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US runs training camps for Syria militants: Russian general

Press TV – December 27, 2017

The Russian military top brass says militants, including those with the Takfiri Daesh terror group, are receiving training in US bases in Syria, adding the terrorists have been instructed to “destabilize” the Arab country.

In an interview with Russia’s Komsomolskaya Pravda daily on Wednesday, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov said the US had turned its military base near the town of al-Tanf in southeastern Syria into a training camp for militants.

Asked about the situation at the US-run al-Tanf base, he replied, “According to satellite and other surveillance data, terrorist squads are stationed there. They are effectively training there.”

General Gerasimov also accused the US of using a refugee camp outside the town of Shaddadah in Syria’s northeastern Hasakah Province as a training center for the Daesh remnants, including those evacuated from the terror outfit’s former stronghold of Raqqah.

“This is essentially ISIS (Daesh),” he said. “They change their colors, take different names – the ‘New Syrian Army’ and others. They are tasked with destabilizing the situation.”

On December 16, Russia’s Reconciliation Center for Syria revealed Washington’s training activities for members of the so-called New Syrian Army, composed of various terrorist groups, at the Shaddadah camp.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Gerasimov estimated that there are currently some 350 militants in al-Tanf and about 750 others in al-Shaddadah,

He further noted that the Russian military had been watching the US training activities at the al-Tanf base “for several months.”

The official also stressed that the Pentagon has so far failed to provide any explanation for its military presence at the al-Tanf base after Daesh’s defeat, saying, “So far, their answers have been ambiguous.”

The town of al-Qaryatayn in Syria’s Homs Province risked falling into the hands of the anti-Damascus militants if the Russian forces had not intervened, according to Gerasimov.

“We took timely measures… They have suffered a defeat, these forces were destroyed. There were captives from these camps. It is clear that training is underway at those camps,” he added.

Nusra terrorists to be wiped out next year

Meanwhile, the Russian general predicted that the operation to eliminate members of the al-Nusra Front militant group in Syria will be completed in 2018.

Next year’s developments in Syria will include “the completion of eliminating militants from Jabhat al-Nusra and its affiliates,” he pointed out.

After losing all the territories under their control in Syria and Iraq, the Daesh terrorists have fled to Libya and southwestern Asia after being defeated in Syria, Gerasimov added.

“Some of them return to countries, from which they illegally arrived. The bulk of them flee to Libya, to southwestern Asian countries,” he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also commented on the issue, saying the main part of the anti-Daesh battle in Syria was over.

“Now, of course, the main anti-terrorist objective is the defeat of Jabhat al-Nusra,” Lavrov said at a meeting with Ahmad Jarba, leader of Syria’s opposition Tomorrow movement.

He warned that the al-Nusra terrorsits have been “are still resisting … because they have been receiving assistance from abroad” to fight against the Syrian government forces.

“We are seeing positive changes in Syria. A decisive blow has been dealt on the IS [Daesh]. And although some militants who have fled the battlefield are trying either to regroup in Syria or to flee abroad,” he added.

Russia, Syria in close defense cooperation

General Gerasimov said the Russian military advisers assist nearly all units of the Syrian forces in planning counter-terrorism operations.

“We cooperate closely with the Syrian government troops, our advisers are attached to nearly all units,” he said.

Russian jets have been conducting air raids against Daesh and other terrorist outfits inside Syria at the Damascus government’s request since September 2015.

President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Moscow now sees no need for a heavy military presence in Syria, but it will continue its counter-terrorism battle in the Arab state “if necessary.”

December 27, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Propaganda for Regime Change in Syria

By Susan Dirgham | Dissident Voice | November 10, 2017

The book Dear World: A Syrian Girl’s Story of War and Plea for Peace was published in October 2017. It is purportedly written by a Syrian girl, Bana Alabed, with the help of her mother and an editor. The book is being prominently promoted in the US and UK and is anticipated to be a big seller this coming Holiday Season.

Background

Bana Alabed is an 8-year-old Syrian girl who rose to fame in 2016 when a Twitter account was set up in her name and she started tweeting in fluent English from east Aleppo as it was under bombardment by Syrian and Russian forces trying to dislodge insurgents.

The first tweet in Bana’s name appeared on 24 September 2016. It simply read, ‘I need peace’. The Twitter account soon had tens of thousands of followers, among them J. K. Rowling, the author of Harry Potter. It was later observed in a video that 7-year-old Bana knew very little English and was being prompted or told what to say.

Bana and Anne Frank?

The book begins with a quote from The Diary of Anne Frank, thus inferring that there are parallels between Bana and the famous Dutch Jewish girl who was forced to hide from the Nazis in the Second World War. If Bana is meant to represent Anne, then presumably the Syrian and Russian governments are meant to represent the Nazis. This is misleading. Several brave Dutch people hid the young Anne and her family from the Nazis. In Syria, Islamist militants, such as those in east Aleppo have targeted Syrians simply because they belonged to minorities. Australian anthropologist Dr. Fiona Hill described how her adoptive Syrian brother, a Sunni, risked his life to rescue three Alawi families from the Free Syrian Army and ‘inevitable summary murder’ at their hands.

Bana and Malala?

Dear World is published by Simon & Schuster, part of the CBS media empire. It was edited or perhaps ghost written by senior editor Christine Pride who sees Bana Alabed “as a heroine reminiscent of Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai”. This is misleading to the point of being bizarre. Before a Taliban gunman shot her, Malala wrote a blog detailing life under Taliban rule. Bana may be a brave and good child, but Dear World does not take a stand against extremist forces. On the contrary, Bana’s father was active with the extremist insurgents.

Jabhat al-Nusra, a group linked to both the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, was the strongest of the militia groups in east Aleppo at the time Bana was sending her tweets. Former Australian soldier Mathew Stewart’s story points to these links. Soon after the start of the war in Afghanistan, Stewart joined the Taliban, and then in 2015 he worked ‘as a trainer with Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaida’s proxy militia in Syria’.

Those who tweet and write in Bana Alabed’s name seem unconcerned about the enforcement of harsh punishments by Jabhat al-Nusra, such as the execution of women. Nor are they concerned about the group’s violence or terror tactics, which are detailed on the Australian National Security webpage.

Ironically, although peace is a word used liberally in Dear World, one tweet since deleted from Bana’s Twitter account read,

Dear world, it’s better to start 3rd world war instead of letting Russia & Assad commit #HolocaustAleppo

The book portrays the young narrator and her mother as courageous and compassionate. According to this narrative the only militants in east Aleppo were the FSA and they were good guys fighting against the evil Syrian government forces. This is public relations propaganda, very far from the reality which American journalists James Foley and Stephen Sotloff documented before being assassinated.

A Western, not Syrian Readership

Dear World is not directed at readers in Syria who are aware of the war’s complex nature and “rebel” reality. Most Syrians grieve the loss of loved ones in the war, want women to maintain freedoms and minorities to be able to worship without fear. Most Syrians do not want their country to be partitioned and made a haven for extremists. The book is written for a western audience, conditioned by the simplistic mainstream media narrative of ‘heroic revolutionaries’ fighting the ‘dictator Assad’.

In January 2017, Bana implored Donald Trump to stop the bombs in Syria and ‘save the children’. But in April 2017, Bana expressed support for Donald Trump’s airstrikes on a Syrian airfield after it was claimed the ‘regime’ had dropped a bomb containing sarin. There were no calls for a thorough impartial investigation, just a call to bomb. Four children were killed in the U.S. airstrikes. It seems clear there is political manipulation guiding the social media messages of a photogenic sweet girl.

Jesus, King, Ghandi … and the FSA?

Dear World champions Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr, and Gandhi, while extolling fighters in the ‘Free Syrian Army’. To the extent that it exists at all, the FSA is made up of armed groups that fly the ‘opposition flag’ rather than al-Qaeda or ISIS ones. This allows them to receive weapons and supplies from western governments even as they defect and turn over these weapons to Syria’s version of Al Queda, Jabhat al Nusra.

James Foley, the American journalist beheaded by ISIS, interviewed an FSA commander in east Aleppo who ‘promised Aleppo would burn.’ In this commander’s opinion, ‘the people of Aleppo were only concerned about their barbecues’ and deserved punishment for not supporting the armed ‘revolution’.

Dear World distorts the truth, abusing the trust of its readers. The book is a weapon in the covert and overt efforts of Syria’s enemies to effect ‘regime change’ by any means. Despite the narrator’s plea for peace, the book’s depiction of the ‘regime’ as the personification of evil could lead a generation of young readers in the West to uncritically support war against Syria and its people for years to come.

As a beautifully packaged children’s book that includes the endorsement of the author of Harry Potter, Dear World could conceivably encourage some impressionable readers to take up arms against a government. Some young readers may believe Syria is an uncivilized wasteland and a battlefield that even they could potentially enter one day, flying a flag, trying to be a hero, killing locals who don’t support the ‘revolution’. For an attractive looking children’s book, Dear World is a potentially dangerous package.

British PR Firm Created “Bana”: the Brand

Could there be any significance in the fact that the PR firm, The Blair Partnership, which handles J. K. Rowling’s publicity also handles Bana’s? The Blair Partnership has transformed ‘Bana’ from a little girl into a brand that represents opposition to the Syrian government and, in effect, support for British foreign policy.

Lies and Omissions in War

Though J .K. Rowling endorses Dear World, it can be assumed that Peter Ford, the former UK ambassador to Syria would not. According to him the British Foreign Office has lied about the war and “it was not the case” that the opposition was dominated “by so-called moderates”.

Apart from mentioning the kidnapping of two of Bana’s uncles, the book hardly refers to the well-documented violence of the Islamist factions operating in east Aleppo at the time Bana was supposedly there. Nor is there mention in Dear World of the civilians killed in west Aleppo when insurgents fired rockets into residential areas or detonated car bombs. In October 2016, the mother of 20-year-old Mireille Hindoyan recounted how a ‘rebel’ missile had killed Mireille and her 12-year-old brother. They had been standing in the street waiting for their mother to finish her shopping. Mireille’s body was dismembered. An online search indicates that the BBC, ABC and the American PBS did not present this story. They surely would have if this had happened in a western country: it was an act of terror, the victims were young and innocent, and Mireille was a local swimming star. Like most of the mainstream western media, those behind the Bana phenomenon seem to have no regard for the victims of ‘rebels’.

Likewise, the beheading of a young boy in July 2016 by an Islamist group in east Aleppo that received funding from the United States is not referred to in Dear World.

Investigating Claims

Dear World presents a long list of claims against the ‘regime’. They include the bombing of schools and hospitals, the random shooting of civilians from a helicopter, and the dropping of cluster bombs, phosphorous, and chlorine on people in east Aleppo.

However, these claims almost invariably originated from media outlets and ‘activists’ linked to the ‘rebels’. The unverified claims have been promoted by western media and some prominent Non-Governmental Organizations while refutations have been ignored. Detailed examinations in case after case have shown the accusations to be exaggerated if not false. It seems this book is actually written by an adult with a political motive.

Bana and Turkish President Erdogan

In December 2016, the extremists controlling east Aleppo were finally forced out of the city. Most surviving civilians rushed into the government controlled west Aleppo and described their “liberation” from the terrorists who had dominated east Aleppo since 2012. In an agreement with the Syrian government, remaining extremists and their families were taken from Aleppo to Idlib province while some others, including Bana and her family, went to Turkey.

Even US Vice President Biden admitted that Turkey supported violent extremists including Al Qaeda (al-Nusra) in Syria. Turkey’s pivotal role and complicity in the violence was confirmed in a video produced by American Lebanese journalist Serena Shim, who died for her work.

Thus it is ironic and a measure of the distortions that Bana told President Erdogan at a meeting in the presidential palace, “Thank you for supporting the children of Aleppo and helping us to get out from war. I love you.”

This is not to suggest that Bana Alabed does not deserve our sympathy. She does, especially since it appears that nefarious forces, which stretch from Syria to Turkey to Britain, are exploiting her. With consummate cynicism, they are using her cute face and demeanor to promote a vicious invasion and war.

Bana Alabed’s Dear World is a book that tugs on the heartstrings as it misleads readers. It is actually propaganda for “regime change” in a small sweet package.

Susan Dirgham is an English as a Second Language Teacher. Beginning in September 2003, she taught at the British Council in Damascus for two years and has subsequently visited Syria several times. With a team that includes Syrian women on humanitarian visas in Australia, she edits the magazine ‘Beloved Syria – Considering Syrian Perspectives’. She can be reached at Susan.dirgham51@gmail.com. Read other articles by Susan.

November 11, 2017 Posted by | Book Review, Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | 1 Comment

US State Department admits Al-Nusra affiliate using chemical weapons in Syria

RT | October 20, 2017

The US Department of State admitted that militants linked to Al-Nusra Front are carrying out terrorist attacks using chemical weapons in Syria. Russia’s defense ministry says it’s the first admission of its kind.

The assertion was made in the latest Syria travel warning issued by the State Department on Wednesday. It also mentions Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL].

“Terrorist and other violent extremist groups including ISIS and Al-Qaeda linked Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham [dominated by Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusra, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization], operate in Syria,” the travel warning reads.

“Tactics of ISIS, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and other violent extremist groups include the use of suicide bombers, kidnapping, small and heavy arms, improvised explosive devices, and chemical weapons,” it said.

Terror groups have targeted roadblocks, border crossings, government buildings and other public areas in major Syrian cities of Damascus, Aleppo, Hama, Daraa, Homs, Idlib, and Deir-ez-Zor, the State Department acknowledged.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Defense Ministry said a precedent had been set by Washington acknowledging that Al-Nusra linked terrorists use chemical weapons in Syria.

“This is the first official recognition by the State Department not only of the presence, but the very use of chemical weapons by Al-Nusra terrorists to carry out terrorist attacks, which we repeatedly warned about,” General Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the ministry, commented on Friday.

Previously, the US military reported chemical attacks in Syria. Last November, Colonel John Dorrian, a spokesman for the US-led coalition in Iraq, said it is “concerned about Islamic State’s use of chemical weapons.”

“[Islamic State] has used them in Iraq and Syria in the past, and we expect them to continue employing these types of weapons,” Dorrian said in an emailed statement to the New York Times.

The military official said the terrorist group’s ability to stage chemical attacks is “rudimentary,” adding that US, Iraqi and other coalition forces are capable of dealing with the impact of these attacks, namely “rockets, mortar shells or artillery shells filled with chemical agents.”

Earlier in April, the US launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Syrian military’s airbase Shayrat in response to an alleged chemical attack in Syria’s Idlib Province, where dozens of civilians including children died from suspected gas poisoning in the rebel-occupied territory. Washington was prompt to point the finger at the Syrian government for the incident.

Moscow said international efforts to investigate the alleged chemical attack did not help to establish hard facts.

“There is a Joint Investigative Mechanism [JIM], established in 2015 by the UN and the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, to find those behind [the use of chemical weapons in Syria],” Mikhail Ulyanov, director of Russian Foreign Ministry’s Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Department, told TASS.

He said the Joint Mechanism’s experts have visited Shayrat airfield on October 8 and 9, but did not collect ground samples at the site.

“The JIM are categorically refusing to carry out this important function,” the diplomat said, adding, “we can’t say this investigation is of any quality… this is an unprofessional approach that raises huge questions.”

October 20, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment

Ambassador Yakovenko’s comment on the situation in Syria

Ambassador’s view | RT | July 16, 2017

We believe that the current round of Geneva talks is off to a better start due to the participation of all the main opposition platforms – the Riyadh, Moscow, and Cairo groups.

The constitutional reform and the fight against terrorism are priorities, but not forgetting about two other issues (running the country prior to the adoption of a new constitution and holding elections). Eventually, the constitution should reflect the concerns of all ethnic, religious, and political groups of Syria without exception. This is the only way to ensure the stable functioning of the Syrian state and prevent the spread of [the] terrorist threat. Meanwhile, the current constitution provides for a broad range of opportunities to expand the participation of opposition representatives in running the state. We actively support the efforts of UNSG Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura to encourage the Syrian parties to engage in a productive conversation on constitutional reforms.

The success of agreements on de-escalation zones, particularly one in southwest Syria signed by Russia, the US, and Jordan on July 7, will make the fight against terrorism more efficient. This opportunity is real now, because the very concept of de-escalation zones provides for separation of the armed opposition from ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Jabhat Al-Nusra, and other UN-proscribed terrorist groups. They also help normalize relations between the government forces and the armed opposition. The conditions are thus created for their stopping fighting each other and joining forces against the terrorists. Russia will contribute to this process.

Among other things, the agreements on de-escalation zones provide for stepping up practical cooperation between Moscow and Washington. Our joint efforts to enforce ceasefire in southwest Syria will be coordinated by the Monitoring Center, which Russia, the United States, and Jordan have agreed to establish in Amman. This center will maintain direct contact both with the opposition groups and representatives of the Syrian government. Basically, we keep the doors open to cooperation on further development of the de-escalation concept, while maintaining regular contact with the other key players that can influence developments in Syria. All in all, the July 7 agreement reached between Russia, the US, and Jordan shows that, despite differences in our positions and interests, cooperation is possible for common good. Let’s build on this to make further progress in dealing with jihadist aggression that distorted the entire Syrian situation.

Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Deputy foreign minister (2005-2011). Follow him on Twitter @Amb_Yakovenko

July 16, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

CONFIRMED: Russia negotiates with Turkey for surrender of Jihadis in east Aleppo

By Alexander Mercouris | The Duran | December 1, 2016

The Financial Times provides confirmation that as claimed by The Duran in early November Turkey is brokering talks between Russia and the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo for them to surrender the eastern districts of the city.

Back on 2nd November 2016 I wrote a piece for The Duran in which I said that all diplomatic contacts with the US over Syria having completely failed, the Russians were trying to negotiate the surrender of eastern Aleppo with Turkey. 

This is what I said:

“Having despaired of getting the US to separate Al-Qaeda/Jabhat Al-Nusra from the other Jihadis in Aleppo, and getting them to withdraw, it is likely the Russians are trying to agree the same thing with the Turks.  Indeed [General] Gerasimov’s [Russia’s Chief of General Staff] comments today essentially say as much.”

Today there is confirmation from the Financial Times that such talks in Ankara are indeed underway. Here is what it reports:

“Syrian rebels are in secret talks with Russia to end the fighting in Aleppo, according to opposition figures, a development that shows how the US could become sidelined in some of the Middle East’s most pivotal conflicts.

Four opposition members from rebel-held northern Syria told the Financial Times that Turkey has been brokering talks in Ankara with Moscow, whose military intervention last year on the side of President Bashar al-Assad helped turn the five-year civil war in the regime’s favour. Russia is now backing regime efforts to recapture the rebel’s last urban stronghold in Syria’s second city of Aleppo.

“The Russians and Turks are talking without the US now. It [Washington] is completely shut out of these talks, and doesn’t even know what’s going on in Ankara,” said one opposition figure, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.”

Importantly the Russians are not denying the talks. Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s formidable spokeswoman, responded to questions by the Financial Times about the talks as follows

“Washington isolated itself. We’ve been negotiating with the [Syrian] opposition in Turkey for years — it’s not news.”

The Financial Times misunderstands the negotiations which are underway. It quotes Charles Lister, a Syria expert at the Middle East Institute in Washington, as explaining Russia’s intentions in this way

“Russia is hedging its bets. It would prefer to make a deal with the opposition.  If Aleppo were to fall, the Syrian regime would need so many troops to hold the city that its forces would be left thin elsewhere in the country — or dependent on Iranian help, which Moscow would prefer to avoid.”

This is certainly wrong. As The Duran has been reporting ever since September, the consistent Russian demand, and the key provision of the unsuccessful Kerry-Lavrov agreement of September, is that all the Jihadis fighters must quit eastern Aleppo, which must be surrendered to the government. 

It should hardly need saying that Aleppo would be far more defensible without any Jihadi fighters there, rather than with Jihadi fighters owing allegiance to terrorist organisations like Al-Qaeda and ISIS still in control of some of the eastern districts of the city.

Charles Lister’s analysis is I am sorry to say just another example of the wishful thinking and failure to assess realities in Syria objectively which has beset Western understanding of the conflict in Syria since its start.Full article

December 1, 2016 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Myth of America’s War on Terrorism

By Stephen Lendman | March 31, 2016

It’s a complete hoax – a phony pretext for waging endless imperial wars, wanting whole continents carved up for profit and dominance.

Fictitious enemies are created. Premeditated wars of aggression follow. Rules of engagement are changed from rule of law observance to anything goes.

America declared war on humanity, the greatest threat to life on earth, using terrorist groups to do much of its dirty work.

Their names don’t matter. Earlier US supported anti-Soviet Afghan mujahadeen forces became opposition Taliban fighters.

ISIS, Al Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra and likeminded groups are similar. Names and faces change, not methods of operation other than access to more modern weapons and new funding sources.

Obama’s vow to degrade and destroy ISIS (and by implication likeminded terrorist groups) is a complete fabrication, the public willfully deceived to believe otherwise.

Washington backs the scourge it claims to oppose – along with rogue allies providing ISIS and other terrorist groups with arms, munitions, training, funding, direction and other material support. They couldn’t exist without it.

Media scoundrels front for power and privilege, perpetuating the Big Lie about America combating terrorism instead of explaining what news consumers need to know – The New York Times as willfully deceptive as Fox News.

Its editors say “America needs frank talk on ISIS,” never explaining it created and supports the group.

They lied, claiming “Obama authorized…airstrikes in Iraq and Syria in 2014 to curb the rise of the Islamic State.”

Syrian intervention was and continues to be flagrantly illegal without Security Council or Damascus authorization. Baghdad was pressured to let Washington to maintain the fiction of combatting ISIS.

In both countries, infrastructure and government sites are struck, ISIS and other terrorists aided. Thousands of US combat forces are in Iraq, likely more coming, limited numbers in Syria.

Russia alone along with Syrian ground forces achieved significant victories against ISIS and likeminded groups.

The Obama administration lied, claiming US warplanes cut ISIS revenues by striking its oil trucks and other targets. It says “intensif(ied) airstrikes and raids” are coming.

America’s air campaign in Iraq and Syria have been ongoing for over 18 months. ISIS advanced steadily until Russia intervened in Syria.

Instead of exposing Obama’s phony war on terror, his lawless aggression, using ISIS and other terrorist groups as imperial foot soldiers, The Times perpetuates the myth of combating a scourge America supports.



Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

March 31, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

What US Congress Researchers Reveal About Washington’s Designs on Syria

Seeing the government in Damascus as too far to the left, Washington has been trying to orchestrate a regime change in Syria since at least 2003

By Stephen Gowans | what’s left |February 9, 2016

Documents prepared by US Congress researchers as early as 2005 revealed that the US government was actively weighing regime change in Syria long before the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, challenging the view that US support for the Syrian rebels is based on allegiance to a “democratic uprising” and showing that it is simply an extension of a long-standing policy of seeking to topple the government in Damascus. Indeed, the researchers made clear that the US government’s motivation to overthrow the government of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is unrelated to democracy promotion in the Middle East. In point of fact, they noted that Washington’s preference is for secular dictatorships (Egypt) and monarchies (Jordan and Saudi Arabia.) [1] The impetus for pursuing regime change, according to the researchers, was a desire to sweep away an impediment to the achievement of US goals in the Middle East related to strengthening Israel, consolidating US domination of Iraq, and fostering free-market, free enterprise economies. Democracy was never a consideration.

The researchers revealed further that an invasion of Syria by US forces was contemplated following the US-led aggression against Iraq in 2003, but that the unanticipated heavy burden of pacifying Iraq militated against an additional expenditure of blood and treasure in Syria. [2] As an alternative to direct military intervention to topple the Syrian government, the United States chose to pressure Damascus through sanctions and support for the internal Syrian opposition.

The documents also revealed that nearly a decade before the rise of Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra that the US government recognized that Islamic fundamentalists were the main opposition to the secular Assad government and worried about the re-emergence of an Islamist insurgency that could lead Sunni fundamentalists to power in Damascus. A more recent document from the Congress’s researchers describes a US strategy that seeks to eclipse an Islamist take-over by forcing a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Syria in which the policing, military, judicial and administrative functions of the Syrian state are preserved, while Assad and his fellow Arab nationalists are forced to leave office. The likelihood is that if this scenario plays out that Assad and his colleagues will be replaced by biddable US surrogates willing to facilitate the achievement of US goals.

+++

In 2005, Congress’s researchers reported that a consensus had developed in Washington that change in Syria needed to be brought about, but that there remained divisions on the means by which change could be effected. “Some call for a process of internal reform in Syria or alternatively for the replacement of the current Syrian regime,” the report said. [3] Whichever course Washington would settle on, it was clear that the US government was determined to shift the policy framework in Damascus.

The document described the Assad government as an impediment “to the achievement of US goals in the region.” [4] These goals were listed as: resolving “the Arab-Israeli conflict;” fighting “international terrorism;” reducing “weapons proliferation;” inaugurating “a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Iraqi state;” and fostering market-based, free enterprise economies. [5]

Stripped of their elegant words, the US objectives for the Middle East amounted to a demand that Damascus capitulate to the military hegemony of Israel and the economic hegemony of Wall Street. To be clear, what this meant was that in order to remove itself as an impediment to the achievement of US goals—and hence as an object of US hostility—Syria would have to:

o Accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state on territory seized from Palestinians, and quite possibly also Syrians and Lebanese, possibly within borders that include the Golan Heights, annexed from Syria by Israel in 1987 and occupied by Israel since 1967.
o End its support for militant groups seeking Palestinian self-determination and sever its connections with the resistance organization Hezbollah, the main bulwark against Israeli expansion into Lebanon.
o Leave itself effectively defenceless against the aggressions of the United States and its Middle East allies, including Israel, by abandoning even the capability of producing weapons of mass destruction (while conceding a right to Israel and the United States to maintain vast arsenals of WMD.)
o Terminate its opposition to US domination of neighboring Iraq.
o Transform what the US Congress’s researchers called Syria’s mainly publicly-owned economy, “still based largely on Soviet models,” [6] into a sphere of exploitation for US corporations and investors.

+++

US government objections to Syrian policy, then, can be organized under three US-defined headings:

o Terrorism.
o WMD.
o Economic reform.

These headings translate into:

o Support for Palestinian and Lebanese resistance groups.
o Self-defense.
o Economic sovereignty.

Terrorism (support for Palestinian and Lebanese resistance groups)

The researchers noted that while Syria had “not been implicated directly in an act of terrorism since 1986” that “Syria has continued to provide support and safe haven for Palestinian groups” seeking self-determination, allowing “them to maintain offices in Damascus.” This was enough for the US government to label Syria a state sponsor of terrorism. The researchers went on to note that on top of supporting Palestinian “terrorists” that Damascus also supported Lebanese “terrorists” by permitting “Iranian resupply via Damascus of the Lebanese Shiite Muslim militia Hezbollah in Lebanon.” [7]

US Secretary of State Colin Powell travelled to Damascus on May 3, 2003 to personally issue a demand to the Syrian government that it sever its connections with militant organizations pursuing Palestinian self-determination and to stop providing them a base in Damascus from which to operate. In “testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 12, 2004, Powel complained that ‘Syria has not done what we demanded of it with respect to closing permanently of these offices and getting these individuals out of Damascus’.”

The Syrian government rejected the characterization of Hezbollah and Palestinian militants as “terrorists,” noting that the actions of these groups represented legitimate resistance. [8] Clearly, Washington had attempted to discredit the pursuit of Palestinian self-determination and Lebanese sovereignty by labelling the champions of these causes as terrorists.

WMD (self-defense)

“In a speech to the Heritage Foundation on May 6, 2002, then US Under Secretary (of State John) Bolton grouped Syria with Libya and Cuba as rogue states that… are pursuing the development of WMD.” [9] Later that year, Bolton echoed his earlier accusation, telling the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Bush administration was very concerned about Syrian nuclear and missile programs. By September 2003, Bolton was warning of a “range of Syrian WMD programs.” [10]

Syria clearly had chemical weapons (now destroyed), though hardly in the same quantities as the much larger arsenals of the United States, Russia and (likely) its regional nemesis, Israel. [11] Citing the Washington Post, Congress’s researchers noted that Syria had “sought to build up its CW and missile capabilities as a ‘force equalizer’ to counter Israeli nuclear capabilities.” [12] It should be noted, however, that the idea that chemical weapons can act as a force equalizer to nuclear weapons is not only untenable, but risible. In WWI it took 70,000 tons of gas to produce as many fatalities as were produced at Hiroshima by a single US atom bomb. [13] To have any meaning at all, the concept of WMD must include weapons that kill massive numbers of people (nuclear weapons) and exclude those that don’t (chemical weapons.) Otherwise, it is a propaganda term used to magnify the non-threat posed by countries seeking independence outside the US orbit which have CW and biological weapons, but which weapons are no match for the United States’ nuclear weapons and are dwarfed by the Pentagon’s own CW and BW arsenals. Deceptively labelling these weapons as WMD, makes a non-threat a large threat that must be dealt with through military intervention and thereby provides a public relations rationale for a war of aggression.

As to the substance of Bolton’s assertion that Syria had a wide range of WMD programs, the CIA was unable to produce any evidence to corroborate his claim. Alfred Prados, author of a 2005 Congressional Research Service report titled “Syria: U.S. Relations and Bilateral Issues,” listed CIA assessments of Syrian nuclear and BW programs but none of the assessments contained any concrete evidence that Syria actually had such programs. For example, the CIA noted that it was “monitoring Syrian nuclear intentions with concern” but offered nothing beyond “intentions” to show that Damascus was working to acquire a nuclear weapons capability. Prados also noted that Syria had “probably also continued to develop a BW capability,” this based on the fact that Damascus had “signed, but not ratified, the Biological Weapons Convention.” Prados conceded that “Little information is available on Syrian biological programs.”

US president George H.W. Bush is responsible for rendering the concept of WMD meaningless by expanding it to include chemical agents. Before Bush, WMD was a term to denote nuclear weapons or weapons of similar destructive capacity that might be developed in the future. Bush debased the definition in order to go to war with Iraq. He needed to transform the oil-rich Arab country from being seen accurately as a comparatively weak country militarily to being seen inaccurately as a significant threat because it possessed weapons now dishonestly rebranded as being capable of producing mass destruction. It was an exercise in war propaganda.

In 1989, Bush pledged to eliminate the United States’ chemical weapons by 1999. Seventeen years later, the Pentagon is still sitting on the world’s largest stockpile of militarized chemical agents. US allies Israel and Egypt also have chemical weapons. In 2003, Syria proposed to the United Nations Security Council that the Middle East become a chemical weapons-free zone. The proposal was blocked by the United States, likely in order to shelter Israel from having to give up its store of chemical arms. Numerous calls to declare the Middle East a nuclear weapons-free zone have also been blocked by Washington to shelter Israel from having to give up its nuclear arsenal.

Bolton, it will be recalled, was among the velociraptors of the Bush administration to infamously and falsely accuse Saddam Hussein’s Iraq of holding on to WMD that the UN Security Council had demanded it dismantle. In effect, Iraq was ordered to disarm itself, and when it did, was falsely accused by the United States of still being armed as a pretext for US forces to invade the now defenceless country. Bolton may have chosen to play the same WMD card against Syria for the same reason: to manufacture consent for an invasion. But as Congress’s researchers pointed out, “Although some officials… advocated a ‘regime change strategy’ in Syria” through military means, “military operations in Iraq… forced US policy makers to explore additional options,” [14] rendering Bolton’s false accusations academic.

Since the only legitimate WMD are nuclear weapons, and since there is no evidence that Syria has even the untapped capability of producing them, much less possesses them, Syria has never been a WMD-state or a threat to the US goal of reducing WMD proliferation. What’s more, the claim that Washington holds this as a genuine goal is contestable, since it has blocked efforts to make the Middle East a chemical- and nuclear-weapons-free zone, in order to spare its protégé, Israel. It would be more accurate to say that the United States has a goal of reducing weapons proliferation among countries it may one day invade, in order to make the invasion easier. Moreover, there’s an egregious US double-standard here. Washington maintains the world’s largest arsenals of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, but demands that countries it opposes should abandon their own, or forswear their development. This is obviously self-serving and has nothing whatever to do with fostering peace and everything to do with promoting US world domination. One US grievance with Assad’s Syria, then, is that it refused to accept the international dictatorship of the United States.

Economic reform (economic sovereignty)

In connection with Syria impeding the achievement of US goals in the Middle East, the Congressional Research Service made the following points in 2005 about the Syrian economy: It is “largely state-controlled;” it is “dominated by… (the) public sector, which employs 73% of the labour force;” and it is “still based largely on Soviet models.” [15] These departures from the preferred Wall Street paradigm of free markets and free enterprise appear, from the perspective of Congress’s researchers, to be valid reasons for the US government to attempt to bring about “reform” in Syria. Indeed, no one should be under the illusion that the US government is prepared to allow foreign governments to exercise sovereignty in setting their own direction economically. That this is the case is evidenced by the existence of a raft of US sanctions legislation against “non-market states.” (See the Congressional Research Service 2016 report, “North Korea: Economic Sanctions,” for a detailed list of sanctions imposed on North Korea for having a “Marxist-Leninist” economy.)

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To recapitulate the respective positions of Syria and the United States on issues of bilateral concern to the two countries:

On Israel. To accept Israel’s right to exist as a settler state on land illegitimately acquired through violence and military conquest from Palestinians, Lebanese (the Shebaa Farms) and Syrians (Golan), would be to collude in the denial of the fundamental right of self-determination. Damascus has refused to collude in the negation of this right. Washington demands it.

On Hezbollah. Hezbollah is the principal deterrent against Israeli territorial expansion into Lebanon and Israeli aspirations to turn the country into a client state. Damascus’s support for the Lebanese resistance organization, and Washington’s opposition to it, places the Assad government on the right side of the principle of self-determination and successive US governments on the wrong side.

On WMD. Syria has a right to self-defense through means of its own choosing and the demand that it abandon its right is not worthy of discussion. The right to self-defense is a principle the United States and its allies accept as self-evident and non-negotiable. It is not a principle that is valid only for the United States and its satellites.

On opposition to the US invasion of Iraq. The 2003 US-led aggression against Iraq was an international crime on a colossal scale, based on an illegitimate casus belli, and a fabricated one at that, and which engendered massive destruction and loss of life. It was the supreme international crime by the standards of the Nuremberg trials. Applying the Nuremberg principles, the perpetrators would be hanged. US aggression against Iraq, including the deployment of “sanctions of mass destruction” through the 1990s, which led to hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, and was blithely accepted by then US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as “worth it,” was undertaken despite the absence of any threat to the United States. The deliberate creation of humanitarian calamities in the absence of a threat, as a matter of choice and not necessity, in pursuit of economic gain, is an iniquity on a signal scale. What, then, are we to think of a government in Damascus that opposed this iniquity, and a government in Washington that demands that Damascus reverse its opposition and accept the crime as legitimate?

Whatever its failings, the Assad government has unambiguously adopted positions that have traditionally been understood to be concerns of the political left: support for self-determination; public ownership and planning of the economy; opposition to wars of aggression; and anti-imperialism. This is not to say that on a spectrum from right to left that the Assad government occupies a position near the left extreme; far from it. But from Washington’s point of view, Damascus is far enough to the left to be unacceptable. Indeed, it is the Syrian government’s embrace of traditional leftist positions that accounts for why it is in the cross-hairs of the world’s major champion of reactionary causes, the United States, even if it isn’t the kind of government that is acceptable to Trotskyists and anarchists.

+++

In 2003, the Bush administration listed Syria as part of a junior varsity axis of evil, along with Cuba and Libya, citing support in Damascus for Hezbollah and groups engaged in armed struggle to achieve Palestinian self-determination. [16] An invasion of Syria following the US take-over of Iraq in 2003 was contemplated, but was called off after the Pentagon discovered its hands were full quelling resistance to its occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. As an alternative to direct military intervention to topple the Syrian government, the United States chose to pressure Assad through sanctions and by strengthening the opposition in Syria, hoping either to force Assad to accept Israel’s territorial gains, end support for Hezbollah and Palestinian militant groups, and to remake the economy—or to yield power. However, as Congress’s researchers reveal, there were concerns in Washington that if efforts to bolster the opposition went too far, Assad would fall to “a successor regime (which) could be led by Islamic fundamentalists who might adopt policies even more inimical to the United States.” [17]

On December 12, 2003, US president George W. Bush signed the Syria Accountability Act, which imposed sanctions on Syria unless, among other things, Damascus halted its support for Hezbollah and Palestinian resistance groups and ceased “development of weapons of mass destruction.” The sanctions included bans on exports of military equipment and civilian goods that could be used for military purposes (in other words, practically anything.) This was reinforced with an additional (and largely superfluous) ban on US exports to Syria other than food and medicine, as well as a prohibition against Syrian aircraft landing in or overflying the United States. [18]

On top of these sanctions, Bush imposed two more. Under the USA PATRIOT Act, the US Treasury Department ordered US financial institutions to sever connections with the Commercial Bank of Syria. [19] And under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the US president froze the assets of Syrians involved in supporting policies hostile to the United States, which is to say, supporting Hezbollah and groups fighting for Palestinian self-determination, refusing to accept as valid territorial gains which Israel had made through wars of aggression, and operating a largely publicly-owned, state-planned economy, based on Soviet models. [20]

In order to strengthen internal opposition to the Syrian government, Bush signed the Foreign Operations Appropriation Act. This act required that a minimum of $6.6 million “be made available for programs supporting democracy in Syria… as well as unspecified amounts of additional funds (emphasis added).” [21]

By 2006, Time was reporting that the Bush administration had “been quietly nurturing individuals and parties opposed to the Syrian government in an effort to undermine the regime of President Bashar Assad.” Part of the effort was being run through the National Salvation Front. The Front included “the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization that for decades supported the violent overthrow of the Syrian government.” Front representatives “were accorded at least two meetings” at the White House in 2006. Hence, the US government, at its highest level, was colluding with Islamists to bring down the Syrian government at least five years before the eruption of protests in 2011. This is a development that seems to have escaped the notice of some who believe that violent Islamist organizations emerged only after March 2011. In point of fact, the major internal opposition to secular Syrian governments, both before and after March 2011, were and are militant Sunni Islamists. Syria expert Joshua Landis told Time that White House support for the Syrian opposition was “apparently an effort to gin up the Syrian opposition under the rubric of ‘democracy promotion’ and ‘election monitoring,’ but it’s really just an attempt to pressure the Syrian government into doing what the United States wants.” [22]

+++

The US Congress researchers noted that despite “US calls for democracy in the Middle East, historically speaking, US policymakers” have tended to favor “secular Arab republics (Egypt) and Arab monarchies (Jordan and Saudi Arabia.)” [23] They noted too that since “the rise of political Islam as an opposition vehicle in the Middle East decades ago, culminating in the 1979 overthrow of the Shah of Iran, US policymakers have been concerned that secular Arab dictatorships like Syria would face rising opposition from Islamist groups seeking their overthrow.” [24] “The religiously fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood,” which the Bush administration enlisted to pressure the Assad government, had long been at odds with the secular Syrian government, the researchers noted. [25]

Today, Islamic State operates as one of the largest, if not the largest, rebel groups in Syria. A 2015 Congressional Research Service report cited an “unnamed senior State Department official” who observed:

[W]e’ve never seen something like this. We’ve never seen a terrorist organization with 22,000 foreign fighters from a hundred countries all around the world. To put it in context—again, the numbers are fuzzy—but it’s about double of what went into Afghanistan over 10 years in the war against the Soviet Union. Those Jihadi fighters were from a handful of countries.” [26]

Islamic State differs from other militant Islamist opponents of the Syrian government in seeking to control territory, not only in Syria, but in Iraq and beyond. As such, it constitutes a threat to US domination of Iraq and influence throughout the Middle East and north Africa. In contrast, ideologically similar groups, such as Jabhat al-Nusra, limit the scope of their operations to Syria. They, therefore, constitute a threat to the Syrian government alone, and have proved, as a consequence, to be more acceptable to Washington.

The US government has publicly drawn a distinction between Islamic State and the confined-to-Syria-therefore-acceptable rebels, seeking to portray the former as terrorists and the latter as moderates, regardless of the methods they use and their views on Islam and democracy. The deception is echoed by the US mass media, which often complain that when Russian warplanes target non-Islamic State rebels that they’re striking “moderates,” as if all rebels apart from Islamic State are moderates, by definition. US Director of Intelligence James Clapper acknowledged that “moderate” means little more than “not Islamic State.” He told the Council on Foreign Relations that “Moderate these days is increasingly becoming anyone who’s not affiliated with” Islamic State. [27]

The rebels are useful to the US government. By putting military pressure on Damascus to exhaust the Syrian army, they facilitate the achievement of the immediate US goal of “forcing a negotiated settlement to the conflict that will see President Assad and some his supporters leave office while preserving the institutions and security structures of the Syrian state,” [28] as Congress’s researchers summarize US strategy. Hence, Islamic State exists both as a useful instrument of US policy, and as a threat to US domination and control of Iraq and the broader Middle East. To Washington, the terrorist organization is a double-edged sword, and is treated accordingly. US airstrikes on Islamic State appear calculated to weaken the terrorist group enough that it doesn’t gain more territory in Iraq, but not so much that pressure is taken off Damascus. A tepid approach to fighting the hyper-sectarian terrorist group fits with US president Barack Obama’s stated goal of degrading and ultimately destroying Islamic State, which appears to mean destroying it only after it has served its purpose of exhausting the Syrian army. In the meantime, the anti-Shiite cut-throats are given enough latitude to maintain pressure on Syrian loyalists.

Congress’s researchers concur with this view. They conclude that “US officials may be concerned that a more aggressive campaign against the Islamic State may take military pressure off the” Syrian government. [29] This means that the US president is moderating efforts to destroy Islamic State to allow a group he decries as “simply a network of killers who are brutalizing local populations” [30] continue their work of brutalizing local populations. If he truly believed Islamic State was a scourge that needed to be destroyed, the US president would work with the Syrian government to expunge it. Instead, he has chosen to wield Islamic State as a weapon to expunge the Syrian government, in the service of building up Israel and fostering free market and free enterprise economies in the Middle East to accommodate US foreign investment and exports on behalf of his Wall Street sponsors. [31]

REFERENCES

1. Alfred B. Prados and Jeremy M. Sharp, “Syria: Political Conditions and Relations with the United States After the Iraq War,” Congressional Research Service, February 28, 2005.

2. Prados and Sharp.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Alfred B. Prados, “Syria: U.S. Relations and Bilateral Issues,” Congressional Research Service, March 13, 2006.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.

10. Ibid.

11. Israel signed the global treaty banning the production and use of chemical weapons, but never ratified it.

12. Ibid.

13. Stephen Gowans, “Rethinking Chemical Weapons,” what’s left, August 14, 2015.

14. Prados and Sharp.

15. Ibid.

16. Steve R. Weisman, “US threatens to impose penalties against Syrians,” The New York Times, April 14, 2003.

17. Prados and Sharp.

18. Prados.

19. Ibid.

20. Ibid.

21. Ibid.

22. Adam Zagorin, “Syria in Bush’s cross hairs,” Time, December 19, 2006.

23. Prados and Sharp.

24. Ibid.

25. Ibid.

26. Christopher M. Blanchard and Carla E. Humud, “The Islamic State and U.S. Policy,” Congressional Research Service, December 28, 2015.

27. James Clapper: US Director of Intelligence: http://www.cfr.org/homeland-security/james-clapper-global-intelligence-challenges/p36195

28. Blanchard and Humud.

29. Christopher M. Blanchard, Carla E. Humud Mary Beth D. Nikitin, “Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response,”Congressional Research Service,” October 9, 2015.

30. Blanchard and Humud.

31. Virtually every member of the Obama administration, past and present, is a member of the Wall Street-dominated Council on Foreign Relations, or additionally, has spent part of his or her career on Wall Street. Wall Street was a major source of Obama’s election campaign funding. The strong interlock between Wall Street and the executive branch of the US government is not unique to the Obama administration. See my “Aspiring to Rule the World: US Capital and the Battle for Syria,” what’s left, December 15, 2015.

February 11, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Syria: Terrorist bombings in Homs require immediate and stern condemnation from Security Council

Syria Online – January 27, 2016

The Foreign and Expatriates Ministry said that the two terrorist bombings that took place in Homs city on Tuesday and other similar terrorist crimes require an immediate and stern condemnation from Security Council and taking deterrent actions against the states that support and fund terrorism.

In two identical letters sent to the UN Secretary-General and to the head of the Security Council, the Ministry said that terrorist organizations detonated a car bomb on Tuesday morning in al-Siteen Street in al-Zahra’a neighborhood in Homs, and that attack was followed by another attack by suicide bomber using an explosive belt, claiming the lives of 24 civilian and injuring more than 100 civilians, some of whom sustained severe injuries, in addition to damaging houses and infrastructures in the area.

The Ministry noted that these bombings were carried out at a time when the date for holding the Geneva 3 meeting, which seeks to push towards a political solution for the crisis in Syria, is approaching.

The letters pointed out that Syria had informed the Security Council and the Secretary-General of numerous terrorist bombings that targeted the very same neighborhood, but sadly none of these attacks and none of the hundreds of victims who were killed or injured in them were paid any attention by the Council and the Secretary-General.

The Ministry said that those two brutal bombings constitute a continuation of the barbaric and methodical terrorist acts committed by terrorist groups in Syria, groups that are supported by well-known regional and international states that employ terrorists to serve their personal political interests and irresponsible agendas, adding that these crimes also constitute a response to the political efforts to find a political solution by Syrians and to the success of national reconciliation efforts.

The letters also noted that the bombings are also an attempt to raise the morale of terrorist groups that are suffering repeated defeats at the hands of the Syrian Arab Army.

The Ministry said that the crimes and massacres committed by terrorist organizations like ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, Jaish al-Islam, al-Jabha al-Islamiya, Jaish al-Fateh, Ahrar al-Cham, and the “Free Army” wouldn’t have taken place without the constant arming, equipping, funding, and logistic support provided to terrorists by the governments of certain states.

The letters said that the Syrian government stresses that as per relevant Security Council resolutions and the principles of international law, such terrorist crimes require an immediate and stern condemnation from Security Council and taking deterrent actions against the states that support and fund terrorism whose destructive impact on peace and security isn’t limited to Syria but also affects the entire world.

The Ministry also stressed the need to cooperate and coordinate with the Syrian government in any effort for combating terrorism.

January 27, 2016 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Insidious Relationship between Washington and ISIS: The Evidence

By Prof. Tim Anderson | Global Research | September 3, 2015

Reports that US and British aircraft carrying arms to ISIS have been shot down by Iraqi forces have been met with shock and denial in western countries. Few in the Middle East doubt that Washington is playing a ‘double game’ with its proxy armies in Syria, but some key myths remain important among the significantly more ignorant western audiences.

A central myth is that Washington now arms ‘moderate Syrian rebels’, to both overthrow the Syrian Government and supposedly defeat the ‘extremist rebels’. This claim became more important in 2014, when the rationale of US aggression against Syria shifted from ‘humanitarian intervention’ to a renewal of Bush’s ‘war on terror’.

A distinct controversy is whether the al Qaeda styled groups (especially Jabhat al Nusra and ISIS) have been generated as a sort of organic reaction to the repeated US interventions, or whether they are actually paid agents of Washington.

Certainly, prominent ISIS leaders were held in US prisons. ISIS leader, Ibrahim al-Badri (aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) is said to have been held for between one and two years at Camp Bucca in Iraq. In 2006, as al-Baghdadi and others were released, the Bush administration announced its plan for a ‘New Middle East’, a plan which would employ sectarian violence as part of a process of ‘creative destruction’ in the region.

According to Seymour Hersh’s 2007 article, ‘The Redirection’, the US would make use of ‘moderate Sunni states’, not least the Saudis, to ‘contain’ the Shia gains in Iraq brought about by the 2003 US invasion. These ‘moderate Sunni’ forces would carry out clandestine operations to weaken Iran and Hezbollah, key enemies of Israel. This brought the Saudis and Israel closer, as both fear Iran.

While there have been claims that the ISIS ‘caliph’ al-Baghdadi is a CIA or Mossad trained agent, these have not yet been well backed up. There are certainly grounds for suspicion, but independent evidence is important, in the context of a supposed US ‘war’ against ISIS . So what is the broader evidence on Washington’s covert links with ISIS?

Not least are the admissions by senior US officials that key allies support the extremist group. In September 2014 General Martin Dempsey, head of the US military, told a Congressional hearing ‘I know major Arab allies who fund [ ISIS ]‘. Senator Lindsey Graham, of Armed Services Committee, responded with a justification, ‘They fund them because the Free Syrian Army couldn’t fight [Syrian President] Assad, they were trying to beat Assad’.

The next month, US Vice President Joe Biden went a step further, explaining that Turkey, Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia ‘were so determined to take down Assad … they poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad … [including] al Nusra and al Qaeda and extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world … [and then] this outfit called ISIL’. Biden’s admissions sought to exempt the US from this operation, as though Washington were innocent of sustained operations carried out by its key allies. That is simply not credible.

Washington’s relationship with the Saudis, as a divisive sectarian force in the region, in particular against Arab nationalism, goes back to the 1950s, when Winston Churchill introduced the Saudi King to President Eisenhower. At that time Washington wanted to set up the Saudi King as a rival to President Nasser of Egypt. More recently, British General Jonathan Shaw has acknowledged the contribution of Saudi Arabia’s extremist ideology: ‘This is a time bomb that, under the guise of education. Wahhabi Salafism is igniting under the world really. And it is funded by Saudi and Qatari money’, Shaw said.

Other evidence undermines western attempts to maintain a distinction between the ‘moderate rebels’, now openly armed and trained by the US, and the extremist groups Jabhat al Nusra and ISIS. While there has indeed been some rivalry (emphasised by the London-based, Muslim Brotherhood-aligned, Syrian Observatory of Human Rights), the absence of real ideological difference is best shown by the cooperation and mergers of groups.

As ISIS came from Iraq in 2013, its Syrian bases have generally remained in the far eastern part of Syria. However Jabhat al Nusra (the official al Qaeda branch in Syria, from which ISIS split) has collaborated with Syrian Islamist groups in western Syria for several years. The genocidal slogan of the Syrian Islamists, ‘Christians to Beirut and Alawis to the Grave’, reported many times in 2011 from the Farouk Brigade, sat well with the al Qaeda groups. Farouk (once the largest ‘Free Syrian Army’ group) indeed killed and ethnically cleansed many Christians and Alawis.

Long term cooperation between these ‘moderate rebels’ and the foreign-led Jabhat al-Nusra has been seen around Daraa in the south, in Homs-Idlib, along the Turkish border and in and around Aleppo. The words Jabhat al Nusra actually mean ‘support front’, that is, support for the Syrian Islamists. Back in December 2012, as Jabhat al Nusra was banned in various countries, 29 of these groups reciprocated the solidarity in their declaration: ‘We are all Jabhat al-Nusra’.

After the collapse of the ‘Free Syrian Army’ groups, cooperation between al Nusra and the newer US and Saudi backed groups (Dawud, the Islamic Front, the Syrian Revolutionary Front and Harakat Hazm) helped draw attention to Israel’s support for al Nusra, around the occupied Golan Heights. Since 2013 there have been many reports of ‘rebel’ fighters, including those from al Nusra, being treated in Israeli hospitals. Prime Minister Netanyahu even publicised his visit to wounded ‘rebels’ in early 2014. That led to a public ‘thank you’ from a Turkey-based ‘rebel’ leader, Mohammed Badie (February 2014).

The UN peacekeeping force based in the occupied Golan has reported its observations of Israel’s Defence Forces ‘interacting with’ al Nusra fighters at the border. At the same time, Israeli arms have been found with the extremist groups, in both Syria and Iraq. In November 2014 members of the Druze minority in the Golan protested against Israel’s hospital support for al Nusra and ISIS fighters. This in turn led to questions by the Israeli media, as to whether ‘ Israel does, in fact, hospitalize members of al-Nusra and Daesh [ISIS]‘. A military spokesman’s reply was hardly a denial: ‘In the past two years the Israel Defence Forces have been engaged in humanitarian, life-saving aid to wounded Syrians, irrespective of their identity.’

The artificial distinction between ‘rebel’ and ‘extremist’ groups is mocked by multiple reports of large scale defections and transfer of weapons. In July 2014 one thousand armed men in the Dawud Brigade defected to ISIS in Raqqa. In November defections to Jabhat al Nusra from the Syrian Revolutionary Front were reported. In December, Adib Al-Shishakli, representative at the Gulf Cooperation Council of the exile ‘ Syrian National Coalition’, said ‘opposition fighters’ were ‘increasingly joining’ ISIS ‘for financial reasons’. In that same month, ‘rebels’ in the Israel-backed Golan area were reported as defecting to ISIS, which had by this time began to establish a presence in Syria’s far south. Then, in early 2015, three thousand ‘moderate rebels’ from the US-backed ‘Harakat Hazzm’ collapsed into Jabhat al Nusra, taking a large stock of US arms including anti-tank weapons with them.

ISIS already had US weapons by other means, in both Iraq and Syria , as reported in July, September and October 2014. At that time a ‘non aggression pact’ was reported in the southern area of Hajar al-Aswad between ‘moderate rebels’ and ISIS, as both recognised a common enemy in Syria: ‘the Nussayri regime’, a sectarian way of referring to supposedly apostate Muslims. Some reported ISIS had bought weapons from the ‘rebels’.

In December 2014 there were western media reports of the US covert supply of heavy weapons to ‘Syrian rebels’ from Libya, and of Jabhat al-Nusra getting anti-tank weapons which had been supplied to Harakat Hazm. Video posted by al-Nusra showed these weapons being used to take over the Syrian military bases, Wadi Deif and Hamidiyeh, in Idlib province.

With ‘major Arab allies’ backing ISIS and substantial collaboration between US-armed ‘moderate rebels’ and ISIS, it is not such a logical stretch to suppose that the US and ‘coalition’ flights to ISIS areas (supposedly to ‘degrade’ the extremists) might have become covert supply lines. That is precisely what senior Iraqi sources began saying, in late 2014 and early 2015.

For example, as reported by both Iraqi and Iranian media, Iraqi MP Majid al-Ghraoui said in January that ‘an American aircraft dropped a load of weapons and equipment to the ISIS group militants at the area of al-Dour in the province of Salahuddin’. Photos were published of ISIS retrieving the weapons. The US admitted the seizure but said this was a ‘mistake’. In February Iraqi MP Hakem al-Zameli said the Iraqi army had shot down two British planes which were carrying weapons to ISIS in al-Anbar province. Again, photos were published of the wrecked planes. ‘We have discovered weapons made in the US , European countries and Israel from the areas liberated from ISIL’s control in Al-Baqdadi region’, al-Zameli said.

The Al-Ahad news website quoted Head of Al-Anbar Provincial Council Khalaf Tarmouz saying that a US plane supplied the ISIL terrorist organization with arms and ammunition in Salahuddin province. Also in February an Iraqi militia called Al-Hashad Al-Shabi said they had shot down a US Army helicopter carrying weapons for the ISIL in the western parts of Al-Baqdadi region in Al-Anbar province. Again, photos were published. After that, Iraqi counter-terrorism forces were reported as having arrested ‘four foreigners who were employed as military advisors to the ISIL fighters’, three of whom were American and Israeli. So far the western media has avoided these stories altogether; they are very damaging to the broader western narrative.

In Libya, a key US collaborator in the overthrow of the Gaddafi government has announced himself the newly declared head of the ‘Islamic State’ in North Africa. Abdel Hakim Belhaj was held in US prisons for several years, then ‘rendered’ to Gaddafi’s Libya, where he was wanted for terrorist acts. As former head of the al-Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, then the Tripoli-based ‘Libyan Dawn’ group, Belhaj has been defended by Washington and praised by US Congressmen John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

Some image softening of the al Qaeda groups is underway. Jabhat al-Nusra is reported to be considering cutting ties to al Qaeda, to help sponsor Qatar boost their funding. Washington’s Foreign Affairs magazine even published a survey claiming that ISIS fighters were ‘surprisingly supportive of democracy’. After all the well published massacres that lacks credibility.

The Syrian Army is gradually reclaiming Aleppo, despite the hostile supply lines from Turkey, and southern Syria, in face of support for the sectarian groups from Jordan and Israel. The border with Lebanon is largely under Syrian Army and Hezbollah control. In the east, the Syrian Army and its local allies control most of Hasaka and Deir e-Zour, with a final campaign against Raqqa yet to come. The NATO-GCC attempt to overthrow the Syrian Government has failed.

Yet violent destabilisation persists. Evidence of the covert relationship between Washington and ISIS is substantial and helps explain what Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mikdad calls Washington’s ‘cosmetic war’ on ISIS. The extremist group is a foothold Washington keeps in the region, weakening both Syria and Iraq . Their ‘war’ on ISIS is ineffective. Studies by Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgent database show that ISIS attacks and killings in Iraq increased strongly after US air attacks began. The main on the ground fighting has been carried out by the Syrian Army and, more recently, the Iraqi armed forces with Iranian backing.

All this has been reported perversely in the western media. The same channels that celebrate the ISIS killing of Syrian soldiers also claim the Syrian Army is ‘not fighting ISIS’. This alleged ‘unwillingness’ was part of the justification for US bombing inside Syria. While it is certainly the case that Syrian priorities have remained in the heavily populated west, local media reports make it clear that, since at least the beginning of 2014, the Syrian Arab Army has been the major force engaged with ISIS in Hasaka, Raqqa and Deir eZour. A March 2015 Reuters report does concede that the Syrian Army recently killed two ISIS commanders (including Deeb Hedjian al-Otaibi) along with 24 fighters, at Hamadi Omar.

Closer cooperation between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon’s Hezbollah is anathema to Israel, the Saudis and Washington, yet it is happening. This is not a sectarian divide but rather based on some clear mutual interests, not least putting an end to sectarian (takfiri) terrorism.

It was only logical that, in the Iraqi military’s recent offensive on ISIS-held Tikrit, the Iranian military emerged as Iraq’s main partner. Washington has been sidelined, causing consternation in the US media. General Qasem Suleimani, head of Iran’s Quds Force is a leading player in the Tikrit operation.  A decade after Washington’s ‘creative destruction’ plans, designed to reduce Iranian influence in Iraq, an article in Foreign Policy magazine complains that Iran’s influence is ‘at its highest point in almost four centuries’.

——

Select references

Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya (2006) Plans for Redrawing the Middle East: The Project for a ‘New Middle East’

http://www.globalresearch.ca/plans-for-redrawing-the-middle-east-the-project-for-a-new-middle-east/3882

Seymour Hersh (2007) The Redirection

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/03/05/the-redirection

Al Akhbar (2011) Syria: What Kind of Revolution?

http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/540

The New Yorker (2013) Syrian Opposition Groups Stop Pretending

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/syrian-opposition-groups-stop-pretending

RT (2014) Anyone but US! Biden blames allies for ISIS rise

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11l8nLZNPSY

Iraqi News (2015) American aircraft dropped weapons to ISIS, says MP

http://www.iraqinews.com/iraq-war/american-aircraft-airdropped-weapons-to-isis-says-mp/

Washington Post (2015) Syrian rebel group that got U.S. aid dissolves

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/syrian-fighter-group-that-got-us-missiles-dissolves-after-major-defeat/2015/03/01/286fa934-c048-11e4-a188-8e4971d37a8d_story.html

David Kenner (2015) For God and Country, and Iran, Foreign Policy

http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/03/05/for-god-and-country-and-iran/

Reuters (2015) Syrian air strike kills two Islamic State commanders

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/07/us-mideast-crisis-syria-islamicstate-idUSKBN0M30F720150307

December 12, 2015 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘US not interested in defeating ISIS’

By Sharmine Narwani | RT | November 9, 2015

The US is not interested in defeating ISIS but would want to control its movements to create a geopolitical balance on the ground and provide the US-led coalition with leverage at the Vienna talks, said Middle East geopolitics analyst Sharmine Narwani.

RT: There are more than 60 countries in the coalition fighting against Islamic State. How hard is it for the US to keep them all united?

Sharmine Narwani: I think the US is playing loose with international law. To start off with, this coalition is illegitimate. The reason to have signed up 60 countries is more to create some kind of cover, some kind of legitimacy for these illegal operations in Syria. The main struggle is probably with the key Arab members of the coalition who were the starting members of the coalition – five Persian Gulf countries and Jordan included – because they have quite disparate objectives from the US.

RT: How many countries in the coalition are actually contributing to its goals?

SN: That is a very interesting point, because even though there are 60 countries listed in the coalition, there are only 11 who have contributed in Syria. There are two groups: like I mentioned, the Arab states – I call them the Sunni states, because they provide some kind of Arab Sunni legitimacy for the Americans; the other states are the UK, the US and France – three of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, and Canada and Australia.

What is interesting about this is – of those five Western countries it is only Canada that stepped in relatively early, when things kicked off last year. It was the US mainly with the Arab States, and the UK, France and Australia have only come in the last three months, as well as Turkey, who is a new entrant in this coalition of 11, not 60.

RT: It’s been more than a year since the US-led bombing campaign started. Why has the coalition failed to prevent ISIS from seizing new territory?

SN: Again, interesting that Turkey is a new entrant in this coalition of 11 bombing Syria. It only came on board around I think two months ago, in August, when it launched strikes against ISIL. Now, about a month ago we, after Turkey launched its airstrikes, we’re looking at still only about three airstrikes against ISIL – the rest were against Kurdish targets. So Turkey is an example of another Sunni state in this coalition of 11 that has disparate objectives from the US. So Turkey’s interest may be on the Kurdish issue, but for instance, in the other Arab Sunni states – their interests diverge from the Americans, because they are interested in regime change in Syria, whereas the Americans have taken a back seat on that in recent months. So it is very, very hard to keep this coalition together, because there are no common objectives among its 11 partners.

RT: What are the reasons, do you think the coalition is breaking apart? How can the coalition increase the efficiency of its actions?

SN: I see the coalition breaking apart or being redundant for two reasons. One is the lack of common objectives among the 11 actors participating in the coalition, but the other is more in line with military strategy in fighting any war or conflict, anywhere. We’ve heard this over and over again in the Syrian conflict – you need a coordination of air force and ground power. The US-led coalition does not have this. Part of the reason it doesn’t have this is because it entered Syrian air space and violated international law in doing so against the wishes of the Syrian government. So it cannot coordinate with the Syrian government who leads the ground activities, whether it is the Syrian army or various Syrian militias that are pro-government; or Hezbollah – a non-state actor from Lebanon; or the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and their advisory capacity. The Russians of course do enjoy that relationship, so their airstrikes are not only both valid and legal, but also useful – a coordinated effort to target ISIL and other terrorist organizations.

RT: Do you think the US doesn’t have real intentions to fight ISIS, and that is the main reason of instability of its coalition?

SN: Absolutely. The US-led coalition has failed in attaining goals to defeat ISIS, not just because it cannot lead a coordinated military effort in air, land and sea in Syria, or because it lacks legality, or because the member states of the coalition have diverging interests. But I think the US interest as well has to be called into question. I mean: does the US want to defeat ISIS? I would argue very strongly based on what we’ve seen in the last year that the US is not interested in defeating ISIS. The US is interested in perhaps controlling ISIS’ movements, so that it helps to create a geopolitical balance on the ground that will provide the US government and its allies with leverage at the negotiating table. So they don’t want ISIS to take over all of Syria [because] that poses threats to allies in the region. They don’t want ISIS and other terrorist groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, and others, and the various coalitions they have formed to lose ground, because at the end of the day the only pressure they are going to be able to apply on the Syrian government and its allies is what is happening on the ground. And they need something; they need advantage on the ground that they can take with them to the negotiating table in Vienna.

Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She is a former senior associate at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University and has a master’s degree in International Relations from Columbia University.  You can follow her on Twitter at @snarwani

READ MORE: ‘US-led coalition disjointed in fighting ISIS as some members have own plans’ – Iraq’s ex-PM

November 9, 2015 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment