Skip to main content

Meet the mystery fixer who negotiated Syria out of seven years of war

How a nearly unknown businessman named Khaled al Ahmad became Damascus’ secret liaison to the West and quietly dealt Syria’s grinding war to a close

by Rania Khalek

Part 2 - The man behind the deals

In dozens of towns, villages, and cities across Syria, reconciliation agreements have brought fighting to a halt. Some people call them truces, others refer to them as settlements and those staunchly opposed to them call them forced surrenders. Whatever one’s preferred label, there’s no denying that the reconciliation process has been vital to the de-escalation of violence Syria has witnessed over the past two years.

The reconciliation process was initiated in 2015, when al Ahmad carried a message to Berlin. There, he met with representatives of the Southern Front, a coalition of Western and Saudi-backed rebel groups that operate in Southern Syria and received support from the US-run Military Operations Center (MOC) in Jordan. That same message was delivered to faction leaders from the Southern Front in Jordan and the south. Some leading commanders even secretly entered Damascus to meet security chiefs before returning to the south. This series of exchanges formed the basis of the southern ceasefire agreement and ultimately became the Russian-American de-escalation zone.

Coordinated with Wafiq Nasr, who was at the time the head of security for the south and one of the most respected security officials in Syria, the offer held that the Southern Front would be allowed to administer the south on behalf of the Syrian government. One Western observer described it as offering the opposition in southern Syria the chance to become the “Palestinian Authority of the south,” a cynical analogy that painted the opposition as a toothless vassal, with the Syrian government as a stand-in for the Israeli occupation.

Pragmatic as it might have been, the division of Syria into de-escalation zones was at first opposed by then-Secretary of State John Kerry. The top US diplomat wanted a national Cessation of Hostilities instead, but when that failed, the Americans came around to the proposal. Following a 2017 visit to Moscow by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his policy chief Brian Hook, Trump personally signed off on the plan.

In a seven year war where so many previously unknown figures have gained worldwide notoriety, al Ahmad managed to remain largely anonymous. One of the few observers to pick up on Al Ahmad’s importance was the neoconservative operative Tony Badran, a fellow at the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Badran observed that al Ahmad had briefly appeared in the media in 2012 when emails to Assad were leaked showing him to be some kind of advisor to the Syrian president. Badran described Al Ahmad as “a man who would emerge at the center of the White House’s channel to Assad. Remember that name. Ahmad appears in the correspondence as an adviser of sorts to Assad; a troubleshooter active on the ground and offering counsel on issues ranging from security policy to monetary policy.

Badran also noted Al Ahmad’s connections to then-Al Jazeera journalist Nir Rosen, adding that “Ahmad’s connection with Rosen would endure, and ultimately intersect with, other, bigger channels Assad tasked Ahmad with. Namely, contact with the White House.

Al Ahmad resurfaced again in a December 2015 article in the Wall Street Journal, which revealed that his contacts with the Obama White House began in late 2013 when he met Robert Ford, the Special Envoy for Syria, to offer collaboration between Assad and the US in fighting terrorism. The article also revealed that it was al Ahmad who in 2015 arranged for Steven Simon to visit Damascus and meet Assad. Simon had been head of Middle East policy in Obama’s White House until 2012 and at the time of his secret mission to Damascus he was at the Middle East Institute in Washington. The Gulf-funded institute fired him after his Damascus trip.

The Wall Street Journal article revealed that Simon and al Ahmad had met “at least twice before the Damascus trip.” This counter terror approach would prove fruitful over time as the ISIS threat grew, and al Ahmad eventually brought officials from the anti-ISIS coalition to Damascus to meet security chiefs.

In addition, Simon met with his successor at the White House, Robert Malley, before and after the trip to Damascus to coordinate the message. The connection with Malley is significant because in 2015 and 2016, al Ahmad secretly met with him in the Middle East while he was still at the White House and again at a global conference called the Oslo Forum, where al Ahmad was described as a “senior strategic adviser.

In September 2014, Malley commissioned Nir Rosen, now working for the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, “a Swiss-based private diplomacy organization,” to publish an informal but influential paper on de-escalating the Syrian war. The arguments and proposals featured in Rosen’s paper – which was first reported on in Foreign Policy and is published here in full for the first time – appear to have been vindicated four years later.

The paper promoted de-escalation, local ceasefires and freezing the conflict as the solution for the Syrian war. These recommendations were adopted by UN special envoy Staffan De Mistura when he proposed his Aleppo Freeze. It appears that De Mistura’s draft for the Aleppo Freeze was written by Al Ahmad and Rosen and then personally approved by Assad, only to be ultimately rejected by the opposition and their foreign backers. UN sources say it was Rosen who led a delegation of De Mistura’s staff to Aleppo to help plan the ill-fated freeze.

It’s hard not to see in these negotiations a clever and ultimately successful Assad policy of using Al Ahmad, the urbane English speaking face of the Syrian government, to influence White House and UN policy on Syria. By sending al Ahmad to Moscow and to Oslo to meet with Russians, Assad was able to manipulate the Russians, implanting his own ideas in the minds of their officials, preventing them from proposing ideas the government would not accept, and instead pitching initiatives like the Sochi talks which changed the parameters of what could be discussed in international settings.

Still, not all Western officials are enamored with al Ahmad. One Swiss diplomat, who like most people I contacted for this article agreed to talk only on a voice call on the application Whatsapp, accused al Ahmad of having blood on his hands. Others dismissed him as a smuggler and regime enabler.

In a second article by Badran, the neoconservative operative drew a more explicit connection between Rosen, al Ahmad and the American foreign policy establishment.

Malley met in Washington with journalist Nir Rosen, who has a close relationship with the Assad regime. Following his meeting with Malley, Rosen authored an unpublished pro-Assad report making the case for local cease-fires—which have been an instrument of warfare for the regime camp. Malley distributed Rosen’s report, which, naturally, was also leaked to David Ignatius. Simon’s and Lynch’s pieces floated the approach favored by Malley and the White House in much cleaner form and venues than the tarnished Rosen.” Behind all this was al Ahmad.

In the interest of full disclosure I must admit that I met Al Ahmad’s brother, Tariq, in a 2017 reporting trip in Damascus. Tariq is an official in the reformist wing of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), part of the country’s ruling coalition that believes in a greater Syria encompassing all of the Levant. Repeated attempts to contact Khaled al Ahmad have failed, and his close partners, Syrian and Western, largely refused to respond to requests for information.

Source, links, additional info:


[1] [3] [4] [5] [6]

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Trump's "brigades" are ready to start a civil war in case he loses November's election

globinfo freexchange
Signs show an extremely explosive situation now in the America of Donald Trump. 
Starting with the murder of George Floyd, we witness almost in daily basis some very disturbing incidents, which unveil a deeply divided society that was hiding for decades behind the "American dream" facade. As the facade now rapidly collapses, due to a major financial crisis and a pandemic, in less than fifteen years, the reality looks terrifying.
In a latest incident, Common Dreamsreported that members of a far right militia group were arrested Monday evening in Albuquerque after a standoff at a statue of a notoriously brutal conquistador in the New Mexico city turned violent with a demonstrator advocating for the removal of the monument shot and sent to the hospital.
As dusk fell, demonstrators began attempting to pull the monument down from its pedestal on the Albuquerque Museum grounds. At that point, members of the New Mexico Civil Guard militia group moved in, attack…

Evidence that Biden will start an AI-conducted war with Iran on behalf of the new Military-HighTech complex

globinfo freexchange

About two months ago, we mentioned Joe Biden's terrible response on whether he would lift sanctions on Iran due the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.
As we wrote back then, Biden didn't even bother to defend one of the very few positive achievements that the Obama administration - during which he served as vice-president - left behind: the Iran nuclear deal.

Instead, he dropped all the assets he had in his arsenal that would help him attack Trump from the Left. And he did it, just only to make sure that he would not disturb the deep state apparatus with his response because the question was meant to test Biden's loyalty on the deep state agenda.

Connecting the dots, we found something even more terrifying. New evidence shows that key people around Biden and his potential cabinet in case he wins November's election, are deeply connected with the Military-HighTech complex. And that they will not hesitate to make Iran a test field for the first AI war i…

Ο Κούλης επιβεβαιώνει πλήρως ότι θα εφαρμόσει νέο, σκληρό μνημόνιο!

globinfo freexchange
Όπως είχαμε αναφέρει ήδη από το 2016 και αμέσως μετά την εκλογή Μητσοτάκη στην ηγεσία της ΝΔ, το αποτέλεσμα των εσωτερικών εκλογών στη γαλάζια παράταξη έλυνε τα χέρια του άξονα Βρυξελλών-Βερολίνου. Οι γραφειοφασίστες των Βρυξελλών και το διευθυντήριο του Βερολίνου απέκτησαν μια πρώτης τάξεως εφεδρεία σε περίπτωση που τα πράγματα "στράβωναν" με την κυβέρνηση Τσίπρα.  
Έτσι, ο νέος [τότε] αρχηγός της ΝΔ, Κυριάκος Μητσοτάκης, αποτελεί την καλύτερη λύση προκειμένου να εφαρμόσει πιστά τις πιο σκληρές νεοφιλελεύθερες πολιτικές προκειμένου να ολοκληρωθεί το πείραμα με κάθε λεπτομέρεια.
Ήρθε η ώρα να μας επαληθεύσει πλήρως ο ίδιος ο Μητσοτάκης. Όπως αναφέρει ρεπορτάζ του tvxs.gr:
Μνημόνια με τη μορφή κυβερνητικής πολιτικής είναι το οικονομικό σχέδιο του Κυριάκου Μητσοτάκη, όπως προκύπτει από τη συνέντευξή του στους Financial Times, με αφορμή τη σύνοδο κορυφής της ΕΕ στις 17-18 Ιουλίου. Ο πρωθυπουργός μάλιστα θεωρεί ότι η πανδημία μπορεί να αποτελέσει…

Firm linked to HHS’ Robert Kadlec poised to become exclusive manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines

A pharmaceutical firm with a dark history and questionable ties to serving ASPR Robert Kadlec is poised to become the exclusive manufacturer of the COVID-19 vaccines now being funded through Trump’s Operation Warp Speed.
by Raul Diego 
Part 1
Trump’s much-ballyhooed “Operation Warp Speed” unveiled in May of this year to produce and deploy a COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. is shaping up to be yet another scheme to funnel millions of dollars into a singularly corrupt pharmaceutical entity with deep ties to Robert Kadlec, the serving Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), who is in charge of the Strategic National Stockpile and is the architect of the legislative edifice which currently governs the nation’s public-private partnership (PPP) approach to health emergencies.
The task force’s latest and largest grant was awarded to Maryland-based Novavax, Inc. to cover late-stage testing and manufacturing of their COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Only the sixth company to receive fed…

Meet the far-right oligarchs working to topple Mexico’s progressive President AMLO

A Trump-like Mexican oligarch, Gilberto Lozano, is leading a coalition of corporate leaders and far-right fanatics called FRENA to try to overthrow President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
by José Guadalupe Argüello III and Ben Norton
Part 5 - FRENA’s June 13/14 car protest and future plans
In its second anti-AMLO protest, FRENA claimed to have 140 vehicle caravans across Mexico and the United States on the weekend of June 13 and 14.
Protests were reported in all major Mexican urban centers, along with major cities in Texas, California, Michigan, Illinois, and Washington, as well as Toronto, Canada.
As in the demonstrations in May, these featured many luxury cars and trucks, bearing signs with messages like “Leave now AMLO, we don’t want communism”.
Mexican Twitter was quick to point out the unintentional comedy of the protests, such as a viral photo of a banner on the back of an SUV that read, “No to Communism, No to Socialism, No to Mozimism, Mexico is Catholic”. Mozimismo is not a real…

What does community control of police look like?

The Grayzone
Red Lines host Anya Parampil speaks with Chicago-based activist and author Frank Chapman about his life story as well as his vision for community control over the police. 
Frank has been in the struggle for more than 50 years— beginning with his time as a young man serving a life sentence in Missouri state prison. While incarcerated, Chapman became a self-taught radical, eventually leading a successful fight to desegregate Missouri state prisons and cchieve his own freedom. Chapman shares his remarkable story his memoir, "The Damned Don't Cry, Pages From the Life of a Black Prisoner & Organizer".

Σκάνδαλο με υπογραφή Μητσοτάκη

Επιβεβαιώνονται οι υποψίες ότι τεράστια ποσά της καμπάνιας «Μένουμε Σπίτι» μοιράστηκαν στους «ημετέρους» και τους «υποστηρικτές» της κυβέρνησης.
Δημήτρης Ψαρράς
Μετά την πίεση των κομμάτων της αντιπολίτευσης και την επιμονή ελάχιστων μέσων ενημέρωσης, η κυβέρνηση υποχρεώθηκε να δώσει χθες στη δημοσιότητα τον πίνακα με τους αποδέκτες και τα ποσά που μοιράστηκαν στον καθένα από το κονδύλι των 20 εκατ. ευρώ της καμπάνιας «Μένουμε Σπίτι».
Η «Εφ.Συν.» από την πρώτη στιγμή στηλίτευσε τη σκανδαλώδη διαδικασία που ακολουθήθηκε, ενώ πριν από δυο βδομάδες (23.6.) προχώρησε και σε αίτηση προς τους δυο αρμόδιους υφυπουργούς, Πέτσα και Σκυλακάκη, σύμφωνα με το άρθρο 5 του Κώδικα Διοικητικής Δικονομίας, η οποία δεν μπορούσε να μείνει αναπάντητη.
Τελικά δίκιο είχε και έκρυβε τη λίστα η κυβέρνηση. Η δημοσιοποίηση των ποσών στον πίνακα των 1.232 μέσων ενημέρωσης που ανακοινώθηκε χθες αφήνει τον αναγνώστη άφωνο. Παρά το γεγονός ότι μεσολάβησε ένα μεγάλο διάστημα, κατά το οποίο είναι βέβαιο ότι έγιναν κά…

Trump used looted Venezuelan public money to build border wall with Mexico

An estimated $24 billion of Venezuelan public money has been looted, and the Trump administration has used at least $601 million of it to construct a militarized wall on the US-Mexico border.
by Ben Norton
Part 2 - Right-wing opposition upset Trump didn’t give Guaidó gang all stolen Venezuelan money
The Trump corruption scandal has been almost entirely ignored by mainstream corporate media outlets. Univision buried its own scoop deep in a report that advanced the talking points of Venezuela’s US-backed right-wing opposition and referred to the elected government of President Nicolás Maduro as a “widely repudiated regime.
Univision, the largest corporate media network in the United States that focuses on Latino issues, is owned by billionaire-controlled private equity firms, one of the most prominent of whom is the Israeli-American oligarch Haim Saban.
Based in Miami, the de facto capital of the Latin American right, this massive media conglomerate acts as a mouthpiece for conservative f…

The Washington Post and its Cold War drums

by Melvin Goodman
The Washington Post has taken its Cold War campaign against China, Russia, and Iran to a new level.  In the Sunday edition of its Outlook section, the Post gave front-page coverage to long articles by former ambassador Michael McFaul and former New York Times’ writer Tim Weiner to trumpet Russia’s “constant aggression” and its “brutal Cold War rules.”  There was no hint whatsoever of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to improve Russian-American relations over the past two decades, and no suggestion that the actions of the United States over the past 25 years have significantly contributed to the poor state of relations between Moscow and Washington.
The companion pieces have supportive titles, which suggests an editorial decision to express an authoritative point of view.  McFaul’s article is titled “Trump always finds a way to let Putin win….”, and Weiner’s screed follows with “….even when Russia plays by brutal Cold War rules.”  Their joint thesis is a sim…

Here we go again: neoliberal machine prepares ground to blame the Greens for a potential Biden defeat in November

globinfo freexchange

It seems that the neoliberal machine creates the suitable climate in order to put the blame on the usual scapegoats in case Joe Biden loses November's election.

Politico's recent article leaves little doubt. Check out the title:
Jill Stein cost Hillary dearly in 2016. Democrats are still writing off her successor.

And the first paragraphs confirm the case:

                         Jill Stein still haunts Hillary Clinton’s campaign team. “Oh woof. I can’t bear to talk about that,” said former communications director Jennifer Palmieri. For good reason: Had voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin cast their ballots for Clinton rather than the Green Party’s Stein, Clinton would be president. 

                         Now, with the Green Party set to elevate its presumptive nominee — Howie Hawkins, a longtime labor activist keen on attracting disillusioned Bernie Sanders voters and calling for a “#DemExit” — many Democrats are unfazed. Not to worry, they sa…