News reports have begun to come in about the fall of Palmyra to ISIS in Syria, and while most Western media has rightly been concerned with the city’s ancient ruins, few mentions have been given to the welfare of the people living in the region, or the fact that “The Syrian army launched a massive operation to evacuate as many civilians as possible of the city’s 100,000 inhabitants before its epic defeat.” (Debkafile, May 20, 2015)
Perhaps it is not expedient to the Western narrative to report the fact that the Syrian army is heavily invested in the protection of its people.
However, these outlets do note that “The capture of Palmyra is the first time the al Qaeda offshoot has taken control of a city directly from the Syrian army and allied forces, which have already lost ground in the northwest and south to other insurgent groups in recent weeks.” (Reuters, May 20, 2015) (emphasis added)
The title “insurgent groups” is a euphemism for al-Qaeda, as “the Syrian military opposition is dominated by ISIS and by Jabhat al-Nusra, the official al-Qaeda representative, in addition to other jihadi groups,”(1) and their gains are not some recent aberration but instead are the direct result of the US-led coalition ramping up aid to their proxy forces in the region.
In the Israeli intelligence source Debkafile’s recent weekly newsletter they specifically point out that “Bashar Assad’s fortunes have been waning in recent weeks. His army’s morale is in the pits. Some units are keeping to the sidelines of battles. Iran no longer rushes forward with fresh military supplies. Hizballah, the strongest force still fighting for Assad, is taking heavy losses at the hands of Al Qaeda’s Syrian arm, the Nusra Front. All this is the outcome of the first heavy weapons to reach the hands of the Syrian opposition in years of civil war from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey – blessed by Washington after long hesitation.” (DEBKA Weekly Vol. 14, Issue 663, May 15, 2015) (emphasis added)
Thus the “insurgent” al-Qaeda groups that have recently been making gains against the Syrian army are doing so because of the heavy weaponry they have recently received from their backers in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, and Turkey… all blessed by the oversight and direction of Washington.
Further revealing Washington’s hand in leading al-Qaeda from behind is a recent report by analyst Charles Lister of the Brookings Institute Doha Center, in which it was admitted that the operation rooms headed by the US in Turkey and Jordan specifically encouraged forces of the Syrian opposition to work closely with al-Qaeda in order to achieve these recent gains, a cooperation that has been known to knowledgeable analysts for years, yet which is now fully admitted in the open:
“The involvement of FSA groups, in fact, reveals how the factions’ backers have changed their tune regarding coordination with Islamists. Several commanders involved in leading recent Idlib operations confirmed to this author that the U.S.-led operations room in southern Turkey, which coordinates the provision of lethal and non-lethal support to vetted opposition groups, was instrumental in facilitating their involvement in the operation from early April onwards. That operations room — along with another in Jordan, which covers Syria’s south — also appears to have dramatically increased its level of assistance and provision of intelligence to vetted groups in recent weeks.
“Whereas these multinational operations rooms have previously demanded that recipients of military assistance cease direct coordination with groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, recent dynamics in Idlib appear to have demonstrated something different. Not only were weapons shipments increased to the so-called “vetted groups,” but the operations room specifically encouraged a closer cooperation with Islamists commanding frontline operations.” (Foreign Policy, “Why Assad is Losing”, May 5, 2015) (emphasis added)
Although the author acts as if this cooperation of US-backed rebels and Islamist extremist is a “change of tune”, in reality it is actually “business as usual,” at least by US-backed rebel commanders own admissions. A video, which has been authenticated by the leading Syria expert in the US, Joshua Landis of the University of Oklahoma, documents a meeting between US Ambassador to Syria Robert Stephen Ford (for more information on Robert Ford consult this article) and Free Syrian Army Colonel Abdel Jabbar al-Okaidi. The same video shows Col. Okaidi celebrating a recent victory with ISIS Emir Abu Jandal. The Free Syrian Army is the largest recipient of US aid and commonly referred to in Western media as the “moderate” opposition. The video goes on to show footage of Col. Okaidi speaking in various interviews about FSA’s connection with ISIS and al-Qaeda, himself even stating that al-Nusra do not “exhibit any abnormal behavior, which is different from that of the FSA.” He also states that “My relationship with the brothers in ISIL is good… I communicate almost daily with brothers in ISIL… the relationship is good, even brotherly.” The video shows the same ISIS Emir Abu Jandal a few minutes after his celebration with Col. Okaidi stating that “The Islamic State is here to stay!” another ISIS fighter is then seen saying “I swear to Allah, O Alawites, we came to slaughter you. Await what you deserve!”
This unfortunately is the true and shameful history of US support to the “moderate” Syrian opposition.
The recent gains of ISIS in Palmyra are not separate from these events however. It must be remembered that the Islamists who are now receiving their first shipments of heavy weaponry from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, and Turkey are not limited to al-Qaeda and the Nusra Front, but include ISIS as well. The Western support for ISIS goes further than US-backed groups openly collaborating with ISIS. In Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey’s own words, it is these same Arab allies, “our Arab allies,” who “fund ISIS.”
A recent report by the New York Times would further detail how our “Arab allies” are stepped up support for these extremist elements:
“King Salman, 79, has shifted toward an activist foreign policy, going to war in Yemen and increasing support for rebels in Syria as he positions his country as the defender of the region’s Sunnis. In some cases, he has sanctioned allying with Islamists to serve the kingdom’s agenda… And his support for Islamists could end up empowering extremists, just as Saudi support for the Afghan jihad decades ago helped create Al Qaeda… In another shift, King Salman appears to have discarded his predecessor’s rejection of political Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood as a fundamental threat to the regional order… In March, he received Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Riyadh. The two agreed to work together to support the rebels seeking to topple President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, according to Yasin Aktay, the foreign relations chief for Turkey’s governing party.
“Although Mr. Aktay said that only moderate groups received support, many of Syria’s most effective fighters are staunch Islamists who often fight alongside the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, raising the possibility that aid might also empower extremists.
“King Salman has a history of working with Islamists. Decades ago, he was a royal point man and fund-raiser for jihadists going to Afghanistan, Bosnia and elsewhere.” (NYT, “King Salman Upends Status Quo in Region and the Royal Family”, May 10, 2015)
Therefore, despite the Times whitewash of attempting to separate “support for Islamists” from support for extremists, stating that support for Islamists only could “end up empowering extremists” rather than the obvious fact that these are one in the same, what the Times is saying, without actually saying, is that “our Arab ally” King Salman, who has a “history of working with Islamists” and who “funds ISIS”, has recently increased “support for rebels in Syria”, has increased support for ISIS, sanctioned “allying with Islamists to serve the kingdom’s agenda”, and has “discarded” a “rejection of political Islamists”, therefore fully embracing them.
Therefore the recent gains made by the extremist opposition in Syria is the direct “outcome of the first heavy weapons to reach the hands of the Syrian opposition… from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.” These states are “our Arab allies who fund ISIS,” Saudi Arabia itself specifically “increasing support for rebels” and “sanctioning allying with Islamists.” All of these developments of course being “blessed by Washington.”
The Obama administration recently approves the shipment of heavy weaponry to the Syrian opposition after long hesitation, the US-led operation rooms in Turkey and Jordan openly encourage working with al-Qaeda to defeat Assad’s army, and the new Saudi King Salman, whose country is the main funder of ISIS, openly has ramped up support to Islamists in Syria, all the while al-Qaeda makes recent gains in the northwest and south, while ISIS makes its gains in the eastern region of Palmyra.
All just one big coincidence? I think not…
1.) Cockburn, Patrick. "The Rise of ISIS." The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution. Brooklyn, NY: Verso, 2015. 3. Print.