US finally acknowledging al-Qaeda factor in breakdown of Ceasefire
By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –
One of the frustrations of following the Syria conflict from the Arabic press is that when you then turn to the English language accounts, they tend to play down the importance of al-Qaeda or the Support Front (al-Jabha al-Nusra).
In American parlance, there have just been three sides– the regime of Bashar al-Assad, the Free Syrian Army, and Daesh (ISIS, ISIL). The Free Syrian Army is depicted as democrats deserving US support (only some of them are).
There is a fourth force, however, al-Qaeda, which has been among the more successful fighting groups and which holds key real estate. They led a coalition of hard line Sunni Salafi groups into Idlib city last year. They have a position around Aleppo and inside it.
Even the 33 “vetted” guerrilla groups that are supported by the US CIA via Saudi intelligence often make ad hoc, battlefield alliances with al-Qaeda, and US munitions from other groups flow to the latter.
Al-Qaeda in Syria reports to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, a mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, so it is quite disturbing to see American allies coordinating with it.
Late last week Syrian regime planes hit civilian markets in West Aleppo with heavy civilian casualties, in what was likely a war crime. That kind of thing as must shoulder responsibility for the breakdown of the ceasefire. But it is also possible that these strikes were at least trying to hit the Nusra Front/ al-Qaeda.
On Friday, Kerry told the NYT that Russia might indeed be targeting Nusra in Aleppo,
He added that it has proven harder to separate” the militant group from the more moderate opposition groups “than we thought.”
Then US Army Col. Steve Warren, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq, said of the Russian air war,
“I’m not going to predict what their intentions are. What I do know is that we have seen, you know, regime forces with some Russian support as well begin to mass and concentrate combat power around Aleppo. … That said, it’s primarily al-Nusra who holds Aleppo, and of course, al-Nusra is not part of the cessation of hostilities. So it’s complicated.”
While it is too sweeping a statement to say that al-Qaeda holds Aleppo, it is true that al-Qaeda is one of the important groups that holds territory in West Aleppo and around the city, so it is a departure that Warren was being straight with us all.
Al-Qaeda has not signed on to the cessation of hostilities. Worse, it has convinced Free Syria Army factions such as Brigade 13 to join in its offensive against the regime, in which significant territory has been gained by the radicals.
So while it may be that the ceasefire is breaking down, it should be remembered that al-Qaeda played an important role in making it break down.
That continued aggressiveness appears to have impelled the Russians to try to cut the rebels in West Aleppo off for once and for all by cutting their supply line to Turkey.
Russia Insider: “Russian journalists show presence of Al-Qaeda in Aleppo debunking US claims about “moderate rebels”
Israel cooperates with ISIS, Al-Qaeda terrorists – Syria chief govt negotiator
Syria's chief government negotiator has accused Israel of cooperating with Islamic State and Al-Qaeda militants in the Golan Heights, a region captured from Syria in 1967. The comments were made during talks to discuss the future of war-torn Syria.
Bashar Ja'afari made the accusations after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israel would never relinquish the Golan Heights.
“This Israeli provocation...confirms without any doubt the cooperation between Israel and terrorists of Daesh (an Arabic acronym for Islamic State, IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and Nusra Front on the demarcation line between where the Golan is and UN troops are positioned,” he told reporters during peace talks in Geneva, after meeting the UN special envoy to Syria.
"It is no coincidence at all that this Israeli escalation was accompanied by irresponsible statements by members of the so-called Saudi delegation at talks here in Geneva," Ja'afari added, referring to the main opposition group.
Netanyahu declared on Sunday that Israel would never give up control of the Golan Heights, which it captured from Syria in a 1967 war.
“It is time that the international community recognized reality,” Netanyahu said, as quoted by the Times of Israel. “Whatever happens on the other side of the [Syrian] border, the border itself will not move.”
“And secondly,” Netanyahu added, “the time has come after 40 years for the international community to finally recognize that the Golan Heights will remain under Israeli sovereignty forever.”
Netanyahu went on to say that “the Golan was an integral part of the Land of Israel in ancient times,” as well as an “integral part of the State of Israel in the present time.”
Israel annexed the strategically important territory in 1981, extended its jurisdiction there, and began the construction of Jewish settlements. The annexation of the Golan Heights has never been accepted by the international community.
The area, which borders Syria, has economic significance for Israel. In October, the Israeli business website Globes suggested that oil deposits on the territory could make the Jewish State self-sufficient for years to come.
The comments came during peace talks on Monday convened to discuss the future of Syria, which has been engulfed in a civil war since 2011. The five-year conflict has led to the deaths of 250,000 people and displaced more than 12 million others, according to official UN figures.