Will the US deliver weapons to the al-Nusra Front?

"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.  The new alliance with an al-Qaeda affiliated group complicates U.S. plans to arm moderates.
Obama chides Russia for stance on Syria. 
A top Russian diplomat … repeated skepticism about U.S. positions on the issue.
Other members of the new alliance 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.
"  Washpost


Well, well, The cat is creeping into sight from the mouth of the bag.  Perhaps the Russians aren't so stupid after all.  pl



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36 Responses to Will the US deliver weapons to the al-Nusra Front?

  1. VietnamVet says:

    The drums for war in Syria have suddenly stopped for now but the aura of living in interesting times is still in the air. It feels like 1965, 1939, 1914 or 1860.
    For the USA, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, regime change in Iran has been priority # 1. Syria was added to the list for being Iran’s ally. The only reason I can tell why these states are on America’s enemy list is that since 1979 the Mullahs have refused to bow down to the Transnational Elite.
    Since all things come around again, the three states decided to replay Afghanistan once more by aiming Sunni Jihadist cannon fodder at the Syrian State. The Elite and corporate media avoid mentioning that America is actively supporting the same side as Al Qaeda in Syria, once again.
    The Free Syrian Army defeat of Sunni true believers is just as likely as the puppet Catholic Saigon General winning the Vietnamese Civil War. Lackey Generals look and act the same across the world in each new generation. “Take the money and run.”

  2. Castellio says:

    Slightly off topic, but regarding Russia’s role in the international community, over at China Matters, Peter Lee writes:
    “Reportedly, Abe talked with French president Hollande at the UN this week and asked for French help to decommission two of the Fukushima units. The broadcast also made the interesting point that Russia offered help shortly after the disaster, and also advised the Japanese government that Tepco’s strategy of cooling the hot, collapsed cores with water would a) not solve the problem and b) create a huge irradiated water mess. The Japanese government apparently ignored the Russian approach and, guess what, the problem is not solved and there is a huge irradiated water mess.”

  3. charly says:

    I can see how a change of regime can help the US but why would that help Israel and especially Saudi Arabia?
    The Mullahs don’t bow down to the “Transnational Elite” out of choice but because they are on America’s shitlist whatever they do so the opportunity cost for not bowing down isn’t there.

  4. Charles I says:

    um, where are the ones announced this week going?

  5. Charles I says:

    . . . so stupid after all.
    Not to worry, we are. Hezbullah, also not too stupid, is on Assad’s side, and we KNOW Israel esteems them as much more demonic than Assad, ergo we have to fight Assad AND Hezbullah in Syria, lest they. . . go home, and await the fight there, and threaten Israel.
    Surely that can be sold as fighting for the good ol’ US, er, FSA, and not the bad guys, until there’s no state worth mentioning.
    Funny we don’t here a MSM peep about where all these groups are getting a lot of their training, arms and cadres, those other success stories, Libya and Iraq. Where does al Shabab get its $ and money from for that matter?
    Arm the Syrian rebels, attract fanatic kinetically enabled jihadis, depose Assad, move on, repeat.
    Notice what a big noise the Russian CW evidence made – over here. Me neither.
    Iranian overtures, or posturing, whatever that isn’t Amahdinejad, that’ll just increase the strike propaganda. Though I see Russia has offered troops to guard the CW transfer/destruction. Actual Russian troops in Syria, that’d be a poser. Though it might be a bit of the old Chinese-Embassy-Sarajevo?-targeting-mistake opportunity for those inclined.
    Interesting times.

  6. Fred says:

    I would take the expertise of an anti-nuclear activist with a large grain of salt. I’ve worked in that industry for a number of years too, however as a power plant operator. That included two reactor refuelings (unlike the gentlemen who spent decades making new fuel assemblies in a clean room). Even the second reuters article is misleading. The proposal is to remove fuel from the spent fuel pool. That gets done one at a time. They provide no technical information to explain just how the assemblies, which they also call fuel rods, for that boiling water reactor are manufactured nor do they link to any.
    The radio report has more detail however the portion regarding the Russian offer for assistance refers to the damaged reactor core itself, not the spent fuel pool. These are two different technical problems. Besides, what do you expect them to do, leave them there indefinitely?

  7. FB Ali says:

    You asked where do all these jihadis get their money, arms etc from. The simple answer is: from the Arab allies of the US.
    Their governments are careful not to get involved openly, but all the filthy rich sheikhs (and their wives — remember Bandar’s wife in Washington?) make it a point to purchase insurance by donating these huge sums (usually through ‘charities’).
    The only bright side to this is that, when the time comes, these sheikhs (and their wives and children) will be the first ones to have their heads chopped off by the jihadis.

  8. walrus says:

    What we need to do now is flood the Syrian rebels with arms and ammunition.
    We used to have instantaneous fuzed grenades, and similar goodies to leave around – RPG and M72 that blows up in your face etc.

  9. Ursa Maior says:

    Living in a former communist, and soviet occupied country I swear I have never ever thought in my life that one day I will see Russia as a defender of ‘western values’.
    Third Rome my friend, Third Rome.

  10. Kerim says:

    Yes indeed. Well no one should really be surprised.
    Unfortunately, things will get much worse because the US, SA + associated kingletons, Turkey and Europe think they can somehow control things and deliver on their strategy. I don’t believe anything has really changed, the objective is still to get rid of Assad, neutralize HA and deal with Iran. There was just a hiccup recently, so tactics had to adapted, but the R2P/neocon crowd will regroup and come up with something. The region is so complex and messy that it’s easy to create problems. The issue is that if push comes to shove, the Russians will not fold. This is after all their back-garden and they are more realistic than the US about the true nature of these jihadist nutcases.
    The Palestinian aspirations have now been effectively buried, meaning radicalism and despair will rise on that side.
    The Iran WMD discussions will go nowhere, and will be used by both sides to illustrate the other’s intransigence.
    The financial situation of the US is getting worse.
    I’m really not a pessimist by nature, but I have the unpleasant feeling that we’re getting close to the perfect storm.

  11. Arms distribution by the CIA in Syria now as in the past totally lacking in tactical or strategic purpose. Blowback will soon follow IMO!

  12. confusedponderer says:

    The US, UK and France have done much to stoke the conflict, starting with Hillary Clinton’s pronouncement that to her Assad was no longer the legitimate government of Syria. Next thing that happened was the establishment of the FSA.
    Assad’s opposition, knowing that they had the backing of the west and the Gulf states, had no incentive at all to compromise in Syria. Assad himself was left with the prospect of him ending like Qathafi or at the Hague, and had the chouice betwen suicide or doubling down.
    This internationalisation escalated protests into a civil war, for which, naturally, nobody but Assad is to blame, just as if he was ruling Syria in a vacuum.
    But why encumber oneself with such pesky things like context, actions and incidents of the past or facts?
    “We need to burn Syria to save it from Assad?”
    And weaken Iran.
    Fomenting extremism in pursuit of regime change is no vice, but worth it.

  13. Norbert M Salmon says:

    Off topic:
    Dr. Rouhani is at the Asian Society [Council of Foreign Relations] discussion of approx. 1:27, with speech by the Irani Ambassador, Dr., Haas, and a Q&A session at

  14. JohnH says:

    If MEK in Iraq is any indication, yes, the US will fund al-Nusra. If you recall, MEK was long labeled a terrorist organization, until in 2012 it wasn’t any more. Apparently, the administration found them to have some utility. Last week, I watched Sen. Menendez beg Anne Patterson, nominee for Asst. Sec of State, to assure him that the MEK terrorists would be coddled.

  15. Babak Makkinejad says:

    nah, they would be in UK by that time; in their posh house in Kensington.

  16. Ursa Maior,
    The ‘Third Rome’ is only partly apt. While the partial reversion of Russia to its Orthodox Christian roots is a centrally important fact in modern international relations, it is also relevant that – whatever its faults, which are many and glaring – it is not a millenarian or messianic society.
    Counter-intelligence states – as many states in the Middle East are, and as the former Soviet Union was on a massive scale – often subsist in large measure through violence and indoctrination enforced by violence. But other elements are also sometimes important: among them fears of anarchic collapse, or the rule of mobs of one kind or another – fears which can be very well justified.
    Precisely because contemporary Western ideologies cannot come to grips with the fact that fears of vulnerability to internal disintegration and external aggression may be very well founded, we have difficulty understanding that one may find, in the intelligence services of such societies, an extraordinary diversity of people.
    So brutal sadists and opportunist cynics may coexist with hard-headed realists who are genuinely concerned about the welfare of their fellow countrymen, and have a much better grasp of the realities of their own societies than the kind of people with whom Western officials and journalists prefer to deal.
    Among the realities which was quite clear to intelligent people in the KGB in the late Soviet period was that the Bolshevik attempt to eradicate the traditional religious beliefs of Russian peasant society had been an utter and unmitigated disaster.
    Precisely what some of those few Western analysts who looked seriously at what was going on were afraid of was that the outcome would be an embrace by the Soviet regime of a kind of Orthodoxy which was messianic, and also deeply anti-Western, and in particular anti-Semitic.
    In the event, we have Russia led by a former KGB operative who professes a strong personal commitment to Orthodox Christianity – but has repeatedly gone out of his way to say that Muslim, Buddhist and Judaic religion also play a constructive social role, and is in no way incompatible with full membership in Russian society. Likewise, Putin has repeatedly denounced Russian ethnic nationalism – of the kind embraced by Navalny – with what is quite patently a heartfelt passion.
    Of course, in Washington and London, the mood has been ‘anything is better than Putin’ – just as it has been ‘anything is better than Saddam’, and ‘anything is better than Assad’, and continues to be ‘anything is better than the Iranian regime’. As the old saying goes, ‘those whom the Gods want to destroy …’

  17. Patrick D says:

    From another perspective, this development highlights the nature of power relationships between state patrons and their guerrilla or terrorist clients. I can’t see any way this announcement contributes to the efforts of the Sunni Gulf states to draw the U.S. into the conflict. This is a setback for them. These groups probably decided to do this on their own over the patrons’ objections.
    It also illustrates just how vanishingly small the chance is that a state patron possessing nuclear weapons would pass one on to such clients. Governments, especially authoritarian ones, understand power and how is it derived. That is how they gain and maintain power. They are not going to hand over crown jewels to a bunch of loose cannons.

  18. Matthew says:

    Babak: ….abusing their Bangladeshi servants.

  19. Rd. says:

    VietnamVet said…
    “It feels like 1965, 1939, 1914 or 1860. ”
    It is probably more like 1956 (Suez). It will take some time for international order (US) to adjust to new reality. In the mean time, there will be huffing and puffing. at the end, it is a good thing for the world and even for people in US.

  20. confusedponderer says:

    But JohnH, you underestimate the civilising and modernising effect that US funding has on Islamic fundamentalists who want an Islamic state in Syria.
    Given more money and some time al-Nusra will moderate their conduct from messy, podcasted backyard beheadings with dull kitchen knives to ISO 9001 compliant public hangings.
    And while Westerners may be sceptical about them having their favourite mullah rule Syria in accordance with Sharia law, they are just your middle Eastern counterpart of a law and order conservative.
    Those Dhimmis and heretics, not to mention the women (in fact, NEVER mention the women), alas, the law puts them in their place. And those who break the law must be punished!

  21. Charles says:

    Didn’t we do the same with the KLA in Kosovo during the late 90s?

  22. Fred says:

    As always you are very insightful. In view of the recent exchanges on a number of recent threads I wanted to ask what is your view of the influence of religous belief (or lack thereof) in President Obama and some of his main advisors/persons of influence (at least in regards to Syrian intervention)? Particularly Samantha Power, Susan Rice and Anne-Marie Slaughter.

  23. Richard Armstrong says:

    We’re it my decision I would ensure the rebels receive sufficient arms to continue the fight while doing everything I could to supply Assad with accurate intel, both technical and humint. Let Assad kill as many Islamists as possible and later after a rebel capitulation, work very hard with Israel to decapitate the Syrisn govt if “moderates” with Western leanings coul be found.
    As many dead Islamists as possible just seems like a good idea to me.
    But I admit that I am a barbarian.

  24. Castellio says:

    It’s good to get your informed perspective. Thank you. My intent in posting had more to do with the recent discussions on the changing international perception of Russia.
    For a period of time one couldn’t read anything about Russia without the word ‘failure’ implied or stated. That is changing, and in my opinion, will continue to do so. The idea of Japan (My God, the fallen deity of technical Japan!) actually requesting assistance from ‘old school’ France in a high tech area, having wrongly (perhaps) ignored an offer from ‘failed” Russia, reflects a transition in our perception of the international order.

  25. VietnamVet says:

    Iran is Shiite. Saudi Arabia is Sunni. Sunni and Shiite Muslims have been at each throat longer than Catholics and Protestants. Israel under the Likud Party believes that the Mullahs who run Iran are crazy and as soon as they have the atomic bomb they will turn Israel into radioactive glass. So both Saudi Arabia and Israel want the Iranian Mullahs gone. Israel is ready to bomb Iran at any time, but reportedly being held back by America.
    I really don’t why Iran’s on America’s enemy list; other than Jimmy Carter being humiliated by the hostage crises, and the USA being called the Great Satan ever since. But, I think the main reason is that the Mullahs don’t acknowledge the hegemony of America’s Empire.
    There is one additional reason why the Oil Sheiks are financing the Syrian rebellion. The US invasion resulted in the Sunnis loosing control of Iraq to Shiites allied with Iran. The Sheiks want to get Syria under Sunni control to balance things out.

  26. confusedponderer says:

    Come on, Kosovo is such a lovely crime & narco state …
    From the old days …
    “… talk is cheap. Washington’s actions tell a different story. Despite its claim to the contrary, the Clinton administration doesn’t consider violence “inadmissible.” In fact, U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke recently rewarded and legitimized the KLA’s violence by offering KLA representatives a spot on the Kosovar Albanian negotiating team. At the same time, Holbrooke is unwilling to expand the Serbian side’s negotiating team to include nonviolent opposition leaders like Democratic Party president Zoran Djindjic and Serbian Orthodox bishop Artemije. Djindjic wants a Kosovo solution that establishes equality under the law and regional stability. Bishop Artemije leads a two-year-old peace movement that espouses a federalism plan that would simultaneously ease tensions in Kosovo and reduce the power of Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
    Moreover, inviting the KLA to join the Kosovar Albanian negotiating team is downright hypocritical. In February, U.S. special envoy Robert Gelbard asserted that the KLA “is, without any questions, a terrorist group.” But now Washington wants the Yugoslav government to bargain with the KLA. That is a policy Washington would never consider for itself — negotiating with a group that it had identified as a terrorist organization.”
    And the US doesn’t negotiate with terrorists.
    Maybe Serbia WAS justified in cracking down on the KLA?
    And speaking of terrorists, maybe Assad IS justified in fighting armed groups whose foreign fighters reportedly receive salaries from the gulf amounting to $ 3000 a month and are prone to behead people (and occasional acts of cannibalism)?
    Actually, there is nothing on record that indicates that the US would not arm Al-Nusra just because they behead people and are ‘thugs’ or whatever.
    It also indicates that the standard applied against Assad is an entirely arbitrary one.
    The Egyptian junta just had a couple hundred people shot on the streets, the event being transmitted live on prime time TV. The US reaction? “No problem! In fact, you need some more ammo?”
    I remember the days when the US got in a fit over Tiananmen square. Needless to say, trade relations were soon normalised afterwards.
    Aah, dictatorship and double standards …
    Now, the difference is that the Egyptians are AUTOCRATS who do not disturb the habitual rhythms of work and leisure, habitual places of residence, habitual patterns of family and personal relations. Because the miseries of traditional life are familiar, they are bearable to ordinary people who, growing up in the society, learn to cope. And clearly, as Egypt’s rich history of democracy does suggest, they will reform to become free market an more liberal over time.
    Assad, on the other hand is a AUTHORITARIAN, and claims jurisdiction over the whole life of the society and make demands for change (like his demand that his countries minorities be protected) that so violate internalized values and habits that inhabitants flee by the tens of thousands. Assad is thus evil from the root and must be weeded out (by that metaphor, the US are the benevolent gardener of the Middle East) because Assad is just incapable of reform in a civilised process (supporting the head choppers in the opposition while giving them any incentive to not compromise goes a long way to civilise process). That weeding out is a painful but necessary procedure (i.e. it hurts Obama more than Syria).
    Al Nusra, in contrast wants to impose a Sharia state and have the Sunni majority lord it over the Dhimmis again, and they quite naturally claim jurisdiction over the whole life of the society (indeed, anything LESS is godless from their POV) and make demands for change that so violate internalized values and habits that inhabitants flee by the tens of thousands … oh wait.
    Let’s just change topics.
    The great apology one has to make to the US is that they are not acting in violation of their principles. Because they don’t have any. They make up their policy that their perceived interests suggest as they go along. Kirkpatrick’s dictatorship and double standards were no less a rationalisation exercise as is R2P today.
    Both are providing sophistry to cover for coldm hard policy. At least, Kirkpatrick was rational enough to see that, whereas I am not so sure with the R2Pers.

  27. Fred says:

    You make a couple of very good points. The technical problem the Japanese face is very interesting as are the politics. I think another very interesting thing which sticks out is that they did not ask the US. I believe our leadership in the field of nuclear power plant technology is gone. Its looking like allot of our political influence globally is going to go down that same long and painful road.

  28. Fred says:

    “… they are just your middle Eastern counterpart of a law and order conservative.”
    Obama’s backers would never countenance that. They need law and order liberals. So as long as women can vote (one time, one vote) and drive (sometimes, maybe) and wear makeup (at home – like our ‘allies’ in Saudi Arabia, why everything will be a-ok.

  29. Babak Makkinejad says:

    It has largely been the Sunnis at the Shias’ throats, so to speak and not the other way around.
    Almost all of the historical Muslim philosophers of note – excepting Ibn Rushd – have been Shia.
    In Sunni Islam you have the equivalent of the Protestants – they read the Book and the book tells them who is and is not an enemy.
    No subtlety of thought or action there.

  30. Fred,
    I am too ignorant to have a firm view.
    However, there is a long-standing tradition of thought, which sees redemptive political projects as liable to conceal both narcissism and an unacknowledged will to power.
    A contemporary American representative of this tradition is the Catholic writer Claes Ryn. From a 2006 address:
    ‘The Jacobin is a true believer. He has access to universal principles, you see, and they demand “moral clarity.” You are either for his principles, which makes you virtuous, or you are against them, which makes you evil. It’s all so clear.
    ‘To have unquestioning faith in one’s own moral superiority is for Christians the cardinal sin. Only a profoundly conceited person could think that for another to oppose him is by definition morally perverse.
    ‘But the Jacobin assumes a right to have his way. Behind his moralism hides a desire to dominate. The hesitation or trepidation that may trouble men of conscience do not deter him. The will to power silences all doubt.’
    (See http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org/2012/11/where-in-world-are-we-going.html#more-401 )
    Actually, as a generalisation about Christian belief this is misleading. Millenarian ideas have a long history in Christian civilisation. Such beliefs were I understand a strong undercurrent in the decision of the Pilgrim Fathers to found a new society in America, and were rife in England during and immediately following the Civil War.
    There were, likewise, strong millenarian undercurrents in Russian Orthodoxy, particularly among the so-called ‘Old Believers’ following the schism of the seventeenth century. And their mentality was carried over – in putatively secular form – into the thinking of the Russian revolutionary intelligentsia of the nineteenth century: which is probably a major reason why the political activity of that intelligentsia was so disastrous.
    Millenarianism has commonly been associated with antinomianism – the belief that the moral law is not binding on the elect. Critics have time and again argued that this was a recipe for catastrophic moral collapse. The same kind of arguments that Ryn makes can be found in the novels of Dostoevsky, and also among ‘cavalier’ British writers. The 1814 fable ‘Confessions of a Justified Sinner’ by the Scottish peasant poet James Hogg paints one of the most terrifying portrayals of the moral disintegration of a ‘true believer’ ever written.
    The apparent belief of Obama that the United States is ‘exceptional’ because it is willing to engage in righteous violence, without either looking properly at the evidence of what has happened, or at the possible consequences of intervention, seems to me to add to an accumulating body of evidence that suggests he is indeed a ‘justified sinner’.
    If this is indeed the case, it would seem that what we are seeing is a victory of a degenerate version of the tradition of the Pilgrim Fathers, over those many strands in American culture – rooted both in Biblical and classical traditions – which suggest that it is prudent to be sceptical about one’s own good intentions, as well as those of others.

  31. charly says:

    Iran without mullahs in power is still shiite. A change of government wont change that. Besides the main conflict between the Arabs and the Iranians in not religion but ethnicity.
    Israel and the West claim that the Mullahs are crazy because it is great propaganda. But it is not something which one would say if you looked at how Iran has behaved in the last 30 years. It could be that the Israeli government really believes that the Iranians are crazy or it could be that they only say this but don’t actually believe it.
    About the atom bomb. There was a country without jets and computers that could build 3 nuclear bombs in 3 years. Its population wasn’t even twice that of Iran so why can’t Iran build the dozen or so required to destroy Israel in 20+ years. Are the Iranians really that dumb or is it something they don’t want to do?
    Israel claims to want to bomb Iran. There are serious question if they could do one run let alone the necessary campaign.
    Why is Cuba on that list or was Vietnam on that list? If you humiliate the US your life will be made very difficult by the US.

  32. kao_hsien_chih says:

    If I may interject, I have this notion that the irreligiosity of so many neocons (I’ll just call Power, Rioe, Slaughter et al as neocons–they are basically the same lot anyways) is causing them to cavalierly dismiss the possibility that the people whom they are dealing with might actually be taking religion seriously. So, they think they can get jihadis to give up religion by offering them money or fancy political ideas (the ideas that THEY take seriously), or that Russians (who seem to be taking Orthodox Christianity increasingly seriously) can be cowed by threats and bribes. Indeed, many liberals, even in domestic politics, seem to dismiss the notion that many of their political foes might actually believe in the religions they profess with some seriousness. While there may be some posers who are faking it in any of these groups, even they would not act on their unbelief, you would think, if they believed (correctly) I think, that many others among them really do believe. It is one thing to wonder whether “religions” are real or not, but the “religious” definitely are real and dismissing their faiths would seem to be courting a disaster…

  33. Fred says:

    Thank you very much for the detailed reply and the link to Mr. Ryn’s article. It is food for thought. Another line there struck me:
    “They lacked historical perspective and philosophical discernment. Others dimly recognized what was happening but went along to reap financial rewards and advance careers.”
    That certainly describes the (American) political leadership and followers of both parties. In thinking of a number of Obama’s supporters I know I am reminded of a line from Yeats:
    “All think what others think;
    All know the man their neighbor knows.”
    He was speaking of scholars; perhaps because those I’m thinking of are liberal academics who fit this mold this line has stuck with me.

  34. Fred says:

    I think I agree with you on this point. I think it is an acceptance of ‘reason’ in the academic sense that leads to a very dangerous rejection of religion, or of the religious, in some people. I think they truly fear to have a religious experience and use reason as a defense against it.

  35. Tyler says:

    I don’t think they’ve rejected religion, per se. It is just that their religion is blank slate secularism, where the ‘end state’ of man is Western Democracy, and they fervently believe in this shit.
    You’d think someone in this administration would have read Leviathan, or even The Prince, and taken something away from it. Instead you get more of this bullshit R2P pap.
    I wonder when/if the religious over HERE will wake up and see how the world has changed or if they’re going to continue to scream “KGB thug!” over and over again while their children are indoctrinated in homosexual “values” and post-partum abortion is discussed as a viable choice.

  36. Tyler says:

    Assad is plenty moderate is this satire?

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