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Towards the end of the Geneva negotiations

Monday, May 23, 2016 9:25
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Washington and Moscow have managed to maintain their agreements on Syria after John Kerry assured his Russian opposite number that the weapons sent by the Pentagon to Al-Qaïda and Daesh in April had been delivered to honour an old programme which is now abandoned. We are moving towards the end of the Geneva negotiations, and the resumption of intra-Syrian discussions – they will include the Kurds, but not the pro-Saudi faction. US implication in Syria is as bewildering as ever. Despite the fact that John Kerry had negotiated a cessation of hostilites on the 22 February 2016, and that Russia had withdrawn its bombers, Turkey – a member of NATO – continued its support for Daesh. On the 8 March, Russia registered a report with the Security Council accusing Ankara of controlling the traffic of antiques for the benefit of Daesh [1]. On the 18 March, it registered a further report accusing Turkey of delivering arms and munitions to Daesh [2]. In both cases, Turkey «totally refuted» these allegations and accused Russia of organising a diversionary manœuvre to «distract the attention of the international community from the civilian losses, the chaos and the considerable destruction caused by the Syrian régime and Russian military operations in Syria». The Russian Chief of Staff retaliated by revealing that Ankara had just allowed 9,000 new jihadists to enter Syria. However, it is possible to imagine that Turkey had acted alone, without referring to the United States. On the 7 April, the US Department of Defense delivered 2,000 tonnes of weapons to the «moderate armed groups», of which 500 tonnes were immediately redistributed to Al-Nusra (Al-Qaïda), and 500 more to Daesh [3]. In any case, Turkey’s support for Daesh seems to have diminished rapidly over the last few days. It would seem that Moscow had secretly but violently protested, to the extent that on the 9 May, John Kerry and Sergeï Lavrov published a joint declaration [4]. They called on «all states to implement Security Council Resolution 2253 (2015), which forbids all material or financial assistance to Daesh, the al-Nusra Front or any other group qualified as terrorist by the UN Security Council, and to prevent any of these groups from crossing the frontier into Syria». Above all, it was agreed that Washington would set a deadline for its allies – the start of July – to arrive at a negotiated agreement in Geneva. Beyond that date, the US would withdraw all their armed forces, while Russia would redirect its aircraft carrier Admiral Kutznesov to the Syrian coast in order to resume, on a reduced scale, its bombing campaign against the terrorist organisations (who have since been re-armed) [5]. However, the uncertainty has still not been definitively resolved. Russia and the United States clashed forcefully at the UN on the subject of the Army of Islam (Jaysh al-Islam). Moscow’s intention was to add it to the list of «terrorist organisations», while Washington still wants to consider it a «moderate armed group». The Army of Islam is a formation funded by Saudi Arabia and supervised by the British SAS. Originally commanded by Zahran Allouche, it spread terror throughout the suburbs of Damascus and threatened the capital for three years. Its leader, who worshipped Osama Bin Laden, was characterised by his cruelty, ordering the decapitation of a number of local inhabitants, and using others, locked in cages, as human shields. Finally, the ’bunker-buster’ bombs of the Russian Air Force destroyed the underground headquarters specially built to house his Staff. After a period of confusion, one of Allouche’s assistants, Issam el-Bouaydani, temporarily assumed his succession. He was rapidly ousted in favour of a Wahabist cleric, Sheikh Abou Abdarrahman Kaake, who recommended the nomination of one of Zahran Allouche’s cousins, Mohamed Allouche, to direct the delegation of the Saudi opposition at the intra-Syrian peace negotiations in Geneva. Mohamed Allouche had become celebrated for having thrown Syrians accused of being gay from the rooftops – the Syrian Arab Republic is the only Arab state to respect the private life of its citizens, and does not penalise homosexuals. On the 17 May, the International Syria Support Group met in Vienna. In its final declaration [6], it questions the Syrian Arab Army’s strategy of encircling the villages controlled by the jihadists of the «moderate opposition». But above all, it once more validates all of the Russo-US decisions of these last months, namely –  to form a common organisation for the transition between the Syrian government and the entire range of opposition parties when the moment for transition is reached;  to elaborate a new Constitution;  then to organise new Presidential and parliamentary elections on that basis. However, even though Saudi Arabia is a member of the International Syria Support Group, the moderate opposition still refuses to accept these three points. It persists in demanding the departure of President el-Assad and most of the Christian, Shiite and Alawite senior civil servants before the formation of the transition organisation. Furthermore, it does not intend to run against the current leaders in a round of democratic elections. It is not inconsequential that during the meeting in Vienna, a diplomat declared that his country was ready to fight Al-Qaïda, but that he was concerned as to who would then occupy the terrain. Sergeï Lavrov noted what he considered to be a «lapsus» – this diplomat was admitting, de facto, that his country preferred the victory of Al-Qaïda to the victory of the Syrian […]

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