Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 30, 2016

Elijah Magnier On The Mistakes Of ISIS And The Future Of Jabhat Al-Nusra

Last night Elijah J. Magnier tweeted a small essay about the mistakes the Islamic State leader and his predecessor made in Iraq and Syria. Then followed a shorter essay about Jabhat al-Nusra and the development in Syria. As he is one of the most knowledgeable experts on the war in Syria and Iraq his thoughts deserve a wider discussion.

This is my summary of his tweets on the Islamic State:

Abu Mus'ad al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), ignored directives from Aymen al-Zawaheri, the operational leader of al-Qaeda central, to not attack the Shia in Iraq. Al-Zarqawi attacked Shia and Sunnis who disagreed with him and ignited a sectarian war. Had he only attacked the U.S. occupiers the Shia of Iraq, and the anti-U.S. states around Iraq (Iran, Syria) would have been with him. He could have gained much influence over all Iraq but for his (bloody) mistake.

The leader of the Islamic State (the former AQI) Abu Bakr al Baghdadi made more than one mistake. He rejected al-Qaeda central's advice to restrict his organization to Iraq and to leave Syria to an autonomous al-Qaeda entity Jabhat al-Nusra. The Baghdadi's troops crept into Syria and attacked Jabhat al-Nusra. Until then Jabhat was very low profile, fought successfully and gaining many followers in Syria. It could have gained more men and areas if it had been left alone. But the infighting between Baghdadi's group and Jabhat severely weakened both.

The second mistake Baghdadi made was shortly after the conquering of Mosul. He declared war on all other groups in Iraq and also on Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Kurds and other states. He also incited the "west" against him through his grueling marketing videos. Without that he could have gained much outside support from the various Sunni states. Iraq would look much different today had Baghdadi not declared war on everyone (but on Turkey). Baghdad and parts of south Iraq would probably be in his hands.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is now fought by everyone. It will be defeated and revert back into an underground terrorist organization.

The current talks over Syria in Geneva are unlikely to have any concrete result. But they are a move in the right direction. The Saudi/Qatari/Turkish/U.S. proxy fighters continue to lose ground in Syria. The only hope for those countries and their proxies to receive some benefit from their "investment" in Syria is to gain concessions during negotiations.

The main Jihadi groups, the Islamic State, Jabhat al Nusra (al-Qaeda in Syria) and Ahrar al Sham are not taking part. According to UN resolution 2254 any ceasefire in Syria would exclude these entities and all groups aligned with them. The UN Security Council calls:

... to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh), Al-Nusra Front (ANF), and all other individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with Al Qaeda or ISIL, and other terrorist groups, as designated by the Security Council ... and notes that the aforementioned ceasefire will not apply to offensive or defensive actions against these individuals, groups, undertakings and entities ...

Those groups the Saudis now send to Geneva were previous allied and fighting together with Jabhat al-Nusra. In north Syria Jaish al-Fath, an alliance of Nusra, Ahrar al Shams and various U.S. supported FSA groups, conquered Idleb. But the FSA and other proxy groups will now have to distance themselves from Nusra or will have to go down with it.

Starting from a recent Reuters report that Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al Sham negotiated but failed to unite, Elijah J. Magnier looks at the consequences (edited for readability):

Al-Qaeda asked Ahrar al-Sham to unite over a year ago but Ahrar refused. The news of Ahrar's rejection is thereby not new.
Jabhat al-Nusra tried to keep a low profile, promoting other Syrian rebels, due to its link to al-Qaeda central that crippled it. Jabhat al-Nusra has succeeded to integrate - on the surface - with other rebels group. A smart move to create "Jaish al-Fath" but that won't last.

It was fine as long as Russia was out of direct involvement in the Syria war. Russia now imposed itself not only on the U.S. but also on the regional players. Now that the U.S. is not willing to stand against Russia in Syria, the game is run differently: Salafist Jihadists are no longer tolerated.

The only chance for Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to minimize their losses in Syria is to push all rebels to distance themselves from Jabhat al-Nusra. Russia is aware of that. What Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar have lost on the ground won't be gained in diplomacy at the Geneva talks. Jordan already inspired its proxies to distance themselves from Jabhat al Nusra. Qatar, Turkey and the Saudis will very soon follow.

Jabhat al-Nusra is not unaware of the move. Despite the blood and deep, very deep animosity between Jabhat al Nusra and ISIS they have no choice but to cease hostilities between them. Cessation of hostility does not mean that they will merge. ISIS is in deeper trouble than Nusra.

Jabhat al-Nusra still has another option when ISIS and Nusra will remain the only "two enemies" of everyone in Syria. The majority of Jabhat al-Nustra fighters are Syrians. They can easily disperse within their communities and wait for "better time". This happened before in Iraq during the peak of the "Awakening".

So far Elijah Magnier.

I mostly agree with the above but for the future of Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria. It will surely try to go underground and it will for a while continue to exist as a terrorist entity. But unlike in Iraq  where the U.S. invasion completely destroyed the state and its institutions, Syria still is a real state and has a functioning bureaucracy. Unlike Iraq it has centrally controlled secret services that are able to hunt down underground terrorists. According to Mao the guerrilla fish needs the sea of an accommodating population to swim in. I doubt that enough of the population of Syria will support Jabhat as an underground organization. There will be snitches at every corner and every person somewhat associated with Jabhat al-Nusra will be dead, in jail or under strict surveillance.

So while the Islamic State in Iraq, after it is again cut down to an underground entity, may survive there,  Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria will probably be rooted completely.

Posted by b on January 30, 2016 at 16:21 UTC | Permalink


ISIS and al Nusra were first underground guerrilla operations and they grew into standing armies occupying territory. It is a trajectory that many revolutionary operations have followed. However, I cannot think of any movement that abandoned standing armies and returned to the underground that survived. It must be extremely demoralizing not only for the cadre but also for their supporters among the people.

Posted by: ToivoS | Jan 30 2016 16:54 utc | 1

thanks b... i agree with you in your last paragraph... my only comment regarding isis has to do with there success thanks the west turning a blind eye in order to reach it's own specific goals... although that is not completely accurate as making war in iraq hasn't been in their best interests.. lord knows what their geo political goals are for libya and yemen but it looks like more of the same stupidity, even if they want to hide under saudi arabia's skirt.. are they going to continue to entertain us in the msm with the term 'moderate terrorists' still?

Posted by: james | Jan 30 2016 17:01 utc | 2

"So while the Islamic State in Iraq, after it is again cut down to an underground entity, may survive there, Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria will probably be rooted completely."

I'm curious about your analysis here. If Elijah Magnier is correct and Jabhat al-Nusra is mostly Syrian, why do you suppose that they would have more difficulty surviving than ISIS, which is mostly foreign fighters?

Posted by: Jon S | Jan 30 2016 17:03 utc | 3

That's why I visit this site. Where the hell else can you read analysis that respects the complexity of the events.

Posted by: IhaveLittleToAdd | Jan 30 2016 17:34 utc | 4

Daesh's being moved to wherever it can assist the Outlaw US Empire in its goal of Full Spectrum Domination with local theatre commanders in Libya, Afghanistan, and Syraq. Al-Ciada's more insidious in that it mostly consists of and is supported by locals, although it seems to be more sophisticated at franchising.

Posted by: karlof1 | Jan 30 2016 18:19 utc | 5

The outcome in Syria is largely dependent on how the battlefield progresses. The Assad government and their Hezbollah, Iran and Russian allies will focus on complete defeat of all the various externally supported forces. The Russians have learned from Chechnya that only complete destruction of the jihadis will provide an environment for reconstruction.

While the negotiations drags on, Assad's army and the Russians and their partners with forces on the ground will continue to grind down their enemies. IMO, their first objective will be to seal the border with Turkey and prevent the infiltration of men and material. Then they will systematically clear from west to east all the areas where the jihadis currently have a strong presence. This should take the rest of this year. In 2017, there will then be some kind of ceasefire and election which Assad will win overwhelmingly. The reconstruction of Syria will then begin. Putin is going to come out of this with much respect and power. He and Trump (the next US president) will start a new relationship and era of cooperation between US & Russia.

Posted by: ab initio | Jan 30 2016 18:23 utc | 6

Syria and Russia should not allow these terrorists to live any more. Extend the talk and wipe out all the rodents before even there is chance to discuss peace. There is momentum and they should clean Syria and also ask if Iraqis need help in Mosul. The strategy and tactics used by Syrians can be applied to free up Iraq. Kick the Turkish troops out and make Kurd autonomous state at the border. Once all is done, go for legal battle against Saudi, Qatar, Turkey, GCC, US and UK to rebuild the country.

Posted by: GoodGuy | Jan 30 2016 18:28 utc | 7

"Jordan already inspired its proxies to distance themselves from Jabhat al Nusra.
Qatar, Turkey and the Saudis will very soon follow."

I have a different analysis. The groups are not tight entities and are not similar in operation. Just look at the geographics @ISW.

Al Zarqawi was a loner, a Jordanian wreaking havoc during the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. Of course he had to attack the Shiites with most deadly car bomb attacks in their neighborhood. It's what Saudi Arabia with Wahhabism and the Sunni version of Islam is all about. Takfiris and heretics are always prime targets for their medieval methods of battle. It's about reinstating Sharia law across the Levant and repute secularism in government.

The US rounded up all Sunni resistance fighters and forced mass incarceration. The large prisons became educational centers for extremism and Abu Bakr al Baghdadi made the most of it in Camp Bucca. He became a leader, united Baathist and al Qaeda supporters for the insurgency. Funds and weapons were already coming in from Saudi Arabia for the Sunnis in Anbar province. The US set up the Awakening Council by bribing local tribal leaders who diddn't want outsiders like the Jordanian al Zarqawi and other al Qaeda foreign fughters.

When Maliki decided to stop paying salaries to the Sunni guardsmen in the Awakening Councils, the extremists ceased the opportunity to reorganize a broad resistance in Anbar province. The political statemate in Baghdad furthered their cause in Iraq. The Syrian War gained steam through influx of arms and jihadists from Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Chechnya, Afghanistan and Pakistan. There were two flows of arms and fighters to groups that ignored each other: the Muslim Brotherhood with Qatar with Turkey and the Salafists with GCC states under keadership of Saudi Arabia. The US and the British set up training camps in Jordan for the influx of arms and fighters on the Southern Front. This action supported the Syrian group of Jabhat al Nusra along the Golan Heights and into the suburbs of Damascus (Yarmouk and Ghouta). The Israeli army gave covert support to al Nusra along the border of the Golan Heights and treated their wounded fighters.

For reasons of logistics and because it was a walkover, al Baghdadi expanded into Syria by taking over all border posts and moved along the Euphrates valley into Raqqa and further upto the border with Turkey. Erdogan was quite happy to give the Islamist fighters of ISIL (or ISIS) a free pass in border crossing as they were allied to fight the Syrian Army and do major damage. Large swats of territory was taken and the most important source of income of the oil fields and transport into Turkey. At this stage, ISIS was more of a commercial enterprise making vast sums of money through hostage taking with lots of publicity.

The Obama administration wished to punish Maliki and overthrow Assad in Syria according to the Neocon playbook. This policy would be aligned with their most powerful allies Israel and Saudi Arabia and antagonize Iran, which was considered a terrorist state in Washington and part of the Axis of Evil. The Lebanon crisis and civil war saw the same proxies battling one another. Israel and the US wanted tp break the back of Hezbollah in Lebanon and used all means to attain their goal [see Hariri assassination]. Saudi funds were present in Lebanon and Syria to undermine the state through teachings of Wahhabism in mosques and madrasses. This has been quite succesful and the incitement of hatred has lasted for over a decade.

Just as the Muslim Brotherhood cannot be rooted out in Egypt under the dictatorships of Nasser, Sadat, Mubarak and Sisi, the resitance movement is indigenous and easily goes underground. The executions of its leaders, harsh treatment and torture of prisoners will always be counterproductive. The US and Israel joined this ME practise and reap the consequences. For the US it's the rise of the Islamic State and for Israel it has been Hezbollah [Iran] and Hamas [Qatar and Turkey] in Gaza. It seems the nuclear arms deal of the western powers with Iran has aligned the state of Israel with Saudi Arabia.

Pass me the popcorn, it ain't over yet .... :-)

Posted by: Oui | Jan 30 2016 18:37 utc | 8

It looks like the by subverting the "peace process" the USA is about to make the mistake of ignoring how much Europe needs peace (or at least an end to fighting) in Syria to stem the refugee crisis ... although apparently Europe's glee in doing business with Iran might give them a hint that ramping up rather than ramping down sanctions against Russia, if not a deal-breaker, might bring some fissures in various foreign relationships into the sunlight.
The American People don't and won't care 6000 miles away, but global anti-American sentiments might hit some all-time high.

Has anyone read much about the continental popularity of Libya redux?

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Jan 30 2016 18:40 utc | 9

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Jan 30, 2016 1:40:10 PM | 9

So Rouhani Dropped By In Europe €€€

with a delegation of experts from a broad field.

  • Signed contracts worth €18bn in Rome
  • Made cordial visit to the Vatican
  • Placed an order for 114 aircraft from Airbus in Paris HQ

It was France which dragged its feet before signing the nuclear deal with Iran lifting sanctions. Hollande and Fabius were the heroes in Jerusalem and Riyadh. Even Netanyahu took a few moments to say nice things about France he hates. Hollande was welcomed by the Gulf states and signed contracts to deliver billions worth of military aircraft and goods. Also played tough with Russia's Putin and had to cancel the delivery of two aircraft carriers (later sold to Egypt?!)

The Rouhani signature under the Airbus order wasn't even dry when FM Fabius was sighted in Jerusalem conveying a new threat to the state of Israel:

[Read on here]

Posted by: Oui | Jan 30 2016 19:04 utc | 10

I cannot seem to find the Syrian theater numerical losses suffered by the supervising 'Kosher Amish' command structure? Seeing that they control western press and Russia has nothing to gain by reporting these numbers we all are left in the dark.

Here is what I think occurred since September 30, 2015. Russia has rammed a boot so far up the 'Kosher Amish's' collective anal pore that when they smile you can see boot polish on their tongus. It is my belief that the losses border on catastrophic and the lost oil for nothing criminal profits will disrupt the "Kosher Amish's' economy to the point where financial kaos will ensue. Just my opinion.

Posted by: Alberto | Jan 30 2016 19:31 utc | 11

The US, Russia and the whole world have agreed that Syria will NOT be ruled by an Islamic law, therefore the opposition groups that are looking for a Sharia based constitution are systematically excluded for participating in the next government. What would be left of the expat opposition pumped by two islamist countries, KSA and Turkey?
It seems that the Kurds, Alawites, Christians and non-islamist sunnis are going to take a largest part of the new Syrian government to the displeasure of KSA and Turkey...

Posted by: virgile | Jan 30 2016 19:35 utc | 12

France is in a dramatic economical situation that is affecting its security. Hollande would prostitute himself to get business to run France's factories. As the USA has a monopoly on Saudi Arabia's and the Gulf large businesses, Iran presents a less protected market to the European countries. That's why Italy rushed in and France followed.
Without been asked, Italy covered the nude statues during Rohani's visit, will Hollande insist on offering and drinking wine during the diner with Rohani this time???

Posted by: virgile | Jan 30 2016 19:44 utc | 14

Posted by: karlof1 | Jan 30, 2016 1:19:58 PM | 5

I think that, although the 'classic' Al-CIAduh and Da'esh are both joint ventures of the USA/KSA, Da'esh has the USA at it's very summit, so that it will continue through various reincarnations/crash-burn cycles as long as the USA is amused, whereas Al-CIAduh may die with the Saudis. Presumabably the USA will outlast the Saudis, so Da'esh - or whatever it comes to be called - will too.

Posted by: ab initio | Jan 30, 2016 1:23:08 PM | 6

I agree, if the Syrians/Russians are able to seal the border with Turkey they will have won Syria. Israel Shamir thinks they can't. I suppose it's a question of what does Israel Shamir know. I love your closer ... 'He [Putin] and Trump (the next US president) will start a new relationship and era of cooperation between US & Russia.'

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Jan 30, 2016 1:40:10 PM | 9

'The American People don't and won't care 6000 miles away, ...'

Ain't that the truth ... Bernie/Clinton. I think I will be writing in Tulsi Gabbard on my Democrat primary ballot.

Posted by: virgile | Jan 30, 2016 2:35:27 PM | 12

'It seems that the Kurds, Alawites, Christians and non-islamist sunnis are going to take a largest part of the new Syrian government ...'

May that federation work, and be a model for all!

Posted by: virgile | Jan 30, 2016 2:44:10 PM | 14

'Italy covered the nude statues during Rohani's visit, will Hollande insist on offering and drinking wine during the diner with Rohani this time???'

Will Hollande denounce the racist Charlie Hebdo? I doubt it. I'm sure Rouhani will raise a glass of Vichy, if Hollande insists on wine. The move by the Italians - did it really happen - is certainly something. I'm sure it is not lost on Rouhani. I welcome any conciliatory move, no matter what the 'liberals' say.

Posted by: jfl | Jan 30 2016 22:16 utc | 15

I don't understand some things, b. Hope that you can shed some light on the following:

1) Of sour grapes and cover-ups
The "mistakes" that are cited seem like political "mistakes were made" spin.

EM: Abu Mus'ad al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), ignored directives from Aymen al-Zawaheri, the operational leader of al-Qaeda central, to not attack the Shia in Iraq.
Wasn't al-Zarqawi trying to unite the Sunni tribes? Didn't ISIS grow out of AQI for just that reason?
EM: The leader of the Islamic State (the former AQI) Abu Bakr al Baghdadi . . . rejected al-Qaeda central's advice to restrict his organization to Iraq
But ISIS intended to declare an Islamic State. Why would they CARE what AQ thought ... they expected all Islamists to declare allegiance.

When they took Mosul, they likely got help from state actors (KSA, USA, Turkey).

And by going into Syria they:

1) reinvigorated the effort against the Syrian state which had stalled (as I recall); and

2) took control of oil fields (a needed source of funding).

EM: Bagdadi . . . declared war on all other groups in Iraq and also on Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Kurds and other states. He also incited the "west" ...
But this belligerence was mostly for show, wasn't it. They have actually done very little against other Sunni States (as well as Israel - their ally against Iran).

IS belligerence attracted foreign fighters.

And, until the Russians embarrassed the West, there was substantial covert support for ISIS. For example, bombing of IS was tepid - and covered up. The Intelligence Analysts whistle-blowers are proof of that.

2) Looking forward.

b: The only hope for those countries and their proxies to receive some benefit from their "investment" in Syria is to gain concessions during negotiations.

Why is attacking and occupying ISIS territory out of the question? UNSC 2249 seems to make that possible. Maybe it is more practical for such an attack to occur on Western Iraq instead of Syria? In any case, occupying territory provides many benefits:
1. Humanitarian/Refugee camps

2. Ensure that the "Shite Crescent" remains geographically split;

3. Create a corridor for Qatar gas pipeline;

4. Safeguard Jihadis who may prove useful elsewhere.

5. Limited self-goverance of predominately Sunni area that could morph into a Sunni state.

And why would the 4+1 Coalition make ANY concessions if JaN and ISIS are abandoned (in Syria)?

Is all the talk about possible military action by KSA, USA, and Turkey just bluster? Is HNC irrelevant?

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 30 2016 22:28 utc | 16

Friday January 29, 2016 Turkey shoots down Russian SU-24 allegedly using a Raytheon surface to air missile system supplied by Ukraine/Turkey.

Posted by: Alberto | Jan 30 2016 22:28 utc | 17

Turks shot down 2nd Su?

That VT article is horseshit. If it isn't, we'll be into WWIII before Weds.

Posted by: Denis | Jan 30 2016 23:38 utc | 18

so far, from what I see, Turkey accused Russia of violating airpace (3 hours ago .. now 4 ... BBC) no shots fired THIS TIME but warning of dire consequences NEXT TIME ....

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Jan 31 2016 0:31 utc | 19


Airbus is hardly a single 'French company'. It's an European consortium where German private companies such as Daimler, Deutsche Bank have the largest shareholder these days..

Posted by: Nick | Jan 31 2016 1:06 utc | 20

I've suspected that the Sunni used car bombs, because they couldn't travel around freely, given the Shiia police/death squads who were already picking up, torturing (electric drill signature) and leaving dead bodies on the street. Remember how every morning there were 5-10-15 dead bodies and "no one" knew who had done it? I went looking to see -- duh -- who was getting killed. Again, no one knows ... bullshit. I'd guess families were frantically checking hospitals, jails and morgues when their husbands didn't come home -- jails particularly with the US policy of rounding up everyone at the site of any incident. I don't know if bodies were eventually identified, death certificates, burials, etc. 10 a day is 300 a month is 1000 in 3 months ... it adds up. Eventually, I came to suspect that "no one knows" was because they were (almost) all Sunni ... most picked up by the police -- with so many disappeared and dead, who would be traveling around except by necessity -- who else would be able to pick up, temporarily house while they tortured 5-10-15 people so that there were new bodies in the street every morning.

We gave the Shiia the power to run the show via debaathification. "We" contended there were Sunni death squads too -- it' very murky who and how these were organized and allowed to exist, considering they had no "color of authority" Since there were checkpoints everywhere, making "raids" difficult, using car bombs (business deliveries, etc did go on) was chosen, because only one person had to manage get through to the Shiia neighborhoods -- big bang for the buck with minimal loss of personnel except for the designated driver. As with 09/11 -- even if the "strike" failed -- if the bomb went off, it made the news and there would be some casualities. There were plenty of volunteer jihadi to be the drivers (many too conspicuous to be used in other roles).

I can't prove it but that's is how I worked it out ... All those dead bodies, mostly Sunni men left many many widows and orphans without a breadwinner -- many of whom would then move in with family in "safer areas" -- bingo -- ethnic cleansing by any other name.

Jihad specialist Giles Kepel said around 2004 that if Al-Qa’eda did not manage to take and hold territory he thought that it would eventually be seen as a failure ... while there was a "presence" they had not actually achieved political power or territory. Bin Laden's plan was much much more gradual ... first remove the infidels, then consolidate popular support and then achieve local power, purify the people and then "reestablish" the caliphate (I'm not certain it was a "this lifetime" goal) ... I don't recall Al-Qa’eda intending wholesale slaughter of other Muslims ... Wiki says didn't hate shiia, admired Iran .

ISIS - in contrast - decided to take territory by force, force conversion, enslave the infidel, commit mass murder and rule by local control/terror. "If you build it they will come" I never saw any indication that was Al-Qa’eda's plan.

In Syria, it's possible that having brought down a "world of hurt" -- and failed to seal the deal and win -- the Syrian jihadi rebels will not be particularly welcomed, assuming they are allowed to fade into civilian life.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Jan 31 2016 1:30 utc | 21

It is hard to tell what is "ISIS mistake". What is their "long term interest"? In the long run, we are all dead, and for jihadists, it does not need to be such a long time. Their state is bound to be ephemeral, but if you believe their ideology, the most important goal is to create a glorious legend that will endure and attract fighters for the cause for decades to come, until the conditions will be right to unite the Ummah once more, across Africa from Atlantic to Indian Ocean and from there, to the shores of Pacific.

Like a certain property developer who lately diversified into American politics, al Baghdadi definitely did his marketing homework. Branding is the thing. Jihad needs people who are proud to participate and amenable to sacrifice, and its battle tactics and strategy is heavily dependent on that. Concerning the legend, it will be supported by facts: brave warriors rejecting dirty compromise and kicking ass of all who deserve it, and creating the largest and most enduring realm of pure Islam (I know, I know) in memory. (Theological question: are virgins of paradise recyclable/renewable? there can be damn many heroes who expect them.)

My modest bet is that of the current insurgencies in Iraq and Syria, ISIS will last longest. In Syria, Assad has to take over the fertile part of the country before cleaning the arid east, and in Iraq, vultures are ready to tear the carcass of Islamic State, but they are awfully weary of each other: Kurds of multiple hues and mostly Shia Iraqi with diverse allegiances. In the same time, Turkey and KSA and in the position of sorcerer apprentice, while "Christian part of NATO" will probably pitch in only enough to be modestly helpful -- if at all. It may be that the plan if Iranian strategists of "Shia Crescent" is to hone a cadre of seasoned Iraqi Shia volunteer troops in Syria (I read that Christian volunteers are joining too, Babylonian Brigade) and make them return along Euphrates.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Jan 31 2016 2:04 utc | 22

Daily Telegraph:

The world's largest producer of crude oil will need to "transform" its economy away from oil revenues, which make up more than 80pc of the government's wealth, according to Masood Ahmed, head of the Middle East department at the IMF. [...]

The Saudis have been burning through their reserves at a record pace to protect the riyal's fixed value against a soaring dollar, and should continue to preserve the peg at all costs, said the IMF.

Mr Ahmed said it was "neither necessary nor appropriate" for Riyadh to move to a floating exchange rate, forcing it to undertake record levels of expenditure cuts instead.

"The currency peg has served Saudi Arabia well. It's appropriate for the structure of the economy", he said.


IMF defends its fame as the most authoritative source of insane monetary advise. Defending oil currencies during a slump is the most reliable way of getting rid of cash. Someone, somewhere benefits. I also skipped part of the advise to move the economy away from oil, but it is totally unclear what that would be. The first step should be to decrease the reliance on imported labor that is responsible for 70-90% of actual work, but that requires some elements of austerity, and how that can be done under tutelage of princes whose spending habits are barely from this planet? Like having a parking garage for your favorite cars on board of your jumbo jet?

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Jan 31 2016 2:27 utc | 23

@Susan Sunflower

That Wikipedia paragraph "Jews, Christians, and Shia Muslims" ia utter bs, completely!

The suicide car bomb attack is a signature of Sunni or Salafist nature. During the Iran-Iraq war, Ayatollah Khomeiny made a special ruling for young boys to be martyred by walking into minefields so that their adult fighters would not be decimated. Shia Iran protected their children, life was sacred.

In the Af-Pak region, Shia muslims are regularly targeted by suicide bomb attacks on civilians at mosques, schools or markets.

As soon as suicide car bombs exploded in Damascus and Aleppo I was aware it was the hand of Sunni or Al Qaeda terror. I had written about it immediately even as HRC refused to condemn these horrific attacks.

Osama Bin Laden and Egyptian scholar al Zawahri implemented the Muslim Brotherhood terror for urban warfare. Especially the writings for implementing Sharia Law by Sayyid Qutb has been inspirational. He was hanged by Gamal Nasser in 1966. The purges in Egypt forced the leadership of the MB into exile in the Gulf region, also in Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. Their undermining of the state became a risk for Wahhanism and the Muslim Brotherhood was banned which continued until the present day. This is also the underlying twist in the Syrian opposition groups led by Qatar separate from Saudi Arabia. HRC nor John Kerry managed to unite these groups at the Geneva negotiations for a political settlement.

Posted by: Oui | Jan 31 2016 2:29 utc | 24

A follow-up ...

○ Implementing Sharia Law by Sayyid Qutb of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood
UNHCR: Child Soldiers Global Report 2001 - Iran

Posted by: Oui | Jan 31 2016 2:30 utc | 25

Possible consequence of the defeat of ISIS on the Turkish border.
Syrian civil war: Could Turkey be gambling on an invasion? By Patrick Cockburn

The five-year campaign by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s to overthrow Assad in Damascus, by backing the armed opposition, looks to be close to defeat.

Turkey could respond to this by accepting a fait accompli, conceding that it would be difficult for it to send its army into northern Syria in the face of strong objections from the US and Russia. But, if the alternative is failure and humiliation, then it may do just that. Gerard Challiand, the French expert on irregular warfare and the politics of the Middle East, speaking in Erbil last week, said that “without Erdogan as leader, I would say the Turks would not intervene militarily [in northern Syria], but, since he is, I think they will do so”.

Posted by: virgile | Jan 31 2016 2:46 utc | 26

Dennis @18

I hope it is BS too! I agree that VT is an uneven source of information.

Posted by: Alberto | Jan 31 2016 2:51 utc | 27

Posted by: Oui | Jan 30, 2016 9:29:25 PM | 24

google books: Osama Bin Laden by By Michael Scheuer
This popped up from 2011.
It agrees that "settling scores with Shiia" was on the list at #3 but that the list was sequential and "banishing the infidel was #1, destroying Muslim tyrannies and Israel was #2, and it was at #3 to avoid distraction from #1 and #2.
I would have thought that having the Sunni population so concentrated in Iran and Iraq, ethnic cleansing might suffice -- or -- that he believe that the obvious superiority of Sunni, Wahabbism would be demonstrated to the world and mass conversion might occur.
I've read that he and his Saudi posse were incredibly dismissive of the Taliban who, although Sunni and "devout" were considered unsophisticated, badly education rubes (and that the Saudis in general were a bit snobby, which I suspect was true-enough) ... not of-the-people Guevara guerrilla revolutionaries. ... although ISIS reportedly has read the books, even if they're not "revolutionaries" either.
There are quite a lot of Shiia voluntarily living as virtual or actual second class citizens in Sunni countries ... I can't get a handle on how the day-to-day non-violent dynamics of this division work, how much hostility, how much shunning, etc.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Jan 31 2016 3:35 utc | 28

' The majority of Jabhat al-Nustra fighters are Syrians'

really? ive not seen much info on ethnic composition of these groups

Posted by: brian | Jan 31 2016 4:27 utc | 29

@Susan Sunflower

How OBL's prime target became the fall of the House of Saud

The Rise, Corruption, and Coming Fall of the House of Saud. Author Said K. Aburish talks about Osama bin Laden's roots in Saudi Arabia's dissident movement--a movement which seeks to drive 'infidel' U.S. forces out of the Saudi kingdom, the land of the two holy mosques of Mecca and Medina.

Bin Laden Increases His Challenge to the House of Saud

Posted by: Oui | Jan 31 2016 5:58 utc | 30

PBS: Biography of Osama Bin Laden

His father Mohammed Awad bin Laden came to the kingdom from Hadramout (South Yemen) sometime around 1930. The father started his life as a very poor laborer (porter in Jeddah port), to end up as owner of the biggest construction company in the kingdom. During the reign of King Saud, bin Laden the father became very close to the royal family when he took the risk of building King Saud's palaces much cheaper than the cheapest bid. He impressed King Saud with his performance but he also built good relations with other members of the royal family, especially Faisal.

Late 1989 after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, he went to the kingdom in an ordinary trip. There he was banned from travel and was trapped in the kingdom. The Soviet withdrawal might have been a factor but the main reason for the travel ban were his intentions to start a new "front" of jihad in South Yemen. In addition, he embarrassed the regime by lectures and speeches warning of impending invasion by Saddam. At that time the regime was at very good terms with Saddam.

Between his arrival to Sudan and early 1994 he was not regarded publicly as Saudi opposition and Saudi citizens were visiting him without too much precautions. Only the well-informed people would know that he was classified as enemy to the Saudi regime. His assets were frozen sometime between 1992 and 1994 but that was not published. The Saudis decided to announce their hostility early 1994 when they publicized withdrawing his citizenship.

After long silence and tolerance, bin Laden replied by issuing a communiqué condemning the Saudi decision and saying that he does not need the "Saudi" reference to identify himself and it is not up to Al-Saud to admit or expel people from Arabian Peninsula. He then formed together with activists and scholars from the kingdom a group called "Advice and Reform Committee" (ARC).

The car bomb in spring 1995 in Riyadh was the first major anti-American action in the kingdom. Bin Laden never claimed responsibility, but the Saudi government tried to link the incident to bin Laden by showing video confessions of four "Arab Afghans" involved in the bombing.

June 1996, after his arrival in Afghanistan was the Khobar bombing. Nobody claimed responsibility, but sources from inside the Saudi ministry of interior confirmed involvement of Arab Afghans, with possible link to bin Laden The Saudi government wanted to frame Shi'a, at the beginning but Americans were very suspicious of the Saudi story. Bin Laden himself never claimed responsibility but gave many hints that he might have been involved. The Saudi government has acknowledged recently that bin Laden's men were behind the bombing.

In Saudi Arabia, the oil-rich province and town Qatif have a majority of Shia population. See the recent execution of scholar Nimr al-Nimr. In addition, the Saudis have taken up the role to protect the Bahrain government from overthrow by its Shia majority. After the Iraq invasion, the Sunni-Shia division has become an underpinning of unrest and open sectarian war. The US under Obama will not put boots on the ground so decided to profit by massive supply of arms and modern fleet of fighter aircraft. Let the proxy armies to the fighting and dying.

Posted by: Oui | Jan 31 2016 5:59 utc | 31

@29 Agreed, I have serious doubt about a mostly Syrian composition of JAN rank & file. Some disenfranchised youths yes maybe but a majority? I need to see sources before believing Magnier's stance which I find suspicious..

Posted by: Lozion | Jan 31 2016 7:46 utc | 32



Posted by: Chipnik | Jan 31 2016 8:39 utc | 33

Unsubstantiated opinion: "The majority of Jabhat al-Nustra fighters are Syrians"

Jabhat al-Nusra terror group with ties to AQI

Jabhat al-Nusra (sometimes translated as the Nusra Front) was formed in late 2011, when Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) emir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi sent AQI operative Abu Muhammad al-Julani to Syria to organize jihadist cells in the region.

In 2012, al-Nusra began to rise to prominence among rebel organizations in Syria for its reliable supply of arms, funding, and fighters that came from a combination of foreign donors and AQI. Considered well trained, professional, and relatively successful on the battlefield, al-Nusra earned the respect and support of many rebel groups, including many moderate-leaning groups, early in the war.

However, although it has avoided tactics like the brutal executions and sectarian attacks that made AQI unpopular, al-Nusra engendered opposition among some Syrians at the beginning of the conflict by imposing religious laws in areas it controlled.

Al-Nusra was also the first Syrian force to claim responsibility for suicide terrorist attacks that killed civilians in early 2012. Still, the group's reputation among rebels and the Syrian population was strong enough that when the United States designated it as a terrorist organization in December 2012, a number of anti-government groups including some Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters protested the designation.

Throughout 2012, a group of Al Qaeda (AQ) veterans known by Western media as the "Khorasan Group " allegedly began to arrive in Syria, reportedly using their relatively safe haven there to develop international terror plots. The group is reportedly directed by AQ central leadership and harbored by al-Nusra. Al-Nusra has denied the existence of the group.

Posted by: Oui | Jan 31 2016 9:59 utc | 34

Posted by: Oui | Jan 31, 2016 12:59:02 AM | 31
I don't think we're disagreeing. Bin Laden/Al-Qaida "evolved" / changed in reaction to events and challenges to being seen as the vanguard, but the differences between Isis and Al-Qaida as far as I'm aware are fairly extreme. Al-Qaida being more easily considered an evolution of "anti-imperialism"; ISIS is a conquering army attempting to create or "reclaim" an empire.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Jan 31 2016 10:02 utc | 38

@Susan Sunflower

True, I agree wholeheartedly!

Posted by: Oui | Jan 31 2016 10:10 utc | 39

ISIS erupted out of vindictiveness towards the US and its allies for its murderous spree across Iraq [plus incarcerations Abu Ghraib, Camp Bucca, torture, maiming] plus the Maliki government pushing out representation of Sunni delegations in the Baghdad political proces.

ISIS Abu al-Baghdadi got support from Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar province, the Baathist military leaders and from the old garde of Saddam's intelligence officers trained according to the school of Stalin.

Posted by: Oui | Jan 31 2016 10:37 utc | 40

check that in al watan
algeria suspends flights with tripoli after noticing an influx in moroccans heading to libya without any proper documents, i.e. probably for djihad.
another nice franco-american trick?

Posted by: Mina | Jan 31 2016 11:42 utc | 42

b, I don't see the value in this sort of "mistake" analysis when most of the "mistakes" became perceived as such only after Russia entered the war.

Posted by: Berry Friesen | Jan 31 2016 14:38 utc | 45

Oops! Let me rephrase that for you...

b, I don't see the value in this sort of "mistake" analysis when most of the "seemed like a good idea at the time" stuff became perceived as mistakes only after Russia entered the war?
There - a question which answers itself.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 31 2016 15:11 utc | 46

One other major mistake (although to people who are not aquainted with the Islamic culture, it might seem trivial) was that they cut out and consumed HEARTS & LIVERS and engaged in tht particulars type of cannibalism. Beside the fact that cannibalism is of course condemned in Islam, this particular act refers to a "satanic act" commited by Hind against the Profeet's uncle, Hamza, after the latter was slain in Battle of Uhud, when he rose up to defend Mohammad.
This Liver-Eating act, immediately disqualified the whole movement as beIng en par with Hind and the anti-Islamic movement of the 7th century and lost them a large chunk of support within even the Sunni community.

Posted by: A | Jan 31 2016 15:23 utc | 47

IsUS grew out of the USA realizing their catastrophe of enabling the Shia and Iran gain control of Iraq.
Their absolute collusion with the Zionists also illuminate that reality,as they are treated in Israeli hospitals.They are in Syria to do the bidding of thew Zionists to eradicate one of Israels enemies.
We absolutely care not one iota for all the innocents murdered.
OT;Oregon.I read at Wapo that a lot of people are rallying to the site.They shot that guy in cold blood,from behind.And over at the Graun all(99%)of the respondents are happy and wish for more dead.Wow,are liberals the most bigoted people on earth or what?

Posted by: dahoit | Jan 31 2016 15:36 utc | 48

"Al Zarqawi was a loner, a Jordanian wreaking havoc during the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. Of course he had to attack the Shiites with most deadly car bomb attacks in their neighborhood. It's what Saudi Arabia with Wahhabism and the Sunni version of Islam is all about. ..."

US Military plays up role of Zarqawi (and AQI)

There were also reports that the US military was setting up checkpoints and boobytrappying civilians' cars.

Remember the two SAS special forces' soldiers in Al Qaeda garb who were captured setting up IED's in Basra. The Iraqis refused to release them, and the British sent in tanks to break down the prison walls.

Posted by: Les | Jan 31 2016 15:40 utc | 49

If (as b states) "It was fine as long as Russia was out of direct involvement in the Syria war," then the primary "mistake" the parties discussed by b made was to fail to anticipate Russia's entry into the conflict.

Posted by: Berry Friesen | Jan 31 2016 15:57 utc | 50

Posted by: Berry Friesen | Jan 31, 2016 10:57:33 AM | 50

Strictly speaking, that was a secondary mistake. The USG's primary mistake was facilitating the looting of AmeriKKKa's Defense Budget by the (private) Defense Contractors (for 20+ years) and supplying 2nd-rate Military Hardware at Premium Prices. Since Russia's entry into AmeriKKKa's Syria SNAFU the USG and the Pentagoons seem to have realised that looting wasn't such a smart idea after all, and have become a lot more "circumspect" about direct US-Russia military confrontation. It shouldn't be long before Congress starts asking why Russia spends a fraction of what the US spends on weaponry and gets demonstrably superior Value For Money.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 31 2016 16:22 utc | 51

Hoarsewhisperer @51, sure, that makes sense. But b's post isn't about the USG's mistakes, it's about mistakes made by Islamic militias. Unless we assume strategic decisions made by those militias are also decisions of the USG, you are writing about something different than b wrote about.

Posted by: Berry Friesen | Jan 31 2016 16:36 utc | 52

Summary of Swiss MSM ‘news’ - fwiw. The Syrian ‘opposition’ initially considered sending a large delegation (representing all factions), or, as an alternative, merely 2-3 observers to Geneva. Who would represent the ‘opposition’ was treated in a long tortuous meetings in Riyhad, about 4 to 6 wks. ago.

They could not agree, and until the last hour there were doubts, questions about their presence here (number, hotels reservations, police, etc.) Some showed up anyway (which factions, etc. idk) but they were not admitted to the Main Meetings - some small talks, contacts, on the margins, in the ‘annex, rooms apart’ did take place.

Here, in the press, they are labelled the Ryiad opposition.

Their pre-condition was a cease-fire, cease-bombing, refused by: Staffan de Mistura (UN envoy and convener..), the Syrians, the Russians, and by the US, none of whom would agree to ‘pre-conditions.’

>> The crux is the events and actions of forces on the ground hold the outcome(s), NOT those in well heated rooms with free coffee, drooping flowers, cute translators.


One ‘official’ laid-out project (the only one? in English?) from the ‘Opposition’ …

PDF 122 pages, 2012, entitled The day After: Supporting a Democratic Transition in Syria. By an ‘Independent Syrian NGO.’

Note the recurrence of many of the words in this plan as buzz MSM, the steps that ‘need’ to be carried out, the ‘principles’ that are essential, etc. How influential it has been, a super road-map for certain factions. Worth a skimming or a more analytical look. (via voltaire net but many other sites offer this doc.)

Posted by: Noirette | Jan 31 2016 16:52 utc | 53

Al Zarqawi was elevated as "the head of the snake" who, if-only we could kill him, was integral for the deadly effectiveness of the Iraqi insurgency ... he was the new "king of clubs" in the endless American sports-type analogies ... when he was killed, it really didn't take long before regular bombings returned. His death in Fallujah (not in Baghdad where the bombmaking ring was waging a relentless campaign, has suggested some mythologic "dharma transmission" to Al-Baghdadi -- they apparently knew people in common but may have never met or ???

I think Al-Qa’eda wanted -- for self-serving reasons to make themselves "relevant" -- to be associated with proto-ISIS as signs-of-life beyond AQAP, an apparently small cell which made headlines and under whose banner some Yemeni insurgents fought. Some retrospect analysis of the brief rise media rise of various Ansar al Sharia groups (reportedly without leadership linkage) back -- irrc - before Libya (presented as rival to AQAP and Al-Q).

It's hard to ever know how much is western myth-making and rivalries within the intelligence community.

The interesting thing about the "siege/starvation crisis" is that in the "the rebels" are seizing / commandeering humanitarian aid and then selling it for exorbitant prices. The two "rebel" militias in Madaya ... getting the names of these "rebel" militias is difficult.

""Foua and Kefraya have been surrounded by Jaysh al-Fatah (Army of Conquest), led by al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Musra and Islamists Ahrar ash-Sham since March last year."" ""The Sunni rebels swiftly targeted Foua and Kefraya – predominantly loyalist Shia villages lying less than a mile apart.""

The rebels -- including al-Nusra apparently -- "starve" loyalist villages, but also anti-government villages like Madaya... Madaya is used to suggest that Assad is punishing anti-government village -- while the two pro-government villages have also been under seige (by rebels then allegedly surrounded by ISIS) and had their delivered food aid allegedly commandered by "rebels" as well. -- "but it's all Assad's fault."

I've seen suggestions that the USA and KSA may well opt out of "peace" or "ceasefire" believing in a "military solution" of ousting Assad and then "dealing with ISIS" with KSA essentially taking over management of the caliphate (and sparing all those willing to make the change in allegiance. -- trial balloon?

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Jan 31 2016 17:03 utc | 54

Good analysis Hoarse, primary mistakes are in fundamental misunderstandings and weaknesses.

MIC Greed is one of them.

I would add that another is the miscalculation about the Israeli 'special relationship'. As late as the early 90's, the US ignored the growing spying and manipulation by Israeli agents and sympathizers because USA focused on Russia as the one and only enemy.

This has been at and elsewhere.

The end of the USSR was a boondoggle for the neocons as they could re-orient US policy to their own ends in the ME. Naturally, they appealed to MIC greed to promote their agenda.

The neocon agenda has given us: 9-11, the Iraq War, a new cold war, harsh policing (how the war 'comes home'); as well as inequality/austerity, more corruption, and a massive waste of resources.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 31 2016 17:07 utc | 55

I'm still looking for the 'knowledgeable' parts of Elijah's clueless tweet except for the one clear statement that the Islamic State declared war on any and all states that oppose it including the KSA and Israel.

The idea that the IS could be the darlings of the Shias, Iran or the Gulf Monarchies is preposterous even if they only attacked the West.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Jan 31 2016 17:08 utc | 56

Posted by: Noirette | Jan 31, 2016 11:52:02 AM | 53
This morning sees the "opposition" demanding release of prisoners as pre-condition to participating in negotiations ... negotiations that their inclusion in may no longer be covered by the "invitation" (depending on their name and lineage and associations, etc.)

Violate the rule of inclusion (opposition not terrorist), have invitation in danger of being recinded (if it ever included that particular "brandname" rebel) and make impossible demands and take ball/go home claiming the other side set up the negotiations in BAD FAITH


Early days.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Jan 31 2016 17:23 utc | 57

on refugees -- Greece is now positioning to take Turkey/Erdogan's place as "faucet"
guardian: greece-threatened-closure-eu-border-dystopia

Insolvent Greece is still being flooded with refugees departing Turkey's throngs ... Expansion of holding centers (internment camps) is being demanded of Greece to stem flow into the EU.

The tone is really bizarre -- Greece is depicted as happily serving as transit route .. as if it could afford to absorb or even simply temporarily lodge all these people ... 35 (or more) have been confirmed to have drowned this week as ships foundered.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Jan 31 2016 17:34 utc | 58

Unless we assume strategic decisions made by those militias are also decisions of the USG, you are writing about something different than b wrote about.
Posted by: Berry Friesen | Jan 31, 2016 11:36:38 AM | 52

That's precisely the way I see it. Every time I hear a "News" story about "ISIS said this" or "ISIS did that" I wonder who, in Washington, Tel Aviv, London, or Brussels(?) told ISIS to say or do it.

I'm not alone...
IsUS grew out of the USA realizing their catastrophe of enabling the Shia and Iran gain control of Iraq.
Posted by: dahoit | Jan 31, 2016 10:36:23 AM | 48

IsUS = Israel/US imo (not wishing to put words in dahoit's mouth).
And Al Qaeda = Al CIAda. You can't have a proper Fake War On Terror without a cornucopia of fake entities to be afraid of.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 31 2016 17:34 utc | 59

after thought: The reason the EU/Germany was willing to give Turkey so much money for the refugees was as compensation for blackmarket/people smuggling income lost ... To my knowledge, Greece has not had a blackmarket economic surge created by being a central refugee destination, may have even lost tourism as they landed on resort beaches ... Turkey has made beaucoup money off of transiting jihadi/weapons into and oil/refugees out of Syria ... Sounds to me like they demanded and got compensation for lost (human and other trafficking) income.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Jan 31 2016 17:46 utc | 60

which reminds me ... wrt to the future "existence" of these militias ... Some of these these militias have already developed significant "mafia" blackmarket operations like Haqqani / Tehrik-i-Taliban in Pakistan and Taliban in opium trade. A recognized problem of "peace" is getting soldiers to disarm .. many haven't worked a job for years and may not have social network able to lift them into civilian life. The loss of prestige on becoming a civilian factors. Becoming just another unemployed veteran also emphasizes the status as loser. If they had won, they might have been rewarded with a post, position or job. Even if you do win, you may be just another bum. This factored heavily in "post-victory" Libya. Militants were outraged when jobs and appointments were not forthcoming. Individuals can morph into mercenaries for food, social status and a paycheck.

Not sure how much of the proliferation and reinvention (name changes/coalitions) of militias in Syria results from a need to stay-in-the game, it being the only game in town and how much involves opening up revenue streams Change your name and position yourself as a "moderate" some revenue stream opens up; declare yourself a non-ISIS allied jihadist militia, other aid floods in. We know supplied arms are converted into cash, the arms black market thrives.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Jan 31 2016 18:25 utc | 61

@Wayoutwest | Jan 31, 2016 12:08:27 PM | 56

Yeah, I agree. Who is this Elijah Magnier anyway? Why should we spend time dissecting his opinion? Looks to me like another anonymous twitter-spook. Probably PR guy for Jaysh al-Islam, or maybe Eliot Higgins in drag.

@Susan Sunflower | Jan 31, 2016 12:03:59 PM | 54

Talking about cutting heads off of snakes. 45 dead Syrians in Damascus today. The Alloush pay-back has begun.

As always, this is an interesting, entertaining, and detailed discussion of the latest events in the Syrian civil war, which is just the latest God-forsaken internecine Muslim blood-bath in the larger God-forsaken internecine Muslim fuster-cluck that has been going on for 1400 years since the Profit bit the dirt w/out making it clear who his successor would be. [Speaking of fuster-clucks, that was a 62-word sentence, in case you didn't notice.]

Examining the Syrian civil war in minute detail is an interesting exercise but it's like examining a zit on an elephant's ass in an attempt to figure out what an elephant is all about. These bloody Muslim radicals have been terrorizing peaceful Muslims for 1400 years. No matter what happens to Da'esh, AQ, al-Nusra, &etc. it will go on for another 1400 years.

The primary problem is not the sick, demented Muslims chopping off heads and eating people's livers; the primary problem is the ideology. Salafism, for instance, dates back to the 9th century and it's still obviously going strong, thanks to an 18th century boost from the notorious tag-team of al-Wahhab and bin Saud. al-Baghdadi will be to 25th century blood-thirsty Sunnis what al-Wahhab is to today's. Blood-flow without end, amen.

Now it is spilling over into NYC, Paris, San Bernadino . . ., and we ain't seen nothing yet. The one thing we learned from the Ghouta Massacre, and Seymour Hersh's work, and Eren Erdem's revelations is that these salafist pigs in Syria have sarin and the tech for producing it. LogoPhere-Jan27|16 When they start throwing sarin around in schools and shopping malls in Europe and the US, folks will realize that the clash of civilizations really is underway. Unfortunately, you can't nuke these pricks when they are living in your own cities.

Maybe it's a cosmic case of what goes 'round, comes 'round. The radical Muslims' ideology is almost as sick and as frightening as the Americans' we-own-the-world ideology with which Americans' glibly justify killing off 20M people in 37 countries just since WWII. Global Research-Nov28|15 In the last 10 centuries Muslim radical ideology has not killed anywhere near as many people as Americans' we-own-the-world ideology has killed in the last 70 years.

And so it goes.

Posted by: Denis | Jan 31 2016 19:04 utc | 62

...just the latest God-forsaken internecine Muslim blood-bath

No. This conflict is driven by STATES with GOALS as described by Sy Hersh in "The Redirection".

...the primary problem is the ideology. Salafism, for instance, dates back to the 9th century

The primary problem is neocons and others that have hi-jacked 'the best government that money can buy'.

... what goes 'round, comes 'round. The radical Muslims' ideology is almost as sick and as frightening as the Americans' we-own-the-world ideology

It is the American selfish neolibcon elite that is to blame. The 1% have disenfranchised and impoverished everyone else via money-in-politics and corporate-owned media (propaganda).

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 31 2016 19:26 utc | 63


I have to disavow yr journalist Elijah Magnier of the AlRai Media group. Al Rai ranked nr. 1 among Kuwaiti newspapers for the fifth year in a row. The newspaper is known for generally supporting the Kuwaiti government and ruling family.

    "The editorial line of the independent, liberal Al Rai Al Aam often backs up the government."

Posted by: Oui | Jan 31 2016 19:39 utc | 64


The article could not have been "sloppy" reporting about Jabhat al-Nusra terror group, but quite biased calling the fighters Syrians. [see also discussion article @Wikipedia where Magbier goes over the tongue ... from neutral to unreliable]

There is a lobby group working in Washington DC to get Jabhat al Nusra off the US State Department list of terror groups.

    Why, for example, is Nusra Front designated when Ahrar al Sham, another militant jihadist group in Syria with alleged al Qaida connections, is off the list? Or take the case of Iranian-backed Shiite militias that once waged a deadly insurgency against U.S. forces in Iraq – Kata’ib Hezbollah was designated, but an equally egregious group, Asaib Ahl al Haq, wasn’t.

    In both cases, officials have said that designation possibilities were floated but vetoed because national security officials determined that it was more useful to keep them off the list. In the case of Asaib Ahl al Haq, the Iraqi and Western authorities released more than 400 members – including the leader – in negotiations that resulted in the release of British hostage Peter Moore in 2010. [Source: McClatchy]

Posted by: Oui | Jan 31 2016 19:39 utc | 65

The Brookings Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World [Dec. 2013]

Playing with Fire: Why Private Gulf Financing for Syria’s Extremist Rebels Risks Igniting Sectarian Conflict at Home [pdf]

One way armed groups secured longer-term backing was by adopting the ideologies of their benefactors, as a series of brigades in Deir Ez Zour illustrate. With the support of RIHS, an unofficial Kuwait-based group calling itself the Deir Ez Zour Revolutionary Association helped create three brigades with a moderate Salafi ideology similar to its own: Ahl al-Athar, Bashayer al-Nasr, and Allahu Ahkbar.These groups were unified, again with RIHS’s blessing, to become Jabhat al-Asala wa al-Tanmiya in the summer of 2012.

Other Kuwaiti donors also consolidated their support for specific rebel factions: Shafi al-Ajmi has backed Ahrar al-Sham, arguably the largest rebel group in Syria and one that frequently cooperates with Jabhat al-Nusra, a branch of al-Qaeda considered a terrorist organization by the United States. Jabhat al-Nusra may receive funds from another donor group, led by Ghanem al-Mutairi, a relatively obscure tribal figure.

Posted by: Oui | Jan 31 2016 19:40 utc | 66

Jackrabbit, Yes, the Saudis have wanted to reassert their (USA_provided) role as the leader of the Muslim World ... and place itself in the vanguard -- their evangelical Muslim outreach via charity and schools help fuel the jihadi movement ... but it was in large part a competition with Iran's comparatively effortless strength in standing up to the West ...
something Bin Laden admired.

It works to make this a Shiia/Sunni 1000-year-old conflict (despite plenty of evidence that's exactly true) rather than emphasize Al-Qa’eda's anti-imperialism and, cough, hatred of the Saudis ...

ISIS' hatred of the Saudi's is ecclipsed by their hatred of all infidels, especially bad-muslims, Shiia etc. (the optics then look like it's all about Shiia/Sunni)...

Ramping up tales of Iran's hostility and belligerance ... part of the intrastructure of this Shiia/Sunni tableau.

The territorial and future-plans (pipelines/natural gas, etc) makes better sense. Iraq provided an open-season for Shiia revenge-taking, and there's been more than too much and it continues, but now Iraqi Sunnis are cast as insurgents and Iraq is attacking them with impunity ... the third or fourth go-round ... the beating will continue ... I'm beginning to suspect until Ethnic Cleansing is achieved....

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Jan 31 2016 19:47 utc | 67

The suicide car bomb attack is a signature of Sunni or Salafist nature.
Syria's main opposition group met U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura for the first time on Sunday, but the talks ran straight into trouble after Islamic State bombers killed more than 60 people near the country's holiest Shi'ite shrine.

Representatives of the Saudi-backed Higher Negotiation Committee (HNC) - which includes political and militant opponents of President Bashar al-Assad - warned they may yet walk away from the Geneva talks unless the suffering of civilians in the five-year conflict is eased.

The head of the Syrian government delegation retorted that the blasts in Damascus, which the Interior Ministry blamed on a car bomb and two suicide bombers, merely confirmed the link between the opposition and terrorism - even though Islamic State has been excluded from the talks.

Posted by: okie farmer | Jan 31 2016 19:47 utc | 68

cough -- note that the Shiia/Sunni conflict is ALWAYS cast as evil Sunnis attacking innocent civilian Shiia ... except that what triggered ISIS and Al-Qa’eda in Iraq was significant violence against Sunni by the new American-created Iraqi government ... add in some debaathification and ethnic cleansing in Baghdad ... Sunni fleeing to Syria for safety ...

it's not really 1000 years, more like 15 ... there was reported bad blood or taunts and name-calling ...
and the massively unpopular with Iraqis, Iran/Iraq war, 1980-1088:

The Iran–Iraq War began when Iraq invaded Iran via air and land on 22 September 1980. It followed a long history of border disputes, and was motivated by fears that the Iranian Revolution in 1979 would inspire insurgency among Iraq's long-suppressed Shia majority, as well as Iraq's desire to replace Iran as the dominant Persian Gulf state. Although Iraq hoped to take advantage of Iran's revolutionary chaos and attacked without formal warning, it made only limited progress into Iran and was quickly repelled; Iran regained virtually all lost territory by June 1982. For
Previously, [prior to Iranian losses] the Iranians had outnumbered the Iraqis on the battlefield, but Iraq expanded their military draft (pursuing a policy of total war), and by 1984, the armies were equal in size. By 1986, Iraq had twice as many soldiers as Iran. By 1988, Iraq would have 1 million soldiers, giving it the fourth largest army in the world. Some of their equipment, such as tanks, outnumbered the Iranians' by at least five to one. Iranian commanders, however, remained more tactically skilled.[73]

Casuality figures wildly uncertain, appears that half-a-million died on each side ... given the number of combatants and length of the conflict ... ended in stalemate.

I'm unsure how this might relate to KSA's loathing of Saddam, I simply don't know, but this war was not Shiia/Sunni; it was regional geopolitics.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Jan 31 2016 20:01 utc | 69

Actually I was thinking about car bombs on my drive to the store ... they are favored because the ingredients are cheap and they're stable. Unlike other bombs with more complex triggering mechanisms or possibly unstable ingredients (old dynamite or nitroglycerin) (with suicide truck bombs, I'd imagine a very simple trigger is all that's needed. Suicide vests are much more complex and need an actual bombmaker...

Tim McVeigh was able to get fertilizer and race car gasoline ... Remember the World Trade Center in 1992 (which failed to fully detonate)

As I recall, because of unsecured munitions depots and debaathification, there was plenty of explosives and some bomb making experience in the disbanded Iraqi Army. Their critical issue was avoiding detection. The volunteer Jihadi army was a problem because they blend into the neighborhood terribly well and needed to be housed and fed (and kept occupied)

Wiki gives long history going back to the 1920's

Wiki on car bombs:

It is commonly used as a weapon of assassination, terrorism or guerrilla warfare, to kill the occupants of the vehicle, people near the blast site, or to damage buildings or other property.

Car bombs act as their own delivery mechanisms and can carry a relatively large amount of explosives without attracting suspicion; in larger vehicles and trucks, weights of at least 7,000 pounds (3,200 kg) have been used,[1] for example, in the Oklahoma City bombing.

Car bombs are activated in a variety of ways; including opening the vehicle's doors, starting the engine, depressing the accelerator or brake pedals or simply lighting a fuse or setting a timing device.[2] The gasoline in the vehicle's fuel tank may make the explosion of the bomb more powerful by dispersing and igniting the fuel.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Feb 1 2016 0:19 utc | 70

wrt: Posted by: Alberto | Jan 30, 2016 5:28:09 PM | 17

At Least Two Turks Injured by Debris of Russian Jet Downed in Syria
05:35 GMT +3 hours01 February 201

Posted by: blues | Feb 1 2016 2:47 utc | 71

re 70

except that what triggered ISIS and Al-Qa’eda in Iraq was significant violence against Sunni by the new American-created Iraqi government ... add in some debaathification and ethnic cleansing in Baghdad ... Sunni fleeing to Syria for safety
You seem to be forgetting the bombing of Samarra in 2006, which is supposed to have set it all off.

Though it is also well known that the US was stirring sectarian conflict, for divide-and-rule purposes.

Posted by: Laguerre | Feb 1 2016 3:00 utc | 72

yes, Golden Temple Samarra was a momentous turning point ... Do you know if there was an identified specific trigger.

""The bombing was followed by retaliatory violence with over a hundred dead bodies being found the next day[1] and well over 1,000 people killed in the days following the bombing – by some counts, over 1,000 on the first day alone.[2]""

My impression was that a lot of Sunni just tried to go along to get along ... or just quietly survive...I don't think I've ever seen evidence of wide-spread support by Sunni of the terrorism of the "dead-enders". It may have existed, certainly after Fallujah.

I began to suspect something was deeply amiss when -- during the 6 months before the widely announced Surge, to address violence in Baghdad -- there was a very significant exodus from the Sunni sectors of Baghdad. The surge was supposed to being Baghdad back to civilization and they obviously saw it as threat enough to decamp. I had faulted the Americans for not securing the civilian populations, so initially hoped the Surge would help (doubted it would and -- with all the chasing of bad-guys they did before addressing Baghdad -- gave up any hope before it even started).

After years of being the movers and shakers, the Sunni of Baghadad were totally abandoned to fend for themselves against increasing bold and dangerous Shiite neighbors. (Last I heard a few years ago, Sunni attempting to return to their homes in Baghdad from abroad were met with squatters and harassment and no help at all from the police or the law ...

It's not that I'm taking sides here ... but the American media sort of suggested that the Shiia domination was over due and that the Sunni population deserved their revenge ... like the American Revolution or Civil War or something ... The Sunni just had to accept the loss of their status, (jobs, homes, money, security) ...

There were suggestions that various steps were being made to include them in the government, or that debaathification would be ease, but it never meaningfully materialized.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Feb 1 2016 4:08 utc | 73

I have to disavow yr journalist Elijah Magnier of the AlRai Media group. Al Rai ranked nr. 1 among Kuwaiti newspapers for the fifth year in a row. The newspaper is known for generally supporting the Kuwaiti government and ruling family. "The editorial line of the independent, liberal Al Rai Al Aam often backs up the government."
Posted by: Oui | Jan 31, 2016 2:39:12 PM | 64

b explained why he chose to reproduce Magnier's opinins. He also (near the end of the post) pointed out where Magnier's assessment and his own part company. It's obvious that the Russian intervention is producing the desired result, which in turn means that the "rebels" have to change what they're doing i.e. attacking the SAA has become Risky Business with the most likely outcome being a trip on the stairway to Heaven - hence b's recent assertion that the "rebels" will have to go underground (not a good thing for Syria but the only available choice).

The Geneva Peace Talks could more accurately described as Piece Talks, considering that Zio-occupied AmeriKKKa is calling the shots. And as b has pointed out in the recent past, it's more likely than not that the "Talks" will be overwhelmed by facts on the ground - keeping in mind that the current round of talks is expected to last for circa 6 months and no-one expects this round to yield a workable result.

i.e. no-one KNOWS what's going to happen, but it seems that the people who want to preserve Syria are having a bigger effect than the people who want to finish destroying it.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Feb 1 2016 5:21 utc | 74


I found Oui's comment to be interesting in light of my own thinking @16. These "mistakes" had a purpose at the time that they were decided. They may have been "mistakes" from alQueda's point of view, but they weren't to ISIS leadership and Sunni states until NOW when ISIS faces destruction. It seems like more spin to distance Sunni States and their allies (USA) from ISIS. And maybe pressure ISIS leaders.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Feb 1 2016 6:36 utc | 75

OTOH, maybe Magnier is not distancing the Sunnis states but accusing them (indirectly). ISIS "mistakes" served purposes other than alQueda's struggle. They were rooted in sectarianism that Sunni benefactors desired. Putin famously said that 40 countries supported ISIS.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Feb 1 2016 7:07 utc | 76

re 73

Samarra was a momentous turning point ... Do you know if there was an identified specific trigger.
I didn't want to go back over subjects we spent literally years discussing here on MoA, but in answer to your specific question, there are really two choices.

Either you believe it was the US, NeoCons pushing for divide-and-conquer by creating sectarian conflict. Circumstantially, it is close to proven. It suited Maliki and the Shi'a not to investigate too closely, so everything was covered up. Or you believe it was an early manifestation of the Saudi offensive against the hated Shi'a, which has since become much clearer.

I entirely agree with you about the sufferings of the Sunni Arabs in north and west Iraq. They suffer for what ISIS does, and are going to suffer more in the future. That's why I detest the whitewashing by Kurdish propagandists like Paveway IV of Kurdish ethnic cleansing. For people like him blowing up villages and expelling thousands of inhabitants is just fine and dandy, because "Kurds are victims".

Posted by: Laguerre | Feb 1 2016 7:09 utc | 77

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Feb 1, 2016 1:36:34 AM | 75 & 76

I wasn't trying to repudiate Qui's pov. I was pointing out that b isn't as careless as Oui (and others) are insinuating. I don't buy the hokum about sectarianism in the arab world being a 'natural' by-product of Islam. Considering the Yinon plan and the behaviour of Jews in Palestine (and USA), that fantasy is way too Kosher for me.

It's not a coincidence that in every (notionally secular) ME state trampled by Zio-AmeriKKKa, the FIRST REPORTED result has been sectarianism. I followed the 2003 invasion of Iraq quite closely and there is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that the Yankees did Every Thing possible to create toxic sectarian divisions, including setting up car bombs, handing out lollies to Iraqi children nearby, then sneaking off and blowing up dozens of children. From a safe distance.

I went over to Xymphora before I wrote my wee retort, to see if Magnier is in Xymph's blogroll (apparently not - same as MoA?). While going through the Magnes Zionist link there, I noted an article claiming that since the FWOT, 2500 journalists have been killed. And we know whose journalists are not being killed, at an average rate of 1 every other day, don't we?

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Feb 1 2016 8:49 utc | 78

@Jackrabbit #75-#76

Thx ... his analysis just didn't feel right and by close scrutiny some of his "facts" were plain inaccurate. With his experience close to the battleline, that had to be intentional.


And by going into Syria they:

    1) reinvigorated the effort against the Syrian state which had stalled (as I recall); and
    2) took control of oil fields (a needed source of funding).

The steps AQI or ISIL (ISIS – IS) took were very logical and well planned. In need of quick cash they took hostages with large exposure. Journalists and aid workers at the front were targeted. The PR campaign of their brutality got them not only publicity, it upped the ransom amount but was also an excellent recruiting tool. Large number of jihadists and Westerners came to join their ranks ... unbeleivable but true. Turkey did next to nothing to stem the flow of recruits and fighters, quite similar how they give passage to the flow of refugees to Greece and Europe today. We all know that the US/NATO alliance gave support to Erdogan and Turkey. The mistakes made by the US/allies in the Iraq campaign and later by the Maliki administration were quite useful to AQI – ISIL.

After the fall of Fallujah and Ramadi, the Islamic State fighters threatened the capital Baghdad. At that late stage, the US was yet unprepared and undecided on how to proceed. President Obama admitted as such in interviews.

The city of Mosul fell easily because once again as the region has seen ethnic cleansing by the Kurds. No easier way to conquer a city when the rebellion in already brewing inside. The saga of the Trojan Horse repeating itself.

    Though not as extensive or nearly complete, violence and ethnic cleansing has also been taking place in the north by Kurds against Arabs, primarily in Kirkuk. Kurds want to reverse previous cleaning by Saddam Hussein against the Kurds and the resettlement of Sunni in Kurdisch areas. In concert, repatriation takes place. The ethnic struggle is not over the individual return of expelled Kurds, but rather over Kurdisch hegemony in Kirkuk as well as nearby Mosul in the Ninewa governate. [Source: Ethnic Conflict and Nonreturn – page 240]

Posted by: Oui | Feb 1 2016 14:30 utc | 79

The Coming Siege and Destruction of Mosul  (Feb. 14, 2008)
How ISIS Got Oxygen In Syria and Matured in Iraq

Posted by: Oui | Feb 1 2016 14:31 utc | 80

re 79

The city of Mosul fell easily because once again as the region has seen ethnic cleansing by the Kurds.
I would only agree with that in part. The fall of Mosul was more to do with relations between Sunni and Shi'a, than with Kurdish ethnic cleansing, which was more to the west in Sinjar, and an ex post facto of the subsequent conquest of Sinjar by Da'ish. I still don't know what proportion of the Iraqi govt garrison in Mosul was Shi'a. At any rate the officers, or they wouldn't have fled, rather if they were Sunni, they would have had contacts in the city.

Posted by: Laguerre | Feb 1 2016 19:21 utc | 81

Posted by: Laguerre | Feb 1, 2016 2:21:16 PM | 81

Regional stand-off between Arabs and Kurds

ISIS "success" facilitated by betrayal, Iraqi government inadequacies – June 2014

All of this to justify a story that sounds more like a fantasy; that within hours, 1,500 fighters from ISIS succeeded in occupying Mosul, where a military garrison consisting of 52,000 soldiers is stationed, before invading Salah al-Din and controlling many neighborhoods in Kirkuk.

In a situation like this, there is no room for politics, as military action has the last word. The position of the Kurds in this context is noteworthy. Appeals were made from more than one side for Peshmerga forces to take part in thwarting the invading forces. But they refused, arguing that they only defend Kurdish and ethnically mixed areas. It is said that US pressure was exerted on Erbil in this regard which led to an understanding between Maliki and Nijirfan al-Barazani stipulating that Peshmerga forces will take part in the battle to recapture Mosul in return for agreeing to secure exports of oil from Kurdistan.

All the forces involved in the political process left the areas controlled by ISIS, including the governor of Nineveh Athil al-Nujaifi, the more influential brother of Osama al-Nujaifi. He moved to Erbil leaving behind business projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars in Mosul.

    Nujaifi was born into a prominent Moslawi family in 1958. His ancestors were closely aligned with the Ottoman rulers of Mosul, resulting in them receiving huge grants of land in Hamdaniya district. Political party al-Hadba, a "moderate" Sunni group opposing a federal state of Kurds.

No one, however, can deny that years of political, social and economic marginalization, in addition to undermining Sunni leaders, will guarantee ISIS - or any other faction that rises up against the political leadership in Baghdad - popular support among individuals and tribes, even if it is temporary.

Posted by: Oui | Feb 1 2016 21:30 utc | 82

It was interesting that the Shia authority [Grand Ayatollah Sheikh] Bashir al-Najafi blamed the “incompetence and dereliction of duty towards their country by those fighting” for “what we have come to in Iraq.”

To protect Shia neighborhoods and territory from ISIL, the authority established the al-Hashid al-Sha'bi, known in English as the Popular Mobilization Units.

OHCHR: Report on the Protection of Civilians in the Armed Conflict in Iraq: 1 May – 31 October 2015

Posted by: Oui | Feb 1 2016 21:31 utc | 83

Kurdish faultline threatens to spark new war | The Independent – UK |
| By Patrick Cockburn in Mosul | Monday 10 August 2009 |

The only thing keeping Arabs and Kurds from fighting is the glue of US occupation

Arab leaders, both Shia and Sunni, claim that the Kurds have overplayed their hand since 2003. As Saddam Hussein's regime was disintegrating, Kurdish forces swept into the cities of Mosul and Kirkuk, seizing territories where there was or had been a Kurdish majority before Saddam Hussein's ethnic cleansing. The sole sign of one of the 3,500 Kurdish villages destroyed by Saddam is often a pathetic pile of stones in a field where people once lived before they were killed or forced to flee, their herds of cows and flocks of sheep slaughtered, and concrete poured down the village well.

Kurdish vociferousness over the danger of renewed war with the Arabs stems partly from wanting to panic the US into staying involved in the dispute. Yet the danger of war is quite real as the Kurds genuinely fear being evicted from the disputed territories and driven back into the KRG, behind the Green Line established after the Kurdish uprising of 1991.

Anti-Kurdish feeling is running high in the rest of Iraq, as is fear of Iraqi Arab revanchism in Kurdistan. Ethnic and sectarian hatred is strongest in the disputed territories where different communities live side-by-side. Nineveh province is like an Iraqi Lebanon in its diversity with its complicated mix of Kurds, Kurdish speaking Yazidis, Shabak, Sunni Arabs, Shia and Sunni Turkomans as well as Chaldean and Assyrian Christians.

Asked about the prospect of an Arab-Kurdish civil war, people from Mosul say that for them it started six years ago. Some 2,000 Kurds from the city have been killed and another 100,000 have fled. Until January this year, the minority Kurds ruled the local council because the Sunni Arabs boycotted the election of 2005. But in the latest election, the anti-Kurdish al-Hadba party won and their leader, Atheel al-Najafi, is the new provincial governor, though this does not mean he can enter Kurdish areas.

Posted by: Oui | Feb 1 2016 22:03 utc | 84

Sinjar: Al Qaeda's Wrath Bombing for Death by Stoning – Aug. 2007

The Islamic State in Iraq, an al-Qaida front group, distributed leaflets a week ago warning residents near the scene of Tuesday's bombings that an attack was imminent because Yazidis are "anti-Islamic."

The sect also gained unwanted attention when some members stoned an 17-year-old Yazidi woman to death in April after she converted to Islam and fled her family with a Muslim boyfriend. Recent attacks on Yazidis have been blamed on al-Qaida-linked Sunni extremists seeking to avenge her death.

Posted by: Oui | Feb 1 2016 22:04 utc | 85

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