Posts Tagged ‘rebels’

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Report: Clinton OK’d gunrunning through Qatar

July 6, 2015

A former superior court judge says that Hillary Clinton approved an arms deal to send weapons to rebels in Libya and Syria through Qatari middlemen when she was secretary of state.  Those weapons often ended up in the hands of Islamic radicals and even groups designated by the U.S. as terrorist organizations according to documents reviewed by the judge.  From Fox News Insider on Jul. 2 (with a hat tip to Zadok Forgeron):

Judge Andrew Napolitano revealed this morning what he has concluded after reviewing hundreds of pages of documents and emails related to Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.

The judge wrote today in a Washington Times column that the documents “persuaded me beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty that Mrs. Clinton provided material assistance to terrorists and lied to Congress.”

Napolitano said he looked at transcripts from a Fox News interview with an American arms dealer named Marc Turi, in addition to reviewing emails between Turi, State Department officials and lawmakers.

On Fox Business Network this morning, the judge told Charles Payne that he believes a “conspiracy existed” among President Obama, Mrs. Clinton, congressional leaders and other officials to “get arms shipped to rebels in Syria and Libya.”

Napolitano said some of the rebel groups were on the United States’ list of terrorist organizations, so providing “material assistance” to them would be a felony.

Napolitano said arms dealers received permission lawfully from the State Department to sell the weapons to the government of Qatar.

“Qatar then sold, delivered, bartered or gave these arms to the terrorist organizations with the consent of Hillary Rodham Clinton,” he said, adding that it is “crystal clear” from the documents that U.S. officials knew where the weapons would end up…

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CIA: funding rebels doesn’t work

October 31, 2014

An internal review conducted by the CIA found that U.S. financing, training, and arming foreign fighters has seldom worked in the past 70 years. According to The New York Times (hat tip to Drugs and Thugs Blog), the Obama administration asked the CIA to report on the subject when the White House was considering whether to increase aid to Syrian rebels in 2012 and 2013. The CIA found that there was only one significant example of support to rebels that was effective in the short-term, which was aid to the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s—an initiative now viewed as a long-term strategic blunder that contributed to the eventual rise of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Nevertheless, the Obama administration has shifted course and decided to arm and fund “vetted, moderate,” Syrian rebels anyway. Funding the rebels has likewise been championed by interventionists including John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Hillary Clinton.

Other studies have shown even worse consequences than the CIA’s report. Rather than just being ineffective, such efforts tend to make matters worse according to Dr. Marc Lynch:

In general, external support for rebels almost always make wars longer, bloodier and harder to resolve (for more on this, see the proceedings of this Project on Middle East Political Science symposium in the free PDF download). Worse, as the University of Maryland’s David Cunningham has shown, Syria had most of the characteristics of the type of civil war in which external support for rebels is least effective…

Why are we choosing the least effective option?

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Hard dose of reality on funding moderates

September 12, 2014

During his Wednesday night speech, Pres. Obama called on Congress “to give us additional authorities and resources to train and equip these [Syrian opposition] fighters. In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its own people — a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost. Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL.”

The hazards of funding Syrian fighters have been clear for years, and the resurgence of ISIS should eliminate any temptation to fall in love again with the myth that we can identify “safe” partners in Syria and ensure that the money and arms we give them stay exclusively within their hands.

An extremely important piece of analysis on this subject by Dr. Marc Lynch was published by the Washington Post last month. Lynch comes to it from a different perspective of questioning the likelihood of effectiveness, noting that, “external support for rebels almost always make wars longer, bloodier and harder to resolve.” Read it all:

Would arming Syria’s rebels have stopped the Islamic State?

Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton made news this weekend by suggesting that the rise of the Islamic State might have been prevented had the Obama administration moved to more aggressively arm Syrian rebels in 2012. Variants of this narrative have been repeated so often by so many different people in so many venues that it’s easy to forget how implausible this policy option really was.

It’s easy to understand why desperate Syrians facing the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad hoped for Western support, especially by early 2012 as the conflict shifted inexorably from a civic uprising into an insurgency. It is less obvious that U.S. arms for the rebels would have actually helped them. Arming the rebels (including President Obama’s recent $500 million plan) was, from the start, a classic bureaucratic “Option C,” driven by a desire to be seen as doing something while understanding that there was no American appetite at all for more direct intervention. It also offered a way to get a first foot on the slippery slope; a wedge for demanding escalation of commitments down the road after it had failed.

There’s no way to know for sure what would have happened had the United States offered more support to Syrian rebels in the summer of 2012, of course. But there are pretty strong reasons for doubting that it would have been decisive. Even Sen. John McCain was pretty clear about this at the time, arguing that arming the rebels “alone will not be decisive” and that providing weapons in the absence of safe areas protected by U.S. airpower “may even just prolong [the conflict].” Clinton, despite the hyperventilating headlines, only suggested that providing such arms might have offered “some better insight into what was going on on the ground” and “helped in standing up a credible political opposition.” Thoughtful supporters of the policy proposed “managing the militarization” of the conflict and using a stronger Free Syrian Army as leverage to bring Assad to the bargaining table.

Would the United States providing more arms to the FSA have accomplished these goals? The academic literature is not encouraging. In general, external support for rebels almost always make wars longer, bloodier and harder to resolve (for more on this, see the proceedings of this Project on Middle East Political Science symposium in the free PDF download). Worse, as the University of Maryland’s David Cunningham has shown, Syria had most of the characteristics of the type of civil war in which external support for rebels is least effective. The University of Colorado’s Aysegul Aydin and Binghamton University’s Patrick Regan have suggested that external support for a rebel group could help when all the external powers backing a rebel group are on the same page and effectively cooperate in directing resources to a common end. Unfortunately, Syria was never that type of civil war.

Syria’s combination of a weak, fragmented collage of rebel organizations with a divided, competitive array of external sponsors was therefore the worst profile possible for effective external support. Clinton understands this. She effectively pinpoints the real problem when she notes that the rebels “were often armed in an indiscriminate way by other forces and we had no skin in the game that really enabled us to prevent this indiscriminate arming.” An effective strategy of arming the Syrian rebels would never have been easy, but to have any chance at all it would have required a unified approach by the rebels’ external backers, and a unified rebel organization to receive the aid. That would have meant staunching financial flows from its Gulf partners, or at least directing them in a coordinated fashion. Otherwise, U.S. aid to the FSA would be just another bucket of water in an ocean of cash and guns pouring into the conflict.

But such coordination was easier said than done. The Qatari-Saudi rivalry was playing out across the region, not only in Syria. Their intense struggles over the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt and the overall course of the Arab uprisings were peaking during the 2012–13 window during which arming the rebels was being discussed. Their competition largely precluded any unified Gulf strategy. Turkey and Qatar channeled money and support to a variety of Islamist groups. Meanwhile, U.S.-Saudi relations were also at their nadir, before fears of jihadist blowback began to concentrate Saudi minds. Riyadh showed no more interest in following the United States’ lead in Syria than it did on Egypt or Iranian nuclear talks. External backers of the rebels didn’t even agree on whether the goal was to protect civilians, overthrow Assad, bring the regime to the table, or to wage a region-wide sectarian war against Iran. It is difficult to see Gulf capitals embroiled in these regional battles becoming more receptive to American guidance just because the United States had some “skin in the game.”

Meanwhile, huge private donations from the Gulf flowed toward mostly Islamist-oriented groups. These were massive public mobilization campaigns, mostly led by popular and ambitious Islamist figures who framed support for Syria along religious and sectarian lines in increasingly extreme ways. (Incidentally, the magnitude of those campaigns reveals the absurdity of recent claims that Arabs had ignored Syria’s war compared to Gaza.) Kuwait became the key arena for collecting money, as other Gulf states more tightly controlled private donations for Syria, but Islamists from across the region and especially Saudi Arabia continued to play a prominent role in the campaigns. Fears of jihadist blowback have led Gulf states to crack down on these private efforts, including Kuwait’s recent stripping of the citizenship of Nabil al-Awadhy, one of the most prominent of these Syria campaigners. But at the time Clinton’s plan was under discussion, those campaigns were peaking, with massive public support built around Islamic and sectarian identity.

That intra-state competition and popular mobilization is the regional context within which U.S. efforts to arm the FSA would have unfolded. The FSA was always more fiction than reality, with a structure on paper masking the reality of highly localized and fragmented fighting groups on the ground. Charles Lister’s comprehensive recent survey of the current Syrian military battlefield should quickly dispense with the simpler versions of the conflict. Syria’s civil war has long been a dizzying array of local battles, with loose and rapidly shifting alliances driven more by self-interest and the desires of their external patrons than ideology. Even at the height of the conflict between the Islamic State and its more secular rivals, local affiliates fought side by side in other theaters of the war. No one should be surprised that, as Hassan Hassan reports, some U.S.-backed and vetted groups have aligned with the Islamic State.

The idea that these rebel groups could be vetted for moderation and entrusted with advanced weaponry made absolutely no sense given the realities of the conflict in Syria. These local groups frequently shifted sides and formed alliances of convenience as needed. As MIT’s Fotini Christia has documented in cases from Afghanistan to Bosnia, and the University of Virginia’s Jonah Shulhofer-Wohl has detailed in Syria, rebel groups that lack a legitimate and effective over-arching institutional structure almost always display these kinds of rapidly shifting alliances and “blue on blue” violence. A “moderate, vetted opposition” means little when alliances are this fluid and organizational structures so weak.

The murkiness of the “terrorist group” line in this context is apparent in these changing alliances and conflicts. For instance, the United States recently designated two key Kuwaiti Islamists as terror financiers, accusing them of channeling funds to Jubhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State. But both were better known as backers of Ahrar al-Sham, a large Salafist organization that then worked within the Saudi-backed Islamic Front. And as recently as June, when they were allegedly funding the Islamic State and al-Nusra, one of them was holding events with FSA commander Riad al-Assad. These complexities, so deeply familiar to everyone who studies the conflict, deeply undermine the assumptions underlying plans resting on identifying and supporting “moderate rebels.”

Many have argued that the United States might have changed all of this by offering more support for the FSA. But based upon his outstanding recent book “Networks of Rebellion,” the University of Chicago’s Paul Staniland urges caution. Initial organizational weaknesses have long-lasting implications. “Pumping material support” into them, he observes, “might buy some limited cooperation from factions that need help, but is unlikely to trigger deep organizational change. This means that foreign backing for undisciplined groups will not do much.” Syria’s famously fractured and ineffective opposition would not likely have been miraculously improved through a greater infusion of U.S. money or guns.

In short, then, discussion of U.S. support for Syria’s rebels overstates the extent to which such aid would matter given the diverse sources of support available. U.S. arms would have joined a crowded market and competed within an increasingly Islamist and sectarian environment…

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Audio: Moscow funding Donbass militia

August 24, 2014

Russia claims its 260-truck convoy into eastern Ukraine was just delivering humanitarian aid, not weapons and supplies for pro-Russian fighters.

This would be a good time for a quick review of who has been financing the separatists from the outset of the conflict. Previous reports include:

  • Money for the breakaway movement is passed through four Russian banks including state-owned Sberbank;
  • Potentially billions of dollars worth of funding was and continues to be provided by former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich;
  • Reuters recently reported that weapons for the separatists come from Russia; and
  • Pro-Russian forces claim their arms come from Ukrainian weapons depots.

Yet most signs suggest that catspaw elements in eastern Ukraine, such as the “Donbass People’s Militia,” receive funding on orders from the Kremlin. Here’s a report from Buzzfeed last month after the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight 17, which includes the possibility of a 5 percent tax on businesses to fund pro-Russian rebels:

Ukraine Says New Tapes Prove Russia Finances Rebels Who Shot Down Malaysian Plane

DONETSK, Ukraine — Ukraine says it has unearthed new evidence that the separatist militia in the country’s east shot down a Malaysian airliner last week and is funded from Russia, after releasing recordings of rebels discussing strategy and military movements.

Ukraine’s security service, the SBU, posted three recordings to YouTube on Friday that it said were phone taps of the separatists’ political leader, military commander, and the loose cannon rebel it alleges shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, killing all 298 on board. The new tapes could not be independently verified, though the content of some other conversations previously leaked by the SBU — some of which involve the same men — has been proven genuine.

The first tape purports to be a leaked phone conversation between Alexander Borodai, a Russian citizen and prime minister of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic,” and Alexei Chesnakov, a former senior figure in the Kremlin administration and deputy secretary of President Vladimir Putin’s party, United Russia. During the conversation, which has been edited, the men discuss financing the revolt against Kiev’s government with cash from Moscow and debate how to rein in the militia’s mercurial Russian commander, Igor Strelkov.

“The military situation sucks. You know and understand that,” says the man alleged to be Borodai. “The DNR [Donetsk People’s Republic] looks like a dick with Donetsk as the head and it’s not looking promising.”

The man alleged to be Borodai then discusses difficulties implementing a 5% tax on local business that he says is part of a plan prepared by the Russian presidential administration, and then asks the other man for more money.

“The biggest problem I have now is that I’m running out of dough,” he says. “Out of the 150 I took with me, they’re basically all gone, because I gave 50 to Zakhar, a million hryvnia [$85,000] to Igor [Strelkov], plus all the other expenses.”…

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Jihadist planned robbery in Holland to fund terror in Syria

June 15, 2014

Add a new element to conventional terrorist financing schemes in the Netherlands: armed robbery for jihad. What sets this apart from cases of other radical Muslims living in the West who have either committed crimes or raised money from their communities to fund travel and rebellion in Syria is that this young man had already been to Syria. He returned to the Netherlands and embarked on this criminal activity to raise more money to send back to his compatriots still fighting in Syria.

Would he have come up with the idea to do this on his own? No. He was sent back to the Netherlands under orders from the jihadists there to raise more money to send back to them. Given the number of young Islamist men who have left the West, fought in Syria, and are now coming “home,” there are probably many more men like this one working under the same instructions to keep raising funds, legally and illegally, for jihad.

From AFP on May 21 (hat tip to The Religion of Peace):

Dutch Syria fighter arrested planning ‘jihad heist’

THE HAGUE: Dutch police have arrested a 21-year-old man who fought in Syria as he was allegedly about to commit an armed robbery “to finance jihad”, the public prosecutor said on Wednesday.

The man spent six months in Syria last year “taking part in jihad” fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the prosecutor said in a statement.

As part of an undercover operation upon his return, he told police that he could obtain weapons and acquired a shotgun, a Magnum revolver and a small handgun.

Police arrested him on May 15 as he was allegedly on his way to carry out a robbery at a yacht marina in Scheveningen, a coastal suburb of The Hague.

He has been remanded in custody and faces charges of planning a terrorist attack and illegal firearms possession.

“He wanted to use the spoils from the hold-up to finance international jihad,” the prosecutor’s office said.

Spokesman Wim de Bruin told AFP that he wanted the money “for the fight in Syria”…

Theft for jihad while living in “infidel” nations is considered permissible in Islam according to imams such as British rabble-rouser Anjem Choudary and deceased terrorist preacher Anwar al-Awlaki.

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UK: 3 more arrests in front charity terror case

May 15, 2014

Three more middlemen in the financial pipeline from Britain to Syrian terrorists have been arrested in an ongoing investigation. Four charities, which likely include Aid Convoy (an Islamist front charity), have been cited in the probe, and a total of 12 men have been detained for their involvement.

News reports are referring to this terrorist financing case as “fraud,” although no evidence has yet been made public that anybody has been defrauded. It is possible that the donors, the leadership of the charities involved, and their beneficiaries in Syria all knew that the money was intended to fund violent activities against Bashar al-Assad and his supporters.

The website ThirdSector has a few more details on the latest arrests here: “Three more arrested for alleged charity fraud with links to terrorism in Syria.”

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Armed, funded jihad: recommended reading

April 17, 2014
  • “Although funding terrorism was criminalised in Finland 12 years ago, no-one has yet been convicted”… more>>
  • Anti-tank missiles are being shipped through Turkey and Saudi Arabia to Syrian rebels… more>>
  • Pakistani front charities like JKART are funding the Indian Mujahideen… more>>
  • A love for his friend or a love for jihad? Prosecutors say Khurram Syed Sher knew exactly who he was funding… more>>