Τετάρτη, 29 Οκτωβρίου 2014



MESOP : THE NEXT CONFLICT WITH BAGHDAD / KURDS SHOULD CHOICE INDEPENCE – Key ally of former Iraq PM questions Peshmerga Kobane mission

By Aso Fishagi – RUDAW – 29 Oct 2014 – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Dispatching Peshmerga to the besieged Syrian town of Kobane is a political move and violates the Iraqi constitution, an Iraqi parliamentarian close to former Prime Minister Nouri-al Maliki claimed in an interview with Rudaw.“The question is: will this force do anything for Kobane?” Ali al-Adeeb said by telephone from Baghdad Wednesday. “At the moment the force is very small. That’s why I think the deployment is nothing more than a political message,” he said. Al-Adeeb is a prominent member of the State of Law coalition in the Iraqi Parliament and al-Maliki’s longstanding ally in government.

Approximately 150 Peshmerga soldiers have been deployed to the Syrian-Turkish border, where they are readying to cross into Kobane. Their mission is to provide artillery cover to the People’s Protection Unit (YPG), the Syrian-Kurdish force fighting Islamic State (ISIS) militants who have attacked the town since mid-September.
The plan is the result of weeks of negotiations between Turkish, Kurdish, and American officials.But al-Adeeb insisted the move “directly violates Iraqi law and the constitution” because it was not approved by the federal government.“The Peshmerga are ultimately an Iraqi force, and they need the approval of the Iraqi Parliament and the Iraqi government to do anything outside of the country’s borders, he said. “This is only natural because Iraq is a higher authority (than the Kurdistan Regional Government).”
The MP worried that the deployment could have domestic consequences within Iraq.   “Peshmerga involvement in the Syrian war may cause us more problems,” he said. “The decisions the Kurdistan Region makes affects Iraq and Kurdistan, which after all is part of Iraq.” http://rudaw.net/english/middleeast/iraq/291020142

MESOP : Also FSA fighters enter Kobani from Turkey

October 29, 2014, Wednesday/  AP / MÜRŞİTPINAR – A small group of Syrian rebels entered the embattled border town of Kobani from Turkey on Wednesday on a mission to help Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) extremists in Syria, activists and Kurdish officials said.The group of around 50 armed men is from the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and it’s separate from Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters who were also en route Wednesday to Kobani, along the Syrian-Turkish border.

Idriss Nassan, a Kurdish official from Kobani, said the FSA group crossed to Kobani through the Mürşitpınar border crossing in Turkey. Nassan, who spoke in Mürşitpınar , said they travelled in cars but did not have more details. The FSA is an umbrella group of mainstream rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad. The political leadership of the Western-backed FSA is based in Turkey, where fighters often seek respite from the fighting.
The 150 Iraqi peshmerga troops arrived in Turkey from Iraq early on Wednesday and were expected to cross into Syria later in the day. Their deployment came after Ankara agreed to allow the peshmerga troops to cross into Syria via Turkey. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told the BBC that sending the peshmerga and the Free Syrian Army was “the only way to help Kobani, since other countries don’t want to use ground troops.”
After a rousing send-off from thousands of cheering, flag-waving supporters in the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Arbil, the peshmerga forces landed early Wednesday at the Şanlıurfa airport in southeastern Turkey. They left the airport in buses escorted by Turkish security forces and were expected to travel to Kobani also through Mürşitpınar crossing.
ISIL launched its offensive on Kobani and nearby Syrian villages in mid-September, killing more than 800 people, according to activists. The extremists captured dozens of Kurdish villages around Kobani and control parts of the town. More than 200,000 people have fled across the border into Turkey. The US is leading a coalition that has carried out dozens of airstrikes targeting the militants in and around Kobani.The deployment of the 150 peshmerga fighters, who were authorized by the Iraqi Kurdish government to go to Kobani, underscores the sensitive political tensions in the region. Turkey’s government views the Syrian Kurds defending Kobani as loyal to what Ankara regards as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group which is designated a terrorist group by the US and NATO. Under pressure to take greater action against the ISIL militants – from the West as well as from Kurds inside Turkey and Syria – the Turkish government agreed to let the fighters cross through its territory. But it only is allowing the peshmerga forces from Iraq, with whom it has a good relationship, and not those from the PKK. The force will provide much-needed support for the Syrian Kurds, although it is not clear whether Turkey will allow the peshmerga fighters to carry enough weaponry to make an impact. http://www.todayszaman.com/latest-news_fsa-fighters-enter-kobani-from-turkey_362930.html

Western fascination with 'badass' Kurdish women

The media frenzy over the women fighting ISIL is bizarre, myopic, orientalist and cheapens an important struggle.

Last updated: 29 Oct 2014 10:20
Dilar Dirik

Dilar Dirik is a Kurdish activist and a PhD student at the University of Cambridge. Her research focus is Kurdistan and the Kurdish women's movement.

A young Kurdish woman called "Rehana" has garnered a great deal of media attention over the past few days, after reports emerged claiming that she had killed more than a hundred ISIL fighters - single-handedly. A picture of the smiling beauty, wearing combat gear and toting a rifle, is still making the rounds of social media. Even as Rehana's circumstances remain uncorroborated, the overabundance of attention she has received raises several important questions. It adds to the plethora of reports out there glamorising the all-female Kurdish battalions taking on ISIL fighters, with little attention to the politics of these brave women.
Preoccupied with attempts to sensationalise the ways in which these women defy preconceived notions of eastern women as oppressed victims, these mainstream caricaturisations erroneously present Kurdish women fighters as a novel phenomenon. They cheapen a legitimate struggle by projecting their bizarre orientalist fantasies on it - and oversimplify the reasons motivating Kurdish women to join the fight. Nowadays, it seems to be appealing to portray women as sympathetic enemies of ISIL without raising questions about their ideologies and political aims.
At the same time, critics have accused the Kurdish leadership of exploiting these women for PR purposes - in an attempt to win over western public opinion. While there may be an element of truth to such charges in some cases, those same critics fail to appreciate the different political cultures that exist among the Kurdish people as a whole, scattered across Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and Iran. They also ignore the fact that Kurdish women have been engaging in armed resistance for decades without anyone's notice.
'Badass' Amazons
Typical of western media's myopia, instead of considering the implications of women taking up arms in what is essentially a patriarchal society - especially against a group that rapes and sells women as sex-slaves - even fashion magazines appropriate the struggle of Kurdish women for their own sensationalist purposes. Reporters often pick the most "attractive" fighters for interviews and exoticise them as "badass" Amazons.
The truth is, no matter how fascinating it is - from an orientalist perspective - to discover a women's revolution among Kurds, my generation grew up recognising women fighters as a natural element of our identity. Although there is still a long way to go, what some now ignorantly call "tokenism", has in fact shaped the consciousness of millions of Kurds.
No matter how fascinating it is - from an orientalist perspective - to discover a women's revolution among Kurds, my generation grew up recognising women fighters as a natural element of our identity.

Currently, apart from the fight against ISIL and the Assad-regime in Syria, Kurdish women also struggle against regimes they consider oppressive, such as Turkey and Iran. There are many examples of women as warriors or leaders in Kurdish history.
For instance, in the late 19th century, Kara Fatma led a battalion of almost 700 men in the Ottoman Empire and managed to insert 43 women into the army ranks - very unusual for the period. In 1974, Leyla Qasim, at the age of 22, became the first woman to be executed by the Iraqi Baath party for her involvement in the Kurdish student movement.
Despite this legacy, it would be a stretch to call Kurdish society gender-equal, considering the prevalence of male-dominated rule and violence.
The People's Defence Forces (YPG) in Syria and the Women's Defence Units (YPJ) from Syrian Kurdistan have been fighting ISIL for two years and now lead an epic resistance in the northern Syrian town of Kobane. An estimated 35 percent - around 15,000 fighters - are women . Founded in 2013 as an autonomous women's army, the YPJ conducts independent operations. There are several hundred women's battalions across Syria's Kurdistan region. Meysa Abdo is the woman commanding the resistance in Kobane and hundreds of women have died fighting ISIL.
Parallel to the existential fight against ISIL, women in the Syrian Kurdistan region, including Arabs, Assyrians, Turkmen, and Armenians, lead a social revolution against society's patriarchal order through gender-egalitarian governance and a grassroots-feminist movement.
Real fighters
The YPG/YPJ fighters are closely linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). This guerrilla organisation is one of the strongest forces against ISIL, but due to hostilities with Turkey, it is classified as a "terrorist organisation".
Little known is the fact that almost half of the PKK ranks consist of women . The movement explicitly commits to women's liberation and enforces quotas, as well as "co-presidency" on all levels - one woman and one man share the chair. These policies were adopted by the Syrian Kurdistan administration and Kurdish parties in Turkey and Iran.
Influenced by the PKK's feminist stance, the majority of women in the Turkish parliament and municipal administrations are Kurdish. Together with the YPG/YPJ, PKK units were key to creating a safety corridor to rescue the Yazidis in the Sinjar Mountains in August. Some PKK women died defending Makhmour in Iraqi Kurdistan, alongside male Peshmerga fighters.
In Iraqi Kurdistan, several hundred make-up the all female battalion of the Peshmerga . Many of them complain that they are not deployed at the front. In the 1970s-80s, during the armed resistance against the regime of Saddam Hussein, Kurdish women took up arms alongside their husbands and even assumed noms de guerre .
Today, Iraqi Kurds enjoy a degree of autonomy and rights. Unlike the older generations, almost none of the women currently enlisted have actual combat experience and are often in charge of logistics instead. The feudal-patriarchal culture of the two dominant parties in northern Iraq is less permissible of women's participation in war.
Culture of resistance

If there is a strong women's movement among Kurds beyond the battlefield today, it has more to do with left-wing politics and the culture of resistance.
Those who see the Kurdish women's fight as PR either treat all Kurdish parties as one homogeneous group or ignore the social revolution that preceded the armed struggle, which gave Kurdish women a reputation as important political actors and equal decision-makers. After all, Kurdish women have been fighting this cause with little media attention for decades.
In fact, the mass-mobilisation of women in Kobane is the legacy of decades-long resistance of Kurdish women as fighters, prisoners, politicians, leaders of popular uprisings and tireless protesters, unwilling to compromise on their rights.
Lastly, it does not help Kurdish women to be glorified as enemies of ISIL, if their entire political struggle is not supported. Western media's white-washing of the Kurdish women's resistance sanitises a radical struggle in such a way as to suit the perceptions of a western audience. Rather than challenging the awkward fact that the movement that the vast majority of women fighting ISIL belong to is labelled as a terrorist organisation - by Turkey, the EU, and the US - they conveniently leave it out.
Appreciation for these women should not only praise their fight against ISIL, but it should also recognise their politics. Those seeking to honour the bravest enemies of ISIL can begin by actively supporting the resistance in Kobane, remove the PKK from the terror list, and officially recognise the Syrian Kurdistan administration.
Dilar Dirik is a Kurdish activist and a PhD student at the University of Cambridge. Her research focus is Kurdistan and the Kurdish women's movement.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.


Turkey Daily: Kurdish PKK Declares End of “Peace Process”

By Scott Lucas October 29, 2014 12:28 Updated – EAWORLDVIEW – The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has declared the end of the “peace process” with Turkey’s Government.The PKK issued a statement, following last week’s central committee meeting in the Qandil Mountains of Iraq, saying that the ruling AKP party has already ended the process with its crackdown against southeastern Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish communities.

Widespread protests, in which at least 38 people were killed, were staged in the region last month criticizing Turkey’s indecision over support to the besieged Kurdish center of Kobane in northern Syria. The Turkish Government started negotiations in 2012 with Kurdish groups, including the detained leader Abdollah Ocalan, to end 30 years of violent conflict over the status of Turkish Kurdistan.
The PKK also said a “global democracy front” has been fostered by the Kurdish fight in Kobane against the Islamic State, with security cooperation between Turkish, Syrian, and Iraqi Kurds.  Following a week of meetings between Kurdish factions in northern Iraq, the PKK said it will restore its ties to the Syrian umbrella group Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK).

Shootout Outside Diyarbakir Police Department
Authorities said a group of masked men opened fire with shotguns on the police headquarters in Diyarbakir’s Yenisehir District on Tuesday night. No injuries were reported in the shootout.
Authorities said the masked men, who fired on a Turkish armoured vehicle during their escape, were supported by a power outage.


“Western governments should increase their pressure on Turkey to open a corridor for Syrian Kurdish forces and their heavy weapons to reach the defenders of Kobani through the border. We believe that such a corridor, and not only the limited transport of other fighters that Turkey has proposed, should be opened under the supervision of the United Nations,” writes Meysa Adbo, a commander of the Kobani resistance, in the New York Times.
“The arrival of Kurdish Peshmerga forces from Iraq, and of Arab rebels from the Free Syrian Army (FSA), reflects a determination by the US-led anti-IS coalition not to let Kobani fall. […] Their impact may take some time to be felt, but the arrival of the heavier weaponry brought by the Iraqi Kurds may have an effect greater than the numbers of fighters involved, who will play a support role rather than front-line combat,” writes Jim Muir for the BBC.
“The central role Kurds are now playing in the international fight against Islamic State, may make it harder to ignore Kurdish pleas for greater autonomy, if not independence. Yet many obstacles remain. […] Peace talks with the PKK that started in 2012 have been strained of late because Turkey has refused to assist the Kurds in the fight for Kobani. But the more the Kurds participate in bashing Islamic State, the more they will ask for in return,” writes the Economist.

MESOP Syria Special: How the US Lost Its War Within Hours

By Scott Lucas September 29, 2014 15:03 Updated – EAWORLDVIEW – Wednesday morning’s statement from US Central Command was — unsurprisingly — buoyant. The US and allies from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, and Jordan had launched attacks the previous day inside Syria, with 14 airstrikes and 47 Tomahawk missiles. Multiple targets of the Islamic State had been hit in northern and eastern Syria, including “fighters, training compounds, headquarters and command and control facilities, storage facilities, a finance center, supply trucks, and armed vehicles”. Central Command promised, “The U.S. military will continue to conduct targeted airstrikes against ISIL in Syria and Iraq as local forces go on the offensive against this terrorist group.”
Behind the confident assessment, Central Command did not point to — and presumably did not recognize — reality: with those initial strikes, the US had probably already lost its belated intervention in the 42-month Syrian conflict. The military did not mention that the greatest casualties of the first night’s attacks had not been suffered by the Islamic State, which had moved most of its forces before the arrival of the warplanes. Instead, the US had struck hardest on two locations of the Islamist insurgents Jabhat al-Nusra, killing more than 70 fighters and civilians in Idlib and Aleppo Provinces.
Central Command cloaked those attacks in the final two paragraphs of its statement:

Separately, the United States has also taken action to disrupt the imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests conducted by a network of seasoned al-Qa’ida veterans — sometimes referred to as the Khorasan Group — who have established a safe haven in Syria to develop external attacks, construct and test improvised explosive devices and recruit Westerners to conduct operations. These strikes were undertaken only by U.S. assets.
In total, U.S. Central Command conducted eight strikes against Khorasan Group targets west of Aleppo to include training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communication building and command and control facilities.
Many in the US media eagerly ran with this presentation of a necessary attack on evil plotters — who had only surfaced a week earlier in headline declaration by American intelligence services — planning a toothpaste-tube bomb on an airliner.
But inside Syria, that declaration carried little weight with many civilians, as well as the opposition and insurgency. Already angered that the US — which had stepped away from intervention a year earlier after the Assad regime’s chemical weapons attacks — was again sparing the President and his military, these groups reacted with bitter statements and large protests on Friday.
The suspicion is that if the US is serious about confronting the Islamic State, it is also — without any acknowledgement, and possibly through deception — attacking a faction which has part of the Syrian insurgency for more than two years. The sentiment was summarized in posters and chants that, while Washington had stayed away, the fighters of Jabhat al-Nusra had defended those facing the ground and aerial assaults of the Assad regime.
And even if that sentiment could be set aside, the question remained: what exactly was the strategy behind the US assault on the Islamic State? Insurgent commanders and opposition leaders said the US — which had told Israel, Syria’s ally Iran, and the Assad regime of the imminent strikes — had seen no reason to coordinate operations with the “moderate” insurgents whom it is supposedly supporting. So the Islamic State could move freely on the ground, not only evading the aerial assault but pressing its own offensives such as the attack on the Kurdish center of Kobane in northern Syria.

Attacks on Jabhat al-Nusra and the Mysterious “Khorasan Group”

There was a strange disconnect on Tuesday between the headline news of US airstrikes and claims seeping through social media. Videos and photographs showed that the greatest damage had been suffered in the village of Kafar Daryan in Idlib Province in northwest Syria. There were images of slain civilians, with others in the rubble of demolished buildings.
The mystery was that, while Jabhat al-Nusra members were killed by the US missiles, there were no Islamic State fighters in the village. Indeed, there have been no ISIS units in Idlib Province since they were pushed out by insurgents early year.
And Kafar Daryan was not the only target beyond the Americans’ official cause of hitting the Islamic State. Even deadlier — though almost unnoticed, because there was no video — was an attack on the Aleppo suburb of al-Muhandiseen. The Local Coordination Committee said more than 50 Jabhat al-Nusra fighters died.
None of this was noted in Central Command’s statement that it hit eight targets “west of Aleppo”. So what was the US doing with attacks beyond its initial declared aim of hitting the Islamic State?
As the US military’s PR strategy made clear, the answer was the “Khorasan Group”. Unnamed US officials primed the media even before Central Command issued its statement:
Administration officials said Tuesday they have been watching the Khorasan Group, an al-Qaida cell in Syria, for years….Intelligence showed that the Khorasan Group was in the final stages of plotting attacks against the U.S. and Europe, most likely an attempt to blow up an airplane in flight.
“An intelligence source with knowledge of the matter told CNN” that plots against the US had been discovered over the past week, including “a bomb made of a non-metallic device like a toothpaste container or clothes dipped in explosive material”.
Indeed, the set-up for the US attack had been made more than a week earlier. On September 13, the Associated Press ran a story fed by “American officials”:
While the Islamic State group is getting the most attention now, another band of extremists in Syria — a mix of hardened jihadis from Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Europe — poses a more direct and imminent threat to the United States, working with Yemeni bomb-makers to target U.S. aviation.
Five days later, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, told a conference, “There is potentially yet another threat to the homeland,” similar to that posed by the Islamic State.
If you read past the mainstream media, there was a curiosity about the US campaign as its first missiles were fired: leading experts on Al Qa’eda and jihadists were questioning the US Government’s timing and presentation. Washington, they said, had merely slapped a label on some fighters who had professed allegiance to Al Qa’eda and had come from Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight with Jabhat al-Nusra.
One of the few public mentions of the “Khorasan Group” before last week backs up Zelin’s remarks. Peter Bergen, writing for CNN, briefly said:
According to both British counterterrorism officials and U.S. intelligence officials, senior al Qaeda members based in Pakistan have traveled to Syria to direct operations there. They are known as the Khorasan group. Khorasan is an ancient term for an Islamic empire that once incorporated what is now Afghanistan.
Unnamed US officials only fuelled the scepticism as they pressed their case through the week. One official said the threat from the Khorasan Group was “imminent”, but another denied this as “there were no known targets or attacks expected in the next few weeks”.
The officials said that the Group was led by Muhsin al-Fadhli, a Kuwaiti who was “Al Qa’eda’s senior leader in Iran” before he moved to Syria in 2013 to fight with Jabhat al-Nusra. The State Department’s designation of al-Fadhli says he was “among the few trusted Al Qa’eda operatives who received advance notification” of the attacks of September 11, 2001 — even though he was only 20 at the time. Now, the US sources said, “Al Qa’eda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri dispatched this deputy to recruit those Western fighters, who have a better chance of escaping scrutiny at airports and could place bombs onto planes”.
For someone who is supposedly a high-level Al Qa’eda operative in Syria, there is little public information on al-Fadhli. One of the lengthiest reports is in the Arab Times in March, based on “informed sources”. The Yemeni supposedly played a role in the decision of Al Qa’eda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri’s decision to support Jabhat al-Nusra in 2013 when the Islamic State challenged it for leadership of the jihadist movement.
Yet does this establish that al-Fadhli was planning a terror attack on the US? The Arab Times offers no evidence and makes the bizarre assertion that the Yemeni and Al Qa’eda were acting on behalf of Iran:
The most important objective is to use Al Qa’eda’s world terror cells to target Western nations particularly the United States of America, in case [Iran's] nuclear facilities face any kind of military strikes from the US or Israel. [The sources] revealed that Iran believes Al-Qa’eda’s terror cells are the most important asset that can be used in either secret or open negotiations with the United States. Iran offered to train al-Qaeda elements on how to use bombs, and provided some financial support and safe refuge as part of an agreement that was reached in 2009, which resulted in the execution of the related agendas.
The report is further shaken by its assertion that al-Fadhli was directing activities not only against the Islamic State and the Assad regime, but also against the Free Syrian Army and the Islamic Front — both of whom were fighting alongside Jabhat al-Nusra against Syrian forces.
The stories, beginning with the Associated Press “Al-Qaida’s Syrian Cell Alarms US” on September 13, also invoked the name of Ibrahim al-Asiri, “Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s master bomb-maker” — but without establishing that al-Asiri had ever stepped foot inside Syria or had been in contact with al-Fadhli.
Whether or not al-Fadhli and a “Khorasan Group” were planning terror attacks, what matters is the perception — and the perception of many inside Syria is that the claim was just a pretext for the Americans to strike their real target: Jabhat al-Nusra.

So What’s Wrong With Hitting Jabhat al-Nusra?

One might claim that, even if the US was being deceptive in refusing to declare its real intention, the attack on Jabhat al-Nusra makes sense. After all, the group has been listed as a terrorist organization by the US since late 2012. Its leadership is linked to Al Qa’eda, even if it has pursued a local fight against the Assad regime, working with Syrian organizations and communities. Before spring 2013, it was connected with the Islamic State.
The problem is that this case was not made effectively inside Syria. A series of opposition and insurgent groups — from the “moderates” whom the US has said it wants to promote to the Islamic Front to independent brigades — castigated the US airstrikes as counter-productive. Rallies on the day after the attack bluntly set out the sentiment of some Syrians: “Jabhat al-Nusra came to support us, when the whole world abandoned us.”
See Syria Daily, Sept 24: US Missiles Hit Insurgents, Kill Civilians, Upset the Opposition
The US might have the simple formula of “moderates” v. “extremists”, but the reality is that Jabhat al-Nusra is part of the insurgency, even if it is formally kept as some distance because of Washington’s position.
So that means the attack on the group is considered an attack on the insurgents. The point was made, directly or indirectly, by the US-backed Supreme Military Council, the General Staff of the US-backed Free Syrian Army, the US-backed Harakat Hazm Brigade, the faction Jaish al-Mujahideen, and the Islamic Front, as well as Jabhat al-Nusra.
A “moderate” insurgent source inside Syria summarized, “The US strategy? How about turning possible coalition partners on the ground into sceptics, if not enemies, with the first wave of missiles?”

Firing from the Air, Losing on the Ground

The anger at the US airstrikes was compounded by Washington’s failure — whether deliberate policy or an oversight — to connect its operations with the situation on the ground. The US informed Israel, Syria’s ally Iran, and the Assad regime of the impending attacks, but did not see fit to mention them to insurgents.
That meant that even those US attacks which hit the Islamic State struck far from the key frontlines. An article by McClatchy News gave one example:
There are now 10 groups fighting [the Islamic State] north of Aleppo, near the town of Mare, but the U.S. and its allies “offered very little ammunition support, no information, no air cover, and no collaboration in military plans and tactics – nothing,” said Colonel Hassan Hamadi.
Far from being crippled by the airstrikes, the Islamic State simply took their fighters and their offensives elsewhere. While the US-led coalition hit Raqqa, the largest city held by the jihadists, they moved more forces to the assault on the Kurdish center of Kobane near the Turkish center — where there were no coalition attacks until last weekend.
So, far from being a coherent operation to “degrade” the Islamic State, the opposition saw no connection between the aerial campaign and the declared Obama Administration effort for $500 million to arm and train “moderate” insurgents. Indeed, even as the planes flew, that effort receded: the head of the American military, General Martin Dempsey, said it would be many months before even 5,000 insurgents — a fraction of the fighters inside Syria — were completely trained and equipped.

An Alternate US Strategy?

Given the shredding of any US strategy — if there was one to work with insurgents, one can only search for alternatives.
Perhaps the US believes it can “contain” the Islamic State with airstrikes alone?
If so, the approach flies in the face of the experience in Iraq next door, where the jihadists are only being pushed back when aerial operations support ground attacks. Washington has not set out how the Islamic State can be held back from further advances, such as the possible takeover of Kobane, let alone be removed from bases of powers such as Raqqa and Deir Ez Zor — two of the seven largest cities in Syria.
Perhaps the Obama Administration envisage a refashioned “moderate” insurgency as the ground component of the strategy?
Washington’s rhetoric, as it pressed for the $500 million from Congress, set out this line; however, it was quickly erased by Dempsey’s “clarification” on what armament and training meant in practice.
President Obama’s interview on Sunday night was an effective admission that the strategy is a non-starter: “There is a moderate Syrian opposition, but right now, it doesn’t control much territory. They are being squeezed between [the Islamic State] on the one hand and the Assad regime on the other.”
That leaves one other option: could the US see the Syrian military as the ground force to check the Islamic State?
Publicly the Administration is not pointing to any consideration of the option. Obama continued to tag Damascus as a “barbaric regime” in his speech last week at the UN, and he repeated the formula last night that President Assad would have to step aside in a political transition.
Still, the biggest cheerleader for the US-led airstrikes is the Assad regime. Damascus switched within 48 hours from opposition to intervention to a welcoming of the attacks, and its caution is being replaced with an acceptance of operations not only by the US but also Gulf States and Europeans — provided, of course, they are strictly focused on the Islamic State.
In practice, the Assad regime is indicating that there does not have to be a formal commitment for an alternate US strategy. It is quite happy to accept an American approach which takes on its recent enemy of the Islamic State, as well as its longer-term foe of the insurgency — or, at least, parts of it.

Bolstering Extremists?

That welcome from Damascus does not constitute a US “victory”, of course, but it is as good as Washington can get after a week of its campaign.
And even that will not be much in the weeks to come. For Washington, far from containing the “extremists”, may have bolstered the threat that it has been generating in the media as well as facing on the ground.
The declaration of the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, Abu Mohammad al-Joulani, is not a declaration of war on the US. It is not close to a renewed “alliance” with the Islamic State, despite the misguided headlines in some media outlets. As an EA analyst framed al-Joulani’s message this morning, “Well, brother Barack, if you rethink your approach and consider the possible backfiring from it, then you’re safe from that backfire.”
However, an insurgency which has been alienated by the US attacks gives significant relief to the Islamic State, which can rest assured that it will not face a coordinated challenge as it does in Iraq. It may even give them more recruits: even if al-Joulani stands aside from reconciliation, individual Jabhat al-Nusra units and fighters — and indeed those of other elements in the insurgency — may join the jihadists out of anger against America.
And while most insurgents will not pursue that option, they are likely to conclude that there is no prospect of working with the US against the Islamic State, let alone the Assad regime.
As a leader of the Islamic Front said this weekend:
We have been calling for these sorts of attacks for three years and when they finally come they don’t help us. People have lost faith.
CLICK FOR PICS http://eaworldview.com/2014/10/syria-feature-amid-offensive-northwest-insurgents-fighting-among/

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