MIDEAST MIRROR 27.04.15, SECTION B (THE ARAB WORLD)
1-Regional counter moves
2-Standing in the queue
1-Regional counter moves
If we were to link ISIS’s growing activity in Iraq to the advances made by the Nusra Front in northeastern Syria where, together with other factions, it has captured Jisr ash-Shughour after taking control of Idlib and the Nuweiseeb crossing with Jordan, we may come to the conclusion that a regional counter-move is underway that is intended to exert pressure on the Iranian/Syrian/Iraqi axis that has opened up the Yemen front in order to hemorrhage Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies. What leads us to this conclusion is the change in Saudi Arabia’s priorities. It is now acting on the principle that ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend.’ This explains why Operation Decisive Storm’s warplanes are not attacking any al-Qa’ida targets in Yemen--‘Abdelbari ‘Atwan on pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com
The Turkish/Qatari/Brotherhood position ultimately leads to one single aim: How is it possible to use the model of the aggression on Yemen in their vigorous battles in Iraq and Syria? Is it possible for the two states to make use of the world's preoccupation with the Yemeni crisis, and to succeed in creating a new reality on the ground in Iraq and Syria, one they can subsequently transform into a launching-pad at a later time that accords with the [Saudi] slogan calling for 'waging a new storm' on Syria? All that this camp is now studying and discussing concerns this task, to the exclusion of all others. In this regard, the camp is working on a deal with the Al Saud: It will provide backing, if only formal, for the latter’s aggression on Yemen, in return for a battlefield accord having to do with the supervision of the armed opposition in Syria--Ibrahim al-Amin in Lebanese al-Akhbar
Turkey [has] concluded that it needed to secure some battlefield achievement that matches or goes beyond what Saudi Arabia is doing, in the belief that it can secure something equivalent to the supposed Saudi gains in Yemen, on the Syrian battlefield. With this in mind, it drove thousands of the armed elements that it has well-equipped and trained and who are acting under almost direct Turkish command onto the battlefield in effort to match Saudi actions in Yemen, and capture a significant area of Syria's northwest. Turkey was in harmony with the psychological warfare being waged by Saudi Arabia that claims that the Saudi-led Decisive Storm will move onto Syria after completing its mission in Yemen; a warning that Saudi Arabia's UN ambassador was impertinent enough to issue with his public threat of direct military intervention in Syria-- Amin Huteit in Syrian ath-Thawra
Recent ISIS advances in Iraq have blunted the Iraqi government’s drive to recapture the areas controlled by the Islamist group, notes the editor-in-chief of an online pan-Arab daily. If we were to add to this, the Nusra Front’s latest advances in Syria, we would seem to be witnessing a Saudi-inspired counter attack on the Syrian/Iraqi/Iranian axis in retaliation for opening the Houthi front in Yemen. The Turkish/Qatari/Brotherhood coalition wants both Saudi Arabia and the Houthis to be defeated in Yemen, argues the editor-in-chief of a left-leaning Lebanese daily. Meanwhile, the two countries are working on a deal with Riyadh whereby they will back its operations in Yemen in return for being granted a free hand in Syria as a prelude to the major confrontation that seems to lie in wait for the country. Ankara been playing the main role in the recent attacks in northwest Syria, planning, training, equipping, and managing the war waged on the Syrian army there, which has led to the loss of a number of strategically important positions, maintains a former Lebanese army general writing in an official Syrian daily. Ankara’s main goal is to secure its role as the region approaches a decisive phase that will determine its future.
SURPRISE ATTACKS: “At a time when many regional states, primarily Iran and Saudi Arabia, are preoccupied with the events of Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen and the aerial bombardment of Yemeni infrastructure, Houthi groupings, and the forces of the Houthis’ ally, former president Ali ‘Abdullah Saleh, Islamic State (ISIS) forces have surprised many people with a number of attacks that confirm that they have regained the initiative, at least in Iraq, after the severe setback they suffered by losing Tikrit, the center of Salahuddin Province,” writes Editor-in-Chief ‘Abdelbari ‘Atwan on Monday on the pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com.
This sudden ISIS military ‘awakening’ can be summarized in four attacks, each of which has its own implications and special significance:
- First: ISIS forces succeeded in capturing the Nazem ath-Tharthar Dam on the Euphrates to the northeast of Baghdad (some 50 kilometers from the capital). This dam is a major barrier that prevents floods from sweeping over Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. 146 Iraqi soldiers were killed in the attack, including a general, a colonel, and a number of senior officers. In addition, 52 soldiers were captured and then slaughtered before a large crowd, and a large amount of military equipment and weapons was seized including tanks and armored vehicles.
- Second: The suicide attack that targeted the Iraqi side of the Turaibil border crossing with Jordan. This was carried out by three ISIS fighters; a Frenchman, a Belgian, and a Senegalese. Its first result was the death of five border guards and nine others wounded, and the crossing’s closure for many hours throughout Saturday.
- Third: ISIS’s tightening control over the city of Ramadi, the capital of al-Anbar Province, with the result that thousands of families living in the city have sought refuge elsewhere.
- Fourth: The assault on Baiji oil refinery, which provides 50% of Iraq’s energy needs, killing a large number of defending troops, and burning down two fuel depots.
ISIS’s capture of Tharthar dam may have been intended to compensate for the loss of Tikrit, while the attack on Baiji oil refinery confirms the fact that while Iraqi forces may have regained control of it and ISIS forces left it, this does not means that the refinery is safe. As for control of al-Ramadi, it completes ISIS’s grip over most of the Anbar Province.
But the attack on Turaibil border crossing with Jordan is perhaps the most important development for a number of reasons: The first is that this was intended as a message to the Jordanian government before the Iraqi government. It says that ISIS can reach Jordan, or its borders, at least. Secondly, the harassment of Jordan came after a ‘long silence,’ specifically since the ugly burning alive of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh. Thirdly, the attack was meant as a message to those guarding the Saudi border, which is not far from the crossing, warning Riyadh that it is not immune from a similar attack.
These attacks and their messages to numerous regional parties may explain the report that the Iraqi authorities have decided to postpone next month’s planned attack to regain the city of Mosul from ISIS till after the month of Ramadan [in July].
It is certain that the Iraqi government and the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) forces’ elation after they regained the city of Tikrit, and that fuelled an optimistic belief in a great and imminent victory in Mosul, has evaporated, if only temporarily. The latest attacks have forced the Iraqi authorities to review their calculations and alter their priorities, focusing on protecting the capital Baghdad which is now threatened both by a flood resulting from releasing the Tharthar Dam’s waters, or by unexpected attacks intended to undermine its security and stability. The three car bomb explosions that shook the capital on Saturday are just one early warning in this regard.
It is worth noting that ISIS’s strong ‘revival’, which came at a time when many believed that the Tikrit setback had weakened it, has coincided with a drop in PM Haidar al-‘Abadi’s government’s popularity, with growing accusations that it has failed to represent most shades of the Iraqi confessional spectrum, following in the footsteps of [former PM] Nuri al-Maliki’s government in its policies of exclusion, marginalization, and bias in favor of one confessional group against another [Shiites over Sunnis].
If we were to link ISIS’s growing activity in Iraq to the advances made by the Nusra Front in northeastern Syria where, together with other factions, it has captured Jisr ash-Shughour after taking control of Idlib and the Nuweiseeb crossing with Jordan, we may come to the conclusion that a regional counter-move is underway that is intended to exert pressure on the Iranian/Syrian/Iraqi axis that has opened up the Yemen front in order to hemorrhage Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies.
What leads us to this conclusion is the change in Saudi Arabia’s priorities. It is now acting on the principle that ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend.’ This explains why Operation Decisive Storm’s warplanes are not attacking any al-Qa’ida targets in Yemen and why they have not prevented the latter’s forces from capturing the city of al-Mukalla, the capital of Hadramaut, or why they have postponed any such actions, for the moment at least.
This does not mean that an alliance is taking shape between the Saudi authorities and ISIS. This is confirmed by the fact that their mutual hostility is still at its peak, as evident from the Saudi security forces’ foiling of an ISIS attack in the heart of the Saudi capital Riyadh.
It is true that there is a split in salafi ranks over Operation Decisive Storm, with some backing it, others opposing it, and a third party that has maintained its silence such as [Jordan-based] Sheikh Abu-Mohammad al-Maqdissi. As regards the latter, the well-known [Arab] saying – ‘I did not ask for it, but it does me no harm’ – applies. The Storm is striking two of its enemies with the same single stone.
“In the end, God knows best,” concludes ‘Atwan.
SATISFIED BROTHERHOOD: "No one can be as satisfied as the traditional Muslim Brotherhood is about Al Saud's involvement in Yemen," writes Editor-in-Chief Ibrahim al-Amin in Monday's left-leaning Beirut daily al-Akhbar.
The Brotherhood has many organizations and many governments and backers helping it. It also has its supporters within the Arab nationalist and leftist currents. And while it is true that the Brotherhood’s backers may no longer have all the ideological qualities they would have chosen for them, the more obvious truth has to do with these parties’ attitude towards the ongoing aggression on Yemen.
Those who may have believed that others would make use of Al Saud's war have been rapidly disillusioned. And just as many states and groups have rushed to shirk their responsibility for this war, the Brotherhood is now facing a difficult problem in this regard.
The Brotherhood lies at the heart of the events in Yemen. The difficulty of their position stems from the fact that they want to see a Yemeni regime in which [the Houthi] Ansarullah do not have the upper hand because they view this group as an ideological, political, confessional, even social opponent. But they also do not want Ansarullah to be defeated at the hands of Al Saud's kingdom because it represents evil incarnate in their eyes.
But they are unable to resist that kingdom today. Therefore, the more appropriate ending from their point of view would be for the aggression to achieve different results, namely, for Ansarullah to receive a painful blow that prevents them from being a decisive factor in Yemen, while Al Saud receive a blow that stops them from assuming their role of suzerainty over the country. In other words, all the Brotherhood's prayers these days end with an entreaty that goes as follows: 'God, please strike the unjust against the unjust, and help them destroy each other. But do not allow any of them to emerge victorious from this war. Please God; give us a settlement in which we are the decisive partners. Amen!'
But Yemen's Brotherhood, as represented by the Islah (Reform) Party, cannot simply stand by and observe what is happening. It first joined the attempt to weaken Ansarullah, then it became a party to the aggression. Some of its members have become mercenaries who fight on behalf of the [Saudi] aggressor against their country. Their argument is borrowed either from the aggressor, who claims to be combating Iranian influence, or from their competitors from the forces that call for the South's secession and who speak of 'an invasion by the north,' or from their enemies from the salafi currents of both the jihadi and proselytizing varieties who claim that they are fighting the rawafid [Shiites] in Yemen!
In all cases, the Islah is fighting others’ battles, but with its own blood and on its own land. And it has absolutely no confidence that it will receive any major prize, or even mere consolation prize in return. On the other hand, if it withdraws from the battle completely, it rightly believes that it would totally collapse; for in that case, its public would move to wherever seems most appropriate, either towards the tribal and clannish frameworks whose stance differs from the Islah, or towards the jihadist banners that cast them into al-Qa'ida's lap.
But the Islah's sponsors in the Gulf and the region want something different from the same war. It is true that Turkey and Qatar have no objection to Yemen's Brotherhood abovementioned prayer; nor do they mind a settlement that restores the Islah to its previously powerful presence in the new political scene. But the two states have other concerns.
For while it is true that they would not mind if Iran's allies in the Arabian Peninsula were to lose, they cannot brook an Al Saud victory at the same time. Nor do they wish to see the emergence of a new leadership for the Arab coalition that is confronting the [Iranian-led] resistance axis in the region. This is especially true because Ankara is satisfied with the absence of a strong Arab leadership, while Qatar would not even dream of any role or position if a formula arises whereby Egyptian/Saudi supervision over the Arab League and the Arabs' action mechanisms in various heated areas were to be established [at its expense].
Therefore, the Turkish/Qatari/Brotherhood position ultimately leads to one single aim: How is it possible to use the model of the aggression on Yemen in their vigorous battles in Iraq and Syria? Is it possible for the two states to make use of the world's preoccupation with the Yemeni crisis, and to succeed in creating a new reality on the ground in Iraq and Syria, one they can subsequently transform into a launching-pad at a later time that accords with the [Saudi] slogan calling for 'waging a new storm' on Syria?
All that this camp is now studying and discussing concerns this task, to the exclusion of all others. In this regard, the camp is working on a deal with the Al Saud: It will provide backing, if only formal, for the latter’s aggression on Yemen, in return for a battlefield accord having to do with the supervision of the armed opposition in Syria.
And this camp is apparently ready to reach a settlement provided that the only faction that remains outside is ISIS, on the grounds that it is not interested in becoming part of any such comprehensive understanding today since it is benefiting from the [regional] mobilization against Iran and Syria in both countries.
But the essence of the Turkish/Qatari/Brotherhood mission lies in creating a force that brings together the Nusra Front, Jayshul-Islam, and other [Syrian opposition] 'brigades' either by making use of the Jayshul-Fateh operations room or via other means, ensuring that coordination is effective and coordinated, from Syria's south to its north, with a special focus on Damascus's surroundings.
"And this means that a major battle lies in wait for Syria!" concludes Amin.
SURPRISE MOMENTUM: "Observers of the terrorist escalation and the armed [opposition] groups’ moves in northeast Syrian – the area east and south of the borders with Turkey, specifically in Idlib and its countryside, as well as in Aleppo's western countryside and parts of the Latakia countryside, would want to understand the background to this escalation and its objectives after it has acquired a momentum that may have come as a surprise," writes Amin Huteit in Monday's official Syrian daily ath-Thawra.
The first thing that they would note was that Turkey is behind this momentum, supplying the terrorists with all they need for their movements and combat – beginning with planning and training, moving on to equipment, armament, and ammunition supplies, as well as all the necessary battlefield intelligence information. As very evident from the battlefield, Turkey is totally behind the large-scale terrorist attacks in that area; and no reasonable person could dispute that.
Here, the question changes, and may be posed in a somewhat different manner: Why did Turkey escalate its intervention in Syria at this particular point in time and in a manner that goes beyond its previous interventions, even though they have never ceased ever since the beginning of the aggression on Syria [in 2011]? Turkey remains a major instrument for carrying out this aggression.
In seeking an answer to this question, we believe that three reasons lie behind Turkey’s push to escalate its aggression in support of terrorism in Syria. These are the following:
- The first is directly linked to the Syrian arena, and especially after the terrorist groups’ retreat over the past month in the wake of the Syrian Arab Army and its supporting forces’ significant military successes. These occurred in the north around Aleppo, and stretched all the way to the south, especially in the Damascus countryside. As a result, Turkey began to sense that its influence on the Syrian battlefield was beginning to wane.
This was accompanied by Syrian consultations in search for a political resolution but without Turkey having the role it has been dreaming of in any such settlement. The Moscow-2 meeting [between the regime and opposition elements] took place without the participation of the Turkish puppet known as the Syrian National Coalition (SNC). As a result, Turkey decided to forcefully back the terrorists by supplying them with armored vehicles and anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, in the belief that this would block the path before the accumulation of Syrian battlefield successes and obstruct the efforts to reach a peaceful solution that excludes Ankara. At the very least, Turkey hopes that this would restore part of its role, which had begun to shrink in light of recent developments in Syria and Iraq, and the two countries' achievements in fighting terrorism, especially ISIS and the Nusra Front, both of which are sponsored by Turkey.
- The second reason has to do with Saudi Arabia's military actions whereby Riyadh has tried to project the image of strong and decisive power that is ready to impose its policy by fire and force. It headed to Yemen under the banner of Operation Decisive Storm and has been waging an aggression that has preoccupied the media for four weeks with its criminal 'heroics.' In doing so, Saudi Arabia has gone beyond the actions of the other regional states with which it is in competition over leadership of the region and the Islamic world.
In this context, Turkey concluded that it needed to secure some battlefield achievement that matches or goes beyond what Saudi Arabia is doing, in the belief that it can secure something equivalent to the supposed Saudi gains in Yemen, on the Syrian battlefield. With this in mind, it drove thousands of the armed elements that it has well-equipped and trained and who are acting under almost direct Turkish command onto the battlefield in effort to match Saudi actions in Yemen, and capture a significant area of Syria's northwest.
Turkey was in harmony with the psychological warfare being waged by Saudi Arabia that claims that the Saudi-led Decisive Storm will move onto Syria after completing its mission in Yemen; a warning that Saudi Arabia's UN ambassador was impertinent enough to issue with his public threat of direct military intervention in Syria (one that elicited a harsh response from the Syrian ambassador to the UN in return).
- The third reason is linked to the international noose tightening around Turkey's neck regarding the Ottomans' [First World War] crimes against the Armenians. An international environment has emerged that has been exerting pressure on Turkey on the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Ottoman genocide against the Armenians and other Christians. A clear international consensus has taken shape that the Ottomans were the first to commit genocide, to use the legal term for what happened. There were those who believed that Turkey would come to terms with its crime by acknowledging it, apologizing to the Armenian nation and finally expressing its readiness to offer material and moral compensation to those deserving to receive this.
But Turkey did nothing of the sort. On the contrary, it did the exact opposite, insisting on denying any wrongdoing and rejecting what history and the facts have demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt. That stance reveals yet another fact that lies behind it, namely Turkey’s readiness to repeat what it has done without any religious, moral, or legal qualms.
Turkey then confirmed its terrorist behavior by intensifying its support for the terrorists in Syria, pushing them into the area between Jisr ash-Shughour and Idlib in particular, just a few kms away from Iskandarun (Turkish Hatay) Province which it usurped from Syria. And it has provided the terrorists with major resources to help them attain their battlefield goals that Turkey is relying on to turn the tables and respond to Syria’s successes over the previous month.
For these reasons, and as is consistent with the main object behind its aggression, Turkey has effectively joined the war in Syria on the terrorists' side with all the weight it can throw into the battle. Its aim is to return to Syria at an extremely critical juncture when the respective weight of the various forces will be determined in light of their respective victories and defeats.
In addition to the above, we cannot ignore the possibility of linking the current Turkish intervention to what we have described elsewhere as the fourth plan for aggression on Syria. This is the plan that the U.S. has hatched after the failure of ISIS’s plan, and for which it has chosen Israel, Jordan, and Turkey to implement. And this is the plan that Syria has confronted and blocked in the south, as those who have followed the battles in the Qunaitra countryside and Der'a would know.
"But Turkey apparently sought to fulfil its part of the plan, motivated by the aforementioned reasons, and ignoring the fact that the forces defending Syria can confront it and foil its aggression, just as they have foiled the other three previous plans," concludes Huteit.
2-Standing in the queue
Washington has clearly sold out the Arabs in favor of Tehran, but will they do more than simply stand in the queue and await their fate? asks Abdelmuhsin Salamah in Egyptian al-Ahram
The declared end of Operation Decisive Storm without achieving any of its aims, and the Americans’ welcome of this decision and their call for the urgent resumption of unconditional negotiations that should include all parties suggest that Washington has effectively ‘sold’ the Arab region to Iran which is now being groomed to become ‘the region’s policeman,’ warns an Egyptian commentator.
SOLD OUT TO IRAN: “Has the U.S. sold out the Arabs to Iran against the background of the war in Yemen?” asks ‘Abdelmuhsin Salamah in the authoritative Cairo daily al-Ahram.
Numerous questions have forcefully imposed themselves after the sudden end of Operation Decisive Storm even though the situation on the ground remains the same, with [former president] Ali ‘Abdullah Saleh and the Houthi forces expanding across Yemeni territories. In fact, Saleh emerged to defy everyone and announce that he refuses to leave Yemen. Meanwhile on the ground, rebel forces are trying to take control of Aden, Taiz and other areas of the country. The Houthi and Saleh’s forces have not declared that they are laying down their arms and accepting the relevant Arab and international initiatives.
It is also interesting that the announcement of the end of Decisive Storm followed shortly after the Iranian deputy foreign minister’s announcement that he expects the [Saudi-led] coalition forces’ military operations in Yemen to end, thereby highlighting Iran’s efforts in this regard and its desire to end the fighting.
No sooner was it was announced that the aerial bombardment would stop, than Washington rushed to declare its support for this move and call for the urgent resumption of unconditional negotiations. U.S. National Security Council Spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said that the U.S. welcomes the announcement by Saudi government and its partners in the coalition that Decisive Storm’s operations in Yemen would end, and that Washington looks forward to the resumption of unconditional negotiations between all parties as soon as possible.
It was also strange for U.S. President Barack Obama to urge Iran to be part of the solution, which sends a clear signal that the U.S. understands and accepts Iran’s blatant intervention in Yemeni affairs and its support for the Houthis against the Yemeni people’s will.
Iran’s role in the region is growing noticeably against the background of the retreat of the Arab role and the ‘predicament’ in which the region finds itself after the Arab Spring revolutions. As a result, Iran is expanding in Arab territories and now holds the keys to solutions in more than one Arab state. This began in Lebanon, then it was Iraq and Syria’s turn, and now it is happening in Yemen.
Meanwhile, the Arabs have stood aside hesitant and preoccupied with their domestic problems, and the spread of violence and terrorism. This continued until Operation Decisive Storm occurred and an attempt was made to revive the spirit of hope in joint Arab action with the start of the aerial bombardment.
But the sudden end of the operation raises doubts about the Arabs’ ability to act jointly – unless this was part of a political deal that includes President ‘Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his government’s return to Sana’a, the resumption of negotiations, and the withdrawal of the [Houthi] rebel forces from army posts, police headquarters and the government buildings they occupied, all within a framework that aims to finally resolve the crisis. But is there such a deal, or are these demands mere wishes and mirages that have nothing to do with reality?
The announcement of the end of Decisive Storm raises the prospect of the deal proposed by former Yemeni foreign Minister Abu-Bakr al-Qirbi, who visited Riyadh recently. This includes an agreement whereby Ali ‘Abdullah Saleh would go into exile, any political role for him and his family members in Yemen’s future would end, the Houthis would hand over the army and police weapons they have captured, and would withdraw fully from all cities and government buildings they had occupied by military force during the past months.
But the announcement that Operation Decisive Storm has ended did not point to any advance towards a political solution, other than the release of the brother of Yemeni President Hadi and the defense minister in his government. Meanwhile, confrontations between the rebels and the [Hadi-backed] popular committees have continued, and the coalition’s air raids have resumed on Houthi positions.
All of which points to confusion and uncertainty, suggesting that what is happening is simply an attempt at ‘take the pulse’ and test the parties’ credibility. It is not clear that there is any guarantee of a political solution in light of Iran’s growing role in the region and the American rapprochement with Tehran, which began with the nuclear negotiations some time ago.
The in-principle agreement that was reached in these negotiations confirms this rapprochement and the U.S.’s desire for Iran to play the role of regional ‘policeman’ in light of Arab impotence.
“So will the Arabs awake before it is too late? Or will they remain in their coma, with the result that Yemen will become the fourth Arab state handed over to Iran, with the rest waiting in queue?” asks Salamah in conclusion.
Copyright: Mideast Mirror.
This email is intended for the recipient only.
Access to this message by any other person is not permitted. If you are not the intended recipient you must not use, disclose, distribute, copy, print or rely upon this email.
The materials available through Mideast Mirror are the property of Alef Publishing Ltd or its licensors, are protected by copyright, trademark and other intellectual property laws.
Mideast Mirror - Alef Publishing Ltd.
Tel: 020 7052 96 00
Fax: 020 7052 96 09
Editorial and Enquiries:
Tel: ++ 44 773 4426 113