Endless Predictions of the Syrian Regime’s Collapse, but Why Hasn’t it Happened? An Interview with Kamal Alam of the UK based Institute for Statecraft

http://www.thisfabtrek.com/journey/asia/syria/20091120-palmyra/assad-father-son-4.jpgManfred Schweda/thisfabtrek.com. Image used with permission.

KAMAL ALAM IS THE SYRIA FELLOW at The Institute for Statecraft, and advises the British Army on Syrian Affairs. He has served as advisor on Syrian affairs to the UK’s Chief of Defence Staff and to the European Union, and is a visiting lecturer at several military staff colleges across the Middle East and UK. His articles can be found in Nikkei Asian Review, ForeignPolicy.com, Middle East Eye, and other publications.

Kamal Alam

ONE YEAR AGO, Alam published a controversial yet prescient article in openDemocracy.net entitled, Pax Syriana: neither vanquished, nor all-conquering—wherein he explained why the Syrian Army had not and would not easily fragment, leading to the collapse of the Syrian state, as predicted by a chorus of analysts going back to 2011.

HIS NOVEMBER 2014 EXPERT TESTIMONY before the UK Parliament’s Defence Committee covering ISIS and national security can be viewed here.

WITH NEW REBEL VICTORIES in Spring of 2015, commentators and reporters declaring the regime’s imminent collapse grew louder, but it hasn’t happened. Kamal Alam agreed to the following exclusive interview with Levant Report—we wanted to know why the same old voices keep getting Syria so wrong…


 

Levant Report: At various times over the past few years there have been many failed predictions by prominent commentators declaring “the imminent demise” of the Syrian government. With the fall of Idlib and Palmyra and increased pressures, the prevailing wisdom in Western press is now once again that the government will soon collapse. Do you agree with this current popular assessment?

Kamal Alam: I do not believe the commonly stated prediction about ‘the fall of Assad and the Syrian regime.’ The coming fall of the Assad regime has begun to sound like the boy who cried wolf. Yet there is no wolf to be seen. However the fall of Idlib and Palmyra have significantly weakened the strategic posture of the Syrian Arab Army. The Syrian Arab Army is fighting the hardest battle in the Middle East against terrorists. Although one cannot deny that the Syrian protests started as a peaceful demand for reform they (protests) were quickly hijacked by the worst kind of extremists. No one from the initial days of the uprising wanted regime change. This was an external agenda which quickly spiraled out of control. And whilst the Syrian regime made mistakes to begin with as any State makes in times of tension, the uprising has turned into a blood letting sponsored by external states.

LR: Why do such commentators and analysts consistently fail in their predictions on Syria?

KA: The so-called experts and analysts fail in their predictions because they think Syria was the same as Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Tunisia and even Egypt. They failed to realize the ground realities of Syria and most experts have not even been to Syria. For instance the same experts were defence advisers in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Libya. They often begin their arguments by saying, ‘In Bosnia we did so and so.’ ‘In Afghanistan we did the surge in the South.’ Really? if Afghanistan or Iraq are barometers for success then one must look really hard in the mirror. Most strategic analysts are opportunists linked with media and defence companies who have vested interests and are definitely not bi partisan.  Without naming names, one of the key ‘experts’ was a DoD official who become the spokesperson for the Syrian National Council. How can an American defence official all of a sudden be a Syrian expert and spokesperson for the SNC? The only credible voices on Syria have been the late Patrick Seale, Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Joshua Landis. Even the ex-Israeli PM Ehud Barak said Assad would fall in two months, and this was in 2011.

LR: Damascus and other government-held centers are increasingly resource starved, and yet any modern army requires constant flow of energy and other resources. How has resource disruption impacted the operational effectiveness of the Syrian Army? How has the general strain impacted morale among the troops?

KA: The morale of the Syrian Army is still high. It is the only pluralistic fighting force on the ground which draws from the Sunni, Christian, Druze and Allawi sections of the society. The resources are severely depleted but time and again they have fought back from several setbacks over the last five years to regain their lost ground. No Army can fight a war without the support of its people and lands it operates in. For the Syrian Arab Army to operate for as long as it has, it has relied on its own people no matter how many foreign advisers there might be, there can be no substitute to your own people’s backing. The main problem is the supply line, and the international allies are helping the Army keep their supply lines well fed. At the same time people forget that Syria has always been the bread basket for the region. The Syrian Army is very resourceful given its experience in the Lebanese Civil War and de facto involvement in the war in Iraq since 2003. Lebanon was stabilized thanks to the Syrian Army in the 1970s and 1980s. People have a short memory and forget the Arab League and the United Nations mandated Syria to end the fighting in Lebanon. Now it is the time for the Lebanese to repay the favour to their Syrian brothers. The greatest factor in the cohesion of the Syrian Army is its multi-faith background.

LR: Former deputy director of the CIA Michael Morell recently publicly acknowledged Israeli-Nusra cooperation along the Golan. Concerning this and Israel’s documented direct attacks during the Syrian conflict, what do you see is Israel’s strategic interest in Syria?

KA: Kissinger famously said that without Syria there can be no peace in the Middle East. Israel has always clung to this statement, by knocking out the Syrian Army, they once and for all diminish any regional threat to their hegemony. Israel’s strategy in Syria has been clear: to divide the Syrians and create a buffer zone to further annexe land along the Golan Heights. They have tried hard to split the Druze and Allawi in particular saying they will protect them; however, so far they have failed in these attempts. In fact, as we saw a few days ago the Israeli Druze attacked an Israeli  military ambulance. So if anything Israel’s attempts have backfired and angered its own Druze community.

LR: In 2014 we heard many reports of local ceasefires and potential “freeze zones” that might lead to a long term stall in fighting [discussed here for example]. To your knowledge, did any locally negotiated ceasefires endure to a local peace? What are the prospects for peace in Syria? What would have to happen?

KA: There have been many successful local ceasefires most notably in Western Ghouta, Muaadamiet Esham, Qudssaya, Barzeh and the old city of Homs. The example of Maloula is also a useful one, where after the takeover of Islamic extremists, they were forced out by a coalition of armed locals and the Syrian Arab Army. Western Ghouta and Reef Dimashq has been a particular example with particular truces holding out in Ain Alfijeh and Wadi Barada. The key for a durable peace has to be a political understanding between agreeable sides. Both the Geneva talks failed because the rebels failed to come with an open mind. Moaz al Khatib, the most credible rebel leader to date resigned citing that the Syrian opposition is run by non-Syrians. The Turks and GCC begged him to stay on—yet he walked away knowing there is no credible opposition which he could lead. The examples of Libya, Tunisia and Egypt are before us in terms of the rigidity of Islamic democrats who feign the process of pluralism to grab power. Damascus has seen historical truces between Maronites and Druze of Lebanon, Sunnis and the Druze of Southern Syria. However for this to happen foreign interference must cease. The European states in particular need to hold their Muslim communities to account, Britain in particular has allowed so-called moderate Islamists to destabilize Egypt, Libya and Syria. This policy must be put to an immediate end. Any one who uses religion to seek power is by definition not a moderate—Syria gave birth to Christianity and a Christian priest foretold the coming of a Prophet in Arabia. Gulf Bedouins with little understanding of tolerance cannot dictate peace to the oldest civilization in the world.

This interview is also available at Medium.com.

Now in London Review of Books, the DIA ISIS Report Continues to Drive Global Discussion

West will facilitate rise of Islamic State “in order to isolate the Syrian regime”: 2012 DIA document

The coming July 16 London Review of Books print issue will carry an excellent and historically rich article entitled The Hijackers, by Oxford scholar and current Tufts University historian Hugh Roberts. The article gives a “long view” narrative of the Syrian conflict, while concluding that Western policy in Syria has been “a disgrace” and Britain’s role a “matter of national shame.”

In the last section of the lengthy article, Roberts discusses the origins of the Islamic State in light of the “extraordinary revelation” contained in the declassified 2012 DIA document—a revelation first reported here at Levant Report.

File:Lrb17aug2006vol28no16.jpgThe entire essay is a must-read, but here is just one sizable excerpt that covers the DIA document:

Cockburn argues that ‘for America, Britain and the Western powers, the rise of Isis and the caliphate is the ultimate disaster.’ There are certainly grounds for thinking he is right. But there are also grounds for wondering. His book went to press before he could take account of the extraordinary revelation that US intelligence had anticipated the rise of Islamic State nearly two years before it happened. On 18 May, a document from the US Defense Intelligence Agency dated 12 August 2012 was published by a conservative watchdog organisation called Judicial Watch, which had managed to obtain this and other formerly classified documents through a federal lawsuit. The document not only anticipates the rise of IS but seems to suggest it would be a desirable development from the point of view of the international ‘coalition’ seeking regime change in Damascus. Here are the key passages:

7b. Development of the current events into proxy war … Opposition forces are trying to control the eastern areas (Hasaka and Der Zor), adjacent to the western Iraqi provinces (Mosul and Anbar), in addition to neighbouring Turkish borders. Western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey are supporting these efforts. This hypothesis is most likely in accordance with the data from recent events, which will help prepare safe havens under international sheltering, similar to what transpired in Libya when Benghazi was chosen as the command centre of the temporary government …

8c. If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.

So American intelligence saw IS coming and was not only relaxed about the prospect but, it appears, positively interested in it. The precise formula used in paragraph 8c is intriguing. It doesn’t talk of ‘the possibility that Isis might establish a Salafist principality’ but of ‘the possibility of establishing’ a Salafist principality. So who was to be the prime mover in this process? Did IS have a state backing it after all?

Read the full article at LRB…

RARE.US Reports: Surprise! ISIS is now using U.S. made missiles originally supplied to Syrian rebels

LR Editor’s Note: The diffusion of Raytheon’s TOW anti-tank missile systems into the hands of recognized terror groups operating in Syria and Iraq has been something Levant Report has watched closely over the past year. A highly visible and popular news feed, RARE.US, now confirms what many Syria watchers have long known. The article sources my own LR article from six months ago, so it is good to know that word of this is slowly going more mainstream. Would not any sane American citizen say that this at the very least warrants a serious Congressional investigation? How would CIA and Pentagon officials explain this?

RARE.US, Kevin Boyd — ISIS has acquired a very large arsenal of weapons in its campaigns in Syria and Iraq, including weapons provided by the United States originally intended for Syrian rebel groups.

In a disturbing turn of events, video released by ISIS shows that the organization is now using American made BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles. The Long War Journal reports the group is on the offensive in the eastern Syrian city of Hasakah

Continue reading here…

FOX’s Judge Andrew Napolitano: Hillary Clinton provided “material assistance to terrorists”

ANTIWAR.COM, Andrew P. Napolitano — In the course of my work at Fox News, I am often asked by colleagues to review and explain documents and statutes. Recently, in conjunction with my colleagues Catherine Herridge, our chief intelligence correspondent, and Pamela Browne, our senior executive producer, I read the transcripts of an interview Browne did with a man named Marc Turi, and Herridge asked me to review emails to and from State Department and congressional officials during the years when Hillary Clinton was the secretary of state.

What I saw has persuaded me beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty that Clinton provided material assistance to terrorists and lied to Congress in a venue where the law required her to be truthful. Here is the backstory.

Turi is a lawfully licensed American arms dealer. In 2011, he applied to the Departments of State and Treasury for approvals to sell arms to the government of Qatar. Qatar is a small Middle Eastern country whose government is so entwined with the U.S. government that it almost always will do what American government officials ask of it.

In its efforts to keep arms from countries and groups that might harm Americans and American interests, Congress has authorized the Departments of State and Treasury to be arms gatekeepers. They can declare a country or group to be a terrorist organization, in which case selling or facilitating the sale of arms to them is a felony. They also can license dealers to sell.

Turi sold hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of arms to the government of Qatar, which then, at the request of American government officials, were sold, bartered or given to rebel groups in Libya and Syria. Some of the groups that received the arms were on the U.S. terror list. Thus, the same State and Treasury Departments that licensed the sales also prohibited them…

READ THE REST HERE…

A “Less Heroic Story”: AL MONITOR NEWS details France’s dirty game in Libya

These “humanitarian” myth-makers helped create imagined realities in the service of empire: Christopher Stevens (L), filmmaker Gilles Hertzog (center), and Bernard-Henri Levy (R) (Image/Commentary Source: Color Revolutions and Geopolitics)

AL MONITOR, Julian Pecquet — French spies secretly organized and funded the Libyan rebels who defeated Moammar Gadhafi, according to confidential emails to Hillary Clinton that were made public on June 22.

The memos from Clinton adviser Sidney Blumenthal contradict the popular French narrative about its intervention in Libya, raising fresh questions about a war that toppled a dictator but left chaos and radicalism in his stead. They were allegedly written by retired CIA operative Tyler Drumheller and released by a special congressional panel investigating the 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi.

The oft-repeated media tale in France holds that then-President Nicolas Sarkozy was outraged by Gadhafi’s crackdown on protesters in February 2011 but had no clear idea who to support. Enter a swash-buckling “intellectual,” Bernard-Henri Levy, who met with Transitional National Council leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil on March 4, immediately called Sarkozy, and had the French president invite Jalil to the Elysee Palace — and recognize the council as the country’s official government by March 10.

The emails to Clinton tell a distinctly less heroic story.

According to one entry from March 22, 2011, “officers” with the General Directorate for External Security — the French intelligence service — “began a series of secret meetings” with Jalil and Gen. Abdul Fatah Younis in Benghazi in late February and gave them “money and guidance” to set up the council, whose formation was announced Feb. 27. The officers, “speaking under orders from [Sarkozy] promised that as soon as the [council] was organized France would recognize [it] as the new government of Libya.”

“In return for their assistance,” the memo states, “the DGSE officers indicated that they expected the new government of Libya to favor French firms and national interests, particularly regarding the oil industry in Libya.”…

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/06/libya-gadhafi-french-spies-rebels-support.html#ixzz3eefXyFee

Brad Hoff Interviewed by ANC Report

 

Key documents and articles referenced in the show:

  1. My original report on the 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency ‘Islamic State’ document.
  2. 1980 DIA report “Assad’s Prospects” at CIA FOIA Reading Room.
  3. 1982 DIA “Special Analysis” entitled “Syria: Muslim Brotherhood Pressure Intensifies” (this was initially viewable at Foreignpolicy.com but is now not available at this location)
  4. DIA reports on Muslim Brotherhood/Syrian Government conflict from 1980’s are covered in an Oct. 2014 article by Sharmine Narwani
  5. An excellent little known background history of CIA/Western clandestine intervention in Syria going back to the 1950’s, and the regional “pressure cooker” that aided Syria’s formation into an authoritarian security state: “The Baby and the Ba’ath Water” by the BBC’s Adam Curtis
  6. 2011-2012 Arab League Observer Mission to Syria report documenting attacks and sabotage of Syrian resource infrastructure by unknown groups.
  7. For commentary and a selection of relevant passages from the Arab League report, see here.
  8. My December 2013 article covering mainstream media admissions of rebel chemical weapons possession and usage.
  9. Final United Nations report on chemical weapons usage in Syria.
  10. “Gay Girl in Damascus” hoax which was originally pushed in international media for propaganda purposes.
  11. CNN’s “Syrian Danny” hoax; also see Anderson Cooper’s final awkward interview with Danny in which Anderson asks him about the staged nature of Danny’s video reports from Syria.
  12. Wall Street Journal coverage of Joseph Schmitz and Blackwater (now called Academi) attempt to carry out a large scale private weapons shipment plan to arm anti-government fighers in Syria.
  13. For more about the “long war” for the identity of Syria, see Patrick Seale’s foundational work on modern Syria, Asad: The Struggle for the Middle East (1988). For scholarly discussion of the question of clandestine external support for the 1982 Hama uprising see especially chapter 19, “The Enemy Within.”

Ex-CIA No.2 Mike Morell Acknowledges Israeli-Qaeda Relationship Along the Golan

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

JERUSALEM POST (6/20/15)—From his vantage point of 33 years as a professional intelligence officer, Michael Morell has snap advice to Israel. “Don’t make deals with them. Pressure them. Fight them. Turn against them, otherwise they will turn against you.”

The former deputy director of the CIA’s comments were made in response to a question regarding reports in the Arab and international media – in order to maintain peace and tranquility along its border with Syria, Israel has reached tacit understandings with the Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of al-Qaida, which controls the border along the Golan Heights. “From my experience following al-Qaida I think and believe that you must not try to cut deals with them. Pakistan tried to do it with these guys telling them: We won’t attack you if you don’t attack us. But it is a dangerous game. Even if you cut a deal with them, they won’t honor it.”

Read the full article here…

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