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Peace Talks Failing in Syria, Again – Record Number of Jihadists Joining the Syrian Opposition
by Ezra Van Auken
The next step in Syria’s civil war, which isn’t really a next step scenario but rather a long, dragged out process that’s gone nowhere for the West, Syria and rebels, is peace talks. Behind the stalled peace discussions are rebel factions, most of which are divided among each other, putting a tough task at hand. While Islamist-types are steering clear of the international peace talks, even moderates who are pushing to attend talks haven’t gotten a positive response from fellow rebels – with some even threatening to withdraw support from rebel factions.
Adding to the tallied number of meetings, on Tuesday the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) met with Western officials in France to discuss solutions with just getting peace talks started. One problem with peace talks is that both moderates and Islamists want more weapons supplies before talks are started, seeing that the Obama administration has hardly honored their word of lethal support. Wasil al-Shamali said, “We will not go to Geneva,” adding that any peace talks with Assad would defy opposition principles.
Factions under the SNC aren’t giving leeway either. Major General Salim Idris of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has become the West’s model of who represents the Syrian opposition, yet Idris has remained silent to November’s round of peace talks. In fact, no rebel faction in Syria has caved and agreed to peace talks, seeing that their allies aren’t. Ahmad al-Jabra, SNC’s president is daring an attempt to attend talks, saying two things have to happen: a timetable to the talks and no open-ended dialogue to the regime.
Of course, actions are louder than words, and with threats by rebel allies to leave the Coalition if talks are attended, that may be enough for al-Jabra to bluff. The LA Times reported, “Rebel groups fighting Assad’s government have long said they won’t negotiate until the embattled president steps down to allow a government of national reconciliation to take over and rule Syria.” Even Syrian President al-Assad seems to be getting tired of the ‘same old’, telling reporters that lingering “factors” aren’t helping the talks.
Even with moderate rebels joining the hoped November peace discussions, there is still a glaring problem, and that’s the realization that even a rebel presence wouldn’t necessarily represent the opposition. With factions influenced by Islamist factors like Jabhat al-Nusra, the Farouq Brigade, the Northern Storm Brigade and others, it’s clear that even with rebel representation and peace deals, there would still be a fighting force on the ground. And, it’s plausible to say that Islamist influence is growing far faster than moderate influence.
The Washington Post reported Sunday, “Foreigners fueled by Islamic fury are rushing to Syria to fight President Bashar Assad at a faster rate than the flow of rebels into Afghanistan,” referring to the 1980s push in Afghanistan. War analysts believe the Islamist flow into Syria is something that hasn’t been seen, coming from at least 60 nations. Among the countries are Saudi Arabia, Libya and Tunisia as well as European countries like France, Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands.
War analyst from Washington, Aaron Zelin explained, “This is probably one of the biggest foreign-fighter mobilizations since it became a phenomenon in the 1980s with the Afghan jihad against the Soviets,” believing these Islamist fighters are joining the opposition out of obligation to religious duty. As foreign Islamists gravitate to the Syrian region for war, the somewhat moderate rebels who had been under the Free Syrian Army and SNC’s umbrella are now waving goodbye and joining Islamist ranks.
The State Weekly detailed last week, “Following suit with the dozens of rebels that left the FSA recently, another batch has disavowed the Western banner rebel group.” Reasoning for the transfers is due to the lack of equipment on the moderate side, and obviously the loss of influence, which is crippling the Western-backed banner groups. A rapid growth of jihadist, Islamist influence is only expected to produce violent results. Former CIA official Michael Scheuer testified this to Congress.
Scheuer told Congress that Syria’s jihadist problem is worse than ever, and when the motivated rebels return home they’ll be more convinced than ever that their fighting could produce winning outcomes, bringing more fighting. The former CIA analyst also noted that with rebels creating a long list of contacts to call up, the partnership would bring heavier fighting. Syrian expert Joshua Landis wrote recently that Western peace talks is a figleaf designed to cover-up the understanding that West administrations don’t want the rebels or President Assad to win the war.
Putting hope behind peace talks dubbed “Geneva 2” is probably not the best gamble at this point, considering the West isn’t necessarily looking to find peace, but rather a feel good solution to a problem partly fueled by West intervention.
AFP Photo/JM Lopez