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Atop Syrian Coalition, Jarba Out, Hadi al-Bahra In, Saudi-Backed

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 8, more here -- Atop the Syrian Coalition, Saudi-backed Hadi al-Bahra has replaced Saudi-backed Ahmad Jarba, with a total of 62 votes according to the Coalition. Meet the new boss.

   While Jarba's was term-limited out, he endorsed his successor, having let him stand in for him at the talks in Geneva. Given Jarba's previous feting inside the UN, in a session run by France and another by the UN Correspondents Association, some wonder if Jarba will now hit the lecture circuit.

   Sixteen day ago under Jarba, the Syrian Coalition criticized US President Obama. Coalition spokesman Louay Safi said he "regrets" Obama telling CBS  "he dismissed the idea that supplying US arms to moderate Syrian rebels would have toppled President Assad, calling it a 'fantasy.'"

  Safi said that "Obama's remarks are meant to cover up the inability of his administration to prevent the deterioration of the political and humanitarian situation in the Levant, and also to evade the growing criticism to his policies regarding the Syrian crisis."

  Now ten days later, after the Obama administration on June 26 announced it is asking Congress for $500 million for the vetted opposition -- read, Jarba's Syrian Coalition and the Free Syrian Army, still said by the UN to recruit and use child soldiers -- the Coalition said this:

"Ahmed Jakal, member of the political committee, blamed ISIS’s takeover of Abu Kamal near the Syrian-Iraqi borders on the international community’s reluctance to provide the Syrian rebels with the necessary means to curb the rise of this extremist group.

'We have always warned of the threat posed by ISIS on Syria and the region. ISIS’s surge will not stop at Abu Kamal, as it moves on to capture more towns in Deir Ezzor province. Therefore, the international community must empower the moderate Syrian rebels to fight ISIS, which act as Assad’s proxy in the rebel-held areas.' Jakal also stresses that 'ISIS’s capture of the oil fields in eastern Syria is a tactical move in the group’s overall strategy to consolidate its newly established “caliphate,” which Iran and the Assad regime use as a scarecrow to influence the world public opinion in their favor.'

Jakal concluded his remarks pointing out that the major powers have not yet realized that the extremist organizations are being used by regional powers to serve their political and economic interests."

  This follows a Syrian Coalition read-out:

"In a June 27 meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry,  Syrian Opposition Coalition President Ahmad al-Jarba reiterated the Syrian Opposition’s commitment to establishing a strategic partnership with the United States in the fight against terrorism and the Assad regime’s enablers of extremism... The Free Syrian Army has established an operations center in the province of Deir al-Zor to combat ISIS terrorist forces... President Jarba said that Free Syrian Army leadership is prepared to cooperate with the United States and allies to defeat ISIS. In May, President Jarba presented President Obama and Pentagon officials a proposal to enhance FSA capacity as a means to prevent ISIS from further expanding in Syria and Iraq."

  Whether Saudi-backed Jarba has been effective in Syria is highly questionable. Now he's being touted as a solution in Iraq?

Back on June 22 Jarba's Safi said: "Had the Obama administration heeded the advice of the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and his special envoy to Syria we would not have had the current situation in Syria or in the region as a whole.”

  Is Robert Ford running for office?

  On the Iraq - Syria border, the day after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speechified on June 20 at the Asia Society that "Syria’s neighbors should enforce a firm prohibition on the use of their land borders and airspace for arms flows and smuggling into Syria," ISIS took over a major crossing at Qaim, 200 miles west of Baghdad.

  At the UN's noon briefing on June 20, after Ban's speech, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric:

Inner City Press: I didn’t see it in his speech, but it seems like at least a large part of the Iraqi border may be controlled by ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and the Sham) or ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant).  So, in terms of realism, does this mean now absent Government control, it’s just an open flow of weapons? Is there an acknowledgement by the UN that nothing can be done in terms of weapons?

Spokesman Dujarric:  Well, I think, you know, Member States, groups that have an influence all have a responsibility to stop the flow of arms.

 Surely ISIS is listening to Ban. The Syrian Coalition of Ahmad Jarba, meanwhile, praised the speech and called for "serious" weapons. Inner City Press asked Dujarric:

Inner City Press: the Syrian Coalition of Ahmed al-Jarba has put out a statement praising the speech and saying that:  “There should be serious weapons and training for moderate opposition forces.”  And I wanted to know, just to be clear, the Secretary-General is not in favour of that, thinks this is a bad call?

Spokesman:  I think the Secretary-General could not have been clearer when he’s speaking about an arms embargo and speaking for the halt of flow of arms into Syria.

 But how clear *is* Ban Ki-moon, when he meets with Jarba?

  Now it turns out that near the Asia Society Team Ban got served with legal papers about having brought cholera to Haiti. Dujarric's deputy Farhan Haq told some media -- refusing to answer the Press -- that Ban himself didn't get the papers. We'll have more on this -- and on the UN's pre-spinning of Ban's speech, reviewed here.

   How can Ban's UN be taken seriously on Syria or anything else while dodging service of legal papers for cholera in Haiti, and refusing to answer about it?

On the humanitarian front, Ban “appealed for an end to the sieges” and for “immediate unfettered humanitarian access across internal front lines and across borders.”

  Later on June 20, Dujarric's and Haq's office murkily released a UN report which tracks Ban's speech, which the UN's go-to wire service then said it had "obtained."

  A draft resolution on cross-border aid is still being negotiated in the Security Council. But on June 19, Australian ambassador Gary Quinlan told the Press there would be no vote last week. When there is, will that be news? Watch this site.


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