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.

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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.

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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.

RARE.US Reports: Surprise! ISIS is now using U.S. made missiles originally supplied to Syrian rebels

LR Editor’s Note: The diffusion of Raytheon’s TOW anti-tank missile systems into the hands of recognized terror groups operating in Syria and Iraq has been something Levant Report has watched closely over the past year. A highly visible and popular news feed, RARE.US, now confirms what many Syria watchers have long known. The article sources my own LR article from six months ago, so it is good to know that word of this is slowly going more mainstream. Would not any sane American citizen say that this at the very least warrants a serious Congressional investigation? How would CIA and Pentagon officials explain this?

RARE.US, Kevin Boyd — ISIS has acquired a very large arsenal of weapons in its campaigns in Syria and Iraq, including weapons provided by the United States originally intended for Syrian rebel groups.

In a disturbing turn of events, video released by ISIS shows that the organization is now using American made BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles. The Long War Journal reports the group is on the offensive in the eastern Syrian city of Hasakah

Continue reading here…

ISIS is now deploying US-supplied TOW Anti-tank Missiles in Syria

8_small.jpgProduced by ISIS media, the Arabic reads “Firing the TOW missile system against the apostates.” The set of photos released together, which can be viewed here, claims Al-Qarytayn in the countryside southeast of Homs as the location.

ISIS fighters are currently boasting of the deployment of their latest military hardware through photos distributed by Islamic State’s “Wilayat Damascus” (State of Damascus): the US-supplied BGM 71E TOW anti-tank missile system.

Among those confirming the authenticity of the photos include analysts at the hawkish Brookings Institution and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies funded Long War Journal.

Long War Journal columnist Caleb Weiss reports:

In the photo set, many Islamic State fighters can be seen amassing in more than 15 technicals, or armed pickup trucks. The pictures then show the use of the TOW missile on Free Syrian Army (FSA) units. The last few photos show FSA members the Islamic State has taken captive.

In a December 27 article, independent journalist Maram Susli outlined the existing evidence for Al-Qaeda group Al-Nusrah Front being in possession of US-supplied TOW anti-tank missiles, while also raising the possibility that ISIS could already be in possession of these systems given the porous and interactive nature of terror militias operating in Syria:

Given the Syrian rebels’ history of openly working along side or defecting to Al Qaeda groups, it is highly doubtful the US government did not predict the TOW missiles would end up in Al Qaeda’s hands.

It is more likely the US provided the rebels with the TOW missiles whilst knowing it would end up in the hands of Al Qaeda. Indeed it has been widely accepted, that Jabhat Al Nusra, ISIS and Ahrar al Sham, another Al Qaeda linked group, are the most powerful groups opposing the Syrian army.

https://justpaste.it/files/justpaste/d195/a8217558/7.jpg

Indeed, it has been documented by an external monitoring group, the UK-based Conflict Armament Research, that the well-known CIA-Saudi program (publicly acknowledged to have begun in 2012) to transfer thousands of tons of weaponry to insurgents in Syria resulted in the arming of ISIS fighters.

Conflict Armament Research was able to trace the serial numbers of weapons recovered by Kurds battling ISIS in Eastern Syria back directly to the CIA-Saudi weapons airlift program. While not as advanced and up-to-date as the current anti-tank systems being displayed in ISIS photographs, the weapons monitoring group’s official report provided evidence that portable rockets were making making it to ISIS hands as of 2013:

M79 90 MM anti-tank rockets captured from IS forces in Syria are identical to M79 rockets transferred by Saudi Arabia to forces operationg under the ‘Free Syrian Army’ umbrella in 2013.

Expect more of US-made BGM 71E TOW systems to show up in ISIS hands. Eventually, enough photographic and serial inscription evidence will be available to establish direct chain of custody and origin. Expect the CIA, Pentagon, and their partners in the Gulf to be in full denial and defensive mode.