Israel and Saudi Arabia’s priorities in Syria.

Current developments both inside and outside of Syria have shown that the primary sponsors of the extremist-dominated insurgency – namely, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Israel and Turkey – aren’t quite ready to throw in the towel.

One may be forgiven for thinking the Obama administration had decided to abandon the policy of regime change following the failed attempt to incite intervention, through the chemical weapons casus belli in August. But the harsh reality remains that the above mentioned alliance is indeed continuing its covert military support of the insurgency, in one form or another, in the full knowledge the vast majority of rebels are religious fundamentalists with a sectarian agenda, and vehemently opposed to any form of democracy or political pluralism.

Primarily, the continued support is a product of the American Empires’ overarching strategy of Full Spectrum Dominance over resource-rich and strategically placed regions of the globe, via subversion, economic and military aggression; a policy imposed to varying degrees upon any state unwilling to accept full US subordination. This aggressive US stance is by no means exclusive to periods of heightened tension or crises; it is a permanent one, brought forward to its violent climax purely through Machiavellian opportunism. In Syria’s case, the Arab uprisings provided the United States and its allies the perfect opening to set in motion the subversive plans they had been working on since at least 2006. The possibility of removing an opposing government that refuses to abide by American/Israeli diktat was simply too good a chance to be missed. Accordingly, and from a very early stage, the US made attempts to facilitate and support the violent elements in Syria, while its media arms were busy conflating them with localised legitimate protesters.

Since the US took the typically reckless decision to support, widen and exacerbate the militant elements, the policy has been an abject failure. Clearly, from the tone espoused by Western diplomats and propagandists, and the oft-repeated slogan of “Assads days are numbered”, they expected swift regime change. These desires were largely based on American hubris and the hope that the Libya No Fly Zone scenario would gain traction in the UN security council.

Contrary to such desires, Russia and China’s anger regarding NATO’s destruction of Libya and Gaddafi’s assassination, meant that any similar resolutions put forward on Syria would face immediate veto. In turn this has proven to be a turning point in the modern relationship between the permanent members of the security council, the full ramifications of which are yet to materialise. Moreover, it proved to be a turning point in the Syrian crisis itself; knowing Russia and China would block any attempts to give NATO its second outing as Al Qaeda’s airforce, the US once again chose the policy of further covert militarism, drastically increasing funds and weapons deliveries to the rebels – parallel to the sectarian incitement campaigns espoused by Salafi-Wahhabi clerics across the Gulf – in the hope they could overturn the Syrian army through terrorism and a brutal sectarian war of attrition.

As a consequence of the failure to remove Assad or destroy the Syrian government and its apparatus, the Obama administration, reluctant and politically incapable of engaging in overt acts of aggression, is employing a realpolitik strategy; using primarily covert militarism to appease the desires of NeoConservative hawks in Congress, and its more zealous regional influences emanating from Riyadh and Tel Aviv, while avoiding the possibility of being dragged into another overt military intervention.

In turn, this double-edged strategy feeds the false public perception of the American Empire, which the pseudo-pragmatists and neoliberal propagandists are so eager to uphold and is so fundamental to US Empire-building; that of an inherently altruistic force, acting as global arbiter, grudgingly subverting, invading, bombing, and intervening in sovereign nations affairs for the good of all mankind. As long as this false perception is upheld, the sharp-edge to the grotesque charade of US realpolitik – that of covert militarism and state-sponsored terrorism – continues unabated. Clearly, the US Empire is in no rush to end the bloodshed in Syria, its priorities, as they have been since the start of 2011, are to remove, or at least severely disable and weaken the Syrian government and state, regardless of the consequences to the civilian population.

By using its control of state-funding, the arms flow, and therefore the strength and capabilities of the insurgency as a whole, the Obama administration has employed futile carrot and stick tactics in attempts to pressure the Syrian government during the current negotiations phase into acceding to US demands and giving up its sovereignty – with both the US-led alliance, and Syria and its international allies, primarily Russia and Iran, in the full knowledge the rebels lack both the domestic support, and manpower necessary, to oust Assad or defeat the Syrian army alone. Reports allude to the stick of US Democracy having its most recent outing in the form of “new”  and improved weapons supplies to the rebels, allegedly including MANPADS. This comes immediately off the back of the designed-to-fail Geneva “peace” talks and can be interpreted as a direct result of Washington’s failure to enforce their objectives: the stick is an endless supply of state-sponsored terrorism, the carrot is turning off the tap.

Whether the “new” arms shipments actually increase the rebels ability to inflict damage on the Syrian government remains to be seen, and is highly improbable at this stage as the Syrian army moves into the Qalamoun mountains to liberate the rebel-held town of Yabroud, in turn securing vital transit and logistical routes from Lebanon. The likely outcome of an increased arms flow to the rebels in the south, as evidenced at every interval of US-instigated militarization, will be a repeat of the same devastating results: more civilian displacement, adding to the already critical refugee crisis; more rebel destruction of civilian infrastructure, adding to further food and utility shortages; and many more lives lost.

“Lebanonization” a substitute for regime change?

As is proving to be the case, if the United States and its allies are incapable of removing the Syrian government via proxy forces without an increasingly unpopular Western military intervention, and Assad’s position and domestic support remain steadfast, then a Lebanonization strategy may well be the substitute “optimal scenario” the US and its allies are now working toward.

Encouraging, exacerbating, and inciting division between Arabs has been the long-term strategy for the Zionist establishment since the colonialists first usurped Palestinian land in 1948 – with specific effort made toward fomenting conflict along sectarian lines. The strategy of division is directed toward any Arab state or government that refuses to abide by Zionist demands. Israeli strategist Oded Yinon’s now infamous “A strategy for Israel in the 1980’s” – dubbed the Yinon Plan – provides perhaps the clearest account of Israel’s intentions toward its Arab neighbours:

The total disintegration of Lebanon into five regional local governments is the precedent for the entire Arab world … The dissolution of Syria, and later Iraq, into districts of ethnic and religious minorities following the example of Lebanon is Israel’s main long-range objective on the Eastern front. The present military weakening of these states is the short-range objective. Syria will disintegrate into several states along the lines of its ethnic and religious structure … As a result, there will be a Shi’ite Alawi state, the district of Aleppo will be a Sunni state, and the district of Damascus another state which is hostile to the northern one. The Druze – even those of the Golan – should forma state in Hauran and in northern Jordan … the oil-rich but very divided and internally strife-ridden Iraq is certainly a candidate to fill Israel’s goals … Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation … will hasten the achievement of the supreme goal, namely breaking up Iraq into elements like Syria and Lebanon.

When viewed in this context, it can be no coincidence that US Secretary of State John Kerry is desperately pursuing a fait accompli with the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Contrary to the sickening media portrayal of the US as impartial peacebroker, Kerry’s eagerness to pursue a “deal” at this moment in time is a direct result of the Syrian conflict, and the divisions within the resistance camp it has created. The US and Israel are now attempting to force through an Israeli-oriented “peace deal” with the corrupt PA that will inevitably be both a failure, and against the Palestinians interests. Staunch allies of Palestinian resistance, currently bogged down fighting Al Qaeda ideologues in Syria and defusing car-bombs bound for Dahiyeh, are in no position to support the Palestinians against Israel in their hour of need, the US and Israel fully grasp the importance of isolating genuine Palestinian resistance from the few Arab states and actors it receives support. In his latest speech, Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah reminded his listeners of this very crucial issue:

“the US Administration is seeking, along with the Zionist Administration to put an end to the Palestinian cause, and it considers that this is the best time for that because the Arab and Islamic worlds are absent today, and every country is occupied with its own problems.”

In a similar fashion, the US has used the Syrian conflict as a lever against Iran in the nuclear negotiations, Washington’s longstanding attempts to pacify and subordinate an independent Iran has undoubtedly played a major role in US policy on Syria – perhaps the defining role. Consequently, both the Palestinian and Iranian conflicts with Israel and the United States are now, as they have always been intended to some extent in US calculations, inextricably linked to resolving the Syrian crisis.

True to form, Israel’s evident glee at the destruction in Syria and overt preference for the removal of Assad and the Syrian government, with the devastation that would entail, has proven at times hard for them to conceal. Furthering the point, just one of many examples of Israeli-rebel collusion came in a recent report from the National (falsely portraying the rebels Israel is “reaching out” to as ostensibly “moderate”) which relayed that hundreds of rebels have received treatment in Israeli hospitals and been sent back into Syria with up to a $1000 in cash. Israel have made further efforts to consolidate contacts with the rebels in the south, regardless of the level of fundamentalism, and cooperated with rebel factions during the Israeli bombings on Latakia and Damascus.

In a feeble attempt to whitewash this collusion, Israeli propagandists are busily spreading the misinformation that Israel is facilitating the Druze community in the south of Syria; yet the Druze community are firmly allied with the Syrian government. In reality, Israeli attempts to cultivate relations with the communities and rebels in the south should be correctly viewed as attempts to create enforced “safe-zones” around the occupied Golan Heights, in furtherance of the Zionists land-grabbing expansionist aspirations. Accordingly, Israel’s fraudulent neutrality is completely exposed by their collusion with the rebels to meet their own interests, and overt acts of aggression against the Syrian army.

There are many other indications that allude to prominent factions of the US alliance being preferable of, and encouraging an outcome of division, most notably Israel, but simple logic determines that Saudi Arabia, Israel’s most vital strategic partner in the region, and the actor from within the US alliance that possesses the most material influence and political will to support fundamentalists and terrorism, would also approve of the disintegration of the Syrian state, primarily viewing it as a blow to “Shi’a expansion”. The Saudi and Gulf fixation on sectarian themes, to mask what are essentially politically oriented conflicts, is also intentionally built to intensify the strategy of division in multi-ethnic, religiously plural societies – as evidenced in virtually every country fundamentalist Gulf proxies have been unleashed upon, most recently in Libya.

Yet even the Saudi’s have limits to their own capabilities and decisions, ultimately they rely on the military largesse and protection of the United States, and will therefore reign in the terrorist networks if push comes to shove. Hence, the recent Saudi attempts to dissociate from Al Qaeda and the various extremists fighting in Syria can be seen as largely cosmetic and for public consumption. In reality, the Saudi leadership see Al Qaeda and its extremist confrères as malleable proxies of no real threat to themselves, while constituting a critical component of Saudi foreign policy and covert aggression.

Of far higher importance to both Israel and Saudi Arabia’s confluent interests in the region, which in turn play a critical role in US calculations, are the very actors and states the fundamentalist proxies are currently being sponsored to wage war upon; namely, Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah. The disintegration of the resistance axis is the utmost priority for the states that drive US policy in the Middle East, the supposed “threat” faced by militant fundamentalist ideologues, originally created, and intermittently sponsored by the US and its allies, is merely an afterthought.

The US Empire, in its efforts to contain, and therefore dominate and control such a strategic and resource-rich region, is more than content to allow its reactionary and sectarian clients to incite the conflict necessary to subvert, fracture and divide the inevitable power a unified Middle East could claim: if only their progressive aspirations and unity were not repeatedly “set back” by Zionist occupation and manufactured antagonism.

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The reactionary essence of the Syrian insurgency.

Western corporate media, its Oil and Gas counterparts (GCC), and the various acolytes and paid-propagandists in the “tailored analysis” industry, are once again attempting to bolster and rebrand the public image of the fundamentalist rebels in Syria.

In the space of a week, two new formations of armed rebels mysteriously appeared across the mass-media lexicon and declared war on the dominant extremists through the usual “activist” social media accounts. The new brigades have virtually no historical record in the conflict, and appear to be largely a creation of the impotent exile opposition and its western sponsors. An abundance of reports relay stories of the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) simply abandoning their posts and being turned over by this supposedly “moderate” new force. Yet, in reality, the most predominant militia in Syria – those of a Salafi-Wahhabi fundamentalist bent, who now fight under the umbrella of the Islamic Front (IF), and are led by Hassan Abboud of Ahrar al-Sham, and Zahran Alloush of Liwa al-Islam – have made a concerted effort to avoid sowing discord between themselves and the overt Al Qaeda affiliates of ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra (JaN).

The new narrative emerging draws heavily from the Sahwa (Awakening) in Iraq, in which Sunni tribes from the western province of Anbar took up arms against, and eventually defeated, the Al Qaeda insurgency that followed the US invasion and occupation of that country. Western and Gulf media are now attempting to reinvigorate the rebels’ public image by concocting a portrayal of brave “moderates” taking on the extremists within ISIS. Yet contrary to the Syria-Sahwa narrative, the vast majority of opposition forces, as much as one can generalise, have in fact been shown to share far more in common with their extremist equivalents than they have differences, particularly in regards to their reciprocal – and sectarian-laden – religiopolitical ideologies.

According to Western and Gulf propagandists, Jabhat al-Nusra ostensibly represent the “homegrown” Syrian Al Qaeda branch, whereas in actual fact, the claim is entirely false; JaN’s militia hold a distinct foreign contingent and many of its commanders have been found to be of foreign descent – particularly Iraqi. Jabhat al-Nusra, therefore, should be correctly viewed as a semi-Syrian militia at most, built and sustained by ISIS under its former incarnation: the Islamic State of Iraq, (ISI) also formerly known as Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).

The ideologically aligned Salafi-Jihadists of Ahrar al-Sham, Jabhat al-Nusra, and more recently ISIS, have formed the spearhead of the insurgency throughout the entire Syrian crisis, leading offensives against Syrian army installations, whilst also having enough manpower, funds & materiel to attack, encamp and militarily fortify civilian areas across the country. Most notably in Raqqah, which has become a virtual Al Qaeda statelet under the control of either Jabhat al-Nusra or ISIS.

Examples of the dominant role fundamentalists have played in the insurgency are abundant, during an interview with TIME magazine, Ahrar al-Sham fighters – who, as we have seen through a plethora of evidence, are inextricably linked to Jabhat al-Nusra – freely admit they were planning a violent insurgency in Syria well before any peaceful protests occurred in 2011, and that recruits with underlying sectarian agendas made efforts to sanitize and mask their true Jihadist cause during the earlier phases of the conflict in order to win over the Syrian population. Whats more, a recent report in the National relayed much the same admissions from supposed “FSA” rebels operating in the south of Syria around Dar’aa. The rebels interviewed admitted that “They [JaN] offer their services and cooperate with us, they are better armed than we are, they have suicide bombers and know how to make car bombs,” rebel sources went on to say that “the FSA and Al Nusra join together for operations but they have an agreement to let the FSA lead for public reasons, because they don’t want to frighten Jordan or the West,”. During the interview rebels further elaborate on the efforts made to boost the public image of the western-backed imaginary moderates saying that “operations that were really carried out by Al Nusra are publicly presented by the FSA as their own,” and that supposed moderate FSA fighters “say that Al Nusra fighters are really from the FSA to enable them to move more easily across borders,”. The reports bolster earlier analyses that contradict the dominant narrative, often dismissed as “conspiracy theory”, which indicated such actions were being undertaken, and that the armed groups responsible for the initial violence in March-April 2011 were indeed religious fundamentalists, not the secular “freedom fighters” endlessly lionized by the lackeys of western governments and media.

Such candid rebel admissions once again expose the falsehoods that liberal opportunists rely on when blindly repeating the Imperialist narrative of a peaceful protest movement simply morphing into an Al Qaeda-led insurgency. In reality, the generally small and legitimate protests calling for reform were used as a fig leaf by Syria’s various internal and external enemies to hide the extremist-led militant insurgency they were orchestrating and colluding with.

As evidenced in numerous interviews and statements from Abboud and Alloush, the Islamic Front is not by any stretch of the imagination a “moderate” force opposed to JaN, ISIS, or Al Qaeda ideology in general (unless one utilises the doublespeak of the US State Department when describing their “moderate” Wahhabi-Salafi monarchical clients in the Gulf). Ahrar al-Sham, Liwa a-Islam and other various proto-Salafi militia operating under the umbrella of the Islamic Front have repeatedly fought alongside Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS, and taken part in offensives that have targeted towns and villages on the specific criteria of the sect of the civilian inhabitants. The massacres committed upon the civilian residents of Latakia provide just one recent example of such sectarian barbarity – committed not only by the extreme elements, but with the full cooperation and participation of supposed moderate “FSA” militia. A more recent example of the Islamic Front cooperating with its Al Qaeda-affiliates came in December, when the IF took part in the attack and ensuing massacre of civilians in the workers district of Adra, Damascus – another rebel war-crime almost totally omitted from western media, regardless of the fact the BBC’s chief foreign correspondent was a mere 20 miles away while the massacres were occurring.

When framed in the correct context, it becomes clear that the vast majority of rebels in Syria are in fact ideologically allied to the very Al Qaeda affiliates the media is trying to portray them as opposed to. A recent communique from the political head of the IF, and leader of Ahrar al-Sham, Hassan Abboud, was disingenuously portrayed as a Islamic Front “warning” to ISIS. Opposition-friendly media outlets and analysts are in effect conflating the Islamic Front with imaginary “moderates” and in turn attempting to portray them as ideological opponents to their more extreme Al Qaeda counterparts. This narrative is turning reality on its head, as Abboud’s recent statement is actually a “warning” against discord with ISIS. Abboud encourages the Syrian population to treat the Muhajirin (foreign jihadists busy murdering Syrians) “kindly”, and further encourages ISIS to emulate the “more healthy” manner of their supposed “home-grown” incarnation Jabhat al-Nusra. Accordingly, one can safely conclude that Abboud, Ahrar al-Sham, Liwa al-Islam, and the various Salafi militia operating under the umbrella of the Islamic Front – the largest militant force of the opposition – have close to zero ideological disparity with ISIS or JaN.

Even if what seem to be inflated reports of discord and infighting between the Islamic Front and the supremacist ideologues in ISIS were to result in a considerable loss for the latter, it would simply be replaced at the top of the fundamentalist food-chain by the next militia willing to impose its barbarity and coercion in the most effective way. This is ultimately the inherent nature of fundamentalist militant insurgencies, they are designed, indoctrinated, equipped, and funded to impose upon states and peoples through murder, coercion and fear, not through the appeal of a popular political doctrine and the mass support of the people. The simple facts that the insurgency as a whole is under no central hierarchy, and holds little to-no support inside Syria and is therefore susceptible to becoming subordinate to its foreign patrons, are clear indications that it will not be cohesive, regardless of the varying shades of fundamentalism the dominant groups have attempted to enforce.

The historical record of Western-GCC-backed insurgencies in the Arab and Muslim world provides copious amounts of evidence to show that invariably the United States and its Saudi partners have always utilised, fomented, and sponsored reactionary forces to meet geopolitical ends, particularly when subverting or attacking nationalist governments that refuse to abide by the Anglo-American capitalist order – with disastrous consequences for the countries in which the fundamentalist proxies are set upon. One needs only to glance at the very recent history of Libya to negate the establishment falsehood that if the Syrian government had been overthrown quickly the fundamentalists would not have gained in strength. Again, this is turning the historical record on its head, as the joint NATO-Al Qaeda war on Libya has once again shown; the swift overthrow of a state’s government and leadership inevitably results in reactionary fundamentalists taking advantage of the power vacuum left behind. The US-Saudi-backed insurgency in Afghanistan during the 1980’s, which fought against the Soviet-backed Communist government, provides perhaps the definitive example of the type of proxies the United States and Saudi Arabia choose to employ to destroy target states. As with Syria and Libya, the original “Afghan Arab” insurgency – which helped to create and empower Al Qaeda, Bin Laden, Hekmatyar, the Haqqani network and a host of other fundamentalist militancy – was wrought with infighting, extremism, warlordism, and reaction, this trend has continued in virtually every state the US and its GCC partners have targeted for “liberation” via jihadist proxies.

Perpetual infighting evidenced throughout the Syrian insurgency is in fact a result of the long-standing fragmentation of the various opposition forces, their varying degrees of fundamentalism, and the battle to win influence, arms, and funds through foreign donors and exploitation.

The evidence-free narratives of supposed existential disparity between what actually represent ideological allies, the patterns of ever-changing nomenclature and rebel rebranding, and the efforts to scapegoat the most overtly extreme elements for the systematic crimes of the opposition as a whole, are nothing more than public relations exercises, designed to whitewash the massive crimes of the “rebels”, whilst extricating the Western NATO states and their GCC partners from the criminal act of sponsoring extremists for geopolitical ends.

Syria: The Army of Islam; Saudi Arabia’s finest export.

Recent developments regarding “rebel” groups inside Syria have shed further light on the ideologies and political aims of the militants waging war upon the Syrian state.

On the 24th September, under the moniker of the “Islamist Alliance”, 11 of the largest and most recognisable rebel brigades – a mix of supposed “moderate Islamists” such as Liwa al-Tawhid, the largest “FSA”-branded brigade in Aleppo, alongside more hardline Salafi/Jihadi brigades such as Ahrar al-Sham, and Al Qaeda ideologues Jahbat al-Nusra – released a joint statement denouncing the western-backed expatriates of the “National Coalition” (NC), along with its equally impotent military arm, the “Supreme Military Council” (SMC). Following this statement of intent, on the 29th of September, up to 50 rebel groups operating primarily in the area of Damascus merged to form Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam). The Damascus merger also included a wide-ranging demographic of militant groups, from the supposed “moderate”, to overt Salafist hardliners. Jaish al-Islam is dominated by Liwa al-Islam, a large rebel group formerly of “FSA” branding, and led by Saudi-backed Zahran Alloush. Liwa al-Islam were also a signatory to the aforementioned statement of denunciation toward the western-backed political opposition.

These announcements have effectively put-to-bed the western propagated myth that was the “Free Syrian Army”. Militant groups the west ostensibly touted as “secular moderates” yearning for “freedom and democracy” from a tyrannical regime; have now openly declared their Salafi/Jihadi fundamentalist ideology, with the ultimate aim of creating a Syrian state ruled by Islamic law.

Already, these announcements are being portrayed as an attempt by Saudi Arabia – yes, ever tolerant and inclusive Wahhabi-preaching Saudi Arabia – and other leading Salafi factions supporting the insurgency to steer “vetted, or moderate Salafi” rebels away from the Al Qaeda aligned groups; particularly the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), who are now portrayed as simply “foreign jihadists” and have become the leading fall-guy in Western and Gulf media for every atrocity committed by the rebels. This false perception has been built as a result of a Western and Gulf initiated public relations campaign to “moderate” the image of the Salafi/Jihadi fundamentalists (aswell as those more inclined to basic criminality, killing, and destruction) who may be more willing to meet the requirements of their Gulf donors and the United States. Yet, contrary to this divisive narrative, the same “moderate” Salafi’s who are now supposedly being encouraged to  disassociate from their Al Qaeda affiliates have happily fought alongside – more often than not as a junior partner – the West’s supposed “number one enemy” (AQ) since the insurgency began in 2011.

In further contrast to the aforementioned “Awakening” narrative, Jabhat al-Nusra (JaN) – the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda ideologues – are still very much in the mix. Although various pundits and analysts have made efforts to publicise tensions between ISIS and JaN, the two groups still share a similar Jihadist ideology and cooperate in key areas, particularly on paramilitary operations; as do the hardline Salafi groups such as Ahrar Al-Sham, who in turn fully cooperate with the western friendly “moderates” forming the backbone of Jaish al-Islam. In the recent ISIS takeover of the “FSA” held town of Azaz from the western-friendly Northern Storm brigade (of John McCain fame), Liwa al-Tahwid quickly offered to broker a ceasefire and acted as interlocutor between the two warring factions. ISIS in turn, rejected any “FSA” authority and have since taken control of the town – not that Liwa al-Tahwid could have stopped them anyway. These events directly contradict the notion that the new “Army of Islam” is in any rush to disassociate, let alone be able to wage war upon the ISIS or its extremist affiliates. Moreover, the leader of Jaish al-Islam, Zahran Alloush, publicly disowned his own “captain” after he warned ISIS there would be open conflict if they “continued this chaos”. The leader claimed that the comments were “dangerous” and designed to “cause strife between muslims”.

Furthermore, in a recent interview with Al Jazeera, Alloush, free of his “moderate” chains, lets loose on his ideals for a future Syria, in which he aspires to resurrect the Umayyad Empire (2nd Islamic Caliphate with Syria at its core and Damascus as its capital), and “cleanse” Damascus of “Majous” (pejorative Arabic term for Iranians) “Rafideh” (Shi’ites) and “Nusayris” (Alawites). Rebel leaders openly espousing sectarian rhetoric has been a running theme throughout the conflict; in line with this trend, Alloush’s statement can be taken as a clear indication that his new “Jaish al-Islam” is not in the least bit concerned with abiding by a western-friendly moderate image. Alloush, like the majority of rebel leaders, is a fundamentalist Salafist, who looks on at the minorities of Syria as kafir (unbelievers) who must submit to his interpretation of Salafi Islam or be killed.

The western/Gulf media narrative surrounding this new “Islamist Alliance” is a re-hash of failed PR campaigns of the past, which attempted to mitigate the inherent fundamentalist ideologies of the insurgents waging war upon the Syrian state. In stark contrast to the Caliphate-inspired visions held by the majority of rebel leaders, Syria has been a pluralistic secular society for decades, the majority of its Sunni muslim population are conservative and have coexisted peacefully alongside the many other religions and ethnic minorities that make up Syria’s diverse society, history, and culture. The people of Syria do not aspire to a Saudi sponsored Salafi/Wahhabi leadership or doctrine of law. Contrary to the popular narrative emerging in western and Gulf media that this new force will represent an indigenous “moderate Islamist” coalition capable of taking on the foreign elements and Al Qaeda, the majority of Syrians will be repelled by the sectarian language and ideologies of Zohran Alloush; his groups overt affiliations and pandering to Al Qaeda ideologues; and his “Army of Islam”.

Considering the above context, the narrative of home-grown Salafis somehow being more amenable to the Syrian population than their ISIS/JaN fundamentalist colleagues becomes even less tenable. Alloush’s formation of Jaish al-Islam, alongside the “Islamist Alliance” denunciation of the western-backed political opposition, show a marked shift of the insurgency further toward the Al Qaeda ideologues fighting the Syrian regime, not further away from them.

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.

 

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.