Negotiating Syria’s Future with Terrorists?

Human Wrongs Watch

By Catherine Shakdam*

9 April 2016 (RT) – Against all logic, and many would argue reason, Western powers have allowed for dangerous radical factions to hold a great many cards in the carving of Syria’s future, arguing pluralism and an imperious need for fair political representation.


Photo: WFP (file) | In a boost to international humanitarian efforts in Syria, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) on | On 10 April 2016 delivered aid by air for hungry people trapped in the besieged eastern city of Deir Ezzor, an area controlled by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).

But what happens when such parties, such democratic pawns, prove to be radicalism’s most rapacious tools – the very expression of the terror Western powers and their allies have so longingly claimed to have ambitions to destroy?

Wonder no more; Jaysh al-Islam, the darling that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have systematically propped up against Syrian President Bashar Assad, is here to answer those burning questions.

Positioned as both a legitimate and relevant political faction, Jaysh al-Islam was sold as a democratic champion and a carrier of popular will by those powers which, from the outset of the Syrian war, have engineered the fall of Syria’s institutions.

Behind Assad’s presidency lies an office whose authority is anchored in Syria’s constitution. Challenge its legitimacy, and you are in fact challenging Syria’s very national sovereignty.

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A Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam) rebel fighter. © Amer Almohibany

Beyond the catchy headlines and talk of democratization, reforms and just retribution, Western powers and their regional allies are in fact debating Syria’s right to self-govern; everything else has been political white noise.

Talk of democracy and counter-terrorism has been played ad nauseam so that never-ending military interventionism could be sold as responsible politicking. Five years into the Syrian war, I would like to think that the world has woken up from its trance – especially since terror has had a nasty habit of spreading as exponentially as Western powers have opened up new fronts.

What a mind-boggling phenomenon it is to see Terror’s armies spread and gain before Western military might. How terribly confusing to see Western capitals make a case for regime change in Syria, when the real threat facing not just Syria, but the whole region has been Islamic extremism.

How conveniently pressing those calls for regime change are…

Can we stop already and look at Syria and recognize that Terror has been played as a tool of mass political destabilization, an asymmetrical weapon of war wielded against a government which refused to play ball with globalists?

As always, control was mainly the agent provocateur, the catalyst which led the powers that be to devise Syria’s fall – or I should say President Bashar Assad’s early exit. Only, he was never meant to withstand such pressure.

I very much doubt that the West could ever have imagined that his presidency would withstand the ravages of radicalism. Yet it did. It is actually because it did that Western powers’ hands are now being revealed in the most unsophisticated way.

After all, lies have very short legs … or so the saying goes.

So, what is it about Jaysh al-Islam that makes the West and its Arab friends go weak at the knees? What is it indeed about these so-called “moderates” which justified military expenditures worth billions of dollars?

In June 2012, the US State Department reportedly allocated $15 million in “non-lethal aid” for civilian opposition groups in Syria, alongside distribution of military equipment, including assault rifles, anti-tank rocket launchers and other ammunition.

In April 2013, the United States confirmed it had set up a $70 million program in Jordan “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,” as reported in The Economist.

That same month, the Obama administration also promised to double non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition, bringing the total to $250 million.

The word you want to pay attention is: “chemical.” Following Washington’s own rationale, military efforts had to be exerted so that Terror would not acquire dangerous weapons of war: i.e: chemical weapons.

As a responsible superpower, the US would not dream of enabling dangerous lunatics… only its enemies would ever resort to such tactics. Washington and its allies don’t play by such rules; they stand above the fray.

Here’s that name again: Jaysh al-Islam… the elephant in the room.

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© Nawrouz Uthman

Let’s discuss the details, since the devil is in them. Among its many capabilities, and they have been many, Jaysh al-Islam recently admitted to using chemical weapons against the Kurds.

Allow me to state the obvious and offer a reminder that since the Kurds have recently been upgraded to Turkey’s grand enemy of the state, such an attack is just too convenient not to scream genocidal calculation on Ankara’s part.

A news report carried by Sputnik read as follows: “Syrian Islamist militant group Jaysh al-Islam has admitted to using ‘forbidden’ weapons in clashes with the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Aleppo’s Kurdish-held Sheikh Maqsood district.”

“In Iraq and Syria, American leadership – including our military power – is stopping ISIL’s [Islamic State/IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] advance. Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group,” said US President Barack Obama on January 20, 2015, during his State of the Union address.

Really now? Either he’s lying, or his administration has proven criminally incompetent in choosing its friendships. Jaysh al-Islam did not exactly wish themselves powerful, did they.

They were aided, trained, and empowered. Not least of all they were fronted as legitimate political actors, courtesy of Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia – the Middle East’s new holy trinity. Back in December 2015, Jaysh al-Islam sent a delegation to Riyadh to attend the Syria peace talks.

Although the group embodies the very definition of Terror, its leadership has been considered a worthy interlocutor by Western powers on account that it retains Riyadh’s ear.

If you are still confused as to who Jaysh al-Islam is, let me put it this way: its goals are aligned with that of Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda, and IS.

And yet, the radical militant group has been granted more political courtesy than Syrian President Bashar Assad was ever extended.

What in the world of politics would possess the West to support the very entities which seek to destroy its way of life, and its sense of self? I would say utter lunacy, but that would be missing the point.

What does power and control mean? The domination of a region whose riches and geostrategic worth are such that superpowers have played a game of Russian roulette over them?

Can we now blame President Assad for refusing to sit at the peace table? Can we even speak of peace negotiations when the likes of Jaysh al-Islam are offered a seat? Who are we kidding here?

Syrians are not playing of course; nor should they have to.


The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT. Nor do they necessarily represent those of Human Wrongs Watch.

562ba193c46188124b8b458b*Catherine Shakdam is a political analyst, writer and commentator for the Middle East with a special focus on radical movements and Yemen.
A regular pundit on RT and other networks her work has appeared in major publications: MintPress, the Foreign Policy Journal, Mehr News and many others.Director of Programs at the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies, Catherine is also the co-founder of Veritas Consulting.
She is the author of Arabia’s Rising – Under The Banner Of The First Imam

2016 Human Wrongs Watch

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