“David Cameron was derided for claiming that there are “about 70,000 Syrian opposition fighters …who do not belong to extremist groups” and who might be potential allies of the coalition against IS. The Kurds are not included in that count………… In fact, most experts agree with the prime minister’s intelligence-derived assessment. Charles Lister of Brookings Doha Centre reckons that there are over 100 armed factions with a total of 75,000 fighters, many of whom operate under the Free Syrian Army umbrella, who could be considered “moderate” by Syrian standards. Even more problematic from a Western point of view is the idea of partnering with either Ahrar al-Sham or Jaish al-Islam, two big Salafist groups that have connections with Jabhat al-Nusra (JAN), al-Qaeda’s increasingly powerful Syrian affiliate………..”
Interesting but predictable. The Economist agrees with David Cameron about the 75 thousand “moderate” fighters in Syria, something I doubt very much. It quotes the Brookings Doha Center (in Qatar, hardly a neutral party) as confirmation. Then it notes that more than 30, 000 of these are Al Qaeda affiliates (probably some 50 thousand in this case). So again they tag Al Nusra and Ahrar Al Sham cutthroats as “moderates”.
Remember when the Al Qaeda, the creator of Al Nusra and later ISIS, were considered the worst of the worst? Not anymore.
I wrote a couple of years ago that Al Qaeda may be invited to “come in from the cold“. I repeated last spring when the Nusra seemed the last great hope of the Arab oil potentates in Syria. Now it is being invited in from the cold. Not only in Syria: in devastated Yemen, the Saudi and allied mercenary bombings have allowed Al Qaeda to take over more towns in the south.
Will ISIS be too far behind? Perhaps with a little push from the moderate Wahhabi “allies”?
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
Yemen is becoming more complicated, as civil-proxy wars are wont to become. Yemen is also being set back about a century, through destruction by native rivals and foreign Arab invaders. The Saudi-United Arab Emirates (UAE) bombers/invaders have acquired, bought or rented, a gaggle of questionable hungry allies (Sudan, Eritrea, humorless Jordan, among other Arab payees). The Western powers, especially the US and Britain, are also helping the attackers. They are siding against the wild Houthis and the Yemeni army, the side that fights Al-Qaeda (AQAP) and the Islamic State. The Westerners don’t get paid directly, but they expect fat contracts from the Saudis and Emiratis for weapons and their services.
Now, in the service of the Saudi princes, the two Western powers are direct war allies of Sudan, whose dictator has been convicted by the ICC and is a wanted war criminal. The Sudanese soldiers under dictator Omar Al Bashir are probably among the least professional in the Arab world, and have a well-deserved reputation for raping and pillaging in their own country. And they are being used in the contested and divided city of Aden.
Now there are also some media reports of the UAE recruiting more Colombian mercenaries to send into the parts of Aden they are trying control. UAE, with a tiny citizen population of about one million who are unwilling to fight abroad, had started to hire a largely Colombian mercenary army after the Arab uprisings of 2011. Now some of these are reportedly poised to enter Yemen, if they re not there already.
To further complicate matters, or perhaps simplify them depending on your point of view, two new not-unexpected developments have occurred. Deposed former president Generalissimo Hadi Bin Zombie and his prime minister Bahah had managed to be flown into Aden by the Saudis. But the much-publicized return did not last. Soon both Bahah and Hadi fled Aden again to the safety of their Saudi hotels in Riyadh.
In the meantime, the Yemenis are countering the Saudi-UAE bombing and attempted invasion of their country in their own favorite way. They are making successful incursions into Saudi territory, often ejecting the inept Saudi garrisons and controlling towns and villages (that used to be part of Yemen some eighty years ago).
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) seem to be in a race to see which one can establish more foreign military bases and which one can hire more foreign mercenaries. I once suggested that the Persian-American Gulf should be renamed the Gulf of Mercenaries, mainly because of these two countries’ penchant for importing foreign mercenaries to crush dissent and help stifle reform.
The British were in Bahrain for a long time as colonial masters. They had military bases on the island, and they helped the Al Khalifa ruling family and their tribal allies keep absolute political control and enabled them to continue looting the country. They left at the beginning of the 1970s although their bureaucrats continued to call the shots in many local institutions.
The U.S. naval base is a more recent development in Manama and it is largely considered a ‘non-political’ presence. It is a port of convenience and has no internal role. The Saudi military presence is an even more recent development, and it is a totally political and domestic security presence. The Saudi forces entered the country to help the Al Khalifa crush the “Arab Spring” popular uprising of 2011. They are now in the country as a permanent presence.
Then there is the huge contingent of foreign mercenaries imported from such humorless places as Pakistan and Jordan and Syria. They are definitely a political presence.
The British government has done its best to support the repression in Bahrain, it has even sent its unemployed princes and princesses on occasional visits to Bahrain. Just to enhance the ‘legitimacy’ of the ruling sectarian elites. Even as it has called for sanctions, nay even war, against the Syrian regime.
Now the British are reported to be in the process of re-establishing a new foreign military base on the island. That seems like a purely political presence, since Bahrain does not face any external threat other than from the foreign mercenaries imported by its regime.
Sovereign countries have the right to allow foreign bases on their soil: nothing unusual about that. Especially if they face external threats. Provided these bases do not interfere in domestic politics. But will the small island sink under the weight of all these foreign bases and imported mercenaries?………
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
“Lithuanian U.N. Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaite, chair of the council’s Yemen sanctions committee, said all 15 members had agreed to blacklist Saleh and Houthi rebel military leaders Abd al-Khaliq al-Huthi and Abdullah Yahya al Hakim. The three men are now subject to a global travel ban and asset freeze. Saleh has denied seeking to destabilize Yemen and his party warned after a meeting on Thursday that any sanctions on the former president or “even waving such a threat would have negative consequences on the political process.”…….. The United States submitted a formal request to the Yemen sanctions committee a week ago for Saleh and the Houthi leaders to be the first people designated…………”
Years ago some politicians in the United States often warned of “world government” encroaching on national sovereignty. They were usually conservative Republicans who were terrified of a UN-type world regime that would interfere in domestic US affairs. Some of them opined that it was part of an international conspiracy to dominate the world. They were considered ‘the crazies‘ in mainstream US media in those days. Now some of them run the
Isn’t this exactly what the UN and the USA are doing now in places like Yemen? And can the UN really force various opposed Yemeni factions to follow international dictate on internal matters? And why does the UN and world powers not try to solve other ‘domestic’ problems with sanctions, as in Egypt and Bahrain?
I have posted here before that sanctioning the Houthis is a meaningless gesture. Unless it is a prelude to a more muscular intervention against them. As far as I know the Houthis don’t own properties in Europe or New York; they don’t shop in Paris and London, and they don’t spend their vacations in Nice or Geneva. They certainly don’t purchase their weapons from the West; otherwise Mr. Cameron and Prince Chuck Al Windsor and M. Hollande would be as regular visitors to Saada as they are to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum