MISSION ACCOMPLISHED? If Saddam were still alive, the US would beg him to return to power

A nice infographic from McClatchy DC.

Some analysts have asserted that ISIS had no comprehensive plan, but merely desired to sow death and destruction in Syria. For this reason, Western countries, as well as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and NATO member Turkey, did not make too much of a fuss about ISIS. More shocking is that there is growing evidence that ISIS directly benefited from Western-Gulf aid to the Syrian rebels. Looking at the below map of recently acquired ISIS territory, it looks like they have a very clear plan for long-term financing.

Embedded image permalinkIt is well-known that NATO member Turkey has long kept an open border policy for Islamist insurgents, including Nusra Front and other Al-Qaeda aligned groups, to freely access Northern Syria.

The above image is currently being circulated among international Syria analysts. It purports to show ISIS commander Mazen Ebu Muhammed being treated in a hospital in Antakya, Turkey (Antioch) on April 16, 2014. This raises some serious questions about whether ISIS has outside state sponsorship.

Cui bono? ISIS has been the fiercest enemy of the Kurdish groups in Eastern Syria. The Syrian government has been content to leave the Kurds alone, seeing in them an ally against extremism. Christian militias have also linked up with the Kurds for the sake of mutual survival. This explains Turkey’s willingness to tolerate and help groups like ISIS, Nusra, and Islamic Front. Turkey has been using extremists to cleanse the borderlands of hated Kurds, Armenians, and Syriacs -leftovers from genocides of 1915 and 1990’s.

Saudi Arabia gains by having ISIS tear through Iraq. The Saudis are deeply resentful of Iraq’s pro-Shia, Iran aligned government. For Saudi Arabia, the consequences of the American led regime change in Iraq were disastrous, as it opened a corridor of Shia hegemony straight from Iran to the Mediterranean (Iran-Iraq-Syria-Hezbollah). The Maliki dictatorship has been oppressive and intolerable for Iraq’s sizeable Sunni minority, hence the reports of Iraqi Army conscripts abandoning their weapons and uniforms as ISIS approached Mosul this past weekend.

All external actors of the Gulf-NATO-Israel alliance have been quite OK with ISIS and other extremists operating in Syria. Collectively the Syrian insurgency can be likened to a pit bull: train a dog up to kill and then let it off the leash… but there’s no telling if it’ll come back to bite you. Various states have unleashed their pit bulls on Syria for various motives -it’s primarily the Western powers that have underestimated the extent of the mess.

This week and next, American politicians and media pundits will be expressing their outrage that Bin Ladenite radicals have taken over much of Iraq. Yet these same voices have been cheerleading for the Syrian rebels over the past three years. The CIA and Saudi death squads have gotten loose, and it hasn’t been the first time in recent history.

But the constant and consistent failure of US foreign policy isn’t the real story here. The real story is the immense and unimaginable sufferings of common Iraqi and Syrian people as their states are destabilized through never-ending interventionism.

 

ISIS overruns Iraq’s second largest city, Western media suddenly concerned that Qaeda flags flying over Iraq, but OK with AQ in Syria

2014 photo posted on ISIS media account, Syria watchers say the weapon is a Croatian RBG-6 grenade launcher, a weapon supplied to the Syrian rebels through the Saudi and CIA effort to transfer Balkan weapons to Syrian jihadists

From CBSnews.com coverage:

The fight for Mosul was a heavy defeat in Baghdad’s battle against a widening insurgency by a breakaway al Qaeda group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has been trying – with some success – to seize territory both in Iraq and neighboring Syria.

Earlier this year, the group captured another Iraqi city, Fallujah, in the west of the country, and government forces have been unable to take it back after months of fighting. The far larger Mosul is an even more strategic prize. The city and surrounding Ninevah province are a major export route for Iraqi oil and a gateway to Syria.

Regaining Mosul poses a daunting challenge for al-Maliki. The city has a Sunni Muslim majority and many in the community are already deeply embittered against his Shiite-led government. During the nearly nine-year American presence in the country, Mosul was a major stronghold for al Qaeda and U.S. and Iraqi forces carried out repeated offensives there, regaining a semblance of control but never routing the insurgents entirely.

Islamic militants and Iraqi troops have been fighting for days in Mosul. But Monday night and into early Tuesday, the government forces in the city appeared to collapse.

Insurgents overran the Ninevah provincial government building in the city – a key symbol of state control – in the evening, and security forces fled many of their posts. The fighters stormed police stations, bases and prisons, capturing weapons and freeing prisoners.

ISIS (or alternately ISIL: Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) gained its immense strength fighting in Syria, where it enjoyed the benefits of being allied with those awash in American/Qatari/Saudi cash and weapons. I’ve watched some of their propaganda videos and can’t help but notice how professional they are in terms of their gear, technology, online media presence, and general bearing and appearance. ISIS has all the marks of outside state sponsorship -likely Saudi intelligence with remote help from CIA, as both entities are part of the same network of training/funding for the Syrian insurgency.

Though ISIS has been chiefly battling Nusra and FSA groups over the past year, it also has a history of fighting alongside so-called “moderate” Syrian groups depending on geography and circumstance. See Oxford scholar and Middle East analyst Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi:

Another prominent FSA battalion in the Aleppo area with which ISIS generally maintains cordial relations is Liwa al-Tawhid, whose ideological orientation is in line with that of the Ikhwan.[59] In July 2013, rumors began circulating–in origin from pro-Supreme Military Command circles (affiliated with General Salim Idriss)–that the rebel icon from Jarabulus, Abu Furat, had been killed by “Islamists” (i.e., JN/ISIS). However, Liwa al-Tawhid soon issued a statement denying that this was so, describing such rumors as an attempt by Western powers to stir up fitna(discord) in rebel ranks through the Arabic news channel al-Arabiya.[60] More recently, an image was put out showing a member of Liwa al-Tawhid in Aleppo engaging in a friendly arm-wrestling match with an ISIS fighter (Appendix, Figure 10).

Like the mujahideen in Afghanistan, the Syrian battlefield has seen constant shifting rebel alliances. See this report:

Cooperation between the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) and al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, continues even as the FSA tries to obtain more American arms.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, an FSA element, has teamed up with Jabhat al-Nusra in recent weeks in attempts to capture strategic hilltops in Syria’s southwestern Quneitra province overlooking the Israel-held Golan Heights.

“The FSA and Nusra Front are cooperating on the front line,” Abu Omar Golani, the Syrian Revolutionaries Front’s media coordinator, told the Journal.

The idea that the various Al-Qaeda groups among the Syrian insurgents are somehow distinct from a supposedly secular and moderate FSA is a myth promoted in Western propaganda. The US government is now openly admitting to funding, training, and weaponizing the Syrian rebels; simply put, the US government is providing material support to Al-Qaeda and its allies.

But what’s funny is that with the ISIS takeover of Fallujah and Mosul, Western politicians and media are expressing outrage that the AQ flag could be flying over Iraqi cities. Yet it was NATO supported AQ fighters who were the first in history to fly the AQ flag over the Mediterranean during the Kessab offensive (the Armenian Christian town in the news a few months ago).

The day was March 29, 2014 – US/NATO backed Qaeda death squads, after cleansing Kessab of its Christian and civilian population, posed for a shot over the Mediterranean. There was not a peep about this historic photo, which was posted on jihadi websites and circulated widely among professional Syria analysts:

 

Professor As’ad Abukhalil (of Angry Arab News Service) stated the obvious in January …don’t expect the mainstream media to present such clear and obvious commentary:

In Iraq, the US is arming the government against the rebels.  In Syria, the US is arming the rebels against the government.  But here is the irony: the rebels in Iraq are allies of the rebels in Syria, while the Iraqi government is aligned with the government of Syria.  Figure it out.

 

Financing Terrorism: a gentle reminder that American taxpayers have been paying the salaries of Syrian insurgents since at least Spring 2012 – this is not just a Saudi thing

It never ceases to amaze me how well managed the “War on Terror” narrative of the US government is when it comes to Saudi Arabia. Even though nearly all of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi, the kingdom managed to escape scrutiny as the War on Terror became a renewed and driving theme in US foreign policy.

Saudi Arabia has, since the 1970’s, exported its Wahhabi radicals abroad as the unofficial arm of its foreign policy aims. This has always served a two-fold purpose: the utilization of very effective fighters in proxy wars while maintaining plausible deniability (early 1980’s Afghanistan for example), and “redirecting” homegrown radicals away from Saudi institutions for the security of the monarchy (no more messy Mecca takeovers, as in 1979).

This much is obvious to those that care to scratch the surface of recent Saudi history: Saudi Arabia is a state sponsor of terror, and is so quite openly. What is less obvious to most in the West is that the US and Britain have been, and still are, willing partners in this game (going back to at least the Carter administration). Cold War era US support for Sunni extremism in Central Asia is an old story. But many still fail to realize that it is a continuing story in places like Syria, Lebanon, Libya, and North Africa. The US has thrown in with the Sunni terrorists for sake of repelling the perceived Shia menace and any designated “rogue” state.

In Syria the US not only funnels weapons to multiple Sunni rebel groups – all of them confessing jihad in varying degrees – but even pays the salaries of Free Syrian Army fighters. This was talked about quite openly as far back as April 2012. In an April 1, 2012 article, the New York Times reported the following:

Still, the offer to provide salaries and communications equipment to rebel fighters known as the Free Syrian Army — with the hopes that the money might encourage government soldiers to defect, officials said — is bringing the loose Friends of Syria coalition to the edge of a proxy war against Mr. Assad’s government and its international supporters, principally Iran and Russia.

The US cannot even be considered an “indirect” actor in this war. Again, the US quite openly pays the salaries of anti-regime insurgents; thus, the US doesn’t just have “skin in the game” (as Hilary Clinton called for last October), it employs its own mercenaries.

As multiple Levant Report articles have pointed out, there is little separation between the FSA and officially designated terrorists like Al-Nusra Front. Even the very prominent and more mainstream Syria Comment website has chronicled many historical instances of FSA cooperation with Al-Nusra, ISIS, and the more recently established Islamic Front. All of these groups and more are official (and some unofficial) arms of US/Saudi foreign policy.

It must be further noted that the “Free Syrian Army” was a ruse from the beginning. The FSA was created and financed as an acceptable face of the “revolution” while the real muscle on the ground has always been Sunni radical militants and foreign fighters. The FSA was just a command structure artificially imposed over a myriad of jihadi groups, all with shifting alliances (one historical comparison along purely organizational lines is the Palestine Liberation Organization – it had always been referenced as a single entity, yet was an umbrella organization identifiable by its command structure layer at the top).

For those that read Arabic, a brief history of how the FSA served as a front group for foreign-backed radical death squads from the very beginning of the uprising can be found here (we at Levant Report are working on translating this important article). For those that don’t read Arabic – one can merely read the near daily admissions of Syrian opposition leaders in English. On Tuesday (3/18/14) a chief spokesman for the Syrian opposition spoke to the New York Times:

Mr. Bahra also said that the opposition’s Free Syrian Army was overhauling its leadership and that the United States could help by turning over the training and equipping of rebel fighters to the Pentagon.

“We want it to be within the Defense Department,” he said. “It has bigger resources to provide and knows how to do the military operations better than the other branches.”

The Obama administration has been providing nonlethal assistance through the State Department, and the C.I.A. has been mounting a limited effort to train and arm rebel fighters.

So now the Syrian opposition and affiliated terrorist groups are “department shopping” and hoping to drop State and go directly under the Pentagon. My dear fellow Americans, this is our tax dollars at work… remember this the next time our media or government tries to tell you that America stands against terrorism. This madness must end.

Resurgence of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Fuelled by Saudi Arabia

by Zayd Alisa, Global Research March, 3, 2014

Iraq, more than two years after the U.S. withdrawal, and nearly a decade after the U.S. forces ousted Al Qaida in Iraq AQI from Falluja, is still grappling with not merely an escalating sectarian crisis between the Shia-led government and an increasingly disaffected Sunni minority, but, even more menacingly, AQI’s- relabelled itself as the Islamic state in Iraq and Levant ISIS – takeover of parts of Ramadi and Falluja in the notoriously rebellious Suni-dominated Anbar province. And while the Iraqi army managed to regain parts of – the provincial capital – Ramadi, it has so far spectacularly failed to make any headway in Falluja.

Although, the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, has repeatedly warned that the army was on the verge of storming Falluja, nonetheless he has so far refrained, fearing that civilian casualties would trigger a fierce backlash by tribal leaders backing the army. Maliki, on Feb. 5, asserted that the only way to avoid a full-scale assault, was accepting an amnesty declared on Feb. 9, by Anbar’s Governor, Ahmed Al Dulaimi- which offered militants one week to lay down their weapons. But despite the end of the deadline, military action has not yet materialised. It is doubtless that 2013 witnessed a dramatic surge in deadly violence, yet, it is no where near the 2006-2007 levels.

That is largely due to the fact that despite a relentless campaign – which has overwhelmingly targeted the Shia majority – aimed at provoking a tit for tat retaliatory attacks by the Shia militias, it has, at least for now, spectacularly failed. In retaliation to the killing of dozens of soldiers on Dec. 21, and in preparation for the looming general elections in Apr. 2014, the army bombed AQI camps, arrested Ahmed Al-Alwani, a sunni MP – who was wanted for terrorism charges – and then on Dec. 30, dismantled the protest camp in Ramadi.

While AQI and Sunni tribal leaders opened fire on the Army, the speaker of the parliament Osama Al-Nujaifi, and his Sunni bloc Mutahidoon – part of the Sunni-dominated Iraqiya bloc – explicitly demanded the immediate withdrawal of the army from Falluja and Ramadi. But, as Maliki withdrew the army, AQI scrambled to seize the two cities. Without doubt, Maliki’s decision was – militarily speaking – a grave mistake, however it has manifested that: First, AQI had not only a highly significant presence in the protest camp, but even more alarmingly, it was heavily armed. Second, the local police in Anbar were at best utterly incompetent, but at worst colluding with AQI. Additionally, Maliki’s decision has also led to: First, it has driven a majorwedge between Sunni tribal leaders. While, Ahmed Abu Reasha, has emphatically backed the army, Ali HatemSuliaman, has formed the Falluja Military Council to fight the Iraqi Army. Second, the sight of AQI sweeping into Falluja and Ramadi, both the scene of America’s fiercest battles, has undeniably jolted the Obama administration to sharply expedite shipments of desperately needed weapons.

Ever since the overthrow of Saddam’s regime in 2003, the Saudi regime has been emphatically hostile towards Iraq. This has been largely due to its deeply entrenched fear that the success of democracy in Iraq would undoubtedly inspire its own people. Another reason is the deeply rooted hatred – by Saudi Arabia’s extremist Wahhabi Salafi religious establishment – towards the Shia. The Saudi regime also accuses Maliki, of giving Iran a freehand to dramatically intensify its influence in Iraq. The Saudi regime has made no secret that its overriding priority is to severely undermine what it perceives as highly perilous and yet growing Iranian influence.

Even though the Saudi regime vehemently opposed U.S. pull out from Iraq, nevertheless in Dec. 2011, Syria rather than Iraq became Saudi Arabia’s principal target for regime change. The Saudi regime has consistently considered the Syrian regime of Bashar Al Assad, an irreplaceable strategic ally to its primary foe Iran. The Saudis moved swiftly to shore up the armed insurgents by deploying its intelligence services, whose instrumental role in establishing Jabhat Al Nusra JN was highlighted in an intelligence review released in Paris in January 2013. The Saudi regime also used its huge influence and leverage on not only Sunni tribal leaders in western Iraq, but also on Saudi members of AQI, convincing it that its principal battlefield must be Syria and that its ultimate goal should be deposing Bashar Al Assad’s Alawite regime, since its overthrow would break the back-bone of the Iraqi Shia-led government and inevitably loosen Iran’s grip on Iraq.

The New York Times reported on October 14, 2012, that most of the weapons shipped by Saudi Arabia and Qatar were going to hard-line jihadists in Syria, thereby explaining how JN swiftly rose to prominence in Syria. The New York Times also reported on Sept. 12, 2013 that the Saudi regime dramatically stepped up its arming to the rebels, hoping to enable them to capitalise on a much-anticipated U.S. military strikes in retaliation to a chemical attack on a Damascus suburb. However, the Saudi regime was deeply rattled by Obama’s stunning change of heart: Not only pulling back from launching military strikes against Syria, but, far more devastating, actively pursuing diplomacy to resolve Iran’s highly contentious nuclear programme. In response, On Oct. 23, 2013, Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi intelligence chief reportedly told E.U. diplomats that Saudi Arabia is hell bent on scaling back its co-operation with the U.S. on the all-important issue of arming Syrian rebels.

Among the primary reasons for the strikingly extraordinary resurgence of AQI are the following:

First, the torrent of funding, arming, logistical support and salaries provided by Saudi Arabia to extremist groups in Syria have not only turned JN – which according to Abu Baker Al Baghdadi’s head of AQI, declaration in Apr. 2013: Is merely an extension of AQI, and Al Julani head of JN, is one of AQI’s foot-solders. Adding, that all the resources were shared between AQI and JN – Salafi Wahhabi group into the most potent killing machine in Syria, but also dramatically reviving, if not, vaulting AQI’s power and influence to levels that surmounts its peak strength in 2006-07.

Second, the appointment of Bandar bin Sultan, as the new intelligence chief in Jul. 2012, was primarily designed to ratchet up Saudi Arabia’s faltering efforts in Syria. In Bandar’s eyes overthrowing the Syrian regime was highly unachievable without initially destabilising Iraq and Lebanon. Thus, AQI was given the green light to restart its intense campaign in Iraq, aimed at ensuring that Iraq is far too busy to prop up the Syrian regime.

Third, the protests, which erupted in Anbar in Dec. 2012, were swiftly highjacked by a number of the Iraqiya bloc leaders and hard-line Sunni clerics. They, not only defiantly refused to negotiate directly or indirectly with the central government, but sought to escalate the protests, which were spurred on by AQI and Saudi Arabia.For AQI, the ongoing protests were a golden opportunity for more radicalisation, recruitment and ultimately reactivating the safe havens that originally existed in those areas.Saudi Arabia in turn, enthusiastically trumpeted these protests as incontrovertible evidence from the horse’s mouth that Iraq is adopting discriminatory policies. Andexploited the protests to intensify its blatant meddling under the perfect pretext of responding to appeals made by Sunni leaders. The Saudi Foreign minister in Jan. 2013, chillingly warned that Iraq will not stabilise unless it ceases embracing sectarian extremism.

Four, as part of the Saudi regime’s strenuous attempts to stave off an internal uprising, especially after its patently deceitful myth of being the guardian of Sunni Islam has unravelled – largely due to the Saudi regime’s full-blown support to the tyrannical regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen against the Sunnis in these countries. It has been working tirelessly to ratchet up sectarian strife in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Therefore, paving the way for AQI to ignite a regional sectarian war, enabling it to demonstrate to its increasingly disenfranchised people that it is heavily engaged in combating an existential threat from the Shia, namely Iran. Five, of course, the spiralling conflict in Syria has dramatically emboldened the Sunni minority in Iraq. All of these factors underscore the inescapable reality that Saudi Arabia’s virulently sectarian geo-policies are behind the resurgence of AQI.

According to Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham narrative: Maliki’s policy of discriminating against the Sunni minority revived AQI. This narrative holds no water for deliberately ignoring the following facts:

First, AQI was also heavily active in the same Sunni safeheavens, during the premiership of both Ayad Allawi- a secular Shia – and then Ibrahim Al Jaffari.

Second, the Sunni minority has persistently been in power since 1920, but it was during the Baathist era, and specifically under Saddam’s rule, almost exclusively calling the shots in Iraq. No wonder, the Sunnis regard the prominent positions – Vice President, Deputy Prime Minister, Finance Minister and seven more ministries – as woefully inadequate.

Third, Sunni leaders have adamantly refused to accept the unavoidable reality that the Shia are the indisputable majority in Iraq -Nujaifi has even claimed, on Al Jazeera TV in Qatar, that the Sunnis are the majority. Four, despite Sunni claims that Article 4 of the terrorism law has unfairly been targeting them, it was, however, the Shia cities of Basra, Amarah, and Sadr city which, experienced in 2008, the strictest implementation of anti-terror laws.

This narrative sends out the highly perilous message to all ethnic and religious minorities: It is perfectly justifiable for marginalised minorities to join terrorist groups like AQI and turn their areas into a safeheaven and a launch-pad for suicide bombers to indiscriminately slaughter thousands of innocent civilians – for belonging to the majority – to bring the government to its knees. That was indeed Al Qaida’s narrative for bombing New York, London, Madrid and now Baghdad.