Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"As far as Riyadh is concerned, a failed state ruled by Sunni extremists seems preferable to an Iran-friendly regime in Syria"

"... The fact that some sides aren’t playing ball — or at least not by the agreed upon rules, most notably the Saudis, who have opted to create their very own “Islamic Front” team — throws a spanner into the works. This new Saudi-backed Islamic Front is a fusion of Salafist jihadist Islamist groups, not as extreme in Ideology as al-Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) or Jabhat al-Nusra, but nevertheless by no means mainstream like the FSA. It openly calls for Islamic Sharia rule instead of secular democracy, and was even implicated in sectarian war crimes like the Latakia province incidents documented by Human Rights Watch....It is this sort of cannibalization of the moderate FSA that has alarm bells ringing in Western capitals. Pretty soon there won’t actually be any FSA, at least not in terms of actual physical presence. To make matters worse, what was left of the FSA in the northeast of Syria, namely in the al-Qaeda-dominated al-Raqqa province, has disintegrated....
And so begins the race, even against allies, to put together a workable solution that can be implemented in Syria. It is a given that many fighting factions, most notably the extremist Islamist militants, won’t abide by any such agreements, and will therefore become the future enemy of a “new Syria,” should one be agreed upon by the various players.
In the frantic buildup and diplomatic arm-twisting before Geneva II, it seems the main priority is to get everyone on board with tackling the imminent al-Qaeda menace, which friend and foe alike admit is now the biggest threat to their interests and to regional and global stability.
Neither the Americans nor the Russians nor their respective allies want to see Syria turned into a launching pad for a global jihadist movement. The nervousness is particularly acute in Europe, some of whose own citizens have joined the ranks of al-Qaeda in Syria. The blowback from those radicalized militants returning home has even prompted some to send high-level security officials to Damascus.
The Saudis' overt backing and funding of the Islamic Front seems specifically geared toward scuttling any such deal. In terms of Saudi calculations, curbing Iranian influence in the Middle East is their number-one strategic goal. As far as Riyadh is concerned, a failed state ruled by Sunni extremists seems preferable to the existence of any Iran-friendly regime in Syria. But despite deploying its cards via the Islamic Front, it remains to be seen whether Saudi Arabia will actively defy an US attempt to form an anti-al-Qaeda coalition in Syria..."

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