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Wahhabism

Terrorists for hire: US-trained and supported SDF is now recruiting ISIS fighters

Terrorists for hire: US-trained and supported SDF is now recruiting ISIS fighters

Since the start of the civil war, fighters from within Syria and from outside Syria were recruited for the more important (so important that even terrorist elements were enlisted for this) cause: overthrow the Syrian government headed by Bashar al-Assad. Some world and regional governments were so determined to achieve this goal even if that meant fighting side by side with genocidal Wahhabi Salafist terrorists. And they did and some still do.

Since 2011, these actors worked methodically to achieve that singular goal. First, they created the umbrella organization, which they called the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to lead the campaign (July 2011) and provide the public face for all armed groups. 
Since outside actors were many and with many agendas, the FSA quickly splintered into separate factions depending on their “funders” and ideological supporters. Saudi Arabia funded Wahhabi Salafists–and some secular armed groups for cover. Qatar and Turkey threw their weight behind members of the Muslim Brotherhood fighters–and some secular fighters, for cover as well. The United Stated government and its EU allies sponsored secular fighters but also tolerated the factions associated with Qatar, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. 
That uneasy arrangement lasted until the Wahhabi Salafists grew strongest to become the most powerful armed group that would wrestle way territory not only from other Syrian armed groups and from the Syrian government, but also from the Iraqi government. ISIL’s fast rise to power stunned and threatened its supporters and those who tolerated it. When ISIL carried out waves of cruel crimes and acts in Syria and abroad, the anti-Assad coalition cracked. They agreed that ISIL must be downsized and contained and its offshoot—Nusra—be rehabilitated. By that time, Russia decided to step up its involvement (September 2015) and support the Syrian government. They found the Iranians there already doing just that.
 Since then, all territory previously controlled by ISIL was reclaimed by the Syrian government (30%) and its allies. Meanwhile the US-sponsored armed groups fighting under a new umbrella organization called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) retook nearly 15% of ISIL’s territory mainly east of the river (Euphrates) and annexed it to their Kurdish controlled areas. As of now, the Syrian government controls about 55% of Syria, the SDF controls about 30%, and all other armed groups control pockets amounting to about 15%. 
To preserve their gains and have some leverage going into the political talks, SDF fighters are building an alternative military force to control north and northeast Syria. Given that the territories they recently took were inhabited by Sunni Arabs, not Kurds, the SDF leaders and their backers are now recruiting Sunni Arab fighters, including former ISIL members. 
These activities and the level of foreign interference will delay peace in a country that lost too many of its people and too much of its wealth and resources. These foreign actors ought to realize that the longer instability lasts in Syria the less stable their own countries will be. It is in the interest of everyone that this crisis is solved and solved quickly.

 

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Forced to choose between carrying out Saudi plans or quitting, Hariri quits

Forced to choose between carrying out Saudi plans or quitting, Hariri quits

After being summoned like a Saudi diplomat to appear before the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Saad Hariri returned to Beirut to pack and say his goodbyes, then returned to Riyad, picked up the phone and called the Lebanese president to tell him that he is quitting. The bizarre process led President Michel Aoun to wait to see if Hariri return and inform him in person, and through the proper protocol, about the reasons for quitting before accepting his resignation. That might be a very long wait. 
Clearly, the Hariri’s decision to resign is not his own. After all, all the reasons he mentioned are not new developments: Lebanon is under the circumstances and conditions as when he agreed to the deal that brought him and Aoun to the offices of the presidency and the prime ministry. 

Among the reasons, real and fictitious, that forced him to resign, Hariri claims that he could be assassinated, that Iran in meddling in Lebanese affairs, and that Hezbollah is a destabilizing force because of its use of force against Syrians and Lebanese citizens. Before he agreed to the deal that made him prime minister, Hezbollah was doing whatever it is doing now, Iran was doing whatever it is doing now, and his fear for his life then was as much a risk then as it is now. Clearly there is something else that has changed: Saudi Arabia’s plan for the region. 
The summon is proof of that fact and it is also proof that Saudi Arabia is meddling in Lebanese affairs. Those who know Lebanese politics, know that many regional and world powers meddle in Lebanese affairs, so there is nothing new here. 
These developments are indicative of Saudi plans to escalate its efforts to further destabilize Lebanon, and country, whose stability is crucial to region given its geography, demography, and history. 

“No Place for Assad” is not a Plan

“No Place for Assad” is not a Plan

Syrian troops who took part in Deir Ezzor battle against ISIL
The so-called Syrian opposition and their Arab and Western governments’ backers are responsible for the failure in realizing a political transition towards broader representative governance. Now that even the strongest armed militant groups are facing defeat, the possibility of seeing these various opposition groups and personalities exert any significant role in shaping the political future of Syria is non-existent.

It should be noted that the peaceful protest movement that preceded the armed conflict did not set its agenda the overthrow of the Syrian government of even insist that Bashar Assad be ousted. Ousting Assad was primarily the dream of armed groups, especially the Wahhabi-Salafists, and some Arab and Western governments who don’t believe in any form of government except theirs.  They thought that the wave of anger that ousted Ben Ali, Mubarak, and Saleh of Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen, respectively, could be leveraged to rid the Middle East of those who did not fall inline and accept the oversized roles played by undemocratic, authoritarian rulers of the rich Gulf nations. After all, that strategy worked in Libya when Qatar, backed by NATO nations, financed and armed a ragtag of rebels to overthrow the mercurial, unreliable Mu`ammar Qaddafi. 

For seven years, money and weapons were poured into Syria with the singular objective in the mind and in the mouth of all those opposed to the Syrian government: There is no place for Assad in Syria. That singular goal meant that all those opposed to Assad are lesser “threats” than Assad, including ISIL and Nusra. When Assad outlasted many of the heads of these anti-Assad governments, Like Cameron, Hollande, Davutoğlu, Hamad, and Obama, many realized that “No place for Assad in Syria” is not actually a political platform or plan. 

The French president who replaced one of France’s least competent leaders admitted that much when he acknowledged that “there is no credible or capable alternative to Assad.” But even that view, accurate as it may be, does not represent the full truth. 

Syria is not a one-man show kind of country that can be compared to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, or UAE. Syria, despite the fact that it has been ruled by a single party, is a nation of institutions and fairly sophisticated civil society. It has a professional military, very efficient bureaucracy, highly educated citizens, diverse and inclusive society, and durably functioning political process and more. That reality might explain the fact that, even during the times when the Syrian government’s hold on power was weakest, major Syrian cities remained loyal to the Syrian state.


So it is no surprise now that, when the Syrian government has regained control over nearly 65% of the country, that the political opposition groups are having hard time finding international sponsors. Even the UN sponsored talks that were routinely held are now less frequent, if not fully absent. The hubris of the opposition groups and its leaders perverted belief that undemocratic regimes like those of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, or UAE would be reliable partners to help them establish a modern Athenian democracy in Syria are stunning. Their bet on self-interested and authoritarian regimes betrayed the hopes of the Syrian people for stronger Syria and produced a destroyed country that will need nearly half a trillion dollar to rebuild, and decades to heal from a war that touched, through death or injury, every Syrian family. 
  

Syria Control Map as of 09/05/2017

The Syrian government recently breached the 3-year old siege ISIL imposed on Deir Ezzor

Research Report: Saudi Arabia exports Wahhabi Islam, an ideology that promotes extremism and terrorism

Research Report: Saudi Arabia exports Wahhabi Islam, an ideology that promotes extremism and terrorism

 ISR Comment:

Because of stories like this, Saudi Arabia wants to shut down Aljazeera
The rift between four Arab governments and Qatar is a good thing for those interested in reduced level of violence in Islamic societies and the potential for serious reform in area of religious thought and practices. For nearly a decade now, ISR has focused on the internal problems and the self-inflicted harm posed by the ideology and practices of Wahhabi-Salafism. ISR’s campaign is driven by the firm belief that by addressing the corrupting role played by Wahhabism can Islamic societies around the world overcome the many other challenges. The role of Wahhabism, as an ideology and practice that justify and sustain violence and bigotry, is now the subject of many news media and research organizations. The crisis between the Gulf Nations (+Egypt) will help expose the dubious secret dealings of these governments, all of whom are equal offenders when it comes to human rights violations and other forms of abuses. 
Because of this rift, Aljazeera, which has been used by the Qatari rulers as a soft weapon around the world, is now, and for the first time, producing content that is critical of the ruling families of the Gulf States. The media war will help expose the secret dealings of corrupt regimes and force a conversation about the ways Islam and Islamic institutions have been used for political ends. This feud will not just help expose corruption among Arab and Muslim rulers, it will also expose the hypocrisy and complicity of Western governments. The report below, and subsequent coverage, is a good example of the new reality. 
The Saudi rulers have rejected the findings of this report, claiming that it is based on lies. They argued that, since these extremist groups carried out many attacks in Saudi Arabia, that proves that Saudi Arabia is not a sponsor or supporter of terrorism. This is an absurd argument. ISIL is at war with Nusra, is that proof that the two organizations are not members of Wahhabi-Salafist terror organizations? Can Nusra argue, that it is now fighting ISIL in some regions, therefore it is not a terrorist organization? Of course, not. 
The evidence establishing direct connection between Wahhabi-Salafism and violent groups is beyond doubt. The fact that Wahabbism sees other Islamic sects as deviants is proof of their disdain to human dignity. The fact that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are the only two countries in the world that officially embrace and promote Wahhabism makes that connection even clearer. There is one simple thing the Saudi and Qatari rulers can do to end their ties to terrorism: condemn in clear and unambiguous terms the Wahhabi ideology and practices that justifies the abuse and killing of Muslims and non-Muslims who do not share their views and beliefs, and shut down their institutions and many satellite televisions that spread hate and bigotry.

 

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Summary of the report:
 A new report from The Henry Jackson Society, “Foreign Funded Islamist Extremism in the UK”, has highlighted the need for a public inquiry into the foreign-based funding of Islamist extremism. We report on a growing body of evidence on the considerable impact that foreign funding has had on advancing Islamist extremism in Britain and other Western countries. Our conclusions include: The foreign funding for Islamist extremism in Britain primarily comes from governments and government linked foundations based in the Gulf, as well as Iran. Foremost among these has been Saudi Arabia, which since the 1960s has sponsored a multimillion dollar effort to export Wahhabi Islam across the Islamic world, including to Muslim communities in the West. In the UK, this funding has primarily taken the form of endowments to mosques and Islamic educational institutions, which have apparently, in turn, played host to Islamist extremist preachers and the distribution of extremist literature. Influence has also been exerted through the training of British Muslim religious leaders in Saudi Arabia, as well as the use of Saudi textbooks in a number of the UK’s independent Islamic schools. A number of Britain’s most serious Islamist hate preachers sit within the Salafi-Wahhabi ideology and are apparently linked to Islamist extremism sponsored from overseas, either by having studied in Saudi Arabia as part of scholarship programmes, or by having been provided with extreme literature and material within the UK itself. There have been numerous cases of British individuals who have joined Jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria whose radicalisation is thought to link back to foreign funded institutions and preachers. Full report, below:

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Qatar scapegoated by Saudi Arabia and its allies: Qatar Saudi Arabia relations tested, again

Qatar scapegoated by Saudi Arabia and its allies: Qatar Saudi Arabia relations tested, again

Trump would like to claim that all Arab and Muslim leaders he lectured in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, are united to fight terrorism and confront Iran. The reality tells a different story. Just a day after he left, Egypt, UAE, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia launched an unprecedented and coordinated media attack on one of their own: Qatar. 

The Saudi and Emirati owned satellite television station, Alarabiyya and Skynews-Arabic, reported that the Emir of Qatar issued statements defending Hamas and Hezbollah, refusing to  confront Iran, and praising US protection of his country against countries that are known sponsors of terrorism (a reference to Saudi Arabia). The two channels aired extensive coverage of these unverified reports even after the government of Qatar refuted them and claimed that its news agencies’ websites and social media accounts were hacked. 

The governments of Egypt, UAE, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia kept the pressure on Qatar, signaling that the crisis between them is deeper than a mere news report. In a coordinated action, they blocked 21 Qatari websites, including Aljazeera’s. Their main news outlets continued their attack on Qatar. 

These events show that Saudi Arabia is leading an alliance that is at war with itself. Representative of each of the countries that attended these so-called summits with Trump had no idea what to expect. Some asked if there were going to be a joint statement and they were told that there will be none. Yet, after all the delegates left, the Saudi rulers released a statement in the name of all the Arab and Muslim leaders. Many countries felt the need to release separate statements emphasizing the
so-called Riyadh Statement does not represent their official position.

Qatar is being signaled out because it is supposed to be, not only part of this fictitious anti-terror Islamic coalition, but member of the club of rich Arab nations— Gulf Cooperation Council GCC. That membership was supposed to force them to hold a united front against real and perceived enemies. The visit of Qatari foreign minister to Iraq, an ally of Iran, just days before Riyadh summits, must have angered the Saudi rulers. 
Trump wanted Muslim rulers to fight terrorism. He called on them to do so from Saudi Arabia, the nation that created and spread the creed of al-Qaeda and its derivatives: Wahhabi Salafism. The Saudi rulers and their allies want to shift the blame to Qatar, which is indeed a sponsor and supporter of Wahhabi Salafism too, but also supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is seen as a threat to Egypt and UAE, especially. These developments reveal the weakness and inconsistencies from which the so-called “Islamic anti-terror alliance” suffers. It is an alliance made for propaganda not for real action.
The crisis as reported in the media:
   



Only a bigot would think that the Saudi rulers stand for Islam and Muslims

Only a bigot would think that the Saudi rulers stand for Islam and Muslims

Trump, whose first executive order as president imposed a Muslim Ban, which was blocked by U.S. courts and opposed by civil society institutions, was declared a “true friend of Muslims.” That declaration was made by the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince, Mohammed Ibn Salman, who recently mocked an entire religious community, Shia Muslims who believe in Mahdi as a messiah (btw, Many Sunnis also believe in an Awaited Mahdi), for the tenets of their faith as a cause for his regime’s hostility towards Iran. It is extraordinary that a member of a ruling clan that espouses Wahhabism, which holds that the earth is flat, playing chess as haram (proscribed) and a number of other absurdities, declares that he will only normalize relations with a neighboring nation when it abandoned its religion.

The Saudi kingdom is built on three pillars of supremacy: The supremacy of the Saud Clan, the supremacy of being Arab, and the supremacy of Wahhabi Salafism, all of which are canonized in the official name of the kingdom and the titles of its rulers: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), ruled by the Custodian of the Two Noble Sanctuaries, Salman, and his select princes, God’s Commanding Guardians [Awliya’ al-amr]. This arrangement allows the Saudi rulers to subjugate its people treating them as a flock [ra`iyya]–not citizens. 

The Saudi rulers further segment Saudi society into classes with varying rights and privileges: women are subordinate to men, non-Arabs are subordinate to Arabs (except European white men), non-Muslims are subordinate to Muslims, and non-Sunni Muslims are subordinate to Sunni Muslims, and poor persons are subordinate to rich persons. These values, principles, and practices guide their domestic and foreign policies. Ibn Salman’s characterization of Trump as a “true friend of Muslims” makes sense in such a context. In the mind of the Saudi rulers, Trump is the Commanding Guardian [Wali al-amr] over Muslim-Americans. As a rich white man, he is on the same level as members of the Saudi ruling family. He is, then, a true friend of Muslims—rich, Wahhabi Salafi Muslims that is. 

The Saudi rulers have subjugated the people of the Arabian Peninsula for more than seventy years. They used all resources, connections, and their control over religious sites to attempt to subjugate the rest of the Muslim people around the world. However, Muslim-Americans, especially Sunnis, should not tolerate the offensive paternalism of a misogynistic, supremacist, callous rulers. For Muslim-Americans, Trump is a public servant, not a Commanding Guardian over them. They don’t need rulers from thousands of miles away, to tell them who is a “true friend of Muslims and who is not. A regime that bombs children in Yemen and treats non-Saudi Muslims as inferior to Saudis lacks the moral standing to represent anyone but itself. In fact, the Saudi rulers stand guilty of fomenting sectarianism, hatred, and bigotry.

Only an ignorant person would believe the Saudi rulers’ claim of leading the Muslim world and only a bigot will share their worldview.

Free Syrian Army may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity

Free Syrian Army may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Armed opposition groups operating inside Syria may have violated international humanitarian law by committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. Arguably, some members of the Syrian troops may also have committed similar violations. However, the self-incriminating evidence released by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups is simply overwhelming. The evidence used in this research note is gathered from documents, images, and videos released by both parties (the FSA and the Syrian government) and not independently collected from the field.


The materials examined show deliberate acts that contravene the Geneva Conventions, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and other treaties and customary laws (including classical Islamic law). The evidence is based on 12 months of monitoring websites and social media used by the Syrian warring parties. Thousands of video clips and hundreds of articles and images were examined leading to these disturbing and alarming conclusions.

Some groups affiliated with the FSA have conducted frequent raids on security forces check points and military outposts and captured soldiers and then executed them. In a number of videos, unarmed soldiers are shown with their hands tied behind their backs, gagged, and blindfolded, then shot dead execution style. Other videos show corpses of soldiers piled in trash dumps. A video released on October 3rd by the FSA group called Jabhat al-nusrah (communiqué 95) shows the bodies of 20 soldiers on the side of the road. The group identified them as “20 infidels from the troops of Assad captured and killed in Aleppo.”
      

Other videos depict armed opposition groups interrogating civilians (who bear signs of torture on their faces and bodies), accusing them of being members of the shabbihah (government supporters), and then executing them in public. These are serious violations, and are war crimes (under the Geneva Conventions, and the ICC Treaty) since they endanger protected persons (prisoners of war and the wounded and sick).


While Article 17 of the Fourth Geneva Convention provides that the “parties to the conflict shall endeavor to conclude local agreements for the removal [of noncombatants] from besieged or encircled areas,” overwhelming evidence emerged showing that armed groups placed civilians in harm’s way. Numerous documents show that armed groups, many of whom are from outside the city (and from other countries), have occupied residential neighborhoods in Aleppo and are endangering the lives of civilians. Some of the FSA groups laid siege to towns and bombarded them simply because in the majority of residents belonged to Shiite sects or were of Kurdish ethnicity. Armed groups occupied residential homes, and snipers used them to attack security forces. All these acts are known to cause harm to civilians and their property and can be classified as “deliberately endangering noncombatants,” which is also an egregious violation of the laws of war.

Some of the armed groups affiliated with the FSA use language that express contempt for other religious and ethnic groups, and express intent to “cleanse” Syria of non-Sunni Muslims. This basis for war violates international norms for the protection of minorities and the prohibitions on genocide.

  

It may be the case that the FSA leadership does not support such acts, but there was no evidence whatsoever that the FSA leadership or their foreign supporters intervened to stop these practices. In fact, as the New York Times reported, most of the financial and military support provided by foreign countries ends up making its way to the kind of groups that are suspected of committing these violations.


Given recent developments in the body of humanitarian laws, countries involved in support of groups involved in such activities could be liable for these crimes. The ICC Treaty for instance, holds the perpetrators as well as the enablers responsible for the same crime. Reportedly, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey have provided financial and military aid to the FSA. If these reports are true, these states are complicit in the crimes committed by the FSA.

It is in the interest of peace and in the interest of the Syrian civilians that these unconscionable and abhorrent criminal acts stop and that the perpetrators are brought to justice. It cannot be the Syrian people’s wish or aspiration to replace a brutal authoritarian regime with a criminal, genocidal one.
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* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. Opinions expressed herein are the author’s, speaking as a citizen on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated.

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