Guest Analysis by Robert Barsocchini: A Critical Examination of the DIA Document on Dynamics of Syrian Conflict

DIA 24 hour watch center (Public Domain/Wiki Commons)

LR Editor’s Note: We are pleased to host this guest analysis by Robert Barsocchini, an internationally published researcher and writer who focuses on global force dynamics and writes professionally for the film industry. He is a regular contributor to Washington’s Blog. On Monday (5/25), Juan Cole dismissed well-known international security scholar Nafeez Ahmed’s investigative piece on the newly declassified 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency documents as “just a clickbait story”—Cole did this while offering his own brief and superficial analysis in a mere 190 words of what is actually a complex DIA document. The below point-by-point examination of the DIA documents in question provides the truly in-depth analysis that Cole fails to give us. (Note: Embedded Tweets are not endorsements of the article, but provide broader context of events unfolding in Syria).                                                                                                                                              

by Robert Barsocchini

Here, I wrote that these documents “may” say the US/West wanted/want a Salafist Principality in Eastern Syria, because the declassified docs 1) say “Salafist, Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria”; 2) in the next sentence, the doc defines the “The West, Gulf Countries, and Turkey” as the countries that “support the opposition”; 3) they later say the “opposition forces are trying to control the Eastern areas”, where Syria borders Iraq, and, specifically of this control of Eastern areas, say the “Western Countries, the Gulf States, and Turkey are supporting these efforts”. 4) In a section about “effects on Iraq” the docs say that “there is a possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist Principality in Eastern Syria…”, then say “this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).”

However, while the document begins by stating that “The West, Gulf Countries, and Turkey support the opposition”, the document, as noted, also defines other groups, which could be considered “powers”, as either components of or supporters of the opposition: Salafists, Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI. The report states: “AQI supported the opposition from the beginning…”

While the FSA is defined as “opposition”, Salafists, Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI are initially described as “the major forces driving the insurgency”, not as “the opposition”. It could be that the document means that the FSA is “the opposition” and the West, its allies, and the Islamic groups are simply all supporting them, but with different individual goals. However, AQI is also directly described as “opposition” to Assad: “AQI declared its opposition of Assad’s government because it considered it a sectarian regime targeting Sunnis.”

In the section that says “there is a possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist Principality in Eastern Syria…”, then that “this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want”—this section of the doc defines the opposition forces controlling the Iraq/Syria border as “Syrian Free Army”, the FSA, and says the FSA will try to take “advantage of the sympathy of the Iraqi border population”.

It then says that “If the situation [likely meaning FSA control of the border] unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist Principality in Eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).” (The US obviously opposes Iranian expansion and sides with the Sunnis, but the last part of this sentence, as it is framed in terms of Shia expansion, may suggest that here the “supporting powers to the opposition” may be referring not the sentence stating “The West, Gulf Countries, and Turkey support the opposition”, but to earlier sentences stating “AQI supported the opposition from the beginning…” and “AQI declared its opposition of Assad’s government because it considered it a sectarian regime targeting Sunnis.”

Thus, perhaps this is simply unclear writing, or too much is censored, and what this really means is that while both AQI and “The West, Gulf Countries, and Turkey” support the “opposition” (and AQI also comprises the opposition), only the AQI part of that support for the opposition would want a “Salafist Principality” to be established. This is clearly stated regarding the effect on Iraq. However, the US/West do strongly support existing Salafist Principalities, as noted above, including the most ideologically expansionist one, Saudi Arabia. Thus, supporting a Salafist Principality, and annexation of territory (Israel, Cuba, Diego Garcia, etc.), is something the US already does currently. (International relations scholar Dr. Nafeez Ahmed notes that a RAND corp report previously advised the US “to capitalise on the Shia-Sunni conflict by taking the side of the conservative Sunni regimes in a decisive fashion and working with them against all Shiite empowerment movements in the Muslim world.”)

The doc says the above-noted “deterioration”, likely referring to the ‘unravels’ term above, “has dire consequences on the Iraq situation.” It continues that this “deterioration” would give more momentum to terrorist groups and could allow them to declare an “Islamic state”, “which will create grave danger in regards to unifying Iraq and the protection of its territory.” (A study out of British universities noted that US government/media did not report on ISIS publicly until it began to seize oil fields. Then, the study shows, the US sent drones to try to stop ISIS.)

The last uncensored sentence of the doc says that the third consequence of the “deterioration of the situation” (‘the situation’ likely meaning the FSA control of the border region) would be terrorist elements from all over the Arab world “entering into Iraqi arena.”

The rest of the document is censored, as are some sections before this.

Overall, what we can see in the document clearly states that a Salafist Principality is not desired by the West in terms of the Iraqi situation, but may or may not suggest that this principality is desired in terms of isolating Assad, which is a stated goal of the West and its allies (not just isolating, but removing). However, it is also a goal of AQI and its allies, which are defined both as supporting “the opposition” and having “declared its opposition of Assad’s government”. While this group and its affiliates could be viewed as a strategic asset for isolating Assad, they could also be viewed as a third party outside the wider global contest between West and East, which is opposed to either. However, a group in Syria opposed to both sides could be seen as preferable to having a group allied with the East and opposed to the West.

International security scholar Dr. Nafeez Ahmed analyzes these documents and concludes the US practices a policy of “sponsoring Islamist terrorism for dubious geopolitical purposes.”

“According to the newly declassified US document, the Pentagon foresaw the likely rise of the ‘Islamic State’ as a direct consequence of this strategy, and warned that it could destabilize Iraq. Despite anticipating that Western, Gulf state and Turkish support for the “Syrian opposition” — which included al-Qaeda in Iraq — could lead to the emergence of an ‘Islamic State’ in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the document provides no indication of any decision to reverse the policy of support to the Syrian rebels. On the contrary, the emergence of an al-Qaeda affiliated “Salafist Principality” as a result is described as a strategic opportunity to isolate Assad.”

“The secret Pentagon document thus provides extraordinary confirmation that the US-led coalition currently fighting ISIS, had three years ago welcomed the emergence of an extremist “Salafist Principality” in the region as a way to undermine Assad, and block off the strategic expansion of Iran.”

“The establishment of such a “Salafist Principality” in eastern Syria, the DIA document asserts, is “exactly” what the “supporting powers to the [Syrian] opposition want.” Earlier on, the document repeatedly describes those “supporting powers” as “the West, Gulf countries, and Turkey.”

Charles Shoebridge, a former British Army and Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism intelligence officer, said (noted by Ahmed) that the documents “raise vitally important questions of the West’s governments and media in their support of Syria’s rebellion.”

“Throughout the early years of the Syria crisis, the US and UK governments, and almost universally the West’s mainstream media, promoted Syria’s rebels as moderate, liberal, secular, democratic, and therefore deserving of the West’s support. Given that these documents wholly undermine this assessment, it’s significant that the West’s media has now, despite their immense significance, almost entirely ignored them.”

Ahmed quotes a former US Marine: “US intelligence predicted the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), but instead of clearly delineating the group as an enemy, the report envisions the terror group as a US strategic asset.”

Ahmed concludes: “The rise of a Salafist quasi-state entity that might expand into Iraq, and fracture that country, was therefore clearly foreseen by US intelligence as likely — but nevertheless strategically useful — blowback from the West’s commitment to “isolating Syria.”

What the docs establish beyond doubt is that, in 2012, when they were written, the US saw the likelihood of a “Salafist Principality” or “Islamic State” being established, and was fully aware the insurgency in Syria was mainly driven by Islamic groups, who were fighting Assad and also supporting the FSA, which itself has been shown to have Islamic tendencies. For example, an FSA commander is on video saying he would want to implement Sharia law. But the West and its allies continued their support, as FSA members openly shared their US supplies with the ISIS-related groups, and even converted to ISIS.

As Ahmed puts it, “the Pentagon continued to support the Islamist insurgency, even while anticipating the probability that doing so would establish an extremist Salafi stronghold in Syria and Iraq.”

This “entire covert strategy was sanctioned and supervised by the US, Britain, France, Israel and other Western powers.”

“As Shoebridge told me, “The documents show that not only did the US government at the latest by August 2012 know the true extremist nature and likely outcome of Syria’s rebellion” — namely, the emergence of ISIS — “but that this was considered an advantage for US foreign policy. This also suggests a decision to spend years in an effort to deliberately mislead the West’s public, via a compliant media, into believing that Syria’s rebellion was overwhelmingly ‘moderate.’”

Ahmed quotes a former MI5 officer explaining that after Libya and other such projects by the West, we see in this behavior towards Syria “part of an established pattern. And they remain indifferent to the sheer scale of human suffering that is unleashed as a result of such game-playing.”

What we already knew before these docs is that the US and West strongly support extremist Salafist states as part of their strategy of eating away at the parts of the world not under the US thumb, the “East”: Syria, Iran, Russia, and China. The US and West themselves are built on and continue to support and commit theft and annexation of territory, and support, commit, or ignore (if they are not politically helpful) all kinds of mass killings, including by groups worse than ISIS; these have included the Khmer Rouge, the Suharto Regime, and the US itself: the establishment of the USA and the building of it into a superpower was a process that involved crimes worse than anything ISIS will ever accomplish.

Further, ISIS, as pointed out by Kofi Annan and many others, arose as a consequence of the illegal US invasion of Iraq, motivated largely by Bush Jr.’s religious fanaticism, an invasion the international community tried and failed to prevent, which, the most recent and comprehensive report finds, has killed about 1 to 2 million or more people, another feat ISIS will never accomplish.

While studies and many official statements make clear, and it is obvious to any minimally non-US-brainwashed individual, that the invasion was largely about oil, even if we disregard that, ignore the rest of US history, and declare the US had/has “good intentions” regarding Iraq, that puts us at the level of of Japanese fascists, who believed in their “good intentions” regarding their invasions of China and elsewhere.

People with too much power always declare good intentions, and are often sincere, as they get god-complexes and view themselves as humanity’s benevolent saviors. But the reason war (including supporting warring proxies) is outlawed as an instrument of policy is that it has disastrous consequences, as we are seeing, even for the sincerely well-intentioned.

Additional Notes:

It should be stressed that clearly admitting the West would “want” a Salafist principality in Eastern Syria is not generally the kind of statement people in governments would make of themselves, even in private, hence makes it less likely here that the West is being referred to specifically by that statement, as does the inclusion of the phrase “if the situation unravels” (meaning FSA control of the East) an Islamic state could result.  However, it is noteworthy that the West and the Islamists are so easily conflated in this document (this conflation may well be intentional as a way of discussing benefits without clearly stating that they might be desired), as they are clearly delineated as both being opposed to the Assad government, and for similar reasons – opposing Iran and the Shia, backed by Russia and China, the latter part being of greater import to the West.  The doc also makes very clear that the FSA was/is being supported by AQI and its Islamist affiliates, and that those Islamists were known to be “the major forces driving the insurgency”.  It has long been known that FSA shares its US/Western/Gulf/Turkish supplies with and converts to Islamist groups, and AQI, the ISIS precursor, has always been known as particularly aggressive.  And as Dr. Ahmed points out, the document nowhere suggests ending aid to the opposition due to its being driven by AQI and affiliates, and only frames the potential creation of the “Islamic state” as a bad thing in relation to Iraq.  In relation to Syria/Assad, it is not framed as a bad thing, but as something that would be seen to “isolate” Assad, a goal shared by the West and the Islamist groups.  So, these documents may well be an example of discussing a strategy while attempting to maintain some degree of “plausible deniability”.

It must also be remembered that the US and West not only support extremist Salafi/Wahhabi/Sharia established states, but have on numerous occasions worked with, backed, aided and/or paralleled some of the goals of non-state groups such as the Mujahedin and al Qaeda (in Afghanistan – see Brzezinski, Bob Gates; Bosnia, Kosovo – on these see Fulton in scholarly journal Global Security Studies), including under Obama in relation to Libya.  In US support for the Mujahedin in Afghanistan and then the Taliban, the support was not even seen as a means to an end, but a completely acceptable end in itself: the US was fine with the Taliban taking power and staying in power, as long as it cooperated with the US.  That is the bottom line.  As soon as it proved uncooperative, the US “discovered” the Taliban human rights violations that non-governmental US monitors had been decrying for years, while the US was supporting the Taliban (here).  And, as noted, abhorrent behavior is not a deterrent to US support.  The US has committed far worse crimes than ISIS and supported groups far worse than ISIS.  Only those unfamiliar with history and glued to US TV can think ISIS is some new level of evil in the world, or at least one not seen for a long time.  The only qualifier for US support is whether the group in question is willing to cater to US business and strategic interests.

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Will the DIA document on Syria be reported in the mainstream U.S. media?

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AS OF THIS WRITING our reporting on the newly declassified August 2012 DIA document has yet to make it into mainstream media in the West; it has however, made it into RT News. On Saturday, RT’s International English broadcast, based in London and Washington D.C., relied on Levant Report’s original reporting of both the DIA document and former Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford’s prior relationship to ISIS aligned militants.

Monday (5/25) and Tuesday will be significant days to see whether the story gathers enough momentum in the press to elicit an official response from Washington. For this to happen the DIA document would have to be covered in British media, or by an American newsroom with enough clout to attract attention, like McClatchy’s Washington Bureau or The Intercept, in order to get the ball rolling.

The well-known investigative journalist and best-selling author Nafeez Ahmed,  whose counter-terrorism work gained official recognition by the 9/11 Commission, published an excellent in-depth investigative piece on the DIA report at INSURGE intelligence.

Nafeez was recently a columnist for The Guardian, one of Britain’s big three national newspapers, and is still based in the UK. He took to Twitter over the weekend and announced that he is currently attempting to push the story into mainstream media, as the DIA document contains startling revelations that deserve the world’s attention and candid debate:

OF COURSE, MANY OF THESE  establishment media outlets have been so heavily invested in advancing a particular set of false assumptions regarding the dynamics of the conflict in Syria, that they would be loath to publish anything that damages their own credibility, even should clear evidence in official government documents contradict the prior reporting.

We are living in an age in which the unique propaganda system that operates in the West is so effective that it often doesn’t matter if government officials admit that they were purposefully promoting a false narrative, or were engaged in criminal conspiracy.

So long as their admissions come long after the fact, and so long as they occupy positions of prestige and respect, they can expect not to come under close scrutiny by a media establishment that itself was complicit in uncritically parroting their falsehoods all along.

We at Levant Report have been trying to shine a spotlight on former Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford’s material support of Al-Qaeda for a long time. In February 2015, he openly confessed to having given support to ISIS and Al-Nusra terrorists after being questioned by Al-Monitor News journalist Edward Dark (a violation of Title 18 U.S. Code § 2339A – Providing material support to terrorists)—

Robert Ford Twitter Exchange                                   Click image for enlargement

THE TWITTER HANDLE, @fordrs58 is indeed Ambassador Robert Ford’s account, as was confirmed to me in a personal email by Dr. Joshua Landis, Director of Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and the most well-known Syria scholar in the United States.

Ford’s admission came after a lengthy Twitter conversation in response to an original Feb. 18, 2015 entry by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace scholar Aaron Lund. Though Ford might now claim “good intentions” or that he was merely following orders from the State Dept., this defense certainly didn’t work for the multiple FBI arrests and successful prosecutions of American citizens that arguably had even less involvement—and at lower levels—with rebels in the Syrian conflict.

While RT News broadcast the video evidence of Ford’s crimes, it remains for American media and US Congress to begin asking serious questions about the State Dept., DOD, and CIA’s relationship with confessed ISIS collaborators on the Syrian battlefield. At the very least, a serious Congressional investigation is warranted. Americans must demand this.

2012 Defense Intelligence Agency document: West will facilitate rise of Islamic State “in order to isolate the Syrian regime”

https://levantreport.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/dia-2012-syria-islamic-state1.jpgOn Monday, May 18, the conservative government watchdog group Judicial Watch published a selection of formerly classified documents obtained from the U.S. Department of Defense and State Department through a federal lawsuit.

While initial mainstream media reporting is focused on the White House’s handling of the Benghazi consulate attack, a much “bigger picture” admission and confirmation is contained in one of the Defense Intelligence Agency documents circulated in 2012: that an ‘Islamic State’ is desired in Eastern Syria to effect the West’s policies in the region.

Astoundingly, the newly declassified report states that for “THE WEST, GULF COUNTRIES, AND TURKEY [WHO] SUPPORT THE [SYRIAN] OPPOSITION… THERE IS THE POSSIBILITY OF ESTABLISHING A DECLARED OR UNDECLARED SALAFIST PRINCIPALITY IN EASTERN SYRIA (HASAKA AND DER ZOR), AND THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE SUPPORTING POWERS TO THE OPPOSITION WANT, IN ORDER TO ISOLATE THE SYRIAN REGIME…”.

The DIA report, formerly classified “SECRET//NOFORN” and dated August 12, 2012, was circulated widely among various government agencies, including CENTCOM, the CIA, FBI, DHS, NGA, State Dept., and many others.

The document shows that as early as 2012, U.S. intelligence predicted the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), but instead of clearly delineating the group as an enemy, the report envisions the terror group as a U.S. strategic asset.

While a number of analysts and journalists have documented long ago the role of western intelligence agencies in the formation and training of the armed opposition in Syria, this is the highest level internal U.S. intelligence confirmation of the theory that western governments fundamentally see ISIS as their own tool for regime change in Syria. The document matter-of-factly states just that scenario.

Forensic evidence, video evidence, as well as recent admissions of high-level officials involved (see former Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford’s admissions here and here), have since proven the State Department and CIA’s material support of ISIS terrorists on the Syrian battlefield going back to at least 2012 and 2013 (for a clear example of “forensic evidence”: see UK-based Conflict Armament Research’s report which traced the origins of Croatian anti-tank rockets recovered from ISIS fighters back to a Saudi/CIA joint program via identifiable serial numbers).

The newly released DIA report makes the following summary points concerning “ISI” (in 2012 “Islamic State in Iraq,”) and the soon to emerge ISIS:

  • Al-Qaeda drives the opposition in Syria
  • The West identifies with the opposition
  • The establishment of a nascent Islamic State became a reality only with the rise of the Syrian insurgency (there is no mention of U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq as a catalyst for Islamic State’s rise, which is the contention of innumerable politicians and pundits; see section 4.D. below)
  • The establishment of a “Salafist Principality” in Eastern Syria is “exactly” what the external powers  supporting the opposition want (identified as “the West, Gulf Countries, and Turkey”) in order to weaken the Assad government
  • “Safe havens” are suggested in areas conquered by Islamic insurgents along the lines of the Libyan model (which translates to so-called no-fly zones as a first act of ‘humanitarian war’; see 7.B.)
  • Iraq is identified with “Shia expansion” (8.C)
  • A Sunni “Islamic State” could be devastating to “unifying Iraq” and could lead to “the renewing facilitation of terrorist elements from all over the Arab world entering into Iraqi Arena.” (see last non-redacted line in full PDF view.)

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The following is excerpted from the seven page DIA declassified report (bold-facing is my own):

 R 050839Z AUG 12

THE GENERAL SITUATION:

A. INTERNALLY, EVENTS ARE TAKING A CLEAR SECTARIAN DIRECTION.

B. THE SALAFIST [sic], THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD, AND AQI ARE THE MAJOR FORCES DRIVING THE INSURGENCY IN SYRIA.

C. THE WEST, GULF COUNTRIES, AND TURKEY SUPPORT THE OPPOSITION; WHILE RUSSIA, CHINA AND IRAN SUPPORT THE REGIME.

3. (C) Al QAEDA – IRAQ (AQI):… B. AQI SUPPORTED THE SYRIAN OPPOSITION FROM THE BEGINNING, BOTH IDEOLOGICALLY AND THROUGH THE MEDIA

4.D. THERE WAS A REGRESSION OF AQI IN THE WESTERN PROVINCES OF IRAQ DURING THE YEARS OF 2009 AND 2010; HOWEVER, AFTER THE RISE OF THE INSURGENCY IN SYRIA, THE RELIGIOUS AND TRIBAL POWERS IN THE REGIONS BEGAN TO SYMPATHIZE WITH THE SECTARIAN UPRISING. THIS (SYMPATHY) APPEARED IN FRIDAY PRAYER SERMONS, WHICH CALLED FOR VOLUNTEERS TO SUPPORT THE SUNNI’S [sic] IN SYRIA.

7. (C) THE FUTURE ASSUMPTIONS OF THE CRISIS:

A. THE REGIME WILL SURVIVE AND HAVE CONTROL OVER SYRIAN TERRITORY.

B. DEVELOPMENT OF THE CURRENT EVENTS INTO PROXY WAR: …OPPOSITION FORCES ARE TRYING TO CONTROL THE EASTERN AREAS (HASAKA AND DER ZOR), ADJACENT TO THE WESTERN IRAQI PROVINCES (MOSUL AND ANBAR), IN ADDITION TO NEIGHBORING TURKISH BORDERS. WESTERN COUNTRIES, THE GULF STATES AND TURKEY ARE SUPPORTING THESE EFFORTS. THIS HYPOTHESIS IS MOST LIKELY IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE DATA FROM RECENT EVENTS, WHICH WILL HELP PREPARE SAFE HAVENS UNDER INTERNATIONAL SHELTERING, SIMILAR TO WHAT TRANSPIRED IN LIBYA WHEN BENGHAZI WAS CHOSEN AS THE COMMAND CENTER OF THE TEMPORARY GOVERNMENT.

8.C. IF THE SITUATION UNRAVELS THERE IS THE POSSIBILITY OF ESTABLISHING A DECLARED OR UNDECLARED SALAFIST PRINCIPALITY IN EASTERN SYRIA (HASAKA AND DER ZOR), AND THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE SUPPORTING POWERS TO THE OPPOSITION WANT, IN ORDER TO ISOLATE THE SYRIAN REGIME, WHICH IS CONSIDERED THE STRATEGIC DEPTH OF THE SHIA EXPANSION (IRAQ AND IRAN)

8.D.1. …ISI COULD ALSO DECLARE AN ISLAMIC STATE THROUGH ITS UNION WITH OTHER TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS IN IRAQ AND SYRIA, WHICH WILL CREATE GRAVE DANGER IN REGARDS TO UNIFYING IRAQ AND THE PROTECTION OF ITS TERRITORY.

 

COUNTERPUNCH: “Baathism, Secularism and the U.S. Encouragement of Fanatic Islamism in the Arab World” by GARY LEUPP

COUNTERPUNCH – A beautiful essay posted on Medium.com, entitled “A Marine in Syria: Silhouettes of Beauty and Coexistence before the Devastation” by Brad Hoff, draws our attention to what for the warmongers in Washington is a highly inconvenient truth: the secular dictatorships in the Middle East the U.S. has sought to destroy since 9/11 (including most recently that of Libya) have been far more tolerant towards religious and cultural diversity than the regimes that have replaced them.

In particular, the much-vilified Baath Party, which governed Iraq during the Saddam years and continues to govern Syria, was and is based upon the principle of secularism (non-religious, relatively religiously tolerant) rule…

Read the rest at Counterpunch Magazine…

 

A Marine in Syria: Silhouettes of Beauty and Coexistence before the Devastation

He who has not lived in the years before the revolution cannot know what the sweetness of living is.    

—Talleyrand, via Bertolucci, from the 1964 film Prima della Rivoluzione

IRAQ, LIBYA, SYRIA… Countries ripped apart through sectarian and political violence in the aftermath of cataclysmic external interventions: American invasion and occupation in Iraq, NATO intervention in Libya, and international proxy war in Syria. Mere mention of these countries conjures images of sectarian driven atrocities and societal collapse into the abyss of a Hobbesian jungle. And now it is commonplace to just assume it’s always been so. Increasingly, one hears from all corners of public discourse the lazily constructed logic, “but they’ve always hated each other”… or “violence and conflict are endemic to the region.” But it was not always so — I found a place of beauty, peace, and coexistence in a Syria that is now almost never acknowledged, and which risks being forgotten about. But Syrians themselves will never forget…

Read the rest of “A Marine in Syria” at Medium.com

ISIS is now deploying US-supplied TOW Anti-tank Missiles in Syria

8_small.jpgProduced by ISIS media, the Arabic reads “Firing the TOW missile system against the apostates.” The set of photos released together, which can be viewed here, claims Al-Qarytayn in the countryside southeast of Homs as the location.

ISIS fighters are currently boasting of the deployment of their latest military hardware through photos distributed by Islamic State’s “Wilayat Damascus” (State of Damascus): the US-supplied BGM 71E TOW anti-tank missile system.

Among those confirming the authenticity of the photos include analysts at the hawkish Brookings Institution and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies funded Long War Journal.

Long War Journal columnist Caleb Weiss reports:

In the photo set, many Islamic State fighters can be seen amassing in more than 15 technicals, or armed pickup trucks. The pictures then show the use of the TOW missile on Free Syrian Army (FSA) units. The last few photos show FSA members the Islamic State has taken captive.

In a December 27 article, independent journalist Maram Susli outlined the existing evidence for Al-Qaeda group Al-Nusrah Front being in possession of US-supplied TOW anti-tank missiles, while also raising the possibility that ISIS could already be in possession of these systems given the porous and interactive nature of terror militias operating in Syria:

Given the Syrian rebels’ history of openly working along side or defecting to Al Qaeda groups, it is highly doubtful the US government did not predict the TOW missiles would end up in Al Qaeda’s hands.

It is more likely the US provided the rebels with the TOW missiles whilst knowing it would end up in the hands of Al Qaeda. Indeed it has been widely accepted, that Jabhat Al Nusra, ISIS and Ahrar al Sham, another Al Qaeda linked group, are the most powerful groups opposing the Syrian army.

https://justpaste.it/files/justpaste/d195/a8217558/7.jpg

Indeed, it has been documented by an external monitoring group, the UK-based Conflict Armament Research, that the well-known CIA-Saudi program (publicly acknowledged to have begun in 2012) to transfer thousands of tons of weaponry to insurgents in Syria resulted in the arming of ISIS fighters.

Conflict Armament Research was able to trace the serial numbers of weapons recovered by Kurds battling ISIS in Eastern Syria back directly to the CIA-Saudi weapons airlift program. While not as advanced and up-to-date as the current anti-tank systems being displayed in ISIS photographs, the weapons monitoring group’s official report provided evidence that portable rockets were making making it to ISIS hands as of 2013:

M79 90 MM anti-tank rockets captured from IS forces in Syria are identical to M79 rockets transferred by Saudi Arabia to forces operationg under the ‘Free Syrian Army’ umbrella in 2013.

Expect more of US-made BGM 71E TOW systems to show up in ISIS hands. Eventually, enough photographic and serial inscription evidence will be available to establish direct chain of custody and origin. Expect the CIA, Pentagon, and their partners in the Gulf to be in full denial and defensive mode.

 

William Blum: Why You Can Hardly Believe a Word of What You Read About ISIS

William BlumWilliam Blum is a Washington D.C. based analyst and historian whose books chart the history of CIA abuses and U.S. government crimes abroad. His latest article for Counterpunch is an excellent critique of the recent months-long ISIS hysteria in American media and culture.

He makes the point that we shouldn’t uncritically trust the dominant narrative on ISIS coming out of U.S.-Saudi-NATO media establishments, especially when it was this very alliance that produced and fed this Frankenstein monster in the first place.

Indeed, while the U.S. Department of Treasury has publicly blamed governments like Qatar, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia for funding the most radical elements on the Syrian battlefield, the White House continues enlist the help of those very countries in its supposed anti-ISIS campaign. But in all the constant barrage of ISIS coverage in mainstream media, one almost never gets truthful investigative analysis of how ISIS came to be so strong. As even the Vice President of the United States has publicly admitted, it is the American alliance in the region that has directly assisted the terrorist group’s meteoric rise.

If your day is anything like mine, you get in the car and hear about ISIS on the radio, then you hear ISIS discussed at work, you drive home and hear about ISIS on NPR, and if you turn on evening TV you see and hear yet more about the supposed unique brutality of ISIS. In all of this, you hear moral revulsion in the voices of those speaking about ISIS. But never forget that only a year ago, while ISIS was beheading and bombing only Syrians within Syrian sovereign territory, no one spoke about ISIS or about its victims. On the contrary, ISIS received the collective praise of the West as part of the insurgent coalition fighting the Syrian government.

Americans who fume and steam about the horrors of ISIS must be reminded over and over and over again just how it was that ISIS grew so strong: with supply networks, or rather ratlines, funded with Gulf/NATO money, overseen by the CIA, all made logistically possible through the open border policies of U.S. allies Turkey and Jordan. After all this, should we entertain any narrative that seeks to obfuscate such essential context?

Why You Can Hardly Believe a Word of What You Read About ISIS

by WILLIAM BLUM, COUNTERPUNCH

You can’t believe a word the United States or its mainstream media say about the current conflict involving The Islamic State (ISIS).

You can’t believe a word France or the United Kingdom say about ISIS.

You can’t believe a word Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, or the United Arab Emirates say about ISIS. Can you say for sure which side of the conflict any of these mideast countries actually finances, arms, or trains, if in fact it’s only one side? Why do they allow their angry young men to join Islamic extremists? Why has NATO-member Turkey allowed so many Islamic extremists to cross into Syria? Is Turkey more concerned with wiping out the Islamic State or the Kurds under siege by ISIS? Are these countries, or the Western powers, more concerned with overthrowing ISIS or overthrowing the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad?

You can’t believe the so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels. You can’t even believe that they are moderate. They have their hands in everything, and everyone has their hands in them.

Iran, Hezbollah and Syria have been fighting ISIS or its precursors for years, but the United States refuses to join forces with any of these entities in the struggle. Nor does Washington impose sanctions on any country for supporting ISIS as it quickly did against Russia for its alleged role in Ukraine.

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