Government buildings and offices – often setting them ablaze. In Chulovs investigative mind, there is only one explanation: “the “Shabiha” set the land registry ablaze to remove proof of land-ownership, his anonymous source, in an almost Sherlock-Watson moment of journalistic drama confirms Chulovs suspicions: (my emphasis)

“What else could be going on?” asked one resident who refused to be identified. “This is the most secure area of the city and it is the only building that has been burned. A conspiracy is underway.”

Once more Chulov relies on anonymous sources and vague rhetoric to underline that the fire was undoubtedly set by “regime forces”. Chulov tells us “eyewitnesses” (no names of course) and “employees” (employees of who exactly he is not clear) recall seeing flames in the upper floors of the ministry and regime forces in the floors below. The regime forces couldn’t possibly have been stationed there, inside a government building, or maybe even attempting to put the flames out. No, the only plausible explanation is that regime forces set the blaze then dutifully stood around in the floors below waiting for the ceiling to collapse, in public view of everyone, even “employees”!

Chulov takes us on his sectarian fantasy of Homs, he leads us to believe that regime controlled areas are no longer multi-ethnic towns under the auspice of government, (as they have been for decades) these towns have morphed into “Alawite only” areas. Chulov fails to even mention that since the onset of the crisis it has been predominantly the “rebels” that have ethnically cleansed virtually every town or village they have entered, the examples are long and numerous. On the odd occasion rebel “liberated” towns and villages haven’t been completely emptied of civilian residents, the rebels have quickly laid sectarian demands upon Christian and Shi’a communities; engaged in summary executions, torture, imprisonment, and forced displacement, all on the basis of sect.

The oft-referenced town of Qusair is possibly the prime example of the duplicity inherent in reports from western “journalists” such as Chulov. He failed to show an ounce of “concern” back in 2012 when rebels entered Qusair and immediately forcibly removed all Christians living there (the vast majority of residents left at the same time, as has been the case in most rebel “liberated” areas). Indeed, he failed to even report on the rebel cleansing of Qusair. Chulov would find it extremely difficult to find a single town or village “liberated” by the extremist dominated rebels that hasn’t seen some form of ethnic cleansing, but these uncomfortable truths do not fit with his skewed narrative.

In fairness Chulov does attempt to offer some “balance” in his article, one whole sentence alludes to the mass exodus of Alawite’s from rebel held areas in the north of Syria (he doesn’t mention the thousands of Christians and Shi’a that have also been ethnically cleansed, nor the thousands of Sunnis that have left rebel-held areas due to the fundamentalist doctrine of the Salafi/Jihadi rebels forced upon them). Chulov explains this minimal episode of ethnic cleansing as a result of northern Syria being dominated by jihadists, giving the reader the false impression that rebels in other regions are not the jihadi type.

Literally every piece of information Chulov uses to bolster his “Alawite enclave” narrative is a source form a rebel leader/militant, an activist, or an anonymous source. He again tells us that the whole of the north of Homs has been “emptied of Sunni’s” and replaced with Alawites, the empirical evidence he provides? “Local leaders claim”. Leaders of what and whom Chulov fails to reveal. The sectarian narrative Chulov has relied upon bears fruit once more, and again in the form of  an “activist” account: (my emphasis)

“There have been obvious examples of denominational cleansing in different areas in Homs,” said local activist, Abu Rami. “It is denominational cleansing; part of a major Iranian Shia plan, which is obvious through the involvement of Hezbollah and Iranian militias. And it’s also part of Assad’s personal Alawite state project.”

One must seriously take this man for his word, obviously an “activist” (a common euphemism for armed opposition rebel in western media) is in a prime position to understand the workings of “Iranian Shi’a plans” and Assads “personal projects”. Maybe the Syrian Observatory told him, just after Assad and Ayatollah Khamenei relayed their plans to the man in Coventry. Chulov once again offers zero empirical evidence to back these claims and is quite literally engaging in opposition stenography. (a favourite pastime of Chulov’s; going by his work on Syria for the past two years.)

Chulov spends the remainder of the article theorising and speculating on the regimes alleged sectarian motives, all on the basis of his vague and anonymous “sources”. He tells us, quite incredibly and with no shame in the lack of journalistic integrity that “diplomatic sources in the region” – presumably the same “diplomatic sources” that have erroneously declared such falsehood as “Assads days are numbered”, which Chulov has dutifully repeated in his articles ad nauseam – have relayed that Assad is not only planning an “Alawite rump state” in the west of Syria, but the first countries Assad is making overtures toward to secure this “rump state” are his biggest enemies: (my emphasis)

Over the past six months, diplomats in the region have claimed that contingency planning for a rump state to protect Syrian Alawites has involved diplomatic contact being made by senior Syrian officials with enemy states. A mediator – a well-known diplomatic figure – is understood to have been asked by Assad to approach the former Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, late last year with a request that Israel not stand in the way of attempts to form an Alawite state, which could have meant moving some displaced communities into the Golan Heights area.

It seems Chulov is unwilling to acknowledge, or realise, that Israel is the only regional state that has overtly and opportunistically attacked Syria since the crisis erupted. It makes absolutely no sense for Assad to make overtures and relay plans to one of his biggest threats, and a state that actively conspires with the jihadi dominated opposition. Chulov also conveniently omits the fact that the “plan” he so eagerly propagates Assad is intent upon is the exact “optimal scenario” Israeli military leaders have put forward for their ideal outcome of the Syrian crisis.

How very convenient that the “optimal scenario” for Israel (and its allies in their attack on the Syrian state) just happens to be the precise narrative Chulov and others are going to great lengths to propagate. Let me be clear, Western/Israeli media is propagating the idea that Assad is attempting to build an “Alawite enclave”, because that is the exact scenario the west and its allies who are attacking Syria are intent upon. If Assad cannot be removed – which is becoming more and more unlikely without overt western intervention – then the US, Israel and their Gulf allies will attempt to “Balkanise” the Syrian state.

The “FSA” is not going to defeat Al Qaeda in Syria.

Recent reports within mainstream media are pushing the theory that divisions are forming within the various camps of opposition militants in Syria, while also making attempts to highlight the disparity between the supposed “moderate” rebel forces of the “FSA” – which does not exist beyond a small cadre of defectors with no autonomy inside Syria – and the Al Qaeda affiliated militia of Jabhat al Nusra, (JaN) or the Islamic state of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), while also whitewashing the presence of the larger Salafist brigades that fight alongside them, predominantly Ahrar al-Sham (SIF).

To comprehend these alleged divisions, it is fundamental to understand what exactly the “FSA”, or “Supreme Military Council” consists of. In short, these Western-backed outfits and the oft-referenced “spokesmen” that carry them hold no value inside Syria, or any amount of authority among the plethora of militia fighting on the ground. This has been the case since day one of the Syrian crisis. The “FSA” was a retroactive PR stunt implemented by the West and the GCC to uphold a facade of “moderation”, and bolster the false image of militants fighting for “freedom and democracy”. In reality, the FSA represents a branding exercise; enabling foreign powers to rally behind disparate groups of militants – often led by extremists – to undertake their desired use and mask the true identity of what are, by western legal standards, “terrorists”.

When the media refer to the “FSA”, at best it is lazy journalism, at worst it is disingenuous and designed to mislead the reader – otherwise known as propaganda. Yet the “FSA”, or “SMC” seem to have a new lease of life within the media. Furthermore, General Salim Idriss has been at the forefront of recent media campaigns to persuade foreign powers to increase military aid to the rebels (including a photo-op with renowned peace advocate John McCain); rebels that Idriss, nor any other commander in the “SMC” or “FSA” have any control over. I posited the theory in early May that the US and its GCC partners (now minus the deposed Qatari Emir) were attempting to marginalize the very militants they fomented, sponsored and armed in order to build a new “moderate” force under their control that is agreeable to the public, and the many European and American Parliamentarians and Congressman that have expressed concern about the “rising” influence of radicals among the militants they are indirectly supporting.

Recent attempts to purport divisions could be construed as part of this “re-branding” policy. In a Reuters report titled “New front opens in Syria as rebels say Al Qaeda attack means war” we learn that a “Commander” from the Supreme Military Council was assassinated by ISIS’ Emir: Sheikh Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Whether this is even true remains to be seen; several prominent analysts have cast doubt on the report, claiming it may be a psy-op on the FSA’s behalf; presumably in order to marginalize Baghdadi and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham militants that follow him. This bears hallmarks to recent reports and analysis covering the supposed “split” between the Syrian wing of Al Qaeda, otherwise known as Jabhat al Nusra (JaN), and the Iraqi wing of Al Qaeda,  known as the Islamic state of Iraq (ISI). When Baghdadi, the Emir of ISI retroactively announced the “merger” of these groups and declared the militia should now be addressed as the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham, a spat broke out between him and Jabhat al-Nusra Emir Abu Mohammed al-Jolani. The following analysis and reports covering the dispute were blown out of all proportion and have continued in this vain ever since. Again, actual divisions on the ground between ISI and JaN were minimal and did not affect either tactical, nor ideological cooperation and kinship.

ISI and JaN are one and the same, in both a tactical and ideological sense, there are slight differences in their outlook for a possible future Syria, but crucially, both the tactical relationship and core ideologies remain untouched and unified. Furthermore, JaN was concieved through ISI funding and logistic cooperation. Journalists and analysts suggesting these groups are separate do not understand their mutual ideology, or they are being purposefully misleading to suit an agenda – that agenda seems to be to highlight ISI as the “bad rebels”, this could be to allow space for the “good rebels” under JaN’s leadership – which are predominantly led by Syrians and not foreigners, therefore more likely to win “hearts and minds” – to join the “moderate” brigades under the SMC command.

The first paragraph of the Reuters report fulfills the false narrative that the “FSA” represents a larger force than that of “Islamists”: (NB: Reuters lazy wording not mine)

Rivalries have been growing between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Islamists, whose smaller but more effective forces control most of the rebel-held parts of northern Syria more than two years after pro-democracy protests became an uprising.

One has to wonder how the supposed “Islamists” which, according to Reuters are a smaller force than the “FSA” can possibly hold more territory than the Western-backed moderates. Again, Reuters is pushing a false narrative upon its readers to uphold the image that the majority of “rebels” fighting inside Syria are moderate secularists under the command of the “FSA”, or “Supreme Military Council”. The truth of the matter has always been that Jabhat al Nusra – who are one and the same as Al Qaeda in Iraq with slightly different outlooks for their respective homelands – along with the more populist, and larger in number Salafi militia, such as Ahrar al-Sham, who operate under the umbrella group the Syrian Islamic Front (SIF), represent the vast majority of opposition fighters in Syria. These groups have close links, and it is likely that fighters often interchange depending on expertise, experience and geographical requirements. Since the onset they have cooperated closely with logistics and paramilitary operations.

Supposed “secular” opposition forces in Syria simply do not exist; under the “FSA” command or anywhere else. There are many smaller groups that espouse an inclusive, and indeed, moderate outlook for a future Syria. These groups have in the majority been rampant with criminality, infighting, and a lack of funds. Leaving disillusioned fighters with the option of joining the better organised and funded Salafi brigades; which have consistently received funding and arms from both state and non-state actors in the Gulf.

The “FSA” commander quoted in the Reuters piece claims: “we are going to wipe the floor with them”. Presumably this is aimed at Baghdadi and his fellow ideologues, or as Reuters labels them: “Islamists”. Again, we are supposed to buy the theory that the FSA is in a position to strike anyone militarily inside Syria – let alone a commander of one of the strongest opposition groups operating. At this moment in time, the “FSA” as a fighting force could possibly be at its weakest since its artificial inception. Reports have suggested there are up to 6,000 foreign militants fighting against the government in Syria. It is likely that the vast majority of foreigners have joined the more radical outfits such as ISIS, for the same reasons as mentioned above, but can also be explained by the public sectarian tone being applied to the conflict, and calls to the regions Sunni community to engage in “Holy War” against the Syrian state from influential clerics such as Yusuf Qaradawi.

Several political developments also shed light on the “re-branding” of the Syrian opposition. The Emir of Qatar’s unexpected departure from the throne – to be replaced by his son – may have been an indicator as to Qatar’s failures in leading the Syrian insurgency. It is common knowledge that Saudi Arabia have been given the “Syria File”. A fact that is portrayed with no irony by western analysts; who manage to conveniently whitewash exactly which state actor is delegating the “files” – could it be “Mother”? This handing over of the baton was solidified with the departure of SNC Prime Minister Ghassan Hitto – a Muslim Brotherhood member chosen by Qatar in attempts to consolidate the Muslim Brotherhood’s hold on the SNC. Hitto was replaced by Ahmed al-Jarba, an influential tribal figure with close links to the Saudi Monarchy.

Reports on the ground in Syria have also suggested that the rebels weapons flow – including such basics as ammunition – have come to an almost standstill. And several rebel commanders have relayed their frustration at the lack of promised US weapons. Recent developments in the US Congress have also given Obama the back-door escape he was looking for; at least to buy himself more time to build a more suitable fighting force able to undertake the task at hand – if such a force ever materializes. Direct US arms supplies – or, to be precise; the official funding for arms supplies – have been blocked by Congress until the administration can determine exactly which rebel groups it intends to arm, and what exactly the administration intends to achieve from what seem to be futile efforts to validate the now almost two-year covert policy of arming the rebels, and achieving nothing but bloodshed and destruction – of course, it would be ridiculous to suggest that was the plan? US allies in the region will undoubtedly be working under their own terms with regard to their destructive policies in Syria, to some extent.

Contrary to the Saud monarchies renewed efforts to wrest control of the insurgency; recent developments on the ground, along with Russia’s steadfast support and mass public opinion against supporting the extremist dominated rebels; the Syrian Army have kept the insurgency at bay whilst they choose their strategic victories. Homs is about to become the latest “rebel stronghold” to fall, as rebels announced this morning another “tactical retreat”.

One imagines the rebel siege being laid upon 2 million civilians – a war-crime that Western “diplomats” seem reluctant to “intervene” on, or make any mention of –  in government controlled Western Aleppo will be the Syrian military’s next priority. The Saudis through their new puppet al-Jarba have promised a huge influx of “game-changing” weapons, but without a massive influx of military hardware, and indeed, trained fighters to use them, it appears the trajectory of the conflict will remain in the Syrian military’s favour. What the various actors supporting the insurgency are willing to do to change that trajectory in the short-term, if anything substantial, remains to be seen. There are at least three interested and powerful parties whose objectives can be served by allowing the Syrian conflict to drag on for years to come; yet none of them necessarily want to see Assad fall.

Did Israel just attack Syria? (again)

In a recent report from investigative journalist Richard Silverstein at the Tikun Olam blog, confidential sources within the Israeli military establishment revealed to him that the alleged bombing of a weapons depot in the Syrian town of Latakia – which sits beside the Russian controlled seaport at Tartous – was an Israeli operation, targeting advanced Russian-supplied defensive missile systems (S-300 or Yakhont), an operation that included the direct assistance of opposition militants inside Syria.

Silverstein’s Israeli source specifically states that memebers of the FSA coordinated with the IDF and engaged in a diversionary rocket attack at the time of the Israeli airstrike. The previous Israeli attack in Damascus – when rebels were on hand to film the event – bears similar hallmarks to the attack in Latakia. Yet, contrary to the previous Israeli strike on the Qassioun mountains, there has been no footage to date of the explosion, and Syrian journalists I have contacted have confirmed that there are no Syrian media reports on recent large-scale explosions in Latakia. The anti-Assad activist the “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights” has reported briefly on the incident and claimed Syrian soldiers were killed, and the blast could be heard kilometres from the alleged strike-zone.

In this Reuters report, titled “Syrian Naval Base Blast Points to Israel”, Qassem Saadeddine, spokesman for the Free Syrian Army’s “Supreme Military Council”, states: (my emphasis)

“rebel forces’ intelligence network had identified newly supplied Yakhont missiles being stored there. It was not the FSA that targeted this,… It is not an attack that was carried out by rebels.”

Saadeddine goes on to state that the attack on the base  “was either by air raid or long-range missiles fired from boats in the Mediterranean.”  Why would a “FSA” spokesmen disavow attacks on Syrian military installations? It seems anathema to what the various incarnations of “spokesmen” have been trying to achieve for two years, namely; fabricating attacks on military installations to bolster morale within the ranks of the rebels, and deplete the morale of the Syrian Army.  These accounts seem to tally with Silverstein’s Israeli source – yet the specific weapons that were the target seem to differ. It is hard to believe that Israel would take such a risk for the Yakhonts alone, unless they have developed a superior stand-off missile system that radically reduces the risks involved – which may have been the impotus behind the “rebels” gleefull advertisement of the “success” of Israel’s earlier airstrikes on Damascus. The S-300 system is a clear advantage for Syria, enabling superior mobile air-defense, the Yakhonts are built to target war-ships and while they offer deterrent for Syria’s Mediterranean coast, they are of no use to Assad if a No-Fly Zone is enforced.

Furthermore, it must be noted that it has become widespread knowledge that Israel is, at the very least, liaising directly with “opposition” forces inside Syria. Silverstein also confirmed this to be the case, and in particular referenced the Golan Heights, this cooperation has also been reported in some avenues of mainstream media, although the reportage is usually set to a “humanitarian” tone.

In a Times of Israel report from the 1st July titled: “We Have No Beef With Israel, Syrian Islamist Group Says”, a spokesman for the rebel group “the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade” – a Salafist rebel group based in the Golan Heights/Quneitra/Daraa region with close links to Jabhat al Nusra, and the group responsible for several kidnappings of UN peacekeepers – goes as far as to thank Israel for its assistance along the border saying: “The medical help that the refugees got from Israel is a very good thing,”, and attempted to reassure Israelis that their fight is directed at the Assad regime and not them, not even in “ten years time”.   The report goes on to state: (my emphasis)

To date, Israel has admitted over two dozen Syrians into its hospitals for treatment, and the IDF has set up a field hospital on the border for treating relatively minor cases. During June 6 clashes between Syrian rebels and Assad forces at the Quneitra border crossing, the IDF treated 20 Syrian rebel combatants for injuries suffered during the gunfight, according to a recently published UN secretary-general’s report.

Moreover, Israel has also made overtures to the Druze community in and around the Quneitra/Golan Heights region, in attempts to shore-up its borders. This highlights the moral expediency and great lengths the Israeli military will go to uphold the status quo and its military dominance. The Israeli government has no concern for Syria or its people, it will happily pour fuel on the fire and enable warring factions to shed further needless blood to achieve its desired strategic objectives. As Jonathon Cook noted recently, the “optimal scenario” for the Israel military would be for the Syrian war to totally divide the state, resulting in a de-facto “balkanization”. It makes perfect sense that to achieve this, Israel are in the same position as the United States, they are looking to “level the playing field”.

Red Lines and Ambiguity.

When Reuters questioned Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon regarding the explosions in Latakia, his reply was reminiscent of official ambiguous statements regarding previous Israeli strikes in Syria. (and other various Muslim nations around the world): (my emphasis)

We have set red lines in regards to our own interests, and we keep them. There is an attack here, an explosion there, various versions – in any event, in the Middle East it is usually we who are blamed for most.”

 This attack was either by air raid or long-range missiles fired from boats in the Mediterranean
 This attack was either by air raid or long-range missiles fired from boats in the Mediterranean,” he said.It is difficult to imagine that Putin is willing to take this act of aggression without reply, but as yet both Russia and Syria have been silent on the strike.. To compound this issue, it is doubtful that if the S-300 systems have been destroyed, neither Assad nor Putin would be eager shout from the rooftops that Syria’s deterrrent for a No Fly Zone has been destroyed with such relative ease and so little exposure. Russia’s reaction to the latest overt act of war against an ally Putin seems determined to uphold, along with a high probability of Russian personnel escorting the S-300 systems, could go either of two ways.If, on the one hand, the strike is ignored by both Russia and Syria, it seems the only logical explanation is that Putin has sold out to some extent and provided the Israeli’s with guarantees that Russia will not retaliate, time will tell on this score as Silverstien’s report seems definitive – especially considering the fact that since the report was published, the Israeli government have enforced blanket censorship on Latakia, and all Israeli media regarding Latakia must pass through the IDF censor’s office before publication.On the other hand, Russia could attempt to retaliate against Israeli interest in the same manner: away from the public spotlight. Putin may use the Israeli strike as justification to provide Syria with further S-300 systems, choosing to “up the ante” and covertly install the defensive systems (or better: S-400) before Israel is able to strike. If Russian military advisors were indeed escorting the S-300 and providing training to Syrian personnel, then it is hard to fathom why Putin remains silent. Despite the implications of Israel possibly attacking Russian forces; it also provides Putin – and Assad – a huge propaganda coup, as did the last strike on Damascus. Yet the silence could also be explained by diplomatic hubris; as mentioned above, it is not in Assad’s interest to tell the world his new air defense systems have already been destroyed by Israel. Yet contrary to this, it could also be in Assad’s interest to use the Israeli strike as a furtherence of his narrative of an international conspiracy against Syria; a narrative that to date, becomes more true as tiOne thing is certain, this illegal act of war represents another escalation on Israel’s behalf, and a further foray into the Syrian conflict. One only has to turn the tables to understand how drastic and risky these Israeli provocations are becoming. Imagine if Syria – or Russia – were to retaliate in the same manner and strike Israeli advanced systems on Israeli soil; the results of which would be widespread and far-reaching, and would undoubtedly include the military might of the United States lining-up against Russia. It should also be noted it is not out of character for Israel to take such huge risk in attempts to uphold the strategic status quo in the region, total military hegemony is of utmost importance to the Israeli establishment. And Israel’s prior and long-satnding record is evidence enough that International Law is not high on their agenda.

Following recent statements from Russian diplomats vowing to honour advanced weapons contracts, along with claims from Assad that the shipments had begun to arrive in response to the previous Israeli airstrike upon Syria, – which targeted elite Syrian military divisions stationed in the Qassioun Mountains in Damascus – it appears Israel may have acted upon the threat of attacking Russian weapons that “tip the balance” in the region. In reality, the result of Syria acquiring such advanced systems will diminish Israel’s ability to violate its neighbours sovereign airspace at will, and in turn, commit acts of war unhindered.

The media silence surrounding this alleged attack is disconcerting on several levels. Firstly, if indeed Russian supplied advanced weapons, either the Yakhont Surface to Sea, or the S-300 Surface to Air systems (undoubtedly accompanied by Russian military personnel) have been attacked, why is Russia silent on the issue? Have Russia given the Israeli’s guarantees that retaliation will not be forthcoming? Aside from this theory, there is the distinct possibility that an emboldened Israeli military now feels it can strike targets within Syrian territory with impunity, particularly considering the half-hearted response from Russia (and the “International Community”) to Israel’s last act of war upon Syria. Furthermore, if Israel has indeed carried out this strike and knowingly hit targets that Russian troops may be alongside, are Russia even willing or able to retaliate? Lets not forget, a war with Israel is almost a guaranteed war with the United States. Of course, to these powers this is a game of chess, and Israel like to play in the dark. Could Russia and Israel both be engaging in covert strikes against each other? Mysteriously, an Israeli F-16 “crashed during routine training” over the Mediterranean on Sunday, a mere two days after the alleged strike in Latakia; it is no secret Russia has been building a huge Naval presence in the Med.

In summary, if it is true that Israel has targeted Russian advanced systems, and all the implications that follow, Russia and Syria could be remaining silent for three reasons: firstly, out of embarrassment and an unwillingness to appear weak through lack of ability to retaliate; secondly, one of the parties is complicit; thirdly, they plan to retaliate in kind, ie: a covert operation. The only other explanation is that the strike in Latakia simply did not occur.

MoD FOI Request: UK Military deployments/operations near/within Syria.

Mr. Philip Greaves

Dear MOD Information Rights Officer,

This is a request for records, or available information, under the UK Freedom Of Information Act 2000; pertaining to any and all available information/records regarding the following subjects:

  • Any UK troop deployments – temporary or permanent – in the Hashemite Kingdom Jordan, including (reported in the media) deployments of UK special forces operating within US-built military facilities close to joint US/Jordanian airbase in Mafraq, Jordan.
  • Any UK troop deployments in or close to Gaziantep, The Republic of Turkey. Including special forces deployed – permanently or temporarily – close to the Syrian/Turkish border.
  • Any current UK military – including special forces – deployments/operations within, or close to The Syrian Arab Republic’s border regions, or within it’s territories.
  • Any UK military deployments – including special forces – deployed in the region of the Syrian/Lebanese border, or within Lebanon’s territories.
  • Any records/information pertaining to UK military assistance (including monetary and non-lethal aid) provided to the “Free Syrian Army”, The “Supreme Military Command”, General Salim Idriss or any other non-official military factions or representatives within the Syrian Arab Republic or a part or representative of either the “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) or the “Syrian National Coalition” (SNC).
  • Detailed inventory of items, and materiel, provided to the “FSA” via the UK military or any of its subsidaries/private military contractors acting under the UK military’s instruction – including “non-lethal” aid.
  • Any records/information to refute or verify former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas’ claim (on live Television and widely reported in the media) that UK Ministers were plotting to attack the Syrian Government and its security apparatus via paramilitary forces; two years prior to the “Arab Spring” and the start of the Syrian conflict.
  • Any records/information that can ascertain which specific militant groups operating within the Syrian Arab Republics territories the UK military/Government has provided with materiel or aid – non-lethal or otherwise.
  • Any future or previous UK military directives, policies or operations involving the Syrian Arab Republic’s territories, or borders, within the time frame of March 2009 to the present.
I write an independent blog regarding the Middle East, and have a clear intent to publish; or otherwise dissemenate the information provided to the public. Although i do not hold employment within a media corporation or hold press credentials; i consider myself as a representative of public media. If you deny all or part of this request , please cite the specific exemptions you believe justify your refusal to release the information or permit the review and notify me of your appeal process for each count of information requested and the procedures available under UK law.
Your office is required to respond to this request within 20 working days. Please provide any records/information produced in response to this request in electronic form to the email provided above. Your assistance with this request would be appreciated, please do not hesitate to contact me with any queries or questions if needed.

Kind regards

Philip Greaves.

Syria: Qatar’s policy is hand in glove with the United States.

A recent report in the New York Times (NYT) claims, through trusted “sources”, that Qatar began weapons shipments to opposition militants in Syria at the same time they “increased” support for Al Qaeda-linked militants fighting Colonel Gaddafi in Libya in 2011. Gaddafi was ousted (murdered) in October 2011; one must assume that any “increase” in Qatari efforts to arm the militants in Libya were delivered long in advance of Gaddafi’s ouster, meaning the synonymous shipments to “rebels” in Syria also commenced well before October 2011.

This information again sheds further light on a timeline of events in Syria that have been purposefully obscured within mainstream media to suit certain actors agendas, and to enable the false and misleading narrative of “Assad killing peaceful protesters” to become dominant in the discourse surrounding the Syrian conflict. As was revealed earlier this year – known by many for much longer – it has been Qatar at the forefront of efforts to arm and fund the insurgency in Syria. As the resilience of the Assad government and the Syrian Army prolonged the conflict far beyond the timeframe the backers of the insurgency foresaw, more and more evidence has become available as to the exact nature of this US-led proxy-war, and the ideologies of the militants fighting it. In turn, timelines have constantly been altered, misinformed and manipulated to suit the desired narratives of actors who claim to be on the side of “freedom and democracy”.

In sum, previous to the aforementioned NYT article, there had been no reports – in mainstream press at least – of any arms shipments or covert state activity against Syria before “early 2012”. Now that timeline has once again been revised, to at least the same time of an “increase” of Qatari covert policy in Libya, which would have necessarily come before the fall of Gaddafi in October 2011.

The latest revelation in the NYT seems to be an intentional leak, designed to pass responsibility for the extremist dominated insurgency currently destroying Syria, onto Qatar’s doorstep. Considering the timing of this report, and several others in recent mainstream media that have pointed the finger at Qatar being the main sponsor of the Syrian insurgency, it also begs the question: was there more to the Qatari Emir’s, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani (and his trusted and longtime Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani’s) recent departure and handover of power to his son Tamim than meets the eye? A slap on the wrist from the US for Qatar’s reckless foreign policy maybe? Who knows, it seems most knowledgable Middle East analysts  really have no clue as to why the Emir chose to suddenly step down and relinquish power. If there is one message coming from this unprecedented handover in the Western press it is this: “what goes on in Qatar, stays in Qatar”.

The NYT cites a “Western diplomat” (anonymous of course) who states that Qatar: “punch immensely above their weight,… They keep everyone off-balance by not being in anyone’s pocket… Their influence comes partly from being unpredictable,” Again, this seems to be a desired caveat to remove culpability from Western actors, and is highly likely the same “source” that provided the leak on Qatar’s covert actions.

What is counterintuitive to the theory that Qatar acts of its own accord in such instance is the fact that Qatar’s military and intelligence apparatus is entirely built and run by the United States. Qatar and the US have held an intimate relationship on all things military since the early 90’s. Qatar is also the Forward Operations center of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), and the US Combined Air Operation Center (CAOC).  The US enjoys the luxury of the use of three airbases in the tiny nation of Qatar, one of which (Al Udeid) is the prime location of Qatari arms flights to Syria. Considering this close military relationship it would be foolish to believe the United States is unaware of Qatari covert activity, particularly when one also considers the broad and global spying and SIGINT powers we now all know the Pentagon, and US government have at their disposal. It should also be noted that Doha acts as a primary base in the region for US diplomacy, as the Taliban can happily attest to.

Furthermore – as covered extensively in a previous article – once Gulf covert arms shipments to Syrian “rebels” became public knowledge, the Obama administration made distinct efforts in the media to portray the CIA as the key “coordinator” and oversight of the shipments to allay concerns of weapons ending up in the “wrong hands”. The US, through the CIA has been using its logistic, diplomatic, and military power to bypass international laws and help to organise a multi-national covert arms supply chain to “rebels” in Syria. Furthermore, in a recent interview for The National Interest given by renowned former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski – a declared advocate of the US policy of arming Osama Bin-Laden and fellow ideologues in the Afghan-Soviet war of the 80’s – went as far as to openly admit the joint US-Saudi-Qatari policy of orchestrating the Syrian crisis, but refrained from revealing an explicit timeline: (my emphasis)

In late 2011 there are outbreaks in Syria produced by a drought and abetted by two well-known autocracies in the Middle East: Qatar and Saudi Arabia. He [Obama] all of a sudden announces that Assad has to go—without, apparently, any real preparation for making that happen. Then in the spring of 2012, the election year here, the CIA under General Petraeus, according to The New York Times of March 24th of this year, a very revealing article, mounts a large-scale effort to assist the Qataris and the Saudis and link them somehow with the Turks in that effort. Was this a strategic position?

Yet contrary to this long-revealed policy, the NYT claims: “The United States has little leverage over Qatar on the Syria issue because it needs the Qataris’ help on other fronts.” For the NYT to claim the US has no control of arms shipments from a key ally is disingenuous at best, outright propaganda at worst. Moreover, the CIA has been in direct “consultation” with Qatar on arms shipments, and who exactly those arms should be sent to, (vetted “moderates” of course!!) as Qatari officials stated in this Reuters article from May this year: (my emphasis)

“There’s an operations room in the Emir’s diwan (office complex), with representatives from every ministry sitting in that room, deciding how much money to allocate for Syria’s aid,” the Qatari official said. There’s a lot of consultation with the CIA, and they help Qatar with buying and moving the weapons into Syria, but just as consultants,”

Are we seriously supposed to believe that Qatar, a tiny resource-rich nation that is totally dependent on US militarism and diplomatic protection is acting of its own accord, without any US assistance, right under the US military’s nose? The NYT report goes on to state: (my emphasis)

Qatar’s covert efforts to back the Syrian rebels began at the same time that it was increasing its support for opposition fighters in Libya trying to overthrow the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi...The Obama administration quietly blessed the shipments to Libya of machine guns, automatic rifles, mortars and ammunition, but American officials later grew concerned as evidence grew that Qatar was giving the weapons to Islamic militants there.”

The Obama administration was fully aware of who Qatar were arming, and sending special forces to fight alongside in Libya. It was exactly the same variety of militants and extremist ideologues that are currently waging war upon the Syrian State. Islamic radicals had used Benghazi as a base since the very start of the Libyan “revolution”, and the US knew they formed the core of the militia Qatar were shipping arms to in efforts to oust Gaddafi. The Obama administration’s concern of MANPADS falling into the “wrong hands” (a la Afghanistan) is belied by Obama’s tacit approval of his Gulf allies’ policy of allowing tonnes of arms, explosives and military materiel to reach extremist dominated militia. A few MANPADS simply increases the likelihood of blowback upon a civilian target, and the consequent exposure – which is the Obama administration’s major concern. As the NYT report states, one of the shipments of MANPADS that has entered Syria came from the very same former Gaddafi stockpiles of Eastern bloc weapons looted by Qatari-backed militants in Libya.

In summary, the current media leaks on arms shipments to Syria can be construed as the Obama administration attempting to build plausible deniability. The constant revision of the Syrian timeline also points to the retroactive smoke-screen being applied to US-led covert policies that have already been exposed. Indeed, this tactic of using client states to gain deniability of US aggression is nothing new, such policy has provided the United States with the ultimate get-out-clause through decades of subversion and aggression upon sovereign nations.

If – as is the current trajectory in Syria – the militants that the United States and its clients foment, fund and arm, become an uncontrollable monster and fail to achieve the desired short-term objectives, the US can simply disassociate and point the finger to one of its lesser allies, on this occasion, that finger seems to point directly at the former Emir of Qatar.

One wonders if in twenty years time US “diplomats” will portray the same vacant regret for their role in the creation of Jabhat al Nusra and fellow ideologues; as they do now for their role in the creation of Al Qaeda itself. As the United States continues its divisive and destructive policies to desperately cling to imperialist hegemony in the Middle East the mantra of “lessons have been learned” becomes more hollow than ever.