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US Fighting Terrorism with Financial Weapons

By Claude Salhani | Tue, 11 December 2012 22:59 | 1

Forget about fighting fire with fire, it gets messy. Instead, find something as efficient, if not all the more so and that will convince your friends and foes alike that you mean business.

The world of deep finance is the new weapon the US finds to be among the most efficient in the war on terrorism. And that is how the Obama administration intends to convince its Arab allies who and what to fund the Islamists fighting the forces of President Bashar Assad in the Syrian civil war.

Having picked up lessons from Afghanistan and Iraq, where the US and its allies invested million of dollars, resources and tens of hundreds of human lives only to learn in the process that some of the elements the US helped create turned on them, such as al-Qaida, the Obama administration does not want to repeat the mistakes of previous administrations. 

Now that the elections are behind them, the Obama administration appears to be stepping out of the fog its Mideast initiatives had fallen into after initial attempts at resolving the crisis in the very early days of the first term, faltered.

Today there is a clear change of pace in the Obama Administration’s approach to the crisis in Syria as both British and US intelligence sources have seen evidence that Syria is preparing to use chemical weapons. Britain’s foreign secretary, William Hague confirmed this, and cited “intelligence sources.”  In Washington officials have warned Syria against using chemical agents.

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A Syrian government spokesman however said that President Bashar Assad would never turn to using chemical weapons against Syrians. That may well be so, however, it is worth reminding that since the start of the revolt about two years ago the regime in Damascus has all along claimed that the rebels were “foreign terrorists.”

Washington now has two fears when it comes to the Syrian civil war; first is the fear of government forces using chemical agents, a move that would require the intervention of the international community, meaning primarily US forces on the ground. And the second reason the US is worried about what is going on in Syria is the rise of pro-al-Qaida groups, such as the Jabhat al Nusra, who have scored some of the most stunning victories in overrunning military air bases held by pro-Assad forces. Indeed, this militia is reported to have as many as 100,000 men, many of them are engaged in front-line positions.

Intelligence sources have also said they believe the regime’s chemical arsenal is maintained in five military airbases.

While technically at least both the United States and the pro-al-Qaida group are on the same side, both wanting the regime to leave, however, the truth of the matter is that the US would not like to see Jabhat al Nusra become too successful and powerful. The US Department of State recently announced that they were moving to have Jabhat al Nusra placed on the terrorist list.

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What this does, besides confuse many people, is send a message to those who do support Islamist, pro-al-Qaida groups to cease and desist in sending money to salafi groups. It sends a clear message to Qatar and to Saudi Arabia to stop financing salafi groups who are at the end of the day going to turn against the United States, as was the case in Afghanistan and Iraq.

What leverage does the US have to convince Doha and Ryadh, two of the most active countries in supporting pro salafi and takfiri groups?  The power of the US Treasury. The US can have the assets of both countries, and other too, if it is deemed that they aided a terrorist group, frozen. That represents billions of dollars that neither the Saudis nor the Qataris are ready to risk loosing.

The Jabhat al Nusra,  according to many experts on Syria, including Professor Joshua Landis, who directs the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, say that the pro-al-Qaida group is receiving a lot of money and military aid from the Gulf countries and logistic help from Turkey. And as can be expected, this is starting to worry the United States who now wants to start pressuring those funding this group to stop doing so. The outcome may well lead to added confusion and a possible civil war among the opposition, once the Assad regime falls.

By. Claude Salhani

Claude Salhani is an independent journalist, author and specialist in conflict resolution. He tweets @Claudesalhani.com

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  • dscott on December 12 2012 said:
    Such an attempt to threaten the Sunni dominated countries of Saudi Arabia and Qatar could seriously backfire. The response might be to denominate all sales of oil in gold, EUR or SDR, gold being the worst possible outcome for the US and Europe. At that point, the devaluation of the Dollar by the Federal Reserve will exposed to plunge the US into economic Depression.

    More importantly, the Obama foreign policy has seriously under estimated the hatred between the Sunni and the Shia factions of Islam. They have been slaughtering each other for over a thousand years. The Sunni called the Shia heretics. You don't want to get in between these two for any reason. Ask the Israelis about that.

    The civil war in Syria is not about freedom, it is about the sectarian divide in Islam between the ruling Alawite (a Shia sect) and the Sunni masses who are ruled by them. Shia Iran is attempting to maintain Shia control over Syria and Sunni Saudi and Qatar are attempting to break that hold. The Sunnis have decided the Shia are advancing too much and must be stopped. The Sunnis are not going to allow the US to interfere in this matter for any reason. Their religion is far more important to them than your desire for peace.

    btw- This conflict started over the price of food, the status quo was disturbed. Obama and the Democrat Party foolishly insisted on increasing the percentage of ethanol in American gasoline with the result millions of acres of cropland were diverted from food to fuel production thus driving up the price of food throughout the world. The UN has repeatedly pleaded with Obama to lower the percentage to no avail. Now thousands upon thousands of people in the M.E. have died and more will die. Obama has lit the M.E. on fire and it won't stop burning until a new status quo has been achieved, one that will be very opposed to US interests. Obama has played with fire and now the whole world will be burned.

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