Western left-opportunism, and “denying agency” in Syria.

Having last week expounded upon the duplicity of the western “liberal lefts” position on the imperialist-sponsored fascist coup in Ukraine, a particularly egregious example of the same petty bourgeois sophism so pervasive within western civilised dissent has once again reared its ugly head. In what can only be described as emo agitprop, the western petty bourgeoisie’s flagship of misinformation and imperialist propaganda recently published an article on Syria by self-proclaimed “leftist Artist” Molly Crabapple.

The article covers a demonstration organised by an anti-government Syrian activist, who has chosen to read the names of 100,000 victims of the Syrian war standing outside the White House for 72 hours. The intended symbolism of such a demonstration is quite difficult to ascertain, particularly considering a sound historical analysis shows that western imperialism – ergo: the White House – bears huge responsibility for the deaths of those very people now being used to “guilt” the western public into supporting some form of further “action” against the Syrian state – meaning, (overt) US military intervention, NATO freedom-bombs, etc. Moreover, it seems that both Crabapple and her subject have forgotten, or are intentionally omitting the fact that over half of those victims met their deaths at the hands of the western/Israeli/wahhabi monarch-sponsored fundamentalist dominated militia; the very same militia Crabapple is now lionizing as “revolutionaries”.

Naturally for the Guardian, the narrative fulfills the many western falsehoods propagated on behalf of the reactionary insurgency since it began, by doing so, it provides an opportunity to expand upon and expose the role that western left-opportunism has played in buttressing said falsehood throughout the Syrian crisis. Further still, it provides a chance to counter the twisted theories and phrasing being used to attack anti-imperialists and anti-revisionists from within the western petty bourgeois “celebrity-left” camp, through which Crabapple and Co. postulate the absurd notion that westerners with the tendency to focus on the role of western imperialism represent “perverse Orientalists”.

Barring the usual “40 year dictatorship” slogans so typical of the deluded and self-righteous cheerleaders of western bourgeois “democracy”, the historical context for Crabapple’s Syrian “revolution” is built via the rosy portrayal of a wave of protests that “swept the world”. In Syria, a “police state and neoliberal reforms” are the central material factors used to explain the crisis.

These puerile simplifications are employed to distort and minimise the primary role of western predatory imperialism, either that, or simply through blind stupidity and laziness. In such a decontextualised analysis, there is no space available to document the years of western-led economic sanctions and subversion; nor is any space permitted to analyse the sociopolitical effects of the five-year drought that had decimated Syria’s agricultural industry prior to 2011 – causing widespread impoverishment to the disaffected rural sections of society. There is no economic analysis whatsoever. More importantly, there is no space afforded to document the decades of western support and collusion with Saudi Arabia’s sponsorship of ,ilitant fundamentalist ideologues, with the direct aim of unleashing them and their sectarian hatred upon Syria (or any other target in the region, see: Libya, Hezbollah, Iraq, etc) when political needs required; no space is given for the direct sponsorship of western imperialism toward the ex-pat “SNC” puppet administrators travelling between hotel suites in Ankara, Doha and Riyadh, or the thousands of US State Department-trained “activists” and NGO workers flooding media and commentary with false or bias accounts, staged photos and misinformation. Any critique of the western corporate media, and its complimentary “tailored analysis” industrys disgraceful servitude to western government narratives is completely omitted – regardless of the fact that both form essential components of modern “soft” imperialism.

To suggest western imperialism has invested in any of these individuals, policies or organisations with any sort of altruistic intention is comparable to suggesting over sixty years of historical evidence to the contrary is worthless; negating any value in historical materialism and dialectics. Omission of context and crude historical revisionism are entirely deliberate and further prohibit the prospect of reaching a sound political or moral examination of events and their evolving processes. Dialectics, logic, critical distance and contradictory evidence are replaced with emotionally driven narrow-framed discourse to remove the wider context – therefore western culpability – and form the false depiction of a “popular peaceful uprising versus despotic regime”.

Crabapple informs us that “it took four months for Syria’s protests to become an armed insurgency”. This blatant lie is a most crucial one in upholding western Imperialisms false narrative on Syria. Yet, as we shall see, while the celebrity-lefts continue to blindly recycle the lie, it has long been refuted, in even the most loyal organs of western imperialism itself.

Once the underlying causes of the crisis have been distorted beyond any semblance of reality, whitewashing the “rebels” and their imperialist sponsors’ role as the instigators and primary actors responsible for excacerbating the crisis, Crabapple then attempts to bolster the false distinctions between the supposedly moderate and extremist rebel groups with the double fabrication that Al Qaeda took six months to enter the fray, and that Saudi Arabia took twenty months to “officially” start supplying arms; thereby portraying the fundamentalists emergence at around February to March 2012.

This is quite the perversion, and once again can only be interpreted as pure stupidity, or outright disingenuity in the aim of furnishing the imaginary “secular moderate freedom fighters” with unwarranted moral platform.

Contrary to such crude and uninformed analysis, and long known by anyone paying attention, the dominant proto-Salafi militia, such as Ahrar-al Sham – who form the vanguard of the insurgency throughout, and are inextricably linked to both overt Al Qaeda elements and ostensible “moderates” in thrall to Imperialism – openly admit to planning a violent insurgency before any protests in Syria began. These militia, sharing much in common with their overtly extreme counterparts, were most certainly active in the first weeks of the crisis, as evidenced by the oppositions own death-toll accounts: the one hundred-plus Syrian soldiers and police killed during March-April 2011 alone belies the fantasy that the violence erupted simply through state oppression of peaceful protesters.

Further contradicting the “peaceful protester-moderate rebel” narrative, corresponding incidents of organised violence against state security became widespread by the middle of 2011 (see: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), the massacre of 120 soldiers in Jisr al Shugour (20 miles from the Turkish border) in June 2011, provides but one prominent example. Either Crabapple is oblivious to all this, or is deliberately omitting it for the same reasons listed above. In attempting to skirt the issue, Crabapple regurgitates the evidence-free conspiracy theory that the soldiers were executed by their own superiors for refusing to fire on protesters, further dehumanizing the Syrian army.

Another critical falsehood follows, and one that has been endlessly spewed to form unwarranted moral platform in the face of compelling contradictory evidence. Crabapple claims that “crimes are committed on all sides. But only the Assad regime, with its superiority of force … could kill on the scale and with the consistency that turned war crimes into a tactic of war.” Again, this is a blatant lie and distortion of the facts. The theory that the Syrian airforce’s bombardment of rebel encampments in civilian zones equates to a larger percentage of the death toll is complete logical fallacy void of any material evidence. The opposite is in fact true: according to the US Chief of Staff, 90% of deaths in Syria have been incurred by gunshot or ground-to-ground artillery; weapons which the rebels have had, and used in abundance since the early stages. It has been amply documented that every stage of western, Turkish or Gulf initiated military support to the rebels has resulted in a huge increase in both the death-toll, and civilian displacement – most notably in the period between late 2011, when Russia and China made it clear they would block any Libya-style No Fly Zone attempts, and July 2012, when the CIA and Gulf states dramatically increased the arms shipments to rebels.

Death tolls provided by anti-government activists such as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) – used as a principal source for western media, the UN, and western humanitarian “NGO’s”, no less – show it is the fundamentalist rebels that are likely responsible for the majority of killing. In its latest tally, the SOHR claims that 55,000 Syrian army and national defence force personnel have been killed during the conflict, accounting for almost 40% of total deaths, whereas rebel deaths – including 10,000 foreign fighters – amount to 33,000, accounting for almost 25% of the total, leaving roughly 50,000 civilian deaths, or 35% of the total.

Using these figures; if one were to equally divide the civilian deaths between government and opposition forces, then the “revolutionaries” would be responsible for close to 80,000 people killed, or around 55% of the total – unless of course one were to posit the absurd theory that thousands of disparate fundamentalist militia have the ability to kill twice as many professional soldiers than they lose, while avoiding a considerable toll on civilians within the urban zones they invade and militarize.

The equally false portrayal that a majority of Syrians oppose the government is omnipresent throughout such commentary, and of course, this is another blatant lie. An example of just how far-removed from reality this perception is was exposed way back in January 2012 – at the height of domestic anti-government sentiment and western agitprop – when a Qatari-funded YouGov poll found that 55% of Syrians,  a massive majority considering the political conditions, still supported the government. This majority has undoubtedly continued to rise as the conflict has dragged on, primarily as a result of the barbaric practices employed by the rebels in civilian areas they encamp, ethnically cleanse, militarize, and generally terrorize the remaining inhabitants of – a sentiment further intensified through the prolonged incompetence of the ex-pat puppets in five-star hotels, elevated to the lofty position of “the sole representatives of the Syrian people” by virtue of imperialism alone. Needless to say, the poll and its results were completely whitewashed from the western media narrative and was most observantly ignored by the western petty bourgeois opportunists, who find themselves parodying William Hague when claiming to speak on behalf of the “Syrian people”.

Based on the fact a majority of Syrians support the government, and would therefore face the wrath of the fundamentalist rebels rather than the army they see as protecting them, a fact which is further evidenced by the vast majority of internally displaced people fleeing “rebel liberation” for the refuge of government safe-zones; then the wilful misrepresentation of the death toll becomes evermore deplorable. It can only be explained by Crabapple and the opportunists being so indoctrinated by their own narrow parameters and dehumanizing terminology; they simply don’t see the tens of thousands of dead Syrian soldiers, their families, and the majority of Syrian civilians who support the government as people worth accounting for. Crabapple and the pseudo-lefts in turn defile the victims of the wahhabi mercenaries and imperialism in Syria by attempting to blame their fate on the very actors protecting them, effectively turning the victim into the oppressor. The only other explanation is, once again, blind stupidity.

Over and above, it has long been known that western special forces, alongside Gulf, Jordanian, Lebanese factions allied to Saudi Arabia, and their Turkish and Israeli counterparts, have been actively conspiring with, and militarily supporting, what are essentially fundamentalist militia – to the tune of billions of dollars and thousands of tonnes of arms. It is these actors accountable for setting in motion a violent insurgency via the fundamentalist proxies they had been fomenting since at least 2006, and now continue to do so without even the pretense of plausible deniability.

The argument the pseudo-lefts are now attempting to throw at western anti-imperialists is one of utter opportunism and deception. Crabapple mimics Zizek (and other servants of bourgeois intelligentsia), and asserts that the emphasis on predatory western imperialism’s role when analysing conflicts and crises abroad – the emphasis espoused by westerners no less! – is in fact a “perverse kind of Orientalism” that removes and belittles the “agency” (another delightful abstraction implanted into petty bourgeois leftist discourse) of indigenous people.

How damning one might say, but where does this “logic” end? For instance, if one opposed the imperialist rape of Iraq, then did one oppose the “agency” of Ahmed Chalabi and all the other reactionary cretins who allied with western imperialism? Did they who opposed the imperialist destruction of Libya – whose position has now been fully vindicated, despite the grotesque doublespeak of Bernhard Henri Levy and his acolytes – “deny the agency” of Al Qaeda, Salafi warlords and the criminals now running riot and destroying the remnants NATO left behind?

The glaring contradiction is lay bare with the aid of a further simple example that may especially perplex the western opportunists who feign support for Palestinian Resistance: if one opposes the occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestine, is one opposing Zionist “agency”?

Applying this “logic” to the Syrian question, if western anti-imperialists “deny the agency” of Syrians by opposing a fundamentalist-led insurgency sponsored by imperialism, then what exactly do the opportunists deny when ignoring the majority of Syrians that oppose the wahhabi revolutionaries!? In the western liberal-left equation, this majority of Syrians simply don’t exist, they have no “agency” worth even considering, let alone their right to self-determination. The opportunists are in fact misrepresenting said “agency” they hold in such high esteem by falsely portraying a minority of localised dissent, alongside a fundamentalist insurgency orchestrated and sponsored by western imperialism, as representative of the entire Syrian population. The opportunists accuse us anti-imperialists of Orientalism and “denying agency” while committing the very act! A case of pure cognitive dissonance, or simply a feeble attempt at creating confusion.

Such fallacious arguments and semantic trickery is employed in the vain attempt to shut down critical analysis that does not abide by western bourgeois political ideology and partisan agenda. In reality, it is the western pseudo-lefts who act as the agents of western imperialism, betraying self-determination and the foundations of internationalist socialism. To engage in such pointless obfuscation and theorizing is to deliberately obstruct simple material fact, historical dialectics, a “ruthless criticism of all that exists” and the correct examinations and conclusions to be drawn in the international sense.

Lenin was forced to spend great energy in combatting the same strands of left-opportunism one hundred years ago, rightly describing it as “the principle enemy within the working class movement”. The modern celebrity-lefts’ distortions and twisted theories represent nothing more than the vile opportunism witnessed within the socialist parties during the outbreak of WWI, when the so-called Marxists chose to side with their national bourgeoisie against the bourgeoisie and the working classes of hostile nations. The European opportunists who chose to employ the catchphrases of social chauvinism and act as the agents of their own bourgeoisie in “defending the fatherland” are today reflected by the western petty bourgeois “socialists” and “leftists” that endlessly obscure the international characteristics of modern capitalism and its inevitable antagonism, in turn diminishing the pre-eminent role, and therefore culpability, of western imperialism.

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: HRW report on Latakia reflects Washington’s shifting policy.

A report from Human Rights Watch, titled “You Can Still See Their Blood”, gives a lengthy and detailed account of what amount to crimes against humanity committed by opposition forces in more than 10 majority Alawite villages in the region of Latakia.

Commencing in the early hours of the 4th of August, up to 20 rebels groups, led by the Salafi/Jihadi extremists that dominate the Syrian insurgency, among them: Ahrar al-Sham, Jabhat al-Nusra, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham, Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, and Suqoor al-Izz, commenced a prolonged and brutal sectarian attack upon the majority Alawite civilian population of Latakia. In another blow to the “moderate rebels” media narrative, it becomes clear that the western-friendly groups under “FSA” branding – ie, groups that receive arms and funding through the western-backed “Supreme Military Council” (SMC) – were also involved in the sectarian assault on Latakia. The report states that it is not clear whether SMC affiliated groups were present during the onset of the assault, but that “the participation of Idriss (leader of “SMC”) & fighters under his command in “Operation to Liberate the Coast” appears clear”. Furthermore, in a video filmed in Latakia countryside from August 11th, Idriss is shown congratulating the rebels for their “successes” in Latakia. And, in another video from August 12th Idriss declares his full support for the assault and appeals for more weapons for the “revolutionaries”:

I am here [in Latakia countryside] today to get a picture on the true achievements and the big successes that our fellow revolutionaries have achieved in the coastal campaign and to respond to the charges that claim incorrectly that we will end our operations here on the coastal frontlines. We are here today to assure everyone that our chief of staff is cooperating fully with the coastal military front command regarding their military activities. We are not going to withdraw as was falsely claimed but on the contrary, we are cooperating to a great extent in this operation.

We wish to remind everyone to provide the Syrian revolutionaries (sic) with bullets and weapons and all it needs so we can end the killing and destruction and build a free country.

The report is a damning account of the rebel groups that planned and took part in the unprovoked assault. Arguably for the first time a western “NGO” has reported on “systematic”, “premeditated”, mass atrocities committed by the rebels in Syria. It provides a stark wake-up call to the morally expedient media organs and western diplomats that have trumpeted the so-called “freedom fighters” for nigh-on two years – but that may be a desired intention, as we will discuss later.

HRW collected the names of 190 civilians that were killed in the attack, including 57 women, at least 18 children, and 14 elderly men, the vast majority of whom HRW claim were killed in the first day alone. Over 200 civilians are still missing. Moreover, 105 civilians – the vast majority women and children – are known to have been taken hostage by the rebels; it is claimed these hostages have been passed from one rebel group to another, with the aim of exchanging them for rebel prisoners, and are now allegedly being held captive by Ahrar al-Sham. A “oppposition activist”, present during the onslaught claimed that after the first day of the attack “160-200 Alawite were dead”.

The well-regarded analyst of jihadist groups in Syria Aymenn J Al-Tamimi, gave a less-than optimistic estimate of the fate of the captives in September, stating that the more extreme rebel groups consider Alawite women and children “spoils of war”, and it was “likely that they had been put to sex and labour trafficking”. A video released on YouTube circulating for some weeks shows some of the women and children from Latakia being held by Abu Suhaib, a Libyan leader of the foreign jihadist group Jaish al-muhijireen wal-Ansar. Ominously, HRW claim that “Given that many residents remain missing, and opposition fighters buried many bodies in mass graves, the total number of dead is likely higher.”

The report goes into graphic detail of how rebels attacked the town in large numbers, quickly overpowering local government troops. Witnesses described “frantically attempting to flee as opposition fighters stormed the area, opening fire apparently indiscriminately, and in some cases deliberately shooting at them while they tried to flee. Many of those who were unable to flee were killed or taken hostage.” Whole families were massacred in their homes. In many cases, male civilians were summarily executed whilst women and children were either killed attempting to flee or taken hostage. Furthermore, the report makes clear that the attack on Latakia was not the work of a “rogue group” and was clearly premeditated and organised in advance. Decapitation, slit-throats, multiple point-blank gunshot wounds, multiple stab wounds, and “complete charring” among the victims. The ruthless barbarity inflicted upon civilians is reminiscent of previous unsolved massacres that received widespread attention earlier on in the conflict.

Although much attention should rightly be focused on the barbaric nature of the attack and identifying its perpetrators, it is also important to consider the timing of the HRW report. The attacks on Latakia were over two months ago; long before the chemical weapons attack on August 21st in Ghouta, which HRW covered extensively – with far less source material at their disposal – only two weeks after the event. Once the Syrian Army (SAA) and National Defense Forces (NDF) had driven out the insurgents and regained control of the villages in Latakia; local Syrian media reported on the mass-graves that were found, and indeed, the many missing people. Moreover, the aforementioned video of captives with the Libyan militant Abu Suhaib also received widespread attention in local and alternative media. Conversely, these events went largely ignored in western media; the focus of western coverage on Syria was immediately flooded by the furore surrounding the attacks in Ghouta on August the 21st, again, in stark contrast to any coverage of the assault on Latakia. It should also be noted that the Syrian government itself had (unsuccessfully) tried to suppress reports of the attack on Latakia in order to preserve morale within its core support-base and avert the possibility of exacerbating sectarian divisions rapidly spreading throughout the country. The rebels had no such intention; the region of Latakia was intentionally targeted for the specific reason that the majority of its civilian inhabitants are Alawite and supporters of the Syrian government.

The question then remains, why have HRW chosen to publish this report now? The fact that the report is being released over two months after the event suggests its release has been suppressed. Working from the “theory” that HRW is in no way “independent” and in reality acts as a propaganda arm to forward the objectives of the United States Government, the answer for the apparent delay may lie in Washington’s shifting policy on Syria. Last week John Kerry was berated by hawks in Congress for coming close to praising the Assad government for its efforts with the OPCW, in their attempts to destroy Syria’s chemical stockpile; a man three weeks earlier Kerry had equated to Hitler. Another indicator lies in the report itself, in which much attention is paid to third parties responsible for funding and providing logistics for the attack. In short, the report points to three principal parties as guilty in this respect: the Turkish government, Gulf states, and private Gulf donors.

From information gleaned from social media accounts, the report names several key private individual donors who contributed sufficient amounts for the Latakia offensive, going as far as linking to their personal twitter accounts. One such donor is Sheikh Hajjej al-Ajami, a Kuwaiti Salafi preacher and long time patron of Ahrar al-Sham who is reported to have donated 400,000 euros for the offensive. One Shafi al-Ajami, another prominent Kuwaiti Salafi preacher and scholar at the Kuwait University – who was recently suspended for his allegedly divisive sermons – is also named as a key sponsor. Sheihk Saqr, the leader of Suqqor al-Izz, and a deputy Abu Tahal from Ahrar al-Sham are named as key interlocutors running funds from an operations center under their command.

The HRW report calls on Gulf states to “Publicly condemn abuses committed by opposition groups and deny any military support to Ahrar al-Sham, Islamic State of Iraq and Sham, Jabhat al-Nusra, Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar,and Suquor al-Izz”. HRW stress that Gulf states should increase monitoring of transfers from Gulf residents, urging them to use “influence” to pressure individuals and prosecute those found to be supporting war criminals. The report urges Gulf states to “use any influence over armed opposition groups that hold civilian hostages to release those hostages.” Again, if one were to judge this from the perspective that HRW is speaking on behalf of the US government – which it often does – these recommendations seem a far-cry from the usual “moderate” rhetoric and could indicate a marked shift by Washington toward curbing Gulf activity and funding of the opposition in general.

The report repeatedly states that “Arms sales & military assistance to groups [responsible for Latakia] make the individuals supplying them complicit in crimes they commit.” Moreover, in a clear signal to the Turkish government , the report explicitly requests that the “UN Security Council and Turkey’s allies should call on Turkey in particular to do more to verify that no arms are passing through Turkey to these groups”. And that through interviews with “Syrian security officials, media reports, western diplomats, and direct observations by journalists and humanitarian workers who visited the area in the past, many foreign fighters operating in northern Syria gain access to Syria via Turkey, from which they also smuggle their weapons, obtain money and other supplies, and sometimes retreat to for medical treatment.”

It is has become common knowledge among Syria watchers that Turkey have – at the very least – provided safe-haven for the extremist militants. Consistent reports and allegations from official sources have also pointed to the AKP government providing them logistics and medical assistance since the insurgency took hold in 2011. Saleh Muslim, the Kurdish leader from Northern Syria who has been embroiled in battles with Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS parallel to the Turkish border, has repeatedly called on Erdogan’s government to end its support of the Salafi/Jihadis attacking the Kurdish population.

Relations between Washington and Ankara have turned sour of late on several fronts in the Middle East, primarily in Egypt, alongside increasingly divergent policies in Syria. Erdogan was vocally critical of the Obama administration during the recent military coup in Egypt, which resulted in the overthrow of Brotherhood ally Mohamed Morsi. In turn, the Erdogan government has recently been the target of several critical articles in US media, highlighting Erdogan’s “Islamist” ideology and ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. In a further signal to Ankara, the Wall Street Journal ran a critical profile yesterday of the Turkish intelligence chief, and top Erdogan aide, Hakan Fidan. Titled “Turkey’s Spymaster Plots Own Course on Syria”, the article portrays the Turkish establishment as at odds with the “moderate” approach supposedly favoured by the Obama administration. A Turkish opposition MP, and member of the Foreign Relations Committee, claims to have followed 50 buses filled with radical fighters being taken to the Syrian border with the full cooperation of Turkish authorities. In effect, the Erdogan government, since the onset of the crisis, has played a similar role to that of Pakistan during the US-backed Afghan insurgency; acting as a primary forward operating base and logistics hub for the militants waging war upon the Syrian state.

In what appears to be an attempt to publicly pressure its allies in the region, who may be less-than willing to abandon the insurgency, the Obama administration is using its ever-faithful Public Relations apparatus to convey a clear message to Turkey, and other regional Gulf allies, that now is the time to end – or at least drastically restructure – their support to the now dominant radicals that form the backbone of the insurgency.

Syria: Obama’s pretext for war?

It seems many have forgotten the last two and a half years of western sabre-rattling and covert military aggression against the Syrian state. It is worth reiterating that without the vast amount of military, financial, and diplomatic largesse the west and their regional clients have thrown at the “revolutionary rebels” in Syria – who have now beyond doubt been exposed as sectarian extremists, lead and dominated by Al Qaeda ideologues – the violent insurgency in Syria would have been defeated long ago by the Syrian army.

These extremist-dominated “rebels” were armed and funded by Syria’s enemies – with the tacit approval and coordination of the west – from an early stage in the supposed “Syrian uprising” (read: local protests), to wage a sectarian insurgency upon the Syrian state and its security apparatus on behalf of the US and its various allies. The US-led military and intelligence alliance comprises of: the United States, Israel, United Kingdom, France, Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, aswell as numerous Lebanese political and paramilitary factions under the influence of Saudi Arabia. Although individual relationships and objectives have been in flux between this group, elements within all their respective establishments; governments; intelligence agencies; wealthy private donors and military contractors have worked to facilitate the transfer of arms and militants into Syria since the onset of the insurgency in March/April 2011. Although their individual desired outcomes and long-term objectives may differ; this alliance has held one common objective throughout: the destruction of an independent Syrian state.

The pathetic attempt at media “debate” surrounding Obama’s imminent plan to bomb Syria in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack – which morphed from a couple of hours of feigning scepticism straight into accepting unsubstantiated western allegations as fact, and then repeating them verbatim – all have one common theme: that of a reluctant Obama, unwilling to sacrifice “boots on the ground” and desperate to avert wider regional conflict in another endless war in the Middle East. Yet, upon analysing the conflict from a realistic perspective – which was from the onset, a sectarian, foreign-funded insurgency – as opposed to the corporate-media, and western politician’s manufactured fantasy-narrative of a “democratic grass-roots uprising”; it becomes clear that the reluctant facade of Obama has also been manufactured from false media narratives, propagated by the government “sources” that shape them. In contrast to Obama’s apparent reluctance to exacerbate the Syrian crisis; at every periodic occasion that the Syrian opposition have had setbacks – be it on the battlefield; diplomatic theatre; or within public opinion – the US has stepped up its covert militarism with its partners operating on Syria’s borders. For example, we now know that when the much-desired No Fly Zone was blocked by China and Russia in the UNSC the White House made efforts to step up its covert support to the “rebels” through the CIA and Qatar, transitting the shipments through the Turkish/Syrian border. Accordingly, with the increase of militarism; came the increase of death-toll and displacement.

With regard to the early demands for a sovereign states’ President to “step aside”; westerners must first ask ourselves: do any world leaders demand Obama, Cameron, Bush, Blair, or any other variety of western diplomatic mass-murderer “step aside” for killing possibly millions of innocent civilians of countless nations? Or does the “International Community” only frown upon dictators allegedly “killing their own people” with “Weapons of Mass Destruction”? Is this the moral bar for western society as a whole? “Our leaders” can be proven to kill vast numbers in illegal wars anywhere on earth with impunity, but those “our leaders” deem enemies cannot defend allegations, let alone defend their nation from a foreign-funded insurgency?

Even if one finds this repugnant, hypocritical state of affairs as agreeable; how do Obama and Cameron explain their lack of condemnation toward Egypt’s coup-leaders; killing up to a thousand people from mainly peaceful protests in the space of a few days? One suspects any real condemnation of the military coup and subsequent crackdown (justified or not) will only come from the “moral” leaders of the west when and if Sisi and his feloul cohorts decide to cut-off the US’ vital “interests” in Egypt; those “interests” being primarily the protection of Israel; unfettered access (control) of the Suez Canal, and a continuation of the long-standing US-dominant military relationship and billion-dollar contracts. Those US “interests” do not include the lives, much less the “freedom” or “democracy” of the Egyptian people.

Furthermore, how do Obama and Cameron explain their silence or complete lack of “action” regarding their close ally the Al-Khalifa monarchys’ brutal crackdown of protesters and dissidents in Bahrain over the last two years? Of course, the United States does not need regime change from a compliant monarchy in Bahrain that dutifully host its fifth-fleet in one of the world’s most strategic locations. Further still, where is the “moral outrage” regarding Saudi Arabia’s brutal regime and its decades-long sponsorship of terrorism? The Saudi type of terrorism is often purported in the west as in “our interest”. Saudi-sponsored terrorism comes only in the name of supporting “freedom fighters” who at the time may just so happen to be enemies of our enemies, who are then dutifully facilitated, fomented and sponsored by the west; inevitably resulting in small instances of blowback that provide the western security establishment further pretext to encroach upon civil liberties with draconian and over-expansive “anti-terror” laws – a win-win for the National Security State and the Military Industrial Complex.

The west’s proxy-forces in Syria are, in reality, close to defeat. Against the odds, and a considerable multi-national effort to destroy an army and divide a nation; Assad has solidified his core base and territories. In the last few months the Syrian army has made considerable gains on the battlefield, recapturing strategic choke-points along the rebel supply route and utilising its bolstered numbers from the National Defense Forces to protect regained territory. Assad has also maintained his own critical supply lines, both of a military and diplomatic nature and has upheld his side of whatever bargains he has made with international allies. Russia has remained steadfast in its support of Assad up to the point of writing, but this may yet change in the face of a possible world-war-III scenario. Russia’s military supplies have been critical to the Syrian army’s success on the battlefield, and its diplomatic efforts in the UN have stalled what has been a determined effort by the west to gain a pretext for military intervention. Moreover, anti-rebel sentiment has been on the rise in Syria for months. An example lies in the border town of Tal Kalakh, which was recently peacefully transferred to army control; not out of any particular love for Assad I must add, but simply due to the fact the extremists had moved on and the locals were more inclined to keep their livelihood and live in peace than face death or imprisonment. In a recent interview Assad also highlighted an increase in defections from the rebels back to the army as a result of government amnesty’s This, and an and added impetus from the Hezbollah-aided victory of Qusair had set the army on a trajectory that would be difficult to stop without massive foreign intervention.

On the other hand, the disparate factions of Bin-Ladenite “rebels” have been bogged down with infighting and internal conflict, which has resulted in a further increase of their brutality toward the civilian population. Just this week the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) executed three Alawite truck drivers on video for the crime of forgetting prayer ritual. A prominent Alawite cleric was also recently executed by “rebels”, the latest in a long line of clerics and religious officials that have been targeted by the extremists. The cleric was kidnapped during the ISIS/JaN sectarian onslaught in Latakia; the mass graves that were found as a result of this particular sectarian assault on a civilian area didn’t merit much attention in the western press. Moreover, recent rebel attacks – predominantly ISIS and jabhat al Nusra – on the Kurdish community in the north have taken on a broader and intractable dimension; resulting in the mass exodus of 30,000 Kurds over the border to Iraqi Kurdistan. In relation to the north of Syria where jihadist groups are most dominant; ISIS recently released a message to all international aid organisations to leave the region or be killed. Accordingly, the “rebels” public appeal is arguably at an all-time low. Several defining events throughout the course of the conflict have been imprinted on the minds of millions of people across the globe. From children being forced to behead prisoners; to rebels – from the supposed “moderate western-backed” militants no less – eating the organs of slain Syrian soldiers.

There is little sympathy in the west for the militants western governments support. A recent Reuters poll showed only 9 percent of Americans support any form of US military intervention in Syria. Even if the Assad government were found to be guilty of using chemical weapons that figure only rose to 25% percent. With a resounding 60% percent against. These figures are almost mirrored in the UK and have reflected such opinion throughout the Syrian conflict. Yet if military intervention was to occur, it would undoubtedly be the UK and the US at the forefront of the attacks: that is western “democracy”.

President Assad and the Syrian establishment have long known that they have been on the US’ target list. Indeed, it was public knowledge in the west that during the post-9/11 Bush administration Syria was placed under “the axis of Evil”. During that decade several prominent reports highlighted covert policies the US and its allies were directing at Syria. These covert policies ran parallel to USAID “democracy” programs that the US had implemented in Syria in order to bolster opposition elements and leverage the Assad government – as is the protocol for US subversion. Many of these same initiatives have formed a part of the US State Department-trained anti-Assad “activists”, so prevalent on social media and often touted as objective sources in the western corporate press. More importantly, Assad has also known for a long time that any use of chemical weapons would undoubtedly result in the west – at the very least – abandoning any pretense of negotiations and reverting to type: the military option. Why would Assad choose now to entice a western military intervention? What can he possibly gain from his own certain downfall? At a time when it was becoming more and more likely that the Assad government would hold on to some sort of power in Syria and the “rebels” and their international alliance were looking increasingly likely to fall apart, why would Assad choose to use chemical weapons? Furthermore, we must also remember that the UN team is in Damascus at the Syrian governments request, it simply defies logic that Assad would willingly commit such a grave act right under the nose of the UN, particularly when the trajectory of the war was firmly in his favour.

Conversely, there are multiple logical scenarios in which the “rebels” would benefit from staging a chemical weapons attack. This is plain objective common sense. Since Obama declared his famous “red-line” it has been a casus belli waiting to happen. The “rebels”, and their many international backers, intelligence agencies and private contractors are all in the knowledge that a chemical weapons attack will incur a western military response, resulting in their desired objective: the removal of Assad. There is already a strong case being made that the “rebels” have deployed a form of sarin in a home-made shell fired on government forces in Khan al-Assal. Russia has provided the UN with evidence to this effect and Khan al-Assal was one of the sites on the list to be visited by the UN inspection team. Moreover, in May this year UN investigator Carla Del Ponte pointed the finger at the “rebels” for the use of chemical weapons, a fact that has been thoroughly whitewashed in both western media and from the duplicitous mouths of western diplomats – who still claim that “rebels” don’t have the capability to launch chemical weapons. Contrary to western diplomats hollow claims; in late May militant cells with links to Jabhat al Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham were found in both Iraq and Turkey with sarin and other chemical weapons materiel in their possession – another fact that received only light attention in western media, and has been virtually ignored in any western diplomats talking points.

Framed in the above context, and with the “evidence” – or glaring lack of it – to date to prove the US’ assertions; it cannot be logically, or honestly implied that the Syrian military has used chemical weapons – or has any intention to, knowing it would be certain suicide. Thus, one can only logically draw the assumption that this latest alleged CW attack is a repeat of previous attempts to incite western intervention, but on a much larger and deadlier scale. It could have any number of culprits, but the Syrian government is possibly the least likely. Yet the United States (arbiter of the world) has dismissed such notions on the premise that the “rebels” don’t have the capability: the United States is quite literally overruling UN investigators in order to carry out regime change to meet its own geopolitical objectives (again).

The clearest signal of this intention came when several members of the Obama administration intentionally mislead reporters and stated several times that the Syrian government blocked an immediate investigation into the recent alleged CW attack in Ghouta. This was a blatant lie and the US knew it; it was in fact the UN that held up the investigation through fear for their own safety in a what was a contested area. The Syrian government gave its immediate blessing for an investigation and escorted the UN team to the site for a short time; at which point it was fired upon by unknown snipers and retreated to the safety of an army checkpoint. Another clear indicator of Obama’s aggressive intention is the blatant double-standard being applied; the UN team is inside Syria to specifically investigate alleged CW attacks that occurred 5 months ago, and presumably the US would have accepted its findings. Not only this, but the UN team does not have a mandate to determine the source of chemical weapons use – only to determine whether they have been used or not. Yet the UN team has been granted access to an alleged CW attack site by the Syrian government only 5 days after the event, and the Obama administration is claiming that any results from the investigation are now “too late to be credible”?

Now why would the Obama administration lie? I thought they were reluctant for war?

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.