Dear Minister, It’s not just Daesh

The response from Western officials to Russia’s targeting of various terrorist groups with air strikes, has been confusing to say the least.
Australia’s defence Minister was quoted by the press as saying that “that it would be a matter of grave concern if those air strikes were not targeted at ISIL”, echoing statements of other Western leaders who are insisting that only Daesh be targeted and no other group.

These statements at best indicate a lack of understanding of the extreme terrorist groups operating in Syria, and at worst indicate that some political powers see these groups as a means of securing the regime change that certain governments are promoting.

Whilst Russian airstrikes have targeted various assets belonging to the terrorist group Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) since its campaign begin just a few days ago, Daesh are not the only terrorist group being hit.

Russia’s targets have included strategic facilities and assets belonging to other similarly despicable and dangerous terrorist groups that are as worse and in some cases even more dangerous than Daesh.

According to media reports from Arabic satellite Channel Al Mayadeen, Russian warplanes have made more than 30 strikes against the group Jaysh al-Fateh, a group of disparate fighters, including extremist groups Ahrar Al Sham and Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al Nusra. Jabhat Al Nusra is reported to be the lead member of Jaysh Al-Fateh.

Jabhat Al Nusra has been behaving in a comparable fashion to Daesh, having carried out some of the most gruesome acts of terrorism in the Syrian war.

According to an ABC news report dated 6th November 2014, the US has targeted Jabhat Al Nusra with airstrikes in Syria as a part of their efforts to contain terrorist groups.

Jabhat Al Nusra was announced as having been formed In January 2012. In November 2012, The Washington Post described Al Nusra as the most successful arm of the Free Syrian Army. 10 days later, the United States designated this group as a terrorist organization.

This designation was soon followed with designations by the UN, Australia, France, the UK and many other countries.

Recently the Al Nusra group was responsible for attacking and killing, as well as kidnapping several fighters trained by the United States as a part of its efforts to train and arm so called “moderate rebels”. Even more recently, another batch of US trained rebels either abdicated to Al Nusra or delivered to them the weapons with which they were supplied during their training.

Al Nusra is responsible for horrendous acts of terrorism in Syria and in neighbouring Lebanon where it has attacked the Lebanese army, beheaded Lebanese soldiers and holds many as hostages.

The Australian government listed al Nusra as a terrorist organisation on the 28th June 2013. In the listing which is posted on the National Security website, the following is stated in regards to the objectives of this AL Qaeda affiliate:

“Jabhat al-Nusra also intends to expel the minority Alawite and Christian communities from Syria. This is substantiated by statements made by the group, including ‘The blessed operations will continue until the land of Syria is purified from the filth of the nusayris (Alawites) and the Sunnis are relieved of their oppression’.

To achieve these objectives, Jabhat al-Nusra undertakes improvised explosive device (including suicide), sniper and small-arms attacks, as well as kidnapping and executions, against regime security and military targets. Jabhat al-Nusra also attacks individuals and groups it perceives are supporting the regime and has targeted urban areas, resulting in indiscriminate civilian deaths.

Anticipating a new phase of fighting after the fall of the regime, Jabhat al-Nusra plans to unite all jihadists, including fighters from Iraq, under one umbrella to fight the secular opposition.”

Russian airstrikes against terrorist groups in Syria has exposed much hypocrisy on the part of nations such as the US, France and even Australia on the targeting of terrorists in Syria.

In their efforts to ensure the downfall of the Syrian regime, it would seem that some governments see terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat Al Nusra as a means to reach that goal.

Attempts by the US and others, at arming and co-opting so called “moderate rebels” have been a dismal failure. The Syrian war has proven that there is no such thing as a moderate Islamist fighter.

In September 2014, a report into the source of the arms used by Daesh was released by EU funded NGO Conflict Armament Research. This report found that much of the arms in the hands of Daesh, were US Made weapons that had been delivered by various nations to the so called “Free Syrian Army”.

If Syria is to ever again emerge as a secular society and ensure the very survival of the various minority groups in the country, including Christians, Alawites, Yazidis and many others, then all extremist, terrorist groups will have to be targeted, not just Daesh.

The West has got this one really wrong, and instead, should coordinate with Russia in order to secure the end of the terrorist menace which threatens not just Syria and surrounding countries, but rather the entire world.

Robert Bekhazi
Federal President
United Australian Lebanese Movement

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