The “Compassionate” US, Abu al-Fath al-Farghali, and Wholesale “Coincidences”
The US efforts to float the idea of al-Nusra and delist it as a terrorist organization are taking on a new shape with the spread of the coronavirus. One of the main factors driving Washington to engage in a new narrative about al-Nusra is the March 5th agreement between the Russian and Turkish presidents, which appears to have put into effect US’ worst nightmare with regards to Syria.
The Washington Institute published, on April 1st, a report titled Syria’s Three Governments Confront the Coronavirus. The authors of the report, which is supposedly devoted to monitoring Syria’s preparations to deal with the global epidemic, do not even pretend to suggest that the report is purely “humanitarian”. To the contrary, they do not appear to be very concerned if their report appears to be a direct political investment in the coronavirus disaster; the only imperative thing is to justify Washington’s political attitudes toward Syria.
This “investment” is apparent from the title of the report, the features of which quickly become clear to the reader. What is meant by the three governments is: the regime, the Autonomous Administration in the northeast, and the “Salvation Government” in the northwest.
In order to abandon the possibility of misunderstanding the report’s authors’ objectives, two issues should be emphasized. First, if the objective was to discuss the preparations and capabilities of the three different Syrian regions in confronting the coronavirus, it would have been easier to approach the matter according to geographical divisions or even by saying three different modalities of “administration”. This is what the Syria team in the LSE Conflict Research Program relied on in a study they conducted, which is a more serious and objective study (though we have some comments thereon). On the other hand, talking about three “governments” is not an oversight that a research center at the level of “the Washington Institute” would commit, though it certainly is possible for this AIPAC-funded center to use descriptions of this type.
The second issue is that the “government” of the northwest, which the report talks about, is explicitly the “Salvation Government”, that is, the civic body affiliated with al-Nusra, and not even the so-called “Interim Government” of the Syrian Coalition (Etilaf). Rather, the report does not mention the latter at all, depicting the affairs in the entire northwest as being civilly subject to the so-called “Salvation Government”. Moreover, the report – in a dark humor manner – attributes to this government (the al-Nusra government) a “technocrat” character, as if to indicate that it is a government without a political agenda, and is merely a civic administrative government composed of experts, not to mention the complete absence of any reference to the terrorist characterization of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) – the latest name for al-Nusra.
In the context of comparing the responses of the “three Governments” to the coronavirus epidemic, the reader can observe a scene similar to the distribution of gold, silver, and bronze medals at the conclusion of sporting events. In this case, the gold goes to the “Salvation Government” which is “technocratic but under-resourced”; the silver goes to the “Autonomous Administration”; as for the bronze, it goes to the “Damascus government”, and it is awarded to it because it is the third competitor among three.
Naturally, we are not interested in arguing with the report’s authors about the extent of the “fairness” in their medal distribution. Our general assessment is that the response in the various parts of Syria, and by the different entities with influence across the country, is that it is minimal and even below the bare minimum. This is not limited only to the healthcare aspect, but more so to the most critical aspect of the extent of the virus’s ability to devour Syrians. We mean by this the socioeconomic aspect, especially livelihood, where a quarantine or self-isolation at home cannot help those who in “normal” circumstances were hardly able to find enough to feed their children; one can only imagine their situation while stuck inside their homes, which are already empty anyway, combined with the massive domestic corruption and Western sanctions.
The traditional and recurring US game is to give people a set of bad options as the only ones available, which we have come to call “the dummy dichotomies”, the alignments according to which lead to the catastrophic results that the US specifically wants, regardless of which side Syrians will align within these dichotomies.
Purpose of the Report?
The report’s authors express their basic recommendation from the outset in the introduction: “The rebel administration in Idlib and the Kurdish-led government in the northeast have been more proactive and transparent than the Assad regime, but their populations still need urgent, direct international aid—without the UN’s imprimatur if necessary.”
Officially, the recommendations formulated by major research centers in the US are recommendations for the US government that the latter can either take or leave. In practice, however, recommendations by research centers usually play the role of “theoretical and moral justification, etc.” for pre-existing government decisions. It is worth noting here that it is no coincidental at all that the English name of political and economic research centers is “think tank”, which we can translate literally into the thinking tank (as in the storage device), or the armored space of thinking, i.e. “tank” in its military meaning, that is the stronghold where military commanders met on the frontlines to discuss and develop war and battle plans, in the sense that these centers are part of the overall military arsenal, which is fully applicable to US research centers of this type, starting with Carnegie, which was established in 1911.
The Washington Institute report’s “recommendation” takes us back to the recurring US rhetoric about the necessity of re-opening two border crossings, one with the northeast and the other with the northwest, for “cross-border humanitarian aid”. We recall here a statement by James Jeffrey on March 30th, which was published on the US Embassy in Damascus Facebook page, saying: “the international community’s ability to deliver humanitarian assistance is complicated by Russia’s cynical and widely condemned action in the UN Security Council in January to close the one UN-authorized humanitarian assistance crossing point into that area.” In this statement, Jeffrey exposes his compassionate heart-felt sentiment towards Syrians!
These days, it is quite helpful to examine the US response to the coronavirus, not in Syria, Yemen, Europe, or elsewhere, but precisely in the US itself. This examination helps in removing the film that has blurred the vision of many for years; it has become easy to believe what we have said time and again, that is the financial elite in the US does not care about the lives of the American people themselves, so how foolish does a person need to be to believe that the US elite really cares about the lives of Syrians? There are other examples where this was said openly and clearly, like when former CIA chief John Brennan, known for his rudeness, described Syrians by saying “two generations ago – even one generation ago – [these were] nomadic societies deeply rooted in tradition with a very provincial view of the world.”
Three Governments, One War
Speaking more clearly, what Washington has sought and still seeks is to freeze Syria’s state of division into three separate parts that are clashing among themselves and internally, which is confirmation and recognition of all “three governments” at the same time. This requires a series of measures including, but not limited to, obstructing any dialogue between the northeast and Damascus, as one of many examples. Confirming the isolation and separation of the three Syrian regions from each other also requires maintaining the absence of economic interconnection among them, and creating a state of external dependence for each of these three regions by linking them economically and for livelihood with neighboring countries, across borders, and by using the pretext of the “humanitarian aid crossing” implicitly.
All of this ultimately feeds into the primary US objective in Syria: maintaining the state of war and attrition of opponents, and preventing reaching a definitive solution through the implementation of UNSC Resolution 2254. This is because reaching a solution means exposing the true international balance of power through the new Syrian model; that is, revealing the end of the US era, not only in our region, but also globally, as the Syrian issue represents the intensification of the international conflict in its entirety.
Those who question what we are saying about the US pursuit of recognizing three governments at the same time, should listen to Trump’s statement on March 19th, which went – understandably and for obvious reasons – without the media paying much attention to it. In the aforementioned statement, Trump said: “We have one young gentleman, Austin Tice, and we’re working very hard with Syria to get him out. We hope the Syrian government [(he did not use the term Syrian regime)] will do that. We are counting on them to do that. We’ve written a letter to them just recently. He was captured long ago... We’re doing the best we can, so: Syria, please, work with us, and we would appreciate you letting him out. If you think about what we’ve done, we’ve gotten rid of the ISIS caliphate in Syria, we’ve done a lot for Syria, and we have to see if they’re going to do this, and it would be greatly appreciated if they let Austin Tice out.”
This statement itself provides an additional example of how “compassionate Washington” manages its behavior and actions; Trump’s fear for the American journalist (coincidentally also a former intelligence officer) is only what drives him to address the “Syrian regime” using the term the “Syrian government”, and using terms like “please” and “work with us.” Once again, one really needs an astronomical amount of idiocy and foolishness to believe Washington’s “noble” motives.
Any scientific person, regardless of specialization, starts with the fact that any phenomenon ocurring more than once makes it unlikely that it is an accident, and would deal with it within the framework of a scientific law that requires effort to be discovered. Therefore, repeated coincidences are the cynical expression of the desire to hide the law and to hide the truth.
In the realm of “coincidences” associated with the subject of this piece, we refer to the interview conducted on February 20th by the International Crisis Group with the leader of al-Nusra, Abu Muhammad al-Jolani, about which we wrote in detail in issue no. 954 of Kassioun a piece titled The Comedic Play Starring the Trio: Jeffrey, Malley, and Jolani. We can also refer to Jeffrey’s famous statement on January 30th, 2020, in which he explicitly suggested that al-Nusra could be de-listed as a terrorist organization. We can add to this “coincidental” consensus between al-Jolani and Jeffrey a number of other agreements between them, especially with regard to the new Turkish position.
While the Washington Institute report avoids any mention of the so-called Interim Government affiliated with the Syrian Coalition (it is not a secret that it is almost entirely affiliated with Turkey), an audio recording is leaked of an Egyptian terrorist who is a leader in al-Nusra, Abu al-Fath (Yahya) al-Farghali (part of the recording surfaced at the end of March, and then al-Farghali himself published it in full on April 1st on his Telegram account, that is, on the same day that the Washington Institute published his report).
In the recording, al-Farghali clearly expresses the transition in the relationship between al-Nusra and Turkey to a completely new stage, a stage in which “obligatory coexistence” ends, and the door of direct and existential hostility becomes wide open. This transition is the essence of the “religious (Sharia-based) sermon” that al-Farghali gave to a group of al-Nusra leaders. The “sermon” took a form of religious legislation based on considering the Turkish army an infidel institution and the Turkish soldiers apostate individuals, and that what was between al-Nusra and Turkey was a temporary agreement along the lines of “seeking the help of an infidel against an infidel”. This “sermon” further declares that this stage has ended, and the fighting has come closer to being the only remaining path for the relationship between al-Nusra and Turkey.
Sam Heller, a researcher at warontherocks.com, discusses al-Farghali’s recording in an in-depth analysis in his article entitled Leak Reveals Jihadists’ Weakening Grip in Syria’s Idlib. Regardless of whether we agree or disagree with what Heller says, he (from our point of view) hits the truth at the end of his article when he says “This leaked al-Farghali recording may indicate that this type of Turkish-Russian accommodation [i.e. the March 5 Additional Protocol] is more viable than ever than at any time in the past several years. ”
In this sense, it becomes quite understandable why the US is seeking, on the basis of the coronavirus, to find an “emergency” means to prevent the elimination of al-Nusra, especially with the failure of previous attempts that culminated in the incident of the killing of Turkish soldiers, for which there were attempts to accuse Russia of committing. This was in parallel with preparations that have become nearly exposed for a coup in Turkey, and the subsequent patching up of the failure to undermine the Astana process by the US Permanent Representative to the UN, Kelly Craft, who declared the “death of Astana”. This declaration was quickly killed, as was the Jeffrey declaration of the death of the Astana process at the end of 2018. Craft will have to deal with Astana again, just like Jeffrey was forced to deal with it and continues to after he had declared its death, even praising it on some occasions.
The Washington Institute agrees with al-Farghali, as Jeffrey agreed with al-Jolani, that preserving al-Nusra and its “government”, whether under the pretext of the coronavirus, and through the legitimization and “Syrianization” of al-Nusra, or even through “religious (Sharia-based) legitimization” of direct military action against Turkey, is indispensable for Washington, because it is an essential tool in preventing the implementation of the Sochi Agreement, and thus in preventing moving towards the implementation of UNSC Resolution 2254.