Thomas Wictor

Choose: one cookie now, or two cookies later

Choose: one cookie now, or two cookies later

As children, our brains go through specific stages of development. One of the experiments used to demonstrate this growth is to ask toddlers if they want one cookie now or two cookies in five minutes. Kids of a certain age are incapable of grasping the notion that if they just wait, their reward will be greater. They always choose one cookie now. Your choice in the Middle East is to insist on symbolism or to accept genuine but hidden change and wait for the public face to eventually merge with the reality.

If you demand that Arab nations immediately normalize relations with Israel, you’re asking for a guarantee that everything being done under the table will fail.

What I admire about the Arab League is that their military leaders and soldiers aren’t interested in symbolism. All they care about is results. And they’re getting them by doing things their way. We can still stick in our oars and screw up everything, if that’s what we want. Is it really your desire to stand on principle and ensure that the whole effort goes down in flames?

Choose the right side

Today there was more good news out of Syria.

The Ahrar Jarablus (Freedom Seekers of Jarablus) Brigade today joined the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces], calling it the only force capable of establishing a national Syrian army.

The AJB, which is composed of Kurdish, Arab, and Turkmen fighters, declared its joining of the SDF via a statement. One of the AJB commanders named Armanj Jarablus read the AJB statement in Kharab Ato village located 30 kms to the west of Kobane.


The statement reads:

“Establishing the SDF, which has achieved great victories against the ISIS’s mercenaries, is intended to save the Syrian people. The SDF is made up of all different components of Syrian people and plays an indispensably important role in strengthening the national unity. After the SDF revolutionaries’ call, we as the Ahrar Jarablus Brigade declare our joining of the SDF ranks. We will act according to the SFD goals. We will comply with all SDF decisions which are consistent with the Syrian people’s demands for freedom, justice, and democracy.”

Calling the SDF a middle-ground capable of establishing a national Syrian Army, Commander Armanj said: “the SDF is an indispensable base for a democratic, pluralistic Syria whose all components will freely and peacefully find a role to play in it and [thereby] will get rid of oppression and terrorism.”

The AJB commanders called upon all patriotic Syrian forces to join the SDF, which they called the only force flexible enough to include all moderate, secular Syrian forces.

According to the Arabic-language version of this story, the group is named the Freedom Seekers of Jarablus Battalion (Ahrar Jarablus Katiba); this is not the Furat Jarablus Battalion, which is already a part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD).


AJB may be the former Jarablus Brigades (Saraya Jarablus), but it’s not clear. What is clear is that the Arab factions of the QSD are suddenly very well equipped and amazingly proficient. The photo below shows armored vehicles being transported southward from Kobane on January 7, the day that the Arab Jaysh al-Thuwar (Army of Revolutionaries)—which belongs to the Syrian Arab Coalition of the QSD—announced that it was about to launch on offensive on the strategic city of Manbij, held by the Islamic State.


The two wheeled vehicles are American armored Humvees fitted with heavy machine guns in turrets. None of the Syrian Arab militias in the QSD had such weapons before. There’s also something else on the trailer (red arrow).


I have no idea what that is. It’s almost certainly some form of towed autocannon, but it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. The configuration is similar to the 20mm Hispano-Suiza Breda modelo HSS 804 D.C.A.


However, the Kobane weapon is a much heavier caliber, at least 30mm but maybe even 40mm. And I’m pretty sure that the dome is an ammunition container.


The Arab League approach to warfare is to use fast, agile weapon systems with unbelievable firepower. If that thing on the trailer is a 40mm autocannon with a giant ammunition drum, it could destroy an entire town by itself.

Choose what works

The QSD has said that it’s fighting to rid Syria of all oppressive forces. There’s no doubt that the Arab League is helping them. I’d written earlier that Turkey had threatened to shell Kurds who crossed the Euphrates River into western Syria. Well, they already did so.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has confirmed that the Turkish military has attacked Kurdish fighters in northern Syria. The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) said Turkey shot at its forces in the town of Tal Abyad on Sunday.

The YPG has been a key ally of the US in fighting the so-called Islamic State (IS) group in Syria. Turkey fears advances by the YPG near its Syrian border could fuel separatist sentiments amongst Kurds in Turkey. The attacks come amid increasing tensions in Turkey ahead of elections.

“We said the [YPG-aligned Democratic Union Party] PYD will not go west of the Euphrates and that we would hit it the moment it did,” Mr Davutoglu told Turkish ATV television late Monday.

Therefore it’s not possible that the armored vehicles and towed autocannon seen in Kobane were in Kurdish hands. Turkey would’ve blown them up. The weapons had to be on the way to Arab forces headed toward Manjib.


However, none of the Arab militias that have joined the QSD have experience using heavy weapons.

Here’s what a Kurd on Reddit has to say about why the Arab League would choose to help the QSD covertly.


He’s exactly right. If Saudis, Emiratis, Egyptians, Bahrainis, Algerians, and Tunisians landed in Syria with fanfare, flags, and daily briefings, the QSD would lose all its legitimacy. And the question asked is also important. It’s true that the QSD is not using social media to recruit Syrians. Why not?

Because they already have some of the best professional warriors on earth fighting for them. Clandestinely. The Arab League knows what it’s doing, even if you don’t think so. Let me prove it to you.

Choose rationality

On September 12, 2001, I went to my local liquor store to buy my Diet Coke. The Syrian clerk looked terrified, so I said, “I’ve been coming here for a long time, but I don’t know your name. My name is Tom.”

I held out my hand, and the clerk shook it, looking ready to cry.

“It’s a terrible day,” I said.

“My heart is broken,” he answered.

That was the only time we discussed 9/11. We got to know each other gradually over a few weeks, and he finally told me how lonely he was.

“There’s nobody I can talk to here,” he said.

“But you live in a community of Syrian expatriates,” I said. “Isn’t there anyone there from Damascus?”

“Yes, but not from my quarter of Damascus. They’re all strangers. We have nothing in common.”

Think about that. This unhappy man was surrounded by fellow Syrians, but because they weren’t from his specific neighborhood in Damascus, they may as well have been from Pluto.

Now do you understand why the Arab League would choose to prosecute this war in secret? Can you appreciate the superhuman diplomatic and strategic skills being shown here? And can you see why any direct attempt by westerners to solve the problems there will always fail?


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