In Rebel Territory (IV)


DAMASCUS/BERLIN (Own report) - In light of the recent Syrian government's military successes, the German government seeks to stabilize rebel controlled areas in northern Syria. While demands for a comprehensive arms buildup for rebel militias are becoming louder, the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs is positioning aid organizations to intervene. Aid organizations, such as the German Agro Action, are - in principle - sworn to neutrality and non-partisanship, however, at the demand of the German government, they are taking up activities in regions under rebel control, aimed at "winning hearts and minds" in favor of the rebels. Because this is in clear violation of Syria's sovereignty, an influential German daily has characterized this mission as "humanitarian intervention without a UN mandate" - "not with tanks and infantry but with trucks and development aid workers." Germany is promoting insurgents also in areas under Islamist control.

Reconstruction Aid

In light of the most recent Syrian government's military successes, demands for a comprehensive arms buildup for rebel militias are becoming louder. The EU arms embargo on Syria expires at the end of this month. Thereafter delivery of combat material to the rebels could officially be permitted. At the beginning of the week, Saudi Arabia's Deputy Foreign Minister Turki bin Mohammed Saud al Kabir insisted in the German press that the EU should also initiate arms deliveries. Saudi Arabia is already providing weapons to Syria via Turkey and Lebanon. It is also furnishing the rebels with the "large sums" [1] of needed financial aid for arms purchases. Though Berlin has, so far, refused to officially supply combat material to rebel militias, the government has been in regular contact with those countries that are delivering combat material.[2] German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has recently affirmed that Germany is aiding the rebels "by taking care of the most seriously wounded." Besides, Germany is "one of the largest donors of aid." Germany is particularly aiding the rebels by "advancing reconstruction in areas under rebel control."[3]

Win Hearts and Minds

To accomplish this, the German government is recruiting German aid organizations, which actually are sworn to neutrality and non-partisanship. EU diplomats have recently confirmed that Europe's emergency and reconstruction aid in the rebel areas serve partisan objectives: to win "hearts and minds" of the population for the insurgents.[4] The German Foreign Minister has now reaffirmed that the rebels can "only win the respect of the population," if they "tangibly" help "tackle the liberated zones' most serious problems."[5] Therefore, Berlin is specifically helping to "reconstruct viable structures." This aid is, in no case, being channeled through Damascus. Germany is operating "across the border" from Turkey directly into the rebel controlled areas. Markus Löning, German government's Humanitarian Aid Commissioner, explains that this is being done "even against the will of the Assad government" - which is in violation of international law. According to the Foreign Ministry, 22 million Euros have already been spent.

Networking the Opposition

One instrument in this partisan support action is the state-owned development agency, the German Association for International Cooperation (GIZ), which, according to a report, has had a functionary on the ground since January, directly at the Syrian border - in Gaziantep, Turkey. This GIZ functionary, the report explains, is cooperating with the insurgents in Syria in their "reconstruction of hospitals, schools and water supplies."[6] In the process, he is attempting "to network the leadership of the opposition - also to counteract the impression" that the "opposition leadership" is comprised merely of "exiles, with no real local ties." The Syrian exile opposition is heavily confronted with this accusation. The GIZ, it was reported, has a budget of 3.5 million Euros for its activities in the insurgent areas, plus another million Euros provided by the Netherlands. However, there is a shortcoming. The GIZ functionary, in the course of his - obviously politically motivated - activities, is not permitted to cross the border onto Syrian territory, "for legal and security reasons."

In Spite of International Law

Nevertheless, to assure German presence on Syrian territory, according to the report, in late summer 2012, the German Foreign Ministry turned to various development aid organizations - at first during the regular meetings of the Coordinating Committee of Humanitarian Aid. It is reported that, regardless of the absence of Syrian government permission, these aid organizations were "asked to become active in insurgent-controlled areas - in spite of international law."[7] In fact, at the foreign ministry's request, several German development aid organizations are now illegally active on the ground in rebel-controlled areas of Syria - from Berlin's perspective - carrying out partisan activities in support of the insurgents. Government functionaries, such as the GIZ representative, stationed in Gaziantep, are not permitted to carry out these activities, due to qualms about their illegality. The German government is tolerating the eventuality of long-term losses, these development aid organizations could suffer, due to the breach of their obligations to neutrality and non-partisanship. This violation of Syria's territorial sovereignty by the aid organizations' activities is aptly described in the report: "What is currently taking place in the border areas, is (...) a humanitarian intervention without a UN mandate: not with tanks and infantry, but with trucks and development workers."

The Islamization of Syria

German "humanitarian intervention" in favor of insurgents in the Syrian civil war is also being carried out in areas under the control of Islamist militias. In the summer of 2012, the German "Green Helmet" organization, for example, initiated its support activities in the small town of Azaz, in northern Syria. It is usually claimed that this town is under the control of the "Free Syrian Army," which serves as the umbrella label for various groups. However, critical reports soon exposed that Azaz is, in fact, ruled by "Jihadists and other (...) armed Islamists." Azaz serves "as a transit hub for armed fighters, from various countries, seeking to wage a 'holy war' against infidels." They aggressively attack those of a different faith, including Yazidi, living near Azaz.[8] Recent reports have confirmed that the Jabhat al Nusra terrorist organization is active in that town. The same report points to the presence of German Salafists in Azaz.[9] From the perspective of the German government, Germany's "humanitarian intervention" in favor of the insurgents of the Syrian civil war - motivated by geostrategic hegemonic interests ( reported [10]) - is contributing, in cases such as Azaz, to the consolidation of fanatical Islamist hegemony.

Other reports and background information on Germany's policy toward Syria can be found here: War Threats against Syria, Iran's Achilles Heel, War Scenarios for Syria, War Scenarios for Syria (II), With the UN toward Escalation, Market Economy for Syria, The Yemenite Solution, Smuggle Supervisors, The Day After, The Day After (II), The Day After (IV), The Islamization of the Rebellion, Air Defense for the Exile Leadership, A Proxy War, In Rebel Territory (II), In Rebel Territory (III) and The End of Artificial Borders.

[1] "Die Welt kann dem Morden nicht länger zuschauen"; 21.05.2013
[2] see also Good Guys, Bad Guys and In an Alliance with the Dictatorship
[3] Westerwelle-Interview für den "Spiegel"; 21.05.2013
[4] Syria: Britain funds rebels overseeing aid inside occupied areas; 14.04.2013. See also In Rebel Territory (III)
[5], [6], [7] Im rechtsfreien Raum; 05.05.2013
[8] Karin Leukefeld: Was geschieht wirklich in Syrien?
[9] Kurt Pelda: German Jihadists on Syria's Battlefields; 30.04.2013
[10] see also A Proxy War and The End of Artificial Borders