Just over a week into the Trump Administration, the President issued an Executive Order giving Defense Secretary James Mattis 30 days to come up with a plan to defeat ISIS. According to the Order, the plan should make recommendations on military actions, diplomatic actions, partners, strategies, and how to pay for the operation.
As we approach the president’s deadline it looks like the military is going to present Trump with a plan to do a whole lot more of what we’ve been doing and somehow expect different results. Proving the old saying that when all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail, we are hearing increasing reports that the military will recommend sending thousands of US troops into Syria and Iraq.
This would be a significant escalation in both countries, as currently there are about 5,000 US troops still fighting our 13-year war in Iraq, and some 500 special forces soldiers operating in Syria.
The current Syria ceasefire, brokered without US involvement at the end of 2016, is producing positive results and the opposing groups are talking with each other under Russian and Iranian sponsorship. Does anyone think sending thousands of US troops into a situation that is already being resolved without us is a good idea?
In language reminiscent of his plans to build a wall on the Mexican border, the president told a political rally in Florida over the weekend that he was going to set up “safe zones” in Syria and would make the Gulf States pay for them. There are several problems with this plan.
First, any “safe zone” set up inside Syria, especially if protected by US troops, would amount to a massive US invasion of the country unless the Assad government approves them. Does President Trump want to begin his presidency with an illegal invasion of a sovereign country?
Second, there is the little problem of the Russians, who are partners with the Assad government in its efforts to rid the country of ISIS and al-Qaeda. ISIS is already losing territory on a daily basis. Is President Trump willing to risk a military escalation with Russia to protect armed regime-change forces in Syria?
Third, the Gulf States are the major backers of al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria – as the president’s own recently-resigned National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, revealed in a 2015 interview. Unless these safe zones are being set up to keep al-Qaeda and ISIS safe, it doesn’t make any sense to involve the Gulf States.
Many will say we should not be surprised at these latest moves. As a candidate, Trump vowed to defeat ISIS once and for all. However, does anyone really believe that continuing the same strategy we have followed for the past 16 years will produce different results this time? If what you are hammering is not a nail, will hammering it harder get it nailed in?
Washington cannot handle the truth: solving the ISIS problem must involve a whole lot less US activity in the Middle East, not a whole lot more. Until that is understood, we will continue to waste trillions of dollars and untold lives in a losing endeavor.
Part 1: The Anti-Anti-War-Left
One could argue that for any serious student of the Middle East, using a range of sources, the approved narrative on the Syrian conflict should have been suspect from the outset: the precedents of Iraq and Libya and the accompanying lies, the well-reported lack of interest in revolution on the part of the Syrian people, the quickly developing violence in contrast with the ready accommodations of the government in terms of reform and release of political prisoners, the dominant role of brutal sectarian gangs in a traditionally tolerant and pluralist society. Those trying to find the truth of the Syrian war, however, found themselves opposed from an unexpected quarter.
There is a large body of commentators in the West who define themselves as ‘left’, ‘progressive’ and ‘anti-imperialist’ insofar as they condemn Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians. Their claimed support for the Palestinians is offset by virulently opposing anything that threatens Israel’s interests in other areas, such as investigation into the role of Mossad’s activities outside of Israel. Israel’s interests are likewise to the fore when it comes to drastic change in Syria (seen by Hillary Clinton as essential to Israel’s interests as far back as 2006) – the ‘soft Zionists’ have been promoting the externally created revolution in Syria from the outset.
Sharing most of these characteristics are a group of people who espouse a ‘third way’ whereby ostensible anti-imperialists criticise their governments’ interventionist policies but at the same time have promoted the revolution and been determined opponents of the Syrian government. While in theory they oppose external intervention, they at the same time facilitate such intervention by peddling propaganda to that end.
For five years, people like Max Blumenthal, Ben Norton and Rania Khalek have actively promoted forced regime change in Syria, insisting on the validity of the popular revolution, characterising the Syrian president as a butcher, and alternately vilifying and patronising those who were unconvinced by the NATO narrative.
At the same time there has been no attempt by proponents of the Syrian war to engage with the anti-war activists who have been carrying out and sharing research on the conflict – instead they have contented themselves with unfounded slurs on the intellect and integrity of supporters of Syria.
However, ripples have been going through social media in recent months as these seemingly diehard opponents to the Syrian government have moved to taking a more nuanced view of the conflict. This was quickly picked up by eagle-eyed users of twitter who have been following the war on Syria for years…
In order to consider the significance and extent of this shift in perspective, it is worth looking back at the views espoused by the thirdwayers over the years
The popular revolution
Long after the violent, sectarian and fundamentally un-Syrian nature of the uprising was revealed along with its external impetus, diehards were still promoting the idea of a popular revolution, with a sentimental attachment to the Free Syrian Army well after its use-by date. While atrocity stories to the disfavour of the ‘Assad thugs’ (Syrian Arab Army) were quickly shared, those which show the ‘revolutionaries’ in an unfavourable light were ignored or speedily forgotten: By 2012 there was abundant proof of FSA atrocities, including cannibalism, decapitation and sectarian massacres, but this did not stop Blumenthal tweeting approvingly in August ‘Protest in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights in support of the #Syrian revolution’.
Thus in August 2014, when most people were discarding the fiction of Syria’s moderate rebels, Ben Norton still had a rosy view of the ‘democratic’ revolutionaries: a spate of tweets in their favour on August 18 included such optimistic claims as, ‘Syrian revolutionaries have already liberated cities, and they ran them somewhat democratically’, and on 22 September, ‘Majority of the FSA consists of average Syrians & former SAA members who refused to slaughter civilians & defected’.
As late as February 2015 Ben Norton complained:
Blame Assad for brutally destroying the progressive and secular resistance against his murderous fascist regime […] not Syrians for standing up to bravely fight for not just food, justice, and dignity, but for their very lives.
In 2014 Khalek interviewed Molly Crabapple, artist, writer and fervent supporter of the ‘Syrian revolution’. Both Khalek and Crabapple assume a non-violent inception to the Syrian conflict, ruthlessly crushed by government forces.
Khalek: […] You addressed the fact that there was a segment of the anti-war left that still till now is very dismissive of the Syrian uprising and in some cases excuses Assad for the horrific crimes he’s committing and you got attacked for pointing this out.
Crabapple: […] Many people I deeply respect are anti-intervention for good reasons. Other ones were pro certain sorts of intervention. But I think what is absolutely wrong is to pretend the Syrian revolution didn’t exist, to pretend that these activists weren’t amazing people …
The ‘evil Assad’
Attacking any movement by demonising its leader is a tried and true tactic where there is no legitimate means to an end – one only needs to look at the treatment meted out to Alex Salmond who, in the run-up to the Scottish referendum, was variously compared to Hitler, Mugabe, Nero and Genghis Khan. Likewise vilification of Bashar al Assad has been a major plank of regime change advocates. For more than five years the anti-Syria movement has relentlessly vilified the Syrian president with an incontinent flow of accusations, making full use of language favoured by the most hard-line interventionists: Assad ‘the butcher’, ‘the brutal tyrant’ has been accused of deliberately conducting a reign of terror, of bombing, starving, raping, gassing his own people, deliberately targeting hospitals, blood-banks, schools, bakeries, children and even kittens.
The thirdwayers have been amongst the most determined proponents of the evil Assad narrative: ‘Assad slaughter continues’ BN8/8/14; Assad’s ‘brutal tyranny’ MB 4/10/11; ‘Assad slaughter’ MB22/2/13; ‘Assad’s atrocities’ MB 14/9/13; ‘Assad’s reign of terror’ MB 16/9/14; ‘Assad family’s ongoing legacy of criminal fascism’ MB 18/10/14; ‘Assad the butcher’ RK 15/8/14 ‘Assad’s butchery’ RK 29/7/14; Assad is a mass murdering criminal’ RK 19/7/16; ‘the criminal Assad regime’ RK 18/1/14; civilians are being intentionally starved by the Assad Regime’ RK 19/4/14; ‘Assad is starving, torturing, & killing not just Syrian but also Palestinians’, BN 26/8/14.
From very early in the war many allegations of atrocities and war crimes have been leveled at the Syrian government and then soon shown to be false. Furthermore, substantial research had been carried out revealing the extent of foreign intervention, the billions of dollars of aid to the ‘rebels’, the many thousands of mercenaries pouring in through Turkey. However even in February 21015 Norton was still undeterred. According to his article 56 dead in one day: a Glimpse of Assad’s brutality Assad was responsible both for the early violence:
Since Assad first tried to drown the nonviolent popular uprising against his fascist regime in blood in 2011 …
and its continuation:
… the Syrian regime has dropped thousands upon thousands of bombs on civilian areas—and has engaged in systematic campaigns of torture, starvation, and rape. […] If you want to see why horrible reactionary groups like Al-Nusra and even ISIS have support among some Syrians, try taking a look at the crimes the fascist Assad regime commits on a daily basis. […]
Norton is, therefore, offering a partial justification for joining ISIS.
No possible accusation has been overlooked. Specific claims of atrocities are seized on, never questioned and then, once debunked by others, forgotten. Although the thirdwayers, unlike the hard-line interventionists, may be prepared to discard discredited anti-Assad horror stories, this never seems to impact on the overall theme of Assad the monster. Thus massacres such as those that occurred at Houla, Ghouta and Banias were all immediately blamed on the Syrian government by both the corporate media and the third-wayers, even though subsequently found to have been carried out by insurgents, for either ethnic cleansing or ‘false flag’ purposes. (Blumenthal was still insisting that the Houla massacre was carried out by ‘shabiha’ (derogatory term for local defence forces) in February 2013, see video, below).
Assad is correlated with Israel, or ISIS, or is even worse than ISIS, according to both Rania Khalek
echoing the sentiments expressed by Josie Ensor of the Telegraph a few months earlier
The public knowledge that both the US and Israel are hell-bent on regime change in Syria was turned on its head with claims that the US and Israel supported Assad: ‘”Israel’s preference is for Bashar al Assad to remain in power…”‘, MB 11/12/2012.
US support for the ‘Assad regime was a favourite theme of Ben Norton, who explored this thesis in an article US Government Essentially Sides with Assad. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Norton supports the US administration in its blatant fiction that its priority is going after ISIS:
‘With the Syrian Civil War approaching its fourth whole year, the evidence increasingly suggests that the Obama administration has essentially sided with the Assad regime. […] In October 2014, Foreign Policy noted that “U.S. officials are beginning to see Assad as a vital, de facto ally in the fight against the Islamic State.”’
With the advent of foreign fighters from Central Asia, polio reappeared in Syria, after having been eradicated in 1995 (the strain in Syria is the same as that present in Pakistan, source and transit point for many jihadists fighting in Syria). Despite being engulfed in war the Syrian [government] acted quickly to set in place vaccination programmes (the latest campaign was announced on 16 October). Rania Khalek, however, laid a large part of the responsibility at the door of the ‘regime’, likewise ignoring evidence available at the time which showed that the Red Crescent is frequently blocked by groups such as the ‘Free Syrian Army’.
The insanely high toll [from chronic disease] is largely due to the Assad regime’s criminal use of food and medicine as weapons in his war against his own people.’
The discrediting of the 2011 lie that Gaddafi was giving black mercenaries viagra to encourage them to rape Arab women did not deter Ben Norton from seizing with alacrity on an obscure and short-lived rumour that the Deputy Mufti of the ‘Syrian regime’ advocated rape by the army.
In parallel with the demonisation of Bashar al Assad is the recurrent theme of contempt for Assad supporters.
Undermining one of NATO’s principle planks and justification for intervention, ie the demonisation of al Assad, is an enormous threat to the NATO narrative. For this reason a major focus of the anti-Syria left has been to undermine, not just the Syrian government, but also the credibility of pro-Syria activists who have questioned the atrocity narrative.
Critics of the anti-Assad narrative are deemed to be stupid and hypocritical. A spate of tweets about the pusillanimity of ‘Assad worshippers issued from Ben Norton in 2014, eg 24 August: ; I just can’t get over the ludicrous degrees Assad defenders are going to to try to defend the mass murderer… it’s almost unbelievable.’; ‘HAHAHAHAHAHA, these Assad-worshiping conspiracy theorists just get more and more absurd. They are completely deranged’. ‘The Western “anti-imperialists” who support (read: worship) Assad so fervently have never met a working-class Syrian’.
Max Blumenthal is equally contemptous of ‘Assad apologists”, informing writer Miri Wood: ‘when non Muslima say takfiri I cringe almost as much as when they defend Assad’s reign of terror 16/9/14. Even Syrians cannot escape Blumenthal’s derision:
Assad supporters have, we are told, a tendency to Islamophobia, ‘I noted a while ago that Islamophobia informed certain Assad apologists’ MB 12/4/13; or fascism and Stalinism, ‘when you see someone defend Assad, remind them that Fascists & far-rightests throughout europe support Assad’ 12/4/13.
In this tweet of March 2016, Norton is referring to the protester top right, who is holding a placard supporting Bashar al Assad. Not everyone was convinced by Norton:
In October 2013 Blumenthal tweeted:
Thus in an impressive use of twitter, he managed to impugn the integrity of an opponent to regime change, indicated that it was ‘Assad’ that was responsible for the Ghouta sarin attack, and played ‘in bed with Israel’ card.
In late 2012 Max Blumenthal noisily resigned from al-Akhbar News, complaining that the outlet was providing a forum for ‘Assad supporters’. As well as publishing a letter of resignation, Blumenthal’s departure from the newspaper was the subject of an interview with The Real News in which, on the basis of his visit to a refugee camp in Jordan, he presents himself as an expert on Syria. The video is 18 minutes and is an education.
In letter and interview Blumenthal reiterates his position on the Syrian war: ‘the Syrian army’s pornographically violent crackdowns on what by all accounts is still a mostly homegrown resistance’, the regime’s responsibility for massacres such as Houla; ‘the Assad regime’s campaign to delegitimise the Syrian opposition by casting it as a bunch of irrational jihadis’. According to Blumenthal, Assad ‘makes Israel look like a champion of human rights’.
There is an interesting attempt to correlate Hezbollah with al Qaeda and ISIS: ‘ironically [the Syrian regime] seem to have little problem with Hezbollah’s core Islamist values’. One wonders what the people of Maaloula, very thankful to be liberated from jihadists with the help of Hezbollah, would make of Blumenthal’s implication.
[Hezbollah fighter saluting the Virgin Mary after the Battle of Maaloula]
In 2014 Norton wrote a spiteful article termed Meet the Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theorists Who Are Assad’s Biggest Fans. The primary purpose appears to have been to wreak vengeance on a group of social media activists who found it hard to take Norton at his own evaluation:
Norton starts from the fundamental premise that all who oppose the war on Syria are, without exception, devoid of all moral sense.
Those of us with at least some kind of rudimentary moral compass are compelled to oppose draconian tyrants like Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, whose regime regularly engages in brutal state terrorist campaigns of mass bombing, torture, starvation, and rape of civilians, including children.
The article is a fascinating exercise in dishonesty, damning the ‘antisemites’ by association with the anti-war movement and vice-versa, and conflating all members of the group on every point while ignoring all contrary evidence. (Norton’s piece was answered by one of the group.
Regime change the third way
The part played by the NATO countries, the Gulf States, Turkey and foreign mercenaries has been essentially ignored or denied by the thirdwayers, who have stayed with their narrative of a ‘civil war’. They have theoretically been opposed to proposals for open military intervention, or at least the idea of bombing campaigns, whether by the NATO states or Russia.
The narrative hasn’t been totally consistent: a lot of what is tweeted is ambiguous, even irresponsible, often indicating that intervention might actually be the humanitarian option.
Again, Blumenthal’s angry response in 2014 to an article by Bob Dreyfuss suggesting that Obama give up on regime change in Damascus hardly seems consist with an anti-interventionist viewpoint.
Max Blumenthal’s own credentials as a ‘reporter from the region’ lie in a visit to Jordan to interview refugees. The article chronicles the dire conditions in Zaatari camp, but Blumenthal chooses to end on a call for bombing Syria: ‘Either bomb the regime or you can bomb Zaatari and get it over with for us.’
The group’s principle plank is that the conflict in Syria is a ‘civil war’, a ‘popular revolution’. While being opposed in principle to external intervention, they have facilitated that intervention by promoting NATO propaganda against the Syrian government and in favour of the ‘revolutionaries’, in effect the jihadist extremists who have controlled the insurgency from the beginning. They may not be responsible for the inception of the war, but they share culpability for its continuation.
It came as a big surprise that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has recently labeled members of the US-led coalition as promise breakers and supporters of terrorists. According to the Turkish leader, this coalition provides support to various terrorist groups, including ISIS, YPG, PYD and Ankara has the evidence to back up that claim.
But what exactly offended Ankara so much? Over the past few days, Turkey has been suffering extremely painful defeats from the Islamic State in the Syrian city of Al-Bab. Previously the troops employed in the Euphrates Shield operation successfully taken western suburbs of Al-Bab were planning to occupy the heights overlooking the city. However, ten days ago the “shield” cracked, when ISIS units opposed Turkish troops in a frontal assault, inflicting heavy losses upon the Turkish army. Radical militants report that in just one Turkey lost up to 70 soldiers and three modern tank. Immediately after the announcement ISIS started spreading videos featuring the destruction of Turkish armored vehicles. The Turkish General Staff announced that it lost 14 servicemen, 10 German manufactured Leopard tanks, an M-60 main battle tank, personnel carriers and a Cobra armored vehicle. The pictures that can be found now on the Internet depict Turkish armored vehicles severely damaged by TOW missiles that in recent years have “suddenly” started appearing in the hands of ISIS radicals.
But nobody should be really surprised at this point, as Turkish media were reporting in late December that Washington was stepping up its weapons supply efforts to radicals via the Syrian Al-Hasakah Governorate. It’s been noted that as the US Ambassador to Ankara, John Bass kept persuading Turkish reporters that Washington was not supporting militants directly, the airfield in the Syrian city of Rumeylan saw an ever increasing number of US transport planes landing. The payload that they were carrying would soon be transported by US helicopters to different parts of the country. According to Turkish journalists, the last large delivery of weapons occurred on the evening of 27 December. It has also been noted that weapons are being delivered to Syria via hundreds of trucks, carrying their deadly cargo from the Iraqi city of Erbil to the areas controlled by the Syrian Kurds.
We have seen various commentators noting that under the guise of military assistance to the Kurdish Peshmerga, the Obama administration is actively assisting various extremist groups in Syria by secretly supplying them to with all sorts of weapons, along with the so-called “advisers” in a bid to topple the legitimate Syrian government.
It’s no coincidence that after the liberation of Aleppo, Syrian troops found stockpiles of weapons and explosives manufactured in the US, Germany and Bulgaria, including a large quantity of anti-tank missiles.
While the Aleppo operation has been a turning point in the Syrian armed conflict, the White House is still in a hurry to provide maximum support to the so-called “moderate opposition” in Syria, but now it’s clear for pretty much everyone that Washington is assisting ISIS. Last December alone Turkish bloggers spotted the passage of three large cargo ships through the Bosporus Strait, presumably carrying arms for the Syrian rebels. In particular, in mid-December a freighter Karina Danica left the Bulgarian shore, while heading to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with weapons on board, reports Bosphorus Observer on Twitter. This data is confirmed by a specialized tracking site known as MarineTraffic. It is a publicly known fact that the freighter Karina Danica is a Danish vessel, chartered by the American company Cherming, which is the official supplier of non-standard NATO weapons for the US “allies” in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. It’s curious that the Bulgarian Vazovski Machine-Building Plant that sells weapons to Cherming, increased its sales by 12 times in 2016, making a profit of 170 million dollars.
What makes this whole arms supplies story awkward is the scandal that broke out in 2015, when the Chairman of the Iraqi Parliamentary Committee on Defense and Security, Hakim Zamili asked PM Haider al-Abadi to intervene immediately to stop the 300 million dollar ammunition deal involving Romanian weapons being delivered to ISIS directly, while financed by one of the neighboring countries. In 2016, the director of the Conflict Armament Research, James Bevan stated that the weapons from Eastern Europe that were officially designated for the so-called “moderate opposition” are falling in extremist hands.
The decision to supply anti-government troops in Syria with all sorts of weapons, including MANPADS, that was signed by President Barack Obama on December 23, may lead to the further escalation of the Syrian conflict and new victims.
So there’s more than enough reason for Ankara’s resentment of the Obama administration, since it is directly responsible for every single Turkish soldier murdered by radical militants.
The Washington Post – among others – hit the ground running in the wake of an apparent terrorist attack in Germany’s capital of Berlin before evidence was forthcoming and even before German police arrested a suspect.
A truck plowed into a crowded Christmas market, killing 12 and injuring many more in what resembled an attack in Nice, France where a truck likewise plowed into a crowd killing 86 and injuring hundreds more.
Spreading ISIS Propaganda
The Washington Post’s article and others like it followed the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” (ISIS) allegedly taking credit for the incident. Undeterred by a lack of evidence, the Washington Post and other media outlets – eager to capitalize on the attack to further Western narratives – concluded that the attack was aimed at “sharpening the divide between Muslims and everyone else.”
The Washington Post’s article, “Truck attack may be part of ISIS strategy to sharpen divide between Muslims and others,” would claim:
The claim on the official Amaq media channel was short and distressingly familiar: A “soldier of the Islamic State” was behind yet another attack on civilians in Europe, this time at a festive Christmas market in Berlin.
The accuracy of the claim remained in question Tuesday as German authorities searched for both a suspect and a motive behind the deadly truck assault on holiday revelers. But already it appeared that the attack had achieved one of the Islamic State’s stated objectives: spreading fear and chaos in a Western country in hopes of sharpening the divide between Muslims and everyone else.
The Washington Post’s “analysis” fails to explain why ISIS would target a nation so far playing only a minor role in anti-ISIS operations or the logic in provoking a wider divide between Muslims and the West. At one point, the Washington Post actually suggests ISIS may be trying to hinder the flow of refugees away from their territory toward nations like Germany with open-door policies welcoming them.
In reality, the Washington Post and the “experts” it interviewed are merely attempting to perpetuate the myth of what ISIS is and what its supposed objectives and motivations are.
Understanding what ISIS really is, and what it is truly being used for, goes far in explaining why the incident has been so eagerly promoted as a “terrorist attack,” and why other incidents like it are likely to follow.
ISIS Was Created By and For Regime Change in Syria and Beyond
The United States government in a leaked 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) memo would admit that “supporting powers” including “the West” sought the rise of what it called at the time a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria, precisely where ISIS is now currently based.
The leaked 2012 report (.pdf) states (emphasis added):
If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).
To clarify just who these “supporting powers” were that sought the creation of a “Salafist” (Islamic) principality” (State), the DIA report explains:
The West, Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition; while Russia, China, and Iran support the regime.
In 2014, in an e-mail between US Counselor to the President John Podesta and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it would be admitted that two of America’s closest regional allies – Saudi Arabia and Qatar – were providing financial and logistical support to ISIS.
… we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to [ISIS] and other radical Sunni groups in the region.
While the e-mail portrays the US in a fight against the very “Salafist” (Islamic) “principality” (State) it sought to create and use as a strategic asset in 2012, the fact that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are both acknowledged as state sponsors of the terrorist organization – and are both still enjoying immense military, economic, and political support from the United States and its European allies – indicates just how disingenuous America’s “war” on ISIS really is.
The scale of the relatively recent attack on Syria’s eastern city of Palmyra took place along a front 10’s of kilometers wide, involving heavy weapons, hundreds of fighters, and was only achievable through immense and continuous state sponsorship as have been all of ISIS’ gains across the region.
It and “other radical Sunni groups” remain the only relevant armed opposition on the ground contesting the Syrian government.
As early as 2007, as revealed by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh in his 2007 article, “The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?,” it was made clear that the US sought to arm and back Al Qaeda-linked militants to overthrow the government’s of Iran and Syria and to do so by laundering weapons, cash, and other forms of support through allies including Saudi Arabia.
ISIS is the full-scale manifestation of this long-documented conspiracy.
So What Did the Berlin Attack Really Seek to Achieve?
Sidestepping verifiably false narratives surrounding the myth of ISIS’ origins and motivations, and recognizing it as a whole cloth creation of the West for achieving Western geopolitical objectives, indicates that attacks like those in Nice, France, and now apparently in Berlin, Germany are aimed at perpetuating a lucrative strategy of tension in which Muslims are increasingly targeted and isolated in the West, more readily recruited by terrorists allowed to operate under the noses of Western security and intelligence agencies, and sent to wage the West’s proxy wars in Syria, Iraq, and eventually Iran.
While the excuses made by newspapers like the Washington Post change with the wind on a daily basis to explain ISIS’ creation and actions, the West’s calculus – warned about by Seymour Hersh in 2007, documented in a 2012 US DIA memo, admitted to in a 2014 leaked e-mail, and evident amid ISIS’ current, wide scale operations in Syria only possible through substantial state sponsorship – has been singular in nature and evident for years – even before the Syrian conflict began.
As long as Washington and its allies believe it is geopolitically profitable to maintain the existence of ISIS – used as both a proxy mercenary force and as a pretext for direct Western military intervention anywhere the terrorist organization conveniently “appears,” attacks like those in Brussels, Paris, Nice, and now apparently in Berlin will persist.
At any time of Washington and Brussels’ choosing, they could expose Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s role in sponsoring ISIS. At any time of Washington and Brussels’ choosing, they could also expose and dismantle the global network of madrasas both nations – with the cooperation of Western intelligence agencies – use to fill the ranks of terrorist organizations like ISIS and Al Qaeda.
Instead, the West covertly assists Saudi Arabia and Qatar in expanding and directing these terrorist networks – using them as a proxy mercenary force and a ready-made pretext for military intervention abroad and as a constant means of dividing and distracting the public at home.
Were the state sponsors of terrorism fully exposed and removed from the equation, the United States and its European allies would find themselves deployed across the planet, engaged in regime change operations, invasions, and occupations without any credible casus belli.
With the US and its allies determined to reassert and maintain global hegemony everywhere from the Middle East and North Africa to Central and East Asia, the manufactured threat of state sponsored terrorism – sponsored by the West’s oldest and closest Arab allies and the West itself – will persist for years to come.
East Aleppo is liberated, and regime-change has lost its luster. It’s no surprise Syria’s foes are ready to promote the next big goal: partition. Like most Syrian conflict predictions, of which few have materialized, the ‘partition’ of Syria is not going to happen.
In February, when East Aleppo was still bulging with Western-trained, Al Qaeda-allied militants, Syrian President Bashar Assad was asked the question: “Do you think that you can regain control over all Syrian territory?”
Well, yes, said Assad: “This is a goal we are seeking to achieve without any hesitation. It makes no sense for us to say that we will give up any part.”
Western politicians were having none of that.
First up was US Secretary of State John Kerry who coyly informed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Obama administration may have a Plan B up its sleeve for Syria: “it may be too late to keep it as a whole Syria if we wait much longer.”
Next, James Stavridis, former NATO Supreme Commander and head of the US European Command penned an article for Foreign Policy entitled It’s time to seriously consider partitioning Syria where he claimed: “Syria as a nation is increasingly a fiction.”
Then, CIA Director John Brennan joined the chorus: “There’s been so much blood spilled, I don’t know if we’re going to be able to get back to [a unified Syria] in my lifetime.”
But now the stinging defeat of Western-backed militants in East Aleppo has turned up the dial on the idea of breaking up Syria. Frantic neocons and liberal interventionists are piling in on the ‘partition’ punditry – with nary a backward glance to their five failed years of “Assad will fall” prognostications.
But Assad understands something that Western analysts, journalists and politicians cannot seem to grasp. Syria’s allies in this war – Iran, Hezbollah, Iraq, Russia, China – have maintained only two hard red lines throughout the conflict:
The first is that Assad can only be removed from office in a national election, by a Syrian majority.
The second is that Syria must stay whole.
Their logic was simple. Regime-change, remapping of borders, mercenary proxy armies, divide-and-rule… the old tricks of Western hegemons needed to stop in Syria. Otherwise, they would aggressively find their way to Moscow, Beijing and Tehran.
In short, a new world order would need to emerge from the ashes of the Syrian conflict, and for that to happen, allies would need to thoroughly defeat NATO-GCC objectives and maintain the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Syrian state at all costs.
A calculated shift in the balance of power
By 2013, one could already predict the formation of a new security-focused Mideast alliance to combat the jihadi threat raging in Syria and its neighborhood. (see map above)
It was clear by then that the irregular wars waged by jihadists and their powerful foreign backers were going to force four states – Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran – to cooperate militarily and politically to defeat Wahhabi-influenced terror groups in their midst. A ‘Security Arc’ would thus form to protect the territorial integrity of these four countries, and with it, a converging worldview that would set the stage for a new Mideast security structure.
Today, Lebanon and Iran have secure borders flanking either side of Syria and Iraq. Fighters and military advisers, intelligence, weapons transfers from all four states are in play, with increased, successful coordination on the ground and in the skies.
Russia and China have provided ‘great power’ cover for this new development – whether at the UN Security Council or via military, financial or diplomatic initiatives. Furthermore, galvanized by the ferocity of the fight over Syria, Tehran, Moscow and Beijing have advanced the new multilateral order they seek – bolstering their own regional security, deepening global alliances, forging new ones, and crafting political, security and financial institutions to compete with Western-dominated ones.
As the Security Arc succeeded in beating back extremist groups, it would be necessary for three critical neighboring states to gravitate toward participation in this new regional security architecture – Egypt, Turkey and Jordan – each for different reasons.
But the new adherents would be drawn to the security zone primarily because of the realization that a weakened central government and the fragmentation of Syria would blow back into their states and create the same conditions there: chaos, instability, terrorism.
Egypt: Under the rule of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt has drawn away from its Saudi patrons who have, alongside Qatar and Turkey, been major sponsors of extremism in both Syria and Iraq. Earlier this year, Sisi began to pivot away from Egypt’s traditional Western and regional allies and opened the door to further political, military and economic engagement with Syria, Iran, Russia and China.
SAIS-Johns Hopkins University Fellow Dr. Christina Lin explains: “Unlike Washington, Sisi sees Assad as a secular bulwark against Islamic extremism in the Levant. If Assad falls, Lebanon and Jordan would be next, and Egypt does not want to end up like Libya with the Brotherhood and other Islamists carving up the country.”
In the past few months, Egypt has pursued a diplomatic thaw with Iran, military cooperation with Syria, and publicly squabbled with Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, Sisi has been invited to sit at the Syrian peacemaking table by Iran and Russia, while in the background, China launches plans for a $60 billion infrastructure investment in cash-strapped Egypt.
Turkey: No state has been a bigger thorn in Damascus’ side than Turkey – financier, enabler, and mastermind of the militancy flowing across its southern border into war-torn Syria. But the Syrian conflict has crippled and exhausted Turkey, in turn, unleashing terror attacks in its cities, reviving its ‘Kurdish’ conflict, isolating its unpredictable President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, squeezing its economy, and triggering widespread domestic political strife.
So when the Russians reportedly tipped off Erdogan to an ill-fated coup attempt this summer – which Turks believe to be US-inspired – the Turkish president’s political orientation began to waver, and he began to inch toward a series of compromises with Iran and Russia on the Syrian conflict.
Erdogan’s first grand gesture to Tehran and Moscow was to peel away a layer of militants from embattled Aleppo, allowing the Syrian-allied forces to focus their military might on the Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups remaining in the eastern enclave. In the aftermath of Aleppo’s liberation, the Turks, Iranians and Russians met again to hammer out their next set of objectives, including a nationwide ceasefire – a move that sidelined Erdogan’s Western allies and highlighted the fact that nobody actually needs the US, UK or France at the Syrian negotiating table.
Jordan: For much of the Syrian conflict, Jordan’s interests were subverted by powerful patrons who turned the Hashemite Kingdom into a covert operations hub for Western special forces, GCC intel operatives and ‘rebel’ training centers. But in recent years, Jordan’s King Abdullah has been forced to disentangle his financially-strapped country from the consequences created by a huge influx of Syrian refugees and a terrifying surge in domestic radicalism. Consequently, Jordan has been quietly sharing intelligence with Syrian authorities to weaken the militancy in southern Syria and has effectively shut down their shared border.
The king himself has been engaging in some frenzied shuttle diplomacy with Russia and China to gain investment and political relevance, so Jordan is well-positioned to follow the lead of its larger neighbors when the regional balance of power shifts decisively in Syria’s favor.
Victors map the future, not the vanquished
The liberation of East Aleppo from Al-Qaeda-allied militants is a significant turning point in the war against Syria. All the major population/infrastructure areas that define the north-to-south western side of the country are now primarily in government hands.
Moreover, East Aleppo’s liberation serves as an important launching pad to cut off the vital Turkey-to-Mosul corridor that has funneled fighters, supplies and weapons to ISIS for years. Syrian troops and their allies will now be able to move east of the city to the Euphrates to sever this Turkish-ISIS lifeline.
With western Syrian hubs secured and militants severely crippled in the south, only the north-eastern areas present a challenge – but those are areas largely occupied by ISIS, where the final battles will be waged to rout the terror group.
So, what exactly do Americans want to partition – and why?
Recent wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Libya demonstrate clearly that a weak central authority only creates a political and security vacuum that extremists rush in to occupy. US President-Elect Donald Trump has himself said he prefers the rule of strongmen, rather than the instability that prevails with regime-change conflicts.
Any partition of Syria would, therefore, benefit ISIS and Al-Qaeda primarily – and all the parties know this.
The Security Arc states and their allies can ably eradicate the terrorism in their midst. Turkey and the United States still remain key irritants, each still vying, against their own security interests, to lay claim to north-eastern swathes of territory that hold some strategic interest.
Funnily enough, these interests pit the two NATO allies against each other. The US’ ‘Kurdish project’ has sent Erdogan fleeing toward the Iranians and Russians for help. It is ironic indeed that the West’s longtime efforts to sow discord between regional actors, sects, and ethnicities could now be reversed in one fell swoop by the US’ support for Kurdish nationalism. There is nothing more guaranteed to create common cause between Arabs, Iranians, and Turks than the unifying prospect of Kurdish statehood. Not even ISIS does that.
In the aftermath of the Aleppo victory, Assad once more addressed talk of partition: “This is the Western – with some regional countries – hope… If you look at the society today, the Syrian society is more unified than before the war… There’s no way that Syrians would accept that – I’m talking now about the vast majority of the Syrians… After nearly six years I can tell you the majority of the Syrians wouldn’t accept anything related to disintegration – on the contrary, as one Syria.”
He is right. For the more than 70 percent of Syrians living in government-controlled areas, the appetite for further conflict is nonexistent – and that’s what partition would mean: conflict. Furthermore, not just Syrians, but the whole of the Security Arc and their global allies are now hell bent on protecting themselves by destroying the terrorism that dwells in the remaining pockets of occupied territory. Like Assad – and much of Europe today – they know that you will never remove the security threat if you don’t rout them all and preserve the state.
In this security context, partition is out of the question. In the military context, a forced partition would require the commitment of troops stronger than the armies of Syria, Iran, Russia, Iraq, Egypt and Hezbollah combined – and that doesn’t exist. In the political context, the international appetite for an ‘imposed’ partition is nil.
So no, there will be no partition of Syria.
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
In an unusual turn of events, Washington accuses Ankara of supporting the ISIS-Daesh.
And Turkey’s president Erdogan responds by accusing Washington of supporting ISIS-Daesh. “Now they give support to terrorist groups including Daesh, YPG, PYD. It’s very clear. We have confirmed evidence, with pictures, photos and videos.” said Erdogan.
And Washington responds “”he [Erdogan] continues to supply arms [into Syria] as well, with his ultimate aim [being] to go after the Kurds, and ISIS is secondary.”
While Washington has strongly denied Erdogan’s latest allegations, the structure of political and military alliances is in crisis.
Who is supporting the ISIS?
The fact of the matter is that both the US and Turkey provide covert support to the terrorists including ISIS-Daesh and Jabhat Al Nusra.
Both Turkey and the US have collaborated in supporting the ISIS-Daesh in Northern Syria.
From the very outset, the Islamic State has been supported (unofficially of course) by the broader US-NATO coalition which includes several NATO member countries (including the US, France, Britain as well as Turkey) and their Middle East allies including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Israel.
What is of concern to Erdogan is that the US is ALSO supporting the Kurdish separatists YPG forces which have been combating the ISIS. And until recently Turkey has used the ISIS rebels to combat YPG forces, which are also supported by the US.
From the outset in 2011, the recruitment of jihadist mercenaries to be deployed in Syria was coordinated by NATO and the Turkish High Command. In this regard, Turkey has played a central role in relation to logistics, weapons supplies, recruitment and training, in close liaison with Washington and Brussels.
The Ankara government has also played a strategic role in protecting the movement of jihadist rebels and supplies across its border into Northern Syria
What is now occurring is a rift in the structure of military alliances, through the emergence of “cross-cutting coalitions”.
Turkey as a NATO member state is an ally of the US. But the US is now supporting the YPG which is fighting both the ISIS and Turkey.
In turn, Turkey, which is a staunch ally of the US is negotiating with Russia and Iran.
Already in May 2016, Erdogan accused US-NATO of supporting YPG forces:
“The support they give [US, NATO] to… the YPG (militia)… I condemn it,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday during an airport ceremony in the Kurdish city of Diyarbakir. “Those who are our friends, who are with us in NATO… cannot, must not send their soldiers to Syria wearing YPG insignia.” (Ara News Network, May 28, 2016)
What is the underlying cause of this clash between the US and Turkey, which strikes at the very heart of the Atlantic Alliance?
Washington is firmly opposed to Erdogan’s territorial ambitions in Northern Syria. The US-NATO objective is to fragment both Syria and Iraq. Washington’s strategy in Northern Syria consists in supporting and controlling the Kurdish YPG separatists.
Mark Toner, the US State department spokesperson confirmed that Washington would continue to support the YPG “despite the Turkish government opposition towards Kurdish-US cooperation”. (See Ara New Network, December 27, 2016):
“… there are disagreements among members of the coalition as to how we proceed and with whom we’re cooperating on the ground? I’m not going to say that there aren’t. And obviously, Turkey’s made very clear their feelings about the YPG. We have also been equally clear, while we understand Turkey’s concerns, that we’re going to continue to work with the YPG as a part of the overarching Syrian Democratic Forces. So the YPG is not the sole group that we’re working with on the ground. We’re working with Syrian Arabs, Syrian Turkmen, and other groups that are fighting Daesh,”
Officially the US is fighting the ISIS, unofficially it is supporting it.
And now in an about turn, the ISIS which is integrated (covertly and unofficially) by Western special forces (often on contract to private mercenary companies) has turned against Turkey, a NATO member state. This action is largely on behalf of YPG forces, which are also fighting Turkish forces:
ISIS claims it has killed 70 Turkish soldiers during the conflict and just a few days ago the warped death cult released a video of two Turkish men being burned alive.
Turkey has rushed tanks and heavy weapons to its border and blamed the US-led coalition for inadequate air support after Erdogan’s forces which encountered deadly resistance from ISIS militants – 14 Turkish troops were killed. (Daily Express, December 27, 2016)
While Ankara accuses Washington, Moscow is playing at the diplomatic level a skillful “double game”: Foreign Minister Lavrov is talking to John Kerry on the one hand as well as negotiating with Ankara on the other hand.
On December 21, the Foreign Ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey (See image below) met in Moscow “to draft a joint statement aimed at resolving the long term conflict in Syria.” (RT, December 22, 2016)
Moscow also intimated that other countries including Saudi Arabia would be invited to join this initiative. The underlying objective would be to weaken the allegiance of Saudi Arabia to the US.
It is “very important” that the statement by Moscow, Tehran and Ankara “contained an invitation to other countries that have influence ‘on the ground’ to join such efforts,” (RT, December 22, 2016)
According to media reports, Turkey has Moscow’s support in the siege of the Northern Syrian city of Al-Bab which has been under the clutch of the ISIS since 2013. Fierce fighting is ongoing. Ankara reported on December 26 that “the anti-ISIS coalition was making progress in al-Bab”.
Copyright © Prof Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, 2016
Discount ISIS claiming responsibility. Germany along with America, other NATO nations and Middle East partners support the terrorist group. Why would it bite the hand feeding it? Makes no sense!
Claims of responsibility lack credibility without verifiable proof. None so far exists. What’s known about Monday’s incident suggests false flag responsibility.
They’re identifiable the way fingerprints ID people. They’re strategically timed for an intended purpose. They’re designed to capture world headlines, conceal responsibility of the perpetrator, and point fingers at a convenient patsy or patsies.
On Wednesday, reports indicated Berlin police found identity documents (apparently a passport) belonging to a Tunisian national named Anis A. in the cabin of the truck used to kill and injure dozens on Monday.
Following an earlier false flag attack, a cartoon on independent media showed an individual dressed in black, a suicide jacket strapped to his chest, his finger on the triggering mechanism, commenting “s..t, I forgot my passport” – mocking the absurdity of a criminal leaving identifying documents at the scene of the crime, making capture all the easier.
The 9/11 mother of all false flags provided a treasure trove of information, showing what happened was other than the official narrative. Most obvious was how could a handful of terrorists outwit America’s 16 intelligence agencies, including sophisticated NSA eavesdropping on anyone or anything suspicious back then?
No evidence implicated Al Qaeda. Official 9/11 claims were beginning-to-end contradictions and fake news – endless imperial wars following the elaborate hoax.
False flags are a Western tradition, notably in America. Were the Monday Berlin attack and same day assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey the latest examples?
Were CIA dirty hands involved in either or both incidents? Were they linked to Aleppo’s liberation, Russia, Iran and Turkey trilaterally cooperating on cessation of hostilities and conflict resolution in Syria excluding US involvement, along with jihadist fear-mongering to pressure Trump to keep waging imperial wars and perhaps other reasons for what happened?
When it comes to geopolitics, things are seldom as they seem. Truth is other than what’s widely reported.
Stephen Lendman can be reached at email@example.com. His new book as editor and contributor is titled Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.
The liberation of Aleppo and the withdrawal of radical militants from this Syrian city provoked a storm of responses and comments across various Middle Eastern media sources.
While trying to downplay this major Damascus’ success, media sources from the anti-Syrian camp have been trying to raise arguments. They perceive the fall of Aleppo as the direct result of various intrigues and conspiracies, while admitting that there were serious miscalculations made by the so-called “opposition”. At the same time those media sources curse the West for it allegedly turning its back on the Syrian “revolutionary fighters” and Turkey for the “betrayal of their cause”, etc.
The Pro-Saudi newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat, however, was forced to recognize the liberation of Aleppo as a major victory of Damascus that was achieved with an extensive amount of support provided by Russia.
At the same time it’s getting clear that the sponsors of the so-called opposition, especially those of the Persian Gulf, are determined to deny any responsibility for the failure of their militants. One of the most influential Saudi newspaper Okaz is critisizing the anti-Assad camp for living in luxury hotels outside Syria. It is outraged that, in the light of the recent events in Aleppo these “ungrateful salon revolutionaries” have started criticizing Persian Gulf monarchies for not providing enough support for them. They look at the kingdom as a “cash machine”, the newspaper argues, the only purpose of which is to refill their pockets with golden coins by taking advantage of the bloodshed and suffering of their fellow citizens.
Other media sources from the anti-Assad camp are cheerfully noting that they’ve lost a battle, but they didn’t lose a war.
The Lebanese newspaper As-Safir believes that the fall of Aleppo is the direct result of the failure of the pro-Western forces in Syria. Even though the so-called opposition had the control of large Syrian cities for years, they have already shown that they are unable to govern effectively even in those territories that they were occupying. In fact, what they’ve done resulted in a complete paralysis of all government structures, that may soon result in the complete Somaliazation of the whole country. The opposition could only achieve success in a certain area, but haven’t had any comprehensive strategy worth mentioning. In contrast, government forces are aiming at liberating the territories of their country and at rebuilding them.
Against this background, we’ve witnessed an intensified media war, with at least 60 different major TV stations purposefully trying to distort the events in Syria. This propaganda machine is being fueled by the petrodollars provided by the Persian Gulf monarchies, and the latter aren’t going to stop.
It seems that we’ve heard it all already, Damascus being accused of the use of chemical weapons against the population, Syrian and Russian troops being involved in the nonexistent “atrocities” against the civilian population, the alleged destruction of schools and hospitals; the assertion that Russia’s policy in Syria and throughout the region is one-sided.
Today in the ranks of the anti-Assad propagandists one can spot signs of massive confusion. According to the newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi, four “media activists” of a number of jihadist groups in Aleppo surrendered to authorities long before the fall of the city. This got the opposition puzzled since those who escaped were involved in covert operations and fund raising.
The liberation of Aleppo, says the Iraqi Sawt al-Iraq news site, means that millions of dollars have been thrown to the wind, wasted on the financing of anti-government groups and supplying them with information from different sources. It’s clear at this point that back in 2011 when President Obama announced that Assad’s days were numbered he made a serious mistake. It’s the days of Barack Obama that are numbered now, argues the newspaper, since the former doesn’t have much time in power left.
The Western world is engulfed in hysteria over Aleppo. But they remained silent all the time that the city was occupied by ISIS, al-Nusra and other terrorist organizations, so why start bothering now?
Yury Zinin is a Leading Research Fellow at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.
Over the past week, eastern Aleppo was completely brought back under control of the Syrian government. The population began to return to its homes, many of which were abandoned when al-Qaeda-linked rebels took over in 2012. As far as I know, the western mainstream media did not have a single reporter on the ground in Aleppo, but relied on “activists” to inform us that the Syrian army was massacring the civilian population. It hardly makes sense for an army to fight and defeat armed rebels just so it can go in and murder unarmed civilians, but then again not much mainstream reporting on the tragedy in Syria has made sense.
I spoke to one western journalist last week who actually did report from Aleppo and she painted a very different picture of what was going on there. She conducted video interviews with dozens of local residents and they told of being held hostage and starved by the “rebels,” many of whom were using US-supplied weapons supposed to go to “moderates.”
We cannot be sure what exactly is happening in Aleppo, but we do know a few things about what happened in Syria over the past five years. This was no popular uprising to overthrow a dictator and bring in democracy. From the moment President Obama declared “Assad must go” and approved sending in weapons, it was obvious this was a foreign-sponsored regime change operation that used foreign fighters against Syrian government forces. If the Syrian people really opposed Assad, there is no way he could have survived five years of attack from foreigners and his own people.
Recently we heard that the CIA and Hillary Clinton believe that the Russians are behind leaked Democratic National Committee documents, and that the leaks were meant to influence the US presidential election in Donald Trump’s favor. These are the same people who for the past five years have been behind the violent overthrow of the Syrian government, which has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands. Isn’t supporting violent overthrow to influence who runs a country even worse than leaking documents? Is it OK when we do it? Why? Because we are the most powerful country?
We are a country sitting on $20 trillion in debt, living far beyond our means. Power can oftentimes be an illusion, and in any case it doesn’t last forever. We can be sure that the example we set while we are the most powerful country will be followed by those who may one day take our place. The hypocrisy of our political leaders who say one thing and do another does not go unnoticed.
We should end that hypocrisy starting with Syria. That government, along with its allies, seems to be on track to take their country back from ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist groups. The only sensible Syria policy is for the US to stop trying to overthrow their government, to treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves. It is a rule that is always good to remember, but perhaps especially important to recall at this time of year.
Their arrival was announced as the UK hosts a conference of defense ministers from countries involved in the coalition fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
The 20 trainers – who are likely to be special forces soldiers – will teach so-called ‘moderate’ fighters infantry skills, combat first aid and other battlefield tactics.
The existing deployment is thought to be made up of around 500 soldiers from the 4 Rifles infantry regiment, which is based near the Kurdish-held city of Erbil alongside specialist soldiers from the Royal Engineers and Royal Signals.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has previously stated that anyone receiving UK training would be vetted to ensure that no knowledge was passed on to jihadist groups.
The deployment of UK special forces has come under increasing scrutiny, with critics claiming that it has now become the basic form of UK military operations and as such should be brought under democratic oversight.
The UK is one of the few countries which flatly refuses to comment on covert military activities to either the media or to questions by elected lawmakers in parliament.
Calls for a new war powers act have been backed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, among others, who made his case to the Middle East Eye website in August.
“I’m very concerned about this because [former Prime Minister] David Cameron – I imagine [Prime Minister] Theresa May would say the same – would say parliamentary convention requires a parliamentary mandate to deploy British troops. Except, and they’ve all used the ‘except,’ when special forces are involved,” Corbyn said.
His comments were immediately attacked by former soldier-turned-Tory MP Bob Stewart, who told the Times that the PM must have the opportunity to deploy troops “when they think it’s crucial.”
Ever since the passage of the Patriot Act in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, it has been a crime to provide “material support” to groups designated as terrorists by the U.S. State Department, including ISIS and al-Qaida and its Syrian affiliate, the al-Nusra Front. As the law is interpreted, “material support” can mean providing almost any kind of service or assistance that a prosecutor believes might materially help the designated group — even attending a peace conference or representing a group member in court. Americans have done hard time in prison for being found in violation of this law. But, at the same time, the United States has spent billions of dollars to arm, train and protect whole armies of jihadist terrorists in Syria – Islamist fighters that collaborate in every possible way with al-Qaida and its offspring in the al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State.
In the words of Tulsi Gabbard, the Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii: “This madness must end… The Government must end this hypocrisy and abide by the same laws that apply to its citizens.” Gabbard has introduced a bill to force the U.S. government to abide by its own laws, as well as international law, by making it specifically illegal for the U.S. to fund aid of any kind, not just to al-Qaida and ISIS, but to any other groups that collaborate with them. In Syria, that means virtually all of the so-called “moderate” rebels that the U.S. and its allies have lavished billions of dollars on. Just as importantly, Gabbard’s Stop Arming Terrorists Act makes it illegal for the United States to give aid to any nation that assists these terrorists. That means the U.S. would be compelled to cut off aid to Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Israel, the biggest recipient of U.S. aid in the world, which openly brags about treating al-Qaida fighters in Israeli hospitals. The U.S. would also have to cut off all assistance to Britain, France and most of the rest of NATO, for their assistance to terrorists in Syria.
Rep. Keith Ellison: Useless to the Cause of Peace
Earlier this year, the Obama administration reneged on its agreement with Russia to draw up a list of the jihadist groups Washington supports, and to make sure they don’t fight alongside al-Qaida. Gabbard’s law would require that the Director of National Intelligence draw up a list of the jihadi groups that are cooperating with al-Qaida and ISIS, and update that list every six months, to make sure none of them get U.S. assistance.
Gabbard models her bill on 1980s Boland Amendment that halted U.S. aid to the U.S. Contra terrorists, in Nicaragua. She was joined by two Republican and two Democratic co-sponsors, including Black California congresswoman Barbara Lee. The bill is endorsed by the Progressive Democrats of America and the U.S. Peace Council. But don’t expect it to get effective support from the Progressive Caucus in the U.S. Congress. Minnesota Black congressman Keith Ellison is Caucus co-chair – and absolutely worthless to the cause of peace. He supported the war against Libya and the proxy war in Syria, which is why he stands a good chance of becoming head of the Democratic National Committee, where it’s all war, and anti-Russia, all the time.
President Obama’s announcement of a waiver for arming unspecified rebel groups in Syria came shortly before the terrorist group Islamic State launched a massive attack on Palmyra. Syrian President Bashar Assad believes it was no coincidence, he told RT.
“The announcement of the lifting of that embargo is related directly to the attack on Palmyra and to the support of other terrorists outside Aleppo, because when they are defeated in Aleppo, the United States and the West, they need to support their proxies somewhere else,” he said.
“The crux of that announcement is to create more chaos, because the United States creates chaos in order to manage this chaos,” Assad added.
He added that Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) forces “came with different and huge manpower and firepower that ISIS never had before during this attack, and they attacked on a huge front, tens of kilometers that could be a front of armies. ISIS could only have done that with the support of states. Not state; states.”
In the interview, the Syrian leader explained how his approach to fighting terrorism differs from that of the US, why he believes the military success of his forces in Aleppo was taken so negatively in the West, and what he expects from US President-elect Donald Trump.
The full transcript of the interview is below.
RT: Mr. President, thank you very much for agreeing to speak with us.
President Bashar al-Assad: You’re most welcome in Damascus.
RT: We start with Aleppo, of course. Aleppo is now seeing what is perhaps the most fierce fighting since the war started almost six years ago here in Syria, but the Western politicians and Western media have been largely negative about your army’s advance. Why you think this is happening? Do they take it as their own defeat?
B.A.: Actually, after they failed in Damascus, because the whole narrative was about “liberating Damascus from the state” during the first three years. When they failed, they moved to Homs, when they failed in Homs, they moved to Aleppo, they focused on Aleppo during the last three years, and for them this is the last most important card they could have played on the Syrian battlefield. Of course, they still have terrorists in different areas in Syria, but it’s not like talking about Aleppo as the second largest city which has the political, military, economic, and even moral sense when their terrorists are defeated. So, for them the defeat of the terrorists is the defeating of their proxies, to talk bluntly. These are their proxies, and for them the defeat of these terrorists is the defeat of the countries that supervised them, whether regional countries or Western countries like United States, first of all United States, and France, and UK.
RT: So, you think they take it as their own defeat, right?
B.A.: Exactly, that’s what I mean. The defeat of the terrorists, this is their own defeat because these are their real army on the ground. They didn’t interfere in Syria, or intervened, directly; they have intervened through these proxies. So, that’s how we have to look at it if we want to be realistic, regardless of their statements, of course.
RT: Palmyra is another troubled region now, and it’s now taken by ISIS or ISIL, but we don’t hear a lot of condemnation about it. Is that because of the same reason?
B.A.: Exactly, because if it was captured by the government, they will be worried about the heritage. If we liberate Aleppo from the terrorists, they would be – I mean, the Western officials and the mainstream media – they’re going to be worried about the civilians. They’re not worried when the opposite happens, when the terrorists are killing those civilians or attacking Palmyra and started destroying the human heritage, not only the Syrian heritage. Exactly, you are right, because ISIS, if you look at the timing of the attack, it’s related to what’s happening in Aleppo. This is the response to what’s happening in Aleppo, the advancement of the Syrian Arab Army, and they wanted to make this… or let’s say, to undermine the victory in Aleppo, and at the same time to distract the Syrian Army from Aleppo, to make it move toward Palmyra and stop the advancement, but of course it didn’t work.
‘ISIS could only attack Palmyra the way it did with supervision of US alliance’
RT: We also hear reports that Palmyra siege was not only related to Aleppo battle, but also to what was happening in Iraq, and there are reports that the US-led coalition – which is almost 70 countries – allowed ISIL fighters in Mosul in Iraq to leave, and that strengthened ISIL here in Syria. Do you think it could be the case?
B.A.: It could be, but this is only to wash the hand of the American politicians from their responsibility on the attack, when they say “just because of Mosul, of course, the Iraqi army attacked Mosul, and ISIS left Mosul to Syria.” That’s not the case. Why? Because they came with different and huge manpower and firepower that ISIS never had before during this attack, and they attacked on a huge front, tens of kilometers that could be a front of armies. ISIS could only have done that with the support of states. Not state; states. They came with different machineguns, cannons, artillery, everything is different. So, it could only happen when they come in this desert with the supervision of the American alliance that’s supposed to attack them in al-Raqqa and Mosul and Deir Ezzor, but it didn’t happen; they either turned a blind eye on what ISIS is going to do, and, or – and that’s what I believe – they pushed toward Palmyra. So, it’s not about Mosul. We don’t have to fall in that trap. It’s about al-Raqqa and Deir Ezzor. They are very close, only a few hundred kilometers, they could come under the supervision of the American satellites and the American drones and the American support.
RT: How strong is ISIS today?
B.A.: As strong as the support that they get from the West and regional powers. Actually, they’re not strong for… if you talk isolated case, ISIS as isolated case, they’re not strong, because they don’t have the natural social incubator. Without it, terrorists cannot be strong enough. But the real support they have, the money, the oil field investment, the support of the American allies’ aircraft, that’s why they are strong. So, they are as strong as their supporters, or as their supervisors.
RT: In Aleppo, we heard that you allowed some of these terrorists to leave the battleground freely. Why would you do that? It’s clear that they can go back to, let’s say, Idleb, and get arms and get ready for further attacks, then maybe attack those liberating Aleppo.
B.A.: Exactly, exactly, that’s correct, and that’s been happening for the last few years, but you always have things to lose and things to gain, and when the gain is more than what you lose, you go for that gain. In that case, our priority is to protect the area from being destroyed because of the war, to protect the civilians who live there, to give the chance for those civilians to leave through the open gates, to leave that area to the areas under the control of the government, and to give the chance to those terrorists to change their minds, to join the government, to go back to their normal life, and to get amnesty. When they don’t, they can leave with their armaments, with the disadvantage that you mentioned, but this is not our priority, because if you fight them in any other area outside the city, you’re going to have less destruction and less civilian casualties, that’s why.
‘Fighting terrorists US-style cannot solve the problem’
RT: I feel that you call them terrorists, but at the same time you treat them as human beings, you tell them “you have a chance to go back to your normal life.”
B.A.: Exactly. They are terrorists because they are holding machineguns, they kill, they destroy, they commit vandalism, and so on, and that’s natural, everywhere in the world that’s called as terrorism. But at the same time, they are humans who committed terrorism. They could be something else. They joined the terrorists for different reasons, either out of fear, for the money, sometimes for the ideology. So, if you can bring them back to their normal life, to be natural citizens, that’s your job as a government. It’s not enough to say “we’re going to fight terrorists.” Fighting terrorists is like a videogame; you can destroy your enemy in the videogame, but the videogame will generate and regenerate thousands of enemies, so you cannot deal with it on the American way: just killing, just killing! This is not our goal; this is the last option you have. If you can change, this is a good option, and it succeeded. It succeeded because many of those terrorists, when you change their position, some of them living normal lives, and some of them joined the Syrian Army, they fought with the Syrian Army against the other terrorists. This is success, from our point of view.
RT: Mr. President, you just said that you gain and you lose. Do you feel you’ve done enough to minimize civilian casualties during this conflict?
B.A.: We do our utmost. What’s enough, this is subjective; each one could look at it in his own way. At the end, what’s enough is what you can do; my ability as a person, the ability of the government, the ability of Syria as a small country to face a war that’s been supported by tens of countries, mainstream media’s hundreds of channels, and other machines working against you. So, it depends on the definition of “enough,” so this is, as I said, very subjective, but I’m sure that we are doing our best. Nothing is enough at the end, and the human practice is always full of correct and flows, or mistakes, let’s say, and that’s the natural thing.
‘West’s cries for ceasefire meant to save terrorists’
RT: We hear Western powers asking Russia and Iran repeatedly to put pressure on you to, as they put it, “stop the violence,” and just recently, six Western nations, in an unprecedented message, asked Russia and Iran again to put pressure on you, asking for a ceasefire in Aleppo.
RT: Will you go for it? At the time when your army was progressing, they were asking for a ceasefire.
B.A.: Exactly. It’s always important in politics to read between the lines, not to be literal. It doesn’t matter what they ask; the translation of their statement is for Russia: “please stop the advancement of the Syrian Army against the terrorists.” That’s the meaning of that statement, forget about the rest. “You went too far in defeating the terrorists, that shouldn’t happen. You should tell the Syrians to stop this, we have to keep the terrorists and to save them.” This is in brief.
Second, Russia never – these days, I mean, during this war, before that war, during the Soviet Union – never tried to interfere in our decision. Whenever they had opinion or advice, doesn’t matter how we can look at it, they say at the end “this is your country, you know what the best decision you want to take; this is how we see it, but if you see it in a different way, you know, you are the Syrian.” They are realistic, and they respect our sovereignty, and they always defend the sovereignty that’s based on the international law and the Charter of the United Nations. So, it never happened that they made any pressure, and they will never do it. This is not their methodology.
RT: How strong is the Syrian Army today?
B.A.: It’s about the comparison, to two things: first of all, the war itself; second, to the size of Syria. Syria is not a great country, so it cannot have a great army in the numerical sense. The support of our allies was very important; mainly Russia, and Iran. After six years, or nearly six years of the war, which is longer than the first World War and the second World War, it’s definitely and self-evident that the Syrian Army is not to be as strong as it was before that. But what we have is determination to defend our country. This is the most important thing. We lost so many lives in our army, we have so many martyrs, so many disabled soldiers. Numerically, we lost a lot, but we still have this determination, and I can tell you this determination is much stronger than before the war. But of course, we cannot ignore the support from Russia, we cannot ignore the support from Iran, that make this determination more effective and efficient.
‘Stronger Russia, China make world a safer place’
RT: President Obama has lifted a ban on arming some Syrian rebels just recently. What impact do you think could it have on the situation on the ground, and could it directly or indirectly provide a boost to terrorists?
B.A.: We’re not sure that he lifted that embargo when he announced it. Maybe he lifted it before, but announced it later just to give it the political legitimacy, let’s say. This is first. The second point, which is very important: the timing of the announcement and the timing of attacking Palmyra. There’s a direct link between these two, so the question is to whom those armaments are going to? In the hands of who? In the hands of ISIS and al-Nusra, and there’s coordination between ISIS and al-Nusra. So, the announcement of this lifting of that embargo is related directly to the attack on Palmyra and to the support of other terrorists outside Aleppo, because when they are defeated in Aleppo, the United States and the West, they need to support their proxies somewhere else, because they don’t have any interest in solving the conflict in Syria. So, the crux of that announcement is to create more chaos, because the United States creates chaos in order to manage this chaos, and when they manage it, they want to use the different factors in that chaos in order to exploit the different parties of the conflict, whether they are internal parties or external parties.
RT: Mr. President, how do you feel about being a small country in the middle of this tornado of countries not interested in ending the war here?
B.A.: Exactly. It’s something we’ve always felt before this war, but we felt it more of course today, because small countries feel safer when there’s international balance, and we felt the same, what you just mentioned, after the collapse of the Soviet Union when there was only American hegemony, and they wanted to implement whatever they want and to dictate all their policies on everyone. Small countries suffer the most. So, we feel it today, but at the same time, today there’s more balance with the Russian role. That’s why I think we always believe the more Russia is stronger – I’m not only talking about Syria, I’m talking about every small country in the world – whenever the stronger Russia, more rising China, we feel more secure. It’s painful, I would say it’s very painful, this situation that we’ve been living, on every level; humanitarian level, the feeling, the loss, everything. But at the end, it’s not about losing and winning; it’s about either winning or losing your country. It’s existential threat for Syria. It’s not about government losing against other government or army against army; either the country will win, or the country will disappear. That’s how we look at it. That’s why you don’t have time to feel that pain; you only have time to fight and defend and do something on the ground.
‘Mainstream media lost credibility along with moral compass’
RT: Let’s talk about media’s role in this conflict.
RT: All sides during this war have been accused of civilian casualties, but the Western media has been almost completely silent about the atrocities committed by the rebels… what role is the media playing here?
B.A.: First of all, the mainstream media with their fellow politicians, they are suffering during the last few decades from moral decay. So, they have no morals. Whatever they talk about, whatever they mention or they use as mask, human rights, civilians, children; they use all these just for their own political agenda in order to provoke the feelings of their public opinion to support them in their intervention in this region, whether militarily or politically. So, they don’t have any credibility regarding this. If you want to look at what’s happening in the United States is rebellion against the mainstream media, because they’ve been lying and they kept lying to their audiences. We can tell that, those, let’s say, the public opinion or the people in the West doesn’t know the real story in our region, but at least they know that the mainstream media and their politicians were lying to them for their own vested interests agenda and vested interests politicians. That’s why I don’t think the mainstream media could sell their stories anymore and that’s why they are fighting for their existence in the West, although they have huge experience and huge support and money and resources, but they don’t have something very important for them to survive, which is the credibility. They don’t have it, they lost it. They don’t have the transparency, that’s why they don’t have credibility. That’s why they are very coward today, they are afraid of your channel, of any statement that could tell the truth because it’s going to debunk their talks. That’s why.
RT: Reuters news agency have been quoting Amaq, ISIL’s mouthpiece, regarding the siege of Palmyra. Do you think they give legitimacy to extremists in such a way? They’re quoting their media.
B.A.: Even if they don’t mention their news agencies, they adopt their narrative anyway. But if you look at the technical side of the way ISIS presented itself from the very beginning through the videos and the news and the media in general and the PR, they use Western technique. Look at it, it’s very sophisticated. How could somebody who’s under siege, who’s despised all over the world, who’s under attack from the airplanes, who the whole world wants to liberate every city from him, could be that sophisticated unless he is not relaxed and has all the support? So, I don’t think it is about Amaq; it’s about the West adopting their stories, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly.
RT: Donald Trump takes over as US President in a few weeks. You mentioned America many times today. What do you expect from America’s new administration?
B.A.: His rhetoric during the campaign was positive regarding the terrorism, which is our priority today. Anything else is not priority, so, I wouldn’t focus on anything else, the rest is American, let’s say, internal matters, I wouldn’t worry about. But the question whether Trump has the will or the ability to implement what he just mentioned. You know that most of the mainstream media and big corporate, the lobbies, the Congress, even some in his party were against him; they want to have more hegemony, more conflict with Russia, more interference in different countries, toppling governments, and so on. He said something in the other direction. Could he sustain against all those after he started next month? That’s the question. If he could, I think the world will be in a different place, because the most important thing is the relation between Russia and the Unites States. If he goes towards that relation, most of the tension around the world will be pacified. That’s very important for us in Syria, but I don’t think anyone has the answer to that. He wasn’t a politician, so, we don’t have any reference to judge him, first. Second, nobody can tell what kind of pattern is it going to be next month and after.
‘Western countries only sent aid to terrorists’
RT: The humanitarian situation in Syria is a disaster, and we hear from EU foreign policy chief, Madam Mogherini, that EU is the only entity to deliver humanitarian aid to Syria. Is that true?
B.A.: Actually, all the aid that any Western country sent was to the terrorists, to be very clear, blunt and very transparent. They never cared about a single Syrian human life. We have so many cities in Syria till today surrounded by and besieged by the terrorists; they prevented anything to reach them, food, water, anything, all the basic needs of life. Of course, they attack them on daily basis by mortars and try to kill them. What did the EU send to those? If they are worried about the human life, if they talk about the humanitarian aspect, because when you talk about the humanitarian aspect or issue, you don’t discriminate. All the Syrians are humans, all the people are humans. They don’t do that. So, this is the double standard, this is the lie that they keep telling, and it’s becoming a disgusting lie, no-one is selling their stories anymore. That’s not true, what she mentioned, not true.
RT: Some suggestions say that for Syria, the best solution would to split into separate countries governed by Sunni, Shi’a, Kurds. Is it in any way possible?
B.A.: This is the Western – with some regional countries’ – hope or dream, and this is not new, not related to this war; that was before the war, and you have maps for this division and disintegration. But actually, if you look at the society today, the Syrian society is more unified than before the war. This is reality. I’m not saying anything to raise the morale of anyone, I’m not talking to Syrian audience anyway now, I’m talking about the reality. Because of the lessons of the war, the society became more realistic and pragmatic and many Syrians knew that being fanatic doesn’t help, being extreme in any idea, I’m not only talking about extremism in the religious meaning; politically, socially, culturally, doesn’t help Syria. Only when we accept each other, when we respect each other, we can live with each other and we can have one country. So, regarding the disintegration of Syria, if you don’t have this real disintegration among the society and different shades and spectrum of the Syrian society, Syrian fabric, you cannot have division. It’s not a map you draw, I mean, even if you have one country while the people are divided, you have disintegration. Look at Iraq, it’s one country, but it is disintegrated in reality. So, no, I’m not worried about this. There’s no way that Syrians will accept that. I’m talking now about the vast majority of the Syrians, because this is not new, this is not the subject of the last few weeks or the last few months. This is the subject of this war. So, after nearly six years, I can tell you the majority of the Syrians wouldn’t accept anything related to disintegration, they are going to live as one Syria.
RT: As a mother, I feel the pain of all Syrian mothers. I’m speaking about children in Syria, what does the future hold for them?
B.A.: This is the most dangerous aspect of our problem, not only in Syria; wherever you talk about this dark Wahhabi ideology, because many of those children who became young during the last decade, or more than one decade, who joined the terrorists on ideological basis, not for the like of money or anything else, or hope, let’s say, they came from open-minded families, educated families, intellectual families. So, you can imagine how strong the terrorism is.
‘Being secular doesn’t protect a nation from terrorist ideology’
RT: So, that happened because of their propaganda?
B.A.: Exactly, because the ideology is very dangerous; it knows no borders, no political borders, and the network, the worldwide web has helped those terrorists using fast and inexpensive tools in order to promote their ideology, and they could infiltrate any family anywhere in the world, whether in Europe, in your country, in my country, anywhere. You have secular society, I have secular society, but it didn’t protect the society from being infiltrated.
RT: Do you have any counter ideology for this?
B.A.: Exactly, because they built their ideology on the Islam, you have to use the same ideology, using the real Islam, the real moderate Islam, in order to counter their ideology. This is the fast way. If we want to talk about the mid-term and long-term, it’s about how much can you upgrade the society, the way the people analyze and think, because this ideology can only work when you cannot analyze, when you don’t think properly. So, it’s about the algorithm of the mind, if you have natural or healthy operating system, if you want to draw an analogy to the IT, if you have good operating systems in our mind, they cannot infiltrate it like a virus. So, it’s about the education, media and policy because sometimes when you have a cause, a national cause, and people lose hope, you can push those people towards being extremists, and this is one of the influences in our region since the seventies, after the war between the Arabs and the Israelis, and the peace failed in every aspect to recapture the land, to give the land and the rights to its people, you have more desperation, and that played into the hand of the extremists, and this is where the Wahhabi find fertile soil to promote its ideology.
RT: Mr. President, thank you very much for your time, and I wish your country peace and prosperity, and as soon as possible.
B.A.: Thank you very much for coming.
RT: This time has been very tough for you, so I wish it’s going to end soon.
B.A.: Thank you very much for coming to Syria. I’m very glad to receive you.
RT: Thank you.