Gallery

War Chronicles – January 2016

(1) Syrian Arab Army report on attack by 30 suicide bombers in al-Baghilea, Deir al-Zoor

(2) Twilight of the rebels south of Damascus

(3) Former Australian soldiers caught up in Yemen’s civil war

(4) International Military Review – Yemen, 14 Jan. 2016

(5) US supported rebels, including CIA recruited jihadists, losing the fight in Syria

(6) Salma falls to R+6 12 JANUARY 2016

(7) Australian cleric Sheikh Fedaa Majzoub involved in the Ballouta massacre in August 2013

(8) Misreporting on starvation in ‪‎Madaya, Syria

(9) In Midst of War, Ukraine Becomes Gateway for Jihad

(10) COMMENTS from Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox

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(1) On 16 January 2015 the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) reports on attack by 30 suicide bombers on SAA’s and (National Defence Forces) NDF’s positions in al-Baghilea village in Dair al-Zoor simultaneously, opening a gap for ISIS terrorists to attack the village.

Once inside, and before SAA launched a counterattack, ISIS terrorists killed about 280 men, women and children, including 20 NDF, and tribal fighters who were slaughtered.

SAA units are counter-attacking ISIS terrorists, SyAAF (Syrian Air Force) attack bombers from several SyAAF airbases are participating in targeting ISIS terrorists in designated locations.

We will update the page on every chance we get.

Syrian Arab Army https://www.facebook.com/syrianmilitary/

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(2) Twilight of the rebels south of Damascus, by Colonel W. Patrick Lang, 15 January 2016

Several comments on Israeli dis-information:

http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2016/01/httpswwwdebkacomarticle25166putin-bypasses-israel-sets-up-joint-war-room-for-s-syria-with-jordan-.html

“In a pivotal step reflecting the changeability of military and political deals in Israel’s neighborhood, Jordan has almost overnight agreed to establish a shared war room with Russia for the concerted conduct of their operations in Syria. This represents an extreme reversal of Amman’s policy. Until now, Jordan fought against Russia’s protégée Bashar Assad from a joint war room north of Amman called the US Central Command Forward-Jordan, as part of a lineup with the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel.” Debka

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IMO, the retention of Jordanian participation in the CENTCOM ops center in Jordan is just re-insurance intended to hedge Jordan’s new bet on R+6’s coming victory in the area south of Damascus. With this new policy, Jordan will help Russia destroy the rebel forces in that area or will undoubtedly disarm them as they cross the border into Jordan. Jordan needs to get the war over with so that the masses of Syrian refugees can go home, but the price of that should not to be to let jihadis find a refuge in Jordan. Jordan has far too many takfiri salafi within its borders already. Article 9 may apply to some.

King Abdullah came to Washington this week to discuss this (possibly seeking available “gimmedats?”) and was in the process of being ignored by Obama (obsessed as he is with “justice”). Then some brave soul explained to the prez that Jordan was abandoning its alliance with the US and Israel in favor of R+6. That was evidently enough to get his attention (even though still distracted by Sandy Hook and his continuing grief). He met Abdullah planeside at Andrews AFB as the little guy was leaving the US, but, alas, too little too late.

Debka’s tone in this piece is remarkable. It reeks of Israeli ethnocentric arrogance. Jordan is not a serious player militarily, really? Moscow’s “key objective” is to clear south Syria of rebels? In fact the action in northern Syria is much more significant from Moscow’s POV in that it is likely to kill more jihadis. These will be jihadis who will not end up back in Russia.

About the only thing that could save the rebels south of Damascus from their Gotterdammerung would be an Israeli attack into the flank of R-6. Good luck on that happening!  pl

Colonel W. Patrick Lang has made these comments concerning an article at the Mossad dis-info site Debka at https://www.debka.com/article/25166/Putin-bypasses-Israel-sets-up-joint-war-room-for-S-Syria-with-Jordan- (DON’T CLICK ON LINK THAT UNLESS YOUR ANTI-SPYWARE IS BETTER THAN MOSSAD’S SPYWARE!)
pl quotes the blogger b at http://www.moonofalabama.org/:
Debka lies like it usually does.
The Jordan-Russian “war room” in Amman was announced in October 2015 by Lavrov.

http://sputniknews.com/world/20151023/1029000391/russia-jordan-military-coordination-lavrov.html

It has been working since. The military coordination center in Jordon, of which Israel to my knowledge was NOT part, has shut down the support for the southern rebels several months ago. There was a disagreement about what to attack next and the rebels went off, did what they wanted to do and failed.

Abdullah visited Moscow at the end of November last year. Since then Jordan shut down the whole southern front business.

Debka just wants to blame Abdullah and create trouble for him.

Why does anyone still regard them as a reliable source?

The SAA is moving rapidly from Quweiris north to Al-Bab. Syrian media claim that IS is pulling back from the city. Al-Bab is on the IS occupied Raqqa-Turkey route.

From the northeast the (mostly Kurdish) SDF is pushing towards Manbij. There were several Russian air support missions today (16 Jan. 2016) in support of their move.

Should the 10 kilometer Al-Bab-Manbij connection along the M4 be closed IS would loose its direct access to Turkey.

It would also have to rename its monthly magazine “Daqib”. The town of Daqib, in which the big endtimes battle between crusaders and believers was supposed to happen, would be cut off from IS land without any crusader ever appearing.

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(3) Former Australian soldiers caught up in Yemen’s civil war, concerns for human rights
Updated 14 January 2016, 14:20 AEDT
By Defence reporter Andrew Greene
http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/2016-01-14/former-australian-soldiers-caught-up-in-yemens-civil-war-concerns-for-human-rights/1535612
Former Australian soldiers are playing a key role in a Saudi-led military onslaught against Yemeni rebels, in a conflict which human rights groups are alarmed by the group of ex-Australian Defence Force (ADF) members includes a one-time special forces commander, who is in charge of an elite military unit in the United Arab Emirates.
Retired Major General Mike Hindmarsh is the commander of the UAE’s presidential guard and reports directly to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

The UAE is among a group of Gulf States who accuse Iran of backing Houthi rebels in Yemen, and have formed a military coalition to push back.

University of Sydney international security expert Dr Sarah Phillips said the conflict was widely stated as being a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

“The Saudi-led military intervention has been going since late March of last year and that forms the major component of the international angle to this conflict,” she said.

Human rights groups are increasingly worried about the growing civilian casualties in the bloody Yemeni conflict.

Last year Amnesty International called for a suspension of arms exports to members of the Saudi-led coalition after reporting what they described as “damning evidence” of war crimes in Yemen.

“The Saudi-led coalition is behaving in a way that’s reckless at best, at best,” Dr Phillips said.

“They have bombed an extraordinary number of hospitals, schools — all manner of civilian institutions and infrastructure. Just recently we’ve had cluster bombs which have previously been used elsewhere in the country being dropped in the capital city of Sana’a.”

Australians helping to ‘improve standards’
But defence sources have told the ABC the Australians are helping to improve the standards of the Gulf forces.

John Blaxland from the Australian National University’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre says it is not unusual for ADF members to accept higher salaries in foreign militaries — or from private military contractors.

“Actually donning the uniform of another country in the Middle East — that’s a more recent phenomenon,” Dr Blaxland said.

“Major General Mike Hindmarsh is the most prominent example of that, something that’s grown since then with a number of other participants who’ve joined General Hindmarsh in supporting the United Arab Emirates armed forces.”

Dr Blaxland admitted the Yemeni situation presents a vexed situation for the Australians.

“In looking at the talk of human rights abuses, or breaches of international standards we need to look at the other side of the picture and see what could have been the case had Australians not been involved or had Major General Hindmarsh not been a participant in leavening and professionalising the armed forces of a country like UAE,” Dr Blaxland said.

Australians are not believed to be directly involved in the bombings, but late last year an Australian commander was reportedly among 14 foreign mercenaries killed fighting against rebels in South East Yemen.

Defence sources have told the ABC having Australians working for Middle Eastern militaries also has a valuable strategic benefit, because the Gulf States are vital allies in the fight against terrorism.

They highlight the fact Australian forces targeting Islamic State operate from the UAE.

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(4) International Military Review – Yemen, 14 Jan. 2016
http://southfront.org/international-military-review-yemen-jan-14-2016/
Saudi warplanes exercised air raids in the area of Sana’a killing 15 people and injuring 25 others in the village of Bilad al-Rusthe. Also, the Saudi Air Force conducted airstrikes in the Majaz district of the Sa’ada province and in the Sarwah district in the Ma’rib province.

About 800 Egyptian soldiers reportedly arrived Yemen to help the Saudi-led coalition’s forces on Jan.12. According to reports, 4 Egyptian units of 150-200 troops with tanks and transport vehicles will likely participate in military operations in the areas of Marib and Taiz.

In Aden, local security forces raided an unused warehouse near the port and found tons of weapons and ammunition apparently smuggled in by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The Hadi government calls civilians to report the suspected presence of AQAP men in the city.

Meanwhile, unidentified gunmen killed two traffic security officers in the city. The militants, riding motorbikes, shot and killed the two officers and their driver. The recent attacks show that the government security forces and the Saudi-led coalition can’t secure the city successfully.

AQAP imposed inspection checkpoints on the main road linking the provinces of Aden and Abyan, including one checkpoint in Dofes just outside Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan. AQAP is seeking to consolidate control in both Zinjibar and nearby Ja’ar, where it clashed with the Houthi alliance last week.

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(5) US supported rebels, including CIA recruited jihadists, losing the fight in Syria

On Wednesday 13th January 2016 Abu Walid al-Shishani, Chechen leader of Jund al-Sham anti-Syrian-government militia, referred in a video message to the dire situation of his forces in Syria, and noted that they are no more able to oppose the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in the Latakia province. Shishani also noted that the number of his forces have decreased. The statement was released after the Syrian Arab Army and its allies liberated over more than 300 square kilometers of lands in North Latakia. On 12 Jan. 2016 the Syrian Arab Army took control of the strategic town of Salma, which overlooks much of the Latakia Governorate and the western countryside of the Idlib Governorate, where Jaysh Al-Fateh (the “Army of Conquest”, which is a joint operations room of Islamist factions) enjoyed unrivaled control until now.

TOP REBEL LEADER: RESISTANCE AGAINST SYRIAN ARMY NO MORE POSSIBLE
http://southfront.org/top-militants-leader-resistance-against-syrian-army-no-more-possible/
In s wider context, Andrew Cockburn’s article “A Special Relationship – The United States is teaming up with Al Qaeda, again” in the January 2016 issue of Letter from Washington in Harper’s Magazine [http://harpers.org/archive/2016/01/a-special-relationship/?single=1] reveals a shocking history of FBI and CIA jihadist recruitment, commencing with “charismatic Palestinian cleric Abdullah Azzam, who founded Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK), also known as the Afghan Services Bureau, in 1984, to raise money and recruits for jihad. He was assisted by a wealthy young Saudi, Osama bin Laden. The headquarters for the U.S. arm of the operation was in Brooklyn, at the Al-Kifah Refugee Center on Atlantic Avenue, which Azzam invariably visited when touring mosques and universities across the country. “You have to put it in context,” argued Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent and counterterrorism expert who has done much to expose the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program. “Throughout most of the 1980s, the jihad in Afghanistan was something supported by this country. The recruitment among Muslims here in America was in the open. Azzam officially visited the United States, and he went from mosque to mosque — they recruited many people to fight in Afghanistan under that banner.””

American involvement with Azzam’s organization went well beyond laissez-faire indulgence. “We encouraged the recruitment of not only Saudis but Palestinians and Lebanese and a great variety of combatants, who would basically go to Afghanistan to perform jihad,” McWilliams insisted. “This was part of the CIA plan. This was part of the game.”

The Saudis, of course, had been an integral part of the anti-Soviet campaign from the beginning. According to one former CIA official closely involved in the Afghanistan operation, Saudi Arabia supplied 40 percent of the budget for the rebels. The official said that William Casey, who ran the CIA under Ronald Reagan, “would fly to Riyadh every year for what he called his ‘annual hajj’ to ask for the money. Eventually, after a lot of talk, the king would say okay, but then we would have to sit and listen politely to all their incredibly stupid ideas about how to fight the war.”

Despite such comments, it would seem that the U.S. and Saudi strategies did not differ all that much, especially when it came to routing money to the most extreme fundamentalist factions. Fighting the Soviets was only part of the ultimate goal. The Egyptian preacher Abu Hamza, now serving a life sentence on terrorism charges, visited Saudi Arabia in 1986, and later recalled the constant public injunctions to join the jihad: “You have to go, you have to join, leave your schools, leave your family.” The whole Afghanistan enterprise, he explained, “was meant to actually divert people from the problems in their own country.” It was “like a pressure-cooker vent. If you keep [the cooker] all sealed up, it will blow up in your face, so you have to design a vent, and this Afghan jihad was the vent.”

Soufan agreed with this analysis. “I think it’s not fair to only blame the CIA,” he told me. “Egypt was happy to get rid of a lot of these guys and have them go to Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia was very happy to do that, too.” As he pointed out, Islamic fundamentalists were already striking these regimes at home: in November 1979, for example, Wahhabi extremists had stormed the Grand Mosque in Mecca. The subsequent siege left hundreds dead.

Within a few short years, however, the sponsoring governments began to recognize a flaw in the scheme: the vent was two-way. I heard this point most vividly expressed in 1994, at a dinner party on a yacht cruising down the Nile. The wealthy host had deemed it safer to be waterborne owing to a vigorous terror campaign by Egyptian jihadists. At the party, this defensive tactic elicited a vehement comment from Osama El-Baz, a senior security adviser to Hosni Mubarak. “It’s all the fault of those stupid bastards at the CIA,” he said, as the lights of Cairo drifted by. “They trained these people, kept them in being after the Russians left, and now we get this…”

From [http://harpers.org/archive/2016/01/a-special-relationship/4/]: “In the spring and summer of last year (2015), a coalition of Syrian rebel groups calling itself Jaish al-Fatah — the Army of Conquest — swept through the northwestern province of Idlib, posing a serious threat to the Assad regime. Leading the charge was Al Qaeda’s Syrian branch, known locally as Jabhat al-Nusra (the Nusra Front). The other major component of the coalition was Ahrar al-Sham, a group that had formed early in the anti-Assad uprising and looked for inspiration to none other than Abdullah Azzam. Following the victory, Nusra massacred twenty members of the Druze faith, considered heretical by fundamentalists, and forced the remaining Druze to convert to Sunni Islam. (The Christian population of the area had wisely fled.) Ahrar al-Sham meanwhile posted videos of the public floggings it administered to those caught skipping Friday prayers.

This potent alliance of jihadi militias had been formed under the auspices of the rebellion’s major backers: Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar. But it also enjoyed the endorsement of two other major players. At the beginning of the year, Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri had ordered his followers to cooperate with other groups. In March, according to several sources, a U.S.-Turkish-Saudi “coordination room” in southern Turkey had also ordered the rebel groups it was supplying to cooperate with Jaish al-Fatah. The groups, in other words, would be embedded within the Al Qaeda coalition.

A few months before the Idlib offensive, a member of one CIA-backed group had explained the true nature of its relationship to the Al Qaeda franchise. Nusra, he told the New York Times, allowed militias vetted by the United States to appear independent, so that they would continue to receive American supplies. When I asked a former White House official involved in Syria policy if this was not a de facto alliance, he put it this way: “I would not say that Al Qaeda is our ally, but a turnover of weapons is probably unavoidable. I’m fatalistic about that. It’s going to happen.”

Earlier in the Syrian war, U.S. officials had at least maintained the pretense that weapons were being funneled only to so-called moderate opposition groups. But in 2014, in a speech at Harvard, Vice President Joe Biden confirmed that we were arming extremists once again, although he was careful to pin the blame on America’s allies in the region, whom he denounced as “our largest problem in Syria.” In response to a student’s question, he volunteered that our allies …

“were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad. Except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.”

Biden’s explanation was entirely reminiscent of official excuses for the arming of fundamentalists in Afghanistan during the 1980s, which maintained that the Pakistanis had total control of the distribution of U.S.-supplied weapons and that the CIA was incapable of intervening when most of those weapons ended up with the likes of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Asked why the United States of America was supposedly powerless to stop nations like Qatar, population 2.19 million, from pouring arms into the arsenals of Nusra and similar groups, a former adviser to one of the Gulf States replied softly: “They didn’t want to.”

From [http://harpers.org/archive/2016/01/a-special-relationship/5/]: The Syrian war, which has to date killed upwards of 200,000 people, grew out of peaceful protests in March 2011, a time when similar movements were sweeping other Arab countries. For the Obama Administration, the tumultuous upsurge was welcome. It appeared to represent the final defeat of Al Qaeda and radical jihadism, a view duly reflected in a New York Times headline from that February: as regimes fall in arab world, al qaeda sees history fly by. The president viewed the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011 as his crowning victory. Peter Bergen, CNN’s terrorism pundit, concurred, certifying the Arab Spring and the death of bin Laden as the “final bookends” of the global war on terror.

Al Qaeda, on the other hand, had a different interpretation of the Arab Spring, hailing it as entirely positive for the jihadist cause. Far from obsessing about his own safety, as Obama had suggested, Zawahiri was brimful of optimism. The “tyrants” supported by the United States, he crowed from his unknown headquarters, were seeing their thrones crumble at the same time as “their master” was being defeated. “The Islamic project,” declared Hamid bin Abdullah al-Ali, a Kuwait-based Al Qaeda fund-raiser, would be “the greatest beneficiary from the environment of freedom.”

While the revolutions were ongoing, the Obama Administration settled on “moderate Islam” as the most suitable political option for the emerging Arab democracies — and concluded that the Muslim Brotherhood fitted the bill. This venerable Islamist organization had originally been fostered by the British as a means of countering leftist and nationalist movements in the empire. As British power waned, others, including the CIA and the Saudis, were happy to sponsor the group for the same purpose, unmindful of its long-term agenda. (The Saudis, however, always took care to prevent it from operating within their kingdom.)

The Brotherhood was in fact the ideological ancestor of the most violent Islamist movements of the modern era. Sayyid Qutb, the organization’s moving spirit until he was hanged in Egypt in 1966, served as an inspiration to the young Zawahiri as he embarked on his career in terrorism. Extremists have followed Qutb’s lead in calling for a resurrected caliphate across the Muslim world, along with a return to the premodern customs prescribed by the Prophet.

None of which stopped the Obama Administration from viewing the Brotherhood as a relatively benign purveyor of moderate Islam, not so different from the type on display in Turkey, where the Brotherhood-linked AKP party had presided over what seemed to be a flourishing democracy and a buoyant economy, even if the country’s secular tradition was being rolled back. As Mubarak’s autocracy crumbled in Egypt, American officials actively promoted the local Brotherhood; the U.S. ambassador, Anne Patterson, reportedly held regular meetings with the group’s leadership. “The administration was motivated to show that the U.S. would deal with Islamists,” the former White House official told me, “even though the downside of the Brotherhood was pretty well understood.”

At the same time that it was being cautiously courted by the United States, the Brotherhood enjoyed a firm bond with the stupendously rich ruling clique in Qatar. The tiny country was ever eager to assert its independence in a neighborhood dominated by Saudi Arabia and Iran. While hosting the American military at the vast Al Udeid Air Base outside Doha, the Qataris put decisive financial weight behind what they viewed as the coming force in Arab politics. They were certain, the former White House official told me, “that the future really lay in the hands of the Islamists,” and saw themselves “on the right side of history.”

The Syrian opposition seemed like an ideal candidate for such assistance, especially since Assad had been in the U.S. crosshairs for some time. (The country’s first and only democratically elected government was overthrown by a CIA-instigated coup in 1949 at the behest of American oil interests irked at Syria’s request for better terms on a pipeline deal.) In December 2006, William Roebuck, the political counselor at the American Embassy in Damascus, sent a classified cable to Washington, later released by WikiLeaks, proposing “actions, statements, and signals” that could help destabilize Assad’s regime. Among other recommended initiatives was a campaign, coordinated with the Egyptian and Saudi governments, to pump up existing alarm among Syrian Sunnis about Iranian influence in the country.

Roebuck could count on a receptive audience. A month earlier, Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, testified on Capitol Hill that there was a “new strategic alignment” in the Middle East, separating “extremists” (Iran and Syria) and “reformers” (Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states). Undergirding these diplomatic euphemisms was something more fundamental. Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who returned to Riyadh in 2005 after many years as Saudi ambassador in Washington, had put it bluntly in an earlier conversation with Richard Dearlove, the longtime head of Britain’s MI6. “The time is not far off in the Middle East,” Bandar said, “when it will be literally God help the Shia. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough.” The implications were clear. Bandar was talking about destroying the Shiite states of Iran and Iraq, as well as the Alawite (which is to say, Shia-derived) leadership in Syria.

Yet the Saudi rulers were acutely aware of their exposure to reverse-vent syndrome. Their corruption and other irreligious practices repelled the jihadis, who had more than once declared their eagerness to clean house back home. Such fears were obvious to Dearlove when he visited Riyadh with Tony Blair soon after 9/11. As he later recalled, the head of Saudi intelligence shouted at him that the recent attacks in Manhattan and Washington were a “mere pinprick” compared with the havoc the extremists planned to unleash in their own region: “What these terrorists want is to destroy the House of Saud and to remake the Middle East!”

From these statements, Dearlove discerned two powerful (and complementary) impulses in the thinking of the Saudi leadership. First, there could be “no legitimate or admissible challenge to the Islamic purity of their Wahhabi credentials as guardians of Islam’s holiest shrines.” (Their record on head-chopping and the oppression of women was, after all, second to none.) In addition, they were “deeply attracted toward any militancy which can effectively challenge Shia-dom.” Responding to both impulses, Saudi Arabia would reopen the vent. This time, however, the jihad would no longer be against godless Communists but against fellow Muslims, in Syria.

From [http://harpers.org/archive/2016/01/a-special-relationship/6/]: By the beginning of 2012, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and the United States were all heavily involved in supporting the armed rebellion against Assad. In theory, American support for the Free Syrian Army was limited to “nonlethal supplies” from both the State Department and the CIA. Qatar, which had successfully packed the opposition Syrian National Council with members of the Muslim Brotherhood, operated under no such restrictions. A stream of loaded Qatari transport planes took off from Al Udeid and headed to Turkey, whence their lethal cargo was moved into Syria.

“The Qataris were not at all discriminating in who they gave arms to,” the former White House official told me. “They were just dumping stuff to lucky recipients.” Chief among the lucky ones were Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, both of which had benefited from a rebranding strategy instituted by Osama bin Laden. The year before he was killed, bin Laden had complained about the damage that offshoots such as Al Qaeda in Iraq, with its taste for beheadings and similar atrocities, had done to his organization’s image. He directed his media staff to prepare a new strategy that would avoid “everything that would have a negative impact on the perception” of Al Qaeda. Among the rebranding proposals discussed at his Abbottabad compound was the simple expedient of changing the organization’s name. This strategy was gradually implemented for the group’s newer offshoots, allowing Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham to present themselves to the credulous as kinder, gentler Islamists.

The rebranding program was paradoxically assisted by the rise of the Islamic State, a group that had split off from the Al Qaeda organization partly in disagreement over the image-softening exercise enjoined by Zawahiri. Although the Islamic State attracted many defectors and gained territory at the expense of its former Nusra partners, its assiduously cultivated reputation for extreme cruelty made the other groups look humane by comparison. (According to Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, many Nusra members suspect that the Islamic State was created by the Americans “to discredit jihad.”)

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, driven principally by its virulent enmity toward Iran, Assad’s main supporter, was eager to throw its weight behind the anti-Assad crusade. By December 2012, the CIA was arranging for large quantities of weapons, paid for by the Saudis, to move from Croatia to Jordan to Syria.

“The Saudis preferred to work through us,” explained the former White House official. “They didn’t have an autonomous capability to find weapons. We were the intermediaries, with some control over the distribution. There was an implicit illusion on the part of the U.S. that Saudi weapons were going to groups with some potential for a pro-Western attitude.” This was a curious illusion to entertain, given Saudi Arabia’s grim culture of Wahhabi austerity as well as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s flat declaration, in a classified cable from 2009, that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”

Some in intelligence circles suspect that such funding is ongoing. “How much Saudi and Qatari money — and I’m not suggesting direct government funding, but I am suggesting maybe a blind eye being turned — is being channeled towards ISIS and reaching it?” Dearlove asked in July 2014. “For ISIS to be able to surge into the Sunni areas of Iraq in the way that it’s done recently has to be the consequence of substantial and sustained funding. Such things simply do not happen spontaneously.” Those on the receiving end of Islamic State attacks tend to agree. Asked what could be done to help Iraq following the group’s lightning assaults in the summer of 2014, an Iraqi diplomat replied: “Bomb Saudi Arabia.”

However the money was flowing, the Saudis certainly ended up crafting their own Islamist coalition. “The Saudis never armed al-Nusra,” recalled the Gulf State adviser. “They made the calculation that there’s going to be an appetite for Islamist-leaning militias. So they formed a rival umbrella army called Jaish al-Islam. That was the Saudi alternative — still Islamist, but not Muslim Brotherhood.”

Given that Jaish al-Islam ultimately answered to Prince Bandar, who became the head of Saudi intelligence in 2012, there did not appear to be a lot of room for Western values in the group’s agenda. Its leader, Zahran Alloush, was the son of a Syrian religious scholar. He talked dutifully about the merits of tolerance to Western reporters, but would revert to such politically incorrect themes as the mass expulsion of Alawites from Damascus when addressing his fellow jihadis. At the same time, Saudi youths have poured into Syria, ready to fight for any extremist group that would have them, even when those groups started fighting among themselves. Noting the huge numbers of young Saudis on the battle lines in Syria, a Saudi talk-show host lamented that “our children are fighting on both sides” — meaning Nusra and the Islamic State. “The Saudis,” he exclaimed, “are killing one another!”

From [http://harpers.org/archive/2016/01/a-special-relationship/6/]: The determination of Turkey (a NATO ally) and Qatar (the host of the biggest American base in the Middle East) to support extreme jihadi groups became starkly evident in late 2013. On December 6, armed fighters from Ahrar al-Sham and other militias raided warehouses at Bab al-Hawa, on the Turkish border, and seized supplies belonging to the Free Syrian Army. As it happened, a meeting of an international coordination group on Syria, the so-called London Eleven, was scheduled for the following week. Delegates from the United States, Europe, and the Middle East were bent on issuing a stern condemnation of the offending jihadi group.

The Turks and Qataris, however, adamantly refused to sign on. As one of the participants told me later, “All the countries in the room [understood] that Turkey’s opposition to listing Ahrar al-Sham was because they were providing support to them.” The Qatari representative insisted that it was counterproductive to condemn such groups as terrorist. If the other countries did so, he made clear, Qatar would stop cooperating on Syria. “Basically, they were saying that if you name terrorists, we’re going to pick up our ball and go home,” the source told me. The U.S. delegate said that the Islamic Front, an umbrella organization, would be welcome at the negotiating table — but Ahrar al-Sham, which happened to be its leading member, would not. The diplomats mulled over their communiqué, traded concessions, adjusted language. The final version contained no condemnation, or even mention, of Ahrar al-Sham.

Two years later, Washington’s capacity for denial in the face of inconvenient facts remains undiminished. Addressing the dominance of extremists in the Syrian opposition, Leon Panetta, a former CIA director, has blamed our earlier failure to arm those elusive moderates. The catastrophic consequences of this very approach in Libya are seldom mentioned. “If we had intervened more swiftly in Syria,” Gartenstein-Ross says, “the best-case scenario probably would have been another Libya. Meaning that we would still be dealing with a collapsed state and spillover into other Middle Eastern states and Europe.”

Even as we have continued our desultory bombing campaign against the Islamic State, Ahrar al-Sham and Nusra are creeping closer and closer to international respectability. A month after the London Eleven meeting, a group of scholars from the Brookings Institution published an op-ed making the case for Ahrar al-Sham: “Designating [the] group as a terrorist organization might backfire by pushing it completely into Al Qaeda’s camp.” (The think tank’s recent receipt of a multiyear, $15 million grant from Qatar was doubtless coincidental.)

Over the past year, other distinguished figures have voiced support for a closer relationship with Al Qaeda’s rebranded extensions. David Petraeus, another former head of the CIA, has argued for arming at least the “more moderate” parts of Nusra. Robert Ford, a former ambassador to Syria and a vociferous supporter of the rebel cause, called on America to “open channels for dialogue” with Ahrar al-Sham, even if its members had on occasion slaughtered some Alawites and desecrated Christian sites. Even Foreign Affairs, an Establishment sounding board, has echoed these notions, suggesting that it was time for the United States to “rethink its policy toward al-Qaeda, particularly its targeting of Zawahiri.”
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(6) Salma falls to R+6 12 JANUARY 2016
http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2016/01/httpwwwalmasdarnewscomarticlebreaking-syrian-army-liberates-the-strategic-town-of-salma-in-northeast-latakia.html

“… the Syrian Arab Army’s 103rd Brigade of the Republican Guard – in close coordination with the National Defense Forces (NDF), the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), Liwaa Suqour Al-Sahra (Desert Hawks Brigade), the Russian Air Force, and Muqawama Souri (Syrian Resistance) – liberated the strategic town of Salma after a short battle this morning with the Islamist rebels of Jabhat Al-Nusra (Syrian Al-Qaeda group) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

The loss of Salma for the Islamist rebels will prove devastating in the coming weeks, as the town overlooks much of the Latakia Governorate and the western countryside of the Idlib Governorate, where Jaysh Al-Fateh (Army of Conquest) has enjoyed unrivaled control.

The next step for the Syrian Armed Forces will be to take the rebel stronghold of Al-Rabiyah in the Turkmen Mountains (Jabal Al-Turkmen); if captured, the Islamist rebels will likely retreat from the entire province, as they will no longer possess any high ground.”  Al Masdar

————-

It seems likely that the main further advance in the area will be from Salma and Al-Rabiya NE up the M4 to Jisr al-Shugur and thence to Idlib City.  At the same time there is a road that run SE from Salma that leads down into the plains of Idlib Province.

The pincer movement and Kesselschlacht in Idlib takes shape.  pl

http://www.almasdarnews.com/article/breaking-syrian-army-liberates-the-strategic-town-of-salma-in-northeast-latakia/
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(7) Australian cleric Sheikh Fedaa Majzoub involved in the Ballouta massacre in August 2013
On Tuesday 12 January 2016 Syrian pro-government forces seized full control of the rebel-held town of Salma/Selma in Latakia province. The Australian cleric Sheikh Fedaa Majzoub, who was born in Latakia, set up shop in Selma, and his brother was killed fighting not far from there.
Sheikh Fedaa was identified as one of those involved in the Ballouta massacre in August 2013, which kidnapped 100 small children, and held them underground in Selma. 9 months later 44 of the 100 were released, and the remaining are either dead or still hoped to have survived in Selma. [From Professor Tim Anderson’s report on the Ballouta Massacre:] Sheikh Fedaa Majzoub has been implicated in the mass atrocities at Ballouta and Kessab, both near the Turkish border. In Ballouta (August 2013) around 200 villagers were killed and another 200 kidnapped, by a combination of FSA and al Nusra jihadists. The same groups invaded the mainly Armenian Christian border town of Kessab (March 2014), killing 80 people and desecrating churches. Syrian officials have identified Fedaa Majzoub as a key organiser of the Ballouta atrocities and he has admitted involvement in the Kessab kidnappings, suggesting that they were humanitarian ‘evacuations’.
The only Australian member of the now defunct Syrian National Council (SNC), Majzoub remains a member of the NSW branch of the Australian National Imams Council (ANIC). The ANIC has made no statement on his activities in Syria. The terrorists were able to hold Selma and use it as a strategic location because of the tunnels they dug to connect them with the Turkish military, who were over the border, and officially supporting the terrorists in Selma.
It is a huge blow to the Syrian Opposition, their armed wing, the Free Syrian Army, and all their allied Al Qaeda type terrorists. The fall of Selma is a huge event. The next step is to push eastwards to Idlib, then Jisr Al Sughour, and finally to march into Aleppo, and then confront Raqaa.
See: Sydney Sheikh believed responsible for Syrian massacres, kidnappings – by Tim Anderson
http://www.pravdareport.com/opinion/columnists/30-12-2014/129432-sydney_sheikh-0/
Researchers, Syrian officials and residents (of Ballouta and Kessab in Syria) hold Sydney Sheikh Fedaa Majzoub responsible for two appalling massacres and kidnappings in Northern Syria. Worse, the sectarian sheikh has for some time enjoyed protection from the Australian media as well as from some political figures.
Tel Aviv based correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald, Ruth Pollard, went to visit Fedaa Majzoub in Salma – a visit which necessarily required illegal, jihadist-hosted entry into Syria. In a puff piece she spoke of Fedaa as an ‘honest broker’ who was attempting to ‘build bridges’ between the SNC and the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

Much of the Australian corporate media remained protective of Fedaa, even after the Syrian Government accused him of direct involvement in the Ballouta atrocity…

Two reports have emerged (ISTEAMS and Mesler) saying it was videos of these children, drugged and held hostage in Selma, that were sent to jihadists in the East Ghouta (rural Damascus), to be uploaded and used in the infamous chemical weapons incident two weeks later. No trace was ever found of the bodies of the children said to have been gassed in the East Ghouta. Relatives of the kidnapped children remain too scared to speak out, because of those still held hostage.

Independent journalist Chris Ray told The Australian of Minister al Zoubi’s accusations against Fedaa and reported in more depth at Crikey (09/01/14). But the Minister’s accusation was heavily re-spun in an Australian headline (02/12/14): ‘The respected Aussie imam smeared by the Assad regime’. Anti-Syrian politics stopped them from denouncing an Aussie terrorist…

Lily Martin Sahiounie has complained about her own [US] government’s involvement in the attacks on Syria and is furious at the Australian involvement in these atrocities. She says: ‘Radical Islam is alive and well in Sydney. It is so well cultivated there, that they even export it. Yet while the Australian media had non-stop coverage of the siege and resulting death of two persons in Sydney, they have not mentioned the innocent unarmed Syrian civilians maimed, killed and kidnapped by well-known extremist Muslim residents of Sydney.’ She says: ‘Fedaa Majzoub should be hunted down, arrested and tried as a war criminal’.

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(8) David Macilwain wrote on 11 January 2016 about the misreporting on starvation in ‪‎Madaya, Syria:‬

Notwithstanding that many of the images of the starving people, allegedly in Madaya, have either been shown to be from elsewhere or are unverifiable, it appears that the privations of the population are a result of the armed insurgents taking control of the food aid and inflating its price for the civilians under their control.
It has additionally been stated by the UN that the Syrian government has not been any hindrance in the supply of aid to civilians as part of the ceasefire plans that have resolved sieges in other towns. Confirming this fact, the aid about to be despatched to Madaya by the UN is being loaded not in Beirut or in Southern Turkey, but in Damascus, despite that city still being subject to Western sanctions…
We should not be fooled by the incessant propaganda and false flag operations now being perpetrated against Syria by the Saudi and Turkish governments, supported by the US/NATO allies. This is a direct result of the huge successes of the Russian military in disrupting the Islamic State’s Oil-for-Weapons scheme, as well as its successes in driving back the Saudi-Turkish mercenary Army of Conquest, and CIA supported ‘rebel’ groups in Western Syria. The last thing these rogue states want to see is UN brokered settlements in Syrian towns and cities, as happened recently with Homs.

https://thewallwillfall.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/madaya-letter-to-australian-mp-regarding-propaganda-storm/
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(9) In Midst of War, Ukraine Becomes Gateway for Jihad

How easy is it for terrorists to travel and fight the global jihad anywhere is the world?
https://syrianfreepress.wordpress.com/2016/01/10/daesh-turkish-ukraine/
(By Marcin Mamon, 10 January 2016) ~ Khalid, who uses a pseudonym, leads the Islamic State’s underground branch in Istanbul. He came from Syria to help control the flood of volunteers arriving in Turkey from all over the world, wanting to join the global jihad. Now, he wanted to put me in touch with Ruslan, a “brother” fighting with Muslims in Ukraine.
The “brothers” are members of ISIS and other underground Islamic organizations, men who have abandoned their own countries and cities. Often using pseudonyms and fake identities, they are working and fighting in the Middle East, Africa and the Caucasus, slipping across borders without visas. Some are fighting to create a new Caliphate — heaven on earth. Others — like Chechens, Kurds and Dagestanis — say they are fighting for freedom, independence and self-determination. They are on every continent, and in almost every country, and now they are in Ukraine, too.

In the West, most look at the war in Ukraine as simply a battle between Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainian government. But the truth on the ground is now far more complex, particularly when it comes to the volunteer battalions fighting on the side of Ukraine. Ostensibly state-sanctioned, but not necessarily state-controlled, some have been supported by Ukrainian oligarchs, and others by private citizens. Less talked about, however, is the Dudayev battalion, named after the first president of Chechnya, Dzhokhar Dudayev, and founded by Isa Munayev, a Chechen commander who fought in two wars against Russia.

Ukraine is now becoming an important stop-off point for the brothers, like Ruslan. In Ukraine, you can buy a passport and a new identity. For $15,000, a fighter receives a new name and a legal document attesting to Ukrainian citizenship. Ukraine doesn’t belong to the European Union, but it’s an easy pathway for immigration to the West. Ukrainians have few difficulties obtaining visas to neighboring Poland, where they can work on construction sites and in restaurants, filling the gap left by the millions of Poles who have left in search of work in the United Kingdom and Germany.

You can also do business in Ukraine that’s not quite legal. You can earn easy money for the brothers fighting in the Caucasus, Syria and Afghanistan. You can “legally” acquire unregistered weapons to fight the Russian-backed separatists, and then export them by bribing corrupt Ukrainian customs officers.

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http://cindysheehanssoapbox.blogspot.com.au/2015/08/an-american-in-syria-by-guest-blogger.html

(10) COMMENT from Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox
Please consider these basic facts:
(1) For 10 years before Syria became a killing field it was known that the government of Bashar al-Assad was being targeted for regime change by the US (see General Wesley Clark’s admission of the 7 countries in 5 years plan).
(2) At least since 2007, the US gov’t was working with Muslim Brotherhood ex-pats to foment revolution and regime change (see Jay Solomon in the WSJ from 2007 – To check Syria, US explores bond with Muslim Brotherhood).
(3) What happened in Libya was NO peaceful or democratic revolution, but a full-blown jihadists invasion that has left Libya at the (non-)mercy of Islamist gangs and criminals.
(4) The ‘freedom and democracy rebels’ the US supported in Libya have been revealed now to be ISIS and al Qaeda etc.
(5) Saudi Arabia and Qatar funded and armed this “Syrian revolution”;
(6) The FSA has ALWAYS called al Nusra/ISIS fighters their ‘brothers in arms’ and the reason WHY they had to call in those Sunni extremists/salafists/takfiris was because the majority of the Syrians did not join their clearly Islamist revolution in secular Syria.
(7) Neither Saudi Arabia or Qatar could care one drop of camel urine for ANY human lives other than their fellow ‘royals’ and would not recognize either freedom or democracy if it bit them.
(8) Idlib was taken over by FSA/Nusra and other militant groups and most of the people of Idlib were evacuated by the Syrian army. The ones that remained were imprisoned in a terrorist/extremist sharia law caliphate wanna-be. There are many Syrian expats who don’t like Assad or the Syrian government, as MANY left Syria when it was under Hafez Assad’s merciless crackdown on the violence initiated by the MB. Things in Syria were rough at the time of that crackdown, but the ‘mistreating’ of ‘political prisoners’ at that time is just not enough cause to overthrow a later government and arm/train/support terrorists to rip and shred the whole nation, kill hundreds of thousands of people; and send millions out as refugees.
(9) The bulk of the refugees, more than 75%, are still in Syria and are cared for by the government.
(10) Bashar al-Assad opened the country up to foreign trade, to tourism within the country and from abroad, to freedom of movement and of education for both men and women. Before the protests started, the number of women in the professional world had been constantly increasing, the university was open to all, and there was no discrimination on the basis of sex. The country was at peace, prosperity was on the rise, and human rights were respected. A common home and fatherland to many ethnicities and 23 different religious groups, Syria has always been a place where all were free to believe and live out their creed, all relationships were characterized by mutual respect. The freedom that is purportedly being brought to us by the rebels is precisely what this rebellion has taken away from us. http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Item/3570/isis_assad_and_what_the_west_is_missing_about_syria.aspx

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