US fight against ISIL: Pretext for changing Assad?

Written by  Published by:Shiite News
Published in Articles
Thursday, 11 September 2014

On September 9, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that if the United States decided to bomb the Takfiri group ISIL´s positions in Syria without the Syrian government´s approval, it would mean a “violation of Syrian sovereignty and international law.”

“There are reasons to suspect that air strikes on Syrian territory may target not only areas controlled by …. [ISIL ] militants, but the government troops may also be attacked on the quiet to weaken the positions of Bashar Assad´s army,” Lavrov said. Such a development, he claimed, “would lead to a huge escalation of conflict in the Middle East and North Africa”.

He added that Moscow has been urging the US to respect international law and “undertake such acts only with the approval of the legitimate government of the Syrian state”, Lavrov said. “Not a single country should have its own plans on such issues. There can be only combined, collective, univocal actions. Only this way can a result be achieved”.

Russia has repeatedly showed its willingness to cooperate with the US in fighting terrorism. However, there has not been a positive answer from Washington about this possibility. In fact, Washington has sought to exclude Russia, Iran and Syria from its “international coalition” to fight against the ISIL.

The doubts about the real intention behind US airstrikes in Syria have also been fed by the announcement by President Barack Obama that he would ask Congress to quickly authorize the arming and training of Syrian armed groups in order to enable them to fight against the ISIL. Actually, this is not new. The CIA has trained Syrian terrorists in Jordan for years and has supplied them with “lethal and non lethal” weapons as a part of a US strategy aimed at overthrowing the Syrian government and President Bashar al-Assad. Earlier this year, Obama asked US Congress 500 million dollars to fund a train-and-equip program. However, the plan has stalled on Capitol Hill up to now.

Similarly, Washington has given green light to Turkey and the Persian Gulf Arab States, mainly Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to send weapons and money to the terrorist groups in Syria. If the US finally supplies the Syrian armed gangs with more weapons, this will undoubtedly be a strong signal to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, which will likely make similar efforts.

This is not only an open aggression against an independent state but also a violation of international law. It is also at odds with the vision that Obama announced for the Middle East when he ran for president on a pledge to end the war in Iraq.

The old failed strategy

Above all, if the real goal was actually to defeat the ISIL, this strategy would be wrong and doomed to failure for several reasons. After three years of war, the Syrian “moderate” armed groups are close to collapse. The so-called Free Syrian Army has disappeared from the battlefronts in most of the country. Many of its fighters have joined other extremist groups such as the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front or the ISIL itself.

Recently, the site described the way this process has happened in the Quneitra area, near the border with the Zionist entity. It mentioned “the growing preponderance of radicals in the Syrian rebel force fighting Assad´s army”.

The al-Nusra Front has deployed about 4,000-5,000 fighters in this region. The “moderates, who were trained by US and Jordanian instructors in the Jordan territory are between 2.500 and 3.000 now”. According to the site, a shift in this ratio has taken place in last four months for two main reasons:

1 – The propaganda campaign of the extremist organizations, like the al-Nusra Front or the ISIL, among the other groups is very active and successful. Many fighters feel attracted by these groups´ simplistic message and their superior organization and will to fight.

2 – The al-Nusra Front fighters have been infiltrating in other groups, including the FSA, in order to recruit new members and persuade them into submission.

The second mistake of Obama’s declared strategy is that it is based on the alleged desire of “moderate groups” to fight the ISIL or even the al-Nusra Front. However, this does not take into account that the al-Nusra Front and the so-called Islamic Front, for example, share the same ideology as the ISIL. The differences between them are the result of disputes on leadership or tactics. Although the ISIL has fought the al-Nusra Front in northern and eastern Syria and has rejected al-Qaeda´s leader Ayman al Zawahiri´s recommendations to limit its fight to Iraq, both groups have recently reached an agreement in order to stop their clashes.

Recently, the al-Nusra Front has left eastern Syria to the ISIL and moved to Quneitra. Recently, it seized a town and crossing in this area. This has also increased the danger to Jordan, which has seen how the ISIL and the al-Nusra Front are now deployed near its borders.

The Free Syrian Army has also extensive links with the ISIL. The publication of a photograph showing American Senator John McCain rubbing elbows with the so-called FSA commanding officers, including the ISIL´s leader and self-proclaimed “caliph” Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, as well as the release by the Syrian government to the UN Security Council of a letter from the FSA Chief of Staff arranging - at the behest of France and Turkey - for the distribution of weapons to al-Qaeda, have put an end to the myth of the enmity between both groups.

According to the US site, Barak Barfi, the spokesman for the family of murdered American journalist Steven Sotloff, claimed on September 8 that Sotloff was sold to the ISIL by Syria’s “so-called moderate rebels”. Barfi, a foreign policy research fellow at the New American Foundation, made this claim in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

“We believe that these so-called moderate rebels that people want our administration to support, one of them sold him probably for something between $25,000 and $50,000 to … [ISIL] and that was the reason he was captured,” Barfi said.

A recent study by the London-based small-arms research organisation Conflict Armament Research has also showed that a massive amount of US arms supplied to the “moderate Syrian opposition” have ended up in the ISIl´s hands. Some of these weapons, such as M-16 assault rifles and anti-tank Tow missiles, were supplied to the so-called FSA by Saudi Arabia and quickly spread out among other rebel groups including the ISIL and the al-Nusra Front. A part of these weapons has been captured by Kurdish forces in Iraq.

This finding shows that the armed groups in Syria are not so divided as some US officials pretend and that their fighters and weapons often flow back and forth. FSA militants are also reported to sell weapons to the ISIL and the al-Nusra Front or even join themselves to these terrorist organizations.

Therefore, Obama´s strategy to supply the FSA and other so-called “moderate” elements in Syria is doomed to fail if the real goal is to defeat the ISIL. These weapons will be used by those groups to carry out more terrorist attacks against the civilian population and to weaken the Syrian army, the sole real force which can defeat and destroy the ISIL in Syria. If Obama was sincere in his alleged aim of destroying the ISIL, he would be considering the Syrian army as the basic ally in this effort.

In this way, the continuation of these old misguided policies suggests that the real goal of the current campaign of the US Administration is the same as it has always been: the installation of a puppet regime in Syria and the fight against the resistance in the region. All its statements on the fight against the ISIL and terrorism are, then, just rhetoric or a “fantasy” in the words of Obama himself.
Yusuf Fernandez is a journalist and the secretary of the Muslim Federation of Spain.

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