Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Rebel commanders: Assad using Kurds against us. America favors Kurds over us. Kurds use ISIS as excuse to expand

Interesting point in the latest article by Martin Chulov about Afghan Shias dominating the ranks of Shia militias in Aleppo. But this is not the reason I am quoting these two articles here. The point is about the deep antagonism and suspicion the Syrian rebels harbor towards the Kurds. This is directly relevant to one of the scenarios considered on this blog and associated accounts on Twitter and elsewhere. Under this scenario the Western/Russian intervention in Syria against the ISIS eventually triggers a global Sunni backlash which, among its possible consequences, would lead to more, not less, Sunni radicalism and more attacks in the West.

Critical to this scenario is a widespread perception in the Sunni world of a global anti Muslim conspiracy (The Shia, according to this conspiracy theory, are in bed with Western powers) that seeks, among others, to preserve the Syrian regime and empower Shia, Kurds and other minorities at the expense of the Sunni Arabs. I should note regarding the US official who dismissed the Arab paranoia as a "conspiracy theory" that conspiracy theorizing is the default mode of thinking and an integral part of the Arab culture and mentality. When one sees such conspiracy theories flying around in the Middle East, the fact that they may be outrageously absurd is no reason to dismiss them. To the contrary, this is a good reason to start getting worried.

By Martin Chulov and Kareem Shaheen (Guardian, 21 December 2015) {

Harith Abdul Baqi, 34, a military leader in Syria’s far north, said: “This is clearly aimed at destroying the revolution. They are using the Kurds [whose forces in the area are known as the PYD] as a ground force now, because the Syrian army has not been able to perform. This has surprised the Russians. They have found themselves in a swamp.

“Their goal is to allow the PYD to control the supply lines and the border. They also want to put pressure on Turkey, who do not want to lose influence so close to their frontier.

“South of Aleppo, they were making a lot of progress early in their campaign. The Shia militias were leading it with all of their force. But now they have stopped. They are going nowhere, despite far superior numbers and equipment.”

Opposition groups and regional diplomats say Shia militias near Aleppo have been dominated by Afghan Shias brought to Syria by Iran and led by Iranian officers and senior members of Hezbollah.

“The problem is that this is not their cause and they don’t have the will to fight. There have been 17 senior Iranian officers killed trying to instil order and discipline, including several generals. And only one was killed by Isis,” Baqi said.

“This isn’t going well for them. I can’t see the north settling down anytime soon.”

Source = Russia's airstrikes on Syria appear futile with little progress on ground }

BY ROY GUTMAN (McClatchy, DECEMBER 21 2015) {

When Division 30 was being set up at the end of April and early May, Col. Mohammad Daher, the new unit’s chief of staff, had several meetings with Kurdish officials in Afrin, a Kurdish area northwest of Aleppo, Syria. He noted then that the YPG seemed to be flourishing, despite the presence of government police and intelligence.

“They have an army, and an army needs a state for support,” Daher said, hinting that the backing came from the Syrian government, something Assad himself confirmed in an interview earlier this month with The Sunday Times of London, according to the official transcript of the interview.

From his contacts, Daher said, he became convinced that the Kurdish militia would prefer to let the Islamic State seize the entire northern countryside. “Then it’s our chance to attack” the religious extremists and take control of the territory, he asserted was what the Kurds had in mind. When the YPG invited Daher to merge his fighters with theirs, he was immediately suspicious that the Kurds’ real hope was “to neutralize as many people as they can” in the Arab rebel ranks.

But it was Daher’s belief that the U.S. wanted the YPG to play a leading role that doomed his support. He felt that the site the U.S. had picked for Division 30 headquarters merely confirmed American favoritism toward the Kurdish forces – Maryameen, west of the border town of Azaz, and just five miles from the Kurdish controlled Afrin area. Turkey, and Daher, had wanted it in the front-line town of Mar’e, which is threatened by the Islamic State. “But the Americans wanted it close to where the Kurds are,” he said.

The U.S. defense official dismissed Daher’s concern as a “conspiracy theory.”

Source = What really happened to the U.S. train-and-equip program in Syria? }