A number of US drone strikes within few days have killed “dozens of suspected militants” of Al Qaeda in Yemen. This is considered as success in the US and is reported as good news in western press:
This is because in Yemen (just as in Afghanistan or Pakistan) Al Qaeda fighters or those with almost identical attitude and methods are considered terrorists. Not however in Syria, where their existence and relevance is either denied or belittled. Thus, it is tolerated by the US, UK, France, Turkey and implicitly also by Israel that the Syrian Nusra Front is non other than the local branch of Al Qaeda and that most supposedly “moderate” rebel groups closely and regularly cooperate with the Nusra.
The West may oppose Assad’s regime, but on the streets of the capital the people fear a greater evil.
Several of its suburbs are held by rebel fighters, who pound government-held areas with mortars.
most people live under the shadow of constant attack.
Many of the shells land harmlessly, or do not explode. Others cause mayhem. On Tuesday, one struck a school in Bab Touma (St Thomas’s Gate), killing one child and wounding roughly 40. And over the past few days the volume of the bombardment has escalated sharply.
Over the past few days, I have talked to shopkeepers, students, soldiers, doctors, a dentist, MPs and government ministers (including the minister for tourism, who must have the most thankless job in the world). On the basis of these conversations, I would judge not just that support for the regime is holding up, but that President Assad could very well win a popular election, even if carried out on a free and fair basis.
I found – to my surprise – that even people outside the governing Ba’ath party, including some of Assad’s political opponents, said they would support him.
People here see their country as being threatened by foreign powers (above all Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, all backed by the West) who are sponsoring the jihadist groups that make up the opposition. I was struck by the fact that this argument is not made only by the Alawite coterie around the president. I also heard it from Sunni Muslims, Christians and members of the various other cultural and religious groups that abound in Syria.
Only a handful of members of Assad’s 30-strong cabinet (I was told two) are Alawite. The prime minister is Sunni, as are the interior minister, the justice minister, the foreign minister, even the defence minister. The delegation that travelled to Geneva for the failed peace talks several months ago was also almost entirely composed of Sunni Muslims (though they would probably reject sectarian terms, and prefer to think of themselves just as Syrians).
I do think the words of my shopkeeper friend are worth pondering. If the insurgents who killed his mother win the war, there will be no Christian churches in Syria any more (just as there aren’t in Saudi Arabia at the moment). Life will be similarly terrible for many of the ordinary Muslims who make up the great majority of the population.
There are no “good guys” in Syria’s civil war. But we should not be blind to the fact that there is a project out there to destroy its rich, pluralist and unbelievably intricate culture and replace it with a monochrome version of Wahhabi Islam, of the kind favoured by Saudi mullahs. And for reasons that history may come to judge very severely, Britain, the United States, and the West have been aiding and abetting this project.
“In fact, the only rebel factions still strong enough to resist and fight the regime on the latest fronts are the radical Islamists. The town of Azizeh, just outside the Marjeh area in the east, the strategically vital Sheikh Najjar industrial zone, the old city and Aleppo’s central prison are all defended by al-Qaeda’s affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, as well as Salafist militants Ahrar al-Sham, a member of the Islamic Front.”
“A source in the Syrian army told Al-Akhbar that “the army is ready for any surprise attack,” pointing out that “opposition fighters are amassing in Daraa and if they attack it will be from there.””
“In conjunction with the attack on the Kimyaa Battalion, fighters from al-Nusra Front attacked the city of Busra al-Sham in the southwest of the Suwaida governorate. However, the army, along with the Popular Committees in the city, were able to repulse the attack which led to injuries among government forces defending the city and many casualties among opposition fighters.
For its part, the Syrian army led a surprise offensive yesterday morning using tanks and air strikes against the villages of al-Hajjeh, al-Dawayeh al-Kubra, al-Sughra, Bir Ajam and al-Buraika in the central and south sectors of al-Quneitra in order to exhaust opposition fighters and diminish their strength, as Al-Akhbar learned.”
“Officials from the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) say that the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus has been totally cleansed of rebel fighters following a deal between the rebels and Palestinians within the camp.
“There are no more foreign fighters in the camp,” the PLO confirmed.”
“When a rebel was shot and severely wounded during a new offensive on Syria’s southern front, his colleagues knew the only hope of saving his life was to get him to Israel…Israeli soldiers checked the patient for booby-traps and weapons, and then whisked him over the border and rushed him to hospital.
This scenario from last week has played out more than 200 times in the past six months, rebels in southern Syria said…“More than 250 of our people have gone across, they get amazing medical care there,” said a rebel commander in Deraa”
“Hamas has a problem with Egypt, Syria, with more than a million Palestinians who are hostages in Gaza and with Israel. They don’t want to continue as a resistance group, nor do they want to deal as a state. They failed to set a good example when in power. “
“Make no mistake, this is not a “resurgence” of the Syrian revolution…It is simply a cutthroat struggle for power, between jihadist groups of similar ideology, distinct only in name and the identity of their backers, albeit with slightly differing methods of imposing their doctrines on the ground…The Islamic Front, the alliance of jihadist groups now fighting ISIS, were more subtle and less murderous in dealing with citizens, even though they imposed harsh Sharia rules according to their strict interpretation, for example the public flogging of two men who missed Friday prayers in Sukkari, Aleppo by Ahrar al-Sham. It is also important to note that many factions that make up the Islamic Front have been implicated in serious war crimes such as the mass sectarian killings in rural Latakia and more recently in Adra, as well as the summary executions of captured soldiers.”
“”We wouldn’t rule out the possibility of meeting with the Islamic Front,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Monday. “We can engage with the Islamic Front, of course, because they’re not designated terrorists … ”
“Soon after its creation, the Islamic Front signed a charter that made it clear the group aimed to create a Sunni theocracy, not a Western-style democracy. The documentrejected the prospect of any sort of representative government, arguing that in Islam, only “God is the sovereign.” It explicitly rejects secularism as “contradictory to Islam,” and argues that Syria’s ethnic and religious minorities can be protected on the basis of Islamic law. ”
“Zahran Alloush, the Islamic Front’s military chief,has demonized Syria’s Alawite minority and called for them to be cleansed from Damascus. As he put it in a recent video: “The jihadists will wash the filth of the rafida [a slur used to describe Shia] from Greater Syria, they will wash it forever, if Allah wills it.””
al-Qaida-linked fighters of the Islamic state in Iraq and the Levant found the wounded rebel in a hospital after a battle with government forces on Wednesday.
They said he was moaning phrases typical of Shia.
The fighters later displayed the man’s head before a crowd in Aleppo city. But residents identified it as belonging to a leader of another hardline Islamist rebel group, Ahrar al-Sham.