MIDEAST MIRROR 29.06.15, SECTION B (THE ARAB WORLD)
1- When massacres occur
2-The curse of Syria
3-The failure of ‘Plan-H’
1- When massacres occur
When massacres occur, silence is the ally of the murderers. Do not try to find excuses for the perpetrators by opening up the history books and reading about what the colonialists perpetrated in previous eras. Do not try to justify the crime by saying that it is the work of marginalized poor people who are easy prey to fanatics in their moment of weakness. Do not rush to put the blame on some previous dictator. Do not find excuses. Anyone who accepts the murder of an innocent person at the furthest point of the globe accepts the murder of all innocent people. Anyone who gives a single inch will give up an entire country. Anyone who is ready to relinquish a single sheaf of wheat will easily relinquish an entire field--Ghassan Charbel in pan-Arab al-Hayat
The states that head the list of exporters of terrorism in fact are those that have failed to reform their educational, religious, political, and media institutions. They are those that have left their domestic societies at the mercy of the extremists and their discourse. Consequently, they must be pressured to implement radical and resolute reforms. If they refuse to accept, then the option of imposing international sanctions on them must be considered until they comply with the criteria capable of liberating their societies from the domination of extremist ideas and that render them ready to accept the values of human coexistence among nations--Fahd al-Khitan in Jordanian al-Ghad
Last Friday's terrorist attacks in Kuwait, Tunisia, and France should drive home to everyone the fact that the current battle with ISIS and its terrorism is everyone's war, urges the editor-in-chief of a Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily. The future will depend on its outcome, and no one should fool themselves that they can remain neutral in it. The war against ISIS has been confined to fighting that organization in Iraq, Syria, and Libya so far; but the more important confrontation is against the 'ISIS-like states' that produce and export terrorists to the three countries, insists a Jordanian commentator. Educational and religious reforms must be imposed on these states, with a resort to strict sanctions if they fail to comply.
DO NOT SAY: "Do not say that Tunisia is far away and that the Libyan winds have blown on it, as well as the old Algerian winds and those of the thousands of their youth who have joined the wars raging on Iraq and Syria's lands," writes Editor-in-Chief Ghassan Charbel in Monday's Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily al-Hayat.
Do not say that your country is safe from what is happening, and that the fire will not reach it. Do not say that Kuwait is far, and that the massacre there will not be repeated in your capital. Do not say that France is far and that the circumstances of the attack there do not exist in your own society. Do not hide behind your finger. Do not try to evade the facts. The situation is much more dangerous than you think. ISIS is on your borders or has already arrived.
This is not a war among others raging on the lands of others. Do not suppose that your innocence will protect you and that your distance will ensure that the fire will not reach you. This is an itinerant massacre from which no one is safe. This is a war that concerns you and your children. It concerns your homeland's safety, your way of life and your grandchildren's welfare long after you are gone.
Do not wash your hands of the entire matter because those who died are not from your country, your religion, your sect, or your color. When massacres occur, silence is the ally of the murderers. Do not try to find excuses for the perpetrators by opening up the history books and reading about what the colonialists perpetrated in previous eras. Do not try to justify the crime by saying that it is the work of marginalized poor people who are easy prey to fanatics in their moment of weakness. Do not rush to put the blame on some previous dictator. Do not find excuses. Anyone who accepts the murder of an innocent person at the furthest point of the globe accepts the murder of all innocent people. Anyone who gives a single inch will give up an entire country. Anyone who is ready to relinquish a single sheaf of wheat will easily relinquish an entire field.
Do not say that the matter does not concern you. Do not close your eyes. Do not speak of a half-massacre because its victims are not your people. Do not try to hold foreign intelligence services responsible for producing those who violate maps, cities and homes and are jubilant at the beheading of citizens and entire states. There are intelligence services that are trying to 'fish in murky waters.' This may be true. But do not evade the real issue.
These monsters came from the next-door apartment, or nearby neighborhood, or from a close city, or a neighboring country. They grew up in homes that resemble ours. They prayed in mosques that resemble those of our neighborhood. The real and burning question concerns what they have learnt, what books they have read, what these books told them, and what those who attracted, incited, and dispatched them after brainwashing them said. It is a question about what they have learnt about the ‘other’, about the right to differ and about those who do not 'drink from the same well' and do not accept to denounce all others as apostates or infidels, and do not sanction killing them.
Do not wash your hands of what is happening. These itinerant massacres are more dangerous that 9/11. ISIS is more dangerous than al-Qa'ida. Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi is more dangerous than Osama bin Laden. ISIS's power of attraction exceeds that of its predecessors. It is a 'state' with a 'caliph,' oil and taxes. It is a savage entity that swallows up borders and goes to creative extremes in its executions. It distributes fear and disperses armies. It toys with the map, with history, with the future, with books, with different ways of life, and with your children's fate. It is the age of darkness and the temptation to return to the Stone Age.
Do not claim neutrality in this war. You are a part of it whether you want it or not. On its outcome, the future of our states, nations, lifestyles, relationship to the modern era, technology, progress, universities, and research centers will turn.
This war is an open-ended one. It is long and bitter. It is an open war that rages inside our homes, schools, universities, and in the mosque and its environs. It rages in religious establishments and school curriculums.
You are part of this war and have no option but to side with the camp of moderation. Your only option is to accept the painful decisions that winning this war requires, and accept the need for deep reforms or a comprehensive intellectual revolution. This is the sole means of saving your homeland and children from a fate similar to those who fell in Tunisia or Kuwait or other areas.
"Do not try to evade, dodge, or shirk. Do not wash your hands of what is happening," concludes Charbel.
NOT FROM MOSUL OR RAQQA: "We have never heard of a terrorist who hails from Mosul or al-Raqqa carrying out a terrorist attack in an Arab state," writes Fahd al-Khitan in Monday's Jordanian daily al-Ghad.
The terrorists who carried out the attacks in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Tunisia, and Egypt's Sinai came from these same countries. The information we have confirms that most of them have never fought in the areas controlled by ISIS, and that they do not know al-Baghdadi, al-'Adnani, or any other terrorist groups’ leaders. Some, like the perpetrator of the attack on the hotel in Sousse [Tunisia], have no previous criminal record.
The hundreds or thousands of youths from these states would never have joined ISIS without some domestic cultural incentive, and not only because of ISIS's ability to attract them to Syria or Iraq. In this sense, ISIS is not merely a state that is tightening its control over large areas of Syrian and Iraqi territories; there are existing ISIS-like societies and states that are no less dangerous
It is unfortunate that the international community is focusing its efforts on fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq, while disregarding the danger posed by these other ISIS-like states. Many states have become akin to hatching grounds for extremist forces. They nourish these forces culturally and provide them with fighters and donations. As the phenomenon of foreign fighters and terrorist attacks around the world exacerbates, these states have become a major source of threat to security in the region and the world, one that should not be passed over in silence.
The current international approach to this threat based on raising the level of security coordination, and exchanging information and border controls in order to stem the flow of fighters to the areas of conflict in Syria, Iraq and Libya, has proven to be a failure. This is evident from the fact that hundreds of youths are still able to reach the war zone in Syria. And outside the immediate area of conflict, the terrorists have improved their abilities to carry out lethal attacks inside their respective countries.
The problem lies in these latter countries. If their governments are unable or unwilling to confront the extremist currents that have infiltrated their societies, then the international community should take upon itself to fulfill that task.
The states that produce terrorism, sell it in its markets, or export it outside, should be subjected to obligatory reform programs exactly the same as the reform programs imposed by the international financial institutions on states that have failed economically, or that face domestic financial crises that their institutions are unable to deal with.
The international coalition may succeed in destroying ISIS in Syria, Iraq, and Libya within a few years, especially if a fair political solution for these states' problems is in the offing. But how can the international community deal with the ISIS-like states that have spread their authority inside the states that already exist?
The overwhelming majority of foreign fighters in the states that are witnessing domestic wars have come from a limited number of Arab countries, while no more than 30% come from Western countries. The states that head the list of exporters of terrorism in fact are those that have failed to reform their educational, religious, political, and media institutions. They are those that have left their domestic societies at the mercy of the extremists and their discourse.
"Consequently, they must be pressured to implement radical and resolute reforms. If they refuse to accept, then the option of imposing international sanctions on them must be considered until they comply with the criteria capable of liberating their societies from the domination of extremist ideas and that render them ready to accept the values of human coexistence among nations," concludes Khitan.
2-The curse of Syria
If implemented, this decision [to create a buffer zone in Northern Syria] would mean that the Turkish 'deep state' senses an enormous existential threat to the fabric that constitutes Turkey. It also means that there is a growing regional and international conviction concerning Turkey's right to defend its existence. That would not be to the liking to the [Syrian Kurdish] PYD or the Syrian regime. In fact, there are numerous signs that the regime is leaning more and more towards withdrawing into a coastal 'mini-state.' It would also anger ISIS, which feeds on the Muslims' pains, and transforms them into a project for blind revenge and globalized political suicide. Ankara faces a major and difficult decision. Will it be able to implement it?--pan-Arab al-Quds al-Arabi
Syria has become a tightly woven trap that President Erdogan and his party have fallen into. It has thereby put paid to the political model he offered and that had gained widespread admiration because of the manner in which it married Islam and democracy, achieving very high levels of economic growth and turning Turkey into one of the twenty strongest economies in the world. The curse of Syria has begun to burn the fingers of all those who have intervened militarily and politically in its affairs--pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com
Reports that Turkey has asked its army to draft plans to establish a buffer zone in northern Syria so as to pre-empt the establishment of a Kurdish entity along the country’s southern borders, raise many important questions, says the editorial in a pan-Arab daily. For one thing, it is not certain that Ankara can take such a decision without coordination with the U.S., which has been helping the very same Kurdish forces that such a decision would target. The situation in northern Syria and the Kurds' moves towards a form of independence have put paid to Turkish President Erdogan's projects and aspirations, turning him into a 'lame duck', maintains the editorial on an online pan-Arab daily. The latest sign of this is the Turkish army chief’s refusal to comply with Erdogan's orders to intervene in Syria by land and air.
AGAINST ISIS AND THE KURDS: "Three leading Turkish newspapers have reported that Ankara has instructed the army to make plans to establish a 110 kilometres long and 35 kilometres deep buffer zone inside Syrian territories to confront the growing threat from ISIS on the one hand, and prevent the establishment of a Kurdish entity along the country's borders, on the other," writes Monday's editorial in the Qatari-owned, London-based, pan-Arab daily al-Quds al-Arabi.
This coincided with recent intensive meetings between the country’s senior security and political figures and with a statement from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that his country will not allow the establishment of a Kurdish entity along the borders with Turkey, accusing the Democratic Union Party (PYD) – the Syrian branch of the Turkish Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) – of wanting 'to alter the demographic makeup' of the areas that it has brought under its control.
But what has happened to make this decision (which the Syrian opposition has been beseeching the world to take for more than four years) possible today, when it was previously unachievable for international, American, and regional reasons?
This latest decision not only stems from the serious military developments along the Turkish borders with Syria. It is also linked to the results of the recent Turkish elections in which the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which is seen as the PKK's public political front, won 80 parliamentary seats. This is capable of provoking Turkish ethnic sentiments among all Turkish currents, whether nationalist, Islamist, or even secular.
The Turkish political and military authorities are fully aware that the PYD’s Kurdish People's Protection Units' (YPG) operations in 'Ain al-Arab [Kobani], al-Qamishli, al-Hasaka, 'Efrin, and Tal Abyad are meant to create a continuous strip that brings together Syria's Kurds within the framework of what is known as 'Western Kurdistan.' But this project can only be achieved by committing massacres and forcefully displacing the Arabs and other minorities from these areas
It is obvious that the U.S.-led international coalition's air raids on Syria are being carried out in coordination with Kurdish commanders on the ground. And this raises important questions such as:
- Why are the Americans helping the PYD to establish a Kurdish 'state' in Syria, despite the severe threat that such an outcome will pose to Turkey?
- Should Ankara’s decision be seen as the Turkish state's response to Washington's disregard for Ankara's strategic interests?
- Can Turkey, which is a NATO member, take a military step of such magnitude without first securing the U.S.'s consent?
These questions expose the complex problems created by the disastrous international and regional policies towards Syria that have transformed what was a peaceful popular revolution against a tyrannical regime into an arena for minor and major wars whose terrible price is being paid by the Syrian people.
If implemented, this decision would mean that the Turkish 'deep state' senses an enormous existential threat to the fabric that constitutes Turkey. It also means that there is a growing regional and international conviction concerning Turkey's right to defend its existence.
That would not be to the liking to the PYD or the Syrian regime. In fact, there are numerous signs that the regime is leaning more and more towards withdrawing into a coastal 'mini-state.' It would also anger ISIS, which feeds on the Muslims' pains, and transforms them into a project for blind revenge and globalized political suicide.
"Ankara faces a major and difficult decision. Will it be able to implement it?" asks the daily in conclusion.
WORRIED AND CONFUSED: "Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is worried and confused these days because of the advances made by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) that belong to the [Syrian Kurdish] Democratic Union Party (PYD)," writes Monday's editorial on the pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com.
According to the news agencies, the YPG has been forcefully displacing the Arab and Turcoman population from these areas as a prelude to establishing a Kurdish state along Syria’s northern borders with Turkey.
President Erdogan's concern stems from two sources: The first is what he believes is the link between the YPG and the Kurdish People's Workers' Party (PKK) in Turkey; the second is the fact that the independence of Syria's Kurds would encourage their counterparts in Turkey to do the same, whether in the form of self-rule or total secession – especially since this Syrian Kurdish area will be connected to the existing semi-independent Kurdistan Province in Iraq.
What is puzzling is that Mr. Erdogan, who has stressed that he will never permit the establishment of a state for Kurds in northern Syria, has close economic and political relations with Mas'ud Barzani, the President of Iraq’s Kurdistan Province. This highlights a major contradiction in his position, rendering it incomprehensible, especially since he strongly supports the armed Sunni opposition groups that aim to topple the Syrian regime and that has prevented the establishment of any Kurdish entity in northern Syria.
For if Mr. Erdogan really fears the secession of Syria's Kurds because of the potential threats to Turkey's territorial integrity and stability, why did he not take this into consideration when he facilitated the passage of fighters and weapons to back the armed opposition and thereby weaken the Syrian regime? Many observers have raised this question.
Mr. Erdogan is also sure to be confused because of the failure of his project in Syria after four years of indirect military intervention in the country, the growing opposition to this intervention inside Turkey, the loss of his absolute parliamentary majority in the recent Turkish elections, and the collapse of his aspirations to change the constitution and transform the Turkish political regime into a presidential one similar to the French and American systems, granting him absolute executive powers as president.
But what have exacerbated his situation further are the early signs of defiance against his rule from the Turkish military establishment. The head of the Turkish Armed Forces General Necdet Ozel has turned down Mr. Erdogan and his PM Ahmet Davutoglu's request for aerial and ground military intervention in Syria on the pretext that the international climate is not appropriate for such a move and the need to take the Syrian, Russian, and Iranian response to such a step into consideration. This is the clearest sign of an unprecedented mutiny in Turkey.
Erdogan has become a 'lame duck' president – one without any real powers. His effort to form a coalition government have collided with the almost impossible preconditions demanded by the three main opposition parties – the People's Republican Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), and the [Kurdish-led] Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP). His strong grip on the military establishment has loosened, which gives an idea of the scale of his current crisis. This is especially true since his call for early parliamentary elections may yield the exact opposite results, with a further drop in his Justice and Development Party's (AKP’s) parliamentary seats, as some Turkish political commentators have predicted.
Syria has become a tightly woven trap that President Erdogan and his party have fallen into. It has thereby put paid to the political model he offered and that had gained widespread admiration because of the manner in which it married Islam and democracy, achieving very high levels of economic growth and turning Turkey into one of the twenty strongest economies in the world.
"The curse of Syria has begun to burn the fingers of all those who have intervened militarily and politically in its affairs," concludes the editorial.
3-The failure of ‘Plan-H’
The Western/Arab designed Syrian opposition’s offensive in Southern Syria has been foiled with implications for the battle across the rest of the country, says Ibrahim al-Amin in today’s Lebanese al-Akhbar
The Syrian opposition’s recent offensive in southern Syria, which was managed by a dedicated multi-national operations room in Amman, seems to have failed, claims the editor-in-chief of a left-leaning Lebanese daily. While this does not mean that the situation in the south will now calm down, the opposition and its backers’ defeat will have major repercussions on the war in that area and in Syria as a whole.
GREAT IMPACT: "This time round, the failure of the attack on Der'a will have a great impact on the plan that the anti-Damascus Western/Arab alliance has been pursuing," writes Editor-in-Chief Ibrahim al-Amin in Monday's left-leaning Beirut daily al-Akhbar.
This does not stem exclusively from the latest failure to achieve a breach on the ground that would bring the whole of southern Syria under the opposition’s control. It also has to do with the political, security and military management of the Saudi/American axis's last 'moderates' among the armed [Syrian opposition] groups.
What happened was that the Military Operations Command (MOC) – which includes American, Jordanian, Saudi and other officers – had been working under direct American supervision throughout the second half of last year  and up until a few weeks ago on creating a new reality for the armed groups.
The most important lesson as far as the MOC was concerned was the need to subjugate all the factions active in that area to a single and united security and military authority. We are talking here of 18 major factions that include the remnants of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), bearing in mind that the notion of having a single authority for all these factions does not affect their internal working mechanisms. But this decision allowed for what they refer to as 'cooperation' with the Nusra Front, which is strong in the Syrian south.
The MOC's idea basically focused on subjugating all the armed elements to a single command during the battle, with the MOC responsible for distributing the pickings between them later. This effort was accompanied by the most wide-ranging 'qualitative' training operations as part of a program to deploy five-thousand well-trained fighters who would carry out a decisive offensive that would bring the whole of the Syrian south under their control and reconnect Damascus's southern countryside with its western and eastern countrysides, as a prelude to advancing towards the Syrian capital itself. Moreover, this called for another level of cooperation that included Turkey this time round, so as to deal with the fact that Jayshul Islam leader Zahran 'Alloush, who works under direct Saudi supervision, would play a decisive role in the Damascus battle.
But this famous plan, known as Plan-H, which was exposed by the Syrian army and its allies, failed to achieve its aims. On the contrary, the Syrian army and Hizbollah took the initiative in February and waged a battle to consolidate a 'defensive line' that would protect the Syrian capital. The real object was to prevent the armed groups from linking up with each other on the battlefield in a manner that would facilitate taking control of areas in the south and advancing towards Damascus. This operation secured a military deployment and created a geographical protective line and means of control by fire that prevented the plan to capture the whole of the south and threaten Damascus from being implemented.
The February battle effectively introduced some basic changes to the confrontation on the ground. It is enough to note, for example, that during the period between May 31st and December 31st 2014, the armed groups lost at least 1105 fighters (their names and additional details were made available.) The armed groups subsequently admitted that 1215 of their fighters had been killed during that same period. In addition, 3000 were wounded, of whom 1200 received medical care in the [Israeli] enemy's hospitals in occupied Palestine, while the rest were treated in Jordanian hospitals. We should also bear in mind that traditionally, the Nusra Front for example, does not announce its losses, except for leadership cadres. Over the past year – from May 31st 2014 to May 31st 2015 – the number of armed elements killed exceeded those killed the previous year, reaching a total of 1977 dead and over 3000 wounded.
The MOC command had no option but to continue with local military operations that meant to counter the results of the [regime/Hizbollah] 'defensive line' operation. The armed elements took control of Bosra ash-Sham, the then headquarters of the [Syrian Army’s] 52nd Brigade where they lost 46 people. On the eve of this attack and subsequently, they launched a propaganda campaign portraying what had happened as a major achievement that would lead to a major political breakthrough by forcing Suweida' and the entire Druze villages including those in the Qunaitra area to fall, and create a different climate the would permit other similar breaches. The main object behind these attempts was to take control of Der'a and the entire Qunaitra District, and to reach the Der'a-Damascus road, of course.
It is certainly in no one’s interest to belittle the importance of the 52nd Brigade. But it is a fact that this brigade is a large force and is deployed in all the Syrian provinces. What remained at its HQ within an area of 3 square kms was a conventional formation referred in army parlance as a ‘rear-guard’ force because it cannot engage in major operations. Moreover, the HQ was surrounded by 'negative' geographic points. When the armed elements succeeded in breaching the HQ, the brigade's units immediately redeployed, withdrawing all their heavy weaponry. (At the time, pro-Israeli groups in as-Suweida' emerged to speak of the army abandoning the city and the villages around it). It later emerged that the armed groups were prevented from taking control of the central point of al-Thula Airbase that is subject to special measures.
What the Syrian army and Hizbollah did in a previous phase was to consolidate their areas of deployment and pursue the armed groups and strike at a number of opposition armed columns. When the march from the western side on Damascus ceased, the armed elements tried a number of times to attack the towns of Qarfa, al-Fuqa'ia, and al-Mahajja. The area of Jidya also witnessed an epic fight against the armed elements.
Recently, and as the opposition armed elements succeeded in affecting breakthroughs in Idlib, Jisr ash-Shughour, and Tadmur [Palmyra], the MOC was preparing for a major strike in the south. Those in charge hoped that the measures they had taken would secure major results. For this reason, thousands of fighters were mobilized and armed with different weapons, and a network of information was provided to them based on cooperation between Israel, Jordan and Turkish and American intelligence. In addition, Saudi Arabia and Qatar increased their financing.
The attack, which was named Operation Southern Storm in emulation of the Saudi Operation Decisive Storm against Yemen, was launched. But what happened was that the measures to 'firm up' the defensive lines, that had improved considerably over the past few months and were consolidated after the battles near as-Suweida', allowed the Syrian army and Hizbollah to deliver some very harsh blows that not only foiled the attack, but also destroyed the opposition factions’ collective military command, leading to a security operation that targeted field commanders. The result was that disagreements between the factions emerged in public. But the MOC, which has been suffering as a result of this defeat, insists on waging more attacks. There is now another attempt to strike at the town of Hadar in al-Qunaitra.
No one concerned with the battle in southern Syria really believes that the situation there will improve any time soon. What is certain is that the defeat suffered by the opposition factions, the huge losses suffered by the well-trained assault forces, and the disagreements that have re-emerged among the leaders of the military groups may create a different reality.
"And this, incidentally, is a reality that will have consequences for other areas in Syria, where all the attempt to dismiss the [Hizbollah-led] Qalamoun battle as insignificant will soon prove useless in confronting what is being prepared soon – namely, qualitative operations intended to cleanse the remaining Lebanese/Syrian borders of the terrorists," concludes Amin.
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