Authored by Max Blumenthal by way of ConsortiumNews.com:
President Donald Trump’s announcement of an imminent withdrawal of US troops from northeastern Syria summoned a predictable paroxysm of shock from Washington’s overseas coverage institution. Former Secretary of State and self-described “hair icon” Hillary Clinton completely distilled the bipartisan freakout right into a single tweet, accusing Trump of “isolationism” and “playing into Russia and Iran’s hands.”
Michelle Flournoy, the DC apparatchik who would have been Hillary’s Secretary of Protection, slammedthe pull-out as “foreign policy malpractice,” whereas Hillary’s successor at the State Division, John Kerry, threw bits of pink meat to the Russiagate-crazed Democratic base by branding Trump’s choice “a Christmas gift to Putin.” From the halls of Congress to the Okay Road corridors of Gulf-funded assume tanks, a refrain of protest proclaimed that eradicating US troops from Syria would concurrently abet Iran and deliver ISIS again from the grave.
But few of these thundering condemnations of the president’s transfer appeared in a position to clarify simply why a couple of thousand U.S. troops had been deployed to the Syrian hinterlands in the first place. If the mission was to destroy ISIS, then why did ISIS rise in the first place? And why was the jihadist group nonetheless festering proper in the midst of the U.S. army occupation?
Too many critics of withdrawal had performed central roles in the Syrian disaster to reply these questions truthfully. That they had both served as media cheerleaders for intervention, or crafted the insurance policies aimed toward collapsing Syria’s authorities that fueled the rise of ISIS. The Syrian disaster was their legacy, and they have been out to defend it at any value.
Birthing ISIS From the Womb of Regime Change
Throughout the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, Clinton, Kerry, and the remainder of the Beltway blob lined up reflexively behind George W. Bush. The insurgency that adopted the violent removing of Iraq’s Ba’athist authorities set the stage for the declaration of the first Islamic State by Abu Musab Zarqawi in 2006. 5 years later, with near-total consent from Congress, Hillary enthusiastically presided over NATO’s assault on Libya, cackling with glee when she discovered that the nation’s longtime chief, Moammar Gaddafi, had been sodomized with a bayonet and shot to dying by Islamist insurgents — “We came, we saw, he died!” It was not lengthy earlier than an Islamist Emirate was established in Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte, whereas 31 flavors of jihadi militias festered in Tripoli and Benghazi.
Whereas nonetheless defending her vote on Iraq, Hillary made the case for arming the anti-Assad opposition in Syria. “In a conflict like this,” she stated, “the hard men with the guns are going to be the more likely actors in any political transition than those on the outside just talking.”
In 2012, the CIA initiated a one billion greenback arm-and-equip operation to fund the so-called “moderate rebels” united beneath the banner of the Free Syrian Military (FSA). A categorised Protection Intelligence Company memo distributed throughout Obama administration channels in August of that yr warned that jihadist forces emanating from Iraq aimed to exploit the safety vacuum opened up by the US-backed proxy struggle to set up a “Salafist principality in eastern Syria” — an “Islamic State,” in the actual phrases of the memo.
Referring to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia’s Syrian affiliate by its identify, Jabhat al-Nusra, earlier than Western media ever had, the DIA emphasised the shut ties the group had fostered with Syria’s “moderate rebels”: “AQI supported the Syrian opposition from the beginning, both ideologically and through the media. AQI declared its opposition to Assad’s regime from the beginning because it considered it a sectarian regime targeting Sunnis.”
The memo was authored beneath the watch of then-Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who was convicted this yr of failing to register as a overseas agent of Turkey — a particularly ironic improvement contemplating Turkey’s position in fueling the Syrian insurgency. Predictably, the doc was ignored throughout the board by the Obama administration. In the meantime, heavy weapons have been flowing out of the U.S. Incirlik air base in Turkey and into the arms of anybody who might seize them throughout the Syrian border.
As early as February 2013, a United Nations unbiased inquiry report concluded, “The FSA has remained a brand name only.” The UN additional issued a damning evaluation of the position of the United States, UK and their Gulf allies in fueling extremism throughout Syria. “The intervention of external sponsors has contributed to the radicalization of the insurgency as it has favoured Salafi armed groups such as the al-Nusra Front, and even encouraged mainstream insurgents to join them owing to their superior logistical and operational capabilities,” the report said.
US Arms, ISIS Caliphate
How ISIS overran giant swaths of territory in northeastern Syria and established its de facto capital Raqqa is scarcely understood, not to mention mentioned by Western media. That’s partly as a result of the actual story is so inconvenient to the established narrative of the Syrian battle, which blames Assad for each atrocity that has ever occurred in his nation, and for some horrors that might not have ever taken place. Echoing the Bush administration’s discredited makes an attempt to hyperlink Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda, someneoconservative pundits hatched a conspiracy concept that accused Assad of covertly orchestrating the rise of ISIS so as to curry help from the West. However the documented proof firmly established the success of ISIS as a byproduct of the semi-covert American program to arm Assad’s supposedly average opposition.
Again in March 2013, a coalition of Syrian insurgent forces representing the CIA-backed FSA, the Turkish and Qatari proxy, Ahrar al-Sham, and the Al Qaeda affiliate, al-Nusra, overwhelmed the Syrian military in Raqqa. Opposition activists declared the metropolis the “icon of the revolution”and celebrated in Raqqa’s city middle, waving the tricolor flags of the FSAalongside the black banners of ISIS and al-Nusra, which set up its headquarters in the metropolis’s city corridor.
However dysfunction shortly unfold all through the metropolis as its residents tried to order their affairs by means of native councils. In the meantime, the US-backed FSA had ceded the metropolis to al-Nusra, taking the struggle to the entrance strains towards authorities forces additional afield. The chaos stirred by the insurgents and their overseas backers had created the good petri dish for jihadism to fester.
A month after Raqqa was taken, the Iraqi zealot and ISIS commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi revealed that al-Nusra had been a Computer virus for his group, referring to its commander, Mohammed Jolani, as “our son.” Jolani, in flip, admitted that he had entered Syria from Iraq as a soldier of the Islamic State, declaring, “We accompanied the jihad in Iraq as military escorts from its beginning until our return [to Syria] after the Syrian revolution.”
By August, Baghdadi accomplished his coup, saying management over the metropolis. In accordance to the anti-Assad web site, Syria Untold, the U.S.-backed FSA had “balked in the face of ISIS and avoided any military confrontation with it.” Lots of its fighters shortly jumped ship to both the Islamic State or al-Nusra.
“The [FSA] battalions are scared to become the weakest link, that they will be swallowed by ISIS,” a media activist named Ahmed al-Asmeh informed the journalist Alison Meuse. “A number joined ISIS, and those who were with the people joined Jabhat al-Nusra.”
Backing “Territorial ISIS”
As the insurgency superior in the direction of Syria’s coast, leaving piles of corpses in its wake and propelling a refugee disaster of unprecedented proportions, the U.S. stepped up its arm-and-equip program. By 2015, the CIA was pouring anti-tank missiles into the ranks of Nourredine Al-Zinki, an extremist militia thateventually cast a coalition with bands of fanatics that made no try to disguise their ideology. Amongst the new opposition umbrella group was one outfit referred to as, “The Bin Laden Front.”
Regardless of all its struggle on terror bluster, the U.S. was treating ISIS as an asset in its bid to topple Assad. Then Secretary of State Kerry copped to the technique in a leaked personal assembly with Syrian opposition activists in Sept. 2016: “We were watching,” Kerry revealed. “We saw that Daesh [ISIS] was growing in strength and we thought Assad was threatened. We thought, however, we could probably manage, you know, that Assad might negotiate and instead of negotiating, you got Assad, ah, you got Putin supporting him.”
When Russia immediately intervened in Syria in 2015, the Obama administration’s most outspoken interventionists railed towards its marketing campaign to roll again the presence of Al Qaeda and its allies,evaluating it to the Rwandan genocide. These similar officers have been curiously quiet, nevertheless, when Russia mixed forces with the Syrian army to drive ISIS from the metropolis of Palmyra, to save the residence of the world’s most treasured antiquities from destruction.
At a March 24, 2016, press briefing, a reporter requested U.S. State Division spokesman Mark Toner, “Do you want to see the [Syrian] regime retake Palmyra, or would you prefer that it stays in Daesh’s [ISIS] hands?”
Toner strung collectively empty platitudes for a full minute.
“You’re not answering my question,” the reporter protested.
Toner emitted a nervous snicker and conceded, “I know I’m not.”
A few yr later, New York Occasions columnist Thomas Friedman brazenly referred to as for the U.S. to use ISIS as a strategic software, reiterating the cynical logic for the technique that was already in place. “We could simply back off fighting territorial ISIS in Syria and make it entirely a problem for Iran, Russia, Hezbollah and Assad,” Friedman proposed. “After all, they’re the ones overextended in Syria, not us. Make them fight a two-front war—the moderate rebels on one side and ISIS on the other.”
Giving ISIS ‘Breathing Space’
When the U.S. lastly determined to make a transfer towards ISIS in 2017, it was gripped with nervousness about the Syrian authorities restoring management over the oil-rich areas ISIS managed throughout the northeast.
With assist from Russia, and towards opposition from the U.S., Syria had alreadyliberated the metropolis of Deir Ezzor from a years-long siege by the Islamic State. Fearing that ISIS-occupied Raqqa might be subsequent to be returned to authorities arms, the U.S. unleashed a brutal bombing marketing campaign whereas its allies in the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (a rebranded offshoot of the Individuals’s Safety Models or YPG) assaulted the metropolis by floor.
The U.S.-led marketing campaign decreased a lot of Raqqa to rubble. In distinction to Aleppo, the place rebuilding was underway and refugees have been returning, Raqqa and outlying cities underneath U.S. management have been reduce off from primary authorities providers and plunged into darkness.
The U.S. proceeded to occupy the metropolis and its outlying areas, insisting that the Syrian authorities and its allies have been too weak to forestall the resurgence of ISIS on their very own. However virtually as quickly as U.S. boots hit the floor, ISIS started to collect power. In truth, a report this August by the UN Safety Council’s Sanctions Monitoring Staff discovered that in areas beneath direct American management, ISIS had instantly discovered “breathing space to prepare for the next phase of its evolution into a global covert network.”
This October, when Iran launched missile strikes towards ISIS, almost killing the ISIS emir, Baghdadi, the Pentagon complained that the missiles had struck solely three kilometers from U.S. positions. The protest raised uncomfortable questions about what the prime honchos of the Islamic State have been doing in such shut proximity to the American army, and why the U.S. was unwilling to do what Iran simply had finished and assault them. No solutions from the Pentagon have arrived up to now.
With the appointment this August of James Jeffrey, a self-described “Never Trumper” from the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Close to East Coverage, as Trump’s particular consultant for Syria engagement, it turned clear that the mission to eradicate ISIS was of secondary significance. In testimony earlier than Congress this December, Jeffrey laid out an agenda that targeted closely on what he referred to as “Iran’s malign influence in the region,” “countering Iran in Syria,” and “remov[ing] all Iranian-commanded forces and proxy forces from the entirety of Syria.” In all, Jeffrey made 30 mentions of Iran, all of them hostile, whereas referring solely 23 occasions to ISIS. It was clear he had regime change in Tehran on the mind.
Trump, for his half, had been mulling a removing of U.S. forces from northern Syria since no less than final Spring, when he put ahead a imaginative and prescient for an all-Arab army pressure funded by Saudi Arabia to exchange them. However when Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was sawed aside inside his nation’s embassy in Istanbul this October, Trump’s plan went to items as properly. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoganexploited the Khashoggi saga to perfection, serving to to rework Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman from the darling of America’s elite into persona non grata in Washington. Consequently, he organized a entrance line place for Turkey in the wake of any U.S. withdrawal.
There at the moment are actual causes to worry that a Turkish advance will ignite a resurgence of ISIS. Turkey was not solely a supply of assist and oil gross sales to the jihadist group, it at present oversees a mercenary drive of Salafi militiamen that consists of droves of former Islamic State fighters. If the Turkish onslaught proves destabilizing, Iran and its allied Shia militias might ramp up their deployment in Syria, which might set off a harsh response from Israel and its Beltway cut-outs.
Then once more, the Kurdish YPG is in excessive degree negotiations with Damascus and might group up with the Syrian army to fill the void. From an anti-ISIS standpoint, that is clearly the best choice. It’s subsequently the least common one in Washington.
No matter occurs in Syria, those that presided over U.S. coverage in the direction of the nation over the previous seven years are in no place to criticize. They set the stage for the whole disaster, propelling the rise of ISIS in a bid to decapitate one other insufficiently pliant state. And although they could by no means face the accountability they deserve, the impending withdrawal of American troops is an extended overdue and richly satisfying rebuke.
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