“Such things simply do not happen spontaneously.”
THE INDEPENDENT UK (7/13/14) – How far is Saudi Arabia complicit in the Isis takeover of much of northern Iraq, and is it stoking an escalating Sunni-Shia conflict across the Islamic world? Some time before 9/11, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence until a few months ago, had a revealing and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”
Above left: Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, in northern Syria in May 2013 with rebel “Free” Syrian Army Colonel Abdul-Jabbar who at that time was head of the western backed and funded Aleppo Military Council (video here). Above right: “Free” Syrian Army Colonel Abdul-Jabbar with ISIS Emir Abu Jandal after their forces jointly capture Menagh Military Airbase in Aleppo province, August 2013 (video here and here). [Photo and commentary courtesy of Orontes:Syrian Christians in a Time of Conflict]
NEW EASTERN OUTLOOK (Tony Cartalucci) – The New York Times in its article, “Obama Requests Money to Train ‘Appropriately Vetted’ Syrian Rebels,” stated:
President Obama requested $500 million from Congress on Thursday to train and equip what the White House is calling “appropriately vetted” members of the Syrian opposition, reflecting increased worry about the spillover of the Syrian conflict into Iraq.
The reportage is a stunning entanglement of contradictions, claiming that the additional funding for terrorists fighting in Syria will somehow address “spillover” that is in fact a direct result of US, NATO, and their Persian Gulf collaborators’ creation, expansion, and perpetuation of the war in Syria in the first place.
The NYT also stated:
The training program would be a significant step for a president who has consistently resisted providing military aid to the rebels in the conflict in Syria, and has warned of the dangers of American intervention. But military and State Department officials indicated that there were not yet any specific programs to arm and train the rebels that the money would fund, nor could administration officials specify which moderate Syrian opposition members they intended to train and support, or where they would be trained.
Despite the NYT’s attempt to portray the US as having “consistently resisted providing military aid” to terrorists operating along and within Syria’s borders, the US, UK, NATO, and the Persian Gulf monarchies have provided terrorists hundreds of millions in aid, including weapons, equipment, and even vehicles. NATO-member Turkey has also provided air and artillery cover for terrorists during cross border operations including most recently in the northwest village of Kessab.
And despite assurances that these hundreds of millions in aid was going to similarly “vetted” “moderates,” terrorist organizations including Al Qaeda’s Al Nusra and Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have achieved uncontested primacy among militant groups fighting in Syria. If the US and its regional collaborators have provided “moderates” with hundreds of millions in aid, who has provided Al Qaeda with even more to explain their now state-sized holdings not only in Syria but now in northern Iraq?
The answer is simple. There never were any moderates to begin with. An Independent article titled, “‘I am not fighting against al-Qa’ida… it’s not our problem’, says West’s last hope in Syria,” claims:
Speaking from a safe house on the outskirts of the Turkish town of Antakya, Jamal Maarouf, the leader of the Syrian Revolutionary Front (SRF) told The Independent that the fight against al-Qa’ida was “not our problem” and admitted his fighters conduct joint operations with Jabhat al-Nusra – the official al-Qa’ida branch in Syria.
From AlterNet.org 6 of the Biggest Media Lies and Distortions of the Week:
There is always one Middle Eastern nation that can muster jets to drop bombs nobody hears. On Monday , Israel bombed nine Syrian military sites in retaliation for a rocket lobbed over that country’s northern border with Syria. You did not see this on the nightly news. The attack killed an Arab-Israeli teen named Mohammed Karaka, who had gone to work with his dad, a driver for an Israeli defense contractor. According to Jodi Rudoren of the Times, whose story landed on a Times backpage, “the extent of any damage or casualties [in Syria] was not clear.” Israeli General Ben-Reuven conceded that Syrian rebels were probably behind the attack, but said Israel held President Bashar al-Assad responsible and had fired at his military to “tell them: you have to control your area and stop this terror organization acting against Israel.”
The most interesting part of the story is not that Israel typically sees fit to rain hellfire on multitudes to revenge a single Israeli life, but that the single dead Israeli in this case was an Arab. It is impossible to imagine any other nation in the Middle East bombing a neighbor’s military installations without the act becoming the lead story of the day, let alone the week.
My article written for Foreign Policy Journal (6/26/14).
FP JOURNAL– Last week, Sami Ramadani undertook the urgent task of giving Western audiences a history lesson on the supposed entrenched sectarian violence of modern Iraq. His The Sectarian Myth of Iraq, written for The Guardian, sends a message rarely acknowledged in the English speaking world: “We coexisted peacefully for centuries, and need neither brutal dictators nor western intervention.”
He explodes the illusion that Iraq and the Middle East in general is but a cauldron of historically rooted Shia-Sunni sectarian animosities, and that the current crisis is reducible to the region’s supposedly incurable religious violence—a mentality that has become a truism in the media and foreign policy establishment. This misperception spills over into common American discourse as the simplistic “Arabs hate each other,” or “this is a centuries old religious conflict.” But Ramadani’s point is proven by his wealth of historical references; his conclusions further run counter to everything Americans have been told about Iraqi society:
The most serious sectarian and ethnic tensions in Iraq’s modern history followed the 2003 US-led occupation, which faced massive popular opposition and resistance. The US had its own divide-and-rule policy, promoting Iraqi organisations founded on religion, ethnicity, nationality or sect rather than politics. Many senior officers in the newly formed Iraqi army came from these organisations and Saddam’s army. This was exacerbated three years ago, when sectarian groups in Syria were backed by the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Many in American government and media have been asking over the past week: “How do we keep getting the Middle East so wrong?” There are many avenues of approach to this question, but perhaps the simplest and most basic, confirmed in my own experience, is that Americans continue to see the region according to simplistic stereotypes, caricatures, and orientalist abstractions. American assumptions never line up with Eastern realities, yet our power combined with ignorance continues to sow disaster. It might help for American policymakers to simply travel to those places they are intent on changing, and to live among the common populace for an extended period –doing so would likely shatter many illusions.
I served in the Marine Corps during the first years of the Iraq War and was a 9/11 first responder while stationed at Headquarters Battalion Quantico 2000-2004. I thought I knew something about Iraq upon the start of our new “war on terror”: Arab culture, with its intrinsic primal religious passions and resulting sectarian divisions, must be brought to heel under Western values of pluralism, secularism, and equality if peace and stability are to ever have a chance. This was a guiding assumption among the many Marine officers, active and retired, that I conversed with during my years at Quantico. Iraqis and Middle Easterners were, for us, abstractions that fit neatly into categories learned about by viewing a C-span lecture, or perhaps in a college class or two: there are Sunnis, Shia, some dissident sects, they all mistrust each other, and they all want theocratic states with their group in charge.
My first visit to the region as a civilian desiring to study Arabic in 2004, after completion of active duty military service, began a process of undoing every assumption I’d ever imbibed concerning Middle East culture, politics, and conflict. An initial visit to Syria from Lebanon was the start of something that my Marine buddies could hardly conceive of: Damascus became my second home through frequent travel and lengthy stays from 2004 to 2010, and was my place of true education on the real life and people of the region. While my fellow servicemen were just across Syria’s border settling in to the impossible task of occupying a country they had no understanding of, I was able view a semblance of Iraq as it once was through the prism of highly stable Ba’athist Syria.
During my first weeks in Damascus, I was pleasantly shocked at just how wrong my simplistic ideas about region were. I expected to find a society full of veiled women, mosques on every street corner, religious police looking over shoulders, rabid anti-American sentiment preached to angry crowds, persecuted Christians and crumbling hidden churches, prudish separation of the sexes, and so on. I quickly realized during my first few days and nights in Damascus, that Syria was a far cry from my previous imaginings, which were probably more reflective of Saudi Arabian life and culture.
What I actually found was mostly unveiled women wearing European fashions and sporting bright makeup – many of them wearing blue jeans and tight clothes. I saw groups of teenage boys and girls mingling in trendy cafes late into the night, displaying expensive cell phones. There were plenty of mosques, but almost every neighborhood had a large church or two with crosses figured prominently in the Damascus skyline. As I walked near the Old City, I was surprised to find entire streets lined with large stone and marble churches. At night, all of the crosses atop these churches were lit up, outlined with blue fluorescent lighting, visible for miles; and in some parts of the Damascus skyline these blue crosses even outnumbered the green-lit minarets of mosques. Historic synagogues were also accessible and well-kept in the small Jewish quarter of Old City Damascus and in the famous National Museum.
More surprising than the presence of prominent brightly lit churches, was the number of restaurant bars and alcohol kiosks clustered around the many city squares. One could get two varieties of Syrian-made beer, or a few international selections like Heineken or Amstel, with relative ease. The older central neighborhoods, as well as the more upscale modern suburbs, had a common theme: endless numbers of restaurants filled with carefree Syrians, partying late into the night with poker cards, boisterous discussion, alcohol, hookah smoke, cigarettes, and elaborate oriental pastries and desserts. I got to know local Syrians while frequenting random restaurants during my first few weeks in Damascus. I came into contact with people representative of Syria’s ethnically and religiously diverse capital city: Christians, Sunni Muslims, Alawites, Druze, Kurds, Armenians, Palestinians, and a number of Arab atheists. The characterization of Syrian city life that increasingly came to my mind during my first, and many subsequent visits and extended stays, was of Syria as a consciously pluralistic and secular society.
Syrian cities (and government organizations) are very much like Iraq before the war: neighborhoods are mixed, and people don’t identify themselves primarily along sectarian lines; “I am Syrian” or “I am Iraqi” is typically as far as you’ll get with “identity” type discourse. In fact, it is generally considered rude to even inquire of a person’s particular religious or ethnic background in daily conversation (much as it is in most parts of the world). The secularist, pluralist, and “Syrian first” attitude, more palpably experienced in urban centers, was a far cry from the simple caricature of “passionate, sectarian, conservative Islamic society” I’d been given while in the Marines and by American culture in general.
I certainly witnessed plenty of examples of Islamic conservatism in Syrian public life, but it was the secular and pluralistic (represented in the diverse population living side by side) aspect that always seemed to dominate, whether I was in Damascus, Homs, Aleppo, or coastal areas like Tartus. Syria’s committed secular identify was confirmed to me more than ever when I first traveled the freeway that wraps around Mt. Qasyoon—the small mountain against which the Damascus urban center is nestled. My speeding taxi passed a couple of expansive foreign car dealerships, but most prominent were a seeming myriad number of windowless entertainment venues, structured like residential mansions, lining both sides of the road. My taxi driver laughed at my perplexed expression and informed me that this was “brothel row” (my translation)—a place where guys go to drink and have their pick of East European, Syrian, and Iraqi women.
When I later got to know a group of Syrian Christian guys—enough to where I could ask potentially awkward or embarrassing questions—they confirmed, with some degree of shame, that all big cities in Syria have their seedy underbellies (“like your Nevada,” my friend Michel said). Places like brothels and “pick-up bars” were allowed to operate in public, but didn’t necessarily advertise what they were about. It was explained to me that while the Syrian government was deeply authoritarian in some respects, it generally allowed (and enforced) openness in social and religious areas unparalleled anywhere in the Middle East. I was told by many Syrians and Iraqis that Iraqi society had been little different from Syria prior to U.S. occupation. Most blamed the Americans and Western powers for the religious nature of Iraq’s resulting civil war, and the ultra-conservative path of the competing sects.
Syrian Ba’ath society, like pre-invasion Iraq, was never ideal; yet, it certainly escapes the many false stereotypes that have come to define the American outlook on the region. Baghdad was very much like Damascus prior to the American invasion: Iraqi nationalism, regardless of sectarian creed, was the organizing principle of the secular Ba’ath state. It is a tragic shame that those U.S. personnel sent to occupy Iraq never got to experience the country before the 2003 invasion. They would have learned the important reality: “We coexisted peacefully for centuries, and need neither brutal dictators nor western intervention.”
LR Editor’s Note: This is a must-read from Dr. Srdja Trifkovic of Chronicles Magazine. Dr. Trifkovic is the foreign affairs expert for The Rockford Institute, and has been featured on RT News and Al-Jazeera. He’s authored multiple books on Islam, the Balkans, and Middle East conflict. His June 14 article “The Ever More Complex Levantine Puzzle” offers a devastating critique of Ambassador Robert Ford’s championing of the Syrian rebel cause.
Chronicles Magazine – “Both Mr. Assad and the jihadists represent a challenge to the United States’ core interests,” former U.S. Ambassador in Damascus Robert S. Ford wrote in The New York Times on June 10. He advocated a strategy that would supposedly deal with both Bashar al-Assad and the jihadists: “with partner countries from the Friends of Syria group like France, Britain, Germany, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, we must ramp up sharply the training and material aid provided to the moderates in the armed opposition.”
Decrying Washington’s “hesitation and unwillingness to commit to enabling the moderate opposition fighters to fight more effectively both the jihadists and the regime,” Ambassador Ford advocated providing his unnamed Syrian “moderates” with advanced military hardware, including “mortars and rockets to pound airfields to impede regime air supply operations and, subject to reasonable safeguards, surface-to-air missiles.”
Ford’s article is irresponsible and ill-informed at best. It was published on the very day the insurgents belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (also known as “ISIS” to include Syria) started its spectacular advance on Mosul, Tikrit, and points further south. Even more surreally dangerous were the BloombergView editors, who urged (also on June 10) an outright, American-led anti-Assad intervention: “the U.S. and its European and regional allies should take the initiative to circumvent the UN Security Council and put the needed military muscle on the ground. Yes, Russia and China will be furious. So be it.” Now that would be a bold strategy, with many exciting ramifications in Ukraine, along the shores of the South China Sea, and elsewhere. With their gas supplies in balance, “the European allies” can hardly wait.
Ambassador Ford has wisely stayed out of the news over the past couple of days, but it would be interesting to find out if he still stands by the assessment he made four days ago. Does he still advocate arming the Free Syrian Army (FSA) “moderates,” who have been comprehensively routed by the Syrian security forces and who no longer exist as a fighting force? That same FSA, whose units invariably melt away – Iraqi-army-style – whenever confronted with the warriors of jihad, and who have observed a truce with ISIS since late September 2013? To claim that its pathetic remnant can be trained, armed and equipped to the point where it would be able take on Bashar’s army and ISIS simultaneously is insane. Or does Ford have the murderous Al Nusra Front in mind, jihadist to boot, which is a battlefield rival to ISIS and hence perhaps worthy of being treated as a “moderate” force? That same Al Nusra which is currently spreading its reign of terror into Lebanon?
And how exactly would be those surface-to-air missiles subjected to Ford’s “reasonable safeguards”? Perhaps like 400 such missiles were safeguarded in Libya in September 2012, only to end up “in the hands of some very ugly people”? Not to mention thousands of others, which remain unaccounted for; and not to speculate on the vast, yet unknown quantities of U.S.-supplied weapons and ordnance – probably including anti-aircraft missiles – which have fallen into the hands of ISIS fighters in Mosul and Tikrit…
Does Ambassador Ford still advocate working with “our partners” which are funding ISIS, the group which “was built and grown for years with the help of elite donors from American supposed allies in the Persian Gulf region”? The same ones whom al-Maliki has been publicly accusing for months of supporting ISIS? In particular, does Ford still advocate cooperating with that same desert kingdom which, in addition to ISIS, has given us endless other woes around the globe? As Robert Fisk, one of the best informed Middle East analysts in existence, commented in The Independent on June 12, “after the grotesquerie of the Taliban and Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 suicide killers of 9/11, meet Saudi Arabia’s latest monstrous contribution to world history: the Islamist Sunni caliphate of Iraq and the Levant, conquerors of Mosul and Tikrit – and Raqqa in Syria – and possibly Baghdad, and the ultimate humiliators of Bush and Obama”:
From Aleppo in northern Syria almost to the Iraqi-Iranian border, the jihadists of Isis and sundry other groupuscules paid by the Saudi Wahhabis – and by Kuwaiti oligarchs – now rule thousands of square miles. Apart from Saudi Arabia’s role in this catastrophe, what other stories are to be hidden from us in the coming days and weeks?
Fisk rightly points out that “the story of Iraq and the story of Syria are the same – politically, militarily and journalistically: two leaders, one Shia, the other Alawite, fighting for the existence of their regimes against the power of a growing Sunni Muslim international army.” In that conflict, various Sunni ruling oligarchies in Riyadh and around the Gulf – most of them with substantial Shia populations – see their own broader picture in terms of an existential Sunni-Shia regional contest, in which their sympathies (and money, and arms) are invariably with the forces of “orthodox” jihad. The United States government needs to publically acknowledge this ill-guarded secret before any meaningful U.S. counter-strategy can be devised and developed.
Left to their own devices, those royal aiders and abettors of ISIS will not change their ways. Even the strange spectacle of ISIS joining forces with the Baathist remnant in northwestern Iraq is unlikely to sway Kuwait – the victim of Saddam’s aggression in 1991 – and terminate its role as a financing and organizational hub for ISIS and other Sunni jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq. It would be incongruous for the United States to treat Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Qatar, Bahrein, and Kuwait as “partners” while they continue supporting such groups, and at the same time to support Al Maliki against ISIS on the Iraqi front… and to continue insisting on Bashar’s removal on the Syrian flank.
Image: Must be seen to believe – screenshot of FP’s article literally titled, “Two Cheers for Syrian Islamists.”
LR Editor’s Note: This is an excellent article in Global Research originally published 24 August 2012. Author Tony Cartalucci highlighted an enduring theme of the conflict in Syria: the media, foreign policy establishment (Washington think tanks, etc…), and the US government have consistently defended and supported Syria’s Islamist radicals. With jihadists now suddenly surging into Iraq, the media labels them terrorists. “Freedom fighters” in Syria and “terrorists” in Iraq? Read the below shocking report in light of events currently unfolding in Iraq.
Foreign Policy published a recent article literally titled, “Two Cheers for Syrian Islamists.” In it, general editor of the Neo-Con Middle East Forum Gary Gambill concedes that the Syrian government “would not be in the trouble it’s in today were it not for the Islamists,” revealing what the West and its media houses have attempted but failed at obfuscating – that the violence in Syria is the work of sectarian extremists, not “pro-democracy activists.” The latter’s existence was amplified by the Western media specifically to provide cover and legitimacy for the violence and subversion of the former.
Gambill continues his “two cheers” for terrorism in perhaps the most perverse statement found to-date in the Western press on the subject:
“Islamists — many of them hardened by years of fighting U.S. forces in Iraq — are simply more effective fighters than their secular counterparts. Assad has had extraordinary difficulty countering tactics perfected by his former jihadist allies, particularly suicide bombings and roadside bombs.”
Gambill is gushingly praising men who have killed Western troops, admiring their prowess on the battlefield through their use of indiscriminate terrorist tactics which have killed and maimed tens of thousands of civilians across the Arab World.
The Big Lie
Gambill continues by stating, “The Sunni Islamist surge may also be essential to inflicting a full-blown strategic defeat on Iran,” before concluding at length as to why the US should support terrorism in Syria:
“For the foreseeable future, however, Iran constitutes a far greater and more immediate threat to U.S. national interests. Whatever misfortunes Sunni Islamists may visit upon the Syrian people, any government they form will be strategically preferable to the Assad regime, for three reasons: A new government in Damascus will find continuing the alliance with Tehran unthinkable, it won’t have to distract Syrians from its minority status with foreign policy adventurism like the ancien régime, and it will be flush with petrodollars from Arab Gulf states (relatively) friendly to Washington.
So long as Syrian jihadis are committed to fighting Iran and its Arab proxies, we should quietly root for them — while keeping our distance from a conflict that is going to get very ugly before the smoke clears. There will be plenty of time to tame the beast after Iran’s regional hegemonic ambitions have gone down in flames. ” –Gary Gambill, “Two Cheers for Syrian Islamists,” (2012)
In this, Gambill divulges the true agenda behind destabilizing Syria – the isolation and undermining of Iran to the east, and Hezbollah in Lebanon to the West. Gambill also mentions the destruction of Syria as a means of realigning Iraq to US interests.
Gambill disingenuously claims that the US can do “little about” what he calls the “political ascendancy” of these sectarian extremists, portraying the rise of violence across the Levant and the miraculous resurrection of the Muslim Brotherhood across the Arab World as coincidentally aligned to American interests, and something that should be allowed, even encouraged, to run its course.
Gambill fails to mention, however, that this “political ascendancy” was planned, funded, armed, and organized by the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia as far back as 2007, according to a detailed, 9-page report published by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker titled “The Redirection.”
In the report, it explicitly states:
“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.” –Seymour Hersh, The Redirection (2007)
Hersh’s report would also include:
“the Saudi government, with Washington’s approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad, of Syria. The Israelis believe that putting such pressure on the Assad government will make it more conciliatory and open to negotiations.” –Seymour Hersh, The Redirection (2007)
In essence, Gambill’s gushing support for terrorism – and in particular, terrorists who have fought and killed Americans – is but the latest in an attempt to spin and repackage Al Qaeda and the fraudulent “War on Terror” as public awareness outgrows the fallacious “humanitarian pretenses” the operation has been couched within hitherto.
Gambill’s material support for terrorism echos a recent article titled, “Al-Qaeda’s Specter in Syria,” published by the Council on Foreign Relations, a premier Fortune 500-funded US think-tank, which stated:
“The Syrian rebels would be immeasurably weaker today without al-Qaeda in their ranks. By and large, Free Syrian Army (FSA) battalions are tired, divided, chaotic, and ineffective. Feeling abandoned by the West, rebel forces are increasingly demoralized as they square off with the Assad regime’s superior weaponry and professional army. Al-Qaeda fighters, however, may help improve morale. The influx of jihadis brings discipline, religious fervor, battle experience from Iraq, funding from Sunni sympathizers in the Gulf, and most importantly, deadly results. In short, the FSA needs al-Qaeda now.”
Why is Gambill Writing This?
Consider the audience of Foreign Policy. It is not propaganda fit for the masses. Rather it is for aspiring, as well as low to mid-level members of the global corporate-financier establishment. Western involvement in both Libya and Syria have undermined the governments, institutions, and organizations many of these people work for, and as public awareness (and anger) grows, it will be these low to mid-level members who bear the brunt of the system’s collapsing legitimacy. Many are already expressing doubts over the viability and nature of the West’s global agenda as it unfolds.
It must be remembered that the terrorists Gambill is “cheering” for had ensnared millions of Western troops for over a decade in the so-called “War on Terror.” It has killed thousands of troops, tens of thousands were maimed both physically and psychologically, and hundreds of thousands have forever lost time they could have spent at home with their loved ones. As public awareness grows of Western support for these very terrorists, it would be almost inconceivable that there would not be a profound, perhaps even violent backlash against people like Gambill and the establishment he represents.
Gambill’s cheerleading is designed to rally the lower ranks of the establishment around this new narrative as he and fellow warmongers attempt to flee forward through Syria and then into Iran. Eventually, the reckless promotion of terrorism Gambill and others are committed to will once again call US soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen into harms way – either to fight nations defending themselves against US-sponsored terrorism, or to liquidate US-supported terrorists when their services are longer needed.
Gambill by causally saying, “there will be plenty of time to tame the beast after Iran’s regional hegemonic ambitions have gone down in flames,” means specifically more US troops will be deployed, and will most certainly die, all in the pursuit of corporate-financier interests in the Middle East. Gambill specifically refers to “hegemonic ambitions,” not any conceivable threat to US defense, as the impetus for cheering on terrorism, a theme that is omnipresent throughout US policy papers on Iran.
Legendary US Marine Corps General Smedley Butler once said “war is a racket.” For an increasing number of people worldwide, they are beginning to understand why.