Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
May 20, 2014

Syira: As Obama Offers Them Weapons Islamists Change Stripes

This week the Saudi appointed Syrian opposition leader Ahmad Jarba met with U.S. president Obama and other officials:

"President Obama welcomed the coalition's leadership and constructive approach to dialogue, and encouraged the coalition to further its vision for an inclusive government that represents all of the people of Syria," the White House said.

That call was heard (together with the offer of additional arms) by the Islamic Front, now the biggest opposition military group on the ground, and it decided to forgo the head-chopping, to immediately change its stripes to spots and to become a secular democracy loving organization:

The largest coalition of Islamist rebels in Syria issued a manifesto over the weekend that calls for the increasingly fractious rebels to unite around the notion of liberating the country from the government of President Bashar Assad and installing a free state that will protect the rights of religious minorities, not an Islamist state.

Its document includes promise to attack the former Al-Qaeda franchise ISIS but does not mention the current Al-Qaeda representation in Syria Jabhat al-Nusra. Groups belonging to the Islamic Front, which includes the Salafist Ahrar al-Shams, have in the past regularly cooperated with al-Nusra.

It is not plausible that the Islamic Front new direction is serious. Its groups and fighters have a Salafist Jihadi doctrine and their core demand has always been the creation of an Islamic state. Several massacres of no-Sunni civilians have been committed by its groups. Its "change" is likely just a temporary sham demanded by Washington to "justify" the provision of U.S. weapons to these barbaric forces.

Some additional points from the opposition side on the visit in Washington:

U.S. President Barak Obama surprised his guests from the Syrian National Coalition last week by saying that the Sunnis in the Syrian army are behind President Assad’s survival “not the Iranian or Russian support”.

“We were totally baffled by Obama’s comments. We were not prepared to answer them” according to 2 senior sources from the Syrian opposition and the Syrian General Staff present at the meeting held in the White House last week.

Obama met with the Leader of the Syrian National Coalition Ahmed al-Jarba on May 13 for about 40 minutes. Another meeting with his National Security Advisor Suzan Rice ensued and lasted about 2 hours.

“We didn’t get specific answers on our demands” one source said “but Jarba put forward a proposal to let the Syrian opposition buy weapons from a third party and there was no objection” he added.

Later during a meeting with Rice, the opposition demanded Washington’s help through providing maintenance to spoils taken form government forces depots “there was no objection on that too”.

Obama obviously knows that Assad has a majority of the population, including most Sunnis, behind him. But is still pushing the opposition to further fights and has promised to provide it with additional weapons. According to Elijah J Magnier's Gulf sources:

1. West agreed to provide Syrian opposition with lethal weapons, intelligence information and military training. This agreement is conditioned to the opposition’s commitment to stop any connection to al-Qaeda (Jabhat al-Nusra) and to continue fighting the Islamic State “ISIS”.
4. According to the source, “the communiqué is not direct to Jabhat al-Nusra. Its fighters should remain and fight both the regime and ISIS but under a different flag, dropping the one of al-Qaeda fi Bilad al-Sham.

5. It was agreed that the West would support the opposition by all means, as long as it doesn’t include in it ranks foreign fighters and distance itself from al-Qaeda.

As the secular opposition, which has hardly ever been one, can no longer be found Washington has decided that somewhat renaming the Salafist including Al-Qaeda's al-Nusra fighters to "democrats" is sufficient to provide them with weapons and training.

Like ex-UN Syria envoy Brahimi Obama knows that the Russians were right with their assessment of Syria from the very beginning. But driven by Israels goals and continued lobbying from the Gulf (pdf) he still insist to urge the fighting on. Syria, this logic says, must be destroyed by all possible means.

Posted by b on May 20, 2014 at 15:38 UTC | Permalink


What more proof does one need that many of the opposition are foreigners, than this from Haaretz The Syrian opposition is willing to give up claims to the Golan Heights in return for cash and military aid against Assad. The filth would no doubt also sell their Grandmothers.

Posted by: harry law | May 20 2014 16:03 utc | 1

Patrick Cockburn had this to say in Counterpunch in March this year, "The armed opposition in Syria and Iraq is today dominated by Salafi jihadists, fundamentalist Islamic fighters committed to holy war. Western governments may not care very much how many Shia die in Syria, Iraq or Pakistan, but they can see that Sunni movements with beliefs similar to the al-Qa’ida of Osama bin Laden, today have a base in Iraq and Syria far larger than anything they enjoyed in Afghanistan before 9/11 when they were subordinate to the Taliban".The US will use Jihadis to fight governments they dislike in the middle east and support Fascists in Europe. They would support the Devil himself, and they do [Saudi Arabia] to expand the US empire.

Posted by: harry law | May 20 2014 16:36 utc | 2

Nobody takes seriously that ridiculous declaration that Qatar and Turkey have advised Al Nusra, The Islamic front and its little brothers among the rebels to make.
We know that the USA is naive but not to the extent of believing that these hard core Islamists want a democracy after having hammered for 3 years they want an Islamic State.

An interesting article shows that Saudi Arabia is backing off from giving military support to the rebels while careful not to allow Qatar and Turkey's Moslem Brotherhood friends to take a lead.
Iran made a huge mistake in cozying too quickly with Morsi in Egypt as they thought they could get along better with an Islam-leaning president than with a USA-leaning president. They must repair that mistake.
An Iran-Saudi rapprochement could be a humiliating blow to the USA, France, the UK and Turkey as it will drive the 'moderate' rebels to total oblivion.
In anticipation for that , one wonders if by openly contradicting the established mantra that Sunnis in Syria are oppressed by Alawites helped by Iran and Russia, Kerry is preparing for that eventuality.

Chastened Saudis Look to Iran Detente May 19, 2014 Exclusive: Last year, Saudi intelligence chief Bandar bin Sultan was swaggering around the world boasting of Saudi influence over radical jihadists from Syria to Chechnya and collaborating with Israel against Iran. But Bandar is gone and the Saudis may be retrenching, writes Andres Cala.

Posted by: Virgile | May 20 2014 16:44 utc | 3

Obama surprise drop-in backtap lasted 40 minutes?

Obama holds surprise meeting with Syrian opposition leader

The US is staying mute on Jarba's pleas for weapons despite closer ties

President Barack Obama held a surprise meeting with Syrian opposition leader Ahmad Jarba on Tuesday, in a gesture of growing cooperation between the White House and the mainstream Syrian opposition.

Jarba was originally not scheduled to meet with the US president during a trip to the US this week, and had instead held meetings with US Secretary of State John Kerry. However, Obama dropped in on a meeting between Jarba and National Security advisor Susan Rice.
- See more at:

Posted by: Virgile | May 20 2014 16:53 utc | 4

More Yankee Dumbinence?
I'm guessing that Obama is being told to start worrying about where the jihadis will end up when they leave Syria. It's easy to overlook the fact that Obama & BBC's 'rebels' are as cowardly, clueless and factionalised as ever. All this dopey move will do is speed up the rate at which they're killing each other PLUS make them easier for the SAA to identify and exterminate.
If I had a million bucks I'd bet all of it that this is an "Israeli" idea.
It's breathtakingly myopic and a win for Assad, imo.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | May 20 2014 17:03 utc | 5

the usa - number uno warmongering nation.. who whudda thunk it? mr peace prize himself ensuring the military complex he oversees continues to reap the largesse of such an outstanding country (past tense).

Posted by: james | May 20 2014 17:11 utc | 6

Yes, I haven't read more about the latest Saudi terrorist dragnet ... but the battle-tested veterans of jihad in syria are very much chickens coming home to roost in many places -- and, as Sunni's they are returning to their Sunni homelands ready to start work ... Yes, moderate Sunnis in Syria and KSA and Jordan and Iraq really do not relish being dominated by these terrorism-prone Salafis. Yes, if 'our' support of the Al-Qa’ida allied "rebels" in Syria was bizarre, the rest of the Sunni world is wondering "how ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm, after they've seen Damascus" ...

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | May 20 2014 17:18 utc | 7

Susan, the idea that the Sunni leaders are independent of Washington's will, even a little bit independent, is delusory. The reality is that they are required to pretend to be rebelling against Washington's will from time to time, to give the whole process as many layers of deniability as possible. For Washington (or Langley), deniability is not some sort of optional extra. It's a vital necessity, and a very high proportion of CIA time is devoted to refining and developing it. Everything depends on deniability. Most of all, the illusion that there is a real enemy has to be maintained, in Usaia as it was for many years in Israel. Until now, al-Qaeda was the Great Enemy, though there are signs that AQ is being gently nudged into the retirement home, to be replaced by "even more extreme" phony enemies. It's all fake, which is why it's all so cheap, vulgar and inconsequential. In general, the division of labor is that Langley builds the phony "AQ franchises" up and then JSOC knocks them down. That way, they can minimise the number of people at the Pentagon who know the truth about the targets, which is that they were phony all along, but it doesn't take much skill to figure it out. The obvious giveaway is that the drones always miss the leaders and get the "#2s", by hitting the rebel camps half an hour after the leaders just "happened" to leave on undisclosed errands elsewhere.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | May 20 2014 17:39 utc | 8

The Saudis and the other GCC countries all serve one master, the USA,[the Boss of Bosses] the Saudis may be "a made man" but ultimately they know their place, without US backing their thrones would be on brittle glass,Why else would the Saudis buy 60 billion dollars worth of military equipment from the US, to rot away in the desert?

Posted by: harry law | May 20 2014 18:02 utc | 9

A report surfaced in Canada a few weeks ago which revealed that the Canadian military had drawn ups plans to assist in a Libya-style regime change operation in Syria, which cynically proposed two phases. The first would see the removal of Assad in alliance with the jihadi militias. The second phase would then turn against these same militias, defeating them in alliance with supposedly moderate forces. Two wars in one (and certainly nothing could possibly go wrong with that plan).

Posted by: jayc | May 20 2014 19:10 utc | 10

Jayc, that isn't as preposterous as it sounds, if you factor in the idea that Russia is intended to (apparently) win the contest of the great power titans, not Usaia. Once Russia 'wins', the Jihadis will be toast.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | May 20 2014 21:40 utc | 11

"But driven by Israels goals"

That is the west's war criminal assault on Syria reduced to the bare essentials.

Posted by: scalawag | May 20 2014 21:56 utc | 12

The gifts of MERS and genetically altered Clostridium tetani, not enough?

Posted by: miri | May 20 2014 22:02 utc | 13

The farce of the rebels in Syria continues...

Nusra rejects Islamist militias’ code of honor

Nusra complained that concepts of national affiliation were clearly more important than religious concepts in the code of honor.

“Points three, five, six and eight [in the code of honor] all spread the spirit of civic-mindedness and belonging to land and the nation,” it said.

“Everyone should be aware that the Islamic state we desire is one based on religion, belief and Shariah before anything else. ... For us, Muslims cannot be equal to infidels,” it added.

Read more:

Posted by: Virgile | May 21 2014 0:41 utc | 14

@10 jayc - all under 'harper the idiots' direction, i am quite sure..

Posted by: james | May 21 2014 1:08 utc | 15

From Juan Cole, under the very peculiar title of "" The Obama Effect? Are Iran/ Saudi-and-GCC no longer on a war footing?""

juan cole: The Obama Effect? Are Iran/ Saudi-and-GCC no longer on a war footing?A>.

There are signs of a diplomatic thaw between Iran and the Arab oil monarchies of the Gulf. It has just been announced that the ruler of Kuwait, Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, will make a state visit to Iran. This news comes after it was confirmed that the Iranian foreign minister has been invited to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

A year ago, relations between Iran and the Arab oil monarchies of the Gulf were at a nadir. Iran supports the Shiite government of Iraq, supports the Bashar al-Assad Baath government in Syria, supports Shiite protesters in Bahrain, supports populist Muslim fundamentalists in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, and supports Hizbullah in Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia and its allies support Iraqi Sunni Arabs, support the rebels trying to overthrow al-Assad, support the Sunni monarchy in Bahrain against the Shiite demonstrators, support secular and/or Salafi currents in North Africa against the Muslim Brotherhood, and support Saad al-Hariri (a Sunni) and the March 14 coalition in Syria against Hizbullah. We learned last week that Saudi Arabia has invited Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, to the Saudi capital.

Why the apparent thaw and move to diplomacy?

I'm rather certain that this "thaw" is more in-spite-ofrather than because of some double-good-nobelpeaceprize-magic embodied by Team Obama/Kerry/Biden ... but all this change on the part of KSA is intriguing ... (and again, Iran's willingness to participate belies the incredibly ridiculous media portrait of Iranian intransigence)

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | May 21 2014 17:17 utc | 16

my bad.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | May 21 2014 17:18 utc | 17

@16 susan sunflower.. as other commentators have noted, a direct reason for the help in the thaw of us/iran relations is russia.. notice what kind of treatment they get for that?

Posted by: james | May 21 2014 18:06 utc | 18

It is interesting -- The Saudi's have relied on us to deal with Yemen and of course with Hussain in GWI, in particular, and they certainly were eager to have Moamar Gadhafi and Bashir Assad and Saddam Hussain removed -- and smiled on our assistance. KSA seemed to see them as not only rivals, but in the case of Gadhafi and Hussain secular even socialist rivals. I'm not entirely sure how far back and where/when the KSA versus Iran "rivalry" arose from -- or its status prior the Iranian revolution/deposing of the Shah/Iran Hostage crisis -- and the declaration of Iran as a Islamic Republic (announcing that Iran was resolutely not a western lapdog).

Sunni Islam so vastly outnumbers Shhia Islam that I'm suddenly wondering if that has anything to do with this long-standing "rivalry" -- and/or if this is a continuation of a cold-war fairytale, based on the Saudi Kingdom being staunch anti-communists and "our friends" and everyone else being "shifty".

The Bush administration was so obsessed with the GWOT and oil -- and our "war on terror" activities were so heavy handed and had so many strings attached, and then the misuse (or perfect use) of the World Bank and the IMF and the UN and ... as American puppet institutions, all "conspired" to encourage other regional alliances that did not include us, and they seem to all be coming into their own. Will have to poke around to see what's up with the TPP, but I gather that trip to Japan represented much (MUCH) more of a set-back than reported (hooray). The XL pipeline also seems less likely to be "pragmatically" approved -- the public has come to simply know too much, like that oil isn't destined for our gas tanks ... I'm not "hoping" for bad times, but a certain amount of "realignment" would be healthy.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | May 21 2014 19:22 utc | 19

The Sauds have been part of a covert alliance with Israel under the general umbrella of the CIA since the end of WW2, following the usual CIA brief of destroying all opposition to western imperial rule. Now that Israel is finally doing what I have been predicting for two years, namely reversing its alliances and turning against Usaia, Saudi is following suit. This removes the raison d'être for the persecution of Iran, which was an artificial one anyway.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | May 21 2014 19:27 utc | 20

susan and rowan - it is my understanding ksa is really messed up and reliant on it's relationship with the usa in some really strange ways.. i predict the next really big war will involve them directly - 2019/2020 area. this is based on mundane astrology, a hobby of mine..

Posted by: james | May 21 2014 22:26 utc | 21

the other conflict as i was always told was religion - one nation sunni, and the other shia.. also as i understand it, saudi arabia continues to support the overthrow of assad in syria, while iran is opposed to it..

Posted by: james | May 22 2014 0:00 utc | 22

I'm gonna have to do some research on the history of this conflict. The problem with an overthrow of Assad by fundamentalist Sunnis (salafis) is that they will undoubtedly use Syria as a staging ground to destabilize Iraq either as "foreign jihadists" or by supporting the Sunni minority in Iraq. Since (Shiia) Iran wants Iraq to continue to be a Shiite state (only Iran and Iraq are Shiite majority countries), they oppose the rebels and have provided material support to Assad. Assad's Syria was very helpful to the fledgling Iraqi government in times of turmoil (and also accepted extraordinary numbers of Sunni refugees). There's also the matter of the Kurds on the horizon. Among the many Syrian refugees are many Kurds who have crossed into the Iraq Kurdish areas. The Iraqi Kurds would just as soon be independent and swelling their numbers could help destabilize both Iraq and Turkey on the Kurdish problem (they'd like their own state made up of the Kurdish parts of Iraq, Syria and Turkey as I understand it) front.
I'm gonna have to do some research about the Iran/Saudi "feud" -- except that the Saudi tribe has always been seen by many in the middle east as nobody-Bedouins who would still herding goats and camels if it weren't for the British and the Suez Canal and the Americans (and historically other) and all that oil -- upstart nouveau riche goat-herders -- and Western lapdogs -- and in fact, the Saudis did benefit with Egypt and other countries in the area turned toward the Soviet Union, even if briefly (fatally) for help during the cold war. The democratically elected prime minister of Iran who was so infamously overthrown/deposed by the CIA in 1953 to install the (brutal) Shah had nationalized Iran's oil industry -- outraging, particularly, the British. Funny because control of the Suez canal was also contested -- Britain controlled it from 1882 until circa 1956 when Nasser (of Egypt) -- nationalized it ... Egypt was always the "leader" in the middle east and north africa, in part because of the British Empire considered them such. Egypt was a British "client state" until 1936.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | May 22 2014 1:46 utc | 23

Well, Susan, the Sauds know that they have gotten in much too deep this time, and they know that Usaia is on the skids, because the Israelis have told them so. They have also had to take the general deniability thing to a whole new level by going through the motions of sacking Bandar, in conformity with the CIA's most urgent demand, which is that under no account is it ever to become apparent that they (the CIA) were and remain ultimately responsible for al-Qaeda. If the Usaian public ever grasped that the conspiracy theorists had been right all along, that CIA had been running al-Qaeda from behind the curtains for decades, including throughout the 9/11 period, then that would be the end of the CIA. The President would have to disestablish it. He'd probably get his head blown off in a sort of Dallas rerun, but then, he probably will anyway. The Sauds don't like this shit at all. They were happy when Bandar spent all his time on Dubya's ranch, earning the soubriquet 'Bandar Bush' throughout the region, but things have changed, and not for the better.

Another thing the Sauds know is that the idea of imposing Sunni orthodoxy right across the vast and sprawling Muslim world is not a realistic one. Certainly, if the great slush fund in the sky is going to disappear, it's less realistic than it ever was. But it's never been realistic, because the Muslim world can be thought of with some simplification as a great flat plain surrounded by mountains. The further you go into the mountains, the less Sunni it gets. Shia just means partisan, and these mountain clan-based societies are surely that. They can be shot up half to death with helicopter gunships (though you are advised to use Russian ones, because unlike the Usaian Sikorskys they can handle mountain altitudes) but they just won't change. They never have. As for the Persians, well, first they were briefly conquered by the first dynasty of Sunni Caliphs, then they conquered them back, then Genghis Khan came and laid waste to both parties, then the Persians conquered the Arabs again, then the Europeans came. It's a no-win, ultimately. But the Sauds are of course insane, coke-snorting megalomaniacs, not rational people. If you want to read one author on the modern Muslim world, I recommend reading the books of the late Said Aburish. No illusions at all. Aburish lived in the south of France by the way, and I bet he had armed guards. He was the first man to write a real unvarnished portrait of the Sauds.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | May 22 2014 2:14 utc | 24

Oh, apparently we got very cosy with the Saudi's after Nasser became unreliable -- so it may be that Iran took especial umbrage in the aftermath of Mossedeq's ouster and the imposition of the Shah who was extraordinarily brutal and still remains among the most brutal of despots -- and his brutality "infrastructure" was designed and carried out with much assistance from the CIA and MI-5... so the KSA being BFF, particularly since they "usurped" Cairo's traditional role in the Wake of Nasser who was a pan-arabist and leader among non-aligned nations.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | May 22 2014 2:26 utc | 25

Mossadeh had to go, just like Nasser had to go, that's CIA necessity #1. The Shah was perfect, no problems there at all. But the Carter admin decided to dump the Shah, because he was just too evil from a human rights point of view, and this is the sort of damn thing that Dem presidents sometimes do, and the CIA has to adapt somehow when it happens. My own view is that the CIA weren't too keen on the Ayatollah (who was living in France during the overthrow of the Shah), but he was at least anti-Communist, which was the main thing. Sure enough, when the Ayatollah actually took power, he humiliated the USA with the whole long embassy hostage thing, but then he made a deal with Reagan to release the hostages just in time to give Reagan the credit and finish off Carter. So in a way, the Ayatollah was still a US asset, but an ultra-right-wing, emphatically anti-Democrat one, rather than anti-Usaian as such. The CIA know how to play these characters. I have a definite vision of a certain sort of CIA man who tells them: "Actually, we agree with you, Usaia would be much improved by an outright fascist coup. We're working on it, with our friends in the military, you know. But of course, I never said that."

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | May 22 2014 2:50 utc | 26

Oh, I forgot: the Shah had cancer, anyway, and the Carter people knew that, He didn't have long to live. There would have been a succession problem anyway. But the CIA advice would definitely have been, "Don't worry about it, we can keep the dynasty afloat." So the Carter decision to dump the Shah and his family was still a human rights-driven one. All this from memory, so I am prepared for anyone to say, "No, Rowan, you're talking through your asshat."

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | May 22 2014 3:00 utc | 27

Sound analysis of narratives in the Syria conflict, written by Amer Mohsen & published in Al Akhbar.

Posted by: MIDAN | May 22 2014 15:52 utc | 28

Seaumas Milne of Libya: Guardian: Coups and terror are the fruit of Nato's war in Libya.

Justin Raimundo on Libya The Libyan ‘Coincidence’.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | May 23 2014 14:39 utc | 29

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