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Bibi and Bandar Badger Obama

by FRANKLIN LAMB

Damascus

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states, Bahrain, KuwaitOmanQatarSaudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, along with certain Arab League countries, plus Turkey and Israel, have this past week reportedly committed themselves to raising nearly $6 billion to “beef up” the just hatched seven member Islamic Front (IF) in Syria. These ‘ best friends of America” want the Obama Administration to sign onto a scheme to oust the Syrian government by funding, arming, training, and facilitating  movement and generally choreographing fighters of the Islamic Front.

Representatives of Bandar bin Sultan reportedly told staff members on Capitol Hill recently that committing the several billions to defeat the Assad regime by supporting the IF makes fiscal sense and will cost much less than the six trillion dollar figure tallied by the recent study by Brown University as part of its Costs of War project. According to the 2013 update of the definitive Brown study, which examined costs of the US wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan the total amount topped six trillion dollars.   This never before released figure includes costs of direct and indirect Congressional appropriations, lost equipment, US military and foreign contractors fraud, and the cost of caring for wounded American servicemen and their families.

Among the Islamist militia joining the new GCC backed coalition are Aleppo’s biggest fighting force Liwa al-Tawhid (Tawhid Brigade), the Salafist group Ahrar al-Sham, Suqour al-Sham, al-Haq Brigades, Ansar al-Sham and the Islamic Army, which is centered around Damascus. The Kurdish Islamic Front also reportedly joined the alliance.

IF’s declared aim is to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime whatever the human and material cost and replace it with an Islamic state. Abu Firas, the new coalitions’ spokesman declared that “we now have the complete merger of the major military factions fighting in Syria”.  Formally announced on 11/22/13, the IF includes groups from three prior umbrella organizations: the Syrian Islamic Front (SIF), the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front (SILF), and the Kurdish Islamic Front (KIF). From the SIF, Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyya (HASI), Kataib Ansar al-Sham, and Liwa al-Haqq joined, as did the KIF as a whole and former SILF brigades Suqur al-Sham, Liwa al-Tawhid, and Jaish al-Islam. None of these groups has been designated by the U.S. government as a foreign terrorist organization so Israel argues that there is nothing holding the US back according to an Israel official during meeting with AIPAC and Congress this week. That official is Israel’s new National Security Advisor, Yossi Cohen. He assured key Congressional leaders that the new Islamic Front, means that tens of thousands of rebels support “one policy and one military command” and that IF is not as “insane” as other Muslim militia  such as the al Qaeda-linked rebels such as Daash, al Nusra Front or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) which comprise the IF’s main rivals.  AIPAC and Cohen are telling Congressional staffer and members that the merger of several groups into the Islamic Front (IF) is one of the war’s most important developments and while the military opposition has long been fragmented, the new umbrella organization brings seven groups and their combined force of a CIA estimated 75,000 fighters under one command. It also links the fight in the north and the south which will stretch loyalist forces. The Saudi-Israel team is also asking the Obama Administration  to more than double the current monthly “ graduation class’ of 200 CIA trained rebels  in Turkey, Syria and Jordan to 500 per month.

What the GCC/Arabic League/Israeli team is asking of their western allies, led the US, to immediately fund the new Islamic Front to the tune of $ 5.5 billion.  Israeli security officials are arguing that this amount is small pocket change compared to the $ six trillion dollars spent in US terrorist wars over the past decade and that toppling the Assad regimes would truncate Iran’s growing influence in the region. While this suggestion has reportedly  been dismissed by some in the Obama administration as  “risible and pathetic”  Tel Aviv, the US Congressional Zionist lobby and to a lesser extent Ankara think it’s a good idea to link with the IF 7 and take their chances with al Qaeda later.  Some of the same voices are from AIPAC’s Congressional team who four years ago claimed that al Qaeda was ‘on the ropes and will soon collapse”. They are still optimistic that if the Assad regime goes “We can deal with the terrorists and it won’t cost six trillion dollars.”

One Congressman, who strongly agrees with AIPAC is Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA), who recently declared that “in my heart I am a Tea Party guy”, is a sitting member of the House Armed Services committee who believes the US should use Nuclear weapons against Tehran. In a Fox TV interview this week Hunter declared his opposition to any talks with Iran and insists that US policy should include a “massive aerial bombardment campaign” utilizing “tactical nuclear devices” to set Iran “back a decade or two or three.”

According to sources in Aleppo and Damascus, the IF’s leadership positions have been parceled among five of the seven groups as of 12/5/13. Four days after the IF was announced, it released an official charter.  Much of the document’s basic architecture is similar to that put out by the SIF in January, but the new version. It is filled with more generalities than other militia proclamations designed, to accommodate differing ideas among member groups. Its charter calls for an Islamic state and the implementation of sharia, though it does not define exactly what that means. The IF is firmly against secularism, human legislation (i.e., it believes that laws come from God, not from people), civil government, and a Kurdish breakaway state. The charter states that the group will secure minority rights in post-Assad Syria based on sharia — this could mean the dhimma (“protected peoples”) system, or de facto second-class citizenship for Christians and other minorities. The IF according to the Saudi officials in Lebanon seeks to unify other rebel groups so long as they agree to acknowledge the sovereignty of God. Given this ‘moderate’ wording some expect that that the southern-based Ittihad al-Islami li-Ajnad al-Sham will join the IF.

According to  leading IF foreign cheerleader, the Netanyahu government, the Islamic Front gives substance to what states wanting regime change in Syria have been calling for. Aron Lund, an analyst on the Syrian conflict, described as significant the new coalition of mainstream and hard-line Islamists, excluding any al Qaeda factions. “It’s something that could be very important if it holds up,” Lund explained recently adding that “ the  Islamic Front’s formation was a response to both regime advances and the “aggressive posture” of jihadists against other rebels, plus a good deal of foreign involvement, not least of which is Saudi and GCC pushing to unify the rebels.”

But contrary to reports out of Occupied Palestine that the Netanyahu regime is not worried about or much interested in the crisis in Syria, given its delight that Muslims and Arabs are once more killing each other and a certain exhibited smugness in Tel Aviv that Hezbollah is losing key mujahedeen and is facing along with Iran, its own “Vietnam experience”, there is reported to be near panic in Tel Aviv over Hezbollah achievements in Syria.  Rather than  claimed Zionist  satisfaction that Hezbollah has  lightened its footprint in South Lebanon by sending forces to Syria, which allows the Zionist regime to pretend to focus on the fake ‘peace process’ while in fact using it to consolidate its choke hold on the West Bank, the truth is quite different. Israel is far from complacent about what is happening in Syria and Hezbollah’s involvement. Truth told, Tel Aviv knows that despite manpower losses by Hezbollah, the dominant Lebanese political party is achieving major enhancements of its forces given the fact that there is no substitute for urban battlefield experience with respect to the regeneration, reinvigoration, and rededication of the Hezbollah led Resistance forces. Israeli officials have also stated their belief that Hezbollah is organizing enormous numbers of non-Hezbollah brigades that share on goal in common despite desperate beliefs.  That sacred goal is liberating Al Quds by any and all means.

A US Congressional source summarized the Obama Administrations take this week’s assassination of a key Hezbollah commander, as part of a new major Netanyahu government project to weaken Hezbollah. Lakis’s assassination Hassan Houlo Lakis on the night of December 3-4 in deemed in Washington to be particularly significant since Lakis was in charge of strategic files related to Israel and the Palestinians. Lakis was deeply involved in the operations of the development of drones for Hezbollah in addition to smuggling weapons to Gaza via Egypt. He also had good relationships with the Palestinian factions in Gaza, Syria, and Lebanon.  Lakis was known by Washington to be a highly important cadre and a second rank Hezbollah official. According to one analyst “Israel appeared as if it was telling Hezbollah, come and fight me. Israel is upset over the Western-Iranian agreement. It is also upset over the new position that the West has concerning Hezbollah whereby the West is now viewing the party as a force that opposes the Takfiris. Thus, Israel’s objective behind the assassination is to lure the party into a confrontation thus allowing Tel Aviv to tell the West: Hezbollah is still a terrorist organization.”

While the White House, according to sources on the US Foreign Relations Committee, is being heavily lobbied by the US Zionist lobby and Netanyahu government to take “remedial measures” following its “catastrophic historic mistake” of defusing the Iranian nuclear issue and refusing to bomb Damascus, by investing in the new Islamic Front. Doubts in Washington persist. The investment is estimated to be a total by all the partners to the tune of an estimated $ 5.5 billion dollars to be paid in large part by GCC/Arab League countries with US and Zionist contributions.  Cash from the latter two will sources come directly and indirectly out of the pockets of American taxpayers with Israel paying nothings.

Some Washington officials and analysts are wondering if US participation would help unify notoriously hostile rebel ranks and curtail the growing power of al-Qaeda in Syria, or is it simply one more iteration in a basket full of pretty zany Bander bin Sultan concocted projects to create a hierarchical revolutionary army to fight the regime alongside al-Qaeda? Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel expressed his personal suspicions this week that “the Israel-Saudi team is trying to drag the US back into a potentially deepening morass” thus cutting short recent signs that the Obama administration feels it can live with the Assad regime until it analyses what happens if/when Geneva II happens and assesse the Syria crisis more objectively, according to one congressional staffer.

Many among the American public also have doubts because they have been told that their government was ‘winding down’ its middle east wars in favor of rebuilding America’s infrastructure, roads, health care system as well as education system which according to the most recent international survey released this week shows the average Chinese student aged fifteen in Shanghai to be two full years ahead of America’s best students surveyed in Massachusetts. Recent top scores among secondary school youngsters showed that math, reading and science scores are were overwhelming dominated by Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan or Japan. The US is far down the list and declining.  The exam results revealed that a 15 year old Shanghai student is two year ahead of Massachusetts kids-with the gap widening.

It’s too early to say whether this latest Saudi-Israel-Arab League collaboration will fail as others have recently. But given the continuing Obama Administration efforts at taking back US Middle East policy from Tel Aviv, plus the perceptible movement away from support for the Netanyahu government and American taxpayer growing angst over funding the occupation of Palestine it just might collapse.

Franklin Lamb is a visiting Professor of International Law at the Faculty of Law, Damascus University for the 2013-2014 academic year. Lamb volunteers with the Sabra-Shatila Scholarship Program (sssp-lb.com) and is reachable c/o fplamb@gmail.com

Franklin Lamb is a visiting Professor of International Law at the Faculty of Law, Damascus University and volunteers with the Sabra-Shatila Scholarship Program (sssp-lb.com).

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