On August 10, the writer Shamus Cooke penned an article, “How ISIS finally became Obama’s enemy” (http://www.commondreams.org/views/2014/08/10/how-isis-finally-became-obamas-enemy).
Cooke writes: “Suddenly the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has become a threat worthy of American missiles. For almost two years President Obama completely ignored the biggest and most brutal terror group in the Middle East, allowing it to balloon into a regional power. No matter how many heads it severed or how much territory it conquered, ISIS just couldn’t draw Obama’s attention.” Claiming that as the ISIS threat grew, “Obama ignored it, and so did the U.S. media,” concentrating instead on the Ukraine and Gaza.
At times it is difficult to work out what all this “ignoring” and “allowing” means. It could be interpreted from a number of perspectives. It could mean, perhaps, that unlike George Bush, who had the army in Iraq fighting ISIS’s predecessor, Al-Qaida in Iraq, Obama has withdrawn, chickened out, thus “allowing” ISIS to do all this. About time he started bombing Iraq again.
Or it could mean that till now, the US did not see ISIS as an enemy, it perhaps even saw it as an ally of sorts, but circumstances have changed, and when US interests are threatened, we often see a rapid change of heart among US leaders. That may or may not be, as we will discuss below, but that ought not be confused with either “ignoring” or “allowing.”
I don’t know what Cooke has been reading, but I have seen so many articles about the threat of jihadists, mainly Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria and ISIS in both Syria and Iraq, in the US and western media that it has been clear for quite some time that they are seen as the main enemy of the US in the region. I don’t have time to do a list (which in any case would be prohibitively long), though I have plenty of references in some of my articles, such as here https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/iraq-and-syria-the-struggle-against-the-multi-sided-counterrevolution/ and here https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/the-us-iran-russia-syria-and-the-geopolitical-shift-anything-for-the-regions-oppressed/ for example. And that’s not just the media, because these media reports are full of statements by US politicians.
So if it is entirely untrue that either Obama or the US media “completely ignored” ISIS, does Cooke simply mean that Obama hadn’t bombed ISIS till now? OK, this is true. But we assume Cooke, as a good anti-imperialist, opposes US bombing ISIS. So he is not necessarily criticising the US for not bombing ISIS, he is just saying that the lack of bombing, till now, is evidence that the US did not see ISIS as a problem, despite what US leaders and media were screaming about – because if they really did see ISIS as a problem, they would have bombed it long ago. I hope I have that right.
In that case, we can apply the same to the regime of Assad in Syria, right? Despite occasional rhetoric, the US and western powers have “completely ignored” the genocide that the Assad regime has been imposing on Syria the last 3 years, has “allowed” it all to happen, as a regime levelled every city in the country, turned the country into a giant moonscape, killed upwards of 100,000 people, turned 9 million people into refugees, gassed hundreds of sleeping children with chemical weapons, barrel-bombed Aleppo into oblivion, turned Homs into Hiroshima, tortured tens of thousands to death. None of this was worth a single air strike, evidence that Obama and his ruling class have completely ignored this situation and allowed it to happen.
Actually, that statement would be more correct than what Cooke says about ISIS. But even if one disagrees, since for Cooke the measure is whether or not you get bombed, then presumably he would now agree that, since the US is bombing ISIS but not Assad, the US sees ISIS as a far more serious threat or enemy than its sees Assad.
OK, so now we’re getting somewhere. Or are we?
As we read on, we see that we aren’t. Cooke then writes:
“For well over two years ISIS and other al-Qaeda-style groups have been the main driving force in the Syrian war that has claimed over 170,000 lives, with millions made refugees.”
Shameless Cooke is scabbing on the Syrian people and their 3-year uprising with this statement of breathtaking ignorance. Well, it would be ignorance if I believed that Cooke didn’t know better. It is the fact that he almost certainly does know better that is the problem with such extraordinarily dishonest statements.
Anyone who actually knows anything about Syria knows that the Free Syrian Army, a variety of moderate Islamist militias, the Islamic Front and even Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian al-Qaida, have been at war with ISIS for at least a year. No supporters of the Syrian revolution view ISIS as having anything to do with their uprising against Assad’s tyranny; all of them regard ISIS as the other enemy alongside the regime.
Actually, most believe either that the regime and ISIS actively collaborate, or even that they are secretly allied; whether or not this is true, it is certainly true that the regime and ISIS have barely fired a shot at each other for the past year, and the only force in the region, apart from the Syrian Kurds, who have actually been fighting ISIS have been the FSA and its allies.
These are the same forces that have led and continue to lead the mass uprising against Assad’s fascist tyranny. They have been the “driving force” in the revolt against the regime, not ISIS. In the entire southern front, there is virtually no ISIS. In the Homs, Hama, Idlib northwest front there is virtually no ISIS. In Aleppo city there is no ISIS. ISIS has focused on conquering already liberated zones from the Syrian resistance, and has had most success in the northeast, along the Iraqi border, and some of the northern countryside of Aleppo province.
By late 2013, ISIS had conquered more regions of Aleppo and Idlib, but in January this year, as everyone who actually reads knows very well, the FSA (which had already declared war on ISIS last August) was joined by a moderate Islamist coalition, the Mujahideen Army, and by the Islamic Front (which groups together some moderate to harder Islamist groups), and, a little later, Jabhat al-Nusra, in a nation-wide coordinated attack on ISIS, which drove it completely out of Idlib and Hama and large sections of Aleppo province, Deir-Azour, Raqqa and elsewhere. ISIS made a comeback in Raqqa despite furious resistance, and since then has been laying siege to Deir-Azour.
In the weeks leading up to ISIS’ seizure of Mosul, the Syrian rebel alliance waged a furious resistance attempting to keep hold of Deir-Azour, the only non-ISIS or non-Kurdish controlled part of the northeast, against a sustained ISIS siege. While the rebels fought ISIS, Assad helped ISIS by terror bombing the city (http://syriadirect.org/main/36-interviews/1448-isis-regime-close-in-on-deir-e-zor-rebels), in effect, a joint siege; and after ISIS murdered 3 FSA commanders in Deir-Azour in June, regime warplanes bombed the FSA mourning tent, killing 16 people (http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/2014/06/21/ISIS-executes-three-Syrian-rebel-officers.html).
The rebels put out a call to the world for arms, or otherwise they would have to abandon the city. As with the last 3 years, they were ignored and got nothing from the US or the West; ISIS took the city. Since then, there has already been another uprising in Deir-Azour against ISIS, which the latter suppressed.
If Cooke was pointing out that this blatant betrayal of the Syrian rebels as they resisted ISIS was evidence of US acquiescence with ISIS, he would be right in this sense. As against the forces of the Syrian revolution, yes, the US acquiesces with ISIS just as the Assad regime does. That is because in relation to revolution, the US, the Assad regime and ISIS are all on the side of counterrevolution, regardless of whether or not they love each other otherwise.
But Cooke is not saying that at all. On the contrary, by identifying ISIS with the Syrian uprising against Assad, by calling it the “driving force” in the Syrian war against the regime, Cooke is not just echoing Assadist propaganda, he is also slandering the entire cast of Syrian rebel organisations, all of whom have shed rivers of blood to drive ISIS out of as much of Syria as possible, to ensure the liberation from one form of tyranny does not bequeath another, all the time being bombed from the skies by the fascist regime while doing so.
It is interesting that in falsely claiming ISIS was the “driving force” of the revolution, he notes that this war “has claimed over 170,000 lives, with millions made refugees.” While he doesn’t say who is mostly responsible for these 170,000 lives and 9 million refugees, his implication is that it is those who have “spearheaded” the revolt, whether ISIS or all the actual anti-Assad rebels who he pretends are the same thing. So apparently it is not a regime that has bombed the whole country to bits with a vast array of conventional weapons of mass destruction that killed all those people, it is the people with few arms trying to overthrow the regime that are responsible.
Cooke of course rightly supports the Palestinian people in their struggle against the Zionist regime’s savage occupation and constant mass murder, yet if he applied the same standards he should be blaming the lightly-armed Palestinian resistance for destroying Gaza rather than the regime that actually does the destroying.
It is strange that Cooke quotes a number of people, including Patrick Cockburn, claiming that the US and West showed little alarm even after ISIS took Mosul, the New York Times claiming that “the president expressed no enthusiasm for American military action,” with Cooke adding “or any action for that matter.”
Right, so just because every western politician and media source jumped on the conquest of Mosul and made it a top international issue, and the US immediately moved the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush, its air wing, the cruiser USS Philippine Sea and destroyer USS Truxton towards the Gulf, and on June 20 Obama announced that 300 “special forces members” would be sent to Iraq to “train and advise the Iraqi security forces” (on top of 160 troops which were already in Iraq, including 50 marines and more than 100 soldiers) and threatened “targeted” air strikes against the Sunni militia (http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/obama-flags-targeted-action-in-iraq/story-fnb64oi6-1226960737639?from=public_rss), all this is doing “nothing at all” because Obama didn’t immediately launch massive air strikes on ISIS.
Anyone would think that after invading Iraq, destroying the country, being humiliated by the level of failure, finally withdrawing with the overwhelming majority of Americans and people around the world opposed to the US intervention and glad they were finally out, that it is hardly surprising that Obama didn’t order full-scale massive US intervention the day after Mosul was taken. That moving warships and special forces into Iraq might already be a big deal in the circumstances. That launching air strikes inside Iraq within 2 months of the latest crisis breaking out is in fact relatively rapid.
Not for Cooke – massive air strikes the next day, anything less proves Obama is doing nothing and even “allowing” ISIS to do all this!
OK, so let’s do a comparison. ISIS takes Mosul in June 2014, and Obama launches air strikes in August. The Assad regime begins slaughtering peaceful protestors en-masse in March 2011, for months and months until they finally take up arms, then by late 2011-early 2012 Assad is already destroying Homs with massive quantities of sophisticated weaponry and by mid-2012 the regime is basically using its air force, long-range missiles, barrel-bombs etc on a daily basis, and after 3.5 years Obama hasn’t launched a sausage at the regime.
I’ll let Cooke draw his conclusions from that.
Oh, but no, he doesn’t; it just gets worse:
“For example, after Obama publicly targeted the Syrian government for destruction he had no qualms about using ISIS and the other al-Qaeda-linked groups as proxies in the fight.”
Really? Firstly, the claim that Obama “targeted the Syrian regime for destruction” is just so much waffle. The Syrian people rose against the regime; Assad slaughtered them; after months and months of this Obama started trying to get Assad to exit via a “Yemeni” solution that saved the regime via a cosmetic change at the very top. If the US had targeted the regime for destruction, it would have actually done something about it, not simply mouthed platitudes about how terrible the regime was, which anyone with a brain could see.
Oh, but Cooke says the US did that – it used ISIS and other al-Qaida groups as proxies to fight Assad. Of course, the US did nothing of the sort. Cooke offers not a shred of evidence for this outlandish claim, and nor would he find any if he tried. It seems that when you write Assadista crap, you don’t need to, but Cooke is hardly alone in this.
The US never sent any arms to the secular FSA, or the moderate Islamists, or Islamic Front, or Jabhat al-Nusra, or ISIS. The only way we can say the US encouraged ISIS was precisely by not arming the FSA, because ISIS could get plenty of money and arms across the Iraq border anyway, so in comparison with the FSA, which mainly relied on weapons captured or made in back-yards, ISIS was much better armed.
Cooke claims that:
“These terror groups were encouraged to grow exponentially in their fight against al-Assad, with Obama knowing full well that Saudi Arabia and other U.S. allied Gulf States were sending mountains of money, guns, and fighters to the jihadists.”
Lies. But why do I have to prove what Cooke doesn’t even attempt to show? He will find no evidence of such nonsense. Saudi Arabia and the al-Qaida franchises regard each other to be arch-enemies, as anyone with a clue about the Middle East knows. That is aside from the fact that even if the Saudis and Gulf had been arming them, that would not prove much about the US; anyone looking would see the very constant US pressure on the Gulf to not arm any Islamists in Syria, no matter how moderate, in fact even to not arm the FSA. Here is some information: https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/the-gulf-and-islamism-in-syria-myths-and-misconceptions/
Cooke goes on:
“There was simply was no one else effectively fighting al-Assad, a dynamic that has artificially lengthened a war that would have ended years ago, while creating the environment that ISIS thrived in.”
Lies. It was every other group, rather than ISIS, that was fighting Assad. Then they had to fight ISIS too. If western or Gulf arming of the rebels “artificially lengthened a war that would have ended years ago” then indeed it would have ended years ago, given the large amount of nothing very much the rebels have received, especially in relation to the gigantic arsenal of heavy weaponry possessed by the regime. Actually ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra became “more effective” precisely due to the lack of arms in the hands of the FSA. Funny how “leftists” think uprisings against dictatorships should properly be “ended” unless someone outside is allegedly arming them; apparently the peace of the grave is the preferred situation for the likes of Cooke.
But it gets worse:
“Much of the money and guns that Obama shipped to the “moderate” Islamists rebels of course found its way into the hands of the jihadists, since thousands of moderates have since joined ISIS.”
First, which “guns” did Obama ship to “moderate Islamist rebels”? I know of none. In fact I know of virtually none even to moderate secular rebels, let alone “moderate Islamists” that Cooke assumes to be everyone who is not al-Qaida. There have been a few US weapons this year since April, in the hands of one single, smallish, very secular rebel group, Hazm Hazara, a new group. Certainly none of its small handful of US arms have gone to the jihadists, despite the confident “of course” by Cooke. You see Cooke knows – you can’t trust these Arabs – give a gun to an Arab moderate, he’ll give it to a jihadist. Of course. Evidence is superfluous. Hazm’s US arms are so few they are not enough for Hazm; and apart from the fact that Hazm is part of the joint rebel war on ISIS, it is also the group least likely to collaborate operationally even with Jabhat al-Nusra – indeed, precisely the reason the US decided to slip it a few arms, in its long-term search for some section of the FSA to become a Sawha movement to fight the jihadists rather than Assad. A quest which to date has been unsuccessful.
Let’s just compare Cooke’s evidence-free assertions about US arms to Syrian rebels and US-backed Saudi arms to ISIS to what he says about US arms to the Maliki regime in Iraq:
“When ISIS invaded Iraq from Syria, Obama barely batted an eyelash, making excuse after excuse about why the U.S. couldn’t send the Iraqi government military equipment to fight ISIS.”
Now, leaving aside the actual intervention with warships and special forces noted above, isn’t it strange that Cooke has managed to not notice that “since January, the Pentagon has been expediting sales of Hellfire air-to-ground missiles, anti-tank rounds, small arms and ammunition, under the Foreign Military Sales program. Approximately 800 Hellfire missiles, which can be loaded onto the small Beechcraft and Cessna planes the Iraqi security forces possess, have been delivered since January, with 5,000 of them authorized for sale” (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/12/iraq-us-arms-weapons-isis-new-government), not to mention all the tanks, Humvees, helicopters etc previously delivered – everyone and their dog has noted the heavy weapons windfall gained by ISIS when it took Mosul from the Iraqi army – only Cooke doesn’t know that these weapons were from the US. This is all open, above board, no secret – but all this arming of the sectarian regime in Iraq was not enough for Cooke, if the US didn’t provide it with nuclear weapons that proves the US supported ISIS, whereas all the imaginary weaponry that the US was in his opinion supplying Syrian rebels was too much, even if in fact it was only radios, night goggles, water filters and ready-meals.
Cooke finishes: “Gazans are allowed to be slaughtered, Syrian’s massacred, and half of Iraq torn to shreds while Obama has busied himself with making threats to Russia.”
The note about US and western hypocrisy is of course something we all agree on, especially in relation to the US total and absolute support for the savage Zionist entity occupying Palestine. Yet there is something deeply ironic about his statement that Syrians can be “massacred” without the US giving a stuff – because it is absolutely true. The US, like Cooke and many other leftists, are quite happy to watch the regime of Bashar Assad slaughter Syrians for years. The US, and Israel, know very well that the Syrian and Palestinian Intifadas are one, that a victory against a fascist tyranny in an Arab country is a victory for the peoples of the region, which can only boost the struggle of the Palestinians.
But that’s if you understand class, and not some abstract, meaningless, purely rhetorical, without-substance “anti-imperialism” so popular in parts of the left these days – a quality they mistakenly identify with a regime in Damascus that has collaborated with imperialism right through its career.
13 thoughts on “Shameless Cooke knifes Syrian people’s resistance to Assad/ISIS fascism”
Reblogged this on Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist.
You are delusional.
The revolution which you support so unthinkingly is neither democratic, leftist or secular. It’s a hardcore Islamist totalitarian clerical fascism. And it’s lost a civil war to an even more extremist version of itself.
Your side lost. Didn’t you get the memo? It disappeared 3 years ago. The people you (and I) originally supported, the peaceful, secular, mostly urban, mostly middle class marchers have long since gone home. They were NEVER the same people who formed fighting brigades and killed soldiers and policemen. There never was a powerful, armed secular side to the revolt.
And as for this…”The US never sent any arms to the secular FSA, or the moderate Islamists, or Islamic Front, or Jabhat al-Nusra, or ISIS.”
Well, to repeat, you’re delusional. The CIA has smuggled tons of weaponry, trained jihadi by the hundred ( many of who subsequently joined ISIS) and poured in huge sums of cash.
While the Gulf regimes themselves may not have directly supplied arms to jihadists in Syria many of their citizens did. Lately there have been attempts to stop this especially in Saudi Arabia. But the money still flows through Kuwait and no doubt other countries. The FSA complains that the jihadists were better armed than they were. Those arms were funded from somewhere.
The US did provide considerable support for the FSA and is now providing more:a half billion in fact.
While US aid may have been limited, it was not negligible:
In June 2012, the Central Intelligence Agency was reported to be involved in covert operations along the Turkish-Syrian border, where agents investigated rebel groups, recommending arms providers which groups to give aid to. Agents also helped opposition forces develop supply routes, and provided them with communications training. CIA operatives distributed assault rifles, anti-tank rocket launchers and other ammunition to Syrian opposition. The State Department has reportedly allocated $15 million for civilian opposition groups in Syria.
In July 2012, the United States government granted a non-governmental organization called Syrian Support Group a license to fund the Free Syrian Army.
In early March 2013, a Jordanian security source revealed that the United States, Britain, and France were training non-Islamist rebels in Jordan. In an effort to strengthen secular elements in the opposition as a bulwark against Islamic extremism, and to begin building security forces to maintain order in the event of Bashar al-Assad’s fall. In April 2013, also in Jordan, the United States had set up a $70 million program in the country “that is training the kingdom’s special forces to identify and secure chemical-weapons sites across Syria should the regime fall and the wrong rebels look like getting their hands on them.”
In April 2013, the Obama administration promised to double non-lethal aid to rebels, specifically to $250 million
While ISIS may not have been the main force fighting against Assad, the FSA is not that strong. A BBC article outlining some of the rebel groups and alliances shows it not to be among the largest. The Islamic Front seems to be one of the larger groupings. That group as well as ISIS came into conflict with the FSA but later reconciled. They are certainly not secular or democratic:
In December 2013, the Islamic Front seized the FSA headquarters along with key supply warehouses in Atmeh as well as the nearby border crossing with Turkey at Bab al-Hawa. FSA Chief-of-Staff Brigadier General Salim Idris fled via Turkey to Doha, Qatar in the assault. However, the FSA has denied that Idris has left Syria and has also stated the Islamic Front was asked to help the FSA fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The FSA confirmed on 13 December 2013 that the Islamic Front had obtained machine guns and ammo that was not supposed to be in the possession of the Islamists. Later that month the Islamic Front and Free Syrian Army reconciled.[25
I made an error in my last post. ISIS did not reconcile with the FSA of course but is fighting against it still and against the Islamic Front and even the Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra. Only the Islamic Front reconciled with the FSA. I wonder what ever happened to Idris?
OK, one at a time. First the easy one. Paul J writes:
“The revolution which you support so unthinkingly is neither democratic, leftist or secular.”
I support it, with a great deal of nuance and complexity as you can read in my myriad posts, not “unthinkingly.” But yes, I am aware of that kind of debating technique. Crude. No-one said the revolution was “leftist”, whatever that means. It is democratic in the very general sense, in the declared aims of the revolution leaderships, in the desires and aims of the masses who are doing the fighting and laying down their lives, they are not doing this in order to erect a new form of repression over their heads. That nay eventually happen, as happened in Iran for example, but even in Iran it took 2-3 years of struggle after the victory over the Shah for Khomeini’s medievalist reactionaries to completely overpower all embers of resistance that came out of the revolutionary struggle of the masses. But you got to understand a bit of dialectics to make sense of all that. It is part secular and part non-secular, as this precisely reflects the Syrian masses, I know western lefties are always disappointed when they can’t impose their vision of what they think people in other countries should be fighting for. But why stop at Syria? That is exactly the same in Palestine with Hamas, in Egypt with the MB, in the Iraqi resistance to US occupation etc etc. Get used to it.
“It’s a hardcore Islamist totalitarian clerical fascism.”
No, it isn’t. But since you provide no evidence for such a breathtakingly stupid statement, I see no reason why I should waste time on it.
“And it’s lost a civil war to an even more extremist version of itself.”
Not following very well. I guess you mean the joint Syrian rebel forces lost out to ISIS (which the description you gave previously would apply to). In that case (1) ISIS is an enemy of the revolution, not in any sense a harder version of it, and (b) the revolutionary forces smashed ISIS out of large areas of the north and northwest since January, and ISIS is absent in the south, so I guess you just like the sound of your voice in spouting such garbage,
“Your side lost. Didn’t you get the memo?” No.
“It disappeared 3 years ago. The people you (and I) originally supported, the peaceful, secular, mostly urban, mostly middle class marchers have long since gone home. They were NEVER the same people who formed fighting brigades and killed soldiers and policemen. There never was a powerful, armed secular side to the revolt.”
And you call me delusional, you fool. Go and get lost and write something with some substance and some evidence, like the other commenter here has. (1) There is a massive secular side of the armed uprising, strongest in the south and the northwest (Idlib). I have evidence in my posts on this blog. Read something, (2) There is also an allied Islamist part of the revolt, just as there is in Palestine and elsewhere (and worst luck for drongos and Islamophobes like you, the Islamist part of the revolt is closely allied to Hamas). This part of the uprising is not jihadist and is allied to the secular FSA in their war on ISIS (3) If the armed brigades were not the people rising up, who then armed themselves, then who are they? Where did they come from? Mars? Try materialism sometime, you might actually like it. The progression from peaceful rising to arms is entirely natural, a social process, when you get shot in the chest and tortured to death for 8 months. Of course they were joined by troops of the Syrian army who defected, ie, workers in uniform, who in particular brought with them the secular, Arab nationalist ideology they had learnt, except that, unlike the regime, they actually believed it. (4) Of course there were also others who joined in, but you reveal your class prejudice in the way you want to exclude them. Thanks for that, for clarifying things. Yes, as you say, many original urban protestors were “middle class”. Not all, by any means, but many. And middle to upper class Syrians are more secular (and of course the regime’s remaining base is as ‘secular” as it is ruling class). But of course then something else happened that the regime of mega-capitalists and fools like you like even less: the poverty stricken rural and semi-urban slum-dwellers joined in!! And you know what? These peasants and urban poor are on the whole more traditionalist, more religious, than more middle class folk!! Again, just like the difference between the hell-hole of Gaza with its Hamas and more secular middle class Ramallah. So the moderate Islam of much of the movement reflects this class composition. But good you made your class view clear.
“The CIA has smuggled tons of weaponry” No, they didn’t. Evidence-free statements get the same response. But you can watch for my response to Ken below later.
“…trained jihadi by the hundred”
Outright garbage (though I guess you call anyone a “jihadi” who disagrees with you)
“(many of who subsequently joined ISIS)”
“…and poured in huge sums of cash” – oh yeh, “huge” or not, most of these “sums” were to provide Mad Max-aged radios, water filters, tents, night goggles, “ready-meals” (which the rebels refused to eat) and other such useful stuff with which to confront Assad’s helicopter gunships, MiG fighters, scud missiles, barrel bombs, chemical weapons etc. The only thing the CIA forgot to do was train the rebels in which ends of the tents to use to poke at Assad’s tanks and bombs to get them.
Second in series of replies. Ken writes: “While the Gulf regimes themselves may not have directly supplied arms to jihadists in Syria many of their citizens did.”
Yes, of course. That is not in dispute. What is in dispute is the idea that this tells us anything at all about the position of the regimes. If you assume that support for Syrian and Iraqi jihadists by some Saudi and Gulf citizens (ie, sections of the bourgeoisie) implies support by the regimes, then why not assume that the Saudi and Gulf regimes were behind 9/11? That the Saudi Arabian monarchy bombed the US in 2001? I think the idea is mad, but it is the same logic as saying the Saudi regime must support Syrian jihadists because some of the Saudi bourgeoisie do. The section of the Saudi and Gulf bourgeoisies that support the Syrian and Iraqi jihadists are the same section that hate their own regimes! I go into this whole issue in a great deal of detail in my post on this blog ‘The Gulf and Islamism in Syria: Myths and Misconceptions’ https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/the-gulf-and-islamism-in-syria-myths-and-misconceptions/. Have a read and get back to me on that one.
“Lately there have been attempts to stop this especially in Saudi Arabia.”
I am not sure why you have decided that this is “lately”. In Saudi Arabia in particular this crackdown has has been since mid-2012. Qatar never had much to do with it, since Qatar very explicitly funds non-jihadist Islamists, namely a variety of moderate Islamist formations either linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, or on a similar wavelength. But it is true that all the Gulf states have tried to crack down more and more stringently in recent times.
“But the money still flows through Kuwait and no doubt other countries.”
Mainly Kuwait precisely because Kuwait has a more liberal internal regime and has more difficulty cracking down on popular causes such as support for the Syrian uprising, including its more jihadist elements (though by no means only them). This has led to sharp criticism from the US in particular, for example in April this year, US Treasury Undersecretary David S. Cohen called Kuwait “the epicenter of fundraising for terrorist groups in Syria”. I have always found it quite remarkable the way leftists have been continually saying exactly the same things as the US government right throughout the Syrian war, yet always imagining they are saying something different (that is not a stab at you – I am interpreting your points here as simply empirical, but this is true of a lot of left “anti-imperialist” commentary on Syria and “jihadists” etc)
“The FSA complains that the jihadists were better armed than they were. Those arms were funded from somewhere.”
Yes,as above, from the Sunni oppositional bourgeoisie in the Gulf, but see my article. But this should not be exaggerated – a lot of this probably goes to the more genuinely jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra than to the Pol Potist death cult ISIS, and according to secret documents released a couple of months ago, most of ISIS’ wealth comes from control of oil in northern Iraq and control of various enterprises, and in fact “the documents also challenge popular narratives about the group, including that Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries were key contributors to the birth of ISIS … In fact, the intercepted documents show, outside donations amounted to only a tiny fraction _ no more than 5 percent _ of the group’s operating budgets from 2005 until 2010” (http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2014/06/23/231223/records-show-how-iraqi-extremists.html?sp=/99/117/).
Thank you for your attempts to use evidence and reason in discussion. I will get back to you in a couple of days about the issues you raise of the US and the FSA.
Just further regarding last reply:
Kuwait strips 10 people and top cleric of citizenship
Aug. 11, 2014 12:16 PM EDT
Kuwait pulls cleric from TV for sectarian comments
Kuwait announces $500 million pledge to Syria
KUWAIT CITY (AP) — Kuwait revoked the citizenship of 10 people on Monday including an influential young sheik who has **openly criticized the government of bowing to pressure from Washington to clamp down on financial assistance to Syrian rebels.**
Just last week, **the U.S. sanctioned three Kuwaitis it said helped finance terrorist groups and urged its ally to do more to stem such financing.**
A few days before that, the Gulf country stripped five critics of their citizenship in what appears to be part of a larger crackdown on dissent that casts a net on both suspected financiers of extremist groups and people calling for political reform.
Human Rights Watch over the weekend criticized the Kuwaiti government’s decision to strip citizens of their nationality, and called on authorities to “drop this malign policy.”
“No government has the right to strip away its people’s citizenship simply because it disapproves of them, their opinions, or their actions,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director. “This is yet another downward step in Kuwait’s assault on the right to free speech.”
The official Kuwait News Agency reported the Cabinet’s latest decision, which said that the 10 had been naturalized citizens but failed to meet requirements for the status. The Cabinet statement did not list the names of the people whose citizenship was revoked and did not specify which requirements for naturalization they had failed to meet.
Sheik Nabil al-Awadi, however, confirmed on Twitter that he was among those affected and wrote, “To God we belong, and to God we will return” along with a video about how good can come from hardship.
Al-Awadi, who has nearly 4.5 million followers on Twitter, is part of a collective of religious Sunnis in the Gulf who raise funds for Syria. He has advocated for supporting Sunni rebels and foreign jihadi fighters in Syria battling President Bashar Assad’s Shiite-backed forces.
Two of the men sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for allegedly helping finance al-Qaida and the Islamic Front in Syria and Iraq have close ties to al-Awadi.
Washington called on its Western Gulf ally to do more to curb the financing of such groups, and the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S. responded last week by saying that his country is committed to fighting terrorism.
In a recent interview on television, al-Awadi said he was under mounting pressure from the Kuwaiti government to stop collecting even humanitarian aid for Syria, but said that money is still finding its way through back channels
Next installment of responses. Ken writes: “The US did provide considerable support for the FSA and is now providing more: a half billion in fact.
On “support” (ie, *not* arms) to the FSA, more below, but what of the half billion Ken says the US is “now” providing, some of which *is* for arms?
First, this half billion is very explicitly within the “counter-terrorist” program, and explicitly to help arms some heavily vetted sections of the FSA *to fight the jihadists*, and this also explicitly means not only ISIS but also Jabhat al-Nusra, a key operational ally (still at this stage) against both the regime and ISIS. I go into much detail about this US strategy (for nearly 2 years) of trying to turn some FSA units into a “Sawha” as the absolute minimum conditions of getting even a bullet from the US here: https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/iraq-and-syria-the-struggle-against-the-multi-sided-counterrevolution/ .
Every time I have seen this program analysed, there is a clear difference in language: he aim is for these vetted rebels “to *fight* the jihadists” and defeat them, but only to help them put extra pressure on the regime to be less intransigent inn negotiations:
“Pentagon and State Department officials told key congressional committees that the purpose of the military-led training-and-arming effort would be limited to enabling the moderate opposition to hold the ground it now controls and to *fight against extremists*, rather than to enable the moderates to mount offensive operations against the Assad regime, according to officials” (http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB40001424052702304223004580033052289746586?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB40001424052702304223004580033052289746586.html).
Second, it is not “now” providing it – it is due to begin next year, and will involve training over an 18 month period from then – in other words, this Sawha brigade may be ready for action some time in 2016.
Third, this is hardly arms or training “for the FSA”. The FSA itself, even if we separate that concept from the pro-SOC soft Islamists and only refer to those with an explicitly secular program, means something like 50,000 fighters. Add another 60-70,000 non-jihadist Islamists of various types. This US train and equip program of vetted Sawhas is for only 2,300 fighters. So please don’t call this “the FSA”:
“Rough estimates, presented by military officials to key congressional committees in closed-door briefings last week, called for using $500 million to train a *2,300-man force*—*less than the size of a single brigade*—over an 18-month period that probably *won’t begin until next year*, according to officials” (http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB40001424052702304223004580033052289746586?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB40001424052702304223004580033052289746586.html).
More on the US and FSA in next installment, particularly on your misreading of the 2012 US role in Turkey – which as we will see was precisely aimed at *limiting* as much as possible, and having control over types of arms and destinations, a program to send arms to rebels that was already well in operation long before the CIA arrived to try to hem it in. If you want to “jump ahead”, however, I previously wrote about it here: https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2013/09/24/issues-in-the-current-stage-of-syrian-revolution/
Next instalment of replies. Ken writes:
“While US aid may have been limited, it was not negligible:
In June 2012, the Central Intelligence Agency was reported to be involved in covert operations along the Turkish-Syrian border, where agents investigated rebel groups, recommending arms providers which groups to give aid to.”
Yes, investigated, precisely to ensure that no arms got to anyone the US didn’t like. Note it does not say they were US arms, or that the US instigated this arms pipeline; on the contrary, the CIA went to “investigate” and try to control and limit the flow precisely because it was concerned.
“Agents also helped opposition forces develop supply routes, and provided them with communications training. CIA operatives distributed assault rifles, anti-tank rocket launchers and other ammunition to Syrian opposition.”
When you quote direct from Wikipedia, better to go to the sources which it provides you. The first sentence comes from “U.S. Bolsters Ties to Fighters in Syria” (The Wall Street Journal, June 13, 2012, http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303410404577464763551149048?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052702303410404577464763551149048.html), and is a straight quote. There is no further elaboration in the entire article of just what this means, the volume of this “help,” who exactly is being helped etc. However, we can take it as likely that the CIA helped some favoured groups “develop supply routes” precisely in order to ensure that someone they preferred got something.
The article, while giving no such elaboration, does discuss the purpose: “The U.S.’s stepped-up links with the FSA are also part of an effort to gain a better understanding of the rebels’ capabilities and of the identities and allegiances of fighters spread in disparate groups across the country, the U.S. officials said. The U.S. officials remain wary of some rebels’ suspected ties to hard-line Islamists, including elements of al Qaeda …”Some of [this communication] is dedicated to figuring out who these people are by talking to them,” said a U.S. official briefed on Syria.”
I suggest that this limited “help” – very specifically logistical and not involving actual provision of weapons – was more important for this purpose of trying to figure out who was who, trying to sort out the rebels, than it was for any actual impact on the battlefield.
The article further down explains that the US is also concerned about the role the Muslim Brotherhood was playing in the conflict.
But the second part of the section suggests that the CIA actually “distributed” weapons to the rebels. Trouble is, when you go to the source Wikipedia provides, it doesn’t say this at all. Here is what it says around the words “assault rifles, anti-tank rocket launchers and other ammunition” (Eric Schmitt, C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition, New York Times, June 21, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/21/world/middleeast/cia-said-to-aid-in-steering-arms-to-syrian-rebels.html?_r=2&):
“A small number of C.I.A. officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government, according to American officials and Arab intelligence officers.
“The weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons, are being funneled mostly across the Turkish border by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood and paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the officials said.”
Thus, others are distributing the weapons, others who got the actual weapons to Turkey, and who would distribute to rebels anyway. The only role of the CIA is to try to influence the process of who gets the weapons and who doesn’t. As the article further elaborates:
“The C.I.A. officers have been in southern Turkey for several weeks, in part to help keep weapons out of the hands of fighters allied with Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, one senior American official said. The Obama administration has said it is not providing arms to the rebels, but it has also acknowledged that Syria’s neighbors would do so.”
This seems fairly straightforward.
The Wikipedia excerpt sent by Ken also says “The State Department has reportedly allocated $15 million for civilian opposition groups in Syria.” Yes, the article says this includes “nonlethal aid, like medical supplies and communications equipment.” It is unclear to me why providing some non-lethal aid, including medical supplies, to *civilian* groups, is placed here as evidence for US support to the FSA (still less given my only contention was that the US had not supplied arms, not that it had not given any tiny amount of non-military aid, for its own purposes).
Here is what I wrote previously about this 2012 CIA activity in Turkey, that I think sums up the whole issue well. Readers can draw their own conclusions about whether this was “substantial aid” to the FSA, limited aid aimed at gaining some influence over the process, or active sabotage of attempts to arm the rebels. I see it as a mix of the second and third of these options:
An article “Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With Aid From C.I.A.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/25/world/middleeast/arms-airlift-to-syrian-rebels-expands-with-cia-aid.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0) from the March 24 2013 New York Times has often been quoted by those who want to show that the US is already involved. And the article does show this. But what it also shows about the US is far from what those highlighting this often want to show. (The article) describes the CIA’s specific role in the following terms:
“The C.I.A. role in facilitating the shipments, he said, gave the United States a degree of influence over the process, including trying to steer weapons away from Islamist groups and persuading donors to withhold portable antiaircraft missiles that might be used in future terrorist attacks on civilian aircraft. “These countries were going to do it one way or another”, the former official said. “They weren’t asking for a ‘Mother, may I?’ from us.”
“But the rebels were clamoring for even more weapons, continuing to assert that they lacked the firepower to fight a military armed with tanks, artillery, multiple rocket launchers and aircraft. Many were also complaining, saying they were hearing from arms donors that the Obama administration was limiting their supplies and blocking the distribution of the antiaircraft and anti-armor weapons they most sought.”
To summarise: the arming of the Syrian rebels was a Saudi-Qatari initiative, who were not asking US permission; the US steps in to help “coordinate” it by “limiting supplies”, “steering weapons away” from groups they don’t like and making sure that none of the weapons the rebels actually needed to fight Assad’s heavy weaponry, e.g. anti-aircraft missiles, got through to the rebels.
Another report by Nour Malas in the Wall Street Journal (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443684104578062842929673074.html) was even more explicit, pointing out that “the Pentagon and CIA ramped up their presence on Turkey’s southern border” precisely after more weapons began to flow in to the rebels in mid-2012, especially small numbers of portable anti-aircraft weapons (Manpads), some from Libya, “smuggled into the country through the Turkish border”, others “supplied by militant Palestinian factions now supporting the Syrian uprising and smuggled in through the Lebanese border”, or some even bought from regime forces.
“In July, the U.S. effectively halted the delivery of at least 18 Manpads sourced from Libya, even as the rebels pleaded for more effective antiaircraft missiles to counter regime airstrikes in Aleppo, people familiar with that delivery said.”
Finally, the reporter Joanna Paraszczuk explained that a US-Saudi conflict has been going on for some time, precisely over US blocking all weapons supplies to the FSA from Jordan in the south. Notably, the southern front, especially at that time, is overwhelmingly led by secular FSA forces with very little Islamist influence, still less jihadist, thus the US was blocking the Saudis from arming even the “moderates” that the US is alleged to favour:
“While Saudi Arabia has built up large stockpiles of arms and ammunition for the Free Syrian Army, the US blocked shipments until last Thursday. The US and the Saudis are involved in a multilateral effort to support the insurgency from Jordanian bases. But, according to the sources, Washington had not only failed to supply “a single rifle or bullet to the FSA in Daraa” but had actively prevented deliveries, apparently because of concerns over which factions would receive the weapons. The situation also appears to be complicated by Jordan’s fears that arms might find their way back into the Kingdom and contribute to instability there. The sources said the Saudi-backed weapons and ammunition are in warehouses in Jordan, and insurgents in Daraa and Damascus could be supplied “within hours” with anti-tank rockets and ammunition. The Saudis also have more weapons ready for airlift into Jordan, but US representatives are preventing this at the moment” (http://eaworldview.com/2013/06/23/syria-special-the-us-saudi-conflict-over-arms-to-insurgents).
More on that murky 2012 stuff on the Turkish border, I think this article from the Australian (originally from Sunday Times) gets the emphasis much more right, as can be seen from the title: ‘CIA polices weapons entry to Syria as spooks invade Turkey’ (John Follain and Tony Allen-Mills, August 13, 2012, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/cia-polices-weapons-entry-to-syria-as-spooks-invade-turkey/story-fnb64oi6-1226448705909). The article reads in part:
DESPITE mounting calls in Washington for a more aggressive US military role in Syria, the CIA has been quietly working along its northern border with Turkey *to limit the supplies of weapons and ammunition reaching rebel forces*, Syrian opposition officials say.
“Not one bullet enters Syria without US approval,” one official complained in Istanbul. “The Americans want the (rebellion) to continue, but they are not allowing enough supplies in to make the Damascus regime fall.”
Over the past 10 months, a Syrian opposition official told The Sunday Times, *the CIA has blocked shipments of heavy anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons*, which rebel units of the Free Syrian Army have long said *are vital* to their efforts to overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. At the same time they have approved supplies of AK-47 Kalashnikov rifles, and just over a month ago gave the green light to a shipment of 10,000 Russian-made rocket-propelled grenades.
The weapons are either bought on the black market in Istanbul or supplied by the rebels’ allies in Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
“Qatar sends money and usually says ‘Go and buy what you want’,” the official said.
“The Turks just give the weapons free of charge, especially light anti-tank weapons.”
Yet rebel frustration is mounting at the *CIA’s reluctance to allow heavy weaponry across the border* for fear that it may eventually be used against America’s allies.
“**The RPGs aren’t enough,” the opposition official said. “You have to be close to the tank to make any impact, and often the fighter using it gets killed.**” (probably the CIA’s aim – MK)
Suggestions that Washington was deliberately prolonging the conflict while it attempted to identify a friendly successor to Assad were described by one former CIA official as “a little too Machiavellian”.
Bob Grenier, a former director of the CIA counter-terrorism centre, said the CIA’s policing activities along the border were intended *to protect the administration from future embarrassment if the rebel groups it supported turned out to be hostile to Israel or the US* should they gain power. “It would not be good if it was later established that weapons reached people identified with al-Qa’ida, and we could have done something about it,” he said.
CIA agents have been active along the border, *trying to prevent jihadists sympathetic to al-Qa’ida from joining the Syrian fray*.
“The CIA vetoes al-Qa’ida and it’s *not very keen on the Muslim Brotherhood*,” a Syrian opposition official said.
“In early March 2013, a Jordanian security source revealed that the United States, Britain, and France were training non-Islamist rebels in Jordan. In an effort to strengthen secular elements in the opposition as a bulwark against Islamic extremism, and to begin building security forces to maintain order in the event of Bashar al-Assad’s fall.”
Yes. Once again, very difficult to interpret this as aid to the FSA, let alone “considerable” aid. The well-known Jordanian centre trains small numbers of heavily “vetted” rebels, or supposed rebels. Much has been written on this operation; but overall, since its inception it is said to have trained about 1000 people. We should not confuse a relative handful of puppets in Jordan with tens of thousands of secular FSA fighters in Syria.
In any case,, the quote itself makes clear the US purpose has nothing to do with helping the FSA bring down the regime – the aims are (1) to strengthen “secular” (read pro-western) elements “as a bulwark against Islamic extremism” – in other words, precisely as I have analysed continually, as a Sawha, and (2) “to begin building security forces to maintain order in the event of Bashar al-Assad’s fall” – in the event? Doesn’t sound like the Americans love the idea of Assad falling very much from that statement – OK, this is just wiki (I haven’t checked the source) but we do know the US leaders talk like this all the time. If – heaven forbid – the regime falls, then the US wants to have trained people on board – “security forces” – to “maintain order.” That is, to continue Assad’s job, but more effectively. Training such small elite units could also perhaps be useful if some kind of internal “palace coup” against Assad, while maintain the regime as a whole intact, could be arranged.
Ken further writes:
“In April 2013, also in Jordan, the United States had set up a $70 million program in the country “that is training the kingdom’s special forces to identify and secure chemical-weapons sites across Syria should the regime fall and the wrong rebels look like getting their hands on them.”
Yes, I think that is fairly self-explanatory Ken, and not even sure why you included it here. The US wants to make sure rebels don’t get their hands on Assad’s chemical weapons “should the regime fall.” Like countless other statements from top UUS and Israeli leaders, the real fear is about what might happen “should the regime fall,” indeed the worst thing about the Assad regime from the US/Israeli point of view is precisely the fact that the instability of its own creation might not be able to be controlled and he may not be able to prevent himself being overthrown, despite the hundreds of Hiroshimas he has committed while trying.”
Final instalment soon.
Final instalment, a long one. I’ll convert all these comments into an article.
“In April 2013, the Obama administration promised to double non-lethal aid to rebels, specifically to $250 million.”
Why is this a response to my contention that the US has not armed the FSA? But OK, since your contention is simply that the US has “helped” the FSA, I suppose we can include non-lethal aid. Non-lethal aid is not a bad thing, of course; but just how it is supposed to help fight such a massively armed regime that uses this weaponry to such terrifying effect I have no idea. Surely it should be obvious that it is precisely nothing more than an influence-buying substitute for actually providing any useful arms.
Anyway, what was this non-lethal aid? Check any source from all of 2013. Flak jackets, tents, binoculars, radios, medical equipment, night goggles, wood (wood!), generators, communication equipment, trucks, water filters, “ready meals” (eg, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2013/Dec-12/240840-syrian-rebel-spokesman-decries-us-uk-aid-decision.ashx#ixzz2oVu4wg8J, http://connecttheworld.blogs.cnn.com/2013/12/13/should-the-west-assist-syrian-opposition/). As of October 31 last year the US had delivered about $250 million worth of non-lethal aid (http://www.defensenews.com/article/20131031/DEFREG01/310310012).
The only reference to actual weapons was from September, in the early post chemical genocide period, when some articles asserted the US had supplied some light weapons and ammunition (http://edition.cnn.com/2013/09/12/politics/syria-arming-rebels/, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/12/cia-syrian-rebels_n_3912583.html), though even if you check these sources you see the FSA explicitly denying that any such weapons had been received.
Here’s an article that sums up better than any how useful all this junk is in the context: http://www.matthewvandyke.com/blog/uk-sending-rebels-syria/ Read and laugh about the “help.”
In any case, in October 2013, even this minimalist non-lethal US aid to the FSA in the north was officially halted (http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/us-halts-aid-to-syrian-rebels.aspx?pageID=238&nID=56624&NewsCatID=358) as part of the deal with Russia and Assad over chemical weapons removal. Then in December 2013, just to drive the point home further, the US again cut off this non-lethal “aid” in response to an alleged incident between the FSA and the Islamic Front, which was probably nothing of the sort (http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/us-halts-aid-to-syrian-rebels.aspx?pageID=238&nID=56624&NewsCatID=358), even though they had already announced this cut-off in October.
You refer to this event in your Wikipedia quotes:
“In December 2013, the Islamic Front seized the FSA headquarters along with key supply warehouses in Atmeh as well as the nearby border crossing with Turkey at Bab al-Hawa. FSA Chief-of-Staff Brigadier General Salim Idris fled via Turkey to Doha, Qatar in the assault. However, the FSA has denied that Idris has left Syria and has also stated the Islamic Front was asked to help the FSA fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The FSA confirmed on 13 December 2013 that the Islamic Front had obtained machine guns and ammo that was not supposed to be in the possession of the Islamists. Later that month the Islamic Front and Free Syrian Army reconciled..”
As far as I’m concerned, the entire thing was a beat-up by the imperialists to further drive home the point they’d made since the very beginning, that if they arm the FSA the arms might fall into the hands of Islamists. There was simply no evidence of overall bad relations between the FSA and the IF in that period (or any period I’m aware of). FSA chief Idriss ridiculed this entire story and confirmed they asked for IF help against ISIS. This entire event yet again shows how hostile the US was to any support for the FSA, let alone the even funnier ideas we often hear that the US wants to support the IF. It doesn’t, period.
So IF never had to “reconcile” with the FSA, they’ve always been allies.
ISIS is an entirely different issue – ISIS and the FSA officially declared war on each other in August 2013, and in January 2014 the FSA was joined by the IF, a new moderate Islamist coalition the Mujahideen Army in Aleppo, and later Jabhat al-Nusra, in a coordinated nationwide attack on ISIS.
So when you say “ISIS may not have been the main force fighting against Assad,” you miss the point – ISIS hasn’t fought Assad, or Assad ISIS, for at least a year, except for the odd skirmish. They collaborate against the united rebel coalition, which is united in war on both regime and ISIS. You miss the entire point of my outrage at the article if you think I was just upset about numbers comparisons.
The Islamic Front “are certainly not secular or democratic:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_Front_%28Syria%29.” Who said they were? They don’t claim to be. Is Hamas “secular”? Does it claim to be? In reality, the moderate Islamist ideology, as expressed by Hamas, the IF, MB and others pretty much stems from the peasant and urban poor base of the revolution; “”secularism” is largely a western left construct about a regime whose ‘secularism extended to the ruling and upper middle classes. It is hardly surprising that Hamas is in Gaza and secular Fatah in the West Bank; likewise in Syria, the most desperately impoverished areas produce a kind of Islamism. The FSA is completely right to be aligned with it.
Of course, many of the formulations in the IF’s founding declaration, that presumably your link links to, are undemocratic etc, at least in the way we read them. However, why westerners assume that such a “charter” hurriedly written up to form a specific alliance at a specific time in the heat of the battle is any more relevant than Hamas’ founding charter, which the Zionists always tell us about, I do not know. The end of that story in any case is that in May 2014, the Islamic Front, together with the Mujahideen Army in Aleppo, the similarly moderate al-Ajnad Union in Damascus, and several other Islamist groups, made an entirely different joint declaration, declaring among other things that they:
“aim to establish a state of law, freedom and justice without any sort of pressure or dictations … the Syrian revolution is a revolution based on morals and values with the objective of achieving freedom, justice and security to the entire Syrian society with its diverse multi-ethnical and multi-sectarian social fabric … is committed to the respect for human rights that are also encouraged by our authentic religion” (http://justpaste.it/fi2u). So which do you believe?
Then in August 2014, 18 armed groups, including some strikingly secular FSA groups and some Islamist groups, including some but not all of IF, formed the Revolutionary Command Council, so as I understand it, the IF as such does not exist: (http://eaworldview.com/2014/08/syria-daily-reports-18-insurgent-factions-create-revolutionary-command-council/ ).
In any case, you write: “the FSA is not that strong. A BBC article outlining some of the rebel groups and alliances shows it not to be among the largest. The Islamic Front seems to be one of the larger groupings.”
Which BBC article? When? These bourgeois journals change the story every month. Not wrong, too – the situation does change. Ironically, my estimation is that the FSA is actually larger than a low point about a year ago, while the IF has declined, and new forces have arisen. Especially the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, the regional FSA bloc of militias in Idlib and Hama in the north-west, is very strong; it singlehandedly drove ISIS out of Idlib province and much of Hama and Latakia, while also taking part alongside the others in driving it out of Aleppo.
In the south, around Deraa, where the revolution began, and from the Jordanian border to the gates of Damascus, the FSA is the main force. In the working-class Damascus suburbs, they share the role with a number of Islamist (not jihadist) groups, while further south Jabhat al-Nusra has grown a presence over the last year. But few observers doubt the FSA is the main force.
The FSA is weaker (though far from absent) in Aleppo, where a number of moderate to harder allied Islamist militias are also strong, and weaker still in the north-east, where resistance to ISIS has mostly come from Nusra and related groups, though with some FSA presence; in Homs, the FSA had shared the fight with Islamists, but were largely defeated by the treacherous invasion of Syria by Hezbollah thugs who put themselves at the service of a fascist regime, and of course by the sensational level of Assadist airpower that turned the city of Homs into Hiroshima.
My own estimation of specifically FSA strength today is about 60,000, shared about equally between the south and north-west. The entire insurgency is probably about 140,000 strong. I need to do more research however.
“I wonder what ever happened to Idris?”
Long story. Still around. He’s reputed to be allied to the Hazm movement based in Hama and partly Idlib. He fell out with the pro-Saudi secular leadership of the Syrian Opposition Coaltion, and bent towards Qatar. He opposed the Geneva II summit with Assad in January that the US pushed the opposition to attend. Saudi Arabia and Qatar both pushed the opposition to attend, but the MB opposed, and so groups allied to Qatar and the MB did not attend. Idriss is far from MB but seemed to have his own reasons.
Here is a recent interview with Idriss: https://www.zamanalwsl.net/en/news/6412.html. And here is an interview with a Hazm commander, which Idriss may or may not still be associated with (my own estimation is that they don’t have that much in common; Hazm is one of the few that has received US arms this year, whereas Idriss had opposed US strategy in January; his initial welcoming of Hazm may therefore have just been opportunist, given nthat he was on the outer. On the other hand, Hazm may not be doing the US bidding at all; it may have just agreed to US terms (probably to become a Sawha) to get some arms, and then did what it wanted to – in this interview Hazm insists that not only are they not US agents, but moreover, the handful of US anti-tank weapons they received are now not functional): https://www.zamanalwsl.net/en/news/6418.html