Protecting al-Qaeda: Guest Analysis by Steven Chovanec

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Steven Chovanec 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.comfind him on Twitter @stevechovanec.

by Steven Chovanec

Please Don’t Attack Al-Qaeda

In the weeks leading up to the agreed upon cessation-of-hostilities (CoH) agreement between the US and Russia, it was John Kerry’s diplomacy that was instrumental in “downgrading” the truce from a more forceful and legally binding ‘ceasefire’ agreement to the less intensive ‘cessation-of-hostilities’ now taking effect.

As described by Kerry: “So, a ceasefire has a great many legal prerogatives and requirements. A cessation of hostilities does not.  A ceasefire in the minds of many of the participants in this particular moment connotes something far more permanent and far more reflective of sort of an end of conflict, if you will.  And it is distinctly not that.  This is a pause dependent on the process going forward.”

So why the insistence on non-permanence?  Especially if, as Kerry says, the ultimate objective is to “obtain a durable, long-term ceasefire” at some point in time?

According to the 29-year career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service, India’s former ambassador to Uzbekistan and Turkey M. K. Bhadrakumar, it is plainly because “the Russian military operations have met with devastating success lately in strengthening the Syrian regime and scattering the Syrian rebel groups,” leading “the US and its regional allies” to “stare at defeat.”  Therefore, they “forthwith need an end to the Russian operations so that they can think up a Plan B. The Geneva talks will not have the desired outcome of President Bashar Al-Assad’s ouster unless the tide of war is reversed.” Therefore, “a cessation of hostilities in Syria is urgently needed.”(1)

Judging by the fact that top US officials began announcing that Russia would break the deal immediately after it was agreed upon while calling for further measures to “inflict real pain on the Russians”, Bhadrakumar’s assessment that a pause, and not a permanent halt, was sought in order to regroup and eventually reverse the tide of war seems to be quite apt.  As well there has been an almost ubiquitous media campaign in the US to prime the public for accusations of a Russian infraction, from which a breakdown of the deal would follow; the narrative portrayed is filled with “doubts” and “worries” and “statements from US officials” about how Russia isn’t serious and will likely break the agreement.

Furthermore, outwardly Russia is much more optimistic and invested in the deal, President Putin hopefully promoting it while engaging in a blitz of diplomacy to support it, while on the other hand the US has been less vocal and much quicker to doubt its outcomes.

However, this downgrading from a ‘ceasefire’ to a ‘cessation of hostilities’ actually violates past agreements.

In UN Security Council Resolution 2254, in which it was articulated that member states be committed to the “sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic,” while calling on them to suppress ISIS, al-Nusra, and “all other individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with Al Qaeda or ISIL”, it was also agreed upon that the Security Council  “expresses its support for a nationwide ceasefire in Syria.” (emphasis added)

Given the about-face, Lavrov was visibly agitated, stating that “Resolution 2254 talks about the ceasefire only. This term is not liked by some members of the International Syria Support Group. What I’m referring to is how something that has been agreed upon should be implemented rather than try to remake the consensus that has been achieved in order to get some unilateral advantages.”

The “unilateral advantages” likely are in reference to the pause-and-regroup strategy Bhadrakumar previously articulated.

Despite this Russia agreed to the downgraded CoH, however, in the week leading up to the agreement there was a major hurdle to overcome, namely whether al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, would be protected as a party to the truce.

Long has there been a tenant of US propaganda which claims that a sort of “third force” of “moderate opposition fighters” exists, separate and distinct from the extremists and al-Qaeda affiliates.  Yet when push came to shove the main stumbling-block in the way of the CoH was the oppositions demand that any truce be “conditional on the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front no longer being targeted.”  Sources close to the talks would tell Reuters that this insistence was the main “elephant in the room” preventing a settlement.

Even more telling is the fact that this opposition demand only came after the US had insisted upon it.  Indeed, while relentlessly pushing the “moderate rebel” narrative it was official US policy to push for the protection of al-Qaeda.

According to The Washington Post: “Russia was said to have rejected a U.S. proposal to leave Jabhat al-Nusra off-limits to bombing as part of a cease-fire, at least temporarily, until the groups can be sorted out.” (emphasis added)

Nusra is the Rebels

Responding to arguments posited that al-Nusra should be included in the truce, given that they operate in areas where other rebels are and thus Russia can use this as an excuse to bomb them, Max Abrahms, Professor at Northeastern University and member of the Council on Foreign Relations, explains that these recent developments show that Nusra and the other rebels are one in the same.

If you’re pro-rebel in Syria, you’re pro-al Qaeda in Syria,” Abrahms writes.  “The rebels are now begging for Russia to stop bombing their al-Qaeda partner.”

Indeed, it was the “moderate” US-backed FSA factions that were the biggest advocates of their al-Qaeda partners being included in the truce.

Major Ammar al-Wawi, Secretary General of the Free Syrian Army and head of the FSA’s al-Ababil Brigade in Aleppo, said that al-Nusra was the FSA’s “partner”, and that al-Qaeda was an ally of most of the groups brought together by Saudi Arabia underneath the Higher Negotiation Committee (HNC) banner.

“Nusra has fighters on the ground with rebel brigades in most of Syria and is a partner in the fighting with most of the brigades that attended the Riyadh conference.”

And therefore, while the ceasefire is good in principle, it is not good if it does not include al-Nusra, because “if the ceasefire excludes Jabhat a-Nusra, then this means that the killing of civilians will continue since Nusra’s forces are among civilians.”  Al-Wawi seems to forget that the reason Nusra is a terrorist organization is specifically because of its indiscriminate attacks and disregard for civilian lives.

According to the spokesman for Alwiyat al-Furqan, one of the largest FSA factions operating under the Southern Front umbrella, the FSA “will not accept a truce that excludes Jabhat al-Nusra.”  The spokesman later goes on to call Nusra “honorable”, along with the equally honorable Salafi-Jihadists groups Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam.

Ahrar, it should be noted, only presents itself as being different from al-Qaeda, in actuality it is not, it is a Salafi-Jihadi group which espouses a reactionary and apocalyptic Islamist ideology that has been complicit in sectarian mass murders of Alawites throughout Syria.  On the other hand, Jaish al-Islam, in the words of their former leader, regards al-Nusra as their “brothers” whom they “praise” and “fight alongside.”  Jaish al-Islam as well is infamous for parading caged civilians throughout warzones, using them as human shields.  The current leader of the group, Mohammed Alloush, was named as the chief negotiator to represent the rebel opposition in talks with the UN.

Yet, according to the FSA, “If today we agreed to exclude Jabhat a-Nusra, then tomorrow we would agree to exclude Ahrar a-Sham, then Jaish al-Islam and so on for every honorable faction.  We will not allow the threat of being classified as a terrorist organization to compromise the fundamentals of the revolution for which the Syrian people rose up and for which we have sacrificed and bled.”

One wonders, if the exclusion of al-Qaeda from the ceasefire is tantamount to “compromising the revolution”, what would choosing al-Qaeda as partners be called?

Muhammad a-Sheikh, spokesman for an FSA faction in Latakia, as well thanked Nusra for its “role in trying to lessen the pain inflicted on the Syrian people”, of all things.(2)

Yet all of this gets recycled within the US media as al-Nusra merely being “intermingled with moderate rebel groups”, as the Washington Post puts it.  While the narrative purports that the FSA consists of “moderates” reluctantly forced to endure an al-Qaeda alliance for military expediency, in reality much of FSA conduct throughout the war has not been much different from that of the recognized extremists.

In the case of Aleppo, while one man describes how al-Nusra beheaded one of his brother-in-laws, ripped the other to pieces between an electricity poll and a moving car, and kidnapped the other, another man describes how “Free Syrian Army fighters burned down their house – leaving one daughter with terrible burns” after the man refused to join them.  He said they attempted to abduct one of his daughters, but were unsuccessful as neighbors intervened.

Another Aleppo resident writes that “Turkish-Saudi backed ‘moderate rebels’ showered the residential neighborhoods of Aleppo with unguided rockets and gas jars.”

Indeed, FSA groups were so brutal at times that these “moderates” were feared even more than other recognized extremists.

“Pilloried in the West for their sectarian ferocity… jihadists were often welcomed by local people for restoring law and order after the looting and banditry of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army,” writes Patrick Cockburn, the leading Western journalist in the region.(3)

For people paying close attention this is unfortunately not that surprising.

According to a recent poll conducted by ORB, it was found that most Syrians more or less hold both ISIS and the FSA in equal disdain, 9% saying the FSA represents the Syrian people while 4% saying that ISIS does.  The similarity in opinion is reflective of the similarity in conduct.

Jihadi ‘Wal-Mart’

The not-so-popular FSA groups are routinely described as a separate and distinct entity apart from al-Nusra and ISIS, yet in actuality the lines between the groups have always been extremely porous.

“Due to porous links between some Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels, other Islamist groups like al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, and ISIS, there have been prolific weapons transfers from ‘moderate’ to Islamist militant groups,” writes Nafeez Ahmed, Britain’s leading international security scholar.

These links were so extreme that “German journalist Jurgen Todenhofer, who spent 10 days inside the Islamic State, reported last year that ISIS is being “indirectly” armed by the west: “They buy the weapons that we give to the Free Syrian Army, so they get western weapons – they get French weapons… I saw German weapons, I saw American weapons.”

Recently the BBC’s Peter Oborne conducted an investigation into these claims and came across evidence that the “moderate” FSA were in essence being utilized as a conduit through which Western supplies were funneled to extremists.

Oborne spoke to a lawyer who represents Bherlin Gildo, a Swedish national who went to join the rebel ranks in 2012 and was subsequently arrested for terrorist offenses.  Based on her clients own first-hand observations while embedded with the rebels, trucks referred to as NATO trucks were observed coming in from Turkey, which would then be unloaded by the FSA and the arms then distributed quite generally without any specificity of the exact recipient.  The weapons would be distributed “to whoever was involved in particular battles.”

Similarly, in 2014 US-backed Syrian Revolutionary Front (SRF) commander Jamal Maarouf admitted that his US-handlers had instructed him to send weapons to al-Qaeda.  “If the people who support us tell us to send weapons to another group, we send them. They asked us a month ago to send weapons to [Islamist fighters in] Yabroud so we sent a lot of weapons there.”

Battlefield necessity was dictating the weapons recipients, not humanitarian concern for victims of terrorism.

Eventually charges brought against Mr. Gildo were dropped.   The reason was because he planned to argue that he had fought on the same side the UK government was supporting  As it was explained before the court, if it is the case that the government “was actively involved in supporting armed resistance to the Assad regime at a time when the defendant was present in Syria and himself participating in such resistance it would be unconscionable”, indeed an “affront to justice”, “to allow the prosecution to continue.”

In a similar case a man named Moazzam Begg was arrested in the UK under terrorism charges after meeting with Ahrar al-Sham.  However, his case too was dropped, the courts understanding that if he was guilty of supporting terrorism than so was the British state.  “I was very disappointed that the trail didn’t go through,” Begg said.  “I believe I would have won… what I was doing… was completely in line with British policy at the time.”

Career MI6 agent and former British diplomat Alastair Crooke extrapolates further on this phenomena of the West’s principle allies playing such a crucial role in arming the jihadis.

“The West does not actually hand the weapons to al-Qaeda, let alone ISIS,” he said, “but the system that they have constructed leads precisely to that end.  The weapons conduit that the West directly has been giving to groups such as the Syrian Free Army (FSA), have been understood to be a sort of ‘Wal Mart’ from which the more radical groups would be able to take their weapons and pursue the jihad.”  This constitutes a sort of ‘supermarket’ where rebels can go and receive weapons, the weapons always migrating “along the line to the more radical elements.”  The idea was to “use jihadists to weaken the government in Damascus and to drive it to its knees to the negotiating table.”  Exactly the same kind of policy used in Afghanistan during the 1980s, when conduits such as the Pakistani ISI were used to funnel weapons to the mujahedeen.

Yet these Western weapons were not just going to al-Qaeda and Ahrar al-Sham, ISIS too was shopping at the “moderate” “supermarket.”

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.”(4) (emphasis added)

The result of all of this was a deep alliance between the US-backed “moderates” and al-Qaeda, as well as a rebel opposition dominated by ISIS and al-Nusra.

Nusra’s FSA

Recently a leader of the Nusra group appeared in a video presenting an FSA commander with a gift while saying that there is no difference between the FSA, Ahrar al-Sham, and al-Qaeda.  “They are all one,” he explains.  The Nusra field commander goes on to thank the FSA for supplying Nusra with US-made TOW anti-tank missiles, which were given to the FSA directly, of course, from the CIA.

A month prior to these revelations reports started to surface about the unfolding situation in “rebel-held” Idlib.  Despite the repressive dress codes and savage Islamist laws it became apparent that the FSA was only operating under the authority of the more powerful al-Qaeda rebels.

Jenan Moussa, a journalist for the UAE based Al Aan TV channel who recently had visited the area, reported that Nusra allows the FSA to operate in Hama and Idlib because the FSA groups there get TOW missiles from the West.  The reason they are allowed to operate is that the “FSA uses these TOW in support of Nusra.”

Investigating the situation further, veteran journalist Gareth Porter concludes from a range of sources that in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo every rebel organization is in fact part of a military structure controlled and dominated by al-Nusra.

“All of these rebel groups fight alongside the Nusra Front and coordinate their military activities with it,” Porter writes.

In the case of the rebel capture of Idlib, “Although some U.S.-supported groups participated in the campaign in March and April 2015, the “operations room” planning the campaign was run by Al Qaeda and its close ally Ahrar al Sham.”  As well, before the Idlib campaign, “Nusra had forced another U.S.-supported group, Harakat Hazm, to disband and took all of its TOW anti-tank missiles.”

Clearly al-Nusra was subordinating the “moderates.”

The reality began to emerge in December of 2014 when US-backed rebels, supplied with TOW missiles, teamed up with Nusra and fought under their command in order to capture the Wadi al-Deif base.  Al Qaeda was “exploiting the Obama administration’s desire to have its own Syrian Army as an instrument for influencing the course of the war.”

Andrew Cockburn reports that “A few months before the Idlib offensive, a member of one CIA-backed group had explained the true nature of its relationship to the Al Qaeda franchise. Nusra, he told the New York Times, allowed militias vetted by the United States to appear independent, so that they would continue to receive American supplies.”

“In other words,” Porter writes, “Nusra was playing Washington,” while Washington was “evidently a willing dupe.”

This all comes down to the fact that the savage and brutal al-Qaeda fighters were proving to be militarily effective, leaving a trail of torture and atrocities, and battlefield successes, in their wake.

Explaining the mindset, Ed Husain, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, writes that the influx of Al-Qaeda and various jihadis “brings discipline, religious fervor, battle experience from Iraq, funding from Sunni sympathizers in the Gulf, and most importantly, deadly results.”

Because of this, Porter explains, “instead of breaking with the deception that the CIA’s hand-picked clients were independent of Nusra, the Obama administration continued to cling to it.”  The United States basing its policy on the “moderates” was “necessary to provide a political fig leaf for the covert and indirect U.S. reliance on Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise’s military success.”

Ever since the Russian intervention began, the US has continued to embrace this deceptive narrative, claiming that Russia is targeting the “moderate” opposition.  This narrative, and the publics belief in its validity, “had become a necessary shield for the United States to continue playing a political-diplomatic game in Syria.”

Yet, as Patrick Cockburn has reported for quite some time, “The armed opposition to President Assad is dominated by Isis, the al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and the ideologically similar Ahrar al-Sham.”  Of the smaller groups the CIA openly supports, they “only operate under license from the extreme jihadists.”

Several rebel groups, 5 of which belong to the FSA, have recently united under the leadership of the former emir of the al-Qaeda-linked Ahrar al-Sham.  A longtime al-Qaeda member who sits on al-Nusra’s elite council explained that “The Free Syrian Army groups said they were ready for anything according to the Islamic sharia and that we are delegated to apply the rulings of the sharia on them”, essentially meaning that the FSA had subordinated themselves to al-Qaeda.

It has been further revealed that all of the Syrian groups operative in Aleppo had recently declared Ba’yaa (loyalty) to the Ahrar al-Sham emir Abu Jaber.

Ba’yaa, it should be noted, means total loyalty and submission, much like what follows from pledging loyalty to ISIS.

Official Policy

At least by as far back as August of 2012, the best US intelligence assessments were reporting that the jihadists and extremists were controlling and steering the course of the opposition.  Then head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Michael T. Flynn, would confirm the credibility of these reports, saying that “the intelligence was very clear” and that it wasn’t the case that the administration was just turning a blind eye to these events but instead that the policies were the result of a “willful decision.”

Despite all of this, US officials still continue to maintain that “Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria, launched last fall, has infuriated the CIA in particular because the strikes have aggressively targeted relatively moderate rebels it has backed with military supplies, including antitank missiles.”

However, according to the CIA and the intelligence communities own data, this is false.

Back in October of 2012, according to classified US intelligence assessments, “Most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar”, which were organized by the CIA, were
“going to hard-line Islamic jihadists.”

A year earlier, immediately after the fall of Gaddafi in October of 2011, the CIA began organizing a “rat line” from Libya to Syria.  Weapons from the former Libyan stockpiles were shipped from Benghazi to Syria and into the hands of the Syrian rebels.  According to information obtained by Seymour Hersh, “Many of those in Syria who ultimately received the weapons were jihadists, some of them affiliated with al-Qaida.”

In a highly classified 2013 assessment put together by the DIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), an “all-source” appraisal which draws on information from signals, satellite, and human intelligence, it was concluded that the US program to arm the rebels quickly turned into a logistical operation for the entire opposition, including al-Nusra and ISIS.  The so-called moderates had evaporated, “there was no viable ‘moderate’ opposition to Assad,” and “the US was arming extremists.”

DIA chief Michael Flynn confirmed that his agency had sent a constant stream of warnings to the civilian administration between 2012 and 2014 saying that the jihadists were in control of the opposition.

“If the American public saw the intelligence we were producing daily, at the most sensitive level, they would go ballistic,” Flynn said.

Yet, as Flynn stated previously, it was a “willful decision” for the administration “to do what they’re doing.”

By summer of 2013, Seymour Hersh reported that “although many in the American intelligence community were aware that the Syrian opposition was dominated by extremists,” still “the CIA-sponsored weapons kept coming.”

According to a JCS advisor, despite heavy Pentagon objections there was simply “no way to stop the arms shipments that had been authorised by the president.”

“I felt that they did not want to hear the truth,” Flynn said.

So what Russia is bombing in actuality is an al-Qaeda, extremist dominated opposition embedded with CIA-backed rebels operating under their control.  The not-so-moderates only operate under license from, and in support of, the Salafi jihadists, openly expressing their solidarity with them, labelling them as “brothers”, and begging the UN to protect them.  Concurrently the US and its allies continue to support the terrorist-dominated insurgency, US officials openly planning to expand their support to al-Qaeda-laced rebels in order to “inflict pain on the Russians”, all while Turkey and Saudi Arabia openly support al-Qaeda.  All of this occurring because of the United States reliance upon “Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise’s military successes” and their “deadly results”, in order to further the policy of using “jihadists to weaken the government in Damascus” and to “drive it to its knees at the negotiating table.”

The function of the “moderates” in essence being the logistical and public relations front for the “not-so-moderate” al-Qaeda units winning the battles.

Speaking at Harvard University, Vice President Biden infamously and candidly summarized what had been going on, saying that it was our allies who were “so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war,” that they “poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad. Except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.”

When asked why the United States was powerless to stop nations like Qatar from engaging in this kind of behavior, “a former adviser to one of the Gulf States replied softly: “They didn’t want to.”

So it should be no wonder why the US tried to push through a provision including al-Nusra in the current ceasefire agreement, nor why they would seek to protect their most viable ally in pursuance of their Syria policy.

It should be no wonder that it has been, and continues to be, official US policy to protect al-Qaeda.

Notes:

1) For further analysis, see Moon of Alabama, February 20, 2016, “U.S. Ignores Own UNSC Resolution – Tells Russia “Stop Bombing Al-Qaeda!” http://www.moonofalabama.org/2016/02/us-ignores-own-unsc-resolution-tells-russia-stop-bombing-al-qaeda.html.

2) Syria Direct, “Five rebel spokesmen, commanders react to ‘cessation of hostilities’ to take effect Saturday.”  February 25, 2016. http://syriadirect.org/news/five-rebel-spokesmen-commanders-react-to-cessation-of-hostilities-to-take-effect-Saturday/#.Vs-kDMO3y9U.twitter.

3) Cockburn, Patrick. “Jihadists Hijack the Syria Uprising.” The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution (Brooklyn, NY, 2015), pg. 84-5. Print.

4) Cockburn, Patrick, “The Rise of ISIS”, The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution (Brooklyn, NY, 2015), pg. 3. Print.

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On the Effort to Exonerate Team USA for the Rise of ISIS: Guest Analysis by David Mizner

Photo: An Islamic State fighter using the US-made BGM-71 TOW in Damascus countryside in 2014. The Foundation for Defense of Democracies funded “Long War Journal” has confirmed many instances of AQ and ISIS use of the TOW. 

David Mizner is a novelist and freelance journalist who writes about US foreign policy, with a focus on the Middle East. This article was first published at his blog, Rogue Nation, and is reproduced here with permission of the author. His writings can be found at Jacobin, Salon, The Nation, and other publications.

*****

ASSAD IS PRIMARILY RESPONSIBLE for the rise of ISIS. No one else is even close, with the possible exceptions of former Iraqi presidents Maliki and Hussein. That’s the predictable message of the State Department and its proxy reporters at outlets like Vox and Buzzfeed. The propaganda can be crude to the point of absurd. In Mad Max’s world, Iran bears more blame than the United States for ISIS, and George W. Bush would surely take comfort in analysis like this.

But on the question of Assad’s responsibility and the corresponding responsibility of his imperial opponents, there’s apparently a real debate to be had among thinking humans. In Jacobin and Salvage, leftists go a long way toward siding with State and the BuzzVoxxers.

While more or less holding the United States to account for its ISIS-creating actions in Iraq pre-2011, they exonerate the US and its regional allies for ISIS’s emergence as a force in Syria, which they attribute solely to Assad. In so doing they erase the war on Syria, which honest analysts would acknowledge even if they believe Assad to be a monster of Hitlerian proportions.

Both Jacobin and Salvage claim that Assad’s releasing jihadists from prison in 2011 contributed mightily to the rise of ISIS. Salvage, the magazine founded by Richard Seymour and his comrades, says Syria’s ex-prisoners are one of the three primary forces within IS, along with Iraqi Baathists and foreign fighters. It didn’t deign to provide any evidence, so I went looking for some.

This post by Kyle Orton says that, “In May and June 2011, the regime turned loose from its prisons violent jihadists.” But he links to two articles covering the Syrian’s government granting of general amnesty, which the press depicted at the time as an attempt to placate the opposition. The opposition itself received it as such. “Too little too late,” said one member of the opposition.

Nonetheless, Orton goes on to say that in 2011 the Syrian government released future jihadist leaders Abu Musab, Hassan Abboud, Zahran Alloush, and Ahmed Abu Issa. I suppose I’ll take his word for it, but these bad men didn’t join ISIS. They joined Al Qaeda, Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh al-Sham, and Suquor a-Sham, respectively. These groups are indeed brutal and reactionary—and they are proxy forces of US client states trying to overthrow the Syrian government.

This article at Huffington Post — “There Would Be No ISIS Without Assad” — likewise promises to establish a connection between Syria’s ex-prisoners and ISIS but manages only, via a link to a Politico piece, to connect them to Al Qaeda.

I’m not saying ISIS contains no people released from prison by the Syrian government, but if they made up a significant part of its leadership or rank-and-file — if they represented, as Salvage alleges, one leg of the stool supporting ISIS — evidence would surely be easier to come by. Aron Lund, who seems to be one of the more independent-minded of the popular Syria analysts, has this to say:

We know, by contrast, that all 12 of the judges who preside over ISIS’s court system in Raqqa are Saudi. They’re perhaps some of the hundreds of extremists Saudi Arabia has allowed to fly to Syria out of the Riyadh airport. (The Kingdom also reportedly sent more than a 1,000 death row inmates to go fight in Syria in exchange for commutations.) ISIS also includes many fighters from the Caucasus, Afghanistan, North Africa, and Europe, and that many, if not most, of these have entered Syria through Turkey.

Yet the ISIS-creation stories from Jacobin and Salvage include none of this. Not only do these leftist outlets pass along imperialist propaganda about Assad’s “giving” ISIS hundreds of fighters by opening his prisons; they ignore the role of US allies in funneling ISIS-bound fighters into Syria.

In fact, the words “Turkey” and “Saudi Arabia” appear nowhere in the Salvage piece. In Jacobin, Adam Hanieh, who elsewhere has written solid stuff, doesn’t mention Turkey’s role and dismisses the idea that “ISIS is a tool of the Gulf States,” because “there is little convincing evidence that ISIS is directly funded, or armed, by Saudi Arabia or any other Gulf state.” Leaving aside the fact that if Saudi Arabia directly supported ISIS, it would do so covertly (“ISIS, in fact, may have been a major part of Bandar’s covert-ops strategy in Syria,” writes Steve Clemons), there are other steps Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey have taken with the encouragement of the United States to strengthen ISIS.

There is, in fact, a fairly impressive compilation of evidence pointing to the role of Turkey in the rise of ISIS. It includes video and audio evidence of a meeting of an ISIS affiliate in Istanbul and allegations from an array of sources—opposition politicians in Turkey, intelligence services of other countries, and Kurdish officials in Syria—who claim that Turkey has allowed ISIS militants and weapons to go back and forth across the border and even directly armed and trained ISIS fighters. The case is circumstantial in places, to be sure, but compared to the case against Assad, it’s a smoking gun.

And it’s a fact that, on top of the aforementioned funneling of militants into Syria, US client states allowed wealthy individuals to fund ISIS. Did the governments themselves finance ISIS? In 2014, once ISIS had become a force, General Dempsey, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified that, yes, US allies had directly funded ISIS — as assessment that Lindsay Graham seconded. In any case, the funding was no secret — Kuwait was a hub for ISIS financing — and US allies didn’t little to nothing to crack down on it.

These governments also sent in weapons that ended up the hands of ISIS. Was the arming direct? Regardless, to send weapons to the opposition was to arm ISIS, both because ISIS routed groups and took their weapons and because early on opposition groups collaborated with ISIS.

Aping US government officials, who barely mentioned ISIS until mid-2014, US press accounts of the group’s rise in Syria tend to ignore its formative months (although they flashback to 2011 for the purpose of indicting Assad.) They pick up the narrative when the groups officially backed by the United States and its allies were fighting ISIS. To read the BuzzVoxxers, or some socialist outlets, you’d have no idea that ISIS ascended in Syria partly due to the collaboration and conciliation of other opposition groups. Joshua Landis’ analysis site Syria Comment details these alliances and calls them the “real” reason for ISIS’s rise in Syria:

The most prominent case-in-point is Colonel Oqaidi, who used to head the Aleppo FSA military council. Oqaidi constantly downplayed the idea that ISIS constituted a threat, describing his relations with ISIS as “excellent”…The other rebel groups that assisted ISIS in the wider conflict here included Liwa al-Tawhid, Ahrar ash-Sham, Suqur ash-Sham, and FSA-banner groups such as Liwa al-Hamza, Ibn Taymiyya (both Tel Abyad area) and Liwa Ahrar al-Jazira al-Thawri…Contrary to what ISIS members and supporters claim, there was no pre-planned ‘sahwa’ against ISIS. Till the very end of 2013, IF and its constituent groups tried to resolve problems with ISIS peacefully.

The FSA, remember, was the official American proxy so the United States was arming a group that it knew was collaborating with ISIS. In 2013, ISIS leader Abu Atheer told Al Jazeera that his group had cordial relations with the FSA and bought weapons from them.

Yet in popular ISIS creation narratives the myth of American innocence persists. The more intrepid western reporters will touch on the role of US client states yet exonerate the United States, as if Saudi Arabia and co. act wholly independently of the world’s most powerful country. And even if you believe that clients states have the desire and capacity to go rogue, there’s no evidence suggesting that US government officials tried to deter their ISIS-empowering actions during the group’s all-important early months in Syria. Biden’s tepid yet much-discussed criticism of allies for supporting ISIS came late in 2014 when ISIS was replacing the government as the primary, official rationale for US military action in Syria. As Biden was traveling around to apologize for his remarks, engaging in client management, no reporter thought to ask why no US official had said or done anything about their empowering of ISIS in the months and years prior.

The media complicity persisted despite last year’s declassification of a 2012 military intelligence memo showing that the United States had determined both that its allies sought to create a “Salafist principality in eastern Syria” and that sectarian reactionaries — “The Salafist, The Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI” — were the “driving forces” in the opposition. Apologists responded predictably to the document: they challenged the most expansive interpretations and ignored the smaller yet still-damning ones.

It’s not so much the memo itself that exposes US culpability but the memo combined with the subsequent actions (and inactions) of the United States vis a vis its allies and the Syrian opposition. More confirmation than revelation, the memo shows what was already clear: 1) that the United States was content for its allies to try to destroy Syria by fueling the most extreme elements of the opposition, including ISIS, 2) that because extreme elements dominated the opposition, to support it was to empower these elements, including ISIS, and 3) that the United States, no bystander to this effort, contributed to it.

It’s not hard to understand why the BuzzBeasters exonerate the United States, even if doing so means ignoring reports in their own publications. The motive of socialists is a little harder to discern. Or perhaps not. Their purpose, it seems, is to pin all the blame on Assad, not just for ISIS but for all of it: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, the millions of refugees, the staggering suffering. The true story of the rise of ISIS, in context, exposes the degree of aggression against Syria, and once that comes to light, it’s hard to cling to the view that this war is, at its core, a battle between a tyrant and a progressive revolution.

Congresswoman Gabbard: CIA Must Stop Criminal and Counterproductive War to Overthrow Assad

“I don’t want the U.S. government to provide weapons to Al-Qaeda…it’s a very simple concept in my mind.”

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) is a rare voice of sanity in the public arena. Her perspective on U.S. policy in Syria is not one you’ll often find on CNN but is one I encounter frequently among veterans and even the few intelligence analysts that I know. She boldly states that in the attempt to overthrow the Assad government of Syria, the U.S. and CIA armed and supported our enemies.

She is an Iraq war veteran and is fully aware that Al-Qaeda in Iraq, at the point it crossed into Syria and joined the fight against Assad, was used of the CIA and State Department to wage proxy war as a U.S. strategic asset against the Syrian Arab Republic.

ISIS would not be the massive terror army it is today without such U.S. covert support to the rebels in Syria.

Is Congresswoman Gabbard correct?

The below video provides airtight proof of the truthfulness of her statements. The primary raw footage was confirmed by the New York Times in 2013. The video montage and translation was authenticated by the top academic Syria expert in the United States, Joshua Landis.

The video is accompanied by an article I wrote which originally appeared in Foreign Policy Journal and was featured on AntiWar.com. I offer it as a tribute to my fellow veterans as well as active service members struggling to come to grips with the facts of our nation’s criminal actions in Syria…

“Iraq, ISIS, and The Myth of Sisyphus”

 

 “The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor.”

Albert Camus, THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS

As the world reacts to President Obama’s announcement of a multi-front air and ground proxy war—on the one hand, bombing ISIS inside Iraq and Syria, and on the other, ramping up arms and training for the vaguely defined Syrian “opposition”—we as a nation should reflect upon the Myth of Sisyphus.

Let’s Roll…

I joined the Marine Corps as an idealistic eighteen-year-old in 2000, with a firm resolve, as I enthusiastically told my recruiter shortly before leaving for boot camp, to “fight evil in the world”—a resolve rooted more deeply in my veins after the 9/11 attacks. Slogans such as “let’s roll!” echoed in my ears, and my fervor for “the mission” influenced others to follow my path of military service. While stationed in Quantico providing post-9/11 “first responder” security to headquarters assets in the area, I became close friends with a young local college student, also just out of high school, and I encouraged him to join up.

My friend embarked on multiple tours of duty within a short two years as a Marine infantryman, and was killed by an IED in Iraq on his third tour prior to his twenty-first birthday. He understood little about the place of his eventual death, as had been clear during our brief visits together as we reconnected between his deployments. We were never encouraged to learn about the history of Iraq or the Arab world, or to ask too many questions for that matter. “Let’s roll” was enough for us as we set out to “win hearts and minds.”

Uncovering Absurd Contradictions

As the power of such simple platitudes faded, I began to investigate for myself the history of U.S. involvement in the region: this search began in the library of Marine Corps University at MCB Quantico and led to my traveling to Syria upon completion of active service.

Few Americans know of the absurd contradictions of our foreign policy in Iraq and other places over the past few decades, yet I found that many Iraqis and Syrians knew the history well. The United States, through covert support of the Iraqi Ba’ath in the 1960’s and 1970’s, sponsored Saddam’s rise to power as a way to combat perceived communist influence and populist national movements in the Middle East. Throughout that time, the CIA-supported Ba’ath engaged in “cleansing campaigns” which involved door-to-door death squads offing Washington’s enemies based on questionable lists provided through covert liaisons.

Upon Saddam’s rising to the presidency in 1979, and while the Iranian Revolution drove forward just across the border, the United States encouraged Saddam to invade Iran, kick-starting the most devastating war in the region’s history. Most Americans still haven’t seen the easily accessible archive footage of Reagan’s then special envoy to the Middle East, Donald Rumsfeld, shaking hands with Saddam Hussein in 1983, in what was clearly a warm and cordial visit.

Saddam would go on, during the course of a war that took over a million lives (1980-1988), to frequently employ chemical nerve agents against Iranian troop movements; later into the war this occurred with the assistance of the CIA and DIA. By the time of the 1988 gas attack against the Kurds of Halabja, U.S. covert assistance to Iraq’s military was established and routine.

And yet, Saddam soon became the new super-villain of the 1990’s and 2000’s, the very image of evil incarnate in the world—though his dictatorial and brutal rule had undergone no change from when he was the CIA’s man in Baghdad—only American perceptions of him did. The United States had helped to create the monster that in 2003 it was telling young men and women to travel across the world to destroy. Ironically, one of the main moral justifications for going after “the evil tyrant” was his gassing of the Kurds of Halabja.

Uncovering such an absurd contradiction of recent history made me feel like Sisyphus in Albert Camus’ famous essay. Sisyphus, condemned by the gods to his fate of pushing his boulder up the hill, must ever repeat the same process after it inevitably rolls back down the hill; he eventually becomes conscious of the futility of his action. We can imagine such tragic Sisyphean moments of realization in the minds of hundreds of thousands of veterans as they watched ISIS tear through places like Fallujah and Northern Iraq over the course of this past half year.

The Rock is Still Rolling

And yet, ISIS too, is a monster the United States helped to create.

Instead of two decades for the contradictions to come full circle, as was the case with the creation and destruction of Saddam Hussein, ISIS has gone from friend to monster within only two years. The U.S. armed forces, told by the White House of a minimal three-year long campaign to destroy ISIS, have barely recovered from the now seemingly futile burden of wars in post-Saddam Iraq and forgotten, ongoing Afghanistan.

As if the absurdity of the task of a renewed Iraq campaign mandated by the “gods” in Washington weren’t enough, we will now bomb ISIS locations in Syria while increasing the training and equipping of Syrian rebels. If there are military members and veterans out there, still not conscious that “there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor,” then I suggest watching the above video. The video gives insight into the Sisyphean task ahead of us as a nation: a never-ending cycle, old-yet-new, already set up for futility and failure.

Amazingly, the video, titled, “US Key Man in Syria Worked Closely with ISIL and Jabhat al Nusra,” has not yet had widespread distribution, even though it has been authenticated by the top Syria expert in the U.S., Joshua Landis, of the University of Oklahoma, and author of the hugely influential Syria Comment. Using his Twitter account, Dr. Landis commented (8/27): “in 2013 WINEP advocated sending all US military aid thru him [Col. Okaidi]. Underscores US problem w moderates.”

The video, documenting (now former) U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford’s visit to FSA Col. Abdel Jabbar al-Okaidi in Northern Syria, also shows the same Col. Okaidi celebrating with and praising a well-known ISIS commander, Emir Abu Jandal, after conducting a joint operation. In an interview, the U.S. “key man” at that time (2013), through which U.S. assistance flowed, also praises ISIS and Al-Qaeda as the FSA’s “brothers.” The video further shows Okaidi proudly declaring that al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda in Syria) makes up ten percent of the FSA.

I can think of no greater absurd foreign policy path to follow than to continue arming one wing of Syria’s rebels (only until very recently directly allied with the new “enemy”), while at the same time bombing another, and all the while declaring the necessity of continued “war on terror.”

Albert Camus concludes the myth thus, “I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one’s burden again.”

Guest Analysis by Steven Chovanec: Why We Must Not Arm Even One More Syrian Rebel

 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.comfind 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.”

Anti-tank missiles for "moderate" rebels—now in ISIS and AQ hands.

Anti-tank missiles for “moderate” rebels—now in ISIS and AQ hands.

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.

2014 photo posted on ISIS media account: experts 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

2014 photo posted on ISIS media account: experts 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.

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)

 

Moderate rebels?: This photo was originally uploaded to the web by a Swedish based group of fighters 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 in the original set shows the soldier later being crushed with a large rock on his chest as he lay on his back.

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)

UK-based Conflict Armament Research investigators found this expended ammunition at ISIS firing positions in northern Iraq. The bullets were manufactured at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Independence, Missouri.

UK-based Conflict Armament Research investigators found this expended ammunition at ISIS firing positions in northern Iraq. The bullets were manufactured at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Independence, Missouri. (Source: Conflict Armament Research)

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)

This May 2014 report by Jenan Moussa of Al-Aan News featured U.S.-backed and armed Syrian Revolutionaries Front (SRF) commander Jamal Maroof. McClatchy News later reported Maroof's SRF to be a recipient of TOW anti-tank missiles. Watch full news clip w/translation here.

This May 2014 report by Jenan Moussa of Al-Aan News featured U.S.-backed and armed Syrian Revolutionaries Front (SRF) commander Jamal Maarouf. McClatchy News reported Maroof’s SRF to be a recipient of TOW anti-tank missiles. Watch full news clip w/translations here.

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.

 

Notes:

1.)    Rizzo, Jennifer, “Carter: U.S. trains only 60 Syrian rebels.” CNN, July 7th, 2015. http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/07/politics/united-states-training-syrian-rebels-ashton-carter/; CIA World Factbook, Syria. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sy.html; Syria Regional Refugee Response, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.  Last Updated 09 Jul 2015, accessed July 15th, 2015. http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php.

2.)   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.

3.)   Hunter, Isabel. “’I am not fighting against al-Qa’ida… it’s not our problem’, says West’s last hope in Syria.” The Independent, April 2nd, 2015.http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/i-am-not-fighting-againstalqaida-itsnot-our-problem-says-wests-last-hope-in-syria-9233424.html.

4.)   Joshua Landis, “US Key Man in Syria Worked Closely with ISIL and Jabhat al-Nusra.” https://twitter.com/joshua_landis/status/504610185952784384.

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.

7.)   “Obama: Notion that Syrian opposition could have overthrown Assad with U.S. arms a “fantasy.”  CBS News, June 20th, 2014.http://www.cbsnews.com/news/obama-notion-that-syrian-opposition-could-overthrow-assad-a-fantasy/.

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.

10.)            A prominent example of the Southern Front dubiously being labelled as moderate comes from a recent piece by the director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. Khatib, Lina. “Syria’s Last Best Hope: The Southern Front.” The National Interest, July 6th, 2015; Cockburn, Patrick. “Isis in Syria: We can’t win a war without taking sides.” The Independent, July 4th, 2015. http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/isis-in-syria-we-cant-win-a-war-without-taking-sides-10366142.html.

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.

12.) Declassified Defense Intelligence Agency documents from August 2012 state that “Internally, events are taking a clear sectarian direction… The Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [Al-Qaeda in Iraq] are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria… AQI supported the opposition from the beginning… The West, Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition.”  Judicial Watchhttp://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Pg.-291-Pgs.-287-293-JW-v-DOD-and-State-14-812-DOD-Release-2015-04-10-final-version11.pdf; Patrick Cockburn, “The Rise of ISIS”, The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution (Brooklyn, NY, 2015), pg. 3. Print.

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 Internationalhttp://www.wingia.com/web/files/services/33/file/33.pdf?1437015589.

14.)            Covert CIA Syrian rebel training program costs $1 billion per year. Miller, Greg et al, “Secret CIA effort in Syria faces large funding cut.” The Washington Post, June 12th, 2015. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/lawmakers-move-to-curb-1-billion-cia-program-to-train-syrian-rebels/2015/06/12/b0f45a9e-1114-11e5-adec-e82f8395c032_story.html; “As of June 18, 2015, the total cost of operations related to ISIL since kinetic operations started on Aug. 8, 2014, is $2.91 billion.” US Department of Defense. http://www.defense.gov/home/features/2014/0814_iraq/.

15.) Ahmed, Nafeez. “How the Pentagon Exploits ISIS to Kill Surveillance Reform and Re-Occupy Iraq,” Counterpunch, September 26th, 2014.http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/09/26/how-the-pentagon-exploits-isis-to-kill-surveillance-reform-and-re-occupy-iraq/.

16.)            Cockburn, Patrick. “Jihadists Hijack the Syria Uprising.” The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution (Brooklyn, NY, 2015), pg. 84-5. Print.

17.) Gledhill, Ruth, “Syrian Christian leader tells West: ‘Stop arming terror groups who are massacring our people.’” Christian Today, July 1st, 2015.http://www.christiantoday.com/article/syrian.christian.leader.tells.west.stop.arming.terror.groups.who.are.massacring.our.people/57747.htm.

18.)             Shoebridge, Charles. “Why We Shouldn’t Be Arming Syria’s Rebels.” Huffington Post, March 14th, 2003. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/charles-shoebridge/syria-rebels-uk_b_2873880.html; Shoebridge, Charles. “The West Should Not Support Syrian Rebels.” Huffington Post, July 31st, 2012.http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/charles-shoebridge/post_3720_b_1722772.html.

19.)            Cockburn, Patrick, “The Rise of ISIS”, The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution (Brooklyn, NY, 2015), pg. 3. Print.

U.S. State Department Confirms Syria Invaded by Unprecedented Number of “Foreign Terrorist Fighters”

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Read the full report at State.gov

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

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

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

by Robert Barsocchini

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Notes:

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

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