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US-Backed Syrian “Rebel” Commander Chased Out Of Country By Al Qaeda | Zero Hedge

US-Backed Syrian “Rebel” Commander Chased Out Of Country By Al Qaeda | Zero Hedge.

US-Backed Syrian “Rebel” Commander Chased Out Of Country By Al Qaeda

Syria may be old news as any escalation has been put on hold at least until next summer, but the hilarity resulting from the bungled US foreign policy intervention in the country lingers. The latest chapter in John Kerry’s book of “Diplomacy for Idiots” is the case of General Salim Adris, a so-called moderate the top Western-backed commander of the Free Syrian Army, who was literally run out of the country by the more extremist, Al Qaeda based factions among the Syrian CIA armed and Qatar funded “rebel” forces.

As the WSJ eloquently puts it, “Islamist fighters ran the top Western-backed rebel commander in Syria out of his headquarters, and he fled the country, U.S. officials said Wednesday.” Any references to brave Sir Robin are purely accidental. It got better when the same Al Qaeda fighters “took over key warehouses holding U.S. military gear for moderate fighters in northern Syria over the weekend.” In other words, as we repeatedly forecast over the summer, the US is now once again arming Al Qaeda fighters with weapons that sooner or later will be used against the US, at a time of the CIA’s choosing.

As for the details of “patriotic” Gen. Idris’ humiliating departure from Syria, and the even more humiliating raid of US military gear, we read on from the WSJ:

Gen. Idris flew to the Qatari capital of Doha on Sunday after fleeing to Turkey, U.S. officials said Wednesday. “He fled as a result of the Islamic Front taking over his headquarters,” a senior U.S. official said.

An Islamic Front spokesman also said Gen. Idris had fled to Turkey.

The Front took over the warehouses and offices controlled by the Supreme Military Council, the moderate opposition umbrella group that includes the FSA and coordinates U.S. aid distribution, officials said. They also seized the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey, near the warehouses in the town of Atmeh.

Another bang up job by the State Department:

The growing strength of the Islamic Front prompted the U.S. and its allies to recently hold direct talks with Islamic Front representatives. The goal, according to Western officials, was to persuade some Islamists to support a Syria peace conference set for Geneva on Jan. 22 for fear that a lasting accord won’t be possible without their backing. The SMC already agreed to participate in the peace talks.

A quick primer on how brave the US “loyalists” in Syria are to both the cause, and to US equipment:

U.S. officials say there was no battle for control of the facilities between the SMC and the Islamic Front. One senior U.S. official said the takeover amounted to “an internal coup.” But other U.S. officials disputed that characterization.

U.S. officials said the Islamic Front offered to help protect the headquarters and two warehouse facilities from harder line groups. Then, when the Islamic Front came in and helped secure the sites, “they asserted themselves and said: ‘All right, we’re taking over,’ ” a senior U.S. official said.

In other words, one rebel faction essentially handed over US weapons to another rebel faction. Just add spin. Not surprisingly, the CIA had no comment:

The Central Intelligence Agency has been providing small amounts of arms to handpicked moderate rebels. A CIA spokesperson declined to comment on whether American weapons were in the warehouses that were seized by the Islamic Front. Gen. Idris also receives weapons from other countries, including Saudi Arabia.

The warehouses also housed nonlethal military gear, including American-supplied trucks and communications equipment.

Bottom line: the US, which nearly launched World War III over a few fabricated Youtube clips in order to help Qatar build a natgas pipeline to Europe support the much lauded freedom fighters, has just cut off aid to the very same group:

The U.S. decision to suspend the delivery of nonlethal aid to rebels in northern Syria is another blow to American efforts to strengthen and unify insurgents fighting Bashar al-Assad, analysts say.

The State Department said Wednesday it made the decision after Islamist groups within the opposition captured a warehouse and headquarters of the mainstream opposition alliance backed United States.

The decision reflects the challenge the United States has in supporting a fractured opposition where extremist groups are gaining an edge over moderates.

“There is simply no way to separate the two,” said Michael Rubin, an analyst at the American Enterprise Institute.

Somewhere Putin is laughing his ass off.

 

U.S. and Iranian Realities | Stratfor

U.S. and Iranian Realities | Stratfor.

By George Friedman

U.S. President Barack Obama called Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last week in the first such conversation in the 34 years since the establishment of the Islamic republic. The phone call followed tweets and public statements on both sides indicating a willingness to talk. Though far from an accommodation between the two countries, there are reasons to take this opening seriously — not only because it is occurring at such a high level, but also because there is now a geopolitical logic to these moves. Many things could go wrong, and given that this is the Middle East, the odds of failure are high. But Iran is weak and the United States is avoiding conflict, and there are worse bases for a deal.

Iran’s Surge

Though the Iranians are now in a weak strategic position, they had been on the offensive since 2003, when the United States invaded Iraq. They welcomed the invasion; Saddam Hussein had been a mortal enemy of Iran ever since the 1980-1989 Iran-Iraq War. The destruction of his regime was satisfying in itself, but it also opened the door to a dramatic shift in Iran’s national security situation.

Iraq was Iran’s primary threat after the collapse of the Soviet Union because it was the only direction from which an attack might come. A pro-Iranian or even neutral Iraq would guarantee Iranian national security. The American invasion created a power vacuum in Iraq that the U.S. Army could not fill. The Iranians anticipated this, supporting pro-Iranian elements among the Shia prior to 2003 and shaping them into significant militias after 2003. With the United States engaged in a war against Sunni insurgents, the Shia, already a majority, moved to fill the void.

The United States came to realize that it was threatened from two directions, and it found itself battling both Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias. The purpose of the surge in 2007 was to extricate itself from the war with the Sunnis and to block the Shia. It succeeded with the former to a great extent, but it was too late in the game for the latter. As the United States was withdrawing from Iraq, only the Shia (not all of them Iranian surrogates) could fill the political vacuum. Iran thus came to have nothing to fear from Iraq, and could even dominate it. This was a tremendous strategic victory for Iran, which had been defeated by Iraq in 1989.

After the Iranians made the most of having the United States, focused on the Sunnis, open the door for Iran to dominate Iraq, a more ambitious vision emerged in Tehran. With Iraq contained and the United States withdrawing from the region, Saudi Arabia emerged as Iran’s major challenger. Tehran now had the pieces in place to challenge Riyadh.

Iran was allied with Syria and had a substantial pro-Iranian force in Lebanon — namely, Hezbollah. The possibility emerged in the late 2000s of an Iranian sphere of influence extending from western Afghanistan’s Shiite communities all the way to the Mediterranean. Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had fairly realistic visions of Iranian power along Saudi Arabia’s northern border, completely changing the balance of power in the region.

But while Syrian President Bashar al Assad was prepared to align himself with Iran, he initially had no interest in his country’s becoming an Iranian satellite. In fact, he was concerned at the degree of power Iran was developing. The Arab Spring and the uprising against al Assad changed this equation. Before, Syria and Iran were relative equals. Now, al Assad desperately needed Iranian support. This strengthened Tehran’s hand, since if Iran saved al Assad, he would emerge weakened and frightened, and Iranian influence would surge.

The Russians also liked the prospect of a strengthened Iran. First, they were fighting Sunnis in the northern Caucasus. They feared the strengthening of radical Sunnis anywhere, but particularly in the larger Sunni-dominated republics in Russia. Second, an Iranian sphere of influence not only would threaten Saudi Arabia, it also would compel the United States to re-engage in the region to protect Saudi Arabia and Israel. The Russians had enjoyed a relatively free hand since 2001 while the Americans remained obsessed with the Islamic world. Creating a strategic crisis for the United States thus suited Moscow’s purposes. The Russians, buffered from Iran by the Caucasus states, were not frightened by the Iranians. They were therefore prepared to join Iran in supporting the al Assad regime.

The problem was that al Assad could not impose his will on Syria. He did not fall, but he also couldn’t win. A long-term civil war emerged, and while the Iranians had influence among the Alawites, the stalemate undermined any dream of an Iranian sphere of influence reaching the Mediterranean. This became doubly true when Sunni resistance to the Shia in Iraq grew. The Syrian maneuver required a decisive and rapid defeat of the Sunni insurgents in Syria. That didn’t happen, and the ability of the Shiite regime of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to resist the Sunnis was no longer guaranteed.

Iranian Ambitions Decline

In 2009, it had appeared extremely likely that an Iran loosely aligned with Russia would enjoy a sphere of influence north of Saudi Arabia. By 2013, this vision was shattered, and with it the more grandiose strategic vision of Ahmadinejad and his allies in Iran. This led to a re-evaluation of Iran’s strategic status — and of the value of its nuclear program.

It was Stratfor’s view that Iran had less interest in actually acquiring a nuclear weapon than in having a program to achieve one. Possessing a handful of nuclear weapons would be a worst-case scenario for Iran, as it might compel massive attacks from Israel or the United States that Iran could not counter. But having a program to develop one, and making it credible, gave the Iranians a powerful bargaining chip and diverted U.S. and Israeli attention from the growing Iranian sphere of influence. Ahmadinejad’s hope, I think, was to secure this sphere of influence, have the basis for making demands on the Saudis and the Gulf Cooperation Council, and trade the nuclear program for U.S. recognition and respect for the new regional balance. Indeed, while the United States and Israel were obsessed with the Iranian bomb, the Iranians were making major strides in developing more conventional power.

Iran’s regional strategy was in shambles, and the international sanctions its nuclear program triggered began to have some significant effect. I am unable to determine whether Iran’s economic crisis derived from the sanctions or whether it derived from a combination of the global economic crisis and Iran’s own economic weakness. But in the end, the perception that the sanctions had wreaked havoc on the Iranian economy turned the nuclear program, previously useful, into a liability.

Iran found itself in a very difficult position. Internally, opposition to any accommodation with the United States was strong. But so was the sense that Ahmadinejad had brought disaster on Iran strategically and economically. For Iran, the nuclear program became increasingly irrelevant. The country was not going to become a regional power. It now had to go on the defensive, stabilize Iraq and, more important, address its domestic situation.

The U.S. Challenge

There is profound domestic opposition in the United States to dealing with the Iranian regime. Just as the Iranians still genuinely resent the 1953 coup that placed the shah on the throne, the Americans have never forgotten the seizure of the U.S. Embassy and the subsequent yearlong hostage crisis. We must now wait and see what language Iran will craft regarding the hostage crisis to reciprocate the courtesy of Obama’s acknowledging the 1953 coup.

The United States is withdrawing from the Middle East to the extent it can. Certainly, it has no interest in another ground war. It has interests in the region, however, and chief among those are avoiding the emergence of a regional hegemon that might destabilize the Middle East. The United States also learned in Iraq that simultaneously fighting Sunnis and Shia pits the United States against forces it cannot defeat without major effort. It needs a way to manage the Islamic world without being in a constant state of war.

The classic solution to this is to maintain a balance of power with minimal force based on pre-existing tensions. A weakened Iran needs support in its fight with the Sunnis. The United States is interested in ensuring that neither the Sunni nor the Shia win — in other words, in the status quo of centuries. Having Iran crumble internally therefore is not in the American interest, since it would upset the internal balance. While sanctions were of value in blocking Iranian ascendancy, in the current situation stabilizing Iran is of greater interest.

The United States cannot proceed unless the nuclear program is abandoned. Rouhani understands that, but he must have and end to sanctions and a return of Western investment to Iran in exchange. These are doable under the current circumstances. The question of Iranian support for al Assad is not really an issue; the United States does not want to see a Syrian state dominated by radical Sunnis. Neither does Iran. Tehran would like a Syria dominated by al Assad, but Iran realizes that it has played that card and lost. The choices are partition, coalition or war — neither Iran nor the United States is deeply concerned with which.

Threats to a Resolution

There are two threats to a potential resolution. The primary threat is domestic. In both countries, even talking to each other seems treasonous to some. In Iran, economic problems and exhaustion with grandiosity opens a door. In the United States right now, war is out of the question. And that paves the way to deals unthinkable a few years ago.

A second threat is outside interference. Israel comes to mind, though for Israel, the removal of the nuclear program would give them something they were unable to achieve themselves. The Israelis argued that the Iranian bomb was an existential threat to Israel. But the Israelis lack the military power to deal with it themselves, and they could not force the Americans into action. This is the best deal they can get if they actually feared an Iranian bomb. Though Israel’s influence on this negotiation with Iran will face limits with the U.S. administration, Israel will make an effort to insert itself in the process and push its own demands on what constitutes an acceptable Iranian concession.

Saudi Arabia meanwhile will be appalled at a U.S.-Iranian deal. Hostility toward Iran locked the United States into place in support of the Saudis. But the United States is now flush with oil, and Saudi attempts to block reconciliation will not meet a warm reception. The influence of Saudi Arabia in Washington has waned considerably since the Iraq war.

The Russian position will be more interesting. On the surface, the Russians have been effective in Syria. But that’s only on the surface. The al Assad regime wasn’t bombed, but it remains crippled. And the Syrian crisis revealed a reality the Russians didn’t like: If Obama had decided to attack Syria, there was nothing the Russians could have done about it. They have taken a weak hand and played it as cleverly as possible. But it is still a weak hand. The Russians would have liked having the United States bogged down containing Iran’s influence, but that isn’t going to happen, and the Russians realize that ultimately they lack the weight to make it happen. Syria was a tactical victory for them; Iran would be a strategic defeat.

The Iranian and American realities argue for a settlement. The psyche of both countries is in the balance. There is clearly resistance in both, yet it does not seem strong enough or focused enough to block it. That would seem to indicate speed rather than caution. But of course, getting it done before anyone notices isn’t possible. And so much can go wrong here that all of this could become moot. But given how the Iranians and Americans see their positions, the odds are, that something will happen. In my book, The Next Decade, I argued that in the long run Iran and the United States have aligning interests and that an informal alliance is likely in the long run. This isn’t the long run yet, and the road will be bumpy, but the logic is there.

Read more: U.S. and Iranian Realities | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook

 

Syrian Rebel Groups Vie for Saudi Funding and Weapons

Syrian Rebel Groups Vie for Saudi Funding and Weapons.

Syrian Rebel Groups Vie for Saudi Funding and Weapons

By ISN Security Watch | Thu, 07 November 2013 22:59 | 0
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Various Syrian rebel groups have announced a spate of mergers and alliances over the past month. In theory, the trend is a welcome sign that the opposition’s extreme fragmentation is at long last being reversed. Such a development would complement the emergence of a few dominant multibrigade groupings and “fronts” within the armed rebellion over the past year.

But the reality is quite the opposite. The recent announcements reflect realignment rather than unification, and they reveal a competitive logic driven by the expectation of external funding that presages greater political polarization and deepening division.

This dysfunctional dynamic has long bedeviled the armed rebellion, but driving the latest trend is a Saudi plan to build a new national army for the Syrian opposition. It aims to create a force trained outside of Syria that is capable of defeating the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and countering the growth of jihadist rebel groups affiliated with al-Qaeda. The rebel groups realigning to receive Saudi support profess a supposedly “centrist” Islamist but avowedly Sunni ideology.

This Saudi effort will only serve to further polarize the rebels. The main losers are likely to be the currently recognized leaders of the opposition—the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces and the allied Higher Military Council of the Free Syrian Army. At its latest meeting on October 22, the Friends of Syria core group, of which Saudi Arabia is a member, called on the National Coalition to commit to representing the Syrian opposition at a Geneva II peace conference slated for late November. But many of the new rebel alliances, including those receiving stepped-up Saudi support, have already withdrawn their recognition of the National Coalition and Higher Military Council, or threatened to do so, in response to their presumed readiness to attend the conference.

Unless the Saudi-supported rebels adhere to an agreed political strategy and buy into being represented by the National Coalition, they are likely to suffer the same lack of cohesion and capacity as those they seek to supplant. And by funding its own chosen group of rebels, Saudi Arabia too risks slamming shut its windows of opportunity and undercutting its goals in Syria.

Saudi Arabia Shifts Into High Gear

The shift to an increasingly assertive stance on the Syrian crisis reflects the Saudi leadership’s dismayabout the U.S.-Russian agreement on dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons capability. The effort effectively removes the specter of U.S.-led military action against the regime and potentially rehabilitates Assad as a partner of the international community. Riyadh has long pushed for a tougher line. The additional prospect of a U.S.-Iranian understanding on the nuclear file has only made the Saudi leadership more grimly determined to bring down Assad.

The first public sign of Saudi Arabia’s intentions was an August 8 statement by the chair of the National Coalition, Ahmad al-Jarba—regarded as a Saudi nominee—that he was working with the Free Syrian Army to form a unified force of 6,000 men to confront warlords operating in liberated areas. Other National Coalition members disclosed that the force was intended as the nucleus of a national army with a strength of 7,000–10,000, including 6,300 army defectors who had taken refuge in Jordan and Turkey.

According to Saudi insiders, training involving some 5,000 rebels had already been under way in Jordan for several months with the aid of Pakistani, French, and U.S. instructors, although well-connected Jordanian sources suggest a much lower number. In any case, little can be expected from the defectors, who chose to leave Syria and have remained in isolated officers’ camps in exile ever since. This may have influenced the thinking of Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal bin Abdulaziz, Director General of the Saudi Intelligence Agency Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, and Deputy Defense Minister Prince Salman bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, to whom the Syria file has been transferred. Notably hawkish on Syria, their plan is to build a rebel army of 40,000–50,000 at a cost of “several billion dollars,” according to insiders.

The plan appears to have been discussed, at least in general outline, by the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates, who met French President François Hollande on September 13. This resulted in an agreement “to step up international support for the democratic opposition to allow it to cope with attacks from the regime.” A high-level Saudi delegation visited Paris a month later to negotiate contracts for arming and equipping both the Free Syrian Army and the new national army.

Following what it regards as the “defection” of the U.S. administration from the coalition of countries willing to support the Syrian opposition militarily, Saudi Arabia has turned to Pakistan to provide training for the new army. But this may prove difficult, given the major national security challenges facing the Pakistani armed forces ahead of the NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan and the uncertainty of the country’s civil-military relationship during the selection of a new chief of general staff. Sources with good access to the Pakistani Ministry of Defense and military intelligence services confirm that the armed forces were already reluctant or unable to meet a previous Saudi request to provide special forces training to the Syrian rebels. They regard the scale of the new Saudi proposal as unmanageable.

Related article: Why Syria is Important to Iran?

Crucially, it will be difficult to find a steady place to base and train the new force. Resistance to acting as a rear base for the rebels or supporting external military intervention in Syria is building up in Jordan, which has been a conduit for Saudi-funded training and arms since late 2012. Since then, the kingdom has become part of a clear axis with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates regarding Syria. But the new Saudi plan requires Jordanian commitment on a scale that is opposed within the security and military establishment and is unlikely to be implemented.

Buying a Ready-Made Rebel Army

The prospect of building a rebel army outside Syria is poor. The only practical way to build one is to amalgamate and sponsor existing armed groups inside Syria—but that too is becoming more difficult as rebel alliances shift and proliferate.

Many of Syria’s rebel groups are positioning themselves to receive Saudi funding and weapons by declaring mergers and alliances. In fact, competition for external funding has long been a powerful driver of organizational dynamics within Syria’s armed rebellion. Not all of that support comes from government sources. It is already customary for private donors in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates to sponsor rebel groups of their choice, most often Salafists or jihadists, as the Facebook pages of these forces proudly attest.

Most prominent among the new groups receiving Saudi government funding is the Army of Islam, formed on September 29. It was founded by 43 rebel brigades and battalions in the Damascus region under the leadership of Zahran Alloush, commander of the local Islam Brigade (the backbone of the Army of Islam) and secretary general of the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front. Although the Army of Islam denied press reports of Saudi sponsorship, its stated aim of “uniting the efforts of all factions . . . and forming an official army” coincided precisely with the Saudi objective.

The formation of the Army of Islam closely followed the publication by the association of Muslim ulema in Syria of a proposal to unite Islamist rebel groups under a single Army of Muhammad, with a stated target of building up to a strength of 100,000 by March 2015 and 250,000 by March 2016. Although such an army would espouse a centrist and nonsectarian ideology, according to the proposal’s authors, it would nonetheless follow “the path of the Sunnah and Jama’ah,” unambiguously declaring its Sunni affiliation. Since then, the Army of Islam has discussed forming the all-encompassing Army of Muhammad with the “moderate Islamist” Tawhid and Suqour al-Sham Brigades.

The fracturing has gone even further. When Alloush announced the Army of Islam, several of his main partners in the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front complained that they had not been consulted and pulled out of the Damascus-area joint operations room in protest. Five of them then formed the Glories of Islam Assembly on October 4. Elsewhere, four moderate Salafist groups in the northeastern Albu Kamal region had already announced the formation of the Army of the People of the Sunnah and Jama’ah on October 2.

A day after the Army of Islam was formed, the al-Habib al-Mustafa and al-Sahaba Brigades announced that, along with Ahrar al-Sham Islamic Movement, probably the strongest rebel faction in Syria, they were withdrawing from the Chamber of the Council of Kuwaiti Supporters of the Syrian Revolution in Damascus and Its Rif. They cited what they described as the hegemony of certain groups, the exclusion of others, and the lack of an agreed vision as the reasons for the pullout.

The competitive dynamic also seems to have prompted 106 non-Islamist rebel groups from across Syria to form the Union of Free Syrians on October 13, again as “the nucleus of the future Syrian army.” The absence of Islamist discourse from their founding statement may not preclude Saudi support, but a more favored recipient is prominent Islamic preacher Sheikh Adnan al-Aroor. Aroor features in the network of rebel groups being pulled together in the new Saudi plan, highlighting its focus on building a Sunni rebel army.

Taking on Jihadists or Weakening Centrist Islamists?

The Saudi leadership may be forgiven for believing that, in contrast to the modest role it played among those supporting Syria’s armed rebellion a year ago, its intervention will be decisive now that it is firmly in the driver’s seat and ready to commit what an insider describes as “limitless” funds. But that approach may prove counterproductive. A year ago the battle lines were simpler: the Free Syrian Army versus the Assad regime. Today, as former intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal explained, the Saudi leadership seeks to wage two battles—one against Assad and his family, the other against al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria. But Riyadh is not winning the fight against the jihadists, and its efforts may splinter the opposition further.

A number of groups seem to have mobilized in the face of the Saudi effort. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an umbrella group of jihadist insurgents formed in Iraq in 2006, has been moving forcefully against other rebel groups in northern Syria since late August, wresting control of border crossings with Turkey and forcing affiliates of the Free Syrian Army in Raqqa and Aleppo to leave or declare allegiance to it. Along with other jihadist groups, it believes that it is targeted by the United States and U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia. The group has also reached an understanding with its sister al-Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, and the powerful Ahrar al-Sham Islamic Movement to set aside their differences, form a joint judicial council, and increase joint operations against Assad regime forces. This axis, along with several smaller jihadist groups that continue to appear, is bearing the brunt of fighting against regime forces to the southeast of Aleppo. Jabhat al-Nusra now also operates along the border with Jordan.

The network of alliances being woven by Saudi Arabia has yet to prove its mettle in this looming confrontation. On the contrary, the Tawhid Brigade, despite having been invited to join the Army of Islam in forming the larger Army of Muhammad, has repeatedly declared its neutrality in an onslaught waged by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant since mid-September in northern Syria.

Related article: Turkey’s Zorlu Group Fights for Israel Pipeline

Equally significantly, the Saudi drive to build an unmistakably Sunni army may increase the potential for rebel fragmentation, even among the like-minded centrist Islamist and Salafist groups it targets. The groups that refused to join the Army of Islam, for example, include several of the main armed factions in the eastern Ghouta area of Damascus and members of the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front, bringing the army’s unity and cohesion into question.

Implications for the Secular Moderates

At a time of deepening polarization within the Syrian opposition, the Saudi plan’s focus on creating a Sunni army undermines those who share an interest in preventing the rise of the jihadist wing of the armed rebellion. Some members of the National Coalition have sought to join the bandwagon, speaking warmly of creating a “central political-military council under Islamic command.” But this only underlines the declining fortunes of the coalition and the Higher Military Council, both of which have nominally been under Saudi patronage since last June, when Jarba became the coalition’s new chair. The single-minded focus on a military approach undermines what residual standing and authority the National Coalition and Higher Military Council still have inside Syria.

Saudi disappointment with both bodies is understandable. Their leadership has lost credibility and lacks a strategy for defeating the regime, whether militarily or politically, by developing concrete proposals for transitional power sharing that might persuade the regime’s principal institutional and social constituents to abandon it. The National Coalition also remains unable to govern liberated areas.

But by channeling funding and weapons flows directly to rebel groups on the ground, rather than entirely through the Higher Military Council, the Saudi approach runs counter to the needs of military consolidation. And by working around the recognized opposition and relying on massive funding to create a unified rebel army, Riyadh neither assures its military effectiveness nor does anything to address the critical political failings of the Syrian opposition.

The focus on manipulating and micromanaging rebel dynamics also complicates civil-military relations on the ground. When, for example, civilian bodies announced the formation of an expanded civilian council for the city of Douma in eastern Ghouta on October 13, Army of Islam commander Alloush condemned them for “dividing the voice of Muslims, which is haram [forbidden] and splits the ranks.” Their announcement of an independent judicial body was also, in Alloush’s view, an “inexcusable transgression” against the local Shura Council that he helped to found in March, and that he dominates.

All this has significant implications for the upcoming Geneva II peace conference. The National Coalition faces a particularly fateful moment as its partners drop away. Twelve rebel groups, most of which nominally belong to the Free Syrian Army, joined al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra on September 24 in rejecting thecoalition’s representative status. On October 15, 50 armed groups announced that they were forming an independent revolutionary command council in the southern region and withdrawing recognition of the National Coalition because “it has abandoned the principles of the homeland and the revolution.” Two days later, Alloush warned starkly that “the coalition will be treated as our enemy, just the same as Bashar al-Assad’s regime, if it decides to go to the Geneva II peace conference next month to seek a political solution to the Syrian crisis.” And on October 26, nineteen rebel groups, including all three members of the putative Army of Muhammad, regarded anyone attending the conference or negotiating with the regime as being guilty of “trading in the blood of the Syrian people and treason . . . [they] must be brought to justice.”

Scoring Own Goals

Saudi Arabia has ample reason to be distressed by the continuing death and destruction inflicted on the Syrian people and dissatisfied with the actions of its friends and allies in the Friends of Syria group of countries. But its current approach risks undermining its own objectives in Syria.

Already, deep unhappiness with U.S. policy on Syria—as well as on Iran and Palestine—has prompted Saudi intelligence chief Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz to warn of a “major shift” in the two countries’ bilateral relationship. A policy shift on this scale is almost certainly unsustainable. More immediately, the widening rift places Jordan and the National Coalition, which are important to the success of Saudi plans in Syria but rely no less heavily on the strength and durability of their own relations with the United States, in a distinctly uncomfortable and potentially untenable position.

The divergence of Saudi and U.S. approaches additionally complicates the Geneva II peace conference. Although the Friends of Syria’s October 22 final communiqué set tough terms for participation in the conference and strict parameters for the transition that meet National Coalition and Saudi expectations, Riyadh’s insistence on excluding Tehran from the meeting opens up another possible rift with its allies, several of whom have openly signaled their willingness to accept Iranian participation.

The Saudi leadership might argue that its plan to increase military pressure on the Assad regime will compel it to accept the terms set by the Friends of Syria for participation in the peace conference. Turki al-Faisal seemed to argue this when he reiterated the need to help the opposition achieve “a level playing field.” But this is belied by the unexpected and unusually public spat with the United States, which damages the prospect that the Saudi plan can weld rebels into a unified army. The conference may not convene or succeed anyway, but the fact that the rebel groups receiving Saudi support have vocally rejected the effort lowers its chances further. And the collateral damage to the National Coalition undermines a different part of the Saudi approach, constituting another own goal.

This leaves the Saudi leadership heavily dependent on Syria’s Sunni rebels. If its plan to unite them fails, Riyadh’s credibility will be diminished. Worse, Saudi Arabia could find itself replicating its experience in Afghanistan, where it built up disparate mujahideen groups that lacked a unifying political framework. The forces were left unable to govern Kabul once they took it, paving the way for the Taliban to take over. Al-Qaeda followed, and the blowback subsequently reached Saudi Arabia.

In Syria, Saudi reliance on funding and weapons supply as principal levers of acquiring influence, the concentration on escalating military pressure on the regime without developing a clear political strategy to defeat it in parallel, and the focus on mobilizing and strengthening groups with an overtly Sunni Muslim character risk contributing to a similar outcome. The Saudi leadership should be careful what it creates in Syria: Muhammad’s Army may eventually come home to Mecca.

By. Yezid Sayigh for Carnegie Middle East Center

Syria hit by polio outbreak, UN confirms – World – CBC News

Syria hit by polio outbreak, UN confirms – World – CBC News. (source)

Refugee children look out from a fence from inside a Syrian refugee camp just at the border in Turkey in June 2011.  The UN's health agency said Tuesday it has confirmed 10 polio cases in northeast Syria, the first confirmed outbreak of the diseases in Syria in 14 years. Refugee children look out from a fence from inside a Syrian refugee camp just at the border in Turkey in June 2011. The UN’s health agency said Tuesday it has confirmed 10 polio cases in northeast Syria, the first confirmed outbreak of the diseases in Syria in 14 years. (Burhan Ozbilici/Associated Press)Related Stories

The UN’s health agency said Tuesday it has confirmed 10 polio cases in northeast Syria, the first confirmed outbreak of the diseases in the country in 14 years, with a risk of spreading across the region.

Officials are awaiting lab results on another 12 cases showing polio symptoms, said World Health Organization spokesman Oliver Rosenbauer.

Rosenbauer said the confirmed cases are among babies and toddlers, all under 2, who were “under-immunized.”

The polio virus, a highly contagious disease, usually infects children in unsanitary conditions through the consumption of food or liquid contaminated with feces. It attacks the nerves and can kill or paralyze, and can spread widely and unnoticed before it starts crippling children.

“This is a communicable disease — with population movements it can travel to other areas,” said Rosenbauer. “So the risk is high of spread across the region.”

Vaccination campaign

Syria had launched a vaccination campaign around the country days after the Geneva-based WHO said it had received reports of children showing symptoms of polio in Syria’s Deir el-Zour province, but the campaign faces difficulty with lack of access in many parts of the war-torn country.

Nearly all Syrian children were vaccinated against the disease before the civil war began more than 2 1/2 years ago. Polio was last reported in Syria in 1999.

The Syrian conflict, which began as a largely peaceful uprising against President Bashar Assad in March 2011, has triggered a humanitarian crisis on a massive scale, killing more than 100,000 people, driving nearly 7 million more from their homes and devastating cities and towns.

U.N. officials have warned of the spread of disease in Syria because of lack of access to basic hygiene and vaccinations.

 

US Foreign Policy SNAFU Deja Vu – US-Backed Rebels Lead Al-Qaeda Resurgence | Zero Hedge

US Foreign Policy SNAFU Deja Vu – US-Backed Rebels Lead Al-Qaeda Resurgence | Zero Hedge. (source)

It’s happening again. The US lack of intervention in Syria (and implicit and explicit support for the rebels) has apparently emboldened none other than Al-Qaeda. As the WSJ reports, a flurry of recent attacks by al Qaeda-linked militants in Iraq – strengthened by their alliance with jihadist fighters in Syria – is threatening to undo years of U.S. efforts to crush the group, widening sectarian conflict in the Middle East. Iraqi security officials say al Qaeda-linked fighters from the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, are moving aggressively to re-establish a base of operations in Anbar province, the stronghold of the Sunni insurgency during the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Via WSJ,

The chaos across the border in Syria and Iraqi Sunnis’ feeling of discrimination under the Shiite-led government has reignited the kind of intense sectarian strife that brought Iraq to the verge of civil war in 2006-2007. A security vacuum left by the withdrawal of American combat troops in December 2011 is also helping the fighters regain a foothold.

Iraqi security officials say al Qaeda-linked fighters from the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, are moving aggressively to re-establish a base of operations in Anbar province, the stronghold of the Sunni insurgency during the U.S.-led war.

If the extremists succeed, they would undo one of the hardest-fought gains of U.S. forces and their Iraqi allies. By the time of the U.S. pullout at the end of 2011, the insurgency had been significantly weakened, in large part by a U.S. alliance with moderate Sunni tribesmen.

Following recent attacks in Anbar and the northern city of Mosul, Syrian and Iraqi jihadis openly congratulated ISIS operatives on jihadi Web forums.

Whereas attacks in the rest of the country tend to be isolated acts of terror such as car and suicide bombings, Anbar officials say attacks in the province look more like muscular efforts to gain and hold territory.

The growing instability in Iraq coincides with the strengthening of jihadist rebels in Syria, many of them foreign fighters, battling to unseat President Bashar al-Assad.

The fighters flow fluidly back and forth across the Iraq-Syria border, staging attacks on both sides, Iraqi intelligence officials said.

“The regional situation is applying huge pressure on us,” said Falih al Essawi, the deputy head of Anbar provincial council and a member in a prominent Sunni tribe. “ISIS is trying to control the borders to find a means to transport weapons, equipment and fighters between the two countries.”

While most local residents in Anbar don’t support al Qaeda, many see the group as a last bastion of resistance against Shiite domination.

“ISIS isn’t facing any refusal or resistance from the locals,” said Mr. Tou’ma, the Shiite legislator.

The Obama administration, in turn, has angered its Persian Gulf allies with its overtures to Iran and its decision not to intervene in Syria.

Syrian capital blacked out after blasts – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Syrian capital blacked out after blasts – Middle East – Al Jazeera English. (source)

The Syrian capital Damascus was hit by a power cut late on Wednesday, shortly after an explosion near the international airport, residents said.

“The whole city just went dark,” said a resident who lives in the centre of the city and asked to remain anonymous.

An AFP journalist in Damascus said he could see from a distance a huge fire blazing near Damascus International Airport, which is located near the affected power station.

A Damascus resident told Al Jazeera on Thursday morning that power had been restored in most of the capital.

State news agency SANA quoted Electricity Minister Imad Khamis as saying that electricity in “all provinces” had been cut off due to “a terrorist attack on the gas pipeline feeding the electricity generating stations in the southern region.”

“A terrorist attack on a gas pipeline that feeds a power station in the south has led to a power outage in the provinces, and work to repair it is in progress,” Emad Khamis said on Wednesday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group that reports on abuses and battlefield developments using sources from both sides of Syria’s civil war, said the explosion was caused by rebel artillery that hit a gas pipeline near the airport.

The Observatory said the rebel shelling was aimed at the town of Ghasula, a few kilometres from the airport. Rebels have been trying to push into the capital, a stronghold of President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for four decades.

“It is likely this was a large-scale operation planned well in advance,” said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

In September, a similar outage was caused after a high-voltage power line was sabotaged.

 

The Growing Rift With Saudi Arabia Threatens To Severely Damage The Petrodollar

The Growing Rift With Saudi Arabia Threatens To Severely Damage The Petrodollar. (source)

The number one American export is U.S. dollars.  It is paper currency that is backed up by absolutely nothing, but the rest of the world has been using it to trade with one another and so there is tremendous global demand for our dollars.  The linchpin of this system is the petrodollar.  For decades, if you have wanted to buy oil virtually anywhere in the world you have had to do so with U.S. dollars.  But if one of the biggest oil exporters on the planet, such as Saudi Arabia, decided to start accepting other currencies as payment for oil, the petrodollar monopoly would disintegrate very rapidly.  For years, everyone assumed that nothing like that would happen any time soon, but now Saudi officials are warning of a “major shift” in relations with the United States.  In fact, the Saudis are so upset at the Obama administration that “all options” are reportedly “on the table”.  If it gets to the point where the Saudis decide to make a major move away from the petrodollar monopoly, it will be absolutely catastrophic for the U.S. economy.

The biggest reason why having good relations with Saudi Arabia is so important to the United States is because the petrodollar monopoly will not work without them.  For decades, Washington D.C. has gone to extraordinary lengths to keep the Saudis happy.  But now the Saudis are becoming increasingly frustrated that the U.S. military is not being usedto fight their wars for them.  The following is from a recent Daily Mail report

Upset at President Barack Obama’s policies on Iran and Syria, members of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family are threatening a rift with the United States that could take the alliance between Washington and the kingdom to its lowest point in years.

Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief is vowing that the kingdom will make a ‘major shift’ in relations with the United States to protest perceived American inaction over Syria’s civil war as well as recent U.S. overtures to Iran, a source close to Saudi policy said on Tuesday.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats that the United States had failed to act effectively against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011, the source said.

Saudi Arabia desperately wants the U.S. military to intervene in the Syrian civil war on the side of the “rebels”.  This has not happened yet, and the Saudis are very upset about that.

Of course the Saudis could always go and fight their own war, but that is not the way that the Saudis do things.

So since the Saudis are not getting their way, they are threatening to punish the U.S. for their inaction.  According to Reuters, the Saudis are saying that “all options are on the table now”…

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, ploughs much of its earnings back into U.S. assets. Most of the Saudi central bank’s net foreign assets of $690 billion are thought to be denominated in dollars, much of them in U.S. Treasury bonds.

“All options are on the table now, and for sure there will be some impact,” the Saudi source said.

Sadly, most Americans have absolutely no idea how important all of this is.  If the Saudis break the petrodollar monopoly, it would severely damage the U.S. economy.  For those that do not fully understand the importance of the petrodollar, the following is a good summary of how the petrodollar works from an article by Christopher Doran

In a nutshell, any country that wants to purchase oil from an oil producing country has to do so in U.S. dollars. This is a long standing agreement within all oil exporting nations, aka OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The UK for example, cannot simply buy oil from Saudi Arabia by exchanging British pounds. Instead, the UK must exchange its pounds for U.S. dollars. The major exception at present is, of course, Iran.

This means that every country in the world that imports oil—which is the vast majority of the world’s nations—has to have immense quantities of dollars in reserve. These dollars of course are not hidden under the proverbial national mattress. They are invested. And because they are U.S. dollars, they are invested in U.S. Treasury bills and other interest bearing securities that can be easily converted to purchase dollar-priced commodities like oil. This is what has allowed the U.S. to run up trillions of dollars of debt: the rest of the world simply buys up that debt in the form of U.S. interest bearing securities.

This arrangement works out very well for the United States because we can wildly print money and run up gigantic amounts of debt and the rest of the world gobbles it all up.

In 2012, the United States ran a trade deficit of about $540,000,000,000 with the rest of the planet.  In other words, about half a trillion more dollars left the country than came into the country.  These dollars represent the number one “product” that the U.S. exports.  We make dollars and exchange them for the things that we need.  Major exporting countries (such as Saudi Arabia) take many of those dollars and “invest” them in our debt at ultra-low interest rates.  It is this system that makes our massively inflated standard of living possible.

When this system ends, the era of cheap imports and super low interest rates will be over and the “adjustment” to our standard of living will be excruciatingly painful.

And without a doubt, the day is rapidly approaching when the petrodollar monopoly will end.

Today, Russia is the number one exporter of oil in the world.

China is now the number one importer of oil in the world, and at this point they are actually importing more oil from Saudi Arabia than the United States is.

So why should Russia, China and virtually everyone else continue to be forced to use U.S. dollars to trade oil?

That is a very good question.

In fact, China has been making a whole lot of noise recently about the fact that it is time to start becoming less dependent on the U.S. dollar.  The following comes from a recent CNBC article authored by Michael Pento

Our addictions to debt and cheap money have finally caused our major international creditors to call for an end to dollar hegemony and to push for a “de-Americanized” world.

China, the largest U.S. creditor with $1.28 trillion in Treasury bonds, recently put out a commentary through the state-run Xinhua news agency stating that, “Such alarming days when the destinies of others are in the hands of a hypocritical nation have to be terminated.”

For much more on all of this, please see my previous article entitled “9 Signs That China Is Making A Move Against The U.S. Dollar“.

But you very rarely hear anything about this on the evening news, and most Americans do not understand these things at all.  The fact that the U.S. produces the de facto reserve currency of the planet is an absolutely massive advantage for us.  According to John Mauldin, this advantage allows us to consume far more wealth than we actually produce…

What that means in practical terms is that the United States can purchase more with its currency than it produces and sells. In theory those accounts should balance. But the world’s reserve currency, for all intent and purposes, becomes a product. The world needs dollars in order to conduct its trade. Today, if someone in Peru wants to buy something from Thailand, they first convert their local currency into US dollars and then purchase the product with those dollars. Those dollars eventually wind up at the Central Bank of Thailand, which includes them in its reserve balance. When someone in Thailand wants to purchase an imported product, their bank accesses those dollars, which may go anywhere in the world that will take the US dollar, which is to say pretty much anywhere.

And as Mauldin went on to explain in that same article, a significant amount of the money that we ship out to the rest of the globe ends up getting reinvested in U.S. government debt…

That privilege allows US citizens to purchase goods and services at prices somewhat lower than those people in the rest of the world must pay. We can produce electronic fiat dollars, and the rest of the world accepts them because they need them to in order to trade with each other. And they do so because they trust the dollar more than they do any other currency that is readily available. You can take those dollars and come to the United States and purchase all manner of goods, including real estate and stocks. Just this week a Chinese company spent $600 million to buy a building in New York City. Such transactions happen all the time.

And there is one other item those dollars are used to pay for: US Treasury bonds. We buy oil and all manner of goods with our electronic dollars, and those dollars typically end up on the reserve balance sheets of other central banks, which buy our government bonds. It’s hard to quantify the exact amount, but these transactions significantly lower the cost of borrowing for the US government. On a $16 trillion debt, every basis point (1/10 of 1%) means a saving of $16 billion annually. So 5 basis points would be $80 billion a year. There are credible estimates that the savings are well in excess of $100 billion a year. Thus, as the debt grows, the savings also grow! That also means the total debt compounds at a lower rate.

Unfortunately, this system only works if the rest of the planet has faith in it, and right now the United States is systematically destroying the faith that the rest of the world has in our financial system.

One way that this is being done is by our reckless accumulation of debt.  The U.S. national debt is now 37 times larger than it was 40 years ago, and we are on pace to accumulate more new debt under the 8 years of the Obama administration than we did under all of the other presidents in U.S. history combined.  The rest of the world is watching this and they are beginning to wonder if we are going to be able to pay them back the money that we owe them.

Quantitative easing is another factor that is severely damaging worldwide faith in the U.S. financial system.  The rest of the globe is watching as the Federal Reserve wildly prints up money and monetizes our debt.  They are beginning to wonder why they should continue to loan us gobs of money at super low interest rates when we are beginning to resemble the Weimar Republic.

The long-term damage that we are doing to the “U.S. brand” far, far outweighs any short-term benefits of quantitative easing.

And as Richard Koo has brilliantly demonstrated, quantitative easing is going to cause long-term interest rates to eventually rise much higher than they normally should have.

What all of this means is that the U.S. government and the Federal Reserve are systematically destroying the financial system that has enabled us to enjoy such a high standard of living for the past several decades.

Yes, the U.S. economy is not doing well at the moment, but we haven’t seen anything yet.  When the monopoly of the petrodollar is broken, it is going to be absolutely devastating.

And as I wrote about the other day, when the next great economic crisis strikes it is going to pull back the curtain and reveal the rot and decay that have been eating away at the social fabric of America for a very long time.

Just check out what happened in Detroit recently.  The new police chief was almost carjacked while he was sitting in a clearly marked police vehicle…

Just four months on the job, Detroit’s new police chief got an early taste of the city’s hardscrabble streets.

While in his patrol car at an intersection on Jefferson two weeks ago, Police Chief James Craig was nearly carjacked, police spokeswoman Kelly Miner confirmed today.

Craig said he was in a marked police car with mounted lights when a man quickly tried to approach the side of his car. Craig, who became police chief in June, retold the story Monday during a program designed to crack down on carjackings.

Isn’t that crazy?

These days, the criminals are not even afraid to go after the police while they are sitting in their own vehicles.

And this is just the beginning.  Things are going to get much, much worse than this.

So let us hope that this period of relative stability that we are enjoying right now will last for as long as possible.

The times ahead are going to be extremely challenging, and I hope that you are getting ready for them.

 

This Lack Of Syrian Aggression Will Not Stand, Man: Saudi’s Bandar Bin Sultan Furious At US | Zero Hedge

This Lack Of Syrian Aggression Will Not Stand, Man: Saudi’s Bandar Bin Sultan Furious At US | Zero Hedge. (source)

That Saudi Arabia has been furious at the US for refusing to be the monarchy’s puppet Globocop, and in the last minute declining to bomb Syria following Putin’s gambit in which World War III seemed a distinctly possible consequence of John Kerry’s hamheaded “YouTube-substantiated” false flag campaign, is no secret. However, while the US has largely forgotten this latest foreign policy debacle and the humiliation it brought upon the Department of State, Saudi Arabia is nowhere close to forgetting. Or forgiving. And this time the anger comes from the one man who truly matters, and whom we dubbed several months ago as the puppetmaster behind the Syrian campaign: the man in charge of Saudi intelligence, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan.

The WSJ reports overnight, that Prince Bandar told European diplomats this weekend that he plans to scale back cooperating with the U.S. to arm and train Syrian rebels in protest of Washington’s policy in the region, participants in the meeting said.  This demonstratively framed announcement follows Saudi Arabia’s surprise decision on Friday to renounce a seat on the United Nations Security Council. “The Saudi government, after preparing and campaigning for the seat for a year, cited what it said was the council’s ineffectiveness in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian and Syrian conflicts.”

In short: Bin Sultan has decided to take the stage and make it quite clear that this lack of aggression by the US will not stand. The question is: what can or will he do?

Diplomats here said Prince Bandar, who is leading the kingdom’s efforts to fund, train and arm rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, invited a Western diplomat to the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah over the weekend to voice Riyadh’s frustration with the Obama administration and its regional policies, including the decision not to bomb Syria in response to its alleged use of chemical weapons in August.

“This was a message for the U.S., not the U.N.,” Prince Bandar was quoted by diplomats as specifying of Saudi Arabia’s decision to walk away from the Security Council membership.

U.S. officials said they interpreted Prince Bandar’s message to the Western diplomat as an expression of discontent designed to push the U.S. in a different direction. “Obviously he wants us to do more,” said a senior U.S. official.

Obviously. What is odd is that the “proxy” intelligence chief appears to have usurped foreign policy decision-making from the Saudi king himself.

 Top decisions in Saudi Arabia come from the king, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud, and it isn’t known if Prince Bandar’s reported remarks reflected a decision by the monarch, or an effort by Prince Bandar to influence the king. However, the diplomats said, Prince Bandar told them he intends to roll back a partnership with the U.S. in which the Central Intelligence Agency and other nations’ security bodies have covertly helped train Syrian rebels to fight Mr. Assad, Prince Bandar said, according to the diplomats. Saudi Arabia would work with other allies instead in that effort, including Jordan and France, the prince was quoted as saying.

If there was any confusion that the entire Syrian campaign was purely at the behest of the Qataris and the Saudis as we first suggested in May, it can finally be put to bed.

The monarchy was particularly angered by Mr. Obama’s decision to scrap plans to bomb Syria in response to the alleged chemical-weapons attack in August and, more recently, tentative overtures between Mr. Obama and Iran’s new president.

Diplomats and officials familiar with events recounted two previously undisclosed episodes during the buildup to the aborted Western strike on Syria that allegedly further unsettled the Saudi-U.S. relationship.

In the run-up to the expected U.S. strikes, Saudi leaders asked for detailed U.S. plans for posting Navy ships to guard the Saudi oil center, the Eastern Province, during any strike on Syria, an official familiar with that discussion said. The Saudis were surprised when the Americans told them U.S. ships wouldn’t be able to fully protect the oil region, the official said.

Disappointed, the Saudis told the U.S. that they were open to alternatives to their long-standing defense partnership, emphasizing that they would look for good weapons at good prices, whatever the source, the official said.

In the second episode, one Western diplomat described Saudi Arabia as eager to be a military partner in what was to have been the U.S.-led military strikes on Syria. As part of that, the Saudis asked to be given the list of military targets for the proposed strikes. The Saudis indicated they never got the information, the diplomat said.

“The Saudis are very upset. They don’t know where the Americans want to go,” said a senior European diplomat not in Riyadh.

To be sure, not just Prccne Bandar is angry – everyone else in Saudi is now fuming at Obama too:

 In Washington in recent days, Saudi officials have privately complained to U.S. lawmakers that they increasingly feel cut out of U.S. decision-making on Syria and Iran. A senior American official described the king as “angry.”

Another senior U.S. official added: “Our interests increasingly don’t align.”

Fair enough: but what can it do? It is no secret, that as the primary hub of the petrodollar system which is instrumental to keeping the dollar’s reserve status, Saudi has no choice but to cooperate with the US, or else risk even further deterioration of the USD reserve status. A development which would certainly please China… and Russia, both of which are actively engaging in Plan B preparations for the day when the USD is merely the latest dethroned reserve currency on the scrap heap of all such formerly world-dominant currencies.

Perhaps the only party that Saudi can lash out at, since it certainly fears escalating its animosity with the US even more, is Russia. And perhaps it did yesterday, when as we reported, a suicide-bombing terrorist incident captured on a dashcam killed many people, and was supposedly organized by an Islamist extremist – of the kind that Bandar told Putin several months ago are controlled and funded by Saudi intelligence chief.

If true, and if Saudi wants to project its impotence vis-a-vis the US by attacking Russia, this will likely culminate with the Sochi winter Olympics. So will Prince Bandar be crazy enough to take on none other than the former KGB chief? And more importantly, just like in the US Syrian fiasco, what happens when and if Putin retaliates against the true power that holds the USD in place?

 

CIA ramping up covert training program for moderate Syrian rebels – The Washington Post

CIA ramping up covert training program for moderate Syrian rebels – The Washington Post. (FULL ARTICLE)

The CIA is expanding a clandestine effort to train opposition fighters in Syria amid concern that moderate, U.S.-backed militias are rapidly losing ground in the country’s civil war, U.S. officials said.But the CIA program is so minuscule that it is expected to produce only a few hundred trained fighters each month even after it is enlarged, a level that officials said will do little to bolster rebel forces that are being eclipsed by radical Islamists in the fight against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad…

The CIA’s mission, officials said, has been defined by the White House’s desire to seek a political settlement, a scenario that relies on an eventual stalemate among the warring factions rather than a clear victor. As a result, officials said, limits on the agency’s authorities enable it to provide enough support to help ensure that politically moderate, U.S.-supported militias don’t lose but not enough for them to win…..

Saudi Arabia “Outraged” At Obama’s Peace Overtures With Syria, Iran | Zero Hedge

Saudi Arabia “Outraged” At Obama’s Peace Overtures With Syria, Iran | Zero Hedge.

Back in August, just after the false flag chemical weapon attack in Syria, we showed that despite all the posturing by the Obama administration (and, of course, France’s belligerent, socialist leader Francois Hollande), the nation behind the entire Syrian campaign was not one of the “democratic”, Western nations but none other than close neighbor Saudi Arabia, and the brain orchestrating every move of the western puppets was one Bandar bin Sultan, the nation’s influential intelligence chief. We also explained the plethora of geopolitical and mostly energy-related issues that Saudi and Qatar had at stake, which they were eager to launch a regional war over, just to promote their particular set of selfish interests. A month later, in clear confirmation that this was precisely the case, the WSJ reported that the recent overtures by Obama, brilliantly checkmated by Putin, to push for a peaceful resolution with not only Syria, but suddenly Iran as well, has managed to infuriate Saudi Arabia: traditionally one of the US’ closest allies in the region and the key source of crude oil to the western world.

From the WSJ:

The Obama administration’s handling of overtures on Syria and Iran have outraged regional ally Saudi Arabia, which is signaling it wants to do more to boost the power of armed Sunni rebel groups on the ground in Syria as the U.S. pursues diplomacy.

 

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