A Critical Examination of the 2012 DIA Document Predicting the Rise of the Islamic State

Left: U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford with FSA Col. Okaidi in 2013. Right: FSA Col. Okaidi with ISIS emir Abu Jandal — part of Omar the Chechen’s group of fighters at Menagh Airbase in 2013.

https://i1.wp.com/www.washingtonsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/ISIS1.jpg

LR Editor’s Note: We are re-posting the below 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. The below point-by-point examination of the DIA document was part of Levant Report’s early coverage and remains a relevant in-depth introduction to the contents of the declassified report (though more has since been revealed). Currently, the document is the basis for renewed discussion in the aftermath of tragic terror attacks in Paris, Beirut, and over Sinai. Yesterday, Glenn Greenwald highlighted the DIA report and former DIA Director Michael Flynn’s confirmation of its accuracy in an article for The Intercept, which is sure to spark renewed debate.
*****
For those readers only now discovering the DIA’s “salafist principality” document, here is some recommended introductory material: 1) Marcy Wheeler’s Salon.com article examined the legal basis through which the memo was declassified, establishing that it was used to brief Congress; 2) Former high ranking MI6 spy and Middle East expert Alastair Crooke analyzed the document from the perspective of a veteran intelligence official for The Huffington Post; 3) Tufts University Historian Hugh Roberts included lengthy discussion of the report in his historical narrative overview of the Syrian conflict for the London Review of Books; 4) Seamus Milne and Nafeez Ahmed wrote hugely popular articles that pushed the document into mainstream media in the UK and Germany (see here and here);  5) Levant Report questioned the Defense Intelligence Agency about the document here, and the State Department was questioned in its daily press briefing here and here. Note: Embedded tweets are not endorsements of the article, but provide broader context of events that have unfolded 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.

Endless Predictions of the Syrian Regime’s Collapse, but Why Hasn’t it Happened? An Interview with Kamal Alam of the UK based Institute for Statecraft

https://i0.wp.com/www.thisfabtrek.com/journey/asia/syria/20091120-palmyra/assad-father-son-4.jpgManfred Schweda/thisfabtrek.com. Image used with permission.

KAMAL ALAM IS THE SYRIA FELLOW at The Institute for Statecraft, and advises the British Army on Syrian Affairs. He has served as advisor on Syrian affairs to the UK’s Chief of Defence Staff and to the European Union, and is a visiting lecturer at several military staff colleges across the Middle East and UK. His articles can be found in Nikkei Asian Review, ForeignPolicy.com, Middle East Eye, and other publications.

Kamal Alam

ONE YEAR AGO, Alam published a controversial yet prescient article in openDemocracy.net entitled, Pax Syriana: neither vanquished, nor all-conquering—wherein he explained why the Syrian Army had not and would not easily fragment, leading to the collapse of the Syrian state, as predicted by a chorus of analysts going back to 2011.

HIS NOVEMBER 2014 EXPERT TESTIMONY before the UK Parliament’s Defence Committee covering ISIS and national security can be viewed here.

WITH NEW REBEL VICTORIES in Spring of 2015, commentators and reporters declaring the regime’s imminent collapse grew louder, but it hasn’t happened. Kamal Alam agreed to the following exclusive interview with Levant Report—we wanted to know why the same old voices keep getting Syria so wrong…


 

Levant Report: At various times over the past few years there have been many failed predictions by prominent commentators declaring “the imminent demise” of the Syrian government. With the fall of Idlib and Palmyra and increased pressures, the prevailing wisdom in Western press is now once again that the government will soon collapse. Do you agree with this current popular assessment?

Kamal Alam: I do not believe the commonly stated prediction about ‘the fall of Assad and the Syrian regime.’ The coming fall of the Assad regime has begun to sound like the boy who cried wolf. Yet there is no wolf to be seen. However the fall of Idlib and Palmyra have significantly weakened the strategic posture of the Syrian Arab Army. The Syrian Arab Army is fighting the hardest battle in the Middle East against terrorists. Although one cannot deny that the Syrian protests started as a peaceful demand for reform they (protests) were quickly hijacked by the worst kind of extremists. No one from the initial days of the uprising wanted regime change. This was an external agenda which quickly spiraled out of control. And whilst the Syrian regime made mistakes to begin with as any State makes in times of tension, the uprising has turned into a blood letting sponsored by external states.

LR: Why do such commentators and analysts consistently fail in their predictions on Syria?

KA: The so-called experts and analysts fail in their predictions because they think Syria was the same as Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Tunisia and even Egypt. They failed to realize the ground realities of Syria and most experts have not even been to Syria. For instance the same experts were defence advisers in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Libya. They often begin their arguments by saying, ‘In Bosnia we did so and so.’ ‘In Afghanistan we did the surge in the South.’ Really? if Afghanistan or Iraq are barometers for success then one must look really hard in the mirror. Most strategic analysts are opportunists linked with media and defence companies who have vested interests and are definitely not bi partisan.  Without naming names, one of the key ‘experts’ was a DoD official who become the spokesperson for the Syrian National Council. How can an American defence official all of a sudden be a Syrian expert and spokesperson for the SNC? The only credible voices on Syria have been the late Patrick Seale, Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Joshua Landis. Even the ex-Israeli PM Ehud Barak said Assad would fall in two months, and this was in 2011.

LR: Damascus and other government-held centers are increasingly resource starved, and yet any modern army requires constant flow of energy and other resources. How has resource disruption impacted the operational effectiveness of the Syrian Army? How has the general strain impacted morale among the troops?

KA: The morale of the Syrian Army is still high. It is the only pluralistic fighting force on the ground which draws from the Sunni, Christian, Druze and Allawi sections of the society. The resources are severely depleted but time and again they have fought back from several setbacks over the last five years to regain their lost ground. No Army can fight a war without the support of its people and lands it operates in. For the Syrian Arab Army to operate for as long as it has, it has relied on its own people no matter how many foreign advisers there might be, there can be no substitute to your own people’s backing. The main problem is the supply line, and the international allies are helping the Army keep their supply lines well fed. At the same time people forget that Syria has always been the bread basket for the region. The Syrian Army is very resourceful given its experience in the Lebanese Civil War and de facto involvement in the war in Iraq since 2003. Lebanon was stabilized thanks to the Syrian Army in the 1970s and 1980s. People have a short memory and forget the Arab League and the United Nations mandated Syria to end the fighting in Lebanon. Now it is the time for the Lebanese to repay the favour to their Syrian brothers. The greatest factor in the cohesion of the Syrian Army is its multi-faith background.

LR: Former deputy director of the CIA Michael Morell recently publicly acknowledged Israeli-Nusra cooperation along the Golan. Concerning this and Israel’s documented direct attacks during the Syrian conflict, what do you see is Israel’s strategic interest in Syria?

KA: Kissinger famously said that without Syria there can be no peace in the Middle East. Israel has always clung to this statement, by knocking out the Syrian Army, they once and for all diminish any regional threat to their hegemony. Israel’s strategy in Syria has been clear: to divide the Syrians and create a buffer zone to further annexe land along the Golan Heights. They have tried hard to split the Druze and Allawi in particular saying they will protect them; however, so far they have failed in these attempts. In fact, as we saw a few days ago the Israeli Druze attacked an Israeli  military ambulance. So if anything Israel’s attempts have backfired and angered its own Druze community.

LR: In 2014 we heard many reports of local ceasefires and potential “freeze zones” that might lead to a long term stall in fighting [discussed here for example]. To your knowledge, did any locally negotiated ceasefires endure to a local peace? What are the prospects for peace in Syria? What would have to happen?

KA: There have been many successful local ceasefires most notably in Western Ghouta, Muaadamiet Esham, Qudssaya, Barzeh and the old city of Homs. The example of Maloula is also a useful one, where after the takeover of Islamic extremists, they were forced out by a coalition of armed locals and the Syrian Arab Army. Western Ghouta and Reef Dimashq has been a particular example with particular truces holding out in Ain Alfijeh and Wadi Barada. The key for a durable peace has to be a political understanding between agreeable sides. Both the Geneva talks failed because the rebels failed to come with an open mind. Moaz al Khatib, the most credible rebel leader to date resigned citing that the Syrian opposition is run by non-Syrians. The Turks and GCC begged him to stay on—yet he walked away knowing there is no credible opposition which he could lead. The examples of Libya, Tunisia and Egypt are before us in terms of the rigidity of Islamic democrats who feign the process of pluralism to grab power. Damascus has seen historical truces between Maronites and Druze of Lebanon, Sunnis and the Druze of Southern Syria. However for this to happen foreign interference must cease. The European states in particular need to hold their Muslim communities to account, Britain in particular has allowed so-called moderate Islamists to destabilize Egypt, Libya and Syria. This policy must be put to an immediate end. Any one who uses religion to seek power is by definition not a moderate—Syria gave birth to Christianity and a Christian priest foretold the coming of a Prophet in Arabia. Gulf Bedouins with little understanding of tolerance cannot dictate peace to the oldest civilization in the world.

This interview is also available at Medium.com.

Brad Hoff Interviewed by TRUTH IN MEDIA on Syria, DIA Report, & Media’s Failure

Truth in Media/Joshua Cook — Military veteran and journalist Brad Hoff has a unique perspective of Syria after living there off and on for years.

“I ended up settling down in Syria, and loved the culture, loved the people,” he said to Joshua Cook in an exclusive interview.

Hoff said that of course he saw problems there, but the typical stereotypes that he had of the region shattered.

“Got really interested in how the media was covering Syria, and that’s what really got me involved in writing about the place,” he explained. “The mainstream media writing about the conflict in Syria just completely failed on so many fronts.”

The Daily Beast’s coverage of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report, Hoff said, was a hit piece

LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW at Truth in Media…

DIA Islamic State report discussed on RT’s flagship program CrossTalk

RT’s June 12 CrossTalk program focused on the origins and nature of the Islamic State.

Program host Peter Lavelle makes a general reference to the 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency document predicting the rise of ‘an Islamic State’ as he sets up the main question to be debated (at 1:10).

Middle East expert and internationally-syndicated columnist Ramzy Baroud closes the program by extensive reference to the DIA document (starting at 23:30):

“In 2012 there was a document by Defense Intelligence that predicted the rise of ISIS and they in fact refer to it as the Islamic State in those documents. Go to the writing of Nafeez Ahmed where he analyzes this document that was leaked recently. I think it’s rather important that we pay attention to the fact that much of the creation of ISIS actually goes back to American intelligence and American calculation, and this is why I did argue, and continue to argue that ISIS is essentially a western phenomenon more than being a Middle Eastern phenomenon.”

The entirety of this particular CrossTalk debate is excellent. It is a shame that one cannot find a debate that occurs at this level of analysis in mainstream American mediait’s too bad that it takes a state-owned Russian broadcast to bring us serious Middle East analysts who actually speak Arabic.

For example, the Beirut bureau chief for the New York Times, Anne Barnard, does not speak Arabic, and this is part of the reason why her reporting is so lousy, and often riddled with errors. Levant Report itself once deconstructed her sloppy reporting, after which the top Syria expert in the U.S., Joshua Landis, promoted our article, at which point Barnard “favorited” it on Twitter.

Or call to mind this AC360 segment, which ended in CNN’s chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour frantically shouting down her fellow panelists as they discussed the conflict in Syria, even saying things like, “Wait just a second — Excuse me. Excuse me. The president of the United States and the most moral country in the world based on the most moral principles in the world … cannot allow this to go unchecked … I’m so emotional about this.”

This is what passes for analysis in the American mainstream and it’s just so embarrassing. Fewer people will feel the need to watch RT News should the U.S. mainstream decide to get its act together.

The Daily Beast’s Jacob Siegal says Released DIA Document Led to “ISIS Conspiracy that ate the Web”

Jacob Siegal, writing for The Daily Beast, misses an opportunity to shine light on the 2012 declassified Defense Intelligence Agency document foretelling the rise of “an Islamic State”, instead, opting to mock those reporting and attempting to interpret its contents.

In his June 6 article, The ISIS Conspiracy that ate the Web, Siegal devotes the majority of his words not to careful analysis of the document, but instead to consigning all those, like Seamus Milne of The Guardian, who dare take the document as a serious and newsworthy revelation worthy of public scrutiny, with the label of partisan conspiracy theorist (the Daily Beast article itself is categorized under the heading “Conspiracy Theory”):

If you’re looking for a single, simple explanation for the rise of the Islamic State that flatters your pre-existing politics, you’ve hit pay dirt.

He begins by holding up the admittedly nutty Pamela Geller as somehow representative of the DIA document’s early reporting, though she had nothing to do with either reporting or analyzing the document, instead merely copying the entirety of my own original article to her website many days after its release and adding her own brief commentary (while never seeking my permission), such as the simplistic: “Look at what Obama and his party of treason have unleashed on the world.”

The Pamela Gellers of the world will always have ultra-partisan, self-serving interpretations of what is fundamentally real, newsworthy information, but presenting her and others like her as actually representing the reporting that “ate the Web” is a sloppy attempt to obfuscate the valid conclusions being drawn and circulated as a result of this truly significant document. Siegal would like us to conclude, like Juan Cole, that there is really “nothing to see here folks, move it along, etc…” by first presenting and debunking “low hanging fruit” that is irrelevant to how the story originally spread.

I appreciate that at the very least my own reporting is held up as serious and credible with the lines in the end paragraphs, “The DIA could do itself and the public a favor by addressing the 3 year-old declassified report instead of responding to inquiries with variations on no comment as it did when approached by journalist Brad Hoff.”

I wholeheartedly agree, but it strikes me as odd and inconsistent that Siegal should first write off Seumas Milne’s excellent piece in The Guardian (which now has over 85,000 Facebook shares alone), taking issue even with the title, Now the truth emerges: how the US fuelled the rise of Isis in Syria and Iraq.

The title of my own May 19 article, West will facilitate rise of Islamic State “in order to isolate the Syrian regime”which was the first to report and examine the DIA document’s contents in terms of “the West backed ISIS” angle, would no doubt also attract the ire of Mr. Siegal should he have bothered to find out the origin of the viral “conspiracy” that ate the web. And yet, he holds me up as a credible journalist cited just after the following: “The report raises some important questions but it’s a mistake to think it answers them.”

What bothers me is that, as a paid editor and journalist at the The Daily Beast, Jacob Siegal refuses to make use of the significant resources at his disposal to seek answers to the many questions he says the document raises, opting instead to attach a stigma to any reporting or analysis that might actually see the document as evidence of U.S. government wrongdoing or negligence (especially as he informs us he formerly worked as an army intelligence officer, which makes it likely that he’d have helpful contacts that might be useful in actually investigating the document).

But I suppose it’s much easier to do a hit piece on straw man conspiracy theories, as opposed to a careful reading and response to the actual original reporting through which the DIA document went viral.

My own reporting began going viral within days after being published. Investigative journalist and best-selling author Nafeez Ahmed, whose counter-terrorism work gained official recognition by the 9/11 Commission, followed on May 22 with an in-depth investigative piece on the DIA report at INSURGE intelligence, which greatly expanded on my report, putting it into full geopolitical context.

Most significantly, Ahmed was able to get official statement from the British Foreign Office, and his coverage of the DIA document later headlined across leading German daily papers and political magazines. It was this story, copied to Zero Hedge, that Juan Cole dismissed as “just a clickbait story”.

But neither my reporting, nor Nafeez Ahmed’s ever claimed that the DIA document exists as stand-alone “smoking gun” proof of the claims that the West knowingly fueled the rise of Islamic State. As I said soon after writing my report on the Scott Horton show, the DIA document merely “completes the picture”—a picture that many, including Ahmed, have been piecing together for years.

But that the West and the U.S. did fuel the rise of ISIS through political support, weapons, logistical coordination, and supplies given to militants in Syria is hardly the theory of a few independent journalists when you have the likes of former Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford going around confessing that he himself knowingly backed rebels fighting alongside ISIS and Al-Qaeda in Syria (Nusra) in 2013. Remember that Ford was the State Department’s top man in Syria and thus had a key role in the rebel “vetting” process. (As for other former government officials, current politicians, and even FSA commanders that have also said that the West gave political and material support to the then nascent Islamic State…well the list is too long for this column.)

While government officials like to claim that “we didn’t know” or that “we had good intentions,” this DIA document is just additional proof that at the very least, at some official level, they did know. The dynamics of the conflict and potential consequences of the West’s course of action were spelled out in quite precise (and prescient) terms, and put into writing in the form of an information report and circulated widely (the early reporting never claimed the document was itself produced as an active or official policy document).

Considering the fact that the world has been told incessantly that ISIS and their associate jihadi allies represent the single greatest and most brutal terror threat mankind has ever seen (and add to that the CIA and White House claim that they just didn’t see ISIS coming!), you would think that for The Daily Beast this might constitute a major newsworthy scandal worth digging into. But again, Siegal instead chooses to make the story ultimately about the power of “conspiracy theories” that take over the web.

Ironically, he cites the discredited former NSA officer John Schindler to say that the DIA document is largely irrelevant and unimportant based on its redactions as well as our inability to know the level of importance assigned to it within the intelligence community (as its classification is not high level).

While Siegal acknowledges that this “sort of report of regional scope and strategic implications was outside my purview” his guiding assumption is that it couldn’t have been very important: “by itself, it’s only evidence of one analysis among thousands churned out yearly by the various intelligence agencies.”

But Siegal could have and should have consulted former high ranking MI6 spy and Middle East expert Alastair Crooke, who does have the experience and background to know. Crooke’s analysis appeared in his regular Huffington Post column a full five days prior Siegal’s Daily Beast article. As to the DIA document’s level of importance within the intelligence community, Crooke confidently asserts following his main thesis:

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.

The main indicator affirming that this DIA report was not merely “one analysis among thousands” (and by implication barely visible), is described in a Salon.com article which appeared nine days prior to Siegal’s cries of conspiracy theory:

Few of the reports on these documents have discussed on what terms Judicial Watch received them. The organization received the documents by requesting – among other things — “[a]ny and all records produced by any official of the [Departments of Defense and State] in preparation for, use during, and/or pursuant to any” briefing of Congressional leaders and Intelligence Committee leaders, “on matters related to the activities of any agency or department of the U.S. government at the Special Mission Compound and/or classified annex in Benghazi, Libya.” These reports were important, then, to DOD’s own understanding of events surrounding the Benghazi attack.

As to the content of the DIA document itself, Siegal’s main point (after citing Cole) is that the DIA is actually pointing the finger exclusively at America’s allies like Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and that “the West” (and U.S.) is somehow wholly separate from its own coalition. Joe Biden’s revealing comments at Harvard University are referenced, but his prior statements regarding support for the Syrian opposition are ignored: “We are working hand and glove with the Turks, with the Jordanians, with the Saudis, and with all the people in the region attempting to identify the people who deserve the help…” (and this is consistent with statements of other U.S. officials).

The idea that U.S. intelligence and military officials were far removed from the situation as allies armed the likes of Nusra, ISIS, and Ahrar Al-Sham, even while those officials all occupied the same “operations command center” (in Jordan and in Turkey), is absurd on its face. American government officials themselves told the New York Times of a joint Saudi/CIA program to arm the rebels beginning in 2012.

The truth is often much more banal than a good conspiracy theory: it often requires knowledge of the alignment of those interests, institutions, historical forces, and guiding ideologies that give birth to a particular horrid consequence. It is the media’s job to investigate and map out those alignments. Such is the case with the swift rise of the monster that is Islamic State.  While it would give me great personal comfort to be able to dismiss inconvenient truths as mere conspiracy theory, I would prefer a national media that tells me the hard truth, and never ceases digging until unearthing that truth.

As he admits that the DIA document raises valid questions, my hope is that Jacob Siegal is even now digging, asking tough questions of DIA and other officials, seeking behind the scenes comment, submitting further FOIA requests, etc… This is my sincere hope, but I suppose I shouldn’t hold my breath.

The DIA Islamic State Story & Going Out on a Limb with Independent Muckraking

My reporting began going viral within days after being published on May 19. Investigative journalist and best-selling author Nafeez Ahmed,  whose counter-terrorism work gained official recognition by the 9/11 Commission, followed on May 22 with an excellent in-depth investigative piece on the DIA report at INSURGE intelligence, which greatly expanded on my report, putting it into full geopolitical context.

Most significantly, Nafeez was able to get a public statement from the British Foreign Office:

“AQ and ISIL are proscribed terrorist organisations. The UK opposes all forms of terrorism. AQ, ISIL, and their affiliates pose a direct threat to the UK’s national security. We are part of a military and political coalition to defeat ISIL in Iraq and Syria, and are working with international partners to counter the threat from AQ and other terrorist groups in that region. In Syria we have always supported those moderate opposition groups who oppose the tyranny of Assad and the brutality of the extremists.”

This carefully prepared, formal and to-be-expected denial managed to give the story more visibility. Over the following weekend, RT News, the flagship Russian network, which claims distribution reach to about 700 million households in over 100 countries, relied heavily on content found on LevantReport.com for its coverage of the DIA document as well as former Ambabassador to Syria Robert Ford’s prior relationship to ISIS-linked commander Col. Abdel Jabbar al-Okaidi.

On the heels of Russian coverage, the story made headlines in national German news, carried across leading daily newspapers and in some of the top circulating political magazines. This included, among others: Junge Welt, Die Welt, News.de, General Anzeiger, FOCUS Online, WAZ (Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung), Hamburger Abendblatt,Ostthuringer Zeitung, and the German TV news channel, n-TV.

When news of the August 2012 DIA document swept Russia and Iran after that first weekend I must have popped up on DIA’s “radar”. Before this, I had contacted DIA Public Affairs on Friday, May 22, just prior to going on The Scott Horton Show, hoping to gain some kind of better context though which to understand the document, but got no response.

The following Monday, after the initial foreign media coverage, the DIA public affairs spokesman sent me an email, left a voice message on my phone, and said he was ready to receive questions. I was caught off guard by this unexpected development, as I represent no big network, am not a professional journo, and typically my analysis/editorial site does not even get much visibility.

I’m as independent as it gets. In fact, the night I wrote the story I had just finished grading stacks of final exams (as I am a teacher with a hectic schedule). A retired military intelligence veteran told me, in an online forum, that I must have “hit a nerve” in order for the DIA to contact me so quickly after the weekend (the DIA monitors foreign media as part of their intelligence collection mission).

The other factor must have been the sudden visibility in the U.S. that Nafeez Ahmed’s piece got when it was copied to Zero Hedge—the financial blog referred to by many as “the Drudge Report of Wall Street”—the report got 250,000 views in a matter of a couple days (and as of this writing has 350,000+). But again, it was likely the foreign coverage that gained their attention, and prompted the DIA to return my call.

This whole episode represents the complete failure of American mainstream media. That an invisible freelance writer with a day job, and with no broader backing of any kind, would have to nervously push this story because the mainstream media wouldn’t touch it, only using the Benghazi angle for the purpose of a partisan fight against Hilary, represents an indictment of all those organizations that are so concerned over their reputations, that they dare not “go out on a limb” in fear of being accused of dabbling in “conspiracies”.

I literally (and quite rudely) had to run out of a faculty meeting in order to take the DIA’s call. As I fired questions at DIA spokesman James Kudla, I remembered thinking… why had this fallen on me to do this, and not someone whose job it actually is to grill government agency officials? But I was reminded why I was doing it by DIA’s surprising responses, as a Middle East Eye column explains:

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.”

A new day has dawned in America when a government agency representing the military can’t comment over whether its intel says “the West backed ISIS.” It should have been an easy denial—I expected to be told to pack up my tin foil hat and go home.

But that’s not what happened after pushing hard for that expected denial; and yes, it is telling when an America veteran is given a “no comment” to a question as simple as, “Are you able to at least deny that the DIA’s analysis revealed that the West backed ISIS at some point during the conflict in Syria?” But perhaps the DIA spokesman was just trying to be as honest as the original intelligence information report. It is simply something he can’t deny.

But I was never alone in my reporting. While FOX News and others refused to pursue the shocking contents of the particular DIA information report in question (though they had paid-staffers and reporters pouring through the collection of docs), it was non-mainstream outlets like Moon of Alabama, Antiwar.com, Foreign Policy Journal, the Scott Horton Show, and countless independent journalists and blogs that were the first to realize the newsworthiness of the contents.  To you all I say thank you.

Slowly, reporting of the document is creeping into the U.S. mainstream. “Headline & Global News” has published two reports (see here and here), while Breitbart.com has reluctantly acknowledged (beneath a Benghazi headline) that the report is “right on the nose” in predicting that a terror-driven “Islamic State” would arise out of militarized U.S. support to the opposition in Syria, and a May 28 Salon.com article pointed us to “The Benghazi outrage we should actually be talking about: Newly revealed documents show how the CIA stood by as arms shipments from Libya enabled the rise of ISIS.”

The stakes are high. On Monday, May 25, it was widely reported that the U.S. and Turkey reached some level of agreement for a planned no fly zone over Syria in support of the opposition insurgents each country has agreed to train and send into the conflict zone. This proposed strategy would see so-called “moderate” rebels attempt to fight both ISIS and the Syrian government at the same time (even as all “moderate” groups declare that their true ultimate goal is to fight the Syrian government). Such an escalation would be bad for the people of the region, bad for America, and bad for our long overextended armed forces.

But knowledge of the DIA ISIS document threatens to awaken the American people from their slumber. They have been told non-stop, from all corners, that Islamic State is the single greatest and most horrific terror threat that mankind has ever seen, representing a new and unique form of evil.

Americans need to read about the origins of IS in the plain words of the internal Pentagon document. They need to know that a defense official couldn’t simply say that the idea of the West backing the Islamic State was ludicrous. They need to know that in America one is now forced by the realities of recent alliances to say “no comment” to such a question that only a few short years ago would be unthinkable to even formulate.

While the mainstream media will likely refuse to cover this, it is not going away. Rand Paul is in a fight with hawks in his own party. Very recently, Paul cryptically referenced the DIA document in support of his argument that it wasn’t U.S. troop withdrawal that allowed for IS’s rise, but the decision to arm and fund, and give political support to the Syrian rebels (he likely learned about this document through his father, see video above). As the campaign for the Republican nomination heats up, he is sure to reference the document more vocally. At that point, the mainstream will be forced to acknowledge the document, and it will become part of the national conversation.

More recently, The Huffington Post, The Guardian (UK), and Jacobin reported on the DIA document. No matter how much resistance there is in establishment discourse, this is not going away.

Former MI6 High Ranking Official Alastair Crooke Validates DIA ISIS Document in Huffington Post Analysis

“In short, the DIA assessment indicates that the “wedge” concept was being given new life by 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.”

Read the full article here…THE WORLD POST/ HUFFINGTON POST (6/1/2015):