"... WASHINGTON- ..."America is paralyzed,” Landis said. “They don’t like Assad, but they’re even more fearful of the rebels.”The Nusra Front’s connections to Iraq seem concrete, with U.S. officials tracking movement of the group’s leaders from the northern Iraqi city of Mosul to Syria in late 2011. The administration believes that Nusra is just a renamed incarnation of Iraq’s al Qaida branch, which has “dispatched money, people and materiel from Iraq to Syria over the past year,” one senior administration official said, speaking only on the condition of anonymity in a conference call this month. Nusra fighters have openly – and proudly – admitted that they’re veterans of the anti-U.S. insurgency in Iraq.State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland parroted the administration’s line that the shabiha militias, made up primarily of fellow members of Assad’s minority Alawite sect, copy the Iranian Basijis’ tactics....The Syrian regime’s connections to Iran and the Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim militias based in Iraq are harder to prove, analysts say, though that hasn’t stopped the Obama administration from drawing direct links. During the conference call this month, a second senior administration official said the Syrian shabiha known as Jaysh al Shaabi, or the People’s Army, was modeled after the powerful Iranian paramilitary group known as the Basij....Some analysts who specialize in Iran and who’ve closely followed Iranian involvement in neighboring Iraq say the U.S. assertions about Iranian training of the shabiha are overblown, designed to protect the administration from looking too pro-regime as it goes after Nusra on the rebel side.And Syria experts say the shabiha certainly are not modeled after the Basij, a deeply ideological force born of the Islamic revolution that turned Iran into a Shiite theocracy. The shabiha, by contrast, began as Alawite protection rackets that were loyal to the clans and “paid by cousins,” as Landis put it.Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor who specializes in the Middle East and Iran, said it didn’t make sense for the Iranians to train a loose militia confederation such as the shabiha. He said such assistance more likely would go to more formalized fighters such as Assad’s special forces....."
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 7:23 PM