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Fight against Al Qaeda could not be murkier



And so, for the first time in recent history, it seems that the "war against terror" — and specifically against Al Qaeda — is being fought by Middle East regimes rather than their foreign investors. Sure, American drones still smash into Al Qaeda operatives, wedding parties and innocent homes in Pakistan.

But it's General Al Sisi of Egypt, President Bashar Al Assad of Syria, Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki of Iraq, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran — even powerless President Michel Sleiman of Lebanon — who are now fighting "terrorists".

It shows how powerful the bad guys have become that mutually antagonistic dictators and satraps can gang together against America's enemy. This is "Arab unity" as we have never seen it before. The Ottoman Empire lives again. But watch out.

You need to put on a tin hat to avoid the ironies crashing out of the sky. John Kerry — now the most outrageously funny Secretary of State in US history, he who promised an "unbelievably small" airstrike against Syria — says America supports the secular rebels against Assad, who are fighting the radical rebels who are fighting against Assad even though the US still wants the overthrow of — you guessed it — Bashar Al Assad.

Meanwhile there are others who are still pouring money into Syria to help the Al Qaeda-associated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) — against whom Bashar and the secular Free Syrian Army are now fighting — while they also contribute billions to Sisi's army in Egypt which is fighting identical Al Qaeda-linked "terror" in Sinai and now, it appears, in Cairo itself. And if you are confused by all this, try Lebanon.

Last week, the authorities claimed to have arrested Majid bin Mohamed al-Majid, one of the "most wanted" Al Qaeda men. All they had to do to confirm this extraordinary detention was to use DNA to check the man's identity.

This came only weeks after Lebanon blamed "terrorists" for blowing up the Iranian embassy in Beirut, an attack followed by the assassination of a prominent politician and then — last week — by a further attack in the Hezbollah-controlled southern suburbs of the Lebanese capital.

No sooner had the ex-minister Mohammed Chatah been car-bombed to death, than the Americans promised more money to the Lebanese army. Miraculously — and there have been a lot of miracles in the Middle East region, as we all know — the Lebanese not only confirmed that they had indeed got the right man, but that he had regrettably died of organ failure while in their custody.

But US support for the Lebanese military will go ahead. Just as Washington is now offering more missiles and planes to the sub-dictator President Maliki of Iraq if he goes on biffing insurgents and Al Qaeda men in Anbar province.

History, of course, repeats itself in Fallujah and Ramadi, the two cities repeatedly conquered and then re-conquered and then re-conquered for a third time by US forces after the illegal invasion of 2003.  In 2004, the Marines claimed they had wiped out Al Qaeda in Fallujah, then handed the city over to Baathist policemen.  Then the Americans virtually destroyed the city around the heads of Al Qaeda after another few months — we will not mention the use of US phosphorous shells and the outbreak of childbirth abnormalities more than five years later — and now the Iraqi army is fighting tribesmen of Fallujah.  They are in turn claiming they are fighting the local Al Qaeda groups, just as the Free Syrian Army insists that it is now in combat against the same Al Qaeda groups in Syria.

Meanwhile Kerry — who has not invited the Iranians to the Geneva 2 talks on Syria — says Iran might play a valuable role "on the sidelines" while the main Syrian opposition forces have no intention of taking part in the Swiss conference. Geneva 2, in other words, is a dead duck; just like the Palestinian-Israeli talks of which Kerry still speaks with optimism — a sure sign that this particular duck is also dying.

Who now remembers the Arab Awakening — or "spring" as some of my colleagues still insist on calling it? Well, let's just take a look at an ominous statement this past weekend in which Iraq and the Levant claimed responsibility for the latest bomb in Beirut — the one that killed at least four civilians in the Hezbollah suburbs.  So now Isil acknowledges it is fighting on three fronts: Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. So we have Arab regime unity at last.

As for America — well, I guess they'll go on supporting the Free Syrian Army which is fighting Al Qaeda which is fighting Bashar whom Washington wants to dethrone. America's Muslim Brotherhood friends in Egypt have just been formally classed as "terrorists" by Sisi who is supported by the country which is paying for "terror" in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. And some others who remain the key to the whole fandango, remain close and "moderate" friends of America. Say no more. The Independent


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