Moscow changing tack on relationship with Assad

Syrian opposition sources say Russian planes have not delivered military supplies to Syria for last three months, U-turn partly driven by desire to boost economic ties with Gulf states.

In this February 7, 2012 file photo, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad (L) meets Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the Syrian capital Damascus. (AFP Photo)

In this February 7, 2012 file photo, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad (L) meets Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the Syrian capital Damascus. (AFP Photo)

(UK) (June 1) — Clear signs are emerging of a dramatic U-turn in Russia’s policy toward the regime of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria, with Moscow even beginning to consider a “future without Assad” for the country, sources have told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Moscow, along with Tehran, is one of the biggest supporters of the Assad regime, but the sources say there has been a recent change in comments from Russian officials as well as other, more substantive, changes indicating a major shift in Russia’s relationship with the Syrian government.

Western diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that during a recent and unpublicized high-level meeting of security officials aimed at tackling the threat of terrorist groups to international security, the representative of the Russian delegation was asked a question regarding Moscow’s view of the possibility of a Syria “after Assad.”

According to the sources, who have requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media, the representative said that “what concerns Russia is to safeguard its strategic interests and secure the future of minorities” in Syria, as well as ensuring the country remained united.

The sources said delegates at the meeting, which took place in a European city the sources declined to name, were shocked by the admission, which would represent the first of its kind from a Russian official. Russia has frequently used its UN Security Council veto to block any international action against the Syrian president and his regime.

The sources added that upon hearing the comments from the Russian representative, some of the other delegates immediately left the room in order to telephone their superiors and inform them of what they had just heard.

Meanwhile, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on Saturday, sources from the Syrian opposition said Moscow had also recently transferred around 100 senior diplomatic and technical officials working in Syria back to Russia.

Many of them were working in the Damascus operations center providing support to Syrian security and military officials, alongside their Iranian counterparts and members of the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah.

The sources, who requested anonymity in order to protect their identities, said the Russians left for Moscow on a plane via the Mediterranean coastal city of Latakia, accompanied by their families.

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72 percent of Dutch Muslims approve of Jihad in Syria

SyriajihadistsTranslated from Dagelijksestandaard by Roni, via 10news.dk:

New research shows again that Dutch Muslims live in a completely different world from ours. NCRV1 programs “Altijd Wat” had carried out a survey among Muslims in the Netherlands on how they regard the war in Syria, especially their point of view toward the Dutch Muslims who fight against Assad. Native Dutch were also questioned on the same issue…

72% of Muslims find it good that Dutch Jihadists go to Syria to fight against the regime of President Assad, while only 8 % of the indigenous Dutch population approve of it.

Leader of West-backed Free Syrian Army defects to al-Qaeda group, calls FSA “apostates”

SaddamAlJamalThis is one of the “moderate” leaders whom John Kerry and others were confidently telling us quite recently would soon win out in Syria. “Syrian fighter defects to Qaeda-linked group,” by Basma Atassi for Al Jazeera, December 16:

In a farmhouse in eastern Syria, a group of men sat around a teapot observing it jiggle over a pile of burning paper bills. Lacking fuel, a charming rebel leader playfully told his comrades that he would make them tea by lighting Syrian pounds under the pot, a statement that soon turned into a dare. Minutes later, the 35-year-old man proudly poured black tea for his guests in small glass cups.

Saddam al-Jamal’s friends narrate this anecdote, which they say took place a few months ago, to illustrate their commander’s humour and free spirit. Jamal headed the Allahu Akbar Brigade, which was once one of the most effective groups fighting against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the province of Deir Ezzor.

Its fighters operate under the loose umbrella of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA). Jamal was not only the leader of a battalion but also a top FSA commander for the whole of Syria’s eastern region.

In November, however, he announced his “repentance” for his membership in the battalion and the FSA, dubbing them “apostates”.

Wearing a brown leather jacket and a black-and-white scarf wrapped around his head, Jamal was filmed seated in front of al-Qaeda’s black flag. He addressed his fighters, urging them to also abandon the FSA. The FSA calls for “killing of our IsIamist brethrens and prevents the rule of Allah from being established on Earth”, he said in the video, released by the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Jamal echoed claims that the ISIL and other Islamist fighter groups have been reiterating in recent months: that the “moderate” FSA is being groomed by the West and its Arab allies to point their weapons towards “extremist” groups upon the collapse of Assad’s regime.

Click here for full article.

Syrian jihad leader rejects democracy: “The Qur’an is our law”

Abu Bilal al-Homsi must be some kind of Islamophobe, since only Islamophobes believe that there is any slightest incompatibility between Islam and democracy. “Syrian Islamists: No to Democracy, Minority Rights,” by Israel National News, December 8:

Recent statements from various leaders within the Syrian rebel movement show that the rift between secularists and Islamists remains a key issue.

A video released by a leading Islamist faction shows Islamist military leader Abu Bilal al-Homsi exhorting his followers to reject the largely secular Free Syrian Army, led by Salim Idris.

According to Al-Homsi, Idris has said that the Free Syrian Army under his command is fighting for “democracy, secularism, communism, and the rights of minority groups“, including Syrian Druze.

Rebels must fight not for democracy or rights, but for Islam, Al-Homsi declared. From the beginning, the purpose of the rebellion was to institute Islamic law, he argued.

The Koran is our law,” he emphasized.

He argued that Idris’ alleged statements constitute a betrayal of thousands of rebel fighters who died for Islam, and prove that the Free Syrian Army is taking orders from foreign powers.

Islamist groups fighting in Syria have created an “Islamic Front” including over 50 militias. The group does not include Al Qaeda-linked factions.

Syrian jihadists execute man for blasphemy

And the U.S. is sending money and weapons to these people.

BlasphemyJihadWatch (Dec 9) — Ibrahim Qassum was a heating oil vendor. They accused him of watering down his fuel and asked him why it was impure. He responded, “How should I know? What am I, the God of fuel?” For this they killed him. And remember: Islamic supremacists and their Leftist allies want to bring these blasphemy codes to Western countries under the guise of “hate speech” laws.

“Jihadists execute Syrian man for ‘blasphemy,’ NGO says,” from AFP, December 9.

Syrian school: Muslims must slaughter infidels, “Islam elevates the Muslims and humiliates the infidels”


“Al-Qaeda in Syrian School: Infidels Must Be Slaughtered; Obama, World Leaders Are Infidels,” from MEMRI, n.d.:

Following are excerpts from a video featuring an ISIS operative at a Syrian school, which was posted on the Internet on November 26, 2013:

Al-Qaeda operative: The mujahideen are coming here, to Syria. They come from Egypt, from Chechnya, from Morocco, from the U.S., from Belgium, from China, from Russia, from Cameroon… Who unites them?

School children: Allah.

Al-Qaeda operative: Why did they gather here?

School children: For the sake of Islam.

Al-Qaeda operative: Islam unites everyone under one word, with no distinction between skin color, nationality, or anything. The entire Earth belongs to Allah. Islam elevates the Muslims and humiliates the infidels. The “Crusaders” – who are the Christians – are they Muslims or infidels?

School children: They are infidels.

Al-Qaeda operative: Allah said: “Those who say that Jesus son of Mary is God have disbelieved.” Allah said: “Those who say that God is the third of three have disbelieved.” They cross themselves like this. Allah said:”Those who say that God is the third of three have disbelieved.” Whoever says that God is three is an infidel.

He is paraphrasing Qur’an 5:72-3.

Whoever says that God is two and that Jesus is His son is an infidel as well. Whoever says that Jesus is God is also an infidel.

[…]

Anyone who does not believe in Islam is an infidel. Is Obama a Muslim or an infidel?

School children: An infidel.

Al-Qaeda operative: What about the president of Russia?

School children: An infidel.

Al-Qaeda operative: What about the president of China?

School children: An infidel.

Syria: “Attacks on churches happen a lot now. They are also targeting Christians.”

And Obama is sending the attackers weapons and money. “Christians in Syria face mounting horrors,” by John Evans for BP News, November 13:

DAMASCUS, Syria (BP) — For Hanna, a Syrian Christian mother living in Damascus, the country’s civil war is more than just statistics and news articles.

“Every day when I walk to the school I work at I hold my breath; every minute something can happen,” she wrote in a first-person account to Open Doors USA, an organization supporting persecuted Christians. “Many streets are closed and when you walk the streets you see the traces of the battle: little fires all over the streets. Also in our house you see the traces of the war: we already noticed a bullet hole in our guest room, but recently I also discovered one in the room of my girls.”

As the conflict between President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and rebel fighters rages on, the country’s Christians fear they are becoming easy targets for Islamic extremists.

“In fact attacks on churches happen a lot now. They are also targeting Christians,” Hanna wrote. “Many of them are killed or kidnapped. When they are kidnapped they ask their families for ransom or they force them to convert to Islam. Women are often raped. The people that return from such events are traumatized. One of the men I know that came back from a kidnapping didn’t speak a word since he came back. He is crying a lot. Nobody knows what happened to him.”…

Rebels allied with al-Qaeda have not been shy about imposing their harsh view of Islam on areas under their control.

The town of Raqqa, CNN reported, formerly was one of Syria’s most liberal cities before Islamist radicals took over. Now locals call it Tora Bora.

After attacks by Assad’s regime on the town, moderate rebels were pushed aside by foreign jihadist rebels from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a militant group with links to al-Qaeda. They started indoctrinating children with their extreme view of Islam. Edicts began springing up on the town walls — No smoking. No cameras. Women could not walk alone or style or show their hair.

A man called Adnan, whose name was changed for fear of his safety, was caught writing anti-ISIS graffiti and filming. The jihadists dragged him into a church they had torched and turned into an ISIS base.

“Every 15 minutes, someone poured water on me, electrocuted me, kicked me, then walked out,” he told CNN, adding that the screams of other tortured prisoners was worse than his own pain.

“When a person is tortured in front of you, you feel responsible. That’s the hardest. One guy still inside used to call me Dad as I taught him about democracy,” Adnan said….

Syria’s top Catholic leader, Gregorios III Laham, the Melkite Greek Catholic patriarch of Antioch and all the East, estimates more than 450,000 of Syria’s roughly 1.75-2 million Christians have fled their homes since 2011….

Many new refugees from Muslim backgrounds are appearing at her church, she wrote. They say they have lost everything but in Jesus have found what is most important….

Foreign extremists dominate Syria fight

Washington Post (Oct 2) — BEIRUT — Foreign fighters from across the Arab world and beyond are playing an increasingly dominant role in the battle for control of Syria, which has emerged as an even more powerful magnet for jihadist volunteers than Iraq and Afghanistan were in the past decade.

The number of Syrians battling to overthrow the regime led by President Bashar al-Assad outstrips by a large margin the thousands of Arabs and other non-Syrian Muslims who have streamed into Syria over the past two years to join in the fight.

But the flow of jihadist volunteers has accelerated, and non-Syrians have begun taking the lead in a variety of roles as the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) attempts to assert control over large areas of the rebel-held north.

Foreign fighters man checkpoints, serve as commanders on the battlefield and have become the de facto rulers of towns and cities in areas under rebel control, giving them a visible and much-feared presence across large swaths of territory, according to Syrians living in the north as well as analysts.

Saudis, Tunisians and Libyans are among the most frequently encountered nationalities, the residents and analysts say, but men from Chechnya, Kuwait, Jordan, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates also are present. The Pakistani Taliban announced in August that it had established a presence in Syria. Among those killed in recent battles was a Moroccan commander who had spent years as a prisoner of the U.S. government at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and was eulogized in one of the many videos prepared by the foreign volunteers to advertise their presence.

Conservative estimates put the number of foreign fighters who have entered Syria in the past two years at 6,000 to 10,000, a range that exceeds the number who volunteered to fight U.S. troops in Iraq or Afghanistan, said Brian Fishman, a former counterterrorism official who served in Iraq with West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center and is now a fellow at the New America Foundation.

The biggest influx of foreign fighters into Iraq occurred in 2006-2007, when more than 600 crossed in, he said. Many were recruited as suicide bombers and swiftly removed from the battlefield.

“There’s a lot more foreigners than we ever saw in Iraq, and there’s going to be a lot more,” Fishman said of the situation in Syria. “They control territory, they’ve established governance . . . and you see these foreigners playing more dynamic roles. They’re getting trained and leading people and illustrating a level of ability we didn’t see in Iraq.”

The implications for the United States and its Western allies are evident, said Nada Bakos, who tracked al-Qaeda for the U.S. government in Iraq and Afghanistan. Jihadists have secured more territory in Syria than they were able to do in Iraq or Afghanistan, and “anywhere they set up anything remotely resembling a safe haven, it’s a problem for the West,” she said.

Click here for full article.

Largest Syrian rebel groups form Islamic alliance, in possible blow to U.S. influence

I have said this repeatedly. The Syrian rebels are dominated by people who want a sharia state (based on Islamic law). One example of that is in my op-ed “Starting World War III” that I wrote for Israel’s 3rd largest news site on September 8, “…Striking Syria could start if not a World War, at least a major regional war. And for what?

To help Al-Qaeda carve out its own country and establish Sharia law (like in Aleppo)?”

You can read the op-ed here.

“Largest Syrian rebel groups form Islamic alliance, in possible blow to U.S. influence,” The Washington Post, September 25:

BEIRUT — American hopes of winning more influence over Syria’s fractious rebel movement faded Wednesday after 11 of the biggest armed factions repudiated the Western-backed opposition coalition and announced the formation of a new alliance dedicated to creating an Islamic state.

The al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, designated a terrorist organization by the United States, is the lead signatory of the new group, which will further complicate fledgling U.S. efforts to provide lethal aid to “moderate” rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Others include the Tawheed Brigade, the biggest Free Syrian Army unit in the northern city of Aleppo; Liwa al-Islam, the largest rebel group in the capital, Damascus; and Ahrar al-Sham, the most successful nationwide franchise of mostly Syrian Salafist fighters. Collectively, the new front, which does not yet have a formal name but has been dubbed by its members the “Islamist Alliance,” claims to represent 75 percent of the rebels fighting to topple Assad.

…If the development holds, he said, “it will likely prove the most significant turning point in the evolution of Syria’s anti-government insurgency to date.”

“The scope for Western influence over the Syrian opposition has now been diminished considerably,” he added.

Mokdad acknowledged that by aligning themselves with Jabhat al-Nusra, the other rebel factions could jeopardize hopes of receiving outside military help, just as the Obama administration says it is starting to step up its support after more than a year of hesitation.

Click here for full article.

Al Qaeda-linked Syria group enjoying USAID?

If this image is real, then it confirms the worst fears about U.S. aid to Syria falling into the hands of terrorists:

KavkazUSAidThe Blaze (Sep 24) — Recent images from the front line of the Syrian war suggest that terrorists are enjoying the small comforts of U.S. equipment and supplies that are meant to aide legitimate rebels, who are part of the Free Syrian Army. This appears to prove all the concerns among U.S. lawmakers and analysts that aid to the Syrian rebels could end up in the hands of Al Qaeda.

The photograph allegedly shows Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) linked Commander Muhajireen Kavkaz wa Sham, along with other rebels dawning battle-gear and an RPG, inside a USAID tent.

The terror group is known inside Syria by its acronym, ISIS. It is an Al Qaeda-linked jihad organization and recently it announced a campaign of “cleansing evil” at pro-Western opposition groups inside Syria.

The authenticity and location of this photo obtained by TheBlaze, which is circulating on the web, has not been officially confirmed. U.S. officials, however, told TheBlaze that this rebel commander is believed to be in Syria at this time.

Bret Baier: Negative Consequences of Obama’s Chaotic Syria Policy Already Happening

“And ‘style points,’ as the president puts them, matter around the world,” Baier continued. “You have North Korea restarting reactor in the wake of all of this. You have Iran emboldened in the wake of all of this. And you even have liberal Democrats up on capitol hill perhaps standing up to this president, this administration more and that’s perhaps what happened to Larry Summers, why he pulled his name from consideration for Federal Reserve chair.”

Watch the clip below via Fox News Channel:

New report says only one-third of Syrian rebels are “moderates” — and those “moderates” burn churches

The article below refers to the “the more moderate rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA),” but in this article, we learn about “a YouTube video showed an FSA gunman blowing up a church in Aarbin in the Damascus countryside and burning it completely. The clip shows the church destroyed and some of the icons burned.”

So even the “moderates” in Syria burn churches to the ground.

“Syria: nearly half rebel fighters are jihadists or hardline Islamists, says IHS Jane’s report,” by Ben Farmer and Ruth Sherlock in the Telegraph, September 15:

Nearly half the rebel fighters in Syria are now aligned to jihadist or hardline Islamist groups according to a new analysis of factions in the country’s civil war.
Opposition forces battling Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria now number around 100,000 fighters, but after more than two years of fighting they are fragmented into as many as 1,000 bands.

The new study by IHS Jane’s, a defence consultancy, estimates there are around 10,000 jihadists – who would include foreign fighters – fighting for powerful factions linked to al-Qaeda..

Another 30,000 to 35,000 are hardline Islamists who share much of the outlook of the jihadists, but are focused purely on the Syrian war rather than a wider international struggle.

There are also at least a further 30,000 moderates belonging to groups that have an Islamic character, meaning only a small minority of the rebels are linked to secular or purely nationalist groups.

The stark assessment, to be published later this week, accords with the view of Western diplomats estimate that less than one third of the opposition forces are “palatable” to Britain, while American envoys put the figure even lower.

Click here for full article.

What percentage of Americans believes the Syrian crisis is part of the ‘end times’?

As the situation in Syria continues to dominate headlines (for now, it seems a deal has been brokered that will stave off U.S. military action), chatter about the crisis’ potential relationship to Armageddon and End Times theology abounds.

TheBlaze, among other outlets, have repeatedly covered these themes in recent weeks — but media outlets aren’t the only ones examining biblical prophecy at the moment.

Polling firms, too, have commissioned studies to explore public perception on Syria and End Times — and they’re coming to some stunning finds.

We already told you that the Barna Group, an organization that measures issues related to faith and religion, found that four in 10 Americans believe we’re living in the End Times, as prophesied in the Bible. But a new study from LifeWay Research gets even more specific.

end-times2

The result? Nearly one-in-three (32 percent) Americans believes the Syrian crisis is part of the biblical text about what’s to come at the end of the world.

Additionally, one-in-four (26 percent) believes a U.S. military strike could mean that Armageddon won’t be too far behind (one-in-five — 18 percent — believes the world will come to an end during his or her lifetime).

LifeWay explains why many Christians in particular may see End Times as impending and provides some quick background on some of the key issues associated with the theology:

Most premillennial dispensationalists believe Christians will instantly disappear from the earth during an event called the rapture, followed by seven years of war and catastrophe. After the battle of Armageddon, Jesus will return and set up his kingdom on earth.

[Lifeway President Ed] Stetzer said he could see why linking Bible prophecy to Syria is appealing to many Christians.

It’s not that Christians want the world to end or want to see airstrikes, which will lead to suffering, Stetzer said. But they do want Jesus to return to set things right.

Interestingly, women were more likely than men to see a connection between biblical prophecy and what’s going on in Syria. While 36 percent of females saw a connection, only 28 percent of males viewed the issue through the same lens.

endtimes2

The survey questions were asked via telephone from Sept. 6-10 to a pool of 1,001 Americans. You can read the results here.

Krauthammer: ‘Obama has been played’

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer slammed President Barack Obama’s “epically incompetent” foreign policy on Thursday, one day after Russian President Vladimir Putin published a critical op-ed in the New York Times.

“Here is the president of the greatest democracy on Earth, being lectured — insultingly, really — in an American newspaper about human rights, about international law, about the protection of the elderly and children in wartime.” Krauthammer said.

He said it only makes it more embarrassing that the lecture came from a “KGB thug.”

“What we are seeing here is Putin so confident of himself…that he could actually engage in this,” Krauthammer added. “It’s an index of how, sort of, Obama has been played and continues to be right now in Geneva.”

Watch the segment via Fox News:

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Leno’s Opening Monologue Goes After The Obama Administration

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Tuesday night on the Tonight Show Jay Leno’s opening monologue cracked several jokes at the expense of the Obama Administration. These jokes not only were aimed at the administrations poor handling of the crisis in Syria, but also the recent unemployment numbers.

O’Reilly: USA now ‘too weak’ to police the world

This is what Obama meant by “fundamentally transform the United States of America.”

In one of his more memorable “Talking Points Memos” Monday night, Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly argued that the world is unstable due to inadequate leadership around the globe and that even the U.S. is “too weak” to act in light of the ongoing violence in Syria.

“It is left to the United States and its allies to try to impose some sense of justice on the planet,” he said. “And the sad truth is, we cannot do it any longer. The U.S.A is too weak and it pains me to say that. It’s too weak to even take care of a cheap thug like [Syrian President Basharal-Assad.”

Watch…

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Related: “Fundamentally Transforming the United States of America,” from PJ Media, 8 September 2013