By Ghaleb Kandil
The Saudi role in the war on Syria
Firstly, on the political level, the government in Riyadh and the remaining Gulf governments, with the exception of Qatar, committed at the beginning of the Syrian events and for the next six months to stressing the necessity of maintaining Syrian stability. These reservations were actually caused by Saudi fears over the consequences of the actions witnessed in the Arab states since the end of 2011, and their repercussions on the Saudi domestic situation, especially in light of what was witnessed in the Kingdom of Bahrain, i.e. the Saudi backyard, and in Yemen. Indeed, the latter two countries are Saudi Arabia’s neighbors, and their internal situations – especially on the political level – reflect on the Saudi situation due to their demographic, economic and geographic connections. But very quickly, the Saudi official position became hostile, thus following in the footsteps of the Qatari-Western escalation in the context of the Arab League, where Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal was the loudest in calling for arming and funding the Syrian opposition, for foreign intervention in Syria and for a comprehensive attack that would lead to internationalization and clashing with the Russian-Chinese position following their dual veto. What was noticeable at this level was the Saudi Kingdom’s submission to the policy adopted by the West in managing the war on Syria, based on the enhancement of the advanced position of the Qatari emirate instead of the Kingdom, to allow it to lead the political game. This policy also featured a mounting American wager on the Turkish role, at the expense of the traditional Saudi weight.
Secondly, on the media level, the Saudi media outlets were mobilized since day one to perform a hostile role against the Syrian state, encourage the popular action and rebellion, and promote the reports and pieces of information fabricated by opposition groups which established their own operations rooms in Doha, Dubai, Paris, Beirut, London and New York. In this context, the most prominent papers were Asharq al-Awsat and Al-Hayat, alongside the Al-Arabiya channel – all of which are owned by the Saudi ruling family – as they acted as the main hostility tools in the war on Syria. In the meantime, Al-Hariri’s media empire which is funded by Saudi Arabia played a main role in this media campaign.
Thirdly, on the financial level, and since the beginning of the events, Saudi funds reached a number of opposition groups and known symbols, such as former Syrian Vice Presidents Abdul Halim Khaddam and Rifaat al-Assad, in addition to Muslim Brotherhood leaders who enjoy traditional ties with the Kingdom. Moreover, Saudi Arabia dispatched massive funds and in a regular way to religious associations, committees and mosques which contributed to the organization of the armed rebellion and to leading the actions inside of Syria. It is worth mentioning at this level that most of the latter associations were founded years ago with direct Saudi support, under the cover of the establishment of mosques, teaching the Holy Koran and organizing charitable work. But in fact, they acted as an organizational and security cover for armed formations which emerged following the eruption of the Syrian incidents.
The Syrian Takfiri movement led by Sheikh Adnan al-Arour is a direct Saudi extension. Its action in Hama, Rif Damascus and Daraa is being led by Sheikh Al-Arour from his headquarters in Riyadh, via his satellite channel which is run from the kingdom but has an office in Cairo. Since the first months of the events on the ground, the Takfiris surfaced and carried out killings and dismemberment by use of swords, at a time when it turned out that this movement maintained special networks for the transfer of funds and weapons into Syria, mainly via Jordan and Lebanon.
The role played by the Future Movement in the smuggling of weapons and funds from Lebanon to the armed groups in Syria, and its media instigation which targeted the Syrian arena, embodies an action plan led by Saudi Intelligence Chief Bandar Bin Sultan. In addition, the Future Movement organized Lebanese-Syrian networks for smuggling across the border since the beginning of the events, and established operations rooms in the North with the participation of American and French intelligence officers, along with the Saudi, Qatari and Emirati intelligence apparatuses.
Fourthly, it is believed that Al-Qaeda groups that are closely linked to Bandar Bin Sultan were implicated in explosions and assassinations inside Syria, and that some of them came from Lebanon and Iraq after they had moved to Jordan, i.e. the home country of Al-Qaeda leader Abu Mosaab al-Zarqawi. After they were joined by Syrian groups, they turned into a main force in the context of Al-Nusra Front, i.e. the Al-Qaeda branch in Syria. Lately, Saudi Arabia also launched economic measures against Syria, stopped the importation of Syrian products and imposed procedures to obstruct the transfers of the Syrians working in it and are being subjected to harassment.
Fifthly, the Saudi authorities perceive the war on Syria as being the only way to get rid of the Iranian presence along the Arab-Israeli friction line and the border with occupied Palestine, which is a critical axis perceived by the Saudis and the Americans as being the source of the Iranian weight in the region and the pillar of the Iranian regional role and influence in the Middle East. Hence, Saudi Arabia believes that this role is expanding at the expense of its own traditional role in the region. On the other hand, the Saudi officials perceive the war on Syria from a sectarian angle, and as an opportunity to redistribute the Sunni weight in the region following the failure of the Saudi wager on maintaining some of its influence in Iraq and the failure of the attempts to enhance Al-Hariri’s influence in Lebanon.
Furthermore, the Saudi Kingdom believes that the Syrian state is its historical opponent at the level of the perception of the situation in the region and especially the Arab-Israeli conflict and the settlement attempts. It thus holds President Bashar al-Assad directly responsible for encouraging Palestinian and Lebanese extremism which are embodied by the armed resistance movements, for allowing the expansion of Iranian influence in the region and for exceeding the ceilings which Syrian policy used to take into account on all the fronts, in favor of an extremist and hostile method, the Iranian-style.
America’s sinful adoption of Al-Qaeda for the second time.
It is certain that the American administration is drowning in its adoption of the Al-Qaeda formations that are fighting the secular Syrian national state and its national army whose doctrine is based on the fighting of Zionism, terrorism and sectarian violence.
Firstly, the American strategies in the Arab East rely on hostility towards any liberational and pan-Arab inclination aiming at enhancing the foundations of national independence and committing to fighting all forms of Zionist hegemony. And along the deep friction lines established by the Arab-Zionist conflict, alliances and regional axes are taking shape, in which the Al-Qaeda networks and branches seem to have transformed into tools of division and terrorism supported by the West to prevent the enhancement of social fabric in the Arab states against the fighting of Zionism and imperialism. This is being done through the spread of violence and terrorism, alongside the culture of sectarian strife and the transformation of a fictive contradiction into a main one.
Secondly, it turned out from the positions recently issued in regard to the Syrian opposition formations, that Al-Qaeda is not a mere detail on the Syrian arena, while the condemnations of the introduction of Al-Nusra Front on the American terrorism lists reveal the existence of organic ties between Al-Qaeda and most of the political opposition fronts domestically and abroad. This brought back to mind the American policy adopted in Afghanistan through the support offered to Al-Qaeda, while it is now wagering on sealing a deal with it before exiting this country. Nonetheless, the near and distant historical experiences all confirm that this network has its own agenda, and that any agreement with it is pointless since it aims at exploiting international and regional balances to serve its own global terrorism plan.
Thirdly, it seems - based on this repeated experience – that the West masters the use of sectarian terrorism to deplete the resistance and liberation forces in the Arab and Muslim countries. In the meantime, the people and free movements keep falling in the trap of sectarian division, to the point where the resistance of this cultural and media strife-fueled climate has become a priority for all.
Hence, there is a great responsibility that should be assumed by the Islamic Republic, Hezbollah and the Islamic resistance in Palestine to face this urgent threat, by honestly dealing with the Syrian situation. Indeed, the political standoff between the liberation powers and the colonial tools constitutes the separation line between the two opposite camps at the level of and around the Syrian events. The situation must thus be settled in favor of the free forces that are opposed to colonial hegemony, and we are certain that overcoming this stage of the conflict will launch a liberation rise in the region.
By Nasser Kandil
4 issues and 3 months
The first issue is that Washington informed Tehran that it was quickly heading towards the ending of the dispute over the nuclear file, considering it can no longer maneuver and hide the reality that Israel is suffering an internal crisis and unable to affect Washington’s decision. Indeed, Washington believes that the transformations in Egypt and within Hamas were a good enough gift for Israel’s security, while the financial crisis sweeping America and Europe will explode in February, when the temperature drops below zero and the heating bill becomes the main point of the governmental and familial expenditures. Moreover, anarchy will come to prevail over the markets, and demonstrations will be organized on the street, amid expectations surrounding the fall of governments and parties. This is why Obama wishes to seal arrangements with China, Iran and Russia prior to that date, in order to tend to the imminent problems. On the other hand, Iran, Russia and China asked for a new American attitude towards the Syrian file, and Washington committed to the fact that the deployment of Patriot missiles in Turkey and the political recognition of the opposition will be the last negative steps on its part. In addition, it pledged to render the new headline of the crisis in Syria "the fight against terrorism" and to establish alliances based on it. And based on the agreement, December 25 will mark the date of the first American step towards Iran in the negotiations, and January 10 as the date of a qualitative transformation at the level of the Syrian file.
The second issue is that the Syrian state is preparing for the winter campaign against the armed groups, using qualitative weapons and forces which never before participated in the fight. This will be done based on the fact that the depletion battles ld by the Syrian troops in the face of these groups cost them more than 15,000 dead in the last six months, at a time when the number of units which were introduced from abroad during these same months did not exceed 3,000. Consequently, these groups are no longer able to wage qualitative attacks, especially following the battles in Daria and around the Damascus airport, where more than 4,000 dead fell in the ranks of the armed men. This winter campaign will end in February, after the armed presence was eliminated in Rif Edlib and Rif Aleppo.
The third issue is that the Istanbul Council and the Doha Coalition were informed that there militias will not be granted qualitative weapons, that there will be no military intervention, and that they were required to militarily stand in the face of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups. Their morale thus collapsed and they have started talking about a deal made at their expense. In the meantime, the media support offered through talk about victories did not conceal the defeats, considering that the military breakthroughs that were secured were carried out by the Al-Qaeda militias and not the armed opposition. At this level, Riad al-Assaad tells a story mocking the new command of the military opposition and its councils and being circulated by his Turkish friends and the Turkish Facebook pages. Indeed, he is saying that the Syrian state and its intelligence apparatuses benefitted from the media campaign about the chemical weapons, thus making helicopters throw bags of limestone in the streets and orchards of Daria, which caused many armed men to have rashes and pushed them to exit their hideouts by the hundreds, fearing that this was a chemical weapon. The helicopters thus had them in their scope and annihilated them all. Whether or not that tale is true, it is being spread in Turkey and among the armed men to shed light on the incompetence of the opposition’s military command on one hand, and the faltering morale on the other.
The fourth issue is that the Arab Spring and the European financial crisis cost the Gulf states in 2012 around $600 billion according to the estimates of the International Monetary Fund. This is due to the fact that they had to support the Tunisian and Egyptian economies which are standing on the brink of the abyss, and pay dues to both Jordan and Turkey which alone exceed $100 billion, after tourism stopped in the entire Middle East. As for the cost of the war on Syria alone to cover the expenses of 200,000 militants, administrative employees and journalists, it exceeded half a billion dollars per month, not to mention the cost of weapons, equipment and the media war. And in the face of the threats facing Europe, the Gulf states were asked to introduce $300 billion to help European economy, in the shape of weapons deals, the purchase of civilian plans and heavy equipment, the purchase of real estate property and the construction of hotels.
February will mark the beginning of low temperatures and whoever stays warm will be safe, especially in Afghanistan, and this is what the Americans are thinking before engaging in negotiations with Iran.
On Saturday 15 December, Egypt witnessed the referendum over the constitution. Clashes erupted in many cities, featuring the use of swords and Molotov bombs, such as in Alexandria for example where the Islamist demonstrators and the oppositionists cast stones at each other, after an imam urged the worshippers during the Friday sermon to vote "yes" in the referendum. The opposition thus accused the Islamists of using the mosques and religious gatherings to urge the people to vote in favor of the constitution, by saying this was a vote "for Islam."
On Sunday, the Egyptian opposition National Salvation Front announced its complete rejection of the referendum over the constitution, calling on the Egyptians to vote "no." Crowded demonstrations thus broke out in Cairo and the various provinces against the constitution and the president’s disregarding of the people’s demands. They also protested against the state’s hijacking by the president and his group, as per the Front’s statement.
In the meantime, thousands from the Islamic movement gathered in the city of Nasr to express support in favor of President Morsi and the referendum over the constitution. For his part, President Muhammad Morsi assigned the armed forces to maintain security and protect the vital institutions of the state until the announcement of the results of the referendum over the constitution next Saturday. The latter had also issued a presidential decree to hold the referendum over the new Constitution Draft in two stages, the first on Saturday 15 December and the second on Saturday 22 December.
The Judges Club decided to supervise the referendum on Saturday, provided that the polling committees and the judges participating in the referendum are secured, while the Copts for Egypt movement stressed in a statement the necessity of isolating Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood group, describing them as being "the enemies of the country and the Egyptians."
On Sunday night, the preliminary results showed that 56% of the participants in the referendum voted in favor of the Constitution Draft.
While he was receiving the religious teachers who work in the mosques in Damascus and its Rif and in the religious schools and institutes, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stressed the necessity of imposing sound Islamic teachings based on great moral values. The president also addressed the close ties between pan-Arabism and Islam, as the main pillars of our society.
An official source at the Foreign Ministry said that in response to what was being claimed by dubious sides, especially in Turkey and these states conspiring with it against Syria, "in regard to the Syrian Arab Army’s use of SCUD missiles" to deter armed terrorist groups, the Ministry completely denied these rumors which have recently increased to affect Syria’s image and status in the context of the international community.
On the other hand, the head of the internal opposition Popular Front for Change and Liberation which is recognized by the Syrian regime, Qadri Jamil, said following his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow yesterday as part of a delegation from the Coalition for Peaceful Change that he feared Washington’s use of the presence of the extremist "Al-Nusra Front" organization on Syrian soil, in order to carry out "air strikes" and "limited military operations." He thus called for a national dialogue that would reach a consensus over the rejection of foreign intervention.
On the field, the armed regular forces continued to pursue the terrorist gangs, including the Al-Nusra Front which is affiliated with Al-Qaeda in a number of regions, thus killing dozens among the most dangerous terrorists, destroying vehicles equipped with various machineguns, dismantling bombs that were ready to be remotely detonated against civilians and confiscating large quantities of weapons and ammunition. In the meantime, the terrorist groups carried out several operations, which led to the death and injuring of many citizens.
Confrontations broke out between Palestinians and the occupation forces in the city of Al-Khalil in the southern part of the West Bank, leading to the injuring of a number of Palestinians who suffocated after they inhaled tear gas bombs. The occupation troops fired bullets and tear gas bombs towards dozens of youth and students, who had thrown stones at these troops in protest against the martyrdom of deaf child Muhammad Salayma (17 years old) with the bullet of a Zionist policewoman.
The Israeli fears over the deterioration of the situation in the West Bank were the most prominent topic tackled by the Israeli papers issued this week. They thus agreed that the circumstances had ripened for a new Intifada in the West Bank, and that all that was left was to wait for the spark which will trigger it. The papers also spoke about an American-Israeli armament deal to compensate for the loss of bombs during the war on Gaza.
On the other hand, the papers indicated that both Israel and Iran had military bases in Eritrea and that Israel also had an intelligence tapping base there to monitor the movement of the ships in the Red Sea.
Regarding the internal situation, the papers spoke about the enhancement of the "movement under the presidency of Tzipi Livni," at the expense of the Labor Party in the next elections. They also talked about the decision of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman from his post following the decision of the government’s judicial advisor to accuse him of fraud.
The Lebanese newspapers issued this week followed the return of calm to the tense areas in Tripoli, in light of the measures adopted by the Lebanese army which was assigned by the higher defense council to uphold security in the Lebanese North. In the meantime, the General Security apparatus received a batch of the corpses of the Lebanese nationals who died in Tel Kalakh, and will receive the rest imminently.
On the other hand, the escalation launched by the Future Movement continued to affect Lebanese-Syrian relations, against the backdrop of the activation of the dead elements’ file and the threats to increase the action at the beginning of next week. The papers also followed the strike carried out by the unionist coordination committee in parallel to the Cabinet session which did not discuss the salary raise.
The papers quoted Speaker Nabih Berri as saying that he stood alongside the workers and employees who were demanding their rights, but that at the same time, he wanted to protect the economic and financial situation in general. The papers also tackled the meetings held by the parliament speaker with the deputies of the March 14 forces.
For its part, As-Safir newspaper quoted knowledgeable official sources as saying that the American army presented a request through the American embassy to the telecommunications committee, to grant it a license to establish a massive telecom post on the Lebanese territories.
New Orient News (Lebanon)