Al Qaeda goes to Washington

Global Research, May 22, 2016
Syrian Al Qaeda Affiliated Leader Visited Washington, for Consultations with U.S. State Department?
A senior figure from a Syrian rebel group with links to al Qaida was allowed into the United States for a brief visit, raising questions about how much the Obama administration will compromise in the search for partners in the conflict.”  McClatchy, May 21, 2016Labib al Nahhas is known as the foreign affairs director for the Islamist fighting group Ahrar al Sham. He visited Washington in December. The leader of a terrorist entity linked to Al Qaeda was granted entry by US immigration:

That suggests that authorities granted him entry at a time when U.S. immigration authorities face political pressure to block visitors with even tenuous ties to extremist groups. Four months after Nahhas entered the United States on a European passport, U.S. authorities denied entry to a well-known Syrian humanitarian leader who had been approved to visit Washington to receive an award from international aid groups. McClatchy 

While the purpose of his visit was not disclosed, the report nonetheless intimates that he was in Washington for talks with US government officials. “His previously undisclosed visit is a delicate matter for both sides – the conservative Salafist insurgents risk their credibility with even perceived ties to the United States, and the U.S. government risks looking soft on screenings by allowing entry to a member of an Islamist paramilitary force.”

Moreover,  shortly prior to his visit to Washington, Nahhas together with other rebel leaders met with Michael Ratney (image right), U.S. State Department special envoy for Syria, in Istanbul on December 5, 2015.

Was this Istanbul meeting intended to establish the groundwork for further consultations with the jihadist leader in Washington DC?

The report suggested that the Ahrar al Sham “moderate” terrorist leader (who appears to have the profile of a US “intelligence asset”)  would be meeting with “third parties” in Washington DC  ”who might influence policymakers” –e.g. D.C. think tanks, research institutes, media, US intelligence, etc. as well as  ”lobbyists and Middle East researchers”.

The State Department declined to answer whether any U.S. officials knew in advance or expressed reservations about Nahhas’s presence in Washington, or whether State Department officials had assisted his entry.

In this image posted on the Twitter page of Ahrar al-Sham on May 6, 2016, an Ahrar al Sham fighter guards the front lines of Breidige village in northwest Syria. Unlike the Islamic State group and al-Qaida's branch in Syria, the Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham is not on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations.

In this image posted on the Twitter page of Ahrar al-Sham on May 6, 2016, an Ahrar al Sham fighter guards the front lines of Breidige village in northwest Syria. Unlike the Islamic State group and al-Qaida’s branch in Syria, the Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham is not on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations.

National security analysts say U.S. authorities likely knew of Nahhas’ arrival – intelligence agencies for years have watched his group’s interactions with al Qaida’s Syrian branch, the Nusra Front.

“They could make, quickly, the decision that he’s persona non grata in the United States and yet they haven’t.” Faysal Itani, a Syria specialist with the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East

Links to al Qaeda

Nahhas denies his affiliation to al Qaeda:

“We have been falsely accused of having organizational links to Al-Qaeda and of espousing Al-Qaeda’s ideology. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

According to Charles Lister (Brookings):

These are bold words [above] from such a senior Ahrar al-Sham official, … , this author still finds it nearly impossible to get any group, including those already successfully “vetted” by the United States, to commit to condemning Jabhat al-Nusra in front of others, Syrian or foreign.

So was Nahhas’ omission of Jabhat al-Nusra merely an extension of this broader reality? Thus far, it would seem so. By explicitly singling out al-Qaida, Nahhas was distinguishing its Syrian affiliate, or at least much of the 60 to 70 percent Syrian portion of it, as still being a potential partner [al Nusra] in a broader and more medium-term Syrian project. Brookings, July 14, 2015

In this regard, the McClatchy report confirms that

The group’s ultimate vision is Islamist rule for Syria and its old links to al Qaida are no secret: One of the group’s founders, Abu Khalid al Suri, was memorialized by al Qaida leader Ayman al Zawahiri after his death in a bombing.

By all accounts, Ahrar al Sham is much more ideologically diverse than al Qaida, encompassing members ranging from followers of a more moderate, Muslim Brotherhood-style Islamism to Salafist jihadists whose beliefs are virtually identical to al Qaida’s.

“They’re not al Qaida but they are Salafi jihadists – they’re just not transnational ones,” Itani said of Ahrar al Sham. (McClatchy, op cit)

Al Qaeda goes to Washington! This should come as no surprise. It’s part of a routine. US officials have been working hand in glove with Al Qaeda since the onslaught of the war on Afghanistan in 1979.

President Reagan meets with Mujahideen leaders, 1980s

The original source of this article is Global Research

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U.S.-backed “moderate rebels” behead captured Syrian soldiers and threaten minority groups

Global Research, October 26, 2015
Al-Masdar Al-‘Arabi 26 October 2015

The U.S. backed moderate rebel fighters from the “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) have released more images from the Hama Governorate’s northern countryside; this time, the images include the mutilated heads of captured Syrian Arab Army (SAA) soldiers that were executed by these alleged “moderates” over the weekend.

In addition to the images released, the U.S. backed moderate rebels that are allied with the Syrian Al-Qaeda group “Jabhat Al-Nusra and formerly with the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) also issued a threat to the Syrian ‘Alawi (Twelver branch of Shi’i Islam)population, which included a promise that they would behead more Syrian Arab Army soldiers, who they consider all Alawis, despite the army being predominately Sunni.

These images were released one week after the U.S. backed moderate rebel fighters from the Homs Governorate posted photos of beheaded soldiers from the civilian-led “National Defense Forces” (NDF) after a battle inside the Al-Rastan Plains.

The U.S. backed moderate rebels have attempted to distinguish themselves as a different breed of anti-government fighters than the hardline Islamist groups like Jabhat Al-Nusra and Jund Al-Islam; however, their recent actions have led many to question their ability to deviate away from these Jihadist groups, especially the Al-Qaeda affiliates.

Russia destroys Al Nusra command and control, Syrian Army prepares ground attack against US-sponsored Al Qaeda terrorists, FSA militants surrender

Global Research, October 05, 2015
South Front 5 October 2015

The Syrian army is preparing for offensive actions against Al Nusra and ISIS near the town of Al-Rastan. In the recent interview, the Commander of the 147th Syrian tank brigade said that they coordinate perfectly with the Russian forces providing them intelligence and air support.

According to the government sources, over 450 militants from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and another 250 people wanted by governmental authority have turned themselves into the Syrian Security Forces at the provincial capital of the Dara’a Governorate (Dara’a city). There are no confirmed reports about the reasons of such activity, but anybody can easily suppose why they did this. Meanwhile, the Syrian Air Force struck the Syrian Al-Qaeda group “Jabhat Al-Nusra” and their allies from the FSA around the city of Busra Al-Sham.

On Saturday morning, the Russian Aerospace Defence Forces (VKO) targeted the Jaysh Al-Fateh (Army of Conquest) militant group positions in the Idlib Governorate: Mardeij, Ma’arat Al-Nu’man, Jisr Al-Shughour, Saraqib and Sarmeen.

Separately, the Russian Air Force’s destroyed a command-and-control center of Jabhat Al-Nusra at Saraqib.

Russian warplanes conducted a reconnaissance flight above the Al-Ghaab Plains of the Hama Governorate. This could be a feature of the future military activity in this sector.

ISIS has been targeted by the Russian warplanes at the city of Al-Raqqa sector at least 25 times and each time. This includes the Tabaqa Military Airport and Tabaqa National Hospital turned into the ISIS’ primary military base and headquarters in Al-Raqqa.

Recently, the VKO has targeted the terrorist group inside the Deir Ez-zour Governorate. The ISIS positions along the imperative Deir Ezzor-Raqqa International Highway and Al-Mayadeen-Deir Ez-zour Road were destroyed.

The Russian Aerospace Defence Forces has conducted more than 60 flights and bombed over 50 Islamic State targets in three days. According to the Lieutenant General Andrey Kartapolov, head of the Main Operation Directorate of the General Staff of Russia’s armed forces, the strikes have significantly reduced the terrorists’ combat capabilities.

The relationship between Washington and ISIS: the evidence

The UN peacekeeping force based in the occupied Golan has reported its observations of Israel’s Defence Forces ‘interacting with’ al Nusra fighters at the border. At the same time, Israeli arms have been found with the extremist groups, in both Syria and Iraq. In November 2014 members of the Druze minority in the Golan protested against Israel’s hospital support for al Nusra and ISIS fighters. This in turn led to questions by the Israeli media, as to whether ‘ Israel does, in fact, hospitalize members of al-Nusra and Daesh [ISIS]‘.

From Global Research, March 8, 2015
by Prof. Tim Anderson

obama-isis

Reports that US and British aircraft carrying arms to ISIS have been shot down by Iraqi forces have been met with shock and denial in western countries. Few in the Middle East doubt that Washington is playing a ‘double game’ with its proxy armies in Syria, but some key myths remain important amongst the significantly more ignorant western audiences.

A central myth is that Washington now arms ‘moderate Syrian rebels’, to both overthrow the Syrian Government and supposedly defeat the ‘extremist rebels’. This claim became more important in 2014, when the rationale of US aggression against Syria shifted from ‘humanitarian intervention’ to a renewal of Bush’s ‘war on terror’.

A distinct controversy is whether the al Qaeda styled groups (especially Jabhat al Nusra and ISIS) have been generated as a sort of organic reaction to the repeated US interventions, or whether they are actually paid agents of Washington.

Certainly, prominent ISIS leaders were held in US prisons. ISIS leader, Ibrahim al-Badri (aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) is said to have been held for between one and two years at Camp Bucca in Iraq. In 2006, as al-Baghdadi and others were released, the Bush administration announced its plan for a ‘New Middle East’, a plan which would employ sectarian violence as part of a process of ‘creative destruction’ in the region.

According to Seymour Hersh’s 2007 article, ‘The Redirection’, the US would make use of ‘moderate Sunni states’, not least the Saudis, to ‘contain’ the Shia gains in Iraq brought about by the 2003 US invasion. These ‘moderate Sunni’ forces would carry out clandestine operations to weaken Iran and Hezbollah, key enemies of Israel. This brought the Saudis and Israel closer, as both fear Iran.

While there have been claims that the ISIS ‘caliph’ al-Baghdadi is a CIA or Mossad trained agent, these have not yet been well backed up. There are certainly grounds for suspicion, but independent evidence is important, in the context of a supposed US ‘war’ against ISIS . So what is the broader evidence on Washington’s covert links with ISIS? Continue reading

Syria asked UN why its warnings on ISIL were ignored for 3 years

Syrian Arab News Agency, August 16, 2014
http://www.sana.sy/en/?p=10262

New York, SANA – The Security Council on Friday evening adopted resolution no. 2170 on preventing the supporting, funding, and arming of the terrorists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusra and preventing the flow of terrorists to Syria and Iraq.

The Council urged all UN member countries to take steps to prevent the flow of terrorists and bringing them to justice, in addition to address the issue of individuals who may be at risk of being recruited in order to prevent them from traveling to Syria and Iraq.

The resolution prohibits the direct or indirect sale of weapons and related items to ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, and individuals associated with them, listing six individuals affiliated with terrorist groups on the list of sanctions that affect Al Qaeda, asserting readiness to consider listing individuals, groups, establishments, and entities that support the two aforementioned organizations in the list, and this covers those who fund, arm, plan, recruit, and who are members in them through information technology.

The six individuals in question are Abdulrahman al-Zafer al-Dabidi al-Jahani, Hajjaj Bin Fahed al-Ajami, Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, Saeed Arif, Abdulmohsen Abdullah Ibrahim al-Sharekh, and Hamed Hamad Hamed al-Ali.

The Council voiced concern over the impact of the violent ideology and extremist acts of these two organizations on locals and on their role in causing sectarian tension, noting that ISIS members have been carrying out lethal attacks in Iraq and Syria during the past two weeks.

The Council denounced the terrorist acts of ISIS, describing it as a splinter group from Al Qaeda, in addition to voicing concern over the fact that the oil fields and associated infrastructure being controlled by ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra provide them with income, which supports their recruitment efforts and ability to carry out terrorist attacks.

The resolution stipulates that freezing assets, prohibiting travel, and weapons embargo apply to ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra members and all individuals, groups, establishments, and entities associated with Al Qaeda.

The Council instructed the team in charge of monitoring breaches in the sanctions on terrorist groups to report within 90 days on threats in areas where ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra are active and provide recommendations to deal with this threat.

In a statement during the Security Council session, Syria’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Dr. Bashar al-Jaafari, said that this resolution is important and hotly-anticipated, particularly by Syria, due to the growing threat represented by ISI, Jabhat al-Nusra, and Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist organizations which adopt violent and extremist ideals.

Video:
http://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=DaQMaT1QaJc

Al-Jaafari said that Syria had been fighting a grueling war against takfiri terrorist groups single-handedly on behalf of humanity, with the Syrian government making painstaking efforts to draw the UN members’ attention to the threat these organizations pose.

He pointed out that a number of influential countries in the Arab, regional, and international arenas exerted great efforts to cover up the truth of what is happening in Syria, and these countries continued to support, arm, harbor, fund, and provide media cover for terrorist groups, trying to pass them off either as moderate armed opposition or jihadist opposition.

Al-Jaafari noted that the Syrian government sent the Security Council and other UN bodies hundreds of letters, documents, pictures, videos, and names related to the crimes committed by terrorist groups like ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, the Islamic Front, and others, showing the horrifying acts of murder, torture, and terrorizing committed by these groups against innocent Syrian civilians, as well as the genocide-like attacks on certain parts of the Syrian and Iraqi societies, their methodical vandalism of infrastructure in Syria, and their theft and smuggling of petroleum which is sold abroad via Turkish and European brokers.

Syria’s Representative demanded to know who is buying Syrian petroleum from ISIS, and how this stolen petroleum is reaching Europe from Turkey, and how come Security Council members failed to address Syria’s constant complaints that were filed throughout the past three years on the exportation of weapons and terrorists from Libya to Syria via Turkey and Lebanon.

He said that all documents sent by Syria regarding this issue have been ignored deliberately, and that had they been considered and had the Security Council counterterrorism resolutions been applied, then the situation would not have reached the point it is at today.

Al-Jaafari hoped that the new resolution will be implemented optimally without discrimination or selectiveness, and that it will not infringe upon the relevant countries’ sovereignty, territorial integrity, or independence.

He asserted that counterterrorism is a priority for the Syrian government, which had often demanded that the Security Council take its concerns regarding this issue into considerations, urging the Council to hold dialogue among relevant and concerned countries before adopting such resolutions in the future.

Syria’s representatives said the Security Council must call on the countries that adopt and support extremist ideologies to issue official statements denouncing takfiri mentality, adding that the resolution should have referenced the destructive role played by channels broadcasting from Arab Gulf and Western countries and by takfiri websites, and that these channels and sites should be dealt with.

In a press conference following the session, al-Jaafari pointed out that the West’s considerations have shifted because its own security is at risk, as opposed to when terrorists were only killing Syrians, at which point the Western capitals were promoting them as proponents of freedom and democracy or as moderate opposition.

“When those terrorists began returning to their capitals, and when social media began revealing their reprehensible crimes, the West awoke to this tragedy,” he said, noting that Syria requested that the Islamic Front be listed among terrorism-sponsoring entities, but Western countries continue to refuse that, despite that this organizations commits heinous crimes like ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra.

Al-Jaafari said the new resolution is positive, even if it came too late, and that it also overlooks Israel’s role in smuggling terrorists from Jordan to the disengagement zone in the occupied Syrian Golan, from which they enter Syria to commit their crimes, adding that the resolution also overlooks the role of Saudi Arabia and Turkey in supporting, arming, funding, and sending terrorists to Syria.

He said that the resolution mainly seeks to justify the West’s behavior and policies in the region, with them claiming to fight terrorism when they actually don’t want a resolution that really combats terrorism; rather they want absolution from terrorism and to be seen as being against ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra.

Al-Jaafari also criticized the British representative who was chairing the meeting and who interrupted him and Iraq’s representative during their statements because “he sensed that we were going to say things that he doesn’t want the Western and Arab public opinion to hear.”

Hazem Sabbagh