MY INITIAL REPORTING on the DIA memo that in 2012 predicts that the West would fuel the rise of “an Islamic State” in Syria caused enough of a global media stir that it prompted DIA Public Affairs to respond to my questions.
But as Middle East Eye reported, the DIA’s response was disappointing yet still somewhat revealing:
When asked repeatedly by journalist and ex-US marine Brad Hoff to dispel claims that the West aligned itself with IS or ISIS at some point in Syria, the DIA’s official response was telling: “No comment.”
While major foreign media like The Guardian, The Sunday Times of London, Der Spiegel, RT News, UK Daily Mail, and London Review of Books ran stories and prominent editorials that featured serious discussion of the document, their mainstream media equivalents in the U.S. didn’t touch it. To my knowledge, outlets like CNN, FOX, NBC, Newsweek, NPR, Washington Post, etc… have yet to even quote from the specific document either through broadcast or even in online articles.
Perhaps it will take hearing from the chief of the DIA that was in place at the time the intelligence report was drafted to finally inform the broader American public?
Thankfully, this will happen in a forthcoming Al Jazeera English interview with retired US Lt. General Michael Flynn, former head of the Pentagon’s DIA and senior intelligence officer with the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). Al Jazeera’s press release announcing the interview entitled “Is the US to blame for ISIL?” indicates that Flynn is asked specifically about the document in the prerecorded show set to air July 31:
Publicly commenting for the first time on a previously-classified August 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) memo, which had predicted “the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in Eastern Syria (…) this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want” and confirmed that “the Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and [Al Qaeda in Iraq] are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria,” the former DIA chief told Head to Head that “the [Obama] Administration” didn’t “listen” to these warnings issued by his agency’s analysts.
“I don’t know if they turned a blind eye,” he said. “I think it was a decision, I think it was a willful decision.”
“Is the US to blame for ISIL?”with Michael Flynn will be broadcast on Friday 31st July at 20.00 GMT and will be repeated on Saturday 1st August at 12.00 GMT, Saturday 2nd August at 01.00 GMT and Monday 3rd August at 06.00 GMT.
For continuing coverage of the DIA Islamic State document, follow Taylor Tyler’s excellent reporting at Headline and Global News.
Steven Chovanec is an independent geopolitical analyst and writer based in Chicago, IL. He is a student of International Studies and Sociology at Roosevelt University and conducts independent, open-source research into geopolitics and social issues. His writings can be found at undergroundreports.blogspot.com, find him on Twitter @stevechovanec. (Above Image: Shutterstock)
by Steven Chovanec
THE FACT THAT THE US can find only 60 Syrian rebels to train is quite telling.
It means that out of nearly 18 million Syrians (reduced by 4 million since the start of the conflict) the US could only find 60 that were willing to fight against the Syrian Army, only 60.(1)
In other words, only an increase of ~0.000333% of the Syrian population is deemed “moderate” by the US and willing to fight. The military is currently in the process of vetting 7,000 volunteers, so if we assume that all of them will pass inspection, that will amount to a mere ~0.039222% of the population. A far cry from 0.1%, let alone 1% of the total inhabitants.
The fact that only 60 can be deemed “moderate” is also quite telling. This coming from a government who deemed the Free Syrian Army, among others, as “moderates.”
In September of 2014, FSA “moderate” commander and recipient of US aid Bassel Idriss admitted that “We are collaborating with the Islamic State and the Nusra Front,” the reason for this being “We have reached a point where we have to collaborate with anyone against unfairness and injustice.”(2)
Back in April of the same year, the leader of the US-backed “moderate” Syrian Revolutionary Front Jamal Maarouf admitted that al-Qaeda was “not our problem” and that his fighters conducted joint operations with al-Nusra. “If the people who support us tell us to send weapons to another group, we send them. They [Jabhat al-Nusra] asked us a month ago to send weapons to Yabroud so we sent a lot of weapons there. When they asked us to do this, we do it.”(3)
One of the most senior “moderate” rebel commanders to be backed by the US and main recipient of Western aid, Col. Okaidi, is seen in a video, which has been authenticated by Joshua Landis of the University of Oklahoma, speaking during interviews saying “My relationship with the brothers in ISIL is good… I communicate almost daily with brothers in ISIL… the relationship is good, even brotherly.”
Okaidi admits al-Qaeda is not any different from the FSA “They [al-Nusra] did not exhibit any abnormal behavior, which is different from that of the FSA.” The video shows Okaidi with ISIS Emir Abu Jandal (right frame below: standing right of Okaidi) celebrating a victory, an ally ISIS fighter shouts “I swear to Allah, O Alawites, we came to slaughter you. Await what you deserve!”(4)
US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford (left frame above, standing by FSA Col. Okaidi), who worked closely with Okaidi, himself admitted to giving material support to ISIS and al-Nusra, stating that he “absolutely does not deny” knowing that most of the rebels he backed fought alongside ISIS and Nusra.(5)
The reason for all of this is simply that, as pointed out by the leading Western journalist in the region, Patrick Cockburn, “In reality, there is no dividing wall between them [ISIS and Nusra] and America’s supposedly moderate opposition allies.” According to Vice President Biden, “there was no moderate middle because the moderate middle are made up of shopkeepers, not soldiers.”(6)
This means that apart from a plethora of substantially foreign terrorist jihadi lunatics, there is no other force willing to fight against the government.
The reasons for this were further articulated by Obama himself, who stated that it was a “fantasy” to think that the US could arm and equip “farmers, dentists, and folks who never fought before” and have them be an effective force against Assad.(7) What is implied here is that ordinary Syrians, actually moderate individuals, have no desire for military action nor are they capable of effectively harnessing it, hence the need to support the extremists, who are. And therefore, as Biden points out, the Wests’ allies “poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons to… al-Nusra and al-Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.” What Biden leaves out is that this was all coordinated under a covert US-led operation.
In reality, these moderates were the peaceful opposition that did not want the destruction of the state but instead desired democratic change, who were then displaced by foreign-backers and terrorist who hijacked their uprising, as is conceded by prominent opposition leaders.(8)
This hijacking was the result of US leaders realizing that the actual moderates only wanted peaceful change, while the West desired the overthrow of the state through any means necessary, including violent takeover, and so therefore “Jihadi groups ideologically close to al-Qaeda have been relabeled as moderate if their actions are deemed supportive of US policy aims,” as Patrick Cockburn rightly points out. The result of this is that “Washington thus allowed advanced weaponry to be handed to its deadliest enemy.”(9)
The recent training of 60 “moderates” is nothing different.
To illustrate this, it’s important to see that this narrative of a moderate opposition stays constant, while the group this label is applied to constantly changes.
Right now this label is being applied to the Southern Front, hailed as the new moderate force America can morally support. However, this group is financed and supported by the Military Operations Centre (MOC) in Amman that is staffed by agents from the US, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, as well as other anti-Assad governments, and according to Syrian expert Aron Lund, “adoption of MOC-provided talking points” of moderation by members of this alliance are likely “to be more opportunistic than heartfelt.”(10)
The reason the US is now training 60 rebels is because every single other rebel group that the US trained, equipped, funded, and marked as “moderate” has gone on to join either al-Qaeda or ISIS. FSA brigades, the Syrian Revolutionary Front, Harakat Hazm, all of them have now defected to al-Qaeda and ISIS.(11)
Image: Moderate Rebels Mock a Christian Soldier—This photo was originally posted online by a Swedish based terror group in Syria after the Summer 2013 rebel offensive against a govt. airbase near Aleppo. A rebel fighter mocks a captured Christian government soldier’s cross. Another photo posted in the original set reveals that the soldier was later tortured by being crushed with a large rock on his chest as he lay on his back.
At every point along the way while receiving US-aid they were branded as “moderates.” After they went on to join ISIS or it became too hard to keep up their “moderate” image, the torch was passed on to a new group, as now it is passed onto the Southern Front, yet “in reality” there was never any “moderate middle” nor is there “a dividing wall between [the extremists] and America’s supposedly moderate opposition allies.”
Therefore we should not be fooled when new rebels “ideologically close to al-Qaeda” are “relabeled as moderate” all because “their actions are deemed supportive of US policy aims”, whether they be the Southern Front, the new 60-trainees, or the next group that is sure to emerge in the future, especially given that from the beginning, according to US intelligence, the opposition has taken “a clear sectarian direction”, and according to leading Western journalists has been dominated from the start by “ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra… in addition to other extreme jihadi groups.”(12)
There is nothing moderate about voluntarily taking up arms and agreeing to be a proxy force for foreign powers. Furthermore, there is nothing moderate about attacking and overtaking towns and villages, which is the expressed aim of this new US-backed force, when the majority of the population isn’t calling for it and doesn’t desire it. As Zbigniew Brzezinski has stated, Assad has more support than any group opposing him, and surely he has more support than a US-backed militia, as polls consistently show world opinion sees the US as the major threat to peace, and since most Syrians are aware of the dirty war being perpetrated on them by the West.(13)
The presence of ISIS is not an argument for the training of more rebels, it is instead an argument against this, as quite possibly the single biggest factor in the creation and rise of ISIS was the US sponsoring of the insurgency in Syria which they knew to be sectarian and extremist, coupled with the training of rebels who were either themselves extremist terrorist or affiliated with such parties, flooding them with arms and funds to the tune of $1 billion per year and $2.91 billion since 2014.(14)
It must be remembered what former Scotland Yard detective and UK counterterrorism intelligence officer Charles Shoebridge rightly pointed out, that “the ‘moderate’ rebels the US and UK support themselves openly welcomed the arrival of such extremists. Indeed, the Free Syria Army backed by the West was allied with ISIS, until ISIS attacked them at the end of 2013.”(15)
For the first 3 years of the crisis the rebels the West openly backed were allies of ISIS, committing the exact same kind of atrocities and terroristic acts. And according to Patrick Cockburn, the US-backed FSA were at times despised even more than the other terrorist organizations as they would terrorize and ransack the civilian populations, “Pilloried in the West for their sectarian ferocity, these jihadists were often welcomed by local people for restoring law and order after the looting and banditry of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army.”(16)
If you train rebels one time and they commit these atrocities and fight alongside fanatical terrorists you can at least plead ignorance and good intentions, however if you continue these actions when this has been the outcome every single time, let alone doing it over, and over, and over, and over again, then that is premeditated complicity in the sponsoring of terrorism, an act by the West that Syria’s Christian leaders are also demanding an end to.(17)
This recent attempt to train “moderate” rebels is no different. There is nothing moderate about the entire process, and these fighters will go on to commit the exact same kinds of atrocities and ally with the exact same terrorist entities that all of our other rebels have done in the past.
Furthermore, just the mere action of pumping in more bullets, guns, weaponry, and fighters will inevitably lead to further bloodshed and civilian casualties caught within the crossfire, exacerbating the situation and increasing pain and suffering. As Charles Shoebridge notes, the notion that “pouring sophisticated weaponry into a war zone already awash with weapons” will somehow “save civilian lives” is a deeply “flawed assumption.” “Syria’s rebels must be assessed as they are, not as they once were, or as we’d romantically like them to be,” and therefore on that basis, noting the extensively documented history of rebel atrocities, “we should not be backing them.”(18)
In his book “The Rise of Islamic State” Patrick Cockburn writes, “An intelligence officer from a Middle Eastern country neighboring Syria told me that ISIS members “say they are always pleased when sophisticated weapons are sent to anti-Assad groups of any kind, because they can always get the arms off them by threats of force or cash payments.”” (19) (emphasis mine)
I think it’s about time we stop fueling the spilling of blood and the arming of terrorists inside Syria. If we actually wanted to stop ISIS, that’s the first place we would start.
5.) “In February 2015, he [Robert Ford] openly confessed to having given support to ISIS and Al-Nusra terrorists after being questioned by Al-Monitor News journalist Edward Dark. 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.” Hoff, Brad. Levant Report, May 25th, 2015. https://levantreport.com/tag/robert-ford/.
6.) Cockburn, Patrick, “Preface” & “The Rise of ISIS”, The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution (Brooklyn, NY, 2015). Pg. xx, 3. Print.
8.) In the beginning of the uprisings, Syrians did not desire the destruction of the pluralistic and socially inclusive albeit authoritarian state given the popular support for the president and the country’s religious diversity and tolerance. They supported the country’s protection of minorities, as well as the status of women and free education and health care yet opposed corruption, the security-intelligence apparatus, and the feared political police. Wikstrom, Cajsa. “Syria: ‘A kingdom of silence’”. Al Jazeera, February 9th, 2011. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2011/02/201129103121562395.html; Muhanna, Elias. “No Revolution in Syria: An Interview with Camille Otrakji.” http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2011/otrakji030511.html; Otrakji, Camille. “The Real Bashar Al-Assad.”Conflict Forum, February 4th, 2012. http://www.conflictsforum.org/2012/the-real-bashar-al-assad/; For further on this, see Tim Anderson, “Washington’s ‘New Middle East’ Stalls, the Resistance Rises.” Global Research, July 12th, 2015. http://www.globalresearch.ca/washingtons-new-middle-east-stalls-the-resistance-rises/5462101; The fact that the peaceful protests were hijacked and displaced by foreign-backed extremists is also explored in Andersons piece, as well as being conceded by leading opposition figures like Dr. Haytham Manna, who states that “the pumping of arms to Syria, supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the phenomenon of the Free Syrian Army, and the entry of more than 200 jihadi foreigners into Syria in the past six months have all led to a decline in the mobilisation of large segments of the population… and in the activists’ peaceful civil movement. The political discourse has become sectarian; there has been a Salafisation of religiously conservative sectors”, Haytham Manna, The Guardian, “Syria’s opposition has been led astray by violence.” June 22, 2012.http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/jun/22/syria-opposition-led-astray-by-violence; This point is as well articulated by leading Western journalists. According to Patrick Cockburn “Come the uprisings of 2011, it was the jihadi and Sunni-sectarian, militarized wing of rebel movements that received massive injections of money from the kings and emirs of the Gulf. The secular, non-sectarian opponents of the long-established police states were soon marginalized, reduced to silence, or killed.” As well, “Saudi involvement, along with that of Qatar and Turkey, de-emphasized secular democratic change as the ideology of the uprising, which then turned into a Sunni bid for power using Salafi jihadist brigades as the cutting edge of the revolt.” Cockburn, Patrick. “The Rise of ISIS” & “Saudi Arabia Tries to Pull Back.” The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution (Brooklyn, NY, 2015), pg. 8, 103-4. Print; What Cockburn leaves out in these passages is that this was all coordinated under a covert US/CIA operation out of US-led operation rooms in Turkey and Jordan, where the US was giving intelligence to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar on which rebels to support, which ended up going “largely to hard-line Islamists.” Schmitt, Eric. New York Times, “C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition.” June 21, 2015.http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/21/world/middleeast/cia-said-to-aid-in-steering-arms-to-syrian-rebels.html?_r=0; Sanger, David E. New York Times, “Rebel Arms Flow Is Said to Benefit Jihadists in Syria.” October 14, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/15/world/middleeast/jihadists-receiving-most-arms-sent-to-syrian-rebels.html?pagewanted=all&_r=2&.
9.) Cockburn, Patrick. “Jihadis on the March.” The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution (Brooklyn, NY, 2015), pg. 52-3. Print.
11.) Zaman Alwasl, “FSA brigades pledge allegiance to ISIS in Al Bukamal, east Syria.” July 7th, 2014. https://en.zamanalwsl.net/readNews.php?id=5696; In September 2014 Abu Fidaa, a retired Colonel in the Syrian army who headed the Revolutionary Council in Qalamoun stated that “A very large number of FSA members [in Arsal] have joined ISIS and Nusra,” while FSA Commander Bassel Idriss said that “After the fall of Yabroud and the FSA’s retreat into the hills [around Arsal], many units pledged allegiance.” Knutsen, Elise. “Frustration drives Arsal’s FSA into ISIS ranks.” The Daily Star, September 8, 2014.http://cached.newslookup.com/cached.php?ref_id=394&siteid=2319&id=8144452&t=1410149280; Fadel, Leith. “3,000 FSA Fighters Defect to ISIS in the Qalamoun Mountains.” The Arab Source, January 9th, 2015. http://www.almasdarnews.com/article/3000-fsa-fighters-defect-isis-qalamoun-mountains/; “Moderate rebels who had been armed and trained by the United States either surrendered or defected to the extremists as the Jabhat al-Nusra group, affiliated with al-Qaeda… Among the groups whose bases were overrun in the assault was Harakat Hazm, the biggest recipient of U.S. assistance offered under a small-scale, covert CIA program launched this year, including the first deliveries of U.S.-made TOW antitank missiles… rebel fighters there surrendered their weapons and fled without a fight.” Sly, Liz. “U.S.-backed Syria rebels routed by fighters linked to al-Qaeda.” The Washington Post, November 2nd, 2014.https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/us-backed-syria-rebels-routed-by-fighters-linked-to-al-qaeda/2014/11/02/7a8b1351-8fb7-4f7e-a477-66ec0a0aaf34_story.html; “The Syrian rebel group Harakat al-Hazm, one of the White House’s most trusted militias fighting President Bashar al-Assad, collapsed Sunday, with activists posting a statement online from frontline commanders saying they are disbanding their units and folding them into brigades aligned with a larger Islamist insurgent alliance.” Dettmer, Jamie. “Main U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebel Group Disbanding, Joining Islamists.” The Daily Beast, March 1st, 2015. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/03/01/main-u-s-backed-syrian-rebel-group-disbanding-joining-islamists.html; “Islamic fighters with Jabhat al-Nusra… routed US-backed groups the Syrian Revolutionary Front (SFR) and Harakat Hazm… [Washington] has thus been supplying them with heavy weapons, including TOW anti-tank missiles… ‘Some of the rebels swore allegiance to al-Nusra, others fled.’” Bacchi, Umberto. “Syria: Al-Nusra Jihadists ‘Capture US TOW Anti-Tank Missiles’ from Moderate Rebels.” International Business Times, November 3rd, 2014. http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/syria-al-nusra-jihadists-capture-us-weaponry-moderate-rebels-1472864; “Fighters under the Obama-backed SRF commander Jamal Maarouf… have apparently been joining al-Qaeda in droves. “Dozens of his fighters defected and joined Nusra, that is why the group won,” Rami Abdulrahman with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights was quoted as saying by Reuters. Nusra fighters also confirmed the defections of U.S.-equipped fighters to al-Qaeda. According to sources on the ground cited in media reports, Nusra obtained tanks and other heavy weapons as large numbers of SRF fighters swore allegiance to al-Qaeda.” Newman, Alex. ““Moderate” Rebels Armed by Obama Join al-Qaeda, ISIS.” New American, November 21, 2014. http://www.thenewamerican.com/world-news/asia/item/19583-moderate-rebels-armed-by-obama-join-al-qaeda-isis; “Abu Majid, another rebel leader, who has been receiving western support for six months, said it had not prevented his recent defeat by Jabhat al-Nusra… More than 1,000 men, half his brigade’s strength, had left in despair, many defecting to Isil… Defection to the jihadists has now been going on for years. Mahmoud, a former prisoner of the regime who used to work for the FSA, now runs safe houses in Turkey for foreign fighters looking to join Jabhat al-Nusra and Isil.” Sherlock, Ruth. “Fears that US weapons will fall into al-Qaeda’s hands as Syrian rebels defect.” The Telegraph, November 11th, 2014. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/islamic-state/11224488/Fears-that-US-weapons-will-fall-into-al-Qaedas-hands-as-Syrian-rebels-defect.html.
13.) USA Today reports Defense Secretary Carter explaining that the 60 rebel fighters primary mission will be “to protect their towns and villages from ISIL fighters.” The word “protect” here is a euphemism for “control”, as these rebel groups “protect” villages by taking them over, thus insuring that others, like ISIL, do not. Vanden Brook, Tom, “Pentagon pays Syrians $400 per month to fight ISIL.” USA Today, June 22nd, 2015. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2015/06/22/pentagon-syria-isis/29113251/; The problem with this kind of “protection” is that the Syrians aren’t calling for it, and don’t desire it, especially from a US-proxy, as Zbigniew Brzezinski has stated “whether we like it or not, Assad does have some significant support in Syrian society. And probably more than any one of the several groups that are opposing him… he has a better standing than any one of them.” “Brzezinski: Assad has more support than any group opposing him,” C-SPAN, January 26th, 2015. http://www.c-span.org/video/?c4525103/brzezinski-assad-support-group-opposing; Polls consistently show that, according to world opinion, the US is the greatest threat to world peace. Gallup International’s annual global End of Year survey 2013, Gallup International. http://www.wingia.com/web/files/services/33/file/33.pdf?1437015589.
LR Editor’s Note: The diffusion of Raytheon’s TOW anti-tank missile systems into the hands of recognized terror groups operating in Syria and Iraq has been something Levant Report has watched closely over the past year. A highly visible and popular news feed, RARE.US, now confirms what many Syria watchers have long known. The article sources my own LR article from six months ago, so it is good to know that word of this is slowly going more mainstream. Would not any sane American citizen say that this at the very least warrants a serious Congressional investigation? How would CIA and Pentagon officials explain this?
RARE.US, Kevin Boyd — ISIS has acquired a very large arsenal of weapons in its campaigns in Syria and Iraq, including weapons provided by the United States originally intended for Syrian rebel groups.
ANTIWAR.COM, Andrew P. Napolitano— In the course of my work at Fox News, I am often asked by colleagues to review and explain documents and statutes. Recently, in conjunction with my colleagues Catherine Herridge, our chief intelligence correspondent, and Pamela Browne, our senior executive producer, I read the transcripts of an interview Browne did with a man named Marc Turi, and Herridge asked me to review emails to and from State Department and congressional officials during the years when Hillary Clinton was the secretary of state.
What I saw has persuaded me beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty that Clinton provided material assistance to terrorists and lied to Congress in a venue where the law required her to be truthful. Here is the backstory.
Turi is a lawfully licensed American arms dealer. In 2011, he applied to the Departments of State and Treasury for approvals to sell arms to the government of Qatar. Qatar is a small Middle Eastern country whose government is so entwined with the U.S. government that it almost always will do what American government officials ask of it.
In its efforts to keep arms from countries and groups that might harm Americans and American interests, Congress has authorized the Departments of State and Treasury to be arms gatekeepers. They can declare a country or group to be a terrorist organization, in which case selling or facilitating the sale of arms to them is a felony. They also can license dealers to sell.
Turi sold hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of arms to the government of Qatar, which then, at the request of American government officials, were sold, bartered or given to rebel groups in Libya and Syria. Some of the groups that received the arms were on the U.S. terror list. Thus, the same State and Treasury Departments that licensed the sales also prohibited them…
“In short, the DIA assessment indicates that the “wedge” concept was being given new lifeby the desire to pressure Assad in the wake of the 2011 insurgency launched against the Syrian state. “Supporting powers” effectively wanted to inject hydraulic fracturing fluid into eastern Syria (radical Salafists) in order to fracture the bridge between Iran and its Arab allies, even at the cost of this “fracking” opening fissures right down inside Iraq to Ramadi. (Intelligence assessments purpose is to provide “a view” — not to describe or prescribe policy. But it is clear that the DIA reports’ “warnings” were widely circulated and would have been meshed into the policy consideration.)
But this “view” has exactly come about. It is fact. One might conclude then that in the policy debate, the notion of isolating Hezbollah from Iran, and of weakening and pressurizing President Assad, simply trumped the common sense judgement that when you pump highly toxic and dangerous fracturing substances into geological formations, you can never entirely know or control the consequences. And once you go down this road, it is not easy to “walk it back,” as it were: the toxicity is already suffused through the rocks.”
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.”
Our counterterrorism strategy has been so feckless many folks around the world aren't sure if Americans are for or against the terrorists.
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.”
So whilst the CIA was arming "moderate" Syrian rebels in 2012, the DIA reported a possible creation of an Islamic State to isolate Assad #pt
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.
IS may attack Damascus next. If it attacks Iraqis or Kurds, U.S. will bomb it. If IS attacks Assad, gets free pass. Incentive clear.
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.”
Former Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford responds to the question of whether he knowingly supported AQ and ISIS: https://t.co/8TjNZajpls
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.”
“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.’”
The same week we learn for sure the Syrian rebels have been terrorist-infested since 2012 if not earlier the US reportedly offers air cover.
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.
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.
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:
Spoke to national newspaper interested in story-they concluded it was too 'difficult' to run 'at this late stage' https://t.co/B5AhWc4bYi
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.
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.