DAMASCUS, Sept 9, (Agencies): Syrian media accused Arab governments Tuesday of giving Washington prior agreement for military action against jihadists, with one daily calling for Damascus to form an alternative alliance with Moscow and Tehran. The commentary comes ahead of talks in Saudi Arabia on Thursday between Secretary of State John Kerry and US regional allies on joint action to tackle the threat posed by the Islamic State group in both Syria and Iraq. “Washington, which used the false pretext of weapons of mass destruction to enter the region militarily in 2003 and draw new geopolitical lines ... is returning today under a new false pretext, the fight against terrorism,” said the Al- Baath newspaper, mouthpiece of Syria’s ruling party. “The Arabs meanwhile, are absent from every decision and are playing secondary roles,” it added. The Baath party daily was referring to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 in which notoriously the alleged chemical and biological weapons that were used to justify the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime were never found.
Meanwhile, Syrian troops have regained control of villages near a military air base in the central province of Hama, pushing back rebel fighters in the area, a monitoring group said Tuesday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime troops and proregime militiamen had made the advances in the past few days after months of fighting with rebel groups in the area. In other news, more than 12,000 foreigners from 74 countries have gone to fight with rebels in Syria, 60 to 70 percent from other Middle Eastern countries and about 20 to 25 percent from Western nations, a leading expert on terrorism said Monday.
Prof. Peter Neumann, who directs the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College London, said the Syrian conflict has sparked the most significant mobilization of foreign fighters since the 1980s war in Afghanistan against the Soviet occupation, where up to 20,000 foreigners participated over the course of a decade.
With over 12,000 foreigners taking up arms in Syria in just three years, he said, “that conflict is well on track to becoming the most significant mobilization of foreign fighters that has ever taken place in living memory.” Neumann said that is significant because out of the Afghan conflict came al-Qaeda and other jihadist networks. The Syrian conflict is now forging new networks, and Neumann said, “I am confident ... that out of that foreign fighter mobilization, over the course of the next generation there will be terrorist attacks.” Neumann has been consulting the UN Security Council ahead of its Sept 24 summit meeting, chaired by President Barack Obama, on foreign terrorist fighters and the threat they pose.