(Abundant Hope, Oct 19, 2017) –There is dangerous news evolving from Raqqa, Syria. While ISIS is largely defeated seeds get sown for its reappearance.
The Kurdish forces under the label SDF and led by U.S. special forces have defeated ISIS in Raqqa. Cleanup operations continue. The victory came only after the the U.S. and its proxies agreed to give free passage (see below) to the last few hundreds of foreign and Syrian ISIS fighters and their families. Since these boarded buses and were moved out of Raqqa on Saturday night nothing has been heard of them.
On Monday the U.S. coordinator for the fight against ISIS, Brett McGurk, brought an unwelcome visitor to Syria.
Raqqa24 @24Raqqa – 9:49 AM – 17 Oct 2017Brett McGurk visited Ayn Issa today with the Saudi minister Thamer al-Sabhan (former Ambassador to Iraq) & joined 3 different meetings. #R24
First meeting was with the local council of #Raqqa then with reconstruction committee at the least they met with elders of Raqqa
Picture of the visit of Brett McGurk and Thamer al-Sabhan. Source: Unknown
via Raqqa24 – bigger
The visit was confirmed by a (pro Kurd) journalist:
Wladimir @vvanwilgenburg – 5:06 PM – 17 Oct 2017
Wladimir Retweeted Raqqa24I was there. No pictures allowed. Meeting was indeed about reconstruction.
Thamer al-Sabhan is the Saudi Minister for Gulf Affairs. He is known to be extremely sectarian and anti-Shia.
In 2015 Thamer al-Sabhan was appointed as the first Saudi ambassador to Iraq since the Iraqi takeover of Kuwait in 1990. He made no friends in Baghdad when he ranted against the Popular Mobilization Units, which had stopped and fought back ISIS. He denigrated the most revered religious scholar in Iraq:
Sabhan asserted that “whoever listens to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s Friday sermons and Muqtada al-Sadr’s statements can feel the threat that Shiite religious authorities pose.“
Al-Sistani is well know for caring for all Iraqis and for speaking out against any form of sectarianism. This was an insult and threat to a very high religious authority with a huge following.
Sabhan’s loose talk did not go down well with the Iraqi population and its political circles. Immediately demands were made to kick him out of Iraq. Sabhan then claimed that an Iraqi official had told him that Shia groups directed by Iran were out to kill him. The Iraqi government denied that claim. But Sabhan continued to stir inner-Iraqi strife. The government finally asked Riyadh to call him back. In October 2016 Sabham was recalled from Iraq and appointed minister. He recently demanded “to eliminate the rogue Iranian regime.”
To invite him to Syria, as Brett McGurk (on order from the White House?) did, is a dangerous provocation.
The Trump administration is not willing to spend money on the rebuilding of Raqqa which was largely destroyed (video) by thousands of U.S. air and artillery strikes. The State Department promised to “lead” efforts to restore water and power supplies in Raqqa, but it wants to put the financial burden elsewhere:
“We will assist and take, essentially, the lead in bringing back the water, electricity and all of that,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a briefing. “But eventually the governance of the country of Syria is something that I think all nations remain very interested in.”
It is a complete wrong approach. The U.S. should ask the Syrian government to immediately take responsibility of Raqqa and then leave the country.
Now Thamer al-Sabhan is asked to cough up money for “reconstruction” and “governance”. But Saudi Arabia does not have humanitarian interests. Just witness the slow genocidal war it is waging on Yemen. Saudi Arabia will only support groups and populations that are willing to follow its extreme Wahhabi version of Islam.
ISIS follows largely the same creed as the Saudis do. ISIS used Saudi schoolbooks in its schools. Many of its leading members come from Saudi Arabia. It is generally assumed, with some evidence, that Saudi donors financed ISIS – at least in its early days.
The ISIS members leaving Raqqa under free passage went where? The Syrian forces fighting ISIS along the Euphrates further east report that ISIS fighters have largely vanished from the area. They either melted into the general population or moved north of the Euphrates to hand themselves over to the U.S. proxy forces. What will happen to them? Who pays to feed their families?
ISIS was born out of the Sunni resistance against the U.S, occupation of Iraq. Around 2010/11 the resistance was perceived to be a dead force. But to others it was still a valuable anti-Shia instrument and money from the Sunni gulf regimes continued to flow. The Sunni terror groups in Iraq slowly grew back. The Obama administration saw ISIS develop but intentionally let it grow for its own political purposes. The U.S. military at times supported itin its fights against the Syrian state.
ISIS is not even completely defeated, yet the seeds for its next incarnation already get sown. Thamer al-Sabhan will use the money he spends in Syria to further stir the anti-Shia pot. He will finance those who will promise him to resist the “Shia axis” of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. “Former” ISIS members will be welcome to join the “rehabilitation” work.
One hopes that the “resistance” axis in Syria will finds ways and means to kill these weeds before they grow back to size.
Jan.15, 2018 “Washington Examiner,” reported: “…A stark warning by President Erdogan of Turkey issued to U.S. forces in Syria………”Do not come between us and the terrorists, do not come between these herds of murderers and us. Otherwise we won’t be responsible for the consequences.” This latest threat pertains to a new U.S. sponsored force in northern Syria that Turkey believes is a terrorist formation…………..The issue here is not so much Turkey’s border concerns as it is a broader geopolitical struggle over areas of eastern and northern Syria currently occupied by the SDF. For various reasons http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/russia-turkey-iran-assad-axis-want-to-steal-syrias-future-the-us-must-obstruct-them/article/2641492, Bashar Assad, Iran, Russian and Turkey are all determined to see U.S. influence, as realized in the SDF, displaced from these areas, and they are taking increasingly aggressive action to effect that desire. Indeed, as I’ve explained, the Russian military might even accidentally bomb U.S. ground forces in Syria.
Trump must take charge and remind his Turkish counterpart that he is prepared to defend U.S. interests. Up until now, the U.S. has been able to deter Russian strikes on SDF forces by launching fighter jet intercepts against Russian jets that cross east and north of the Euphrates river valley. Trump should do the same in relation to any Turkish air force maneuvers that now occur.
But the president should also remain committed to his present strategy. Unless the U.S. can counterbalance Assad, Erdogan, Putin, and Khamenei in Syria, the seeds of ISIS 2.0 will find fertile plains.
Free Passage Deal For ISIS In Raqqa-Video Shows
After free passage negotiations with the U.S. and its Kurdish proxy forces, ISIS is moving its fighters out of Raqqa city. When the Syrian government reached similar agreements the U.S. childishly criticized it. The U.S. coalition claims that it was “not involved in the discussions” that led to the Raqqa free passage agreement. A BBC News report shows that the opposite is true.
Over the last two years the U.S. and its Kurdish proxy force in Syria made several deals with the Islamic State. In 2016, for example, they negotiated a deal with Islamic State fighters to move from Manbij to the Turkish border to avoid further casualties in the fight about the city.
But when in August 2017 Hizbullah and the Lebanese and Syrian government negotiated a deal with some 300 besieged ISIS fighters and their families at the Lebanese-Syria border, the U.S. loudly protested. The U.S. military blocked and threatened to bomb the evacuation convoy over several days and the U.S. envoy McGurk ranted against it:
7:20 AM – 30 Aug 2017 – Brett McGurk @brett_mcgurkIrreconcilable #ISIS terrorists should be killed on the battlefield, not bused across #Syria to the Iraqi border without #Iraq’s consent 1/2
Our @coalition will help ensure that these terrorists can never enter #Iraq or escape from what remains of their dwindling “caliphate.” 2/2
Over the last months U.S. supported Kurdish proxy fighters besieged the city of Raqqa and fought to take it from ISIS. An immense amount of U.S. bombs was released to lower the casualty numbers of the U.S.proxy forces. The city was literally “destroyed to save it”. Many of its civilian inhabitants were killed. During the last days rumors abounded that a deal was made between the U.S. and ISIS. It would give ISIS fighters free passage when leaving the city. Today these rumors were confirmed:
[SOHR] received information from Knowledgeable and independent sources confirming reaching a deal between the International Coalition and the Syria Democratic Forces in one hand; and the “Islamic State” organization in the other hand, and the deal stated the exit of the remaining members of the “Islamic State” organization out of Al-Raqqah city.The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirms that this agreement has happened, and confirms that all the Syrian members were gotten out already, and if some members remained until now it is because they are of the non-Syrian nationalities of whom the French Intelligence objects getting them out of Al-Raqqah city, where the French Intelligence considers that some of those involved in Paris Attack are present inside the city …
Other sources said that buses had arrived to take the leaving ISIS fighters towards the Syrian-Iraqi border area. Local officials say that foreign fighters with ISIS are also leaving. The U.S. coalition generally confirms the evacuation, but it denies any involvement:
A convoy of vehicles is staged to depart Raqqah Oct. 14 under an arrangement brokered by the Raqqah Civil Council and local Arab tribal elders Oct. 12.
The Coalition was not involved in the discussions that led to the arrangement, but believes it will save innocent lives and allow Syrian Democratic Forces and the Coalition to focus on defeating Daesh terrorists in Raqqah with less risk of civilian casualties.
The hypocrisy stinks to high heaven. A deal made by Hizbullah with besieged ISIS fighters and their families was condemned. The evacuation convoy was blocked for days in the desert by U.S. drones and air interdiction.
Now the U.S. and its allies make a similar deal and let ISIS leave its besieged position. They bus those fighters towards the Syrian-Iraqi border where Syrian government forces are engaged in heavy battles against ISIS.
What is next? CENTCOM providing ISIS with air transport to the Israeli border? There ISIS is free to openly train new forces. The area is safe from Syrian and Russian attacks. The Israeli airforce keeps anyone away who might be hostile to ISIS.
The U.S. says: “The Coalition was not involved in the discussions”. That is a lie. Only two days ago BBC News reported on the meeting where the deal was discussed and then made.
U.S. General Jim Glynn meeting on October 12 with Raqqa officials to negotiate the deal. While the General claimed at that time that no deal was made, later news and the situation today proves the opposite. ISIS convoys are moving out of Raqqa and the U.S. and its proxy forces are sitting tight and simply watch them leave. No U.S. air asset is blocking the convoy and no Brett .