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So, as I regularly do, I read a recent posting at Mick Hartley, which is about what nutters the rulers of Saudi Arabians are, spreading the theology of bedlam and then griping when people do what the theology says, and all the while blaming the Jews for their own ridiculousness.

And then I read this comment underneath that posting, from someone called “Graham”:

Ironically, it’s the Israeli-Saudi alliance behind the QSD that’s defeating ISIS.

QSD? Quesque c’est?

I found my way to this piece (I love the internet):

These are Kurds, Muslim Arabs, Turkmens, and Syriac Christians. …

… which, to me: sounds good, sounds bad, sounds don’t-know, and sounds good …

… About two weeks after this EXTREMELY disparate group was created, it launched the most successful series of offensives in the entire five-year Syrian civil war. The US immediately began arming the QSD, and the Turks suddenly stopped complaining that the Kurds in this new army were up to no good.

This guy goes on to say (I think) that the “Muslim Arabs” are Tunisian special forces, the Tunisians having become very pissed off with ISIS for having recently destroyed their tourist industry. So those Muslim Arabs sound semi-sane, or as semi-sane as Arabs ever are.

And I also found my way to this piece of Kurdish Daily News (Kurdish Daily News, to me, sounds good) which says:

Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD) has released a six-day balance sheet of the operation they launched against ISIS gangs in the rural areas of south Hesekê on October 31.

During the first six days of the operation, an area of 350 square kilometers has been cleared of ISIS gangs; which involves 36 villages, 10 hamlets, 2 gas factories, 3 quarry areas and some guard posts near the borderline.

The operation has thus far left 196 members of the gangs dead, 99 of whom were killed by QSD forces and 79 as a result of airstrikes by jets of the international coalition.

Part of my daily reading these days consists of Instapundit, and people linked to by Instapundit, telling me that the Middle East is going totally to hell, and that US Middle East policy now has no redeeming features at all. But I am unpersuaded that the answer to the Middle East’s many problems is for the Middle East to be totally conquered and then micro-managed by the USA, with everyone else just standing around and either waiting for their chance and getting it, or else hoping for the best and not getting it. US policy now seems to have been to back off, wait for some Good Guys to emerge out of the mess, and then when they eventually did, to back them with a few guns and a few missiles and a few airstrikes, but not with a huge US army stomping about making friends-that-are (and then abandoning them following an election) or friends-that-aren’t and enemies-that-are, and generally crowding out the best local answers. Is that – “leading from behind” (i.e. not actually leading at all) – such a very terrible idea? It sounds like a rather better idea than earlier ideas have been. Whether President Obama started out wanted that policy, I really do not know, but that now seems to be what is happening.

This more recent posting at Mick Hartley says that if QSD beats ISIL, the big winner could end up being al-Qaida. But might not QSD first defeat ISIL, and then might not QSD, or something closely related to or descended from QSD, then turn on al-Qaida and defeat al-Qaida also?

But what the hell do I know? Comments anyone?

32 comments to QSD?

  • Zarba

    I could be mistaken ( he could be a complete maniac), but Thomas Wictor: http://www.thomaswictor.com
    Has been following this for a while and has some interesting opinions/insights on this. He believes that Arab Special Forces are in Syrria en masse to do just that.

  • A pal of mine who is very well connected tells me the chap running Saudi is absolutely obsessed with Iran (possibly wisely so): what is going on with ISIS is a sideshow compared to their proxy war being fought against Iran in Yemen (which is making good business for British bomb factories). Whatever happens with ISIS the Sunni vs Shia showdown is not going to go away. This – not ISIS – is what has brought about the strange bedfellows of Israel and Saudi.

  • I think Tim has it about right. I have suspected this sort of thing for sometime. The last I saw about Iraq showed Kamov Gunship hovering over a city the Iraqi army had “liberated” from rebels who may or may not be linked to Hezbolah who are backed by Russia via Syria. Hmm… And aren’t us and the USA backing the Iraqi government and isn’t that Shia.

    Look guys I can’t follow “Game of Thrones” so I dunno but what I do know is that it isn’t really about Israel as much as Sunni & Shia aka Iran and Saudi having a dick-swinging contest as to who is regional super-power.

  • Alisa

    Tim has it right, as usual. Right now Iran is the elephant (or rather the mammoth) in the room, with everything else being a sideshow. And this is going to be the case for quite some time to come.

    Also, think of it this way: if big states are a bad thing (which I believe to be the case in general), then the only two big states left in the ME are Iran and Turkey.

  • Regional

    When the populations of the Middle East and Mahgreb with their angry young men Europe has a problem.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    I still think the US’s basic error in the Middle East was in not unabashedly waging a war of aggression to remove both Saddam and Assad, as an encouragement for other thug Arab governments to be less thuggish. Better government in the Arab world would (hopefully) have engendered prosperity and given Arabs something better to do than blow themselves up.

    But we chose a minimalist approach, which, as it usually does with military affairs, resulted in a greater effort over a longer time than a maximalist effort would have, with unsatisfactory results. You’d think we’d have learned from Vietnam, but we didn’t: ‘out’ or ‘in’, but if ‘in’ then ‘in all the way’.

    The evolution of QSD seems like a good thing, but good things in the Middle East have a way of turning in your hand; we’ll see, but in any case Obama’s inanition is too far from even a laissez-faire policy to allow him any credit for QSD’s existence.

  • Alisa

    You are right, I completely forgot about Egypt! Iraq hardly counts any more, because it is being torn apart as we speak, just like the rest of them – but I’ll still take me coat 🙂

  • Jacob

    I never understood the obsession with toppling Assad. He’s a dictator, sure, so what? He’s no worse than hundreds of other current rulers. In 2011 a strange alliance formed between the US, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Turkey always hated Syria (and every other neighbor, and the hatred is mutual). Syria claims Turkish territory from before WW2. Saudia got obsessed with Iran and thought Syria was too close to Tehran. The US got obsessed with the “Arab Spring” in 2011, and and thought it would be nice to topple Mubarak and Assad – this out of misguided idealism and total lack of understanding of the ME.
    In Egypt, it was another military dictator, El Sisi, who fortunately managed to save the day and avert catastrophe (an Islamist regime and civil war).
    What happened in Syria is a total humanitarian catastrophe, hundreds of thousands dead, 11 million refugees (internal and external, out of a population of 22 million) ISIS, etc. And there is no end in sight to this madness. In retrospect, it would have been much better if the US and it’s “allies” – Turkey and Saudia, hadn’t started this whole mess.
    QSD ? maybe it’s nice to have, but I doubt it will solve anything.

  • Paul Marks

    Interesting post.

    Although the last time I noticed the Saudis were backing some rather nasty people in Syria – although not as nasty as ISIS.

    As for Mr Assad.

    He is a puppet of Iran and of the Iranian proxies – the Party of God in Lebanon.

    It is all part of the broader Sunni versus Shia feud.

    Both sides are vicious.

    The Kurds?

    Yes back them – most of the Kurds hate the Turks and the Iranians (and ISIS also).

    Nick – I fear that Mr Martin “can not follow” Game of Thrones.

    I suspect the HBO writers are going to have to “guess what he has come up with” and then do that.

    Of course the real enemy in the Game of Thrones are the White Walkers.

    They are Iran.

    And most people are too obsessed with their own petty disputes to even notice.

    The murder of “Jon Snow” was very Middle Eastern (or Irish for that matter).

    People obsessed with their own grudges – and totally ignoring the real threat.

  • Runcie Balspune

    A Sunni-Israel alliance does not sound that strange.

    The main war is between Saudi (Arab Sunni) and Iran (Persian Shi’a), it gets complex as Hamas as technically Arab Sunni but have long been influenced by Iran alongside Hezbollah (Shi’a), therefore the ongoing conflict against Israel is actually countermanding Saudi interests, and the only serious peace proposals in recent years have been from the Saudis, but the flames of the conflict are frequently stoked by Iran. Bear in mind that al-Aqsa is a significant holy site not under Saudi control, it make sense for them to deny it to Iran, even if it means relinquishing it to Israel.

    Although it seems like when the free west had to side with the communists against the fascists, backing Saudi Arabia may not be as bad as it seems. Saudi jihad is by stealth rather than violence, however, this will only end when the ideology is opposed not waring against nations (or pseudo-nations like caliphates), but this is something that needs to be done anyway. At present our leaders are reluctant to name the enemy, but that will change.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Jacob, thus:

    “The US got obsessed with the “Arab Spring” in 2011, and and thought it would be nice to topple Mubarak and Assad – this out of misguided idealism and total lack of understanding of the ME.”

    Almost exactly so, with the possible exclusion of Assad. I have no idea of Obamanic thinking w.r.t. Assad, if there is any.

    But the “U.S.” doesn’t include some of us who lived through the entire Cold War (having been born in the middle of the U.S. engagement in WW II or before). During the C.W. years we saw all the work that was done and the lives that were lost in order to defeat the U.S.S.R.’s attempts to become, at the least, THE World Superpower with the rest as satellites. We saw our country and our objective reviled and repudiated therefore, out of “misguided idealism and total lack of understanding of” Russian (or U.S.S.R.-ian) Communism. Or of the simple fact that part of the foundational idea of Communism was that it be international: Hence “The Communist International.”

    Korea, Viet Nam, less intensely bloody battles elsewhere…weren’t so much “proxy wars” as they were long battles on various fronts of the War of Communist Aggression.

    Now what is going on is the War of Islamic Aggression, where some of the divisions (factions) are conducting wars against other divisions, and some are concentrating on the expansion of Islamic Supremacy in the world at large, with special concentration on the West.

    And the U.S.’s Commander-in-Chief does not appear to be terribly concerned about this in any serious way. Personally, I haven’t got any feel for whether he is taking sides (in any serious way) amongst the various Islamic sides or not.

    Such a putz.

  • Chester Draws

    My understanding was that the anti-Assad movement was not started by the West. “We” only backed it once it started making headway. It looked briefly as if it would win easily — in which case it would have been a good move.

    The West needs to back away from Saudi Arabia quickly though. It is going to fall over some time, and it is going to be very, very messy. Autocratic monarchies are no longer stable in the modern world, and the ibn-Saud family add to that by making a lot of enemies.

    We should not support nepotistic corrupt extreme theocracies regardless of (mostly imaginary) short term advantage. Claiming that Iran is a major danger to world peace, but that Saudi Arabia isn’t, is just wishful thinking.

  • Chip

    One of the interesting things in the Wictor post was the number – dozens – of Iranian and Hezbollah generals and other senior leaders who have been killed in Syria.

    Wictor says it must be the Israelis as part of a plan to help the Sunnis. Whether yes or no it must be rather alarmin to the Iranians to see how easily someone can find and kill their military leaders.

    Wictor also says Hezbollah has lost a third of its 4500 fighters in Syria.

    For Israel the civil war may have become an opportunity. Though balanced against the US’s incomprehensible support for Iran.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    Tim Newman nailed it.

    The emerging strategic alliance among Riyadh, Jerusalem, and New Delhi is a very big deal. India is often overlooked, but there are a number of reasons why that nation is increasingly aligned with Israel and Saudi Arabia.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    We should not support nepotistic corrupt extreme theocracies regardless of (mostly imaginary) short term advantage.

    Why not?

  • Mr Black

    I think it grants far too much foresight to anyone in the Obama administration to call what is happening now a policy. I simply cannot believe they are thinking this deep and this far ahead when their public moves are always for shallow, petty domestic political reasons. Whatever is going on with US actions, the purpose will not be to enhance global security, peace or US influence. If any of that happens it will be in spite of Obama, not because of.

  • Laird

    Mr Black has it right: there’s not a single geopolitical strategic thinker in the Obama inner circle, only crass political operatives. Hence he has no “strategy” in the ME, and if anything looks like a strategy there it is purely blind luck.

  • Chip

    Obama sees a strengthened Iran as key to something. What it can be when the mullahs are behind Hamas, Hezbollah, the Taliban and the Syrian slaughter is a mystery to everyone outside the White House.

    Of Obama had shown any willingness to maintaining a presence in Iraq most of this nonsense would have been unnecessary.

    Shocking that no one blames him for that decision.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Well, Chip, I do! And so do a few others, with louder voices than mine, but yes, they mostly are crying in the wilderness.

    Laird & Mr Black, whatever geopolitical “policy” they have, it is surely aimed at diminishing the U.S., and Britain, and Israel, and the rest of the West. Diminishing? Ideally, destroying.

    Putzes, all of them.

    Which structures have been known to carry diseases that are debilitating and sometimes deadly.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Mr. Draws has it – but he misses one point: Western and the U.S. support for the Syrian rebellion has been tardy, half-hearted, and conspicuously ineffectual. The Assad regime has been murderously oppressive toward Sunni Moslems, creating an opportunity for jihadis to intervene for them.

    Policy and results have been similar in Libya.

    As for Saudi Arabia – the Kingdom buys lots of American goods (especially arms), holds a huge amount of U.S. government debt, and has extensively cooperated with the U.S. over the years. There is (at this time) no serious political alternative to the Kingdom. If the Kingdom was overthrown, it would be by hard-line Wahhabis and jihadists. So there is no point in “backing away” from them.

    As to Iran – Obama has been obsessed since the start of his presidency with making friends with Iran. He simply cannot understand that the mullahs are implacable enemies of the U.S, or that they are despised by most Iranians, and don’t really represent the country.

    I keep wondering whether this fixation is driven by the influence of Valerie Jarrett. She was born in Iran, though her parents returned to the U.S. when she was still a child. If there’s no connection, that would be a very odd coincidence.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Hartly points out that the religious authorities in Saudi Arabia are nutters. They are not the political leaders of the country. The House of Saud has a historical alliance with Wahhabism, but it’s become a marriage of inconvenience. The Kingdom has supported a Wahhabi “establishment” (in the religious sense) as a screen for the secularization and westernization (and libertinization) of the royal family. It’s now too strong for the state to control easily.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Rich, I don’t think His Lowness minds at all that the mullahs are “an implacable enemy of the U.S.” — he almost certainly finds that very attractive. He himself is an enemy of the West, of our beliefs and our philosophies and our customs and traditions…and all that includes the core “belief” or principle of political liberty, of the idea that it’s not appropriate for humans to be ruled.

    That doesn’t mean he doesn’t want the pomp and cirumstance, the adulation, the perks and the bread and all that goes with it. After all, look at the dictators (and their close pals) who never had to give all that up, at least until somebody got so tired of them that they were Terminated.

    I think it must be fairly anxious-making to try to hide from yourself the fact that your Bruce Springsteen act might kill the goose. But I think he thinks he can get away with it.

    Heck, he IS getting away with it.

    Valerie Jarrett — I believe she’s a red-diaper baby, and I have the impression that that was a very important commonality between them from the first. And don’t forget that partly due to the assiduous labors of the U.S.S.R. to foster anti-Westernism in the Third World and partly to the historical grudge against European (allegedly = Western) colonialists, the Third World is not at pains to learn to think kindly of us or of the Europeans generally.

    I think Jarrett/Obama are in synch both because of the Marxist or Communist backgrounds and also because they cannot stand the West–one because of her Communist leanings at the least, and the other for both reasons.

  • Julie near Chicago

    I daresay it’s true that it’s not so much the mullahs, it’s the political leaders. I hope it’s true that the Iranian man-on-the-street hates the regime. And it’s not as though our support of them has been all that great since Carter folded the tent on the Shah. In particular, no support in 2009 (IIR the date).

    So, how nuts are the political leaders, meaning I guess Khameini? I’m sure they’re after the bomb, if they haven’t already got it. But if they are actually in control, are they prepared to use it? If they are, I don’t know how much it matters that they’re not the mullahs.

  • Alisa

    Of course they are prepared to use it, Julie – as leverage. They have been doing it from the get-go. Whether they are prepared to use it the literal sense is beside the point, IMO.

  • Alisa

    Also, Rich’s point about Ms. Jarret is an interesting one, her being a Marxist or some other hue of red being beside the point as well. Also, what Mr. Black and Laird said.

  • Deep Lurker

    Julie: The USSR worked hard to foster anti-Westernism in the First World, too.

  • Jacob

    “there’s not a single geopolitical strategic thinker in the Obama inner circle”

    I don’t believe these is (or can be) such a thing as “geopolitical strategic thinker”. Those who pretend to be are fakes.

    The above phrase should read: “there’s not a single thinker in the Obama inner circle”.

    Given that the US has, and will have in the near future such leaders as Obama, Hillary or Trump, I think it would be best if it kept away from the ME (and the world in general).

  • Edward

    Julie near Chicago asked

    So, how nuts are the political leaders, meaning I guess Khameini? I’m sure they’re after the bomb, if they haven’t already got it. But if they are actually in control, are they prepared to use it?

    Khameini and the faqih* are crazy… like a fox. Right at the moment they’re just where they want to be, at the top of the nation settling to be the regional hegemon. Their primary consideration at the moment is consolidating and securing that position, (not to mention their own), while extending their influence as far as they can safely can throughout the region.

    Right now, the biggest threat to that is the rise of Daesh. Daesh have torn into the territory of their client, Iraq They’ve seriously disrupted the control over Syria of their ally, Assad. So they’ve been at the forefront of the fight against Daesh. They’ve tried to stiffen the backbone of their Iraqi clients with airstrikes, and IRGC and QF reinforcements. They’ve brought in Hezbollah fighters and advisers from Lebanon to help in Syria and Iraq. When Daesh invaded the Kurdish area, Iran sent QF and Hezbollah advisers to them as well. Air support too.

    The West, they’re not too bothered about at the moment. They’ll stick, more or less, to the nuclear deal as negotiated. They want better relations with the West, and I wouldn’t be surprised if feelers aren’t already going out. They won’t use the bomb because they won’t get the bomb, that isn’t what they want. Their nuclear research is a tool for bargaining with the West. They won’t give it up entirely but they won’t bring it to completion either.

    *what we call “the clerics”. It actually means “those learned in (Islamic) law”. They’re far closer to rabbis than the concept of Christian clergy.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Oh, Deep Lurker, yes, of course. That goes without saying…although a lot of people don’t seem to have heard the saying.

    I’ll go see what Eric said there; thanks for the link.

    . . .

    Alisa. “Use the bomb”: Yes, of course I meant “use it as a physical weapon,” to bomb somebody. You are perfectly correct, of course, to note that to threaten (whether tacitly or overtly) to use the bomb (physically) is to use the bomb. I thought I was the High Literalist around here! :>)

    Whether they they’re prepared to use it physically IS the point. Because the issue is whether we’re playing MAD again here. If they’re NOT prepared to use it physically, and we know they’re not — there goes their leverage.

    I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree about the implications of Valerie Jarrett’s political background. Although I will ask, do you mean that she sold the Sith on the wonderfulness of Iran? Even if she did, that Communist background cannot be underestimated in trying to understand her close friendship with Obama, plus the current regime and its agenda.

    . . .

    Edward, I hope you’re right.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Although come to think of it, Alisa, “using the bomb as leverage” is, literally, not the same as “‘using the bomb,’ period.” In the first case what is being used is the threat of using the actual bomb, and a threat is not a bomb.

    (Signed) Your Sincere Literalist :>)

  • Alisa

    Even if she did, that Communist background cannot be underestimated in trying to understand her close friendship with Obama, plus the current regime and its agenda.

    Of course, and I see no contradiction between that background and the ‘wonderfulness of Iran’ angle. Happens all the time.

    With regard to The Bomb, I disagree. I am not saying that the mullahs may never use the bomb under any circumstances. What I am saying is that they want the bomb not so that they can use it (in the literal sense)*, but so that they can use it as leverage. And that is where the real danger and the potential damage is. Of course in order for the leverage to work, the threat must be realistic enough for the rest of the world to “buy” into it. For that to be true, the entity in possession of the bomb must be prepared to use it in the literal sense under certain circumstances. But like I said, that is beside the point, and that is not where the most likely and the most significant damage is.

    In addition to that, there is also the ‘nuclear race’ factor, where if Iran gets The Bomb, then SA would do everything it can to get one too, and so would Egypt. There are additional factors, such as nuclear material getting into rogue non-state hands, and similar side issues. Where by ‘side’ I don’t mean anything like ‘insignificant’, just that there is a bigger problem – that being leverage.

    *Now before Paul chimes in with his usual point about the Shia Tewlvers and their apocalyptic beliefs, I’ll say that it is all true, but also beside the point. True and pure believers don’t reach positions of power, or at least do not remain there long enough to be of real influence. That is not at all to say that people in power have no ideology – they very often do, it’s just that ideology is not their main driving force, it is more of an excuse. Their real driving force is their attraction to power, and that is their main motivation in everything they do. This is true regardless of what ideology motivated them initially, if any – religious or secular, good or bad. The closer they get to the top of the pile, the less they become interested in ideology, and the more they become interested in gaining power, and maintaining it once they got as much of it as possible. In other words, people in positions of power are more pragmatic than others who share the same ideology, and more pragmatic than they would like those others to think.