'US fuelled the rise of ISIS' conspiracy theories a back-handed attack on Syrian uprising

The graphic from Seamus Milne's article.

By Michael Karadjis

June 8, 2015 -- Syrian Revolution Commentary and Analysis, submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by the author -- In early June, journalist Seamus Milne penned a piece for the Guardian entitled, "Now the truth emerges how the US fuelled the rise of Isis in Syria and Iraq" (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/03/us-isis-syria-iraq).

Of course, we all wait for “the truth”. The nickname “truth” has been used by every kind of religious organisation for centuries – indeed they all had opposing “truths”. Generations of Americans saw the reflection of their own imperialist leaders in Superman fighting for “truth, justice and the American way”. For decades Soviet citizens were told their leaders spoke only “the truth” in a newspaper by that name.

Milne, in other words, is in good company.

For an article that promises to show that the US “fuelled the rise of ISIS,” it begins, oddly enough, with a failed “terrorism” case in the UK that had zero to do with ISIS. Perhaps Milne was just making a separate point with this example, despite the title. But there is so much wrong with the “example” and Milne’s implications about it that the case is worth looking at in its own terms.

Milne writes that “on Monday the trial in London of a Swedish man, Bherlin Gildo, accused of terrorism in Syria, collapsed after it became clear British intelligence had been arming the same rebel groups the defendant was charged with supporting.” Further, the defence “argued that going ahead with the trial would have been an “affront to justice” when there was plenty of evidence the British state was itself providing “extensive support” to the armed Syrian opposition.”

Milne also claimed that alleged British aid to “the armed Syrian opposition” was not only non-lethal aid but also training, logistics and secret supply of “arms on a massive scale”.

Gildo’s defence lawyers used a number of articles from the media to help their case. According to the article about the trial that Milne links to, by Richard Norton-Taylor, these included “one from the Guardian on 8 March 2013, on the west’s training of Syrian rebels in Jordan,” New York Times articles on 24 March and 21 June 2013 (in fact, 2012), “and an article in the London Review of Books from 14 April 2014, (which) implicated MI6 in a “rat line” for the transfer of arms from Libya” (http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jun/01/trial-swedish-man-accused-terrorism-offences-collapse-bherlin-gildo?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=*Mideast%20Brief&utm_campaign=New%20Campaign).

Now, I agree with Milne that it would be absurd to send someone to prison “for doing what ministers and their security officials were up to themselves,” and indeed I am pleased that it is thus more difficult to prosecute people going to fight Assad’s tyranny on trumped up “terrorism” charges.

But Milne’s points here seem to be more about using the case (1) to claim that Britain and the US really were “massively arming” the Syrian rebellion, (2) to suggest that, if true, this would not be a good thing to do, and (3) to try to connect the alleged “terrorists” that he alleges Britain and the US were supporting to those that Gildo was fighting with, and both to the actual ISIS terrorists. In other words, making the case that any support to the great Syrian uprising against a fascist regime leads directly to support for ISIS; it’s the same thing. As Milne asserts: “American forces bomb one set of rebels while backing another in Syria.” Thus to Milne, both ISIS, and the Syrian rebels – who have done more to fight ISIS than anyone else in the region – are both “rebels.”

It therefore becomes a political issue. It is worth clarifying a number of points here: what exactly the court said; what these articles alleged about who the British government (or the US government, which Milne’s title refers to) was aiding at this time (2012), and the reality of this aid; who Gildo was alleged to be fighting for; and what any of these organisations have to do with “the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq.”

“The truth,” it turns out, is something based on “amalgam” theory taken to an absurd level. An example of amalgam theory would be to say, for example, that since the Cuban and Venezuelan revolutionary leftist governments, ISIS, al-Qaida, the Iranian regime, Hamas, the French National Front and a wing of the US paleao-right (Buchanan etc) are also vocally opposed to US intervention around the world, that they therefore must all be allied or have something in common.

What the court say in the Gildo case?

First of all, the role of a court of law was not to do in-depth research into who exactly was aiding who and how much and what relationship they had to each other and so on. While I have not read the court transcripts, Milne’s assertion that “it became clear” in the court that British intelligence “had been arming the same rebel groups” as Gildo was fighting for would seem highly unlikely because it flatly contradicts what is in all the media articles referred to. Rather, the Norton-Taylor article says that “Gildo’s defence lawyers” asserted this.

Milne simply made up the “it became clear” stuff.

And actually, when the defence lawyers are quoted in that article, it seems that even Norton-Taylor was simply being “journalistic” in using the term “the same rebel groups.” In reality, the article quotes defence counsel Henry Blaxland QC:

If it is the case that HM government was actively involved in supporting armed resistance to the Assad regime at a time when the defendant was present in Syria and himself participating in such resistance it would be unconscionable to allow the prosecution to continue … “if government agencies, of which the prosecution is a part, are themselves involved in the use of force, in whatever way, it is our submission that would be an affront to justice to allow the prosecution to continue.”

So, nothing to do with “the same rebel groups” at all; on the contrary, merely the fact that both whoever M16 was allegedly supporting, and the group Gildo was in, were both part of the (broad, multi-faceted) “armed resistance” to Syria’s fascistic regime, if it involved some “use of force, in whatever way.”

Moreover, it is also not true that the defence lawyers, let alone the court, decided it was ‘clear” that British intelligence had been involved in these activities (after all, imagine if our courts decided what was “the truth” based on articles in the mass media); rather, what Gildo’s solicitor, Gareth Peirce, said was that:

“Given that there is a reasonable basis for believing that the British were themselves involved in the supply of arms, if that’s so, it would be an utter hypocrisy to prosecute someone who has been involved in the armed resistance.”

The CIA role in Turkey: preventing the Syrian rebels getting the arms they needed

The second question is who these articles alleged about who the British or US governments and intelligence agencies were aiding at this time, and the nature and quantity of this alleged aid.

Firstly, looking at the two New York Times articles mentioned, there is no mention of British intelligence. The allegations there are entirely about the CIA. A number of things are clear from these articles. First, that the role of the CIA officers, based in Turkey, was not to supply arms (“the Obama administration has said it is not providing arms to the rebels”), but rather to “help” those supplying arms “decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms.” Those allegedly supplying the arms were “a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood and paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar” (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/21/world/middleeast/cia-said-to-aid-in-steering-arms-to-syrian-rebels.html).

What was the nature of the decision-making “help”? According to the same New York Times article (June 21, 2012), “the C.I.A. officers have been in southern Turkey for several weeks, in part to help keep weapons out of the hands of fighters allied with Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups.”

Further details are in the March 24, 2013 New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/25/world/middleeast/arms-airlift-to-syrian-rebels-expands-with-cia-aid.html). This article gives details on very significant arms shipments from Qatar throughout 2012 and into 2013, and then later arms shipments from Saudi Arabia beginning at the end of 2012. The supply of arms to Syrian rebels by these two countries is a well-established fact.

Milne may have a problem with that; but Syrian victims of Assad’s genocidal slaughter, and for opponents of tyranny everywhere (myself included), their arming of the Syrian rebels, for their own reasons, might be seen as one of the few good things they do (and from this article, we see that the rebels on the ground, facing such a massive military machine as Assad’s, had a very different assessment of how significant these shipments were to western media claims). But this are not the issue here. The issue is the actual role of the CIA and who they were supporting.

According to the article, “Qatar has been an active arms supplier — so much so that the United States became concerned about some of the Islamist groups that Qatar has armed … The American government became involved, the former American official said, in part because there was a sense that other states would arm the rebels anyhow. The C.I.A. role in facilitating the shipments, he said, gave the United States a degree of influence over the process, including trying to steer weapons away from Islamist groups and persuading donors to withhold portable antiaircraft missiles … But the rebels were clamoring for even more weapons, continuing to assert that they lacked the firepower to fight a military armed with tanks, artillery, multiple rocket launchers and aircraft … Many were also complaining, saying they were hearing from arms donors that the Obama administration was limiting their supplies and blocking the distribution of the antiaircraft and anti-armor weapons they most sought.”

Regarding the Saudi shipments, which the US was allegedly more OK with, they were via Jordan and explicitly for rebels in the south. Even today, secular FSA forces have absolute dominance in the rebellion in the south; back at that time Islamist and definitely jihadist forces were next to completely absent there.

To summarise: the two NYT articles say nothing about British intelligence; do not tell us exactly which groups were being armed, but that the role of the CIA was to prevent weapons getting to “Islamist groups” or “fighters allied with al-Qaida;” they don’t say the US supplied arms but that it “limited supplies;” and specifically, that the CIA ensured the rebels could not get the only weapons of any use against Assad’s massive air war, manpads (portable anti-aircraft weapons).

Indeed, this last point turned out to be by far the most crucial result of this entire episode of US intervention: according to a report by Nour Malas in the Wall Street Journal (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443684104578062842929673074.html) “the Pentagon and CIA ramped up their presence on Turkey’s southern border” precisely after more weapons began to flow in to the rebels in mid-2012, especially small numbers of portable anti-aircraft weapons (Manpads), some from Libya, “smuggled into the country through the Turkish border”, others “supplied by militant Palestinian factions now supporting the Syrian uprising and smuggled in through the Lebanese border”, or some even bought from regime forces. “In July, the U.S. effectively halted the delivery of at least 18 Manpads sourced from Libya, even as the rebels pleaded for more effective antiaircraft missiles to counter regime airstrikes in Aleppo, people familiar with that delivery said.”

I’ve dissected these reports in more detail here: https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2014/09/28/yet-again-on-those-hoary-old-allegations-that-the-us-has-armed-the-fsa-since-2012/.

What was the British role in Jordan?

What of the Guardian on 8 March 2013 (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/08/west-training-syrian-rebels-jordan)? Finally, this one does talk about a British role. The article begins:

“Western (including British – MK) training of Syrian rebels is under way in Jordan in an effort to strengthen secular elements in the opposition as a bulwark against Islamic extremism, and to begin building security forces to maintain order in the event of Bashar al-Assad’s fall.” The alleged training was “focused on senior Syrian army officers who defected.”

The article says the UK Ministry of Defence denied providing military training to the rebels, but claimed instead they have been training the Jordanian military, but the Guardian had “been told” that British intelligence were providing the rebels “logistical and other advice in some form.”

There had been “no “green light” for the rebel forces being trained to be sent into Syria.” That is because their purpose was not to fight the regime. Rather, “they would be deployed if there were signs of a complete collapse of public services in the southern Syrian city of Daraa, which could trigger a million more Syrians seeking refuge in Jordan, which is reeling under the strain of accommodating the 320,000 who have already sought shelter there. The aim of sending western-trained rebels over the border would be to create a safe area for refugees on the Syrian side of the border, to prevent chaos and to provide a counterweight to al-Qaida-linked extremists who have become a powerful force in the north.”

Regarding Jordan’s interest in all this, the article noted that “for the first two years of the Syrian civil war, Jordan has sought to stay out of the fray, fearing a backlash from Damascus and an influx of extremists that would destabilise the precariously balanced kingdom.” However, there has been a tactical shift precisely because “Islamist forces have been gaining steam in the north and Jordan is keen to avoid that in the south. Having been very hands-off, they now see that they have to do something in the south.”

To sum up again: there was a British role in Jordan; it was explicitly to support “secular” groups and “defected Syrian army officers” in the south to balance them against the “Islamist” or “al-Qaida” forces gaining strength in the north; there was nothing whatsoever about supplying arms; and the purpose of training a small core of western-leaning military officers in Jordan was to help fill a catastrophic vacuum in case the Assad regime collapsed. There is a very clear fear of such a collapse in the article.

The other article mentioned (The Red Line and the Rat Line http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n08/seymour-m-hersh/the-red-line-and-the-rat-line) is Seymour Hersh’s widely discredited attempt to claim the Assad regime did not launch a chemical attack on rebel-held Damascus suburbs in August 2013 and that instead the rebels, supplied by Turkey, gassed their own children to death. Hersh’s entire story relies on the alleged testimony of an unnamed source in the US intelligence community. What it says on this “rat-line” issue likely has about the same amount of credibility. The significant addition to the above New York Times stories is Hersh’s assertion that “the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria.” Hersh is the only source that makes such a claim; but he is unable to verify it for us because the whole alleged agreement is in a secret annex to a Senate Intelligence Committee report that only a few people have ever seen. It is therefore difficult to know what to make of any of this.

For good measure, Hersh adds “many of those in Syria who ultimately received the weapons were jihadists, some of them affiliated with al-Qaida.” Of course he provides not a shred of evidence for this and it appears more a statement of ideology than fact. Ironically, he later notes that the US quit this rat-line because it got concerned that Turkey and Qatar were letting Islamists get some of the arms and even that, heaven forbid, some manpads may have got through to the rebels, at least in this instance agreeing with all other sources regarding the US view of Islamists.

From all these articles – and from a wealth of others I have read – I can say with confidence that Milne’s assertion that Britain had been involved in the secret supply of “arms on a massive scale” to Syrian rebels is entirely made up; actually no evidence of any arms being supplied by the US, let alone Britain, appears anywhere. But to the extent any kind of “training” or logistical help occurred, or to the extent that the US allowed other countries to supply a certain amount of light arms, in every case it was to some described as secular or defected Syrian military with the specific objective of blocking any Islamist forces, and especially al-Qaida.

The absolute discontinuity between the US, the FSA and Nusra

Now getting to the next main question: who is Gildo charged with joining in Syria? While it is difficult to get clear information, it seems “the group he had joined, Kataib al-Muhajireen, had gone on to work with Jabhat al-Nusra,” that is, the Syrian al-Qaida group
(http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3105884/Terror-suspect-Bherlin-Gildo-freed-intelligence-services-refuse-hand-evidence.html). At that time, late 2012, Nusra was only just emerging from the shadows, till then mainly known for a string of car bombings. From the outset, its relationship with the mainstream rebels of the Free Syrian Army was difficult; a range of more moderate to hard-line Islamist militia stood between them, but on the whole were more closely allied with the FSA than with Nusra.

Clearly, the group Gildo joined was exactly the group that the US and UK were most concerned with attempting to thwart, with blocking arms from getting to, according to all the relevant articles. And in fact it went beyond this.

In late 2012, US officials met with FSA leaders, the latter trying to see if it was possible to get any US arms for their fight against the fascist regime. However, the Americans only seemed interested in getting information about Nusra, and then surprised the FSA with the demand that it turn its guns on Nusra if it wanted any US arms. When the FSA rebels said their current priority was fighting the regime, the US agents told them they had to fight Nusra now, and worry about the regime later (http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/americas-hidden-agenda-in-syrias-war).

In the awkward world of anti-Syrian revolution conspiracy theory, the FSA and other Syrian rebels are “US-backed jihadists.” To deal with the “US-backed” part first, while they are entitled to try to get arms from whoever they can, it is notable that the FSA rejected this US condition for getting arms, understanding it to be what it was: not an expression of US preference for secular rebels, nor any honest move to arm them, but rather an attempt to get the democratic-secular and jihadist wings of the uprising to slaughter each other while the Assad regime laughs. And given that Nusra had already demonstrated some prowess in fighting the regime, and the US had provided nothing, when in December 2012 the US declared Nusra a terrorist organisation, demonstrations broke out in Syrian cities declaring “we are all Nusra” (http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2012/Dec-14/198527-syrian-protesters-slam-us-blacklisting-of-jihadist-group.ashx#axzz2F62w5Yns). And two years later, when the US began bombing ISIS, but also immediately bombed Nusra but left the regime alone to continue its mass murder, the FSA defended Nusra against US bombing and most major rebel groups condemned the US intervention as an attack on the revolution (https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2014/09/25/syrian-rebels-overwhelmingly-condemn-us-bombing-as-an-attack-on-revolution/). So much for the FSA being “US proxies” and so on.

However, did this slogan “we are all Nusra” prove the Syrian rebellion was all “jihadist”? In reality, this slogan was merely a declaration of rejection of US imperialism’s attempts to set conditions on the uprising. The reality was very different from the slogan; the first half of 2013 was continually punctured by FSA armed clashes with Nusra throughout Syria. But these were not attempts by the FSA to do the US bidding to launch an all-out offensive against Nusra; on the contrary, they were either defensive actions against Nusra attacks or actions to defend local people in revolutionary areas against Nusra attempts to impose theocratic repression.

For example, on June 19, 2013 in Jabal al-Wastani in Idlib, Nusra fighters assassinated two civilians in the village of al-Hamama, accusing of owning a bar, and tried to arrest someone, who they accused of working for the regime, in another village. Fighters from the National Unity Brigade of the FSA prevented their entry, telling them it was the court’s jurisdiction to investigate. The FSA then gathered seven battalions and forced Nusra out of the area. Following this, ten brigades formed an alliance against the jihadists and when Nusra returned to try to force a checkpoint in another village on July 2, they were arrested (http://www.arab-reform.net/empowering-democratic-resistance-syria).

And so what we are left with from this attempt to impose amalgam theory to the US or British governments, the FSA and mainstream Syrian rebels, and al-Nusra, is exactly nothing.

What does any of this have to do with 'the rise of ISIS'?

Yet even more intriguing is what any of this could possibly have to do with “the rise of ISIS.” Because whether we are talking about the FSA, Islamist rebels, or al-Nusra, all of them have played a prominent role in fighting ISIS – actually the most prominent role of any armed forces in either Syria or Iraq, and certainly far more prominent than the Assad regime.

Indeed, one reason why we could even talk about the FSA and Nusra fighting in the same trench, following the clashes in the first half of 2013, is precisely because the rise of ISIS forced all Syrian rebels together in order to fight to the death against the now double (and essentially allied) fascist threat of the Assad regime and ISIS.

ISIS was after all not part of any Syrian rebellion, but rather an invasion from across the Iraqi border – simply the new name of “al-Qaida in Iraq.” When it openly split with its Nusra child in mid-2013, it was a fairly straightforward result of the Syrianisation of the ranks of Nusra, as many rebels with no commitment to jihadist ideology joined an organisation with more arms and money, which it could get due to the open Iraqi border. This in turn somewhat moderated Nusra’s practice. By exactly the same token, as the split meant ISIS was now even more dominated by Iraqis and global-jihadists with no relationship to the Syrian masses, and owing their very existence in Syria to the organisation, ISIS’ practice moved from extremely repressive to openly barbaric.

Thus the FSA clashes with Nusra largely ended by mid-2013 but instead a more or less open war began with ISIS from at least July, especially following ISIS’ assassination of an FSA officer, the first of countless. In January 2014, all the mainstream Islamist groups, and Nusra, joined the FSA’s open offensive which drove ISIS out of the whole of western Syria and even significant parts of the east (even briefly Raqqa itself). Once again, this war was launched by the Syrian revolutionary forces based in their own decision-making regarding the threat posed by ISIS to the revolution; it had nothing whatever to do with following US encouragement or orders; they still saw their main enemy as the regime.

In contrast, as is well-known, the Assad regime never managed to drive ISIS out of anywhere at all, and the regime and ISIS both largely avoided hitting each other and instead concentrated all their fire on the Syrian rebels (http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/syria-isis-have-been-ignoring-each-other-battlefield-data-suggests-n264551), sometimes even jointly (eg, Deir Ezzor July 2014, today in Aleppo). The only time the Syrian regime began bombing ISIS (or at least civilians in ISIS-ruled areas) was after the US began bombing ISIS in Syria since September 2014, as the regime shows its worth to the bogus US “war on terror.” And since then, the regime and the US intervention have essentially been allies, including joint bombing of cities (especially Raqqa, eg http://leftfootforward.org/2014/12/raqqa-to-appease-iran-obama-gives-assads-air-force-a-free-pass-for-slaughter/ and http://aranews.net/2015/05/u-s-and-syrian-warplanes-launch-simultaneous-strikes-against-isis-in-raqqa/), the explicit intervention of US bombing to save the Assad regime’s control of Deir Ezzor airport from ISIS later in 2014, and US bombing of Nusra and other non-ISIS opponents of the Assad regime.

Given all this, what does either the alleged (extremely limited) Western aid to the secular rebels, or Gildo’s membership of Nusra, have to do with the rise of ISIS, the enemy of both? And the answer again is absolutely nothing.

The famous DIA document

Of course this was rather a long way of answering one “example,” but that’s because such illogical “examples” are continually used to slander the magnificent Syrian people’s uprising as either a US plot or a jihadist war or, more commonly and absurdly, both. So I just wanted to get a few things established before dealing with the second part. Milne claims:

“A revealing light on how we got here has now been shone by a recently declassified secret US intelligence report, written in August 2012, which uncannily predicts – and effectively welcomes – the prospect of a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria and an al-Qaida-controlled Islamic state in Syria and Iraq. In stark contrast to western claims at the time, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document identifies al-Qaida in Iraq (which became Isis) and fellow Salafists as the “major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” – and states that “western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey” were supporting the opposition’s efforts to take control of eastern Syria.”

Milne then comments that this is “pretty well exactly what happened two years later” … a year into the Syrian rebellion, the US and its allies weren’t only supporting and arming an opposition they knew to be dominated by extreme sectarian groups; they were prepared to countenance the creation of some sort of “Islamic state” – despite the “grave danger” to Iraq’s unity – as a Sunni buffer to weaken Syria.”

One of the best refutations I have seen of this interpretation of the DIA document was by the excellent "magpie" site at https://magpie68.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/who-are-the-real-godfathers-of-isis/. Below I will give a few thoughts of my own, largely in agreement with this view.

First I might just correct part of Milne’s presentation of the document. It does not exactly claim that al-Qaida in Iraq and “fellow Salafists” were the “major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.” It claims “the Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood and AQI” are the major driving forces. But either way, what this tells us is that this is hardly the declaration of an “intelligence” organisation such as the DIA, which would know better than this. Dated August 2012, the rebellion was then overwhelmingly dominated by the FSA; several Islamist militia had been set up but were far from being the “driving force” at that stage; the Muslim Brotherhood was and is overwhelmingly an exile-based organisation, but even Qatar’s attempt to insert the MB into the rebellion only really began around mid-2012; and AQI was entirely marginal. Regardless of how one assesses the evolution of these factors later, there is simply no evidence in the factual record for such an assessment at that time.

So, if they could get it so wrong, what does this tell us?

It is first important to look at the actual document (http://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Pg.-291-Pgs.-287-293-JW-v-DOD-and-State-14-812-DOD-Release-2015-04-10-final-version11.pdf), and not word documents that have transcribed it. The first thing one will notice is that the first couple of pages, and sporadically elsewhere, are heavily “redacted,” that is, the DIA is protecting confidential sources. In other words this is not an expression of the DIA’s opinion, but “information” being given to the DIA by some source. Indeed, the second thing to notice is that it proclaims itself to be “information report: not finally evaluated intelligence;” one would think that was clear enough. A third noticeable aspect is the clear concern with the security of Iraq, with the Iraq-Syria border, and with the danger posed by the AQI.

This strongly suggests an informant from the Iraqi regime. And the interesting thing about the Iraqi regime is that it bridges being a US satellite derived from the US invasion and being an Iranian satellite allied to the Assad regime and which tends to talk with the same story, such as vague assertions about unnamed “western countries” supporting the “opposition.”

Incidentally, the idea that this vague claim about “western countries” supporting the “opposition” means US support for AQI is quite a stretch – it would indeed be interesting to see the US Defence Department declaring its support for al-Qaida; it is simply not what is being said.

Now even when we deal with what the (probably) Iraqi informant is telling the DIA, it doesn’t exactly say what Milne and the entire Assadophilic cybersphere wants it to say. Where the informant claims that opposition forces are trying to control eastern Syria (Hasake and Deir Ezzor) and that “western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey are supporting these efforts,” it is somewhat unclear if the informant is talking of the present or the future, since the grammar (like elsewhere in the “intelligence” document), is so bad: because this is listed under the sub-heading of “the future assumptions of the crisis,” where the first such “assumption” is the survival of the Assad regime, and the quote above is part of the second “future assumption” that the situation develops into “a proxy war.” In fact, in the text, the alleged support from western and other countries is also called a “hypothesis” and even this is based on the idea that “safe havens under international sheltering” will be set up – a weird “hypothesis” given the fact that this was never on the agenda of the US or other “western countries” and still isn’t.

Moreover when it comes to the effects on Iraq, the document expresses how alarmed the source is about this dangerous situation, a view almost certainly shared by the DIA. The fact that the FSA (the only time the document mentions it) had taken over parts of the Syrian-Iraqi border is presented as “a dangerous and serious threat” since the border is “not guarded by official elements” (ie, the Assad regime). And it is in the context of this dangerous situation, of “the situation unravelling,” that the informant raises the “possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria” – from the context, the informant sees that as part of this “dangerous and serious threat,” rather than advocating such a possibility, indeed they go straight on to discuss the “dire consequences” of this, including the possibility of AQI declaring an Islamic state across Syria and Iraq which would create a “grave danger” to Iraq’s unity!

Small wonder then that when the US finally did intervene in Iraq and Syria in 2014, it was to bomb this Islamic State, even if Milne thinks the US is not bombing it enough. It must be so difficult for the Assadophilic “left” to see, day after day, that the US is not only not bombing the greatest purveyor of massive violence in the region – the Assad regime – but in addition is sharing intelligence with Assad, sometimes launching joint bombing of ISIS—ruled territories and civilians with Assad, and also bombing other, non-ISIS, opponents of Assad, especially Nusra, but also even the Islamic Front.

Comment by Gilbert Achcar:

My final point on the DIA document is to just quote a response from Gilbert Achcar:

  1. Much surprised that an “intelligence” report would in the most banal way describe the geography and ethnography (THE POPULATION LIVING ON THE BORDER HAS A SOCIAL-TRIBAL STYLE, WHICH IS BOUND BY STRONG TRIBAL AND FAMILIAL MARITAL TIES) of the border area in a region that was under US occupation for nine years, and from which the US had completed withdrawal less than one year earlier. Reads as if the report is based on a loose talk by an “informant” and written by a novice.
  2. The document formulates a *HYPOTHESIS*:

Since the *hypothesis* is predicated on the view that “Western countries” are preparing a repetition of the Libyan scenario, it is clear that the “informant” is closer to the opposite side (most probably, the Iraqi government) than to those to whom he (certainly not a she in the context!) attributes this intention.

  1. It is against the backdrop of this much biased and flawed hypothesis-making that one should read the “sensational” statement:
  2. The assumption that this is an Iraqi government source is confirmed by statements like this one: THE IRAQI BORDER GUARD FORCES ARE FACING A BORDER WITH SYRIA THAT IS NOT GUARDED BY OFFICIAL ELEMENTS WHICH PRESENTS A DANGEROUS AND SERIOUS THREAT.

Actually the whole document reads very clearly like one coming from a source from within the Iraqi government, or close to it. Basing “revelations” on this is like taking a “secret” report by a source close to the Syrian regime as a proof of what the Syrian opposition had in mind. No surprise that it is “NOT FINALLY EVALUATED INTELLIGENCE”. It is actually just worthless rubbish of the kind the files of the “intelligence” services are full of.

[end of Achcar’s comment]


ISIS of course is an arch-enemy of the Syrian revolution, so ironically enough, as a supporter of this revolution, it might actually serve my purposes to also go all conspiratorial and assert that “US imperialism created ISIS,” not to get at the Assad regime of course, but precisely in order to help Assad derail the uprising into a sectarian war.

The reasons I oppose this conspiracism are two-fold. First, because I believe basing arguments on facts is better than writing endless bullshit, which should be a severe embarrassment to those on the left promoting it. Secondly, because most of this conspiracism is not motivated by showing that imperialist powers tried to derail the revolution by backing ISIS, but on the contrary, they want to claim that the US and the West “backed ISIS” in order to overthrow the Syrian tyranny, a laughable idea.

In particular, this leads them into these grossly dishonest and fact-free amalgam between ISIS and its arch-enemies among the Syrian revolutionary forces; and hence the continuous assertion, backed by the flimsiest of evidence or none at all, that the US and the West have backed other parts of the Syrian rebellion (something regarded to be bad) is also described as part of the how the West allegedly helped “fuel the rise of ISIS,” as if the FSA, the force in the region that has most successfully beat back ISIS, is in some way related to ISIS or gave rise to it. And all these forces, not only ISIS, or even Nusra, but all Syrian armed rebellion against the fascist regime are labelled “terrorists” by this “leftist” hasbarra, mimicking the very worst forms of imperialist and Zionist propaganda. This is particularly disgusting slander, especially considering that the big majority of ISIS victims have been Syrian rebel fighters.

Yes, the US created ISIS alright – by invading Iraq and launching an apocalyptic occupation and then bolstering a Shiite-sectarian regime allied with Iran which launched a sectarian war against the Sunni population – yes, this did bolster the most extreme Sunni sectarian forces among the Iraqi resistance, namely al-Qaida in Iraq which became ISIS. Many “anti—imperialists” are at least able to admit this part, because it puts direct blame on the US. Why is it so difficult to see that exactly the same dynamic occurred in Syria, not from some non-existent US invasion, but due to the similar apocalyptic sectarian war the Assad regime waged against the Syrian revolution and also specifically against the Sunni majority, precisely in order to turn the non-sectarian uprising into a sectarian war.

Again: Who are the real Godfathers of ISIS? https://magpie68.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/who-are-the-real-godfathers-of-isis/

I'm very disappointed to read this way-too-long and ill constructed piece of pro-Islamist propaganda here. There is no Syrian rebellion: Assad outmaneouvered them by conceding autonomy to Kurds, relaxing the police-state and holding free elections that reinforced the Baath. But more importantly the uprising has nothing to do with the Left nor revolution nor progress: it was orchestrated by the West in Jordan and later also from Turkey.

In Syria there are four armed fractions:

1. The Baaz regime, supported by many many Arabs, be them Sunni, Alevi, Shia, Druze or Christian. Not my cup of tea but at the very least a respectable elected government with ample support.

2. The Kurds, whose organizations are in most cases one of the references of the West Eurasian Left, with creative internationalist proposals like Oçalan's Democratic Confederalism, and with the ability to resist and to behave as a protective umbrella for other ethnic groups. They are the main reference for the Left in all the region and they are tactically allied with Assad.

3. Al Qaeda, a too-well-known fascist-islamist organization, supported by the Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

4. The Islamic State (ISIS), an even more fanatic fascist-islamist organization, supported by Turkey at the very least and very probably also by the USA, as some of their leaders have acknowledged.

There's no rebellion anywhere: both Islamist armies feed mostly on foreigners: they are invaders from outside Syria.

Dear Maju, I have no idea where you got all these ill-informed assertions from; just to note that perhaps you consider my piece to be “way-too-long and ill constructed” precisely because I do go into great detail to back up my facts with evidence and sources. In contrast, the bunch of bland assertions you have made below look like you have been reading too much left-conspiracist nonsense (Global Research etc).

As for your claim that my article is “pro-Islamist”, well, it isn’t; but of course I am used to left-Islamophobes slandering the majestic Syrian uprising as “Islamist” in the same way as their right-wing co-thinkers slander the Palestinian resistance (with Hamas etc), the Iraqi resistance to the US occupation etc etc as “Islamist” due to the organic presence of Islamist forces, among many others, in all these struggles.

“There is no Syrian rebellion: Assad outmaneouvered them by conceding autonomy to Kurds, relaxing the police-state and holding free elections that reinforced the Baath.”

First, yes, Assad conceded autonomy to the Kurds, for now, as a pragmatic move; to reduce the number of fronts. Of course if he crushed the rest of the uprising, he would then turn on the Kurds and crush them (unless the US stopped him from crushing the PYD/YPG – it is quite clear the US has never tried to prevent him crushing the Syrian uprising). Thus, the Syrian Arab uprising is in fact a grand barrier that aids Kurdish autonomy – with rivers of Arab revolutionary blood – whether the Kurds or the FSA and other rebels are conscious of this fact or not. But that maneouver did not end the Syrian rebellion, which takes place all over Syria, not just in a few corners up near the Turkish border where Kurds live.

As for the rest, you’re being serious, right? Relaxed the police state? When did this happen? A regime that has tortured 12,000 to death in its dungeons just since 2011, which holds tens of thousands in its dungeons, which massacres the entire country from the sky, killing 100-150 every day with barrel bombs, ballistic missiles, chlorine etc, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people, turned its whole country into a moonscape, has “relaxed the police state”? Huh? Compared to which regimes? Maybe only compared to Hitler. I have no idea why any leftist would consider Assad to be different to Suharto, Pinochet, Mobutu etc, and defending such a regime is morally the same as defending any of them.

It held “free elections”? Since when does anyone calling themselves a leftist call “elections” held by a fascist dictatorship engaged in full-scale war against its population, “free elections”? OK, so Assad held “free elections”, then so did Saddam Hussein, Mubarak, Duarte, Mobutu, Suharto etc. The alleged “figures” released by the Syrian Ministry of Truth showing high levels of participation and 89% voting for Assad (against 2 other regime-hand-picked Assadist candidates) have no meaning whatsoever, and anyone with a clue knows this. If he got 10% the Truth Ministry would have said 89%. It’s hardly a new game. The regime has held a dozen or so “election” circuses since the hereditary regime seized power in 1970, in all cases announcing typically absurd dictatorship figures around 99%.

“But more importantly the uprising has nothing to do with the Left nor revolution nor progress: it was orchestrated by the West in Jordan and later also from Turkey.”

Yeh? Because you say so, right? Go read something and come back with some evidence. What you just wrote is no more true than to suggest that there are humans living on Mars. But if you don’t feel the need to back up any absurd assertion with facts and evidence, why should I waste my time finding it all for you? Likewise the rest of the your comment, on who you claim are the four armed factions: it is all wrong, let me tell you: barely a word you wrote is true. But since you have no interest in providing evidence for your fairy story, I won’t waste my time either. If you want good information, here is my blog, full of articles thick with references, and if they’re not your “cup of tea”, on the sidebar are tons of other useful articles: https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com

I also highly recommend this site: 'It's common knowledge, because facts are annoying': https://itscommonknowledge.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/hello-world/