Religious extremism, this is not just about Daesh

The world is going crazy over religion at the moment. People have finally come to understand that Daesh (ISIS) want the nations of the world to send in ground troops so as to trigger the ‘end of time’ prophecy. This leaves the governments with a major problem, they are not able to defeat Daesh just from the air and sending in ground troops would be a major boost to Daesh as they would use it to show the prophecy is coming true. What to do?

Then there was the spectacle of Donald Trump saying he would ban all Muslims from entering the USA. Basically tarring them all with the same brush of suspicion after the San Bernadino shootings by two people who had pledged allegiance to Daesh. But we must also not forget the role of far-right ‘Christians’, they too believe they can hasten the return of Jesus and the final great battle of Armageddon. For Daesh it is about provoking the return of the Mahdi and the final great war. Spot the similarities? We have a situation where people, so called Christians and so called Muslims actually believe they can make God change his timing. That has to be the height of arrogance.

While we are talking about religion I should also mention Israel. The Jews too are awaiting Messiah and believe it can only happen when the biblical borders of Israel have been re-established and the land inhabited only by Jews. The number of Orthodox Jews is increasing rapidly, as is their political power and is the reason why they don’t care what the world thinks about their treatment of Palestinians. They are determined to have their way, no matter what. They also have the support of many in the USA, many of whom hold positions of power, so called ‘Christians’ who also believe that the full borders of Israel must be re-established and all the Jews collected to the Holy Land before the end can come.

When it comes down to it, at the heart of many of the dangers facing the world today, the cause can be summed up in one word, Religion. People using what has been written to fit their own world view. It isn’t only in the MIddle East and the West that we have this problem, In India and other parts of Asia we are seeing a rise in Hindu extremism, which is responsible for growing violence and murders. This problem will not solve itself and will only become worse as the world becomes more divided.

What can the solution be? A time is coming when the governments of the world will decide enough is enough and close down all organised religion, but more than that, they will dismantle the apparatus which permits those organizations to function, stripping out everything of value. This will be done in the belief that in doing so the reasons for all the dangers we face today will vanish. If there is no central religion or place of worship, there can be no return of a Messiah or Mahdi, the main cause of much of the religious extremism today, whether it be Islamic, Christian or Jewish.

If you think I exaggerate the danger posed by those who follow a ‘Christianity’ which is about as far away from the bible as it is possible to be, I suggest you check the religious beliefs of those in the US government who took us to war in Iraq as they wanted to shape the world in a way that fitted with their world view based on a twisted belief of what is written in the bible. On a smaller scale but no less extremist, are all those so called ‘Christians’ who commit acts of violence at abortion clinics and those who quietly support them. True, the bible forbids abortion, but it also says that God is the judge, not humans, by attacking women who abort their children they are setting themselves up as judge,  saying they are doing God’s will. They are not. We have no right to judge anybody.

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Russia and USA. The pushing and shoving continues

Turkey shooting down the Russian jet today was a response to Russia increasing its influence in the Middle East through its action in Syria. Turkey, as a member of NATO would not have done this without some sort of approval from the USA. Russia and USA do not want direct conflict but they both like proxy war. The pushing and shoving between them continues. So much happening, I need a while to get all the information in order to write in depth.

The war against Daesh (ISIS)

The resolution at the United Nations last week to declare the world is at war with Daesh is all well and good, but….

How do you destroy an idea which has spread around the world and becomes stronger with every bomb that is directed against that idea? Bombs have a certain effect but killing the idea, that takes real work.

Attacks on France. Losing the war on terror

How is a person supposed to live their life, when not knowing if going to a restaurant, a concert or going on holiday will end with them being yet another casualty of a deadly terrorist attack. This has become the new reality. The deadly attacks in France hammer this home in a way that can leave no doubt. We live in extremely dangerous times.

My original plan had been to write about the growing evidence that a Daesh (ISIS) bomb brought down the Russian plane as holiday-makers flew home from Sharm el Sheikh. But this week too there was a deadly suicide bombing by Daesh in Beirut with 43 dead and more than 200 wounded. Now there is Paris, drenched in blood. Where will be next?

What many don’t understand is the reasoning behind these attacks. Daesh are trying to provoke the international community into putting boots on the ground in Syria, they believe than in so doing they will bring about Judgement Day, this is part of their twisted theology. They believe that when the armies of the world gather together to fight them, God will bring about the end of times. There can be no reasoning with them. Going back to the probability it was a bomb that brought down the Russian plane highlights the point. Russia while very active in Syria has been concentrating its efforts on attacking the rebels who are against Bashar al Assad, leaving Daesh (ISIS) pretty much unscathed. The bombing of the plane is a direct message to Moscow, ‘Come and get us if you can, we want you to try and take us on’ The only way to try to defeat them is to put boots on the ground, air-strikes alone are not effective, they want to suck the world into war on their terms.This is one of the reasons for their terror attacks.

The dreadful attacks in Paris highlight the fact that the ‘war on terror’ is not being won despite the enhanced ability of governments to gather information and intelligence from pretty much all electronic communication. Hopefully it will also help people in general understand just how organized and capable Daesh are, yes they are blood thirsty but they know what they are doing and are a global organization, never under-estimate them.

A result of the attack in Paris will be the curtailing of yet more civil liberties in the name of security. Travelling by plane will become even more arduous than it already is, I would not be surprised to see travel by train also effected, security at large public gatherings will be tightened,  more of our personal communications will be monitored, the police will be viewing everybody with suspicion, finger ready on the trigger. This is one of the goals of Daesh, besides wanting to have all the major powers of the world put troops on the ground in Syria it also wants to permanently disrupt the lives of all who don’t follow its twisted philosophy. With the attack in Paris and the bringing down of the Russian plane, it has succeeded in doing exactly that. The fear of terror they are creating is maybe more effective at interrupting our lives than the acts of terror themselves. As long as Daesh are permitted to exist we can expect there to be a lot more innocent blood splattered on the streets. The question has to be, what will the USA, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and others do about it. Will they stop playing their geo-political games, which have included turning a blind eye to Daesh (ISIS) and work together for once? Time will tell.

Who is fighting against Daesh (ISIS)?

The question of who is attacking Daesh (ISIS) has to be asked because as far as I can tell from conversations with my contacts on the ground in Syria, very little effective action appears to be directed against them on an international level.

The USA is carrying out some airstrikes against Daesh but from the information received is not proving very effective. None of the airstrikes have caused Daesh any serious problems so far and often they have already left the area by the time the bombs and missiles arrive. Having said that, the USA is continuing its funding and supplying of The Free Syrian Army (FSA), who are fighting on two fronts, against the Assad regime and against Daesh. Reports in the media that the USA is going to cut funding is regarding one small program only, the vast bulk of support is continuing. At the same time the USA does not want the FSA to capture too much territory, it is part of their plan for a divided and weakened Syria

Russia claims to be targeting Daesh but all the evidence points to the vast majority of attacks being against the FSA. Yesterday I heard news that Russia is using indiscriminate cluster bombs in its attacks against the FSA, wanting to confirm this I put word out that I was looking for evidence of cluster bomb use. In a few hours I had a link to a video shot yesterday of them being used in the Hama region of Syria. You can see for yourselves in the video.

Russia is more focused on supporting the Assad regime than fighting Daesh. Assad is Russia’s only Arab ally and after 4 years of fighting, with its military on the brink of collapse, Russia was left with no choice but to send in direct air and ground support. That it is using totally indiscriminate munitions such as cluster bombs shows how desperate and immoral both the Syrian regime and Russia truly are.

Turkey says it is against Daesh but its actions prove otherwise. It is more interested in seeing the Kurds weakened and has been turning a blind eye to Daesh crossing its borders. The recent suicide attack in Ankara was most likely by a member of Daesh, the focus of the attack being a demonstration for peace by Kurds in Turkey. Turkey has a working relationship with Daesh, when I wrote in April last year about Turkey guarding the tomb in Syria of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of Osman the 1st, the founder of the Ottoman empire, President Erdogan of Turkey was quoted as saying “Right now, the issue is not about ISIL” ISIL being Daesh, the arab term for them, and were only a few hundred metres from the tomb. Turkey is happy that Daesh is fighting the Kurds, it saves him a lot of bother so why should he be interested in trying to stop them. Rather he is trying to provoke the Kurds in Turkey into action so he can justify the use of force and he is working with Daesh to do this.

Syria, after four years of fighting its army is exhausted and has lost over 80,000 men. Now Assad is trying to reinforce the territory he does hold and is not in a position to fight on many different fronts, hence the reason for Russia stepping into the fray. Assad too is less interested in fighting Daesh than against the FSA. In conversation with a friend on the ground in Syria an interesting bit of information came out, Daesh and Assad face each other along a 60km front which runs from the prison to the ex infantry school in Aleppo region, an area I know and drove along many times two years ago when I was in Syria. In all the time Daesh has held this territory not a single shot has been fired between the Syrian army and Daesh. There is quite a cozy relationship between the two, who are more interested in fighting the FSA than each other. The Syrian army has always chosen attacking the FSA rather than the extremists. It would seem this is down to the proxy war nature of this conflict, the USA supporting the FSA and Russia with Iran supporting Assad.

Iran is a natural ally of Bashar al Assad, Assad being an Alawite, a branch of the Shia muslim faith as opposed to 70% of the Syrian population being of the Sunni muslim faith. Religion and war, it is a story as old as human history. Under no circumstance does it want to see Assad go and will do everything in its power to support him. It too sees Daesh as a useful tool in the fight against the FSA and by extension the proxy war with the USA.

Saudi Arabia and UAE. The families that govern these countries are, for want of a better word, despicable, they finance terrorism and have given a lot of financial support to Daesh and other terrorist organisations. May God bring a plague upon their houses. They help create the problems and then refuse to accept or help the people, fellow muslims, who are forced to flee their homes and countries as a result. So much for brotherhood. I’m glad I’m not a muslim.

As an aside, now that both Russia and the USA are directly involved in Syria, the risk of accidental confrontation is high, if it were to happen, the results could be an escalation of the conflict with global repercussions.

Syria. Interesting developments

Most of the media focus on Syria these days is to do with IS, Islamic State, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh. I don’t think a single group has ever collected so many acronyms! They control large areas in the north and east of the country. In the south however, there is a different situation. The Southern Front, which has many thousands of well equipped and trained fighters, is made up of moderate muslims and secularists and they hold large parts of Syria south of Damascus. Extremist groups such as Al Nusra and Daesh have tried to get a foothold in the south but without success.

The leadership of the Southern Front believe the regime of Bashar al Assad will collapse at some point. There are various reasons for this. The first is the duration of this terrible war which has sapped a lot of energy out of the Syrian military in terms of manpower. Both sides of this conflict are tired after 4 years of fighting but the areas loyal to the Assad regime are becoming uncomfortable at how many of their men are being lost in this war while Assad sits comfortably in his palace in Damascus. The second reason is economic and is closely linked to the price of oil. War is hugely expensive and the Assad regime is dependent on both Iran and Russia. Iran for funding and Russia for weapons. As the price of oil has collapsed over the last few months it becomes increasingly difficult for Iran to fund Bashar al Assad so he can buy weapons from Russia. Russia can not afford to simply give weapons away as it has its own financial problems also due to the price of oil and the effect of sanctions. If oil prices stay low well into 2015 then it will become extremely difficult for the Syrian regime to hold on to power.

The Southern Front sense this and are preparing for Bashar al Assad to lose his grip on power. The biggest challenge when this happens will be to stop Damascus descending into chaos and allowing the extremists an opportunity to try and fill the vacuum. When Saddam Hussein was overthrown the biggest mistake the Allies made – mistake is too kind, FUBAR would be more appropriate – was to remove all traces of the government and institutions without having anything to replace them, that is what led to the chaos we see in Iraq today. Southern Front realize this and have very recently stated how they see a transition being made. They are not looking to take over the country, in fact as you will see from their in-depth statement below they want to see Syria as a very inclusive country with all being represented in the new government. When the regime falls there will probably still be large areas in the north and east of Syria under the control of Daesh but for the rest of the country there will be an opportunity to close a terrible chapter in the history of the beautiful country. Then with time it will be possible to regain territory from the extremists.

Below is the statement which was passed to me by the Chief Co-ordinator of the document and I also provide a link to a PDF of the release.

The Southern Front
Free Syrian Army
Transitional Phase
10.12.2014

STATEMENT NO. 4
THE TRANSITIONAL PHASE

The collapse of the current regime will not be the end of the Syrian people’s revolution. The end of the regime will be only the start of a new and, hopefully, final phase of the people’s struggle for freedom. In order to ensure that the final phase succeeds with the  establishment of a new national model of governance based on respect for human dignity and a rebirth of Syria’s tremendous potential, it is imperative that all nationalist forces commit to a course of action during the period of transition from authoritarianism that will fulfill the popular will.

Therefore,
The Southern Front announces that it will dedicate its efforts during the period of transition following the collapse of the regime to supporting:
First: the protection of all Syrian citizens, their property and their rights without any distinction of religion, culture, ethnicity, or political affiliation in accordance with International Humanitarian Law and the international standards of Human Rights.
Second: the maintenance of Syrian state institutions, including all ministries and military institutions.
Third: the integrity of the economic and service infrastructure of the state, including telecommunications, energy, water, and public and private transportation networks.
Fourth: the establishment of a process of inclusive, national, political reconstruction.

GENERAL FRAMEWORK

1- The Civil Defense Force:
Once the Assad regime collapses, the Southern Front of the Free Syrian Army intends to transition from a military organization into a civilian defense force to contribute to establishing the appropriate conditions to enable a successful political transition in Syria. Among the primary objectives of a civilian defense force will be: protecting all citizens, maintaining all state institutions, and securing the infrastructure for the economic prosperity of the country. The Joint Command of the Southern Front is currently preparing itself for the moment of transition and is committed to implementing a detailed day-after plan to protect Damascus (the seat of government), prevent looting, protect citizens and state employees, and ensure that governmental institutions remain fully operational.

2- The Transitional Administration:
To guide the period of transition, the Southern Front will support efforts to establish a Transitional Administration. The Southern Front believes that no current state employees, identified for their competence and loyal service to the state, should be excluded from continuing to serve. In addition, the Transitional Administration should be open to senior defected government officials who return to the country to help in its reconstruction. The Southern Front, which by this time will have transformed into the the Civil Defense Forces, will support such an interim governing arrangement granted that it is non-political, and led by technocrats whose terms will end upon the completion of the interim or transitional phase. The first task of the Transitional Administration will be announcing the cessation of
all military operations and demanding foreign fighters to leave the country within a specified period of time. The Transitional Administration will also take steps to ensure that state institutions continue their routine work. It will announce to government officials including the judicial authority that their work will be guaranteed within the framework of the General Law. The civilian police will be requested to continue their work. The armed forces will be requested to remain temporarily in their barracks until security and order restored.
The current constitution will be immediately suspended and replaced by the original constitution of 1950 as an interim constitution until the drafting of a permanent constitution for the country that shall be approved by a popular referendum.

To ensure neutrality with respect to key decisions that need to be made during the critical transitional period, the Transitional Administration should issue an immediate appeal to the United Nations to form a “Syrian Transitional Phase Office” in Damascus as soon as possible with a special envoy of the UN Secretary General. This Office will be necessary to advise the Transitional Administration, coordinate foreign aid, and identify key requirements for the transition. It is also needed to recommend and supply experts and advisers to help rebuild the institutions of the state. To ease the pressure on the Transitional Administration, and to benefit from the best Syrian minds and intellects in guiding the transition, the “Syrian Transitional Phase Office” will be requested to appoint a Syrian Advisory Committee composed of qualified professionals to draft a framework and plans for the transitional period, according to a specific timetable. The Office will also request the presence of a UN observer missions and specialist teams.

The key tasks for UN and the Syrian Advisory Committee will be:

First: to establish the High Electoral Commission.
Second: to oversee general elections to choose an “interim” legislative authority within six months, paving the way for the formation of a constituent committee for the drafting of the constitution.
Third: to form a constituent committee to draft the permanent constitution for the country within one year.
Fourth: to hold a public referendum on the constitution after the completion of the work of the constituent committee.
Fifth: to implement national elections for a new parliament and government.

All bodies and formed by the “Syrian Transitional Phase Office” or by the Advisory Committee should be independent bodies. They should advice the Transitional Administration, but they should not be subject to it or overlap with it. The mandate of the Transitional Administration should be considered officially over after the holding of  elections for a new parliament and government.
Long Live Free Syria
The Southern Front
10.12.2014

Statement 4-The transitional phase

I will be back in the region in the near future to talk directly to Southern Front and should have more information for you some time in January. I’m very curious about what will happen. I think 2015 will be an interesting year.

This article is also published on DigitalJournal.com

International politics and ISIS in a nutshell

From the start it was clear that Syria and Iran wanted ISIS (Daesh) to develop even if they don’t have direct control over them. It is the best way of making chaos in the Sunna regions.

Then there is Turkey, using Daesh to fight the Kurds and weaken them, weakening the PKK is  a main objective. Turkey also has hegemonic ambitions in the region as does Iran.

Finally, the USA is not as anti ISIS (Daesh) as many suppose, it is a useful tool to weaken the overall power of the governments in the region, but ISIS (Daesh) must not be permitted to become too strong itself. USA is interested in making a new balance between Sunna and Shia.

Turkey will become the new dominant Sunna power instead of Saudi Arabia (KSA), their collaboration with Daesh and relationship with the USA indicates this.

Jordan will at some point take control of south Syria, using the rebel Syrian brigades in that area.

Iran is not a religious state as many believe, they simply use religion as a form of control. It seems the new balance the USA wants to create is between Turkey and Iran, the gulf states will become less relevant, particularly as USA and Canadian oil and gas output increase.

As for Israel, it has good relations with Jordan, Egypt, UAE and KSA as well as strong back channel communications with Iran.

This article is based on my own personal experience of the Middle East as well as conversations within the intelligence community.

Turkey stands by while ISIS and Kurds fight in Kobani

Despite the fact that heavy fighting is taking place between ISIS (Daesh) and Kurds in Kobani, Syria, all within spectator distance of the Turkish border, Turkey is refusing to do anything at the moment to help push back the Islamic extremists.

The main reason for this is because the Kurds in Kobani, in general, are said to be aligned with the PKK, which has been battling Turkey for many years for an autonomous Kurdish region. Turkey publicly says it is against Daesh but it would rather see them wipe out the Kurds in Kobani. It refuses to allow Kurds to cross the border into Syria to support their fellow Kurds in the fight. Unless something changes, Daesh will win the fight, they have heavy weapons and modern equipment vs a lightly armed Kurdish force.

Turkey is definitely preparing to take control of large parts of Syria along its border. It is also known that Turkey and Daesh have collaborated in areas of mutual interest. Another interesting fact is the tomb of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of Osman 1 who founded the Ottoman empire and is most revered by Turks down to this day, is very close to Kobani. When the dust settles and the Kurds have been pushed out of Kobani, I expect to see Daesh make a strategic withdrawal allowing Turkey to come in and take over the area. What is also very interesting is that despite US airstrikes against Daesh targets in Kobani, they have proven ineffective and done nothing to stop the extremists advance. Could it be that the US is choosing not to try too hard here for strategic reasons?

This situation will develop further. Watch this space.

Turkey to create buffer zone in Syria?

It has been reported that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated at the World Economic Form meeting in Istanbul, that he wants to create a buffer zone inside Syria. The reason given is so the thousands of refugees who recently fled ISIS (Daesh) will be able to return to their homes in security.

To be honest, this is the perfect excuse Erdogan has been looking for to make a land grab in Syria. It is something I wrote about back in March as you can read here and again in April, here. Turkey is definitely the elephant in the room. It has been suspiciously tolerant of Daesh, allowing its fighters to cross the border as well as permitting the movement of weapons into Syria. What this suggests is that Turkish motivations for creating a buffer zone are not to be trusted. All the indications are that Turkey would love to reclaim some of the territory it had as part of the Ottoman empire. With nationalism being stoked in the country, this would be a popular move for Erdogan to make. On the opposite side of the coin, it could create a lot of tension with the Kurds who have created their own autonomous areas in northern Syria over the course of the conflict. If Turkey goes for the land grab, will the Kurds be allowed to continue governing themselves? Time will tell.

Syria will never go back to the borders it had before the conflict started, it is being divided up for geo-political reasons. In the process, the risk of unintended consequences increases. Now that the US led coalition is carrying out airstrikes on Daesh, the dynamic is changing, groups such as Jabhat al Nusra are collaborating with Daesh as now the attacks are seen as an attack on Islam. The operation to bomb them could ultimately lead to them becoming stronger and gaining even more support.

Watch this space.

United Nations vs ISIS?

This week is going to be a busy one at the United Nations. As well as the General Assembly meeting there will be others to address the situation with ISIS (Daesh) and Ebola in west Africa.

Now that airstrikes in Syria against Daesh have started, led by the USA and Arab states, it is time to understand what is happening. Before I do, I want to tell you the reaction of my Syrian friends regarding the airstrikes. None of them are happy about it, not because they like Daesh but because they only see Bashar al Assad benefiting from the situation rather than the majority of the Syrian people. In general the view is that when the USA gets involved, the resulting situation is always worse than it was before. It has to be said, history tends to back them up on this.

A few weeks ago, President Obama spoke of the need to build a global coalition against the global threat of Daesh, their network is spread around the world and they have been preparing for for attacks by the West for quite some time. The USA has been leading talks behind the scenes with all the members of the U.N as a way of confronting the crisis.

While the act of attacking Daesh and stopping them in their tracks can only be a good thing there are many risks involved, in particular who or what will fill the vacuum which will follow. This is the real fear of the Sunni muslims in both Syria and Iraq. It could lead to expanded sectarian conflict across the region rather than bringing any sort of peace. Russia has already condemned the airstrikes in Syria as there has been no agreement by the Security Council of the U.N. It seems that Obama is going to try and rectify the lack of agreement this week by arguing that as Daesh are a global threat the response also needs to be global and there is only one global organization which can do the job, the U.N. In order for that to happen it would need all U.N member states to give real teeth to what until now has been little more than a corrupt talking shop. By giving the U.N genuine power it would be the only organization capable of confronting Daesh at the international level. This is why I believe this week will be quite interesting, there really could be moves to make this happen.

The crisis in the Middle East isn’t the only crisis in town. Ebola in west Africa is threatening to decimate populations and I use the word literally. It is a crisis which also requires a global response as it has the potential to spread far beyond where it is now. It has arrived to the point where there are now infected bodies in the streets, there are not enough medical facilities or staff to cope with the outbreak. There are cases where highly infectious bodies lie in the streets. It does not require a huge leap of the imagination to see how easy it would be for terrorists to extract blood from these bodies for extraction of the virus to be used as a weapon, the process is not complicated. Ebola is something which has the potential to effect us all and requires a global response of the same level that militant Islam is receiving.

Finally, I want to go back to the way most ordinary Syrians view Daesh compared to the government of Bashar al Assad and illustrate it with something I saw today. They don’t want Daesh but the Sunni majority hate the Syrian regime even more. By destroying Daesh they feel it will allow Assad to kill even more people and the USA with its military action will inadvertently help him to do it. These are not my opinions but are based on numerous conversations I have had with Syrians in the last few days.

Syrian Regime vs ISIS (Daesh)

Syrian Regime vs ISIS (Daesh)